Now close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a small submarine descending far below the Atlantic Ocean. Out the window you see the deep, dark blue water lit up by the spotlights from your submersible. You’re going deeper and deeper, further down toward the bottom of the ocean. Your instruments show you are close to your destination, so you turn the cameras on. Suddenly you see something through the darkness of the sea, lit up by the spotlights. It’s a wreckage of a ship sunken deep into the sand. This is it! It’s the one and only Titanic! It’s been here for over a hundred years and is covered in coral and sea life. You drive around the ship and through and around it and continue to film so others can see the remains of this amazing ship from history.
Now let’s go back to 1909, when the two cruiseliner companies, White Star Lines and Cunard were under intense competition to build the best and largest cruise boats in the world. Cruise boats are designed to move passengers across the ocean, and in addition, are made for entertainment and luxury. This means the people on them are usually on vacation and want a nice room, and plenty of things to do as they sail across the ocean. It can make for a very relaxing trip. Some of the well-known cruise liners today are Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Disney also has its own cruise ships. In 1909 White Star Lines wanted to be the best cruise liner so they decided to build three new ships, which would be the biggest ships ever made called the Titanic, the Olympic, and the Brittanic. The name Titanic comes from the Titan of Greek Mythology.
Building of the Titanic
The Titanic was constructed by the shipbuilders, Harland and Wolf, in Belfast, Ireland. Altogether 15,000 people worked on the Titanic. The ship was steam-powered, which means coal was burned to create the steam used to move the three gigantic propellers. Huge boilers were constructed to heat up the coal and produce the steam and 46,000 horsepower. It took three years to build the Titanic and cost over $7 million dollars. 3 million rivets were used to attach the hull of the ship made of iron and steel. The finished Titanic was 882 feet long, which comes out to about 3 football fields if you can imagine that. This made it the largest cruise liner built up until that time. Because of the way it was designed, many said that the Titanic was unsinkable.
Inside the Titanic
The Titanic was a luxury cruise liner, which means many of the rooms were very well decorated and comfortable for their occupants. It was made for 833 first-class passengers, which means the very nicest rooms, then 614-second class passengers and 1,006 third-class passengers, whose rooms were nice compared to most ships, but not as nice as first class. A total of 2,453 passengers could fit on the Titanic. And then came the crew, the people who helped take care of the ship and keep it sailing, which came to around 900.
The inside of the hotel was decorated like a hotel. It had elegant dining rooms, a saltwater swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, massage rooms, and hot tubs. Even though the third-class passengers didn’t have access to many of these areas, their dining rooms and common areas were pretty nice compared to most cruise liners at the time. One of the Titanic’s best-known features was the Grand Staircase which connected Decks E and F.
The Titanic’s First Voyage
The Titanic’s maiden voyage, which means its first voyage, started on April 10, 1912, in Southampton, England. It first stopped in France and then Ireland and then continued across the Atlantic Ocean, headed for New York in the United States. White Star Line’s managing director, J. Bruce Ismay, and one of the ship’s designers, Thoms Andrews, were passengers along with many celebrities such as John Jacob Astor IV, a wealthy heir, the owner of Macy’s, Isidour Straus, and his wife Ida, Benjamin Guggenheim, and the heiress Margeret “Molly” Brown. Margaret Brown was born in the United States in Missouri and while she had a difficult life growing up ended up moving to Colorado where she and her husband’s mining business struck gold. Margaret used her wealth to do good, helping people in need and finding other ways to help those less fortunate. She often traveled around the world doing good and happened to be in France when she found out her grandson was sick. This caused her to book a passage on the Titanic and head back to see him.
But unlike Margeret most of the passengers on the ship were normal people traveling between Europe and the United States, the third-class passengers who paid less than $20 for the voyage.
Titanic Begins to Sink
The first three days of the trip were fairly normal, the seas were calm and the skies were clear. On the night of April 14th, one of the crew members was on the lookout. He suddenly saw something through the fog — an iceberg. An iceberg is a huge piece of ice that floats in the water and is common in the North Atlantic. Other boats had reported seeing icebergs, but this one was very large and very unexpected. The crew member rang his bell and called the captain. Immediately, the engines were reversed and the gigantic ship turned to try and miss the iceberg. From above the water it appeared as though they had missed the iceberg, but below the water, it struck the side of the ship and caused a 300-foot tear in its side.
When the captain and Thomas Andrews, who helped design the ship, went below decks to look for damage, they could already see water pouring in through the gash. The ship had started to tilt and water was beginning to fill the different compartments. Andrews did a quick calculation and estimated they only had about an hour and a half before the ship would sink!
Quickly everyone started loading onto the lifeboats, which had been added to the ship in case of an emergency. Many women and children were allowed to get on the lifeboats first, but unfortunately, most lifeboats were put into the ocean too quickly and didn’t get enough people on them. It was also unfortunate that the Titanic didn’t have enough lifeboats. The people who built it didn’t think it would be necessary and that lifeboats would take up too much room.
Many brave people gave up their seats on lifeboats for others. The captain decided to go down with the ship along with its builder Thomas Andrews. Margeret or “Molly” Brown was one of the celebrities who helped others onto the lifeboats and was finally forced onto one herself. While on the boat she did everything she could to make sure they were safe. She desperately wanted to go back and help more people, but the other passengers on her lifeboat wouldn’t let her. Once she was rescued she did everything she could to help the other survivors.
As the families on lifeboats rowed away from the ship, the Titanic slowly began to fill with water for three hours until it shifted and cracked in half and then dropped below the surface.
In the end, 706 people survived the sinking of the Titanic, but more than 1,500 did not.
Eventually, a ship nearby heard the radio calls for help and arrived to help the people in the lifeboats, but it was too late for the other passengers aboard the Titanic.
The World Hears of the Sinking of the Titanic
Soon the news spread around the world that the Titanic had sunk, but no one could believe it. Truly, the sinking of the Titanic was one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.
For many years after the sinking of the Titanic, many people wondered exactly where the wreckage ended up. They knew generally where the ship had gone down, but the water is extremely deep in the North Atlantic and likely the wreck moved very far before landing on the ocean floor. Many expeditions set out to use sonar to find the Titanic, but it wasn’t until 1985 when a French-American team led by Jean-Louis Michel and Robert Ballard found the wreckage. After this, submersibles with cameras and later with people were sent down to film the wreckage. They sent remote-controlled cameras inside the ship and brought back video of the inside, to examine what had happened to the ship and what it looked like now, many years after it had sunk.
Since this time, many books and movies have been made about the sinking of the Titanic. You can also watch documentaries about the history of the Titanic, the people on it, and the many voyages made down to its wreckage. Learning about these people and events reminds us that even though we have come very far technologically, people and the things we create are still imperfect. It’s important to design things with care and consider the people who are using them. Since the sinking of the Titanic, all boats are required to have life vests for everyone — and large cruise liners are required to have lifeboats for every passenger.
When you get a chance, take some time to watch videos about the Titanic. Its history is fascinating. And always remember, educating yourself helps your brain grow, and learning history helps you better understand the past!