StMU Research Scholars

Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary's University

The beginning of the twentieth century was a remarkable time in the development of transatlantic travel. The Industrial Revolution introduced a plethora of new technologies, such as the screw propeller, steam engine, and iron and steel hulls that made transatlantic travel faster and safer. At the turn of the century, competition between major shipping lines for passengers was at a near frenzy. With each passing year shipping lines introduced new ocean liners built to out do their rivals and render the competition obsolete. Perhaps the most intriguing rivalry of the day was that between Cunard Line and White Star Line. The two companies were the pre-eminent shipping lines in the United Kingdom, and they always kept a close eye on one another, preparing for the next round of competition. So, when, in the fall of 1907, Cunard Line debuted their newest vessel, Lusitania, White Star had already began planning a larger than life response to the brand new liner. The vision White Star Line had for its future was one of immense proportions. They wanted to build two brand new liners that would dwarf the new Lusitania, and change the history of transatlantic travel forever. For this momentous project White Star Line knew there was only one shipyard for the job: The Great Harland and Wolff of Belfast, Northern Ireland. They had no idea that the ship they would one day own would cost thousands of lives and captivate the world forever after.1

In order to understand Titanic’s story, it is important to understand the history of Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland. That is where our story begins. The city of Belfast has always been, throughout its long history, intimately tied to the sea. Shipbuilders from all over the British Isles have made homes and livings here, and the art of shipbuilding is ingrained into the culture of the city itself.2 Thus, it is no surprise that a prestigious shipyard such as Harland and Wolff made a name for itself here. The site of Harland and Wolff itself is quite beautiful. The landscape is a beautiful emerald green, the air is often crisp and cool, and the entire site is flanked by the waters of the River Lagan. The shipyard was first built under the name Robert Hickson and Company in 1853, and it did not take long for it to begin growing. Its owners were pragmatic men who understood the importance of industrialization and modernization in a world dominated by one word: progress. To that end, they put an advertisement in the local newspaper looking for a man who could help them implement their vision as general manager of the yard. The man that responded to that add, Edward James Harland, was just the kind of man they were looking for.3

Upon his arrival at the shipyard in Belfast, Harland immediately began implementing the changes that his employers hired him to make. A brilliant and restless engineer, he replaced the wooden upper decks of any vessel under construction with stronger iron replacements, thus creating a much stronger hull. Harland also changed the shape of the vessels by giving them flat bottoms and square bilges that allowed for greater capacity. His last great reform was to do away with two of the last great holdouts from the Age of Sail: bowsprits and figureheads, although some of his future vessels would continue to carry sails until century’s end. Harland had single-handedly prepared the shipyard for the future, and his grip on it had become so firm that he was able to purchase the shipyard from his employers in September 1858. His reforms at the shipyard also garnered him significant attention from overseas investors. One in particular, Gustavus Schwabe, awarded Harland’s newly acquired shipyard with fresh building and repair contracts for the Bibby Line. However, it was Schwabe’s nephew, Gustav Wolff, also an engineer, who became Harland’s partner, and in 1861, the two men agreed to adopt the name Harland and Wolff, and thus the legendary shipyard was born.4

A meteoric rise followed the union between the two brilliant engineers. Business at the shipyard exploded. In 1864, the gross tonnage of the ships they built was 30,000 tons, by 1884 that figure increased to 104, 000 tons.5 In 1867, Belfast Harbor Commissioners authorized the construction of the Hamilton Graving Dock.6 Progress was fast and furious. An engine works was added as well as huts for foremen who oversaw yard workers during the day. Gigantic gantries were erected, to support some of the largest ships the world had ever known. Harland and Wolff was quickly becoming the preeminent shipyard in the world. It was in the midst of this busy, bustling, and budding shipyard that the father of Titanic arrived.7

James William Pirrie arrived at Harland and Wolff as an apprentice in 1862. The young and ambitious Pirrie quickly rose through the ranks to become head designer, and then in 1874, was admitted as a partner.8 A brilliant businessman, financier, and designer, Pirrie ascended to the role of chairman of Harland and Wolff when Harland died in 1894. Although brilliant, Pirrie ran his yard like a dictator. He negotiated his own contracts, secured orders for ships, built them to his own design with minimal input from shipping companies, and perhaps most importantly, only he knew the state of his yard’s finances.9 If Pirrie was a dictator, then his yard workers lived under his dictatorship. They labored six days a week while earning meager wages of 2 pounds a week. The day started at 7:50 a.m, and if any workers were late, they were locked out and deprived of a day’s wages. Holidays such as Christmas and Easter were unpaid, which often forced workers to put aside a portion of their weekly wages as savings. Life as a shipyard worker was tough, but that did not stop these men from working; they took the greatest pride in the ships they built with their own hands. So much so that Harland and Wolff became not merely a place to work, but rather an institution woven into the fabric of the city itself. That is why, when in 1907 White Star Line gave Pirrie and Harland and Wolff  the green light to begin drawing up plans for two brand new liners, the likes of which the world had never seen before, the great shipyard and its dedicated workforce, 15,000 strong, were more than up to the challenge.10

Lord William James Pirrie circa 1900 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
In the summer of 1908, officials from White Star Line and Harland and Wolff met to go over the plans and drawings that Pirrie had conceived. As usual, Pirrie’s vision was grand. He envisioned two brand new liners each nearing 900 feet in length and grossing over 40,000 tons; they would be the largest ships the world had ever seen. To fit with this grand vision, Pirrie chose two names that denoted the size and strength of the new vessels: Olympic and Titanic. However, Pirrie was not done yet. He knew all too well how competitive the transatlantic trade was, so he also included plans for a third vessel to be built after the completion of Olympic and Titanic. White Star Line was ecstatic; soon they would have the two most prestigious vessels in the world, with a third to follow soon after. On July 31, 1908, White Star Line and Harland and Wolff  signed a letter of agreement. No price was stated. The document contained only an acknowledgement that work would begin on hull numbers 400 and 401: Olympic and the infamous Titanic. Handshakes and congratulations were exchanged. These men were truly making history.11

Work began on the two vessels in earnest. Titanic’s keel (the foundation of every ship) was laid on March 31, 1909, just fifteen weeks after that of her sister Olympic.12 15, 000 men worked together on the two ships, which were built in two brand new slipways side by side. With each passing month the great ships rose farther and farther into the sky. They came to dominate not just the shipyard with their overbearing presence, but also Belfast itself; a poignant reminder of the shipyard’s place in the great city. Olympic and Titanic themselves came to occupy an equally special place in people’s hearts. The construction of these two mighty vessels was a massive undertaking, and there was not a single industry in Belfast that was not involved in some way. People came to refer to the two ships as,”Belfast’s own,” a reflection of the great pride they felt for the massive ships. There was a hint of appreciation too, as hundreds and thousands of workers and employees all over the city found consistent work because of the two behemoths being built at Harland and Wolff. Over two years of work on Titanic’s hull and superstructure passed, the men who worked on her gave their blood, sweat, tears, and lives to the vessel. Titanic’s hull, almost complete now, was painted deep black while her superstructure gleamed a bright white; and barely visible beneath the waterline was a strip of clear red paint. Finally, Titanic was ready for the next step in her journey: Launch Day.13

R.M.S Titanic ready for launch taken by Robert John Welch circa. 1911 | Courtesy of Wikipedia

May 31, 1911 dawned clear and bright with a slight southerly breeze. Harland and Wolff buzzed with frenzied activity and barely contained expectation for the coming spectacle. Final preparations were being made: the giant timbers supporting the liner’s bulk were carefully cut away using heavy rams, twenty-two tons of tallow and soap were applied to the slipway providing a one-inch thick coating which would bear the pressure of the great ship during launch. Three heavy anchors were placed in the river, connected to Titanic through heavy wires and cables, in order to counter the vessel’s momentum once she was in the water. Earlier that morning, special guests from all over the United Kingdom began arriving at the shipyard to witness the historic event. One hundred thousand people in all lined the streets, watched from balconies, stood atop rooftops, lined the shores of the River Lagan, or boarded specially chartered riverboats to watch the launch from the water. At noon, just fifteen minutes before the scheduled launch time, a red flag was hoisted from Titanic’s stern warning all river traffic to stand away; at the exact same time a red flare was shot into the air as another warning for river traffic to clear out. The show was about to begin. At 12:10, one last flare was jettisoned into the air as a final warning to any sluggish riverboats. At 12:13, Pirrie, who was in attendance with his wife, gave the final order to pull the releasing valve. The surrounding crowd fell completely silent–a hushed tension filled the air as people waited to see what would happen next. Slowly, Titanic began to move down the slipway, assisted only by the forces of gravity in her descent. The crowd erupted with resounding cheers, the workmen that were present threw their hats into the air, and riverboats blasted their horns in salute. Titanic’s hull reached the water just seconds after launch, and finally came to a halt in the River Lagan. The whole event lasted just sixty-two seconds, but it had captured the hearts and minds of all present. The pride the people of Belfast felt that day must have been immeasurable; no one could have known the awful fate that awaited Titanic and those who sailed on her.14

Titanic’s launch had been a resounding success, but now that the crowds had dispersed, there was still much work to be done. At the time of her launch, Titanic was nothing more than an empty shell; a mere shadow of the vessel that she was destined to become. It was now up to the architects, artisans, electricians, carpenters, joiners, and engineers to transform Titanic into a world class ocean liner. For ten grueling months, men worked ceaselessly to bring the ship to life. They installed electric lights, fitted out luxurious staterooms with ornate wood carvings and sumptuous decorations, and created impressive public spaces that would dazzle even the wealthiest of passengers. Titanic’s propulsion system was installed as well. Three gigantic bronze propellers were fitted to the liner’s stern that, in conjunction with Titanic’s engines, would move the ship at an impressive twenty-two knots. Each of Titanic’s twenty-nine boilers were brought from the workshops at the shipyard and carefully placed in the bowels of the ship. At the end of ten months, Titanic had been transformed into not just an ocean liner, but also the pinnacle of human ingenuity: a stunning testament to the unstoppable progress of mankind. Finally, as March lapsed into April, Titanic was ready for her long awaited maiden voyage. Little did anyone know that her first voyage would also be her last.15

The sun rose at 5:23 a.m on the morning of April 10th, 1912 in Southampton, England. Titanic had arrived just days before in preparation for her maiden voyage to New York City. The beautiful ship glistened in the morning sunlight; her imposing black hull towered above White Star Line’s brand new pier forty-four. She truly was a spectacular sight. The ship had been a hive of activity all week, and as the day of the voyage dawned, last minute preparations were still being made. Many areas of the ship still needed to be painted, while elsewhere, toilet facilities remained uninstalled. Men rushed to and fro in a valiant attempt to finish their tasks before noon. Elsewhere, Titanic’s crew began to arrive and settle in for the voyage. Thomas Andrews, Lord Pirrie’s nephew and one of Titanic’s lead designers, arrived at 6:00 a.m to conduct his inspection of the ship. Despite the hustle and bustle, he was very pleased with what he found: the ship was in excellent condition. Titanic’s crew arrived slowly at first, but by 7:00 a.m, hordes of crewmen began arriving at pier forty-four to check in and get settled aboard ship. Titanic’s captain, the venerable Edward John Smith, arrived on board at 7:30 a.m. It is hard to imagine the deep pride he must have felt at the sight of the great Titanic resting serenely upon the waves like an indomitable leviathan, towering over the docks of Southampton. This was to be his final crossing before retiring, and what better send off than to give him the grand Titanic as his final command. At 8:00 a.m, the crew members mustered for inspection where they officially signed in for the voyage and underwent a physical examination. The crew was in top shape and was quickly dismissed so that they could attend to their appropriate duties. The passengers would be arriving soon.16

A microcosm of Edwardian Society soon descended upon pier forty-four. Both the fabulously rich as well as the poor and needy had booked passages on Titanic. Two specially chartered “boat trains” arrived pier-side at 11:30 a.m carrying passengers separated by class: first class passengers arrived in one train, and second and third class passengers arrived in the other. After disembarking from the trains, first and second class passengers were allowed to board immediately after they had gathered their luggage and rendezvoused with any missing members of their party. The scene they must have witnessed of the gigantic liner towering above them like a solid black mountain gleaming in the late morning sun must have been breathtaking.17 If the passengers were awestruck by what they saw outside, they would simply be blown away by what awaited them inside the Titanic. The first class passengers entered the vessel at the A-Deck Grand Staircase, which was without a doubt the most spectacularly decorated interior space afloat. Upon entering it, they would notice the natural light being let in by the wrought iron glass dome overhead, reflected off the beautiful oak paneling around them. They would notice too, the elaborate gilt work of the balustrades flanking the staircase on all sides, and lastly, they would see the exquisitely carved clock centerpiece that depicted two nymphs, honor and glory, crowning time. The second class entrance on C-Deck was far less elaborate than that of first class, but nevertheless it was still quite luxurious and comfortable. Upon entering, they would see a comfortable and spacious area with a simple yet elegant staircase that would lead them to their accommodations. These were sights that greeted Titanic’s two upper classes upon their arrival on board; however, third class or steerage passengers saw no such sights upon entering Titanic. In fact, there was no glamour at all in their arrival. They were first subjected to a mandatory health inspection before being allowed to board the vessel. Then upon boarding, the sights that greeted them were not nearly as grand as the other two classes. Their public spaces were meagerly decorated with simple wooden long benches and quaint swivel chairs that were bolted to the floor. The walls were clearly metal with only light pine paneling to mask the hull, and even then passengers could see the circular heads of the rivets that were holding the vessel together protruding out of the wall. As Titanic’s passengers continued to settle in, the crew on board was preparing for a prompt noon departure. The most famous voyage in all of history was about to begin.18

R.M.S Olympic’s Grand Staircase circa 1911 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

At noon, Titanic’s passengers gathered on the boat deck to wave good-bye to the crowd gathered on the pier. The gangways that connected Titanic to the shore were withdrawn. The hawsers holding the liner to the pier were dropped, and the vessel began to move slowly down the River Test towards the waters of the English Channel. As the liner moved, the crowd on the pier began to move with it, keeping pace with Titanic until they reached the end of the pier. Meanwhile, Titanic continued down the River Test, aided now by a small group of tugboats that were helping guide the liner out to sea. As Titanic passed the veteran liners S.S City of New York and R.M.S Oceanic, the immense power of the ship’s engines created such powerful suction that the City of New York was almost sucked into the Titanic’s side. However, a collision was narrowly avoided because Captain Smith quickly threw his vessel into full reverse, repelling the City of the New York just in time to avoid a collision. The “New York Incident” cost Titanic an hour of sailing time, but more importantly it was considered by witnesses an omen of bad luck. They could not have been more eerily correct.19 When the commotion surrounding the incident died down, Titanic resumed her journey down the River Test for another twenty-five miles, until she reached the Nab Light, which signified the end of Southampton waters and the beginning of the English Channel. Next stop: Cherbourg, France.

Titanic was going to be late. This was the dismal news that awaited the passengers who had disembarked from the “boat train” after a six-hour journey from Paris to the port city of Cherbourg. The ship had been delayed by some peculiar incident in the River Test. That was all they knew, but they were growing more irritated by the minute. White Star Line’s Paris representative, Nicholas Martin, was trying desperately to console the bothered passengers gathered on the train platform. In a conciliatory move, Martin ushered the first and second class passengers quickly into the station, while the third class passengers were made to wait outside on the train platform. All passengers were told that Titanic would arrive at half past five, and that in the meantime, they should wait patiently in the lobby. By 5:30 p.m, Titanic was still nowhere to be found, so, Martin allowed all the passengers to board the two tenders, Nomadic and Traffic, which would usher them out to Titanic when she arrived off shore. The two tenders cruised around the bay for almost another hour and a half before Titanic was spotted steaming towards them. The ship looked stunning in the setting evening sun; her lights were lit and the ship was glowing brightly, and the passengers on board the Nomadic and Traffic could hear the sprightly ragtime music being played by one of the ship’s bands in the first class reception room. The two tiny tenders pulled up alongside Titanic, and off loaded their passengers. Finally, the passengers were allowed to board the ship they had waited all afternoon for, and it arguably could not have been at a better time, as Titanic’s passengers were just about to sit down for dinner. The second and third class passengers boarded the ship just as their counterparts in Southampton had, and joined their counterparts at dinner, but the first class passengers got a very special treat. They entered the ship through the first class reception room to a spectacular welcome. The room was beautifully decorated with lush purple carpet and green-cushioned wicker furniture, with large potted plants placed strategically around the room, while beautiful stained-glass windows allowed passengers to peer out at the evening sky. Most of the new passengers were spirited away to their rooms by stewards and stewardesses, but some chose to stay and mingle with their fellow travelers before going to dinner. It had been an exhausting day, but now that all the passengers from Cherbourg were safely aboard, Titanic was free to sail to her next destination: the small Irish town of Queenstown.20

A period illustration of Titanic’s First Class Reception Room circa 1911 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The next morning, Thursday April 11, 1912, dawned breezy and cool with intermittent sunshine. Titanic had made good enough speed during the night to make up for any lost time due to the events of the previous day. At 11:30 a.m, she dropped anchor in Queenstown harbor for her final stop before continuing on to New York City. Almost immediately, two tenders, America and Ireland, came alongside the Titanic and began offloading mail and passengers bound for America. By 1:30 p.m, Titanic was ready to resume her maiden voyage. As Titanic sailed out into the open ocean, those on the pier turned to get a final glance at the retreating liner. That was the last time anyone ever saw Titanic afloat. In just four short days she and over a thousand of her passengers would be gone forever.21

The next three days of the voyage were quite enjoyable by any standard. The weather was beautiful each day, and men and women often elected to lounge in deck chairs or take strolls on the promenade deck to take in the fresh air. When they tired of this, they often ventured inside to play cards in their cabins or converse in the lounge. First and second class passengers also had access to a heated salt water swimming pool (the first of its kind ever to go to sea), which they could use at an appointed time. The more athletic passengers made use of the Gymnasium, which was fully equipped with a state-of-the-art electric camel and rowing machine. However, by far the grandest past time was dinner, served at 7:00 p.m. Passengers dressed in their finest clothes each night so they could dazzle their friends and colleagues. Men wore their newest tuxedos, while women donned their most exquisite dinner gown coupled with a diamond tiara or emerald necklace. The conversation and champagne flowed freely between friends as they sat in the dinning room mulling over the latest news about Titanic’s speed or perhaps the latest political developments in America and Europe. By Saturday April 13th, passengers had settled into a steady daily routine of rest and relaxation. None of them expected that they would be participants in the most tragic event in maritime history.22

Sunday April 14, 1912 dawned sunny and clear. There was not a ripple on the ocean except for the massive wake created by the majestic Titanic, which was tearing through the waves at her fastest speed yet. Ever since noon on Saturday, Titanic had been gradually increasing speed, until by Sunday morning she was gliding through the waves at an impressive 22.06 knots. The ship not only teemed with life, but seemed to be alive herself as she cut through the picturesque waters of the North Atlantic. 23 After breakfast, the crew mustered for their traditional Sunday morning inspection. The heads of department and Captain Smith must have struck a strange sight to the passengers as they wandered the vessel from bow to stern scrutinizing every inch of the ship. As it was Sunday, both passengers and crew also prepared to attend religious services. Captain Smith himself led a worship service in the First Class Dinning Room at 11:00 a.m. The service was a somber occasion that concluded with the age-old hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” Despite the picturesque weather and lively atmosphere on board, ominous warning signs were beginning to pour in over what was perhaps the most important device on Titanic: the Marconi Wireless System.24

ugliemo Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy on April 25, 1874. A young and curious student, Marconi spent much of his youth experimenting in his makeshift lab on his father’s villa. From a very young age, Marconi had a deep interest in the prospect of wireless communication. As early as 1894, Marconi began experimenting with electromagnetic waves. His dream was to one day link the whole world through wireless communication, and eventually, he would do just that. His first great success came late in 1895 when he was able to successfully transmit a wireless signal between two pieces of equipment he had set up over one mile apart. While the signal may not have traveled far, the experiment’s success convinced Marconi that he could indeed make his dream a reality. Sadly, no one in his home country of Italy had any interest in helping further wireless technology, so in 1896, Marconi decided to move to England where he would have the resources necessary to continue experimenting.25

When he arrived in England in February 1896, Marconi hardly knew anyone in the scientific community. However, his influential relatives in England helped Marconi establish himself in the scientific community, so that by June of that same year, he was ready to file for his very first patent. However, Marconi was never satisfied with his inventions, and over the next few years, he worked long and hard to improve his signal apparatus. It was his second and most important patent, granted in 1900, British patent no. 7777, for “Improvements in Apparatus for Wireless Telegraphy” that catapulted him to international acclaim. Over the next two years, Marconi busied himself with what he called the “distance contest.” Now that he had a device that consistently worked, his next step was to have it installed all over the world. He successfully installed his devices on both sides of the Atlantic in December of 1901, and then sent his first signal at sea, aboard the S.S. Philadelphia, in 1902. It was this signal, sent in the middle of the Atlantic, that got the attention of the great transatlantic companies; including the White Star Line.26

It was painfully obvious to the White Star Line, and the other transatlantic companies, just how beneficial Marconi’s invention could be for them. Marconi’s wireless apparatus would allow transatlantic passengers access to information from either continent, thus ensuring that they were consistently up-to-date on the latest news in their world. It also allowed for passengers to maintain contact with family and friends on shore. That way they could better coordinate arrival and pickup times. However, the most important benefit of installing wireless apparatuses on ocean liners was their contribution to safety. Marconi’s invention made it so that ships could now communicate with one another at sea, which allowed them to relay important information, including distress signals and ice warnings to each other. By 1907, White Star Line had installed wireless sets on all of its liners, and as a result, transatlantic travel had never been safer. However effective the wireless apparatus may have been at sea, there were serious flaws in its regulation. For example, there were no laws dictating when a wireless operator aboard a vessel should relay messages to his captain nor was there any law dictating just how long an operator had to work at his machine. However, these were trivial concerns to the great transatlantic companies whose mighty liners dominated the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Surely, they thought, no great disaster could ever befall one of their vessels. Oh, how wrong they were!27

Photo of Wireless Room on Titanic’s identical sister Olympic circa 1913 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
As that clear Sunday morning dawned, Titanic’s two wireless operators, Jack Philips and Harold Bride, were hard at work. It had been an exhausting night, as the wireless apparatus had broken down the evening before and the two had worked all night to repair it. Now that it was operational again, the two men had a back log of messages to transmit for passengers. However, their work was interrupted when, at 9:00 a.m, they received an ice warning from the Cunard liner Caronia warning of large icebergs, growlers, and also field ice just ahead of Titanic’s position. Philips handed the message to Bride, who in turn delivered it to Fourth Officer Boxhall on the bridge. Boxhall looked at it quizzically, marked the reported position of the ice on a chart, and then posted the warning itself to the wardroom so that his fellow officers could see it. Titanic received another warning at 11:40 a.m, this time from the Nordam echoing the earlier message. Once again, Philips gave the message to Bride to deliver to the bridge. However, this time no one did anything with the warning; it was not charted nor was it posted to the wardroom. Yet another wireless message was received at 1:30 p.m that afternoon from the White Star liner Baltic, reporting a large ice field containing icebergs that was directly in front of Titanic’s current position. Bride delivered this message directly to Captain Smith, who then took it with him to lunch and handed it off to J. Bruce Ismay, the owner and managing director of the White Star Line. In all, Titanic received six ice warnings that Sunday. Of those six, only one had been properly dealt with, another languished on the bridge unheeded, while yet another was given to a man who was not even a crewman, and finally the last three were simply never given to the captain or any of the officers. For all intents and purposes, they disappeared. If Captain Smith and his officers had seen and acted on all these warnings, then they would have realized that an immense ice belt, seventy-eight miles wide, lay directly in Titanic’s path.28 

By 7:00 p.m, just as the passengers were sitting down for dinner, officers Lightholler and Murdoch on the bridge noticed a startling change in the weather–the temperature had dropped to just 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The two men knew that they were in for a cold night. Elsewhere, the passengers were having a delightful time. The men and women in the first class dinning room had never looked more resplendent than now. The cold weather gave them the opportunity to dress in their heaviest suits and gowns covered, undoubtedly, with heavy overcoats and furs. Even Captain Smith could not excuse himself from the jovial atmosphere, as he attended a dinner party in his honor in Titanic’s exclusive A La Carte Restaurant. In second class, a group of faithful passengers had an impromptu hymn concert in the second class dining room at 8:00 p.m. In the ever lively third class, the passengers gathered in the general room where they were regaled by wonderful Irish folk songs. By 9:00 p.m., the jovial atmosphere had not dissipated one bit, on the contrary many passengers had simply relocated from the dinning rooms to the lounges and smoking rooms to take up a game of cards or have another drink. But the situation on the bridge had changed considerably. Officer Lightholler, still on watch, had noted that the temperature was now just one degree above freezing, and he was becoming increasingly uneasy about the possible presence of ice. A little before 9:00 p.m, Captain Smith walked onto the bridge to check in with Lightholler before going to bed. He and Lightholler agreed that it had grown bitterly cold and that the ocean was unusually calm. Captain Smith told Lightholler that if conditions changed, even slightly, to alert him immediately. At 10:00 p.m., Lightholler’s watch ended when he was relieved by Officer Murdoch. Titanic’s last watch had begun.29

An illustration of Titanic’s A La Carte Restaurant circa 1912 | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Most passengers finally decided to retire at about 11:00 p.m. However, there were still a few stragglers finishing card games in the smoking room or braving the weather on the promenade deck. Meanwhile on the bridge, Officers Murdoch and Moody were freezing in the cold night air, but they remained as vigilant as ever in their watch. High above them in the crow’s nest, lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee kept a keen eye out for any ice. It had been an exceptionally quiet night, and the two men were undoubtedly looking forward to returning to their warm bunks at the end of their watch. However, at 11:39 p.m., Fleet saw a dark black shape loom out of the night, and he knew immediately what it was: an iceberg. He rang the bell in the crow’s nest three times signalling to the bridge that there was danger ahead. Then, he grabbed the telephone in the crow’s nest and phoned the bridge. Officer Moody answered the phone by asking, “What did you see?”30 Fleet replied in a trembling voice, “Iceberg Right Ahead!”31 Moody casually replied, “Thank You,”but his causal tone deeply contrasted the scene unfolding on the bridge.32 Officer Murdoch had seen the iceberg too, and had rushed into action. He ordered quartermaster Hitchens to turn the wheel hard a-starboard, and then yanked the bronze telegraphs on the bridge to the “Full Astern” position, before finally flipping the switch that closed Titanic’s watertight compartments deep in the bowels of the ship. What followed was perhaps the most tense thirty-seven seconds of his life, as he waited for Titanic to respond to his orders. Slowly but surely, she began to turn around the approaching iceberg, and at first it seemed that she might miss it entirely. But this was not so; it was too late. Titanic collided with the iceberg, scraping along its side, and breaking chunks of ice free, that then fell onto the deck. Then the iceberg passed quietly into the darkness. The whole incident lasted just a minute, but Titanic had suffered a fatal blow.33

Captain Smith appeared on the bridge in a matter of seconds after the iceberg passed, having been awakened by the impact of the collision. He turned to Officer Murdoch and asked, “Mr. Murdoch what was that?”34 Murdoch, completely exasperated with sweat dripping down his forehead, replied, “An iceberg sir. I hard a-starboard and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard a-port around it, but she was just too close. I couldn’t do any more.”35 Captain Smith ordered a full stop so he could assess the damage done to Titanic. In his mind the situation was not quite desperate yet, after all he did not yet know the full extent of the damage. He sent Officer Boxhall on a tour of the forward section of the ship. When Boxhall returned, he reported that he did not see any indication of damage there, but this did little to assuage Captain’s Smith’s worries, so he sent for Thomas Andrews, the one man who could give him a definitive diagnosis. When Andrews arrived on the bridge, Captain Smith quickly told him what had happened, and the two men embarked on a tour of the vessel together. They walked up and down Titanic’s corridors, passed the mail room where they saw men struggling to lift sacks of mail out of the in-rushing water, and then to the squash court, which was already awash, and ended the tour in the boiler room where they saw the stokers wading in water up to there knees; laboring to put out their boiler fires before the seawater could reach them. As the two men made their way back to the bridge, they passed through the first class entrance on A-deck where a group of concerned passengers had gathered, some in their nightclothes others in their suits and gowns, to inquire about what had happened. As the Captain and Andrews passed, the passengers tried to read their faces for any sign of how they felt, but neither man showed any sign of distress. However, deep down they both knew by then that Titanic was seriously damaged.36

R.M.S Olympic’s Bridge circa 1911 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

When the two men rejoined the officers on the bridge, Andrews calmly laid out his findings. Water was flooding into the ship at a rapid rate. Cargo holds one and two had been compromised, along with the mail room and boiler rooms five and six. Andrews estimated that a gash three hundred feet long was pouring water into Titanic, flooding five of her sixteen watertight compartments. He went on, Titanic could float with any of her first four watertight compartments flooded, but not five. As the weight of the water dragged Titanic down, seawater would flood into one compartment and then the next and then the next. There was no stopping it. Titanic would sink; it was a mathematical certainty. Captain Smith knew that the situation was serious, but he never imagined that Titanic would sink. Now he was being told that it was a mathematical certainty. He asked Andrews how much time Titanic had left. Andrews told him he had an hour, maybe an hour and a half, but no more than that. Smith turned to his chief Officer Wilde and ordered him to begin uncovering the lifeboats, just sixteen boats and four collapsible rafts for the 2,208 souls on board. He told Officer Murdoch to muster the passengers, while he asked Officer Moody to wake Officers Lightholler and Pitman. As his officers rushed off to attend to their assignments, Captain Smith walked to the wireless room, to consult with the two men who were, perhaps, his last hope.37

Harold Bride had just taken over the Marconi set from Jack Philips when Captain Smith entered the wireless room. He briskly informed them that Titanic had struck an iceberg, and that they should be ready to send out a distress signal when he gave the order. It was time for the wireless apparatus to play its most important role: savior. He returned a few minutes later with the go ahead and a slip of paper with Titanic’s position on it. Philips took over the apparatus from Bride and immediately began transmitting the international distress signal, “CQD” (Come Quick Distress). He and Bride would continue sending distress signals until near the bitter end. Elsewhere, the crew began rousing the passengers. In first and second class, stewards and stewardesses politely knocked on cabin doors, and then told the passengers to put their lifebelts on and proceed to the boat deck. In third class, confusion reigned. Men and women, who had been staying on opposite ends of the ship, desperately tried to find their missing family members and friends before proceeding up to the boat deck. Once there, the third class passengers huddled together for protection against the bitterly cold air. Up above them, on the first and second class decks, the passengers watched as Titanic’s officers and crewmen worked feverishly to prepare the boats for launch. Small groups of men worked on each boat, some tearing off the canvas coverings, others storing lanterns and tins of biscuits inside. The passengers on deck looked on with fixed curiosity, but not a hint of alarm. To them this was all one big inconvenience. Titanic looked as sturdy as ever, her lights still fully ablaze, her superstructure still towering over of the ocean. To them, there was no reason to leave the strong Titanic for a small wooden lifeboat in the middle of the North Atlantic. So, when the call went out for passengers to fill the first lifeboats, many women and children refused to go. At 12:45, when the first boat was lowered, it carried only nineteen people of a total capacity for sixty-five.38

Meanwhile, in the wireless room Philips and Bride were hard at work. Initial contacts inspired hope. At 12:18, the German vessel Frankfort replied with a simple, “Okay,” followed by responses from three more vessels, including the Olympic, just one minute later. But that hope quickly faded as the vessels reported their positions. The Frankfort was 150 miles away while the Olympic was over 500 miles away. They would never get there in time to help. However, at 12:25 the R.M.S Carpathia replied that she was only fifty-eight miles from Titanic’s position. Philips was ecstatic. That was the closest any ship was to Titanic. He told them to come at once. Carpathia replied that she was making full steam towards Titanic’s position and that she would arrive in four hours. Just then, Captain Smith poked his head in the door, Philips gave him the good news, but it did not lift Smith’s spirits. Titanic’s condition was deteriorating rapidly. The squash court was now entirely underwater, and seawater was creeping onto E deck, just one deck above the first class dining room. It was clear to Captain Smith that Carpathia would not arrive in time to save all the passengers; only those who got off in the lifeboats would make it. Evacuating Titanic was now more important than ever.39

Titanic’s deck plan detailing lifeboat locations | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

For the passengers, the illusion of Titanic’s safety was quickly beginning to fade. The liner was now noticeably down at the head, and they could feel the downward slant of the liner’s deck beneath their feet. Suddenly, at 12:45, a bright white flair pierced the night sky. The passengers on deck looked up in bewilderment as the flair exploded, showering the night sky with sparks. Even the most stubborn passengers now began to realize that Titanic was in serious trouble. So much trouble, in fact, that she was now firing flares in an attempt to attract any nearby vessels. Men began to rush their wives and children to the boats. Tears filled the women’s eyes as they said good-bye to their husbands. It seems that despite their husband’s assurances that everything would be alright, many women already felt that they would never see their husbands again. Still, some women were quite obstinate. The elderly Mrs. Ida Straus, when she was about to enter boat no. 8, turned around and rejoined her husband Isidor on deck. Looking at him she said resolutely, “We have been living together for many years. Where you go, I go.”40 The couple embraced each other and then receded into the crowd. One by one the tiny boats dropped into the sea: No. 6 at 12:55 a.m, No. 3 at 1:00 a.m, No. 8 at 1:10 a.m. As they rowed away, their occupants turned to see a terrifying sight. The sea was clearly swallowing Titanic, a fact that just an hour before would have seemed impossible. As they looked on, the passengers in the boats could see Titanic’s bronze propellers almost completely out of the water and they could also see the eerie glow created by the lit portholes now completely underwater. Titanic was sinking- that was no longer a question in anyone’s mind.41

As the night wore on, the evacuation became more strenuous. Both crewmen and passengers began showing signs of fatigue. One French woman stumbled and fell as she tried to climb into boat No. 9, while one other lady who tried to jump into boat No. 10, missed completely, only to be grabbed by the ankles and pulled back onto the ship for a second try. Some passengers even lost their nerve and had to be thrown into the lifeboats kicking and screaming. Nevertheless, the evacuation continued. For the third class passengers below decks, things were beginning to look increasingly hopeless. Hundreds of them had yet to have a chance at getting in a boat. Only one serious attempt was made to help them get to the lifeboats. Third class steward John Edward Hart struggled all night to help third class passengers into their lifebelts, and he also led a group of third class women and children to the boat deck himself. The journey was long and arduous, Hart and his charges wandered up and down Titanic’s corridors, passed the many public spaces and dining halls of second and first class, and finally made it to the boat deck at about 1:00 a.m. Hart escorted his little group to the lifeboats, but his job did not end there. Many of his charges were so frightened that they ran back inside, forcing Hart to chase after them and bring them back by force. After he saw this group off, Hart returned to third class to lead one more group of women and children. They arrived on deck at approximately 1:25 a.m., and Hart escorted them to boat No. 15. As he was about to go back to third class, Officer Murdoch grabbed him and ordered him into the boat. Hart could not refuse an order, so he jumped in the boat with his second group, which left Titanic at 1:30 a.m. Hart left the liner with his work tragically incomplete. Hundreds of third class passengers remained below decks. Many of them wandered the corridors searching, in vain, for a way to the boat deck. Even those who found the right staircase or corridor were often blocked by locked gates, restricting them to their areas of the ship. Some of them gave up and returned to their rooms to pray and spend their last minutes surrounded by their families. A large prayer service was held in the third class general room, which many passengers attended, rosaries in hand. Even those who managed to reach the boat deck were tragically short of luck. Most of the boats had gone by then, and all the third class passengers could do was watch as the fleet of tiny lifeboats rowed farther and farther away from Titanic; many of them less than half full.42

Meanwhile in the wireless room, Philips and Bride were still hard at work. It had been a long and frustrating night. Most of the vessels they had reached simply did not understand the seriousness of Titanic’s situation. Olympic kept asking whether or not Titanic was steaming south to meet her, while the Frankfort believed that rescue vessels had already arrived to help. Only the Carpathia seemed to understand, and as Titanic’s power faded, the two vessels tried desperately to maintain contact. At 1:45 a.m Captain Smith poked his head in the door and told them that Titanic did not have much time left, and that they should expect to lose power any moment now. Still, Philips did not move from the wireless apparatus one inch. Bride decided that he would have to dress Philips himself. First, he draped a large overcoat over him and then finally a lifebelt. At last, Philips got up and let Bride take his place at the wireless apparatus. Then, he decided to go out on deck and see for himself just how bad things were. The sights that greeted him were quite dismal. Seawater was now traveling up the boat deck itself, preparing to consume Titanic’s bridge. Philips quickly returned to the wireless room and told his companion, “Things look very queer.”43 The end was clearly near.44

“Leaving the Sinking Liner” by Charles Dixon April 1912 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Out on the boat deck, the last two lifeboats were hastily being loaded. Officer Lightholler, who was exerting himself so much that he had sweat through his greatcoat, was preparing to load boat No. 4. As he had done throughout the night, Lightholler observed a strict women and children only policy. As he was helping Mrs. Emily Ryerson into the boat, her son Jack, just thirteen years old, tried to follow her. However, Lightholler stopped him and called out, “That boy can’t go!”45 Just then Mr. Ryerson stepped forward indignantly, “Of course that boy goes with his mother–he is only thirteen.”46 Lightholler let the poor boy through but not before he angrily announced, “No more boys.”47 At 1:55 a.m, boat No. 4 was dropped into the sea now just fifteen feet below the deck. It was at about this time that Titanic’s power began to go out. The lights, which up until then had burned fiercely, turned red, and all around them the sound of breaking chinaware and falling appliances could be heard. Lightholler knew there was not time to lose. He and his fellow crewmen created a ring around collapsible D, through which only women and small children could pass. One by one men brought their wives, friends, and relatives forward, so that they could see them off in the last boat. At 2:05 a.m. collapsible D left the stricken liner. With that, there were now no more lifeboats left, but there were still over 1,500 souls left on board.48

Now with all the boats gone, a strange calm descended on Titanic’s remaining passengers. Many of them just stood on the boat deck quietly waiting for the end; no doubt thinking about all their loved ones in the boats that, at the moment, were so close, but never seemed farther away than now. At 2:05 a.m., Captain Smith poked his head in the door of the wireless room one last time and said, “Men you have done your full duty. You can do no more. Abandon your cabin. Now it’s every man for himself.”49 Philips looked up at Captain Smith briefly, but then returned to his work. Bride quickly began gathering some of his important papers, and then he returned to his bunk to grab his belongings. When he returned, he saw a stoker gently removing Philips’ lifebelt. He leaped at the man to try and stop him, and when Philips realized what was happening he got up and punched him unconscious. Leaving the man on the floor, the two operators left the wireless room for the last time. When the two men reached the boat deck they parted ways, and Bride never saw Philips alive again. All around them the eerie calm that had gripped Titanic since the departure of the boats continued. The many sumptuous public rooms were now all but empty. Only the 1st class smoking room was still occupied. When a steward poked his head in at 2:10 a.m, he saw Thomas Andrews standing all alone in the room. His lifebelt lay across the green cloth top of a card table beside him. His arms were folded and he wore a stunned expression on his face; all his energy was gone. The steward asked meekly if he was going to try and save himself, but there was no reply. Andrews was lost in his thoughts. Thoughts of his beloved Belfast, his wife and two year old daughter, his uncle, and of course of the dying Titanic.50 Outside on the boat deck, hordes of people were moving towards the imagined safety of Titanic’s stern. Then suddenly a massive wave swept dozens from the crowd into the sea. Titanic’s bow had begun its final plunge. The water raced up the boat deck faster and faster consuming the once great ship at a startling rate. Seeing this, many people began jumping overboard into the 28 degree water below. Others rushed for the stern, only to lose their footing and slide into the sea. Those that reached the stern had to cling to the ship’s railings to keep themselves from falling. Hundreds and hundreds of people had gathered there. Old and young, rich and poor, male and female. The strict social boundaries that, just hours ago, had been so important disappeared as Titanic’s passengers clustered together at the stern, awaiting their end. At 2:17 a.m the lights flickered out but then came back on before finally going out forever. Just seconds later, Titanic broke apart between her third and fourth funnels. Boilers, engines, chinaware, pianos, beds, tables, and chairs came spilling out of the new hole in Titanic, littering the sea with debris. The men and women in the boats watched with horrific awe as the liner’s bow plunged to the bottom, while her stern briefly fell back level before going under at 2:20 a.m. Titanic, the pinnacle of human ingenuity and progress was no more.51

An Illustration of the Sinking of the Titanic | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Titanic’s departure to the abyss of the ocean left behind a truly horrific sight. 1,502 people were left struggling for their lives in the 28 degree water. The desperate swimmers clung to surrounding wreckage and even each other in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Third class passenger Olaus Abelseth distinctly remembered the moment he felt a man’s arm clamp around his neck. He managed to wriggle free, but the man grabbed him again, so Abelseth was forced to kick him off.52 If their fellow passengers did not kill them, the freezing water most certainly would. Unconsciousness would set in in just fifteen minutes, followed inevitably by hypothermia and death in another thirty minutes.53 Those in the water were living on borrowed time. They cried out in vain for help because they knew that there were boats not that far away, and hoped that they would return to save them. The cries of the dying were too much for Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Lively and impulsive, Lowe could not sit idly by as passengers suffered and died in the water. He decided it was time to act.54

Perhaps no one was in a better place to act than Officer Lowe. After leaving Titanic in boat No. 14, he took command of four other lifeboats. As he heard the cries of the dying, Lowe began organizing his little flotilla for rescue work. He decided to move the most experienced crewmen in his flotilla over to boat No. 14, which he would then take to the wreck site to search for survivors. However, first he had to offload the fifty-five passengers that were under his care. It was frustrating and time consuming work; moving fifty-five people to four other boats at 2:30 a.m in the middle of the North Atlantic, and Lowe did not depart for the wreck site until after 3:00 a.m. Once they arrived at the wreck site it became perfectly clear that Lowe and his men were too late. Hundreds of dead bodies lay suspended in the water by their lifebelts. Some had their heads laid back, while others lay face down. There were so many of them that it was difficult to row. Of the over 1,500 left on Titanic, Lowe and his men found only three men alive. As they left the wreck site they noticed that all of the bodies seemed to have perished from cold, as their limbs were all cramped up. Describing their departure later, Able Bodied Seamen Joseph Scarrott said, “As we left that awful scene we gave way to tears. It was enough to break the stoutest heart.”55 At least they went back. In every other boat only a half-hearted suggestion was made, followed by an emphatic refusal. Many of these lifeboats had room for dozens more passengers, but only one boat returned; one of twenty!56

After the cries of those in the water died down, a peaceful atmosphere descended on the survivors in the lifeboats. The shock of the events of the past four hours had yet to set in, the realization that many would never see their loved ones again had not set in either. Many of the survivors found comfort in looking at the dozens of shooting stars overhead. As she looked up at the sky, Miss Gertrude Hippach in boat No.4, recalled the legend that every time there is a shooting star, somebody dies. However, as the night wore on, the peacefulness was gradually replaced by a sense of liveliness. In boat No. 2 Officer Boxhall began firing off green flares into the night sky, getting the attention of many of the other lifeboats. Small talk in the boats revived as well. Second Class passenger Lawrence Beesley discovered that he shared close mutual friends in Clonmel, Ireland with the woman sitting next to him in boat No. 13. A poignant sense of solidarity emerged among the survivors in the boats too. In boat No. 4, Mrs. Madeline Astor lent a steerage woman her shawl to keep her baby warm, while in boat No. 5, a crewmen gave his socks to first class passenger Mrs. Dodge. To the survivors huddling for warmth in the middle of the frigid North Atlantic, social class ceased to matter. Every single one of them were united in their effort to survive; hoping and praying that help would arrive soon.57

As the sun came up that morning, Titanic’s survivors were greeted by a truly beautiful sight. Dozens of icebergs lay all around them, glistening in the first rays of the morning sun. It looked like something one would see in the Arctic or North Pole. The survivors began to realize that Titanic had sailed headlong into a massive ice field, and that it was a miracle that she had avoided a collision as long as she did. However, the most welcome sight was a small single funneled steamer on the horizon. Yells of relief and loud boisterous cheers erupted from those in the boats. Help had come after all! As the tiny lifeboats came along side the steamer, the survivors in them peered up to look at the name painted on her bow: R.M.S Carpathia. The little Cunard steamer had braved the dangers of the ice field, almost colliding with an iceberg herself, to reach Titanic’s survivors. By 8;30 a.m., all of the survivors had been brought on board. In all, they numbered just 705 of Titanic’s 2,208 passengers. A true tragedy for the ages. For Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, the serious question now was what to do with his new passengers. After some discussion with his officers and J. Bruce Ismay, who had survived the sinking, he decided to take the survivors to New York City.58

Two of Titanic’s lifeboats approach the Carpathia, April 15, 1912 by George Grantham Bain | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

As the Carpathia made her way to New York City with the survivors, the story was beginning to break around the world. Initial news reports caused premature hope. The New York Herald reported that rescue ships had come to Titanic’s aid in time to save all the passengers, but did not comment on Titanic herself. The Evening Sun also reported that all had been saved from Titanic, but they added that the damaged liner was being towed to Halifax. Only The New York Times got the story right. They reported that Titanic had indeed sunk and that there was great loss of life, and for a few hours the newspaper stood alone, ostracized and ridiculed by the other more optimistic newspapers. However, it did not take long for a more accurate picture of what happened to emerge. By 9:00 a.m New York time, White Star Line had indeed conceded that Titanic had sunk with great loss of life. The world was simply stunned. Titanic was actually gone, along with over a thousand of her passengers. Upon hearing the news, men and women began lining up outside of White Star Line’s New York Office to inquire about their loved ones. Most of them left sobbing with their heads buried in their accompanying family members clothes. The press was so anxious for any story, they simply made up headlines. One paper reported that Titanic had crashed into the iceberg after getting lost in a fog; her siren blaring loudly the whole time. There was no truth to this report or any of the others like it. The press and indeed the world would just have to wait until Titanic’s survivors reached New York City to get a good story.59

Thursday April 18th, 1912 was a very long day. The weather had turned quite foul; rain had been pouring all day, drenching those who had begun gathering in New York Harbor. Nevertheless, the crowds were massive. Ten thousand people had gathered on the Battery at Manhattan’s southern tip to witness the arrival of Carpathia. Another thirty thousand was waiting at Cunard pier fifty-four for the survivors. At 9:30 p.m Carpathia entered the harbor. Almost immediately, she was flanked on all sides by dozens of small boats carrying reporters desperate for a story. They shouted up at the survivors standing on deck offering them money in exchange for an exclusive interview. Some even used flares to light the night sky in an attempt to take pictures of the people on Carpathia’s deck. However, not one reporter was allowed on board. Captain Rostron did not want them bothering any survivors, especially not on his watch. Slowly, Carpathia made her way down to the piers, but she surprised everyone by bypassing Cunard’s pier, and electing instead to dock at White Star Line’s piers fifty-nine and sixty. The crowd gathered on pier fifty-four quickly rushed over to the other piers, watched by the New York City Police sent to maintain order. By 10:00 p.m, Carpathia’s gangway had been dropped, and survivors began trickling down into the waiting crowd. First came those in critical medical condition; they were quickly taken away in one of the thirty-five ambulances waiting at the pier. Next came the many prominent first class passengers. As they descended, the cameras began to flash wildly in what was, perhaps, a disrespectful and insensitive try for a headline photo. Luckily, for them, they had family members waiting for them with limousines ready to whisk them away to the nearest hotel or even back home. Then came second and third class. Not many of them had family waiting for them at the pier, but many charities, including the salvation army, had set up shelters ready to receive hundreds even thousands of survivors. Lastly, came Titanic’s crew, which was due to sail back home to Great Britain within the next day or so.60

The worst was now over, but for the 705 survivors life would never be the same. Many of them lost everyone and everything in the disaster, and there was nothing they or anyone could do to replace the lives lost. Titanic would continue to cast a dark, sometimes insurmountable, shadow over their lives. For the world too, things would never be quite the same either. Mankind’s belief in their technological progress was never quite as strong again. The world that before had been brimming with confidence, now questioned the significance of their achievements. After all, their greatest achievement now lay at the bottom of the sea. Safety regulations were about to be revised too; boats for all was the call that everyone agreed with. However, the most incredible thing that Titanic did that night was achieve immortality. It has been 107 years since that bitterly cold April night, but Titanic is with us more now than ever before. It is amazing that a world that has experienced so much pain and suffering since 1912, still knows, and will forever know the story of the Titanic.61

Titanic’s bow underwater photographed in 2004 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
  1. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S. Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 15-18.
  2. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 5.
  3. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 17.
  4. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 5-6.
  5. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 6.
  6. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 17.
  7. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 6, 20.
  8. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 18.
  9. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 6.
  10. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 18.
  11. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 20.
  12. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 20.
  13. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 25.
  14. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 21-22.
  15. John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1994), 30-34.
  16. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 63.
  17. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 65-66.
  18. Don Lynch, Titanic: An Illustrated History (New York: Hyperion, 1992), 52-53, 64, 66-67.
  19. Don Lynch, Titanic: An Illustrated History (New York: Hyperion, 1992), 30-35.
  20. Hugh Brewster, Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), 5-6, 13-15, 26-27, 30.
  21. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 96-107.
  22. Don Lynch, Titanic: An Illustrated History (New York: Hyperion, 1992), 61, 63.
  23. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 115-116.
  24. Daniel Allen Butler, Unsinkable: The Full Story of The R.M.S Titanic (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2012), 64-65.
  25. Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, s.v. “Marconi, Guglielmo.”
  26. Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, s.v. “Marconi, Guglielmo.”
  27. Daniel Allen Butler, Unsinkable: The Full Story of The R.M.S Titanic (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2012), 66-68.
  28. Daniel Allen Butler, Unsinkable: The Full Story of The R.M.S Titanic (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2012), 68-69.
  29. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 125-135.
  30. Sixth Officer James Paul Moody, quoted in Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 2.
  31. Lookout Fredrick Fleet, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 2.
  32. Sixth Officer James Paul Moody, quoted in Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 2.
  33. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 2-7.
  34. Captain Edward John Smith, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 7.
  35.   First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 7.
  36. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 7-19.
  37. Walter Lord, A Night To Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 21-23.
  38. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 27-39.
  39. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 39-44.
  40. Mrs. Ida Straus, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 49.
  41. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 45-51.
  42. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 52-57.
  43. John Jack Philips, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 62.
  44. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 61-62.
  45. Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightholler, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 67.
  46. Mr. Arthur A. Ryerson, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 67.
  47. Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightholler, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 67.
  48. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 66-69.
  49. Captain Edward John Smith, quoted in, Walter Lord, A Night To Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 72.
  50. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 71-79.
  51. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 225-135.
  52. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 96.
  53. Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 238.
  54. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 101.
  55. Able Bodied Seamen Joseph Scarrott, quoted in, Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 245.
  56. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 102-103.
  57. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 104-105.
  58. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 129-137.
  59. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 138-141.
  60. Tad Fitch, J. Kent ayton, and Bill Wormstedt, On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S Titanic (The Hill Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012), 261-264.
  61. Walter Lord, A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1955), 95-96.

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Christopher Hohman

Christopher Hohman is a senior History Major and Public History Graduate student at St. Mary’s University. He enjoys writing and researching a variety of topics and is currently working as a graduate research assistant while simultaneously working on his capstone project about women in the San Antonio Fire Service

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Recent Comments


  • Lauren Deleon

    As someone who was obsessed with the story of the Titanic as a child, this article really couldn’t get more up my alley. I am writing a Journalistic Explanatory article this semester and read your piece as an example of what that would look like, and your writing helped me understand what I needed to do to succeed with my article. You were so thorough and even though I have read so many books on this subject I learned new things from your take on the story that I didn’t know before and was interested the entire time.

  • Samuel Vega

    The Titanic was one of the finest ships in the world. Chris, I always appreciate the detailed description of your articles. You described from making of the ship, to the passengers arriving and celebrating on the ship to the sinking of the ship. It was so sad the way the ship quickly sinks after hitting an iceberg on its journey between London and New York. This article also had detailed images that enhance the story.

  • Melissa Garza

    Great article Chris! There’s an incredible amount of detail in here and outstanding imagery! I have never read so much background on the Titanic and how it was built. There was so much hype around the ship in general because it was so large and many thought it could not sink. I think they should have gone in with much more security as possible, by either getting more emergency vessels or going through more tests first. Overall I really enjoyed this article and learning more about the Titanic.

  • Briley Perkins

    The Titanic is one of the most famous and talked about ships to ever exist. I heard about it sinking, but after reading this article I learned a lot of information. I enjoyed the background information that the author implemented into the article because I was able to get a feel of what was going on during the building process of the ship and what was going in during the time that the ship unfortunately sank.

  • Amanda Quiroz

    I get emotional when I think about the Titanic because one of the first things that pop into my mind is the movie but the article really showed me a lot that I had no prior knowledge of. This article did a really good job with explaining the detail that was involved. It’s amazing how it was thought of and created yet it ended so tragically.

  • Alin Bocardo Felix

    This is a great article and a great read, it keeps the reader entertained and provides lots of useful information. Learning about the actual titanic is refreshing, rather than having the image of a film in mind whenever the name is mentioned. There is a rumor that the architect of the ship claimed that “not even god could sink it” and that’s why it happened. Although some people are more skeptical on the subject, I believe it may have been a reason.

  • Sofia Martinez

    It’s really interesting to find out about the Titanic’s backstory about how it was first built and the history of if since its start of the project. It’s very phenomenal how much work and dedication it took to make it possible, and the accuracy and information that the movie presented. I found it interesting how precise the timeline of the event happened, how this incident affected everything inside and outside the ship.

  • Alexander Avina

    This article was very informative. I only knew a small amount about the history of the Titanic. This article explained, in detail, the events and specifics that preceded the destruction and horrific tragedy of the Titanic’s downfall. I enjoyed reading about the details and specifications of the construction of this enormous ship. Even though this article was very long, I stayed interested all the way though. I think this is due to the fact that it was a very intriguing topic.

  • Rahni Hingoranee

    Extremely well-written article. The amount of interesting detail it goes into is very good. I’ve always been a fan of the movie but it was nice to learn about just how much work was done to create the magnificent ship in a time when this was not very common. This article shows the history of the Titanic and how and why the Titanic is not around today.

  • Jose Maria Llano Aranalde

    This was a really informative article with great detail. It was great to learn so much of the Titanic. Especially because it is something that is so talked about. It was really cool to see the whole story of it. From its beginnings of how it was built and all the work that was put into it to its tragic ending.

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