RMS Titanic was a passenger liner that struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, and sank on 15 April 1912, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
The largest passenger steamship in the world at the time, the Olympic-class Royal Mail Ship RMS Titanic was owned by the White Star Line and constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, UK. After setting sail for New York City on 10 April 1912 with 2,223 people on board, she hit an iceberg four days into the crossing, at 11:40 pm on 14 April 1912, and sank at 2:20 am on the morning of 15 April. The ship did not sail into the iceberg head on but rather suffered a glancing blow in a manoeuvre trying to avoid it. Further the iceberg did not open her plates like a can opener but rather tore them apart in the riveted joints.
The Titanic was designed to survive a head on collision that would flood the first four of her water tight compartments or a collision from another ship that would ram her in the middle and flood maximum two compartments; however, this long opening in the hull was not foreseen and the crew soon realised that the ship was going to sink.
The high casualty rate resulting from the sinking was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people. A disproportionate number of men died due to the “women and children first” protocol that was enforced by the ship’s crew. This procedure meant that many boats were only half filled. Since the sea was calm, it would have been safe to fill all boats to capacity and thereby rescue an additional 500 persons. Further, only a few were picked up from the water after the sinking out of fear of the boats being overfilled or capsizing. Another factor that crucially contributed to the high death rate was the failure of the nearby ship the Californian to come to the rescue. The Titanic stayed afloat for more than 2½ hours, which meant that the Californian would have had enough time to reach her before she sank. In the end it was the Carpathia which came to the rescue and picked up the survivor from the lifeboats but not until the Titanic had been sunk for almost 2 hours.
Title: Titanic Centenary 1912-2012
Date of Issue: 31 January 2012
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