Sinking of the Titanic
In the first half of the 1900's, several rival steamship companies were warring for the right to the claim of building the biggest and most luxurious ocean liner. The Cunard and the White Steamer Lines were the two leading competitors. In 1907, Cunard built a ship called the Mauretania which held the lead in speed for twenty-two years. Its other leading ship, the Lusitania, had its maiden voyage also in 1907. It had amazing interior decoration. On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic. Almost 1,200 of its 1,959 passengers died.
The White Star Line made plans that same year to build three 'Olympic' class ocean liners. They would be the largest ships ever built. Beginning in March 1909 and continuing for two years, the Hartland and Wolff shipbuilders in Belfast, Ireland, worked on the Titanic. The company launched the Titanic on May 31, 1911 into the River Lagan in Belfast. The ship was then towed to a special dock where it would be fitted out with a lavish interior and twenty-nine giant boilers to give power to its two engines.
Because of fifteen watertight compartments in the lower portion of the ship which could each be operated individually, a shipbuilding magazine said that she was practically unsinkable. Two design flaws were found later. The walls between the compartments did not go to the top and allowed water to spill over into the next compartment if the ship tilted.
The other huge problem, which was discovered too late, was that the ship didn't carry enough lifeboats. Only 1,178 people had the means of fitting in a lifeboat in the event of an emergency. The Titanic carried more than 3,300 passengers and crew. In an emergency, only about one-third of those on the ship would have a spot in a lifeboat. However, the British Board of Trade required less than that.
Many famous people chose to sail on this memorable voyage. The managing director of the cruise line and two representatives from the shipbuilding company were passengers, along with John Jacob Astor, IV, a wealthy businessman and his young wife.
The Titanic departed from Southampton, England on April 10, 1912. It stopped in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland, before heading out into the Atlantic Ocean to New York City. On April 14, the officers of the Titanic heard that other ships had seen icebergs. They had not and saw only a calm sea. At 11:30 p.m., a lookout saw an iceberg straight ahead of the ship. The helmsman could turn the ship enough so that the ship just grazed its side. Unfortunately, the lookout and crew did not see the huge gash in the ship below the waterline.
The captain toured the ship and realized that many compartments were filling with water and causing the nose to slant down into the sea. The captain knew that the ship could only last afloat for another hour and one half. He ordered the lifeboats to be brought out and the wireless operator to send for help. Confusion and chaos caused most of the lifeboats to be lowered with many empty spots. The ship lasted for three hours. It went below the waves at 2:20 a.m. on April 15. Many stories of brave and heroic actions and sacrifice were later told. The Cunard Shipping Line's Carpathia went to the rescue of the lifeboats. Only 705 survivors were picked up.
Although common theory says that it sank because of the deep gash in her side, others say that the steel plates were too brittle for the cold temperatures of the Atlantic. Inquiries were conducted on both sides of the Atlantic. The public was stunned to hear that such a remarkable ship had sunk on her maiden journey. Some said that it sank due to the excessive pride of the builders in thinking it was unsinkable.
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