It was reported that Captain Smith made the regretable statement...
"God himself could not sink this ship."
April 15, 1912, 2:05 am ... Titanic has less than 15 minutes to live.
The Sinking of Titanic
"The sound of people drowning
is something I cannot describe to you -
and neither can anyone else.
It's the most dreadful sound -
and there's a dreadful silence that follows it."
Ms. Eva Hart, Titanic survivor
On April 10, 1912, the Titanic, largest ship afloat, left Southampton, England on her maiden
voyage to New York City. The White Star Line had spared no expense in assuring her luxury. A
legend even before she sailed, her passengers were a mixture of the world's wealthiest basking
in the elegance of first class accommodations and immigrants packed into steerage.
Four days into her journey, Sunday Night 11:35 PM on April 14, 1912, the Titanic was 400 miles
off the Grand Banks, New Foundland when she struke an iceberg. The collision was fatal, and
the icy water soon poured through the ship.
High up in the crows nest of the forward mast that supported the wireless antenna, lookouts
Fredrick Fleet and Reganald Lee strained their eyes in the darkness for any unwanted ice that
may be in the path of the great liner. The air was cold and the crisp and the North Atlantic
breeze enhanced by the mighty liner's near flank speed stung the faces of the two men. The
sky was brilliantly speckled with more stars than the mind could comprehend, the water as
calm and still as a pond; unusually calm for the North Atlantic in April.
It was a dark night as well, with no moonlight... And the lookouts had no binoculars; the
only pair was left back at Southampton. Lookout Reginald Fleet. (Testimony at US Senate
Inquiry investigation of "The Wreck of the steamship Titanic.")
Due to a mix up in a last minute shift of officer's assignments and positions, the lookout
crew was without binoculars. High-tech equipment such as infrared technology, sonar, global
positioning systems, and radar were still many years away from invention. Peering straight
ahead into the darkness, Fleet squinted to see if he could identify the large dark mass that
was quickly growing in size as the liner made way ahead. "My God!" he said, while reaching
over to grab the pull cord on the ships bell mounted on the mast, Fleet gave it the traditional
3 rings indicating an object sighted. He grabbed the crows nest phone to hear the voice of
the ship's 6th officer below in the bridge. "What did you see?" asked the anxious voice.
"Iceberg right ahead!," was Fleet's reply. The officer quickly acknowledged with a "Thank
you," and the phone was hung up.
Titanic's "crow's-nest," where the berg was first sighted
"Iceberg right ahead!" was repeated again in the bridge. The first officer quickly looked out
of the ship's bridge windows. Seeing the berg looming off the bow, he turned and shouted "Hard
astarboard" to the quartermaster tending the ships wheel in the wheelhouse. At the same time
the officer reached over to the ship's telegraph and rang in the order "all stop" and then
"all reverse full." The quartermaster now had the ship's wheel spun over as far as it would go.
The men in the bridge were peering forward to see if the helm would respond in time.
The first officer felt a slight feeling of relief as it became obvious that the ship was
going to avoid a head-on collision with the mammoth iceberg. The ship's bow was coming around
ever so slowly, but a hit was inevitable. Just as it looked like the giant liner was going
to escape unscathed, a slight shuddering and vibration was felt in the bridge as the ship
sideswiped the berg on her starboard side. One passenger later compared the feeling of the
impact to the ship as that of "rolling over a million marbles." Literally tons of ice began
to fall onto the ship's forward area and in to the forward well deck as the berg quickly
Most of the ship's passengers were unaware of anything occurring. A few card players and
those enjoying a late nightcap felt the slight jar and came out on to the boat deck in time
to see the berg vanishing astern into the darkness.
As a precaution, Titanic's First Officer William Murdoch now reached over and activated the
electric switch that would lower the ship's watertight doors in the bulkheads that divided
Titanic's Captain, Edward J. Smith, who had been napping in the chart room after leaving the
orders: "If it becomes at all doubtful let me know at once" now appeared on the bridge. Looking
at his first officer he asked "What have we struck?" "An iceberg, sir ", was the reply.
Captain Smith summoned the ship's carpenter Thomas Andrews, one of Titanic's designers from
Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders. Andrews was traveling on Titanic's maiden voyage to work out
any "bugs" that might occur with the new liner. Both men were asked to conduct a visual
inspection to access the ship's damage and report back.
The last message Titanic sent read: SOS, SOS (the new distress signal) CQD, CQD (the old
distress signal) MGY (Titanic's radio call letters) We are sinking fast - passengers are
being put into boats.. MGY
Twenty minutes later, Captain Smith became all too aware of the fate of his ship, and equally
aware of the fact that Titanic's lifeboat accommodations were far fewer than the number of
passengers and crew on board. Smith would now for the first time in nearly 40 years at sea,
give the orders to abandon ship. He expressed to his officers the necessity of calmness and
order in the evacuation, and instructed his officers to see that the crew informed everyone
on board to report to the boat deck with their lifebelts on. He then gave the order to swing
out the boats.
Now, at 12:05 A.M., only 30 minutes since the berg was initially sighted, lifeboats were being
uncovered, the ship was beginning to take a noticeable dip forward. The squash courts, 32 feet
above the level of the ship's keel, were awash. Passengers (mostly first class, being closest
to the boat deck) were beginning to appear on deck, many having just slipped a coat on over
their night clothes, and not realizing the seriousness of the situation. Titanic's small band,
under the leadership of Wallace Hartley, came out on to the boat deck and began playing
cheerful ragtime hits of the time to keep morale up.
Lifeboats were now lowering, the first few but half full People were hesitant to climb in,
thinking the whole procedure was unnecessary. People were saying "This ship can't possibly
sink, It's supposed to be unsinkable" This dreadful fact was becoming more apparent however,
as time passed. A deafening roar was present as coal stokers were drawing out the fires and
relieving pressure from the boilers to prevent an explosion from the cold seawater rushing
in from the bowels of the ship. The hiss of distress rockets being fired way up into the
darkness overhead amused the children as their parents were trying to get them aboard lifeboats.
Titanic's bow section was now completely underwater and her stern was beginning to rise. More
people from below had now worked their way out on to the boat deck, but there were very few
lifeboats remaining. The last few boats had been filled to capacity. "Women and Children first"
was the general rule. Some of the men had quietly stepped aside, a few had jumped down to the
life boats as they were lowering. Some were already diving into the water from the deck.
Overall there was no panic; not yet.
Titanic was now assuming a horrible list. It had become evident to all on board that the ship
was indeed going to sink. Captain Smith personally went to the wireless shack and instructed
operators Bride and Phillips to send out the distress call, and gave the ship's position. The
Cunard ship, Carpathia was 58 miles away, but still 4 hours out. She signaled that she was en
route, but Captain Smith knew Titanic would be gone before she arrived.
Items within the ship could be heard crashing through walls toward the sinking bow, as Titanic
made her final "headstand". The boilers were tearing from their beds and smashing through
bulkheads. One survivor later compared the sound to distant thunder rumbling. People were
struggling to climb to the back of the ship as it began to rise in a vain attempt to seek a
higher area away from the swirling water. Suddenly, a giant wave washed over the deck as water
filled the last remaining compartments, sweeping many overboard.
Slowly, the mammoth liner now began her final dive in an almost perpendicular position. Her
lights flickered a couple of times, then went out for good as the stern disappeared from the
surface. Screams and moans could be heard from those struggling in the frigid water. Some
passengers in the lifeboats wanted to return to retrieve those in the water, but were quickly
told by others that they would surely be swamped if they tried. Amazingly, some of the very
same women that protested to officers on the boat deck about their husbands not being allowed
to board, were the very same that protested returning to rescue those in the water. The yells
quickly faded out one by one as the victims lost consciousness and succumbed to their fate.
Two boats, one boat under the command of surviving 5th officer Harold Lowe did manage to pick
up a few from the water after transferring passengers from one lifeboat to two other boats.
Another boat, under the charge of Seaman Perkis, managed to pick up three victims from the
A few hours later the remaining passengers in the lifeboats spotted green colored rockets
going up in the distance. It was the Carpathia, she was signaling that she was near. Of
approximately 2,227 passengers on board Titanic, only 705 survived.
This is believed to be a photo of the iceberg Titanic struck. Photo taken by the cable ship
MacKay-Bennett hired by the White Star Line and dispatched to recover Titanic's dead in the
water. The berg supposedly got the MacKay-Bennett's attention due to the fact that there
were scars of red and black paint evident on the bergs base.
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