A Short History of the "Unsinkable" Titanic

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On April 15,1912, one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history occurred. The Titanic hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank, leaving 1,523 people in the 28F water to die. Out of 2,228 souls aboard the ship, only 705 survived. The world was in shock. How could the "unsinkable" Titanic sink?

The design of the Titanic was approved by Bruce Ismay and the other White Star Line directors on July 29, 1908. The designers of the magnificent ship were William Pirrie, a director of both Harland and Wolff and the White Star Line; Thomas Andrews, a navel architect; and Alexander Carlisle, the shipyard's general manager and chief draughtsman. The construction of the Titanic was funded by J.P. Morgan, an American, and the keel was laid on March 31, 1909. The shell plating on the ship was completed on October 19, 1910. The construction took two years and two months between the "laying of the keel" and the launching of the ship.

Titanic's hull was launched on May 31, 1911. It took 62 seconds for her hull, which was over 882 feet long and weighed 24,360 tons, to slide from her building berth. Vast quantities of lubricants were required, 15 tons of tallow, 5 tons of tallow and train oil mixed together with 3 tons of soft soap were used in order to get the Titanic out of her berth. Her dimensions were 882.5 feet long, 92.5 feet wide, 60.5 feet from waterline to boat deck, and 175 feet from keel to the top of her four huge funnels. Overall, it was basically 11 stories high and 4 city blocks long. The fitting out of the ship took ten months to complete. The fitting out was when the interior, propellers, boilers, engines, and other things were put into the hull.

The Titanic was fitted out with 29 boilers, 24 double ended and 5 single ended, and her engines registered 50,000 horsepower. The steam from the boiler rooms escaped the ship through one of the four funnels on top. The fourth funnel was fake and only made to make the ship seem more magnificent. Titanic also had 16 watertight compartments. If the water level rose inside the ship above a certain level the watertight doors would close automatically. However, they could also be closed electronically from the bridge. She was able to stay afloat with any two of her watertight compartments or the first four compartments flooded. When sailing, she was propelled through the water with her three huge propellers. The total cost of the ship was $7.5 million in 1912 dollars.

The Titanic was completed and ready to sail from Belfast to Southampton an April 1,1912. However, due to weather she was delayed until the next day. On April 10,1912, Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage to New York City, New York. But, she had to stop in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland to pick up the rest of her passengers before heading to New York. Many of the passengers that were picked up at Queenstown were immigrants heading to America to start a new life. Most had taken all that they owned on the ship with them.

Four days into the journey is when tragedy struck the Titanic. Captain Edward John Smith had altered the Titanic's course slightly to the south, hoping to avoid the icefields that had been spotted and reported by other ships. However, the change in course didn't help much. Traveling at about 20 knots the Titanic hit an iceberg on her starboard side at 11:40 p.m., opening a 300 foot gash in her hull, in less than ten seconds. The gash was below the waterline. Within ten minutes of the collision the five forward compartments were flooded to a height of 14 feet above the keel. Now remember, the Titanic could only float with four of the forward compartments flooded, but FIVE were flooded.

The problem with the water tight compartments was that they weren't capped off at the top. So, every time one compartment would fill up, it would cause the bow to go down. Which, also caused the water to flow into the next compartment and so on and so forth. Really, the watertight compartments, which were supposed to save the ship if it started to flood, doomed the Titanic. Also, if the compartments went up one or two decks higher and/or been capped off at the top, the Titanic might not have sunk as fast or at all.