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RMS Titanic; The Unsinkable Ship

RMS Titanic, the second and most famous of the three Olympic-class ships. She was slightly larger than her sister Olympic and slightly smaller than her sister Britannic. Nick-named "The Unsinkable Ship", she was built to cross the Atlantic at least 1200 times, yet she could not complete her maiden voyage. Although she could carry 3500 persons, she had 2220 on her because it was her first crossing. She was built by Harland & Wolff at Belfast, N. Ireland like her sisters. Her overall length was 882.5 feet, her beam was 92.5 feet and she was 60.5 feet from water line to boat deck. Like her sisters she was driven by three propellers that used two outboard reciprocating engines that drove the wing-propellers (Three bladed, 24 ft in diameter) with a turbine in the middle driving the center propeller (Four bladed, 16 ft in diameter). Each reciprocating engine developed 15,000 horsepower at 75 revolutions per minute (rpm). The turbine made about 16,000 horsepower at 165 rpm. The steam needed to run all this came from 29, three story high boilers. Each engine was four stories high.

On May 31 1911, Titanic was launched. She was put under the comand of captain Edward John Smith. The maiden voyage of Titanic was to be his last. After that, he was going to retire. The launch lasted only 62 seconds. She wasn't christened because it was customary for the White Star Line to launch without a christening. The next ten months were spent installing machinery and fitting her interiors. On February 3rd, 1912 she was dry docked in the Belfast Harbor Commission's new graving dock where her propellers were put on and a final coat of paint was put on aswell. At the beginning of March she, for a short while, joined her sister Olympic, who returned to dry dock for the replacement of a propeller blade.

On April 2, 1912, Titanic set sail from Belfast for her sea trials. In less that 14 days, this grand ship would be at the bottom of the Atlantic in two pieces.

It was almost noon when she left the White Star Pier at Southampton. Disaster almost struck immediately after that for the same reasons that caused the Olympic and Hawke collision (Click here to find out about Olympic). As she moved at six knots through the harbor the huge suction made by the propellers caused the steamer New York to snap her lines and swing away from the dock to the port side. It seemed that the collision of her sister was about to be repeated. Tug boats frantically tried to get a line on the New York and Captain E. J. Smith of Titanic cut the engines. The tug boat Vulcan was able to get New York out of the way without a collision. Click here to see photos of the near miss from Nic Wilson's TITANIC OLYMPIC & BRITANNIC Home Page.

Many passengers though it was a bad omen. They had nearly collided with a ship that had the same name as the city they were heading for. Another interesting fact that people thought was a bad omen was a book written 14 years earlier called, Futility; The Wreck of the Titan. In this story, a huge ship called the Titan is called unsinkable but sinks when she hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic on her maiden voyage. Coincidence, I think not.

Titanic moved on to Cherbourg, France and then to Queenstown, Ireland to pick up her last passengers. After the last passengers boarded, she set sail from Ireland on a direct collision course with a large iceberg. The voyage from across the Atlantic was very dull for the first several days. From Sunday morning, her wireless operators were receiving many iceburg warnings.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the unthinkable happened. Frederick Fleet, one of the ship's five look-outs, spotted an iceberg. First Officer Murdoch ordered the ship to be put hard to port and to put the ship's engines full astern. It was to late, Titanic had been hit!

Six small slits were cut into her starboard side. In all, 12 square feet of the ship was left open to the sea. How could this be? 1912 steel was weaker than steel today, but it should be able to hold up against a burg right? Wrong. The cold waters of the Atlantic made her steel very brittle. Water began flowing in quickly. Thomas Andrews, the ship's builder, gave her two hours to live. Titanic's wireless operators, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride (Bride survived) send out the message "CQD", come quickly distress, then later changed it to the then brand new, "SOS".

Captain Smith ordered all passengers on deck. The ship would have had 32 life boats to carry all passengers and crew. But, the line thought it would take up too much deck space for first and second class passengers. So, they only had 14 regular boats that could hold 65, 2 emergency boats that could hold 40 (Emergency boats were just mini regular boats), and 4 collapsibles that could hold 59 (collapsibles had a wooden bottom but their sides were canvass. You could fold them down to store them better.).

The ship's distress rockets were then fired. But, some one made a mistake at Southampton and gave the ship white rockets. They're supposed to be red in distress. White rockets were used by many commercial ship's to tell other vessels that they were near. Ships like those that belonged to American Express or US Export would have there own sequence of rockets.

The closest ship to see these rockets was the Curnard Line's Californian, around 10 miles away. However, they thought that is was just a company ship showing off fireworks. Californian had also turned of it's wireless and didn't hear Titanic's calls. The next closest ship to Titanic was the Carpathia, 58 miles away! Captain Rostron of Carpathia altered the ship's course. She began racing towards the sinking ship at her full speed of 15 knots.

The first two lifeboats (5 and 7)were lowered, but they were not completely filled. In fact most of the first boats to leave left less than half full. Emergency Lifeboat #1 (capable of holding 40 people) left the ship holding only 12 people! This went on because the officers loading the boats didn't know that the boats had been tested and were capable of holding a lot of people. They were afraid that the boats would buckle. However, after Titanic's builder Mr. T. Andrews came out on deck and informed them about the boats, they began launching them full. The code of the sea is women and children first. As time goes on, decks are flooded. By 1:45 A.M., water had flooded all the way up, past A-deck and was now just begining to wet the very forward part of the boat deck, the bridge. Collapsible B, which had been over turned, slowly drifted away from the ship a few minutes later with 20 men clinging to it's bottom. Shortly after that, collapsibles C, then A left. Then, D left the ship. It was the last boat. About 1515 people were left behind! Just before that however, Senior Wireless operator Phillips tapped out to the Carpathia "Engine Room full (with water) up to boilers". Titanic's voice was never heard again, her wireless had gone dead. When Carpathia answered, there was no reply.

At about 2:20, the stern rose high in the air. The lights flicker, then go off. Suddenly, the ship violently cracks in two! The bow went down, and the stern quickly began to flood. After a few moments, the stern rises completely vertical. It bobs up there for a minute or two, then sinks. Although many people don't believe this, it did happen. Just because that's not the way a ship usually sinks, doesn't mean it didn't happen. The reason for the break up was the steel being made brittle by the cold water. Also, the rivets were less that half the strength they needed to be, making the ship very week.

At about 4:00 A.M., Carpathia greeted 20 small lifeboats. All that remained of the once great liner. Of the 2227 people onboard, only 705 were saved. The bodies of hundreds of people were found floating in the water and hundreds more were never recovered.

In 1985, Robert Ballard, with two other scientists, Ralph Hollis and Martin Bowen, peered through the icy waters, more that two miles down on the ocean floor. They found Titanic's wreck. They used a small submersible called Alvin. The first thing they saw was the ships bow. It was the first time Titanic had seen light in over 70 years. Since then, many expeditions have been made and many artifacts have been surfaced.

Many people think Titanic should be raised and restored. However, this is very impossible. For starters, if you tried to raise the ship with balloons, it would break apart because all the rusticals eating away at it have made the ship very weak in the past 85 years. Also, at that depth (2 & 1/2 miles down), balloons would burst no matter how strong they are. Well, if you can't raise it with balloons, you'll have to take it apart and put it back together when you get it to the top. Have your ever heard of TWA Flight 800, it's a plane that crashed into the ocean in shallow water. Divers were able to get all the pieces of it and put it back together. Well, you couldn't do this with Titanic because it's in extremely deep waters and you can't go down there in a diving suit, you have to take a sub. Also, Titanic isn't two wings, landing gear, a hull and some seats, it's a huge ship in two main pieces that is made up of over a thousand different rooms and compartments. Plus, as I said before, the structure of the ship is very weak.

In 1996 there was an expedition out to Titanic. Although many people think that the people there were trying to raise the ship, they weren't. As the ship fell to the ocean floor, many pieces of her broke off. The point of the trip was to raise one of these small parts of hull. However, a storm came in and the project failed. I used to think that taking artifacts from the wreck was grave robbing, but now I think otherwise. The sand down there is actually acidic. It's eating away at the artifacts. Plus, time is running out. Scientists say that Titanic has only 10 years left before she'll collapse in on herself. The rusticals that hang of the ship are eating away that it's iron.

If you look at a picture of the bow as it looked in 1985 (Click here to see the picture from Titanic; Her Eternal Legacy by Eric Payne) you'd see the mast of the ship still intact. This illustration is now out-dated. The mast has since broken up into pieces and now lays on the forecastle deck. Also, two years ago, the roofs of the barber shop and gym collapsed. And the small cracks on the ship have become gapping holes. If you click here, you'll see a picture of the stern as it looks today (the picture is also from Eric Payn's page). A painting made of the wreack in 1985 shows the top of the once great aft grand stairway intact and the boat and promenade decks still intact aswell. They're now just a pile of rubble. Once the ship caves in, all the artifacts in her will be lost.

However, when Ballerd first went to the wreck, he took nothing. All he left was a plaque that says, "In memory of those who died onboard RMS Titanic, April 15, 1912."

The day after the sinking, the Prinz Albert of the Hamburg-Amerika Line reported passing a large iceberg. On one side, red paint "which had the appearance of having been made by the scraping of a vessel on the berg" was plainly visible. The ship's passengers watched as the iceberg sailed on.

RMS Titanic





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