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The Titanic True Story & Real Pictures

Updated on April 2, 2015

J. Bruce Ismay

Olympic, Titanic, Britannic

The White Star Line was locked in a fierce battle with the Cunard Line for control of the hugely profitable North Atlantic run between Britain and the United States. Harland & Wolff had always built the White Star ships, so the two men knew each other well. And both recognized that expansion was the only way to defeat Cunard.

One evening in 1907, Bruce Ismay dined with Lord and Lady Pirrie at their London residence, Devonshire. Some time after dinner Pirrie casually proposed the construction of three vast transatlantic liners- far bigger, faster, and more luxurious than anything currently afloat. As Ismay listened enthusiastically, Pirrie drew up rough plans for the three liners. To reflect their size and class, they were to be called Olympic, Titanic, and Gigantic. Gigantic's name was changed by the time it was launched to Britannic and was sunk by a German mine in 1916, by which time the first two ships had become household names, but for vary different reasons.

White Star Line was running a regular service from Southampton to New York with Teutonic, Oceanic, and Adriatic, but these could not compete for speed with the Cunarders, which were capable of an average speed of 26 knots. At 21 knots, the Teutonic was the fastest of the White Star ships. Attempting to increase speed would necessitate restricting passenger and cargo space, clearly an uneconomical move. So, White Star decided to take a different approach- it would construct a fleet of huge liners whose spacious accommodations and luxury would prove irresistible to passengers. Backed by American finance, Lord Pirrie and J. Bruce Ismay sat down over coffee and cigars that evening in 1907 to plan the construction of the three great liners. At 850 feet, each would be 100 feet longer than the Cunard ships and, at 46,000 tons, they would be 15,000 tons heavier. They would revolutionize transatlantic travel. The emphasis would be on elegance, and above all, safety, an achievement of which White Star was jusifiably proud. Between 1902 & 1912, White Star carried more than 2 million passengers, of whom only 2 were killed.

Pirrie's grand plans had only one major flaw, there were no docks or yards large enough for the ships' construction. But Pirrie did not give up so easily, and two specially strengthened slipways were built at Harland & Wolff. Meanwhile, detailed plans for the liners were drawn up by a team of designers, led by Lord Pirrie's brother-in-law, Alexander Carlisle, who expanded the hull design. It was Carlisle, Harland & Wolff's general manager, who would also be responsible for the ships' interiors and their life-saving equpment. When he retired in 1910, he was succeeded by another of Pirrie's relatives, his nephew Thomas Andrews.

In 1908 J. Bruce Ismay gave design approval and a contract was signed for the building of the first two ships.

Olympic and Titanic were almost virtually identical sisters with Titanic's major difference being that it was longer than the Olympic. The two ships were being erected side by side, with Olympic being completed ahead of Titanic.


Titanic Departing in 1912

Departing South Hampton
Departing South Hampton

Titanic Specifications: Watertight

The ship's skeletons consisted of a series of vertical frames, each set one yard apart, and criss-crossed by beams, girders, and pillars. A feature of both ships was their double bottom, hailed as an important safety device. The outer skin, made of inch-thick steel plates, shielded an inner skin of slightly thinner plates, the belief being that if the outer skin was somehow pierced, water would still be kept at bay by the inner skin.

The double bottom was deep enough for a man to walk in, and 500,000 solid iron rivets were fitted hydraulically, weighing 270 tons, were used just on the bottome of the Titanic, with a total of three million fitted on the entire ship. No expense was spared as far as riveting was concerned. The seams of the bottom plating were double-riveted while those on the top side plating were treble-and quadruple-riveted.

To reduce rolling in heavy seas, a pair of 25 ince deep bilge-keeps were fitted for 300 feet of the vessel's length. To all intents and purposes, the Titanic was watertight. In addition to the double bottom, she was divided into 16 watertight compartments, formed by 15 watertight bulkheads running across the hull. Each bulkhead was equipped with automatic watertight doors. These were held in the open position by a friction clutch that could be released instantly by a powerful electric magnet controlled from the Captain's bridge. In the event of an accident, the Captain could move the electric switch and close all doors to make the ship 100% watertight. As a further precaution, floats were provided beneath floor level. Should water enter nay of the compartments, these floats would automatically lift and close the doors opening into that compartment if they had not already been dropped by the Captain. It was also claimed the ship could float with any two compartments flooded and since nobody could envision anything worse, the Titanic was deemed unsinkable.

Side View of Titanic's Airtight Compartments

The shaded blue compartments are the ones that filled with water after Titanic struck the iceberg
The shaded blue compartments are the ones that filled with water after Titanic struck the iceberg

Second Officer Charles Lightoller

Launch the Titanic

Titanic was launched on April 10,1912, and the beginning of her maiden voyage was uneventful. J. Bruce Ismay and Thomas Andrews were both aboard to oversee the ship in action and take note of any improvements or changes that should be looked into.

On April 14th Titanic began receiving iceberg warnings from other ships. One such warning was received from the Baltic at 1:42 Pm. The message read: "Captain Smith, Titanic-Greek steamer Athinai reports passing aic bergs and large quantities of field ice today. The message also added the exact latitude and longitude, and it was dangerously close to Titanic's course.

The message was taken to the bridge, but instead of showing his officers, Captain Smith took it with him when he went down for lunch. On the promenade deck, he bumped into J. Bruce Ismay and handed him the message for information. Ismay put the message in his pocket. Apart from Ismay showing it to a few select passengers, the piece of paper stayed there for the next 5 1/2 hours, until Captain Smith asked for its return and had it posted on the bridge. Given that passenger safety was to be paramount, the behavior of both men is baffling, and can only be assumed that the men underestimated the threat.

The ice was now closing in.

Shortly after 11:30PM, the lookouts in the crow's nest, Reginald Lee and Frederick Fleet, became aware of a misty haze on the horizon. A few minutes later, at 11:40PM, Fleet peered out once more into the darkness and saw all his worst nightmares in once menacing black shape. Without a word to his colleague, he rang the huge brass bell in the crow's nest three times and lifted the telephone to the bridge.

Sixth officer James Moody answered. Fleets' message was chillingly brief: "Iceberg right ahead."

Out of the darkness Fleet could see the pinnacled shape of the iceberg moving nearer by the second to the starboard bow of the Titanic.

On the bridge, first officer William Murdoch who has been an experienced sailor, responded to the message with the command, "hard a-starboard." This meant the ship's bow would swing to port, at the same time, he gave an order to the engine room, "Stop, and then "full speed astern." He aslo pushed a bell-button for 10 seconds to warn those below that he intended ot close all the ship's watertight doors. He then pulled the switch that automatically closed them.

It was too late. Later evidence suggested that Fleet had spotted the berg at a distance of less than 500 yards. At her trials, the Titanic had taken 850 yards to stop when traveling at 20 knots. Here, approaching an ice field, she was doing 22 1/2, covering 38 feet per second. There was no way she could stop in time. Murdoch's actions avoided a head on collision and, briefly, as the ship's bow started to veer away from the approaching berg, looked capable of averting contact altogether. But there was no time to turn sharper to port. All he succeeded in doing was changing the impact to a glancing blow, which , as it transpired, was the worst possible scenario. Just 40 seconds after Frederick Fleet's warning, an ominous scraping sound signaled the beginning of the end for the Titanic.

Ship Builder,Thomas Andrews

The Lifeboats

Many passengers were totally unaware that there had been a collision and a number of passengers even managed to sleep through it, while some merely heard what they described as a ripping or tearing sound along the side the ship.

J. Bruce Ismay was wakened by the collision, but assumed that the ship had lost a blade from one of the propellers, which would mean sending the ship in for a repair.

The scene was a different story down in the number six boiler room on the starboard side of the ship, where leading fireman Frederick Barrett heard a roaring thunder, followed by a flood of water cascading through a narrow gash in the ship's side . As the watertight doors closed, he was forced to escape up the boiler room's emergency ladder before the water engulfed him.

Within less than one minute of the collision Captain Smith was on the bridge asking Murdock, "what have we struck?"

"An iceberg, sir," came the reply. "I hard a starboarded and reversed the engines and I was going to port around it, but she was goo close," the shaken Murdock explained. Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews investigated the damage to discover that the mailbags were floating in several feet of water, and Andrews immediately recognized that Titanic was a lost cause and diagnosed her survival as having no more than two hours before sinking.

Thomas Andrews spent the last hours of his life breaking doors off their hinges and throwing them into the sea, escorting people to the lifeboats, and doing everything in his power to save as many people as he could. He had originally asked for more lifeboats on board the Titanic, but regulations only called for twenty, which if filled to capacity would have saved a little over 1100 passengers, and there were over 2000 passengers on board. After the last of the lifeboats were launched and he could do no more, Thomas Andrews was seen walking back into the ship, taking a seat in a large lounge chair and staring blankly.

Titanic began sending out distress calls such as CQD, SOS, and skyrockets, while second officer Charles Lightoller began preparing lifeboats to be lowered. Titanic was still riding high above the Atlantic, and as the collision was not very traumatic for many of the guests, they were frightened of the small, and seemingly less secure lifeboats. Lightoller had his work cut out for him. Desperately trying to convince people to get into the lifeboats, he ordered women and children first. Bruce Ismay was making himself useful by assisting with filling the lifeboats and calling out orders to "lower away." Frederick Fleet, the man to spot the iceberg managed to get into lifeboat number 5, alongside Molly Brown. It was in this lifeboat that Molly got her nickname, "the unsinkable Molly Brown."

When the bow of the Titanic was visibly sinking, to the point that water wast splashing up the nameplate. It began to dawn on those still on board that the great ship would certainly flounder. The sense of orderly calm was replaced by one of anger, fear and confusion. Suddenly, there was no shortage of people wanting to fill the lifeboats.

After the lifeboats were all launched, four collapsable boats were brought out for passengers, while the tough officers did their best to fill the boats and keep order at the same time.

Just over two hours after Titanic collided with the iceberg it suddenly lurched from starboard to port. She was becoming increasingly unstable, the deck was titling more and more steeply, making the process of evacuation even more difficult. All the while the band played on with marches, waltzes and foxtrots.Meanwhile Charles Lightoller and Chief officer Henry Wilde had to draw a gun to keep men from charging the last collapsable boat as it was pushed into the water.



Titanic on Amazon

Last Sight Of Titanic

At 2:17am, her lights blazing defiantly and with more than 1,5000 people still on board, the Titanic began to go under. As the bow plunged beneath the waves, washing many overboard, the last wireless call for help was sent out by Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, who had remained at their posts until the ship went down.

The ship's lights flickered and finally went out. Passengers clung desperately to the the rails as the ship rose into the air vertically and dropped straight into the water breaking off two of the four funnels releasing clouds of soot into the clear sky.

Titanic's end was witnessed from the water by Second Officer Lightoller, while he and around 30 other men clung for their lives to the upturned collapsable boat B.

The Carpathia sped for the Titanic as fast as she could, and its rooms were prepared for maximum assistance. Over 700 of Titanic's passengers were picked up by the Carpathia, while more than 1,500 perished on the great ship.

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    • Skarlet profile image
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      Skarlet 2 years ago from California

      Thank you lawrence01.

      That is very interesting. Were the two relatives brothers? Do you know their names?

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Fascinating and somewhat personal read as I recently found out that I had two distant relatives aboard. They were part of the crew and one was in charge of a lifeboat. Both survived and were honored for their bravery that terrible night. Awesome hub

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      @ Mike- I studied this story a long time ago. You are right. Times have changed. There is no way that the Captain and crew would be so civilized today. But, people were believers to a great extent during that time and it encouraged them to want to do the right thing.

      Rain Defence- Haha. I know what you mean. It really ruined the whole evening. :)

      @breakfastpop- Thank you for your support. The movie really did bring the ship and some of the passengers to life.

      teaches12345- Thank you so much for your kind comment. I am afraid that they were so preoccupied with wanting a smooth maiden voyage that their actions helped keep the maiden voyage from being anything but....

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Your retelling of this story was awesome. I was really drawn into the tale as you described the events behind the disaster. If they had only communicated this earlier, it would have saved many lives. Your talent here is excellent! Voted up and interesting.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      I just saw the movie the other night and it still haunts me. Thanks for this well written hub. Up and interesting.

    • Rain Defence profile image

      Rain Defence 5 years ago from UK

      It went down after dinner too. I know I feel like nothing other than sitting and relaxing after an enormous meal and plenty of port and cognac so it must have been a nightmare to try to get off the ship in that state.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 5 years ago

      What a great story, many facts I had never heard before. It must have been terrifying for the passengers when reality set in and they figured out the ship was sinking. It was truly amazing that the band continued to play music right up to the very end. That compared to some recent incidents where the Captain and some of the crew were the first into the lifeboats. You sure have a flair for digging out facts and putting them on paper in an interesting presentation.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      @melpor- Thank you very much for the vote up and the comment.

      @LadyLola- Thank you. I researched the Titanic and other ships in great detail several years ago and felt like I could just go on and on....

      @tsadjatko- Hehe. The real story. :)

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 5 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Now Skarlet, I never heard of this Titanic - did you make all this up?

      :-) just kidding - very interesting read, stuff I didn't know!

    • LadyLola profile image

      Lanie Robinson 5 years ago from Canada

      Great job here of outlining the events of that tragic night.

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Skarlet, I enjoyed reading this hub. It was well written and researched. You told the Titanic story in an interesting way. Voted up.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      @greenerday- Thank you very much for your kind comment.

    • greeneryday profile image

      greeneryday 5 years ago from Some tropical country

      Interesting facts about the great Titanic, something that we will never find in the movie. Thank you for writing such a wonderful hub.