Was the Titanic tragedy at least partly avoidable?

Was the Titanic tragedy at least partly avoidable?

Was there any way that Titanic's collision with the iceberg could have been avoided after the iceberg had been spotted? Could the ship have been saved from sinking by the pilot or captain after the iceberg was sighted? Was it possible for more passengers to have been saved?

The Titantic tragedy was at least PARTLY avoidable, whether or not the collision was.

First, there were only enough lifeboats for half of the ship's passengers, meaning that at least half of the passengers "had to" drown. Nowadays, ships carry enough lifeboats for all passengers, following changes in maritime law.

Second, the lifeboats were mostly not filled to full capacity, could have taken on more passengers, but empty seats were saved for "women and children" first, to the condition listed above.

Third, nearby ships such as the Californian failed to hurry to the rescue of the Titantic, even though this ship, at least, had been notified.

The Titanic was sunk because the iceberg hit the ship along the side, opening the first 6 compartments to the sea. If the ship had made no attempt to avoid the iceberg, but instead simply hit it head-on, it would have suffered extensive damage to its forward compartments, but would most likely have avoided opening more than a few compartments to the sea. Since the ship was designed to remain afloat with 4 compartments flooded, the direct-impact might have caused the ship to remain intact for much longer, potentially long enough to avoid most of the loss of life, even if the ship eventually wound up sinking later.

As a former naval officer (US) I'll say that in my opinion the Titanic sinking was 100% avoidable. The immediate cause of Titanic's loss was the collision with the iceberg, but the cause of the collision was the callous and negligent disregard by her commanding officer of the dangers involved in transiting an iceberg hazard area at high speed. Getting to her destination in near-record time was considered to be more important by her captain and the on-board representatives of the White Star Line than was safe and prudent navigation, and this prioritization of speed over safety led directly to the collision and loss of the vessel. Everything else, from the metallurgical issues with the ships plates to the design issues regarding her watertight integrity to the lack of sufficient lifeboats is secondary; had the vessel not been hazarded in this manner by her commanding officer the collision would most likely not have occurred; and had a collision with an iceberg occurred at lower speed it would very likely have done less damage to the ship, with consequently greater chance of preventing her loss.

Mark Kozak-Holland argues that it was quite avoidable. Although popular history has it that the ship was designed to remain afloat with 4 compartments flooded (hat tip to @GWLlosa), the truth is somewhat more discouraging - cost cutting measures by the company during construction actually transformed those resiliency features into one of the causes for the disaster. Obligatory disclaimer; I'm not trying to promote Mr. Kozak Holland, and I have no financial interest in his book.

Devsolar asks for more details - I recommend Mr. Kozak-Holland's book as the best place to get those answers. My recollection of the talk (several years ago) is that the original plan for the Titanic involved a double hull all the way up. Cost and schedule constraints reduced the height of the double hull to half the plan. When the exterior hull was pierced, water flooded in between the hulls. What had been planned as a saftey feature to preserve boyancy flooded with water and reduced boyancy. (the actual mechanism was more complicated, but quite frankly I'm not qualified to explain. I'd have to refer to Mr. Kozak Holland's book.

Best alternate source:

When the hull of the Titanic was torn open in the collision with the iceberg, water began to flood the damaged compartments in the bow. As the ship pitched forward under the weight of the water in the bow compartments, water began to spill over the tops of the bulkheads into adjacent, undamaged compartments. Although called watertight, the watertight compartments were actually only watertight horizontally; their tops were open and the walls extended only a few feet above the waterline. By raising the ends of the transverse bulkheads, if a ship were taking in water through the bow compartments and the ship began to pitch forward, the water in the compartments could not flow over the tops of the bulkheads into the next compartments. As a result, flooding of the damaged compartments could be controlled and isolated to only the damaged sections 1 PSU.EDU

1 The citation is to : Gannon, Robert, "What Really Sank the Titanic," Popular Science, vol. 246, no. 2 (February 1995), pp. 49-55.

The exact sentence used in an article about the Titanic was, "The Captain, may, by simply moving an electric switch, instantly close the doors throughout and make the vessel practically unsinkable". This was in the context of the ship having a double bottom (one layer of steel inside another) and 16 watertight compartments. Even if four of these were flooded, the ship would still float. However, the compartments were watertight only on five sides - they were open at the top.

A previous ship, the Great Eastern, had compartments that were watertight on all six sides - but this was very expensive to build. The Great Eastern also had a full double hull all the way to the waterline - safe, but again very expensive to build. But the Titanic had the extra hull layer only on the bottom, not on the sides as well. The full double hull enabled the Great Eastern to survive an 1862 encounter with a rock that opened up a hole 83 feet long and 9 feet wide on her side.

An alterate source:

The Titanic was another matter. Transatlantic service was now lucrative business. Bit by bit, safety standards yielded to commercial pressures. The Titanic's hull boasted a double bottom, but it had only a single wall on the sides. It had fifteen sections that could be sealed off at the throw of a switch, but the bulkheads between those sections were riddled with access doors to improve luxury service.

There are many things that made the Titanic more vulnerable. During the construction, in the boiler room, a welding torch caused a small fire. this happened to be where the iceberg supposedly struck. The fire may have weakened the steel.

Another is that the Titanic's bolts may not have been properly welded which therefore caused a breach as the iceberg hit the side. I know this where my fish tank had a bad seal between the glass so the bad silicone burst and that was the end of our tank. My point is that their may have been a bad mixture of metal that made this happen.

How Could the Sinking of the Titanic Have Been Prevented?

By Chris O'Regan, Amateur Titanic enthusiast from Brisbane

1. Titanic could have been constructed with a double hull. The technology to construct double hulls was available SS Great Eastern had been launced with a complete double hull over 50 years earlier, in 1858. In a classic failure of risk management, Titanic 's manufacturers, alongside with most shipbuilders at the time, considered a full double hull an unnecessary expense, being satisfied with a double bottom instead. This all changed after the disaster, with liners everywhere being refitted with full double hulls. Suddenly the expense didn't seem to matter so much.

2. The quality of the riveting and steel plates could have been better. In the present day, ship plates are welded together using oxyacetelene torches. This technology was unvailable in Titanic' s time. Instead, Titanic 's overlapping steel hull plates were held together by rivets that were hammered in by hand. Most of the rivets were steel, but some were made of wrought iron according to some, the rivets were poor-quality and contained large amounts of slag. The actual holing of the ship was caused when she dragged over the surface of the iceberg, with the berg snapping or popping the rivets along the hull, allowing water to enter in between the hull plates. The hull plates themselves are alleged to have not been strong enough, with signs of stress fracturing but this is disputed.

3. The ship's watertight bulkheads could have been extended and fully sealed to reduce the risk of flooding. Titanic was constructed with transverse bulkheads (i.e. walls) to divide the ship into 16 watertight compartments, which could be sealed off with doors operated either manually or remotely from the bridge. So far, so good. However, the bulkheads didn't extend up the height of all decks, and weren't sealed at the top. So while flooding could be safely be contained if only a small number of compartments were flooded, if too many flooded, water would reach over the top of the bulkheads and flood the rest of the compartments until the ship sank. The designer of the ship, Thomas Andrews, was on board and consulted by Captain Smith immediately after the iceberg was hit. He quickly realised that with five compartments flooded thanks to the iceberg dragging along the ship, the flooding could not be contained and the ship would eventually sink. His calculations convinced Smith to begin evacuations and therefore probably saved lives. Bulkhead design on subsequent ships would be improved as a result of the disaster.

4. Captain Smith could have responded to the numerous ice warnings the ship received by slowing down or stopping completely and waiting for daylight. Titanic was radioed several times by several different ships to warn of large amounts of ice in the area. Titanic acknowledged these warnings, but continued to cruise ahead at full speed. Captain Smith did respond to the warnings he changed the ship's course to be more southerly, and he posted lookouts to watch specifically for icebergs. One of those lookouts did in fact spot the iceberg, but not with enough time to avoid a collision, since it was a moonless night and Titanic was travelling at around 20 knots, close to her maximum speed. This might seem insane to us now, but passenger liners had a very strict schedule to keep, and ships of her size and construction weren't considered to be vulnerable to icebergs (the 1997 movie implied Titanic was trying to break a speed record at the behest of J. Bruce Ismay, but that is fictional).

5. The wireless (i.e. radio) operators could have passed on the ice warnings with more urgency . One incident in particular became notorious. The nearest ship to the Titanic before she sank was SS Californian her captain had decided the ice was so bad that he would stop and try to resume the journey at first light. Californian's wireless operator signalled to Titanic about this. Unfortunately, that message came right at the time that Senior Wireless Operator Jack Phillips was attempting to get through a backlog of passenger messages he hadn't been able to send off earlier (because the set had been broken earlier and Titanic hadn't been in range of the nearest wireless station, Cape Race, Newfoundland). Californian's signal broke in over the top of Phillip's broadcast (these were wireless spark-gap transmitters that used morse code signals couldn't be tuned out) and was very loud in his headphones because the ships were so close. Phillips angrily replied "Shut up! Shut up! I'm working Cape Race!" Although this was not the only warning Titanic received, it happened less than ten minutes before the collision, so it might possibly have made a difference if Phillips had been paying more attention and had relayed it promptly to the bridge. A warning before that, from SS Mesaba , had not gone up to the bridge because Phillips was busy processing the passenger messages.

6. Finally, once the iceberg had been spotted, the officer on watch, First Officer William Murdoch, could have reacted differently in trying to avoid a collision. Some have suggested that Titanic should have not attempted a course change and simply steamed over the top of the iceberg I highly doubt this would have helped. But one thing that might have helped is if he hadn't ordered "Full Astern (i.e. reverse)" as he attempted to steer around the berg. Ships of the period did not have a throttle accessible on the bridge instead, orders to change speed or direction were relayed to the engine room by a device known as an engine room telegraph (the famous circular brass contraption). Once the message was received at the engine room the engineers had to spend a few moments getting the ship's enormous engines to respond and switch to reverse (the steering gear, as well, took time to respond as the steam-powered rudder moved into position). If the Titanic had not been slowing down as she approached the iceberg but instead continuing at full speed, she might have been more manoeuverable, able to turn harder and avoid the iceberg entirely. But this is speculation there was only a very short amount of time (around 40 seconds) for Murdoch and the engine room to react, and something else could easily have gone wrong.

There are plenty of other things that could have been done to make the sinking less calamitous when it did happen (for example, the ship needed more lifeboats), but these are the main things that could have made a difference prior to the collision itself . Once the hull had been breached across more than four compartments, which happened immediately after the iceberg struck, the ship was doomed.

Titanic: Before and After

Because of a shortage of lifeboats and the lack of satisfactory emergency procedures, more than 1,500 people went down in the sinking ship or froze to death in the icy North Atlantic waters. Most of the 700 or so survivors were women and children. A number of notable American and British citizens died in the tragedy, including the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus, Astor and Guggenheim fortunes.

One hour and 20 minutes after Titanic went down, the Cunard liner Carpathia arrived. The survivors in the lifeboats were brought aboard, and a handful of others were pulled out of the water. It was later discovered that the Leyland liner Californian had been less than 20 miles away at the time of the accident but had failed to hear the Titanic‘s distress signals because its radio operator was off duty.

Announcement of details of the tragedy led to outrage on both sides of the Atlantic. In the disaster’s aftermath, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was held in 1913. Rules were adopted requiring that every ship have lifeboat space for each person on board, and that lifeboat drills be held. An International Ice Patrol was established to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. It was also required that ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch.

Titanic Belfast Monument

After decades of downplaying the ties Belfast had to the doomed ship, the city opened a monument to the ship on the centennial of its sinking on the site of the old shipyard where the Titanic was built.

The monument building has more than 130,000 square feet of floor space covered with galleries, community facilities, and stories related to the construction and sinking of the ship.

Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland

The Titanic left its origin point in Southhampton, England on April 10, and made a few stops before heading into the Atlantic Ocean. It first sailed across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France. They picked up a few hundred passengers, and then sailed to Queenstown, now Cobh, in Ireland.

Here, the ship took on 123 more passengers. The Titanic then set sail for New York City on April 11. There is a memorial in the city to the tragedy, which lists the names of the passengers from Queensland 79 perished and 44 were saved.

Why do we care about the Titanic more than the Lusitania?

In April of 1912, the Harland & Wolff, Belfast-built Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean en route from its final port of call in Queenstown (now Cobh, Co. Cork) to New York. One thousand, 523 of the 2,240 onboard lost their lives, the confidence in one of the grandest ships ever built shattered.

Three years later in 1915, the Cunard-owned, Scotland-built Lusitania sank off the coast of Ireland, a mere 18 minutes after it was struck by a torpedo from the German U-boat U-20 and sustained a second, still unexplained explosion. Of the 1,959 passengers and crew on board, 1,198 died (though some sources cite three stowaways who also perished, bringing the total to 1,201).

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That May, in Kinsale, The Old Head, Cobh, and Courtmacsherry Co. Cork, a massive commemoration ceremony for the ship and its victims went underway. Ten thousand people attended, with the president of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, American ambassador Kevin O’Malley, Germany’s ambassador Matthias Hopfner and Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney all present for the solemn occasion, in addition to descendants of those impacted by the disaster.

At 2:10 pm, a whistle sounded to mark the moment the Lusitania was hit by a torpedo. The ceremony also included a minute silence, blessings and hymns, and a wreath-laying at the Lusitania Monument in Town Square, which marked the efforts made by local people to rescue survivors, recover bodies and comfort the bereaved. Over 150 victims are buried in Kinsale’s Old Church Cemetery.

Yet, in the popular imagination and historical mythology, the story of the Titanic endures much stronger than that of the Lusitania. It’s hard to pinpoint why, and to suggest that it’s entirely due to James Cameron’s Kate and Leo epic (and a certain song by Celine Dion) is to overlook the decades of professional inquiry, dramatizations, and amateur obsession that preceded it.

Here are a few theories as to why we care about the Titanic so much more, and a case for why we should place just as much importance and think about the tragedy of the Lusitania.

Peacetime, wartime, and human folly

The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage during a time of peace the Lusitania completing its 202nd Atlantic crossing, in the midst of WWI British/German hostilities. While both ships were constructed with the height of speed, efficiency, and luxury in mind, the Lusitania was built for wartime - its construction was subsidized by the British government, with the idea that it could be converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser if the time called for it.

One of the most dwelled upon aspects of the Titanic’s collision with the iceberg is that it was largely due to hubris and human folly – traveling quickly in an attempt to make record time, with iceberg warnings unheeded until it was too late.

However, there were also warnings leading up to the torpedoing of the Lusitania. On April 22, nine days before the Lusitania set sail for the last time from Pier 54 in New York, the German Embassy issued a warning to passengers regarding Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare. The embassy placed an ad in 50 American newspapers – in some instances next to ads for the Lusitania – that read:

Travelers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travelers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.


Washington, D.C., April 22, 1915.

The ad caused ripples of unease and received press coverage, but was also chalked up to wartime intimidation. William Turner, the captain of the Lusitania, reportedly called it “the best joke I’ve heard in many days.”

Interestingly, just one week before the Lusitania was torpedoed, Captain Turner had been called to the New York law offices of Hunt, Hill & Betts to testify in the ongoing limitation of liability case surrounding the Titanic. In April of 1912, he had sailed a ship across the same iceberg-laden stretch of water just a few days after the Titanic sank.

As William B. Roka from the National Archives of New York has highlighted, he answered a series of questions including:

Q. Under the above circumstances, would it be reasonably safe for such a vessel to proceed at a speed of 20 knots an hour or upwards?

A. Certainly not 20 knots through ice! My conscience!

Q. Have you learned nothing by that accident?

A. Not the slightest it will happen again.

The Lusitania’s crossing passed without event for the first few days, until it entered the war zone on May 6. As “History” recounts, the same German submarine that would deal with the vessel its fatal blow was already in the waters off the southern coast of Ireland and had sunk two ocean steamers and a schooner.

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“Thanks to these attacks, along with intercepted wireless messages, the British Admiralty knew of U-20’s general location (and of other U-boats operating nearby). Nonetheless, it never sent a promised military escort to Lusitania, nor did it offer anything but general warnings about active submarines in the area.”

Time for decisions

The Titanic took two hours and forty minutes to sink, which gave time for tough decisions to play out. Some people were selfless heroes, while others, understandably, just wanted to save their own skins. With the majority of the crew abiding by the orders of Captain Edward Smith that women and children be given priority, there was something of an order to the ship’s evacuation, though the shortage of lifeboats to accommodate the passengers fated many onboard the sinking ship to unnecessary doom.

The Lusitania had learned from the Titanic’s tragedy in at least one sense – it had sufficient lifeboats for the number of passengers. But after the torpedo hit the ship’s starboard side and a second explosion erupted from inside, the Lusitania sank in a mere 18 minutes. Though a similar order was issued, all those on board were left scrambling for their lives with insufficient time to carry out an orderly evacuation. Only six of the ship’s 48 lifeboats were successfully deployed, with many of them rendered useless or inaccessible by the explosion.

As “History” writes, “Many splintered apart or capsized, killing dozens in the process, whereas others could not be pried free from the deck. As it became clear that Lusitania would not stay afloat, those still on board were forced to jump into the frigid ocean, including mothers with babies in their arms. Once there, they fought to hold onto any piece of wreckage they could find, awaiting the rescue boats that were rushing out from the Irish shore.”

Close to 1,200 people died – 124 of them children. There were 763 survivors, thanks in large part to nearby ships, some of them small fishing vessels, which sped to the scene of the disaster.

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One notable difference is that while on the Titanic first-class passengers fared the best and those in steerage suffered the greatest fatalities, on the Lusitania passengers in first-class fared the worst. Famous victims included Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in America, and the art collector Hugh Lane, who, rumor has it, was traveling with Rembrandt and Monet paintings stowed safely in sealed tubes.

The significant discrepancy in the timeframes of the tragedies made them fertile ground for comparison.

A 2010 study conducted by a team of behavioral economists from Austria and Switzerland combed through all of the available data from each of the disasters to analyze how people act in a crisis

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), concluded that on the Lusitania, "the short-run flight impulse dominated behavior. On the slowly sinking Titanic, there was time for socially determined behavioral patterns to reemerge." In essence, the shorter time-frame of the Lusitania sinking meant that people acted more out of self-preservation.

As “Time,” explained, “That theory fits perfectly with the survival data, as all of the Lusitania's passengers were more likely to engage in what's known as selfish rationality — a behavior that's every bit as me-centered as it sounds and that provides an edge to strong, younger males in particular. On the Titanic, the rules concerning gender, class and the gentle treatment of children — in other words, good manners — had a chance to assert themselves.”


For the ship’s wreckages, there may also be some mystery in distance. The Titanic lies 12,500 feet below the water, 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Because it lies in international waters, no single country can lay claim to it, and many private enterprises have warred over the years for access and ownership over salvaged items. It became a UNESCO protected site in 2012, after the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The Lusitania, on the other hand, lies 11 and a half miles off the coast of Co. Cork, a mere 300 feet below the water’s surface.

It’s accessible, but, legally speaking, tantalizingly out of reach. The Lusitania has been owned for 33 years by American venture capitalist Gregg Bemis, now almost 87-years-old. He purchased the full salvage rights to the ship for $1.00 from his friend, with whom he had co-owned it.

However, a subsequent change in the maritime law intended to extend countries' jurisdictions over their offshore resources had close consequences for the Lusitania. The 12 nautical mile territorial limit, adopted by many countries, including Ireland, in the 1980s, meant that the Lusitania, which sits 11.5 miles off the Irish coast, falls under the jurisdiction of Ireland.

In 1994, “Fortune” reported after a National Geographic documentary on the Lusitania wreckage garnered it renewed international interest: “Ireland’s cultural ministry, the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, quickly placed a protective order on the Lusitania—making it necessary, under Irish law, not only to get Bemis’s approval to dive there but Ireland’s too. That order, now known as an Underwater Heritage Order, remains in effect two decades later.”

It means that for Bemis to carry out investigations on the Lusitania he needs cooperation from the Irish government – a legal battle that continues to this day.

This is particularly vexing since he believes, as do many others, that the ship was secretly carrying arms from the US, which was still neutral at that point, to Britain. Furthermore, those arms brought about the second explosion that caused the ship to sink so quickly.


While it’s impossible and unfair to weigh the scale of one disaster against the other on a human level, in a historical context, the Lusitania had much greater ramifications on world events. The US wouldn’t enter WWI until 1917, but the loss of 128 American lives on the Lusitania played a part in the eventual decision to join the war.

When the time came for the US to join the battle, some recruitment posters called upon Americans to “Remember the Lusitania!” Or, as The New Yorker noted in 2002, “One poster simply showed a woman submerged in blue-green water with a baby clasped in her arms, above the single blood-red word ‘Enlist.’”

The tragedy of the Titanic was an all too human mingling of bravado and failure, tragedy, and heroism.

The Lusitania, with its full story still unknown, leaves space for something far more sinister than hubris or carelessness.

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And even though the ship did sink, Mr Maltin said she did so 'on an even keel' and it took two and a half hours.

By contrast, he highlighted the example of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which 'rolled over much more quickly' during the disaster in 2012 off the coast of an Italian island.

'So actually you could say Titanic was safer than modern ships are today,' Mr Maltin claimed.

The crew didn't have binoculars and so could not spot the iceberg in time

Before the Titanic left Southampton, there was a reordering of the officers – with Henry Wilde coming over from the RMS Olympic with Captain Edward Smith.

As a result Second Officer David Blair left the Titanic and it is thought he took the key to the cabin with him, which would have given officers access to a binoculars case.

Speaking to presenter and fellow historian Dan Snow, Mr Maltin conceded in the History Hit documentary that 'there were no binoculars in the crow's nest that night.'

However, he explained that the best way to detect icebergs at night is with the naked eye.

Speaking to presenter and fellow historian Dan Snow, Mr Maltin conceded in the History Hit documentary that 'there were no binoculars in the crow's nest that night.' However, he explained that the best way to detect icebergs at night is with the naked eye. Pictured: The Titanic's lookout, Frederick Fleet, who issued the warning about the iceberg

'That's because the naked eye has a wide field of vision and that helps the way that we detect objects,' he said.

'Whereas, if you're trying to look through binoculars, it is really hopeless because the binoculars are used to inspect an object you've already detected.'

Mr Maltin in fact argued that, had they had binoculars, the crew would have been slowed down in declaring news of the iceberg to the ship's bridge.

He added: 'Instead of thinking "is that an iceberg or not" and checking it out with the binoculars, they just rang the bell three times which meant "iceberg, dead ahead".

Captain Smith then ordered the ship's crew to take evasive action but was not able to turn quickly enough to fully avoid the ice.

Titanic tipped up and sank horizontally

In the 1997 Hollywood film about the disaster, which stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, the Titanic splits in two before the bow (front) tips up horizontally.

However, Mr Maltin said this is not how the vessel actually sank.

Because the iceberg struck the ship near the front on its starboard (right) side, that was were water flowed into the vessel.

It meant that the stern was lifted out of the water and then broke away.

But because it was 'so well sub-divided', Mr Maltin said it 'crashed back down' on to the water.

In the 1997 Hollywood film about the disaster, which stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, the Titanic splits in two before the bow (front) tips up horizontally

The passengers who were on the stern, which was 'almost everyone at that stage' actually then thought they were 'going to be fine'.

However, because the bow was having a 'tug of the war' with the stern as it sank, it did terminal damage to the still-floating rear part.

Mr Maltin said: '[It] did so much damage pulling at her keel that the damage to the stern that was caused by the bow was greater than the damage caused by the iceberg.'

Despite the film scenes of the Titanic violently sinking as passengers clung on to its rails, Mr Maltin said the stern in fact 'sank very quietly', allowing remaining passengers to swim off it.

One passenger remarked that his head did not get wet as he swam away, Mr Maltin said.

The third class passengers were locked below deck while the others escaped

In James Cameron's 1997 film, third class passengers are seen being locked below deck beneath huge metal gates.

However, this is not actually what happened.

Mr Malton said: 'In fact, first class stewards were sent straight down to the third class to tell people exactly where the boats were.'

It is true that there were gates which separated first, second and third class. But this was a legal requirement set by US immigration authorities to avoid the spread of infectious diseases.

'The law was that no passenger ship could go to America without these gates shut. It was only in a state of emergency that the gates were allowed to be opened,' Mr Maltin said.

In James Cameron's 1997 film, third class passengers are seen being locked below deck beneath huge metal gates. However, this is not actually what happened

On the Titanic, the gates were opened as soon as a state of emergency was declared, 47 minutes after the ship hit the iceberg.

Addressing the fact that more third class passengers died than those in second class, Mr Maltin said it was because they 'did not want to' get in life boats.

He said that, in 1912, boys were classed as adults from the age of 13, meaning teenagers were only allowed into life boats after women and children had taken their places.

Because poorer families were going to America in search of a new life, they did not want to lose teenage or male members of their family.

'So you could imagine these women and men with families going to America,' Mr Maltin said.

'What you don't want to do is leave behind your 13-year-old son, your 14-year old son, your 15-year-old daughter.

'So what they did is they decided they would be better off sticking together.

'If they were going to leave the breadwinner behind dead in the icy waters of the Atlantic, what hope would there be for the mother on her own?'

Titanic didn't have enough lifeboats

Much has been made of the fact that the Titanic only had 20 lifeboats, which was enough to carry just over 1,000 of the 2,208 passengers.

However, Mr Maltin said that, because half the lifeboats would have been put out of action by the listing of the ship, the Titanic would have in fact needed to carry twice as many everyone needed if they were to save all souls onboard.

'The fact is, if you want to have enough life boats on a ship for everyone, you need to have twice as many as everyone needs,' he said.

Much has been made of the fact that the Titanic only had 20 lifeboats, which was enough to carry just over 1,000 of the 2,208 passengers. Pictured: Some of the Titanic survivors in a lifeboat

'Every ship almost settles on an uneven keel, it lists to the port or starboard. When it's listing, half the lifeboats are put out of action.

'So if the Titanic needed 30 lifeboats, then she actually needed to carry 60 to allow for that eventuality,' he said.

Because this was impractical, the Board of Trade instead opted to have 'ships properly built and properly subdivided', Mr Maltin said.

'What the authorities said was that any properly subdivided ship could actually carry a limited number of lifeboats in order for the lifeboats to act as a ferry from a stricken liner to get people to nearby vessels,' he added.

It has also been argued that the Titanic's rudder was too small to effectively manoeuvre the enormous ship.

However, Mr Maltin said it was the same size as the one which was on the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic.

The Olympic remained in service until 1935 and its captain said it had the best handling of any ship he had ever commanded, Mr Maltin said.

The horrific 1912 Titanic tragedy

Constructed by Belfast-based shipbuilders Harland and Wolff between 1909 and 1912, the RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat of her time.

Owned and operated by the White Star Line, the passenger vessel set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 10, 1912.

The liner made two short stops en route to her planned Atlantic crossing — one at the French port of Cherbourg, the other at Cork Harbour, Ireland, where smaller vessels ferried passengers on and off board the Titanic.

Nearly five days into her voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg at around 23:40 local time, generating six narrow openings in the vessel's starboard hull, believed to have occurred as a result of the rivets in the hull snapping.

At just before midnight on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg while travelling on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Within three hours, the 'unsinkable' ship had slipped beneath the waves of the freezing Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 1,500 people

The Titanic took on water some fifteen times faster than could be pumped out, with the hull damage proving too extensive for the vessel's watertight bulkheads to keep the flooding from spreading across the liner's compartmentalised lower decks.

After around two-and-a-half hours, the vessel broke into two sections and sank, each settling to the seafloor around a third of a mile apart.

Around 1,500 people were believed lost in the tragedy, including around 815 of the liner's passengers.

The ship's main feature was the Grand Staircase. It was built from English solid oak, and enhanced with wrought iron. The decorated glass domes above were designed to let in as much natural light as possible

At its launch, the luxurious Titanic was the largest ship in the world, and was carrying some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of people from Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere who were seeking a new life in the United States.

Eight Chinese men were on board and six survived, landing in New York three days later aboard the Carpathia, the first ship to arrive at the scene of the disaster.

Under the United States' Chinese Exclusion Act, the men were transferred 24 hours later to a British steamship and sent to Cuba

Nearly five days into her voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg at around 23:40 local time, generating six narrow openings in the vessel's starboard hull, believed to have occurred as a result of the rivets in the hull snapping. Pictured, the iceberg believed to have sunk the Titanic

The Titanic

The Titanic was built by the White Star Line. The owners of the company thought that if ocean liners were big and luxurious enough more people would travel with them.

The Titanic was designed to be the largest in a series of three ships made by the White Star line. It was 268 metres long, 28 metres wide, and weighed 45 000 tons. It produced enough power to travel at a speed of 24 knots (about 40km per hour).

The bulk of the ship was divided into compartments. They were separated by steel doors that did not let any water through. The ship could still move and float if 3 or 4 of the 16 compartments were filled with water.

The Titanic was more like a floating hotel than a ship. It cost $7.5 million and it was unlike any other ship that had ever been built. Palm trees and other expensive plants decorated the luxurious hallways and corridors. The ship could carry 2 600 passengers and a crew of 900.

The Titanic - The World's Largest Luxury Liner

On April 10, 1912 over 2200 passengers boarded the Titanic on its maiden voyage to New York. Many of them were immigrants who saved all their money for the journey. First class passengers had to pay between $2 500 and $4 500 for a private room and a bath, third class passengers had to share rooms and paid $35 each.

Although the ship&rsquos owners said the Titanic was unsinkable many problems before the first voyage were overlooked. Safety regulations at that time were not very strict. The ship only had 16 life boats, enough for about 1 500 passengers. It was only tested for a few hours and never went at full speed. The telegraph system on board was new and not many people knew how to operate it.

During the night of April 14, 1912 the waters of the North Atlantic had a temperature of about -2° C. At noon on that day the radio operators got messages from other ships about icebergs that were nearby. The Titanic&rsquos captain, Edward Smith, did not care about these warnings. He was captain of a steel giant that could not sink. The only thing he cared about was setting up a new world speed record. The Titanic was to be the fastest ship that ever sailed from Southampton to New York.

The night was clear and the Titanic sped on. When a big iceberg was sighted the first officer shut down all the engines. But it would have taken the ship about half a mile to come to a full stop. Even though, on the surface, the ship stayed clear of the iceberg, it ripped a big hole in the hull. At once the compartments began to flood with cold, icy water. The bulkheads were lowered but it was too late. Water flooded at least five compartments.

Route of the Titanic

The collision with the iceberg was so slight that the passengers hardly heard it. Most of them didn&rsquot take any notice and continued dancing and having fun. Some passengers were asleep in their cabins.

The bow of the ship dipped under the water&rsquos surface and the back part of the ship began to rise. After a short time the Titanic broke into two pieces. When Captain Smith realized that the Titanic was sinking he had a distress signal sent out but the nearest ship was a hundred kilometres away.

As time went on chaos emerged and passengers rushed to the boat deck. Women and children were allowed on the lifeboats first. Lights flickered and electricity was finally gone. At 2:20 a.m. the Titanic disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Carpathia, which was the nearest ship, came to the scene about two hours later and picked up the freezing passengers in their lifeboats. By early morning the news of the disaster had gone around the world. The world&rsquos largest ocean liner, the Titanic, had sunk on its maiden voyage, killing 1513 people.

#7 Charge!

Had Murdoch kept on the forward speed without reversing the engines, the Titanic might had totally avoided collision. Really?

As stupid as it might sound, a head-on charge against the tongue of ice that scrapped the hull, might had avoided the tragedy. Other ships, like the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, were know to had collided head-on against an iceberg and still manage to keep afloat. On a second thought this idea seems silly as nobody would like to frontally crash against a massive ice wall, and the strength of the impact would have likely travelled across the length of ship, and snap off rivets from back sections, thus compromising the integrity of the vessel much faster than it did.

And obviously, when you see your ship heading towards such freezing monstrosity, your first thought is not about heading straight against it, but to attempt to dodge it, like Murdoch.

The picture was taken shortly after the sinking and it’s suspected to be the one that doomed the Titanic, since a smear of red paint was found on its waterline. Taken by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert. Source

  • John Charles Bigham, 1st Viscount Mersey was head of the inquiry in 1912
  • His diary reveals notes of the mistakes he believed led to the sinking of the ship
  • His family has decided to unveil his private diary after more than a century

Published: 14:12 BST, 4 January 2021 | Updated: 15:38 BST, 5 January 2021

Lord Mersey's private journal reveals notes of the mistakes he believed led to the sinking of the ship

The contents of a private journal written by the judge who oversaw the inquiry into the Titanic disaster is to be revealed for the first time in a forthcoming documentary.

British jurist and politician, John Charles Bigham, 1st Viscount Mersey, was charged with investigating the sinking in 1912 that claimed 1,500 lives.

His diary, which detail his reasons for why the passenger liner sank, is being made public after more than a century on a Sky History programme on tomorrow night.

Lord Mersey's notes suggest it was a combination of factors which led to the tragedy, including how the ship was travelling to fast, how the crew ignored repeated ice warnings and watertight doors were left open as it sank.

He also noted how there were not enough lifeboats - they could only hold half of the 2240 passengers - and lifeboat drills had been cancelled.

Craig Sopin, a lawyer and collector of Titanic memorabilia from Philadelphia said: 'It is amazing to see some of Lord Mersey's journal after all this time.

'Through the journal we get to see inside Lord Mersey's mind and some people have said this is one of the best documentaries about the Titanic ever made as we get to see exactly what he was thinking.'

Lord Mersey's family has decided to unveil his private diary (pictured on the documentary_ after more than a century

In the journal, he writes how a crucial lifeboat drill was cancelled, and he commented 'this unusual.'

He stated the Titanic was travelling at full speed in an icy environment and he mentions, 'excessive speed' and 'no reduction of speed.'

He continues by writing that two vessels informed them of 'icebergs, growlers and flows' along with the drawing of diagrams, adding that the temperatures were falling, writing 'this indicated ice.'

He says an ice warning came through at 2pm and was handed to Bruce Ismay, chair of the White Star, who put it in his pocket instead of making it public.

The iceberg was eventually spotted at 11.39pm by the crow's nest lookout, who rang the alarm bell.

The journal contains notes of the mistakes he believed led to the sinking of the ship in April 1912

Among his notes he writes ' no reduction of speed, stating 'the Titanic was travelling at full speed despite the ice warnings

But as the boat was travelling at 26mph there was not enough time to turn it around.

The Titanic struck into the 60ft high iceberg shortly afterwards.

The watertight doors were closed to wall off the flooded areas, but Mersey noted that some of them were then manually opened by crew to move water hoses and pumps and then 'left open.'

Lord Mersey recorded the fact the Titanic stopped after it hit the iceberg, but then continued moving forward at half speed for another 20 miles, which increased the amount of water coming in.

About an hour after the collision the first lifeboat was lowered, with an order for the boats to be filled with women and children first but according to Mersey's notes they 'didn't fill the lifeboats to capacity.'

Additionally he recorded that in one of the lifeboats 61 out of the 68 passengers were men, including chairman Bruce Ismay.

He has also included drawings of diagrams writing that two vessels warned of 'icebergs, growlers and flows'

Lord Mersey noted there were not enough lifeboats for the 2240 passengers of the Titanic

Lord Mersey adds the Titanic (pictured) had not enough life boats for the 2240 passengers and a crucial lifeboat drill had been cancelled

At 2.20am the bow of the boat submerged and it split in two and sank. Out of the hundreds who fell into the water, only 40 were pulled out and survived. Lastly he mentions that only two lifeboats turned back to help.

The British Board of Trade's inquiry into the tragedy took place between May 2 and July 3.

The inquiry took testimony from both passengers and crew of the Titanic, crew members of Leyland Line's Californian, Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia and other experts.

It was the longest and most detailed court of inquiry in British history up to that time.

Prior to the British inquiry the US Senate's inquiry had taken place on 19 April, a day after the Titanic arrived in New York, held by Senator William Alden Smith.

It concluded that those involved had followed standard practice and the disaster was an act of God.

Lord Mersey's final report on July 30, 1912 concluded that the regulations on the number of lifeboats were out of date and inadequate, Captain Smith had ignored the ice warnings, and the lifeboats had not been properly filled.

He noted the 'extremely high speed oftwenty-two knots 'which was maintained following numerous ice warnings' as a factor that led to the disaster.

Neither inquiry's findings listed negligence by IMM or the White Star Line as a factor.

Lord Mersey was appointed commissioner to inquire into the loss of the Titanic in 1912

John Charles Bigham, 1st Viscount of Mersey, who oversaw inquiry into Titanic disaster

John Charles Bigham, 1st Viscount Mersey was born on 3 August 1840 in Liverpool.

He was a British jurist and politician.

He was elected as a Liberal Unionist in 1895.
In October 1897, he was named a judge to the Queen's Bench

He was appointed commissioner to inquire into the loss of the Titanic in 1912.

His leadership drew criticism that he was protecting the interests of the board of trade and the major shipping lines than revealing the underlying causes of the disaster.

The following year he presided over the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

He also headed the inquiries into the sinking ofthe Empress of Ireland held in Canada in 1914 and the Falaba and RMS Lusitania in 1915.

He was raised in the peerage from baron to viscount in 1916.

He died in 1929 at Littlehampton in Sussex, aged 89

The contents will be unveiled on Sky History's TV show Titanic's Lost Evidence on January 5, as part of Laurence Fishburne's History's Greatest Mysteries series.

For decades historians have sought to unseal his personal documents, believing his sealed opinions and judgments were part of a conspiracy to hide the truth about the tragedy.

Now after 108 years, his family have decided to reveal the secret diary, offering the fascinating insight into Lord Mersey's real thoughts about the disaster.

The programme sees experts examining Mersey's drawings and observations for the first time and reconstructing the Titanic's journey in light of the new evidence.

Mr Sopin added: 'He writes about the speed of the Titanic and that it was going too fast, and the fact there was no lifeboat drill.

'We can see all the things he questioned and found unusual and his reaction to everything.'

'It was a combination of things that caused the disaster. There was the speed of the ship also Lord Mersey took great issue with the fact Ismay put an ice warning in his pocket and also the crew were ill prepared due to no lifeboat drill.

'Also the fact that some of the watertight doors were opened and not closed again. There was a lot of negligence made and mistakes due to a culture of ignorance.'

He said the outcome would have been totally different if an inquiry had been held today.

He added: 'We would have put the blame on everyone, Captain Smith, the White Star and there would also have been civil suits.

'It was only because of the culture and laws at the time that the White Star was able to continue operating.'


Ned Parfett, the 'Titanic paperboy', outside of the White Star Line offices in London

The Titanic sets sail from Southampton to New York, calling at Cherbourg and Cork en route.

April 14 (09:00–22.30, ship's time):

Marconi Company radio officers on the Titanic received a total of six warnings of ice in the vicinity, not all of which were passed on to the crew.

Lookout Frederick Fleet, in the crow's nest, spots an iceberg dead ahead of the ship. Turning to port, the vessel managed to avoid a direct collision, but suffered a 'glancing blow' instead.

Captain Edward Smith orders abandon ship and has radio operators issue distress signals.

The Titanic's final lifeboat is launched. Ten minutes later, the liner's angle in the water increased rapidly, ultimately reaching over 30 degrees, as water reached previously unflooded parts of the ship through deck hatches.

The Titanic finally disappeared beneath the waves, some two hours and forty minutes after striking the iceberg.

Watch the video: When The Unsinkable Titanic Sank. 101 Events That Made The 20th Century Part 6. Absolute History (January 2022).