RMS Titanic sinks after hitting an iceberg during her first trans-Atlantic crossing, marking a turning point in maritime history and safety standards for sea travel.
To great fanfare, the White Star Line-owned ship sets sail on April 15 1912 from Southampton, heading for New York, planning to become the first – and fastest – trans-Atlantic crossing in the process. With an ambitious captain, Edward Smith, at the helm, the ship aims to break new ground (or rather waves) by attempting to complete the ocean-crossing in record time. However, the lofty ambitions of the ship’s designers and Captain Smith lead to disaster for RMS Titanic and its passengers.
The Harland and Wolff-built liner costs $7.5 million to construct, but only makes it partway through its maiden voyage as it collides with an iceberg four hours into its Atlantic crossing (at 11:40 p.m. ship’s time), 600km south of Newfoundland. Upon collision, the ship’s hull plates cave inwards along the starboard side, opening a number of the watertight compartments that were specifically designed to mitigate the impact of any hull breach.
The ship slowly fills with water, while passengers (women and children first) are shepherded onto lifeboats. Shortly after 2:00 a.m. the ship breaks up and founders, with more than 1,000 passengers still on board. A rescue mission is launched, with the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arriving at around 4:00 a.m. The second ship is able to rescue around 700 of the remaining survivors.
Captain Edward Smith and Thomas Andrews, the ocean liner’s chief architect, both go down with the ship.
The disaster prompts official inquiries and leads to improvements in maritime safety law – including the 1914 establishment of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) which governs maritime safety to this day – and to advances in wireless communications.
In 1997 the tale of The Titanic is immortalised by James Cameron’s Oscar-winning film of the same name. The fictionalised account of the ship’s unsuccessful maiden voyage is the most expensive film ever made (before it is surpassed by a number of films in the ensuing years) and wins 11 Oscars, including awards for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’.
Sinks in North Atlantic Ocean on the morning of April 15th 1912. Captain Edward Smith and Thomas Andrews, the ocean liner’s architect, both go down with the ship.