Titanic Facts - the Sinking


Titanic Facts - The Titanic 1912 Sinking

On Sunday night, April 14, 1912 the history of the Titanic was about to enter its most dramatic and painful turn. The Titanic was sailing peacefully through the calm waters of the Atlantic. The temperature was close to zero degrees centigrade. The night was clear. The moon was not visible. At 11:40 the ship was about 375 miles south of Newfoundland, 1,000 miles west of Boston and over 1,500 miles east of Northern Ireland. According to the schedule, they should be arriving in New York on Wednesday morning.

Titanic Facts - Repeated Iceberg Warnings

Throughout the day the Titanic received six iceberg warnings. As a precaution captain Edward Smith, highly experienced and confident, ordered a slightly more southerly route to try to alleviate the danger of icebergs.

At around 11:00 pm a seventh message came through, this time from the wireless operator of the Californian that she was surrounded by icebergs and unable to make good progress. Unfortunately, the message went unheeded. The wireless operators on the Titanic, Jack Philips and Harold Bride, worked for Marconi and their job was to facilitate communication for the passengers. The operator having sent and received hundreds of passenger messages on that day had no time for communications that seemed outside his line of work. The message never reached the captain.

Titanic Facts - An Iceberg Just Ahead

At 11:39 lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee were on their post looking out for potential hazards. The elements were against them. The moonless night meant visibility was poorer. They had no binoculars. Unbeknown to them, less than 500 meters ahead lay a large iceberg. What could have made it harder to spot was the likelihood that the iceberg was not a white one. While most are white, some may appear green, black or blue depending on such things as their origin, air bubble content and impurities content. Furthermore, the calm sea may have made the iceberg harder to spot. In windier conditions the iceberg would be surrounded by the white surf of waves crushing against it. In the calm waters of that moonless night, no such surf was visible.

Titanic Facts - The Iceberg Sighted

At 11:40 the iceberg was spotted and the looks out sounded the alarm and shouted the famous words, “Iceberg, right ahead!” William Murdoch, the officer on duty, immediately ordered a hard left turn and the engines on full reverse. The hard maneuver was inadequate to prevent the collision and as the boat turned to the left the iceberg brushed its right side – 39 seconds after being spotted.

Like a giant can opener the iceberg opened a gush (some modern research suggests six smaller ones) across. The gush was not very large, but was long enough to fill the front five or six of the Titanic’s 16 watertight compartments. The compartments were not watertight all the way to the top, because that would have infringed on the space available for passengers. So as the boat began to tilt forward, more compartments filled.

What If?

Ever since questions have been asked about what might have happened if the officer on duty had taken different action. One theory suggests that if the Titanic had hit the iceberg head on only one or at most two watertight compartments would have been damaged and the ship would not have sunk. Another theory holds that by ordering full reverse Murdoch may have eased the impact but slowed the rate of turn. Had he not ordered full reverse the Titanic may have been able to turn quick enough to avoid the impact altogether.

It is easy to theorize but harder to prove theories. And Murdoch had only a few precious seconds to make up his mind and the orders he gave were the most obvious that would have come to anybody’s mind. The most sensible thing would simply have been to slow down or even stop the ship altogether long before the iceberg had been sighted, as other ships close to the Titanic were doing. But then again, these other ships didn’t have a reputation of being unsinkable. The proud Titanic sailed fast to her doom.


Other Titanic Facts Pages

Quick Titanic Facts

The Sinking Part 1

The Sinking Part 2 (this page)

The Sinking Part 3

The Mystery Ship that could have saved more people

The Passengers

The Survivors

The Titanic Band that played music to the end


Return from Titanic Facts to Northern Ireland Travel Homepage