Friday, May 3, 2013
RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK to New York City, US. The sinking of Titanic caused the deaths of 1,502 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in modern history. The RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat at the time of her maiden voyage. She was the second of three Olympic class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, and she was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast with Thomas Andrews, who perished with the ship, as her naval architect. On her maiden voyage, she carried 2,224 passengers and crew.
Under the command of Edward Smith, her passengers included some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and elsewhere throughout Europe seeking a new life in North America. The ship was designed to be the last word in comfort and luxury, with an on-board gymnasium, swimming pool, libraries, high-class restaurants and opulent cabins. She also had a powerful wireless telegraph provided for the convenience of passengers as well as for operational use. Though she had advanced safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors, she lacked enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard. Because of outdated maritime safety regulations, she carried only enough lifeboats for 1,178 people—slightly more than half of the number travelling on the maiden voyage, and one-third her total passenger and crew capacity.
After leaving Southampton on 10 April 1912, Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland before heading westwards towards New York. On 14 April 1912, four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm ship's time. The glancing collision caused Titanic's hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea; the ship gradually filled with water. Meanwhile, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partly loaded. A disproportionate number of men were left aboard because of a "women and children first" protocol followed by some of the officers loading the lifeboats. By 2:20 AM, she broke apart and foundered, with well over one thousand people still aboard. Just under two hours after the Titanic foundered, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the sinking, where she brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors.
The disaster was greeted with worldwide shock and outrage at the huge loss of life and the regulatory and operational failures that had led to it. Public inquiries in Britain and the United States led to major improvements in maritime safety. One of their most important legacies was the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today. Additionally, several new wireless regulations were passed around the world in an effort to learn from the many missteps in wireless communications---which could have saved many more passengers. Many of the survivors lost all of their money and possessions and were left destitute; many families, particularly those of crew members from Southampton, lost their primary bread-winners. They were helped by an outpouring of public sympathy and charitable donations. Some of the male survivors were accused of cowardice for leaving the ship while people were still on board; the White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, faced social ostracism for the rest of his life.
The wreck of the Titanic remains on the seabed, split in two and gradually disintegrating at a depth of 12,415 feet (3,784 m). Since its discovery in 1985, thousands of artefacts have been recovered and put on display at museums around the world. Titanic has become one of the most famous ships in history, her memory kept alive by numerous books, folk songs, films, exhibits, and memorials.