The massive ship was supposed to be unsinkable, thanks to its watertight doors and compartments. However, lookout Frederick Fleet spots an iceberg and signals it to the bridge. First Officer Murdoch orders a hard starboard turn.
Lifeboats begin to be lowered. Second Officer Lightoller sticks to his rule that women and children go into the boats first.
March 31, 1909
The keel, or backbone of the Titanic, is laid down at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. On May 31, 1911, the hull is launched and put into the water for “fitting out,” which includes adding all the extras, like electrical systems and wall coverings.
The massive Titanic sets sail from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage. She stops at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, then heads toward New York City with 2,240 passengers and crew.
At 11:40 PM, lookouts see an iceberg dead ahead and sound the warning bell three sharp times. Sixth Officer Moody relays the message to Murdoch, who halts engines and turns ship full astern. He also activates a lever that closes watertight doors below the waterline and puts helmsman Frederick Fleet on starboard control. This is the last time anyone sees Fleet alive.
April 14, 1912
The world’s largest ocean liner, Titanic, sets sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. On the morning of April 14, 1912, she hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sinks just hours later. Only 706 people survived out of 2,224 aboard.
9:40 p.m.: Lookout Frederick Fleet spots a large iceberg in the ship’s path. He rings the lookout bell and phones the bridge. Officer Murdoch orders a hard starboard turn. But the iceberg brushes along Titanic’s right side and gashes into her hull. Thirty-seven seconds pass from the time Fleet sees the iceberg to its collision with Titanic.
Captain Edward Smith orders passengers and crew to prepare lifeboats, women and children first. Many are shocked to discover that the Titanic is doomed. Selfless individuals give up their seats in the lifeboats to stay with loved ones or let others escape.
April 15, 1912
The Titanic sets sail on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England. It makes stops in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland. Among the 2,229 passengers were wealthy industrialists, dignitaries and celebrities. The ship was touted as unsinkable because of its massive size and the fact that it had an extensive system of watertight compartments.
At 12:40 PM the band on Boat Deck starts playing ragtime music. The order to load lifeboats is given, though the process proceeds chaotically and many women and children are left behind.
Lookout Frederick Fleet phones the bridge and reports an iceberg dead ahead. Sixth Officer Moody immediately sends a signal to the engine room and orders the ship to be turned “hard-a-starboard.” First Officer Murdoch closes the watertight doors on the starboard side. He then activates a lever that will stop the engines and send them full astern.
April 16, 1912
On the night of April 14-15, the massive luxury liner hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sinks. The Titanic was the largest passenger ship afloat at the time. The tragedy shocked the world and raised questions about her safety standards.
Titanic’s captain, Edward J. Smith, orders the lifeboats lowered. He tells the crew to begin loading women and children first. The port-side boat No. 12 is lowered, with two seamen in charge.
At this point, the iceberg hasn’t yet hit the Titanic. But it has come close enough to send a shock wave through the watertight compartments below. Boxhall notices that the Orlop deck was flooded forward of the #4 watertight bulkhead and reports this to Smith. He also notes that the ship will stay afloat for at most 2 hours. Despite this, Smith orders the evacuation of the ship to begin.
April 17, 1912
At 12 pm, the Titanic leaves Southampton. As she glides past the docks, an incident that could be seen as a bad omen occurs: her colossal propellers displace so much water that the stern of the SS New York breaks its moorings and swings toward the Titanic. Quick action averts a collision by only four feet.
First Officer Murdoch closes the ship’s watertight doors, and Second Officer Lightoller begins preparing lifeboats. He insists that women and children go into the boats, while men stay on board. As a result, some of the boats are nearly empty. Crew members lower collapsible lifeboat D, which carries Madeleine Astor and her five-month-old daughter.
April 18, 1912
The maiden voyage of Titanic brings together a who’s who of early 20th-century tycoons, socialites, and movie stars. But not everyone on board is wealthy; the ship also includes working class passengers and emigrants to New York.
The Titanic receives iceberg warnings throughout the day. Captain Edward Smith alters the ship’s course and speed, but this is not enough to avoid the massive ice field reported by the Mesaba. Second Officer Charles Lightoller oversees shift changes on the bridge but does not hear the iceberg warnings.
A large iceberg hits Titanic on the starboard bow, buckling her and flooding six of her forward compartments. The Titanic sends distress signals but the nearest ship, Californian, fails to heed them and is still hours away.
April 19, 1912
The Titanic’s demise shocked the world, and the disaster is the subject of many books, plays, films, and songs. Many people see the story as a cautionary tale of hubris—the fact that humans believe they can defy the laws of nature.
Lookout Frederick Fleet hears a call over the ship’s intercom system and reports an iceberg ahead. Sixth Officer Moody sends a signal to turn hard a-starboard.
The lifeboats begin to be readied, with the order given to load women and children first. Madeleine Astor, who is five months pregnant, asks to join her husband John Jacob Astor in port-side boat No. 4. Second Officer Lightoller refuses, citing the strict order of “women and children first.” Astor does not press the matter and steps away. Twenty spaces in the boat remain empty. The boat is then lowered.
April 20, 1912
The Titanic’s whistles blare as the crew prepares for departure. The first lifeboat, number 7, is lowered into the water with only 27 people on board, well below capacity. Many passengers are reluctant to leave, believing that the ship is unassailable and unsinkable.
Lookout Frederick Fleet sees an iceberg dead ahead. Despite a message from Mesaba reporting pack ice, field ice and bergs in the area, Captain Edward Smith fails to change course.
The iceberg collides with the Titanic’s bow and causes her to sink. Distress signals are sent and the rescue ship Carpathia races to the scene. The disaster shocked the world and led to changes in shipping regulations, including requiring a safe ratio of lifeboats and safety drills. In 1985, a Franco-American expedition led by Robert Ballard discovers the Titanic’s wreck at a depth of more than 13,000 feet.
April 21, 1912
In the first hours after Titanic hits an iceberg, a haphazard evacuation begins. Some lifeboats are lowered with only a few people aboard; others are launched woefully under-filled.
Captain Smith orders Phillips to send a last radio message, using the call letters CQD (CQ was a general distress signal; SOS was adopted several years later). He also tells passengers to board women and children first.
Millions of people worldwide are gripped by Titanic’s story, which is echoed in books and films. The public’s fascination with the ship never wanes, and efforts to find and salvage the wreck continue to this day. The movie Titanic reigniteses this obsession, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time. In the aftermath, descendants of some passengers attempt to use the company that owned the ship to recover their loved ones’ remains.
April 22, 1912
A storm blows in from the North Atlantic. The temperature drops from the spring-like high 50s to near freezing.
Bits of ice rain onto the deck. Passengers use the chunks to play games. Captain Smith emerges and learns the ship hit an iceberg. The damage opens six of the watertight compartments to sea. The Titanic can handle four flooded compartments. Carpenter Thomas Andrews surveys the damage and predicts the ship will sink within two hours.
Lookout man Fleet notices water at the base of the ship’s Grand Staircase. He alerts the crew, but many assume the glancing blow was not serious and do not broadcast an emergency request for assistance. Wireless operator Harold Bride sends the message “CQD,” which means the ship is in distress and requires immediate assistance. This is the first distress signal received from the Titanic.
The Titanic’s tragic maiden voyage in 1912 remains a poignant moment in history. Its sinking serves as a reminder of the consequences of human error, complacency, and the need for better safety regulations in maritime travel. The loss of over 1,500 lives left an indelible mark on the world and continues to captivate the collective consciousness.
- What caused the sinking of the Titanic? The Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, which caused extensive damage to its hull. The ship was not equipped with enough lifeboats for all passengers, leading to a significant loss of life. Additionally, issues with the construction and inadequate safety practices contributed to the disaster.
- How many people survived the Titanic’s sinking? Out of approximately 2,224 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, around 710 people survived. The rest tragically perished in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The lack of sufficient lifeboats and the chaos during evacuation played a significant role in the high number of casualties.