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The Titanic arriving at Cobh harbour on April 11, 1912.
Career British Blue Ensign
Owners: White Star Line
Builders: Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast
Captain: Edward John Smith
Laid down: 31 March 1909
Christened: Not christened
Maiden voyage (First Trip): 10 April 1912
Fate: Hit iceberg at 11:40 PM on 14 April 1912. Sank on 15 April 1912, at 2:20 AM; wreck discovered in 1985 by Robert Ballard.
Current Location: 41°43′55″N, 49°56′45″W
Quick facts for kids
General characteristics
Gross tonnage (weight): 46,328 GRT
Displacement: 52,310 Long Tons
Length: 882 foot 9 inches (269 m)
Beam: 92 foot 6 inches (28 m)
Draught: 34 foot 7 inches (10.5 m)
Power: Able to reach speeds of 26 miles per hour
Propulsion (energy): Two bronze triple-blade side propellers. One bronze triple-blade central propeller.
Speed: 23 knots (26.5 mph; 42.6 km/h)
Passengers and crew (first voyage): Total 2,228
  • First Class: 324
  • Second Class: 285
  • Third Class: 708
  • Crew: 891
    • Passengers and crew who survived: Unknown precisely but estimates place the figure at just over 700
    • Passengers and crew who died: Unknown precisely but estimates place the figure at about 1,500 casualties.

The RMS Titanic was a British passenger ship. It was built by Harland and Wolff ship builders, in Belfast, for the White Star Line company. She sank during her first trip at sea. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, making it the deadliest sinking of a single ship up to that time.

Before she sailed, many people thought it would be almost impossible for ships of this design to sink.


The name Titanic derives from the Titans of Greek mythology. Built in Belfast, Ireland, in what was then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, RMS Titanic was the second of the three Olympic-class ocean liners—the first was RMS Olympic and the third was HMHS Britannic. Britannic was originally to be called Gigantic and was to be over 1,000 feet (300 m) long. They were by far the largest vessels of the British shipping company White Star Line's fleet, which comprised 29 steamers and tenders in 1912. The three ships had their genesis in a discussion in mid-1907 between the White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, and the American financier J. P. Morgan, who controlled the White Star Line's parent corporation, the International Mercantile Marine Co. (IMM).

The White Star Line faced an increasing challenge from its main rivals, Cunard—which had recently launched Lusitania and Mauretania, the fastest passenger ships then in service—and the German lines Hamburg America and Norddeutscher Lloyd. Ismay preferred to compete on size rather than speed and proposed to commission a new class of liners that would be larger than anything that had gone before, as well as being the last word in comfort and luxury. Thus, the Olympic and Titanic would replace RMS Teutonic of 1889, RMS Majestic of 1890 as well as RMS Adriatic of 1907. RMS Oceanic would remain on the route until the third new ship could be delivered. Majestic would be brought back into her old spot on White Star Line's New York service after Titanic's loss.

The ships were constructed by the Belfast shipbuilder Harland & Wolff. Cost considerations were a relatively low priority; Harland & Wolff were authorised to spend what it needed on the ships, plus a five percent profit margin. In the case of the Olympic-class ships, a cost of £3 million (approximately £310 million in 2019) for the first two ships was agreed plus "extras to contract" and the usual five percent fee.

On July 29, 1908, Harland and Wolff presented the drawings to J. Bruce Ismay and other White Star Line executives. Ismay approved the design and signed three "letters of agreement" two days later, authorising the start of construction. At this point, the first ship—which was later to become Olympic—had no name but was referred to simply as "Number 400", as it was Harland and Wolff's four-hundredth hull. Titanic was based on a revised version of the same design and was given the number 401.

Building and preparing the ship

Construction in gantry, bow is seen
Construction in gantry, 1909–11
Launch, 1911; ship with unfinished superstructure
Launch, 1911 (unfinished superstructure)
Fitting-out, 1911–12: Ship is seen in dock
Fitting-out, 1911–12

The sheer size of Titanic and her sister ships posed a major engineering challenge for Harland and Wolff; no shipbuilder had ever before attempted to construct vessels this size. The ships were constructed on Queen's Island, now known as the Titanic Quarter, in Belfast Harbour. Harland and Wolff had to demolish three existing slipways and build two new ones, the largest ever constructed up to that time, to accommodate both ships. Their construction was facilitated by an enormous gantry built by Sir William Arrol & Co., a Scottish firm responsible for the building of the Forth Bridge and London's Tower Bridge. The Arrol Gantry stood 228 feet (69 m) high, was 270 feet (82 m) wide and 840 feet (260 m) long, and weighed more than 6,000 tons. It accommodated a number of mobile cranes. A separate floating crane, capable of lifting 200 tons, was brought in from Germany.

Titanic was launched at 12:15 pm on 31 May 1911 in the presence of Lord Pirrie, J. Pierpont Morgan, J. Bruce Ismay and 100,000 onlookers. Twenty-two tons of soap and tallow were spread on the slipway to lubricate the ship's passage into the River Lagan. In keeping with the White Star Line's traditional policy, the ship was not formally named or christened with champagne. The ship was towed to a fitting-out berth where, over the course of the next year, her engines, funnels and superstructure were installed and her interior was fitted out.

The work took longer than expected due to design changes requested by Ismay and a temporary pause in work occasioned by the need to repair Olympic, which had been in a collision in September 1911. Had Titanic been finished earlier, she might well have missed her collision with an iceberg.

Sinking on

Titanic at Southampton docks, prior to her departure, 10 April 1912.

At 11:40 PM on 14 April 1912, during the Titanic's first trip, she hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. The iceberg broke the Titanic's hull (bottom), letting water into the ship. The Titanic sank two hours and forty minutes later at 2:20 AM on 15 April.

As she sank, the Titanic split in two. The wreck killed over 1,500 people. Only around 705 people survived. It was one of the worst shipwrecks that was not during a war.

Titanic-New York Herald front page
Titanic-New York Herald front page. Wrong numbers were posted the first days after the accident.

One reason why so many people died was that the ship did not have enough lifeboats for everyone on board. The Titanic had 20 lifeboats with room for 1,178 passengers, only a third of the number of passengers the ship could carry. It actually had more lifeboats than was needed by law (it needed 16 with room for 990 passengers). This was because the laws in the UK were out of date. They did not say that a ship needed enough lifeboats for all passengers. They only said that a ship weighing more than 10,000 tons needed 16 lifeboats (the Titanic weighed 46,000 tons). Furthermore, the White Star Line believed that the lifeboats on the Titanic would only be needed to take passengers a short distance to a rescue ship.

Other reasons why fewer than a third of those aboard the Titanic survived the disaster include:

  • There was no information. The ship didn't have an alarm system (like the common ones, where sirens could be sounded). This means that the crew had to tell each passenger to go and evacuate the ship. There was less crew for second and third class, and there were much more people.
  • People who paid less had no access to certain decks.
  • There was a clear separation between the classes. The passage between decks of different classes could be locked. This was especially a problem in the first phase of the evacuation. According to some survivors, some passages were not opened even when the ship started sinking.
  • Many people travelling in third class were foreigners. Their language skills were limited.
  • The radio was off on the SS Californian, the ship closest to the Titanic. The Californian crew did not hear about the accident.
  • The Titanic had flares but they were white. Back then (and still now), red meant emergency and other colors were used for identification (White=White Star Line). The Californian and other ships saw the flares but they didn't think of the flares as distress signals. Another ship, the SS Carpathia, did hear about the accident and collected all 705 survivors.

Higher class women and children were allowed on the lifeboats first, and passengers who sailed in first class (which meant that they paid for better rooms on the ship) were allowed on before other passengers. Few of the poorer people who had paid less (called second class and third class passengers) got out safely (only 3% of first-class women were lost while 54% of those in third-class died). The differences by gender were even bigger: nearly all female crew members, first- and second-class passengers were saved. Men from the First Class died at a higher rate than women from the Third Class. In total, 50% of the children survived, 20% of the men and 75% of the women.

Many of those who died didn't die because they couldn't leave the ship before it sank. They died of hypothermia, while they were floating in the cold water (which was only a bit over the freezing point at that time). Many lifeboats rowed away from those who were in the water shouting for help. The people in the lifeboats were afraid the lifeboat would capsize when people entered it from the water. Only lifeboat Number four returned to the shouting people in the water. Five people could be rescued, but two of them died in the lifeboat. Around 3 am ship's time, 40 minutes after the sinking, the last calls for help ceased. After three am, lifeboat number 14, commanded by Officer Harold Lowe returned. He could save another three people. He had emptied the lifeboat and let the people in the boat enter other boats beforehand.

The following table gives a listing of those who died and those who survived, grouped by age, gender and ships class. Children are those up to age 12. It is taken from a report to British Parliament of 1912. There are other lists, with slightly different numbers.

Age/sex Class/crew Number aboard Number saved Number lost Percentage saved Percentage lost
Children First Class 6 5 1 83% 17%
Second Class 24 24 0 100% 0%
Third Class 79 27 52 34% 66%
Women First Class 144 140 4 97% 3%
Second Class 93 80 13 86% 14%
Third Class 165 76 89 46% 54%
Crew 23 20 3 87% 13%
Men First Class 175 57 118 33% 67%
Second Class 168 14 154 8% 92%
Third Class 462 75 387 16% 84%
Crew 885 192 693 22% 78%
Total 2,224 710 1,514 32% 68%

Last survivor

The last survivor of the 'Titanic disaster to die was a woman named Millvina Dean. She was the youngest passenger on board, as she was then a baby of only nine weeks old. She died in Ashhurst, Hampshire, England on 21 May 2009 aged 97.

Changes after the accident

The Titanic disaster changed many maritime ship laws. Because so many people died, authorities felt that laws should be put into place to make ship travel safer. Changes included requiring all ships to carry enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship, and emergency materials such as flares. Someone must be at the ship's radio all the time.

Alexander Brehm, a German physicist, was shocked when he heard about the disaster. He wanted to invent a technology that would be able to detect icebergs. He wasn't able to achieve that goal until his death, but he was granted patents relating to the measurement of the depth at sea, using sound. Today, this is known as echo sounding.


Titanic wreck bow
Titanic's bow, photographed in 2004.

The wreck was found by a French and American team, led by Robert Ballard, on September 23, 1985 at 1:02 in the morning.

In 1986, Ballard returned to the wreck with a submarine. He took many photos and made lots of films.

In 1987, a French team salvaged 900 objects and took them to the surface.


The story of the sinking has been made into several movies. The most popular film version is a 1997 film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio called Titanic. It won 11 Academy Awards, tying Ben-Hur for the record for the most Academy Awards won by one movie.

Other movie versions of the story include the 1958 film A Night to Remember, the 1953 film Titanic, the 1979 film S.O.S. Titanic and the 1996 movie Titanic.

In the 1980 film Raise the Titanic, salvagers raise the shipwreck from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. However, this is impossible to do in reality. The Titanic broke in two, and the wreck is partially stuck in the bottom, buried under more than three feet (1 m) of mud in some spots. The ship has been on the ocean floor for more than 100 years, and would shatter into many more pieces if disturbed. Worms and other animals have eaten away much of the wood and many other parts.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: RMS Titanic para niños

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