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Event That Shaped History – The sinking of Titanic

Titanic, in full Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic, British luxury passenger liner that sank on April 14- 15 , 1912, during its maiden voyage, en route to New York City. from Southampton , Englan, killing about 1500 passengers and ship personnel. One of the most famous tragedies in modern history, it has inspired numerous stories, several films, and a musical and been the subject of much scholarship and scientific speculation.

In 1912, RMS Titanic was was the largest ship in the World and her maiden voyage was a prestigious affair. Constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast and owned by the White Star line she was built to compete with two Cunard liners, Lusitania and Mauretania, both of whom held the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing. Titanic and her sister ship Olympic, however, were not built for speed but to carry as many people as possible. In this way they posed a huge commercial threat to the Cunard liners.

construction of the ships Olympic and Titanic
construction of the ships olympic and Titanic – Library of Congress, Washington, D,C (File no. LC – USZ62 – 67359. Image Courtasy – Britanica

Her design was an enlarged version of other, older vessels and some considered that the up – scaled size of Titanic was not quite matched by increased maneuverability. In spite of the owner’s claims that it was ‘practically unsinkable’ . Titanic had a limited capacity to turn quickly or avoid unexpected objects.

The Maiden Voyage

Titanic left Southampton on April 10th 1912 to begin its five – day crossing to New York. It was carrying more than 2,200 passenger and crew. Captain Edward J smith was in charge and the Chairman of White Star Line, Bruce Ismay, was also on board as a passenger. The ship took a course across the South Atlantic, a longer crossing than that used by some of her rival cruisers but nevertheless a route that was considered safer and more free of icebergs.

Movies have given us some insight into way the Titanic looked inside with large, luxurious public dining rooms and first class suites upholstered in fine fabrics with glimmering chandeliers. The second and third class accommodation was more crowded and prosaic and passengers of these classes had their own, more spartan dining rooms and public areas.

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Catastrophe strikes

There are many myths surrounding sinking of Titanic, including one that Ismay encouraged Smith to attempt a record – breaking crossing on the ship’s maiden voyage, though this has since been debunked.

In fact the blame seems to lie with Captain Smith who failed to slow the ship in time to avoid an iceberg. On April 15th as Titanic was nearing the end of her voyage, she struck the iceberg at around 21 knots and the front six compartments of the ship filled immediately with icy water. Evacuation procedures were chaotic with many lifeboats leaving the ship half empty. In any case the ship was only carrying lifeboats for around 1,200 people owing to a failure by the British Board of Trade. The only ship to come Titanic’s help was RMS Carphathia who traveled 93 km off her course to rescue around 700 cold, shocked survivors from the scene of the wreck.

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The aftermath

The sinking of Titanic was followed by accusations and investigations. William Randolph Hears, a powerful newspaper owner, falsely blamed Bruce Ismay whilst exonerating Captain Smith. Further accusations were made over White Star Line’s supposed claims that the vessel was ‘unsinkable’. Many surviving crew were interviewed by investigators in an effort to avoid repeating such a vast loss of life and as a result of the tragedy evacuation and safety procedures were tightened.

Titanic still lies at the bottom of the Atlantic and divers have recently discovered fascinating artifacts among the wreck that tell us about the lives of those who made that fatal voyage. Today it stands as a memorial to those whose hopes of a new life in a new country ended before they had even begun. It is a resting place for those whose stories were cut short by an unprecedented tragedy.

Titanic
Image courtesy : Britanica

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