Follow the story of the Titanic, from her construction at a Belfast shipyard to her tragic end at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This timeline covers the events that led to her sinking, which shocked the world. The crew prepares lifeboats and gets passengers up onto deck. They obey the order of women and children first.
1. The Ship’s Construction
There was a very short time between the titanic timeline completion in Belfast, Ireland and her setting sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England. In fact, it took only eight days for the massive ocean liner to complete her final sea-worthiness tests and set out on April 10th, 1912. The ship would not actually be ready to carry passengers until the end of the month. Sadly, it took only a few hours for her to strike an iceberg and ultimately sink.
The Titanic was the second of three Olympic-class ocean liners built by the White Star Line and the largest passenger ship ever at the time of her construction. The massive vessel was designed by designer Thomas Andrews and constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. It took 15,000 workers to assemble the Titanic and her sister ship, RMS Olympic. Unfortunately, these employees did not have a very safe and comfortable working environment. Eight workers lost their lives during the construction of the ships, including a riveter who died from a fall, and a shipwright who was crushed by timber struts at work.
Once completed, the Titanic was loaded with some of the wealthiest people in the world and hundreds of emigrants who were traveling to begin new lives in the United States and Canada. The luxurious ship was filled with first-class and third-class passengers, but she also had rooms for servants, sailors and a crew of more than 4,000.
On April 15th, the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to take on water. The lifeboats were quickly readied and lowered into the water, but they had only a combined capacity of 1,178 passengers. Many of the passengers jumped into the lifeboats hoping to be rescued by a nearby ship, but it was too late. The front half of the Titanic soon disappeared beneath the ocean’s surface, and two minutes later, the back of the ship joined it on the bottom of the Atlantic. As news of the disaster spread, thousands of people rushed to the offices of the White Star Line seeking information on the status of their loved ones aboard the Titanic.
2. The Ship’s Maiden Voyage
The Titanic departs Southampton on her maiden voyage. A large crowd gathers to watch the ship sail, cheering and waving handkerchiefs. It is the largest passenger ship ever built at the time and was designed to carry 2,200 passengers, including many of Britain’s richest and most famous people.
The first day at sea is calm. Senior wireless operator Jack Phillips starts receiving warnings of icebergs from other ships. Earlier that day, the Caronia had spotted icebergs and “growers” (smaller icebergs that are harder to see) in an area a day’s sailing away from the Titanic.
Captain Edward Smith is informed of the warnings and told to keep a sharp lookout for icebergs. He is also told that he should keep to the slower steamer track to New York rather than the faster one toward Halifax.
At 10:00 PM, the Titanic hits an iceberg. It is not as big as the ones that would later sink her, but it is still a serious collision. Five of the ship’s forward compartments take on water, including boiler room No. 6, which is flooded in eight feet of water.
Water continues to fill the compartments. By midnight, the ship is awash in 13 feet of water.
As the Titanic reaches Cherbourg, France, the boat-train from Paris arrives late. Some passengers are transferred to Titanic’s other lifeboats, while others stay on board to continue the journey. The rest will depart the next morning for Queenstown, Ireland.
A fire breaks out in the forward cargo hold, but it is put out before spreading to other parts of the ship. The ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews, is summoned to the bridge. He reports that the collision has ripped open five watertight compartments. If they could be pumped out, the ship might remain afloat.
As the stern of Titanic plunges below the surface, the forward funnel collapses. It crushes a number of third and second-class passengers who were gathered there. Boat No. 12 is lowered, but its cargo of women and children prevents it from being filled to capacity. Boats 4, 10, 14, and collapsible D are lowered shortly afterwards.
3. The Ship’s Sinking
The Titanic was supposed to be huge, luxurious and safe. But when the ship sank in the icy Atlantic on April 15, 1912, more than 2,227 people lost their lives. This timeline tracks the disaster, hour by hour.
11:40 PM: Titanic collides with an iceberg. The collision does not immediately sink the vessel, but it sends its port side into a large hole in the hull. The ship’s keel is also damaged, and the back of the boat begins to lift up. The captain orders the lifeboats to be lowered. He orders women and children to board first, but there are not enough spaces for everyone. The first boat to leave is lifeboat number 7, which leaves with only 28 people aboard – less than half of its capacity. The crew also try to attract the attention of a nearby ship with a Morse signal.
2:20 AM: The Titanic’s bow plunges underwater. A number of passengers begin to swim to the surface. Some are rescued by boats 3, 5, 10 and 12. Second Officer Lightoller, who has been following the order of women and children first, refuses to allow Madeleine Astor, who is five months pregnant, to board his boat. She does not argue with him and steps away. Astor later dies in the water.
The Carpathia, which had been following the Titanic, stops at a Cunard pier to pick up survivors. It outruns hordes of newspaper reporters, many in boats lowered down from the Titanic’s sides. After picking up the survivors, the Carpathia continues to New York City where it reaches 9:00 AM. It is met by a crowd of thousands clad in white, including the mayor and governor of the city. James Cameron’s 1997 film, based on real events, seared the final moments of the sinking into popular memory. The event also spurred the creation of the International Ice Patrol to guard shipping lanes in the North Atlantic. In addition, the wreck of the Titanic spawned legends about treasure and ghosts. Some believe that the surviving sections of the ship were buried in a huge underwater mudslide.
4. The Search For Survivors
When the Titanic hit an iceberg, it caused her to shift slightly and veer left. This change in direction was not enough to avoid a collision, but it would allow more of the ship’s watertight compartments to flood. It was also at this time that the band began to play on the deck as a way to calm passengers.
At this point, the captain, Edward J Smith, orders that lifeboats begin to be lowered. The first ones are crowded with women and children, while men wait in the wings. It is clear from this moment that the death toll will be enormous.
After a few minutes, a carpenter named Thomas Andrews goes to the bridge to survey the damage. He determines that five of the forward compartments have been ripped open by the impact. He tells Smith that the ship will sink within a few hours if they don’t begin pumping the water out.
Smith then sends messages to several nearby ships, including his sister ship, the Olympic, to come to the rescue. He also asks the wireless operator, Boxhall, to broadcast a request for assistance. Unfortunately, the Californian, which was much closer to Titanic than any of the other ships, has turned off her radio for the night and is unlikely to hear the message.
By the time the first boat is lowered, it has room for only 47 people. To prevent a rush to the lifeboat, Lightoller waves (and possibly fires) his pistol into the air. He then instructs the crew to let in only women and children.
As the rest of the lifeboats are lowered, they are sent off full or near capacity. Only the final boat, number 10, is lowered less than halfway full. The reason for the crowded lifeboats was that it was White Star Line policy to only fit enough boats for half of the ship’s passenger capacity. The company felt that a full boat would detract from the overall comfort of the passengers.
Over the next two days, several ships scour the ocean floor for survivors. A third and final expedition funded by Jack Grimm fails to locate the wreck. In September, the Franc-American scientific expedition led by Robert Ballard discovers Titanic at a depth of 12,460 feet. James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic reignites the public’s obsession with the disaster and remains one of the highest-grossing films in history.
Titanic Timeline Conclusion:
The RMS Titanic’s ill-fated journey in April 1912 was a tragic event that claimed over 1,500 lives. Its sinking remains a poignant reminder of human hubris and the need for improved safety measures in maritime travel. The legacy of the Titanic serves as a cautionary tale, ensuring that history will never forget the lives lost on that fateful night.
- How did the Titanic sink? The Titanic struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, which caused significant damage to its hull. The ship’s compartments filled with water, leading to a gradual loss of buoyancy. As a result, the Titanic began to sink, ultimately leading to its tragic demise in the early hours of April 15, 1912.
- How many people survived the Titanic sinking? Out of the approximately 2,224 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, around 710 people survived the disaster. The majority of the survivors were women, children, and passengers from the upper classes who were given priority in boarding lifeboats. The lack of sufficient lifeboats contributed to the high loss of life.