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The Titanic

The RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland by a company called Harland & Wolff. She was designed by Alexander Carlisle who proposed that she should carry 50 lifeboats; she carried only 20. She was certified to carry 3,547 passengers and crew. The total capacity of her lifeboats (16 wooden lifeboats plus four "Englehardt collapsibles") was 1,178 people. Board of Trade regulations of the time required her to carry lifeboats for only 962 people.

She was launched on May 31, 1911 at 1214; it took her 62 seconds to slide all the way down into the water. The ship was never "christened;" no bottle of champagne was broken across her bow. Her official number with the Board of Trade was 131,428.

Her sister ship, nearly as large, was the Olympic. The Titanic was 50% larger than any other liner in the world except the Olympic. She was "the pride of the White Star Line;" White Star was basically an American-owned company.

Length: 882.5 feet.

Width (at widest point): 92.5 feet.

Height (from keel to top of funnels): 175 feet.

Gross tonnage: 46,328.

Displacement: 66,000 tons.

The funnels ("smokestacks") were 22 feet in diameter. If you laid one of them sideways, you could drive a train through it.

3,000,000 rivets were used in constructing the hull.

The rudder alone weighed 101 tons.

She used 650 tons of coal per day. Her engines could generate 50,000 horsepower.

She was the first ship in history to have a swimming pool on board. She also had a regulation squash racquet court, a darkroom, five grand pianos, and four elevators.

The rearmost funnel was a dummy   —   only a decoration. If you ever see a photograph of the Titanic under steam, there won't be any smoke coming out of the rearmost "smokestack." If you ever see a PAINTING that depicts smoke coming out of the rearmost funnel, it's a technical error.

Her wheel was rigged so that turning it clockwise would turn the ship to port (left)   —   which was the standard setup in those days. In ships built after 1924, this setup was reversed, in deference to a generation that had been raised on automobiles.

She sailed from Belfast to Southampton on Tuesday, April 2, 1912.

Her actual maiden voyage (she left at 1200 on Wednesday, April 10, 1912) was from Southampton, England to New York with ports of call at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland. As she left the port at Southampton and passed down the River Test toward open ocean, she came within inches of colliding with the New York; the passing of the Titanic caused a "suction" in the water that pulled the New York loose from her moorings. In fact, the suction of Titanic's wake was so great that it was later learned that an old sunken barge lying on the bottom of the harbor had been dragged 800 yards when the Titanic passed by above it.

Titanic carried 1,320 passengers that day and, with crew, had a total of 2,235 people on board (later, at Cherbourg and Queenstown, some passengers embarked and others debarked; when she went down, she was carrying a different number of passengers). She also carried 3,435 bags of mail, 6,000 tons of coal, and 900 tons of baggage and freight. And 30,000 eggs.

She struck an iceberg (it stuck up 70 feet above the water) at 2340 on Sunday, April 14, 1912; a ton of ice fell onto the forewell deck. There were 2,233 people on board at the time. She sent her first distress call 35 minutes later, at 0015 on April 15, 1912; at 0045, she began firing distress rockets. At 0205, the last remaining lifeboat was launched (lifeboats stored on the port side had even numbers, and those stored on the starboard side had odd numbers). She sank at 0220 on April 15, 1912. The bow went under first; when the ship was almost perpendicular to the surface of the water, it broke in the middle, but not completely; the aft section briefly settled back down, floated for several minutes, and then both halves finally sank together. The two "halves" broke apart (separated) underwater. It took the bow section approximately six minutes to reach the bottom; when it did, it was traveling at ca. 22 knots.

She sank in the North Atlantic (41 deg. 46 min. N, 50 deg. 14 min W) about 1,000 miles east of New York. The water was 12,500-13,000 feet deep. The temperature of the water was about one degree above freezing.

1,522 people died; only 711 survived (338 men, 316 women, and 57 children).

The Cunard liner Carpathia, 58 miles away, caught the Titanic's distress call on the radio, and raced to her aid. The Leyland liner Californian was only ten miles away, its engines stopped for the night, with its radio shut down; members of her crew supposedly saw the Titanic's distress rockets and told their captain (Stanley Lord), who did nothing until the following morning. Captain Lord took the Californian to the site of the sinking at 0830 on April 15, but found no survivors (the Carpathia had already picked them up).

The story about the captain of the Californian ignoring distress signals is very much disputed.

To this day, we do not have an accurate list of the passengers and the survivors. In 1912, there were no computers; no photocopiers; no social security numbers. The very undertaking - a voyage with 2,200 human beings and their luggage - created a great deal of confusion. Some of the passengers were not on any passenger list. Some of the passengers traveled under false names. All we have is a partial list of passengers and survivors. In fact, there were two men on board who had the same name (Joseph Elias); one of them survived, and the other one did not. There were also two women with the same name (Kate Conolly); one survived, and the other didn't. And there were two men named Youssef Gerios ... both of whom died.

On April 21, six days after the disaster, the cableship MacKay-Bennett went to the site of the sinking. The surface of the ocean was littered with woodwork, cabin fittings, deck chairs, and bodies still in their life belts. The bodies were recovered, and those which could be identified were embalmed; those which couldn't be identified were sewn up in canvas, weighted, and buried at sea.

The wreckage (on the ocean floor) was first discovered on September 1, 1985, more than 73 years after the disaster. The Knorr, a ship that was sponsored by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was deep-towing a robot camera vehicle named Argo (which also had side-scanning sonar). It found debris, and later found the bow of the Titanic (it sits upright on the ocean floor, facing north). The project cost approximately six million dollars.

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