The “Unsinkable Ship” that Sunk: The Story of the RMS Titanic.

Titanic at sea | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Winner of the Fall 2017 StMU History Media Award for

Article with the Best Title

The production of the ship RMS Titanic was announced in 1908 and the buzz for the ship began. Production would take place at Harland and Wolff Shipyards in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it was the second of three Olympic Class ocean liners. These three Olympic Class ships were the biggest steamers in the world, and they were produced by the White Star Line. The advertisement for the ship read: “Triple Screw RMS Olympic and Titanic, 45,000 tons each. The Largest Steamers in the World.” Chairman of White Star Line, J Bruce Ismay, wanted to keep up with other competitors in the maritime market and be able to compete against other companies, such as German lines Hamburg America and Norddeustcher Lloyd. While these German lines were focused on the speed of their ships, Ismay decided that Titanic’s focus would be different from the rest by being the largest ship rather than the fastest. Once the plan was set, construction began on the ship.1

The company employed over 15,000 men in building Titanic, which consisted of very dangerous work a majority of the time. Because of this, it would oftentimes lead to injuries, both minor and severe. This should not be surprising as it was the first time that any ship of this size was built. Because of the dangerous conditions, there were 246 recorded injuries and eight deaths during constriction of the ship.2 For employees to say they were going to work on the Titanic meant much more than creating the biggest ship at the time; it meant that the employees were taking a risk knowing they could get injured on a severe level. After everything was done, the ship weighed a total of 46,328 gross register tons. Not only did the employees succeed at making it the largest ship at the time, they also made it one of the heaviest too.

Construction of the Titanic | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On April 10, 1912, Titanic set off on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to make stops at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, before setting off for its final destination of New York. On board, there were passengers as rich as Colonel J. J. Astor, who was worth $30 million and those as poor as Henry John Spinner.3 Someone like Colonel Astor enjoyed going first-class, which was the most expensive and most luxurious class to be in. The people in first class were some of the richest politicians, businessmen, bankers, professional athletes, industrialists, and high ranking military personnel in the world at the time. Each person in first class paid anywhere from 30 to 870 pounds or $70,000 in current dollars. These people had public rooms included a dining saloon, reception room, restaurant, lounge, reading and writing room, smoking room, and other places such as a pool and gym. The most prestigious of public rooms was the parlor, which included a private deck for passengers only in first class.4 Everything was grand, from the iconic staircase to the interior design of the rooms. There were thirty-nine private suites, thirty on the bridge deck and nine on the shelter deck. Each suite included bedrooms with a private toilet. Each suite in total looked like it had two bedrooms, two wardrobe rooms, and one bathroom. There were also three-hundred-fifty standard, cheaper cabins with one bed. These people were positioned towards the top of the ship with easy access to the decks.5 Being in first-class meant you were on top of the world. These people lived lives of opulence and grandeur. Yet, there were some first-class passengers that had to cancel their trip last minute for various different reasons. Two of these people included J.P. Morgan and Milton Hershey.6

Those who were in second class still had it fine. People like Fr. Thomas Byles were enjoying themselves in second class as conditions were good. However, the people in second class had nothing like those in first class. Travelers in second class were professors, clergymen, authors, and tourists. Many of these people were used to traveling first class on other vessels, but because Titanic was grandest of them all at the time, people were cut short and thus traveled in second class. An average ticket cost anywhere from 13 to 79 pounds or $1,800 in current dollars.7 Those in second class had a smoke room, library, and a second-class dining room. There were accommodations for a maximum of 550 passengers with rooms that had either two or four beds. The higher end second-class rooms were very similar to the cheaper first-class rooms. These people were positioned towards the middle of the ship.5

Titanic leaving the docks for the sea | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Then there was the economy class, or third class, where people like the Sage Family roomed. This was undoubtedly the worst class to be a part of, with rough conditions left and right. The ship accommodated over 1000 third-class passengers, but those accommodations were modest compared to the other two classes. These people were mainly immigrants that were looking for new opportunities in America. These immigrants would travel anywhere from single riders, single mothers with her children, or even large families at times. They paid the least, as ticket prices ranged from being anywhere between 7 to 40 pounds ,or $700 current dollars.9 The rooms had as little as two and as many as six beds per room. There were only 84 berth cabins on board. A comparison between the two extremes of either being first class or third class is seen in the size of the rooms.5 For large families, like the Sages, it was hard to be comfortable when eleven people were split between two rooms. Not everything was bad for third-class passengers. An interesting fact about the third-class passengers was the fact that they had automatic flushing toilets, which is something that first class did not have. They had these because the engineers of the ship inferred that “they were not familiar with indoor plumbing and how it worked.” Aside from this one positive accommodation to the third-class passengers, the overall conditions could have been better for those in third class.11.

The first two days of the voyage were easy sailing until the night of April 14, 1912. At 7:30 pm, the Californian reported passing three large icebergs that would intercept the Titanic’s path, so the crew was informed to keep an extra eye on the water for icebergs in their way. When it was 11:30, lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee noticed a mist but did not notice an iceberg. It was not until 11:39 that they saw the iceberg, notified the upper captain’s deck, and prayed that they would avoid the wreckage. Unfortunately for everyone on board, at 11:40 pm, the Titanic hit the iceberg as it scraped the side of the ship.12 The first six watertight compartments had been breached, which is ironic as the ship was prepared for a hit from an iceberg. The construction plans, however, planned for a breach that was within two water tight compartments, not six. This break in the watertight chambers would result in the ship beginning to sink.

The rush to save those aboard the ship thus began. It started with Captain Smith ordering those working on the telegraphs to send distress signals to those around the ship asking for them to save the passengers. No one replied. Not even the Californian, which was in the proximity of the ship to get the distress signals, but did not attempt to come to Titanic’s rescue. It was not until about forty-five minutes after the ship hit the iceberg that Captain Smith ordered his crew to start filling the lifeboats with women and children first.13

The first lifeboat departed from the ship around 12:45 am. At the same time, the first distress rocket was fired to try and alert nearby ships of their coordinates and position. By 1:15, the water was up to the name plate on the bow.13 At 1:20, the last distress rocket was fired. There was a total of eight fired distress rockets with hopes of nearby ships being informed of their position. As the last rocket was fired, it was clear to many passengers and crew members that not all of them would leave this wreck in one piece. It was not until 2:10 am when the last distress signals were sent saying, “We are sinking fast…cannot last much longer.”13 Moments later, this ship would split into two parts abruptly hitting the water crushing anyone in its path. After the split, the bow was the first part of the ship to fully submerge underwater while the stern of the ship stayed on top of the water for a little while before finally sinking. The entire ship sank at 2:20 am, two hours and forty minutes after hitting the iceberg12.

Artist sketch of Titanic sinking into the water | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It was not until 4:10 AM, nearly four and a half hours after the iceberg hit the Titanic that the Carpathia finally picked up the remaining passengers.13 It is controversial as to why the neighboring ship the Californian never came to the rescue. It is speculated that they did not see Titanic in the water when Titanic was one of the largest ship built at the time. It is a mystery as to why the Californian never came to Titanic’s rescue after so many different signals were sent that the crew of the ship should have picked up on.18 There are also many questions regarding Ismay’s actions by putting himself before the others instead of going down with his ship. The orders were to have women and children board the lifeboats first, yet he saved himself before saving others. This rule was understood by Colonel Astor who gave up his spot on the lifeboat in order to save his pregnant wife. Even though he was the richest man on the ship, he still valued the rule of women and children first, which is something Ismay failed to do.19 People also question whether there was extra space in each lifeboat, which is troubling knowing that more lives could have been saved. The way events occurred that fateful night might have been hectic, yet some of the actions are inexcusable and have not been forgotten.

This “unsinkable ship” saw the tragedy that night as many perished in the ice-cold water of the north Atlantic. There was a total of 2,207 people on Titanic’s voyage, and 712 survived. There were 324 total first-class passengers (201 survived), 277 second-class passengers (118 survived), 708 third-class passengers (181 survived), 885 crew members (212 survived), and 13 musicians (none survived).20 It was because of Titanic’s sinking that Maritime rules and regulations were changed so that ships would have enough lifeboats to accommodate all people in an event of a disaster21. Yet the legend of the ship remains with many questions to be discovered. It was not until recently questions like “where is the ship on the ocean floor” and “how did the ship sink to the bottom” were just recently answered within the last thirty years. This ship will go down as one of the most tragic events in Maritime history and is undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest famous failures.

  1. Brandon C. Holm, “Titanica!” Encyclopedia Titanica, accessed October 30, 2017, https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/rms-titanic-memorials.html.
  2. Adam Khan, “Titanic: The engineering feat behind the tragedy,” The Manufacturer, accessed October 26, 2017, https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/titanic-the-engineering-feat-behind-the-tragedy/ .
  3. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 2012). 60.
  4.  Diana Leagh Matthews, “First Class Life on Titanic,” A Look Thru Time, accessed November 1, 2017, https://alookthrutime.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/first-class-life-on-the-titanic/.
  5. “Inside RMS Titanic,” Titanic and Co, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicandco.com/inside.html.
  6.  Diana Leagh Matthews, “First Class Life on Titanic,” A Look Thru Time, accessed November 1, 2017, https://alookthrutime.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/first-class-life-on-the-titanic/.
  7.  Diana Leagh Matthews, “First Class Life on Titanic,” A Look Thru Time, accessed November 1, 2017, https://alookthrutime.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/second-class-life-on-the-titanic/.
  8. “Inside RMS Titanic,” Titanic and Co, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicandco.com/inside.html.
  9.  Diana Leagh Matthews, “First Class Life on Titanic,” A Look Thru Time, accessed November 1, 2017, https://alookthrutime.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/third-class-life-on-the-titanic/.
  10. “Inside RMS Titanic,” Titanic and Co, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicandco.com/inside.html.
  11.  Diana Leagh Matthews, “First Class Life on Titanic,” A Look Thru Time, accessed November 1, 2017, https://alookthrutime.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/third-class-life-on-the-titanic/
  12. Gale Virtual Reference Library, 2003, s.v. “Titanic, Sinking of the,” by John Muldowny.
  13. “Chronology of events aboard the Titanic,” TitanicStory.com, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicstory.com/timeline.htm.
  14. “Chronology of events aboard the Titanic,” TitanicStory.com, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicstory.com/timeline.htm.
  15. “Chronology of events aboard the Titanic,” TitanicStory.com, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicstory.com/timeline.htm.
  16. Gale Virtual Reference Library, 2003, s.v. “Titanic, Sinking of the,” by John Muldowny.
  17. “Chronology of events aboard the Titanic,” TitanicStory.com, accessed October 26, 2017, http://www.titanicstory.com/timeline.htm.
  18. Michael Davie, Titanic: The Death and Life of A Legend (New York: Vintage Books, 2012), 192-193.
  19. Logan Marshall and University of Virginia, Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters (Charlottesville, Va: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, 1996.), 57-58.
  20. “Quick Facts,” Encyclopedia Titanica, accessed October 30, 2017, https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org.
  21. Salem Press Encylopedia Research Starters, 2017, s.v. “Sinking of the Titanic,” by Mary Virginia Davis.
The “Unsinkable Ship” that Sunk: The Story of the RMS Titanic.
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The “Unsinkable Ship” that Sunk: The Story of the RMS Titanic.

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  • Very interesting and well-written article! I have watched the movie, Titanic, many times but after reading this article I was able to find out a more about it. It’s sad how dangerous the working conditions were for the construction workers and sad to find out that many more people could have been saved than actually were.

  • Well done Joshua, a truly wonderful article. I think you did a great job of capturing the Titanic’s story. It’s truly something in history that none of us will soon forget. Its iconic Hollywood interpretation with Leonardo is something to help us remember that as well, for those who need to be entertained while they learn. I think you should continue to write more things like this Joshua.

  • you wrote a great article and I enjoyed all of the information that you have in the article. anything that has to do with the titanic I am automatically interested in it. it is such a tragedy that so many people lost their lives because of this accident. the way that the titanic was constructed I don’t think anyone would have thought that it would have sunken.

  • I have not ever really watched the full Titanic movie, but reading your article was captivating and provided me with a lot of information that I previously did not know. The sinking of this ship was truly tragic and it is incredibly sad that so many lives were lost. There are many unanswered questions, but I do think that more lives could have been saved. I also understand that it was a night filled with panic. Crew members were panicking and guests were panicking. It just makes me sad to think about the lives lost.

  • You always think you know everything about an incident seeing it on movies or TV, but this article goes to show that there’s so much more to everything we are shown through media. From the details of the differences between first and third class passengers, to the little bits of information regarding the chronological order of the events. It’s very educating to learn more about a subject most people think they already know a lot about.

  • The author produced a well-written article on the powerful “Titanic” ship. After reading this article I have gained greater insight on how this massive ship was built and how it operated. I find it quite saddening that there were 712 survivors out of the 2,207 people. Overall, this was a well structured article and the images, exhibited throughout the article were noteworthy.

  • It is very disheartening to understand such a vast ship sank because of a horrible tragedy. Being someone that has been on a cruise on a very large ship, it would reach levels of nightmarish had things gone south and the ship began to sink. With the understanding of how many people were located on that ship, it would perhaps take so much time for the news to travel that the boat was sinking and the passengers were in imminent danger. Although I am glad to say that even with the grueling conditions and immediate actions that needed to be taken, I am happy many people survived.

  • I really enjoyed reading this well-written article and learning more about the famous “Titanic.” Before reading this article, I never knew that another ship could have saved the lives that were on board of the Titanic It is heartbreaking to know that, so many lives were lost when the ship sank. In result, regulations were put in to place to protect and save as many life’s as possible.

  • I like the way you structured your article and how you included most details of the ship and the many different tickets people could purchase. Something that I didn’t know about the Titanic was how many people were injured and died during the construction of the enormous ship. Although it does make sense for that many people to have encountered injuries due to the type of project they were working on the large scale of it. Overall, I gained a more clear idea of the titanic and the impact it had on history.

  • I have watched the movie, and read books and articles about the event that has had everyone in utter shock since 1912. This article provided me with a large amount of knowledge about the ships architecture, and how much it cost. The Titanic was a magnificent ship and it is truly tragic how many people lost their lives, not expecting it. Thank you for going in depth on such an iconic event.

  • The Titanic is such a tragic and captivating story. I do love the movie and the love story behind it. I remember reading this the first time and thinking that it was similar to the movie. I can imagine how the passengers felt when the boat started to fall apart. It is also crazy to think that J.P Morgan and Milton Hershey were about to board the ship.

  • This was a very well written and informative article about the Titanic. The story of the Titanic is a tragic one were many people not only died when it crashed but also when building the ship, which I did not know about. It’s very ironic that the Titanic was said to be built so strong but it still sank. It was very refreshing reading about the sinking about the Titanic and remembering those who passed in the sinking.

  • Of course of one the most famous movies to date is Titanic, so I was glad to be able to read the actual version of the “unsinkable ship.” I was first shocked to know that eight people died in just the construction of the ship. I was intrigued to know the facts about the ship and the differences in class amongst the boat because it allowed a window into the world back then and how society functioned. It is still so appalling that so many were not able to be saved and it is devastating. It is also interesting how emotional this article is just because I am associating it with the movie and how sad it makes me.

  • I’ve heard so much about the movie titanic but it was so much more interesting to read about the real story of how such a tragedy could occur. The quote as spoken y someone on that ship indicating that they were sinking quickly was so powerful and yet so sad to read. Of the 2207 people only 712 peopler survived and the loss of life on that night was so sad. This article really provided so much information and wrote it in such a way that made this article a fun read .

  • The Titanic has to be one of the most talked about subjects to this day in history. It was such a sad thing to see happen and it left many people in utter shock. I liked learning about the back story of the Titanic and how it was created. I had never read anything on it’s creation so that was something interesting to learn about. This was a very well written article and I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Although I have been familiar with the Titanic for as long as I can remember, I learned a lot through this article, such as how 15 thousand people worked on its construction and how there were about 250 injuries. I do find it strange how the Californian never came to the Titanic’s rescue. I am sure there are plenty of theories, both crazy and plausible, about that. Well done article!

  • The Titanic is one of the most iconic movies created in Hollywood, the movie was created based on real-life events. The article describes the story of the Titanic perfectly displaying the timeline of events. It was fascinating and appealing to learn about the story behind the fame. the article is well structured providing details of the shocking tragic event that caused thousands of innocent people to lose their life.

  • Very interesting article, I am glad you are up for an award! I really enjoyed the detail of this article, and the shocking facts kept me engaged throughout. It is unbelievable to see the cost of a first-class ticket, I do not understand how people were able to afford that amount. I also did not know that there any survivors of this tragic event, so I am glad to hear that there were some survivors. Overall, this hypocritical ship ended the lives of many people and it was such a sad day in history.

  • An extremely well written and put together article. I knew the Titanic was built to be the best of the best for its time but for a first-class ticket being 870 pounds, or 70,000 dollars, is unbelievable. Not to mention the working conditions for the people that worked the machinery. If the Titanic was a success there was still a chance someone in maintenance would have died from an accident.

  • Josh this was a great article bro, coming into this article I did not know much about this event other than the ones made up in Hollywood starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I really enjoyed this article the amount of research you must have done for this is insane. It’s truly saddening how many lives must HAVE BEEN LOST BECAUSE OF THIS SHIP.

  • I really liked how much detail was provided about the ship itself to show why it was believed to be Unsinkable. The writer did a very good job at providing the whole story and the results of the sinking ship. I think its pretty shocking how although this ship was built to be so strong was still able to sink. However, it is good to know that people were able to survive such tragic event. I was very interested while reading this article and felt that the story was told very well with just the right amount of information.

  • Many people can recall the tragic tale of the Titanic and that many unfortunate people were killed because of the sinking. The captain should have heeded the other ships warning about the icebergs and gone slower instead of speeding up because if they were going slower they could have possibly avoided hitting it as bad or maybe not even had hit it at all. Of course, after a tragedy people will change the rules to make it safe, but if the Titanic had kept all of their lifeboats instead of getting rid of some just to save space, many more lives could have been saved.

  • Prior to reading this article, my knowledge on the RMS Titanic was only based on a couple of things I read once and on James Cameron’s Titanic. How terrible that because of unforeseen circumstances this amazing feat of engineering of that time sunk on its first trip. At least it served as an example for future constructions and regulations to come. I guess that because of the idea that the ship was unsinkable they didn’t have enough lifeboats to save everybody. Excellent Article.

  • This article was very interesting to read and I like the way you structured it as well. I find it crazy how such a huge ship that was thought to be unsinkable, sank by an iceberg. It is truly sad how many people lost their lives that night. I am glad I read this article because before the only knowledge I had the titanic was from the movie and this definitely expanded my knowledge of the subject.

  • Right from reading the title, my eye was caught. I️ honestly though I️ knew just about everything about the Titanic. It is so depressing to read that so many people lost their innocent lives for a mistake that was unintentional. Looking at the size of the ship, I️ would have never thought that anything such as the Titanic would sink from any object in its path.I️ really appreciate the detail and effort put into this article because it shows the potential of how many awards it can win.

  • I’m a big fan of irony and always enjoy the irony that comes with the story of the Titanic, the unsinkable ship. And I feel like the way people praised and lifted this ship up on a pedestal by it being the largest ship ever made, doomed it in a poetic way. Like an attack against the ego, and a warning about prioritizing something like its size for the glory over the safety of the passengers.

  • I find it surprising that I had not yet read such an in-depth description of this historic disaster. It disappoints me that the majority of my knowledge on the subject is drawn from the unrealistic Hollywood movie. This article made me want to do more research and find out more about the individual stories of those survivors we may not know about.

  • The only thing I really knew about the titanic was firm the movie and I don’t think that is a reliable source. This article was very interesting and brings up some good points. Why did it take so long for them to be rescued? I also agree with the author about the fact that the captain is a hypocrite and should have went down with his ship.

  • Cool article! I love watching the movie about the Titanic but I never knew the true story behind it. It seemed pretty accurate to what the movie depicted which I think is interesting. I can not imagine how scared the victims were to wake up to or hear about how the ship was sinking. I can not imagine that they created that whole ship for it to be wrecked in a matter of minutes. This is a very tragic story.

  • This was a very interesting article! I have always been extremely interested in the story of The Titanic. The author did a great job in describing how big and sturdy the ships were constructed. I think it is crazy how such a big ship could sink like that and how it could be extremely damaged. It amazes me the amount of people survived the sinking of the ship but it is sad how many did not survive. Even though this was a saddening event, I still enjoyed reading this article.

  • This was a great article that I knew someone would eventually write about. This was different from the normal run of the mill titanic article though as it gave a different view on it. This was really well written and the language used was great. It really is such a mystery to how the Titanic sank, but this article gave me a different view on the subject and I totally symoathise with the workers on the ship.

  • This is a really interesting article, I have always loved reading about the Titanic. I find this story to be very tragic, so many people perished due to there not being enough life boats on the ship. I can not even imagine what the passengers felt and were thinking while the ship was sinking. It is really unfortunate that it took an event as tragic as this to change the regulations for ships. The story of the Titanic is one that will live on forever.

  • This article was fascinating and well structured. I have always had a fascination with the Titanic. It would be an incredible experience to dive in a submarine to see the sunken Titanic which is about 12,500 feet deep down approximately 370 miles south-southeast off the coast of Newfoundland. It is so sad that many people lost their lives due to the ships low amount of life preservers and lifeboats. Overall, good work on this article.

  • This was a very well written article. The article really goes into detail with the ship. The article started off with a very catchy title. I did not know how dangerous it was for people to work on the Titanic and how their lives were at risk. You would think a boat at this size should not sink? Overall, this is a very good article.

  • Great article Joshua! I really liked the way how you have polished your article. The article effectively depicts the brief description of the accommodations for people in 1st class, 2nd class and economy class. Its always upsetting to read that the “unsinkable ship” with lots of passengers perished in the ice-cold water of the north Atlantic. To sum it up, it was a refreshing and a good read.

  • Sooner or later this article had to pop in. This is such a cliché article all around the world. Although I did like that it was not based or related on the movie, but on the exact facts. But in my case, since I have seen so many documentaries on this case, there was nothing new or really relevant about the subject. Although the way it’s written is pretty well done.

  • At this point in my life I would have thought that I knew almost everything there is to know about the titanic after the numerous documentaries and research done, after reading this article I came to the conclusion that I was wrong. The titanic is one of those stories that will be told for generations to come and will be known as one of the most technological ship of the time,a great breaking point in our nation. To think of all those who died and the survivors what the must have gone through in such a horrific event which only proves to us that not everything goes as we might plan for it to be.

  • Such a sad story where so many people lost their lives. It is very ironic that they said the titanic would be unsinkable, however as we know it did sink. The article gives a great insight into how such a large and powerful ship was built to withstand almost anything however did not. There is a lot of mystery and holes in the story, however people still lost their lives and it is an important lesson to better prepare for events like this.

  • What an incredibly powerful story to read. This was such an in depth article, I like how you described how dangerous it was for people to work on the construction of the Titanic and gave the monetary values for the tickets. It angers me to know that the captain had sent out distress signals but it wasn’t until four hours after the Titanic hit the iceberg that the closest ship came to rescue survivors.

  • This article is very interesting and well-structured. The title of this article influenced my interests in reading this article. The author perfectly describes how enormous and sturdy these boats were constructed. I find it very strange how such a powerfully built ship could sink. In fact, I find it promising that a large amount of people, survived such a horrific event. However, it is saddening that many lives were also lost. Overall, I enjoyed this article and gained a better understanding on how this powerful ship operated.

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