Tale Of The Titanic

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The RMS Titanic departed from Southampton, England on her first and only voyage Wednesday, April 10, 1912. She was the largest ship ever built at the time, reaching almost three football fields in length and twelve stories high.

Edith Russell, First Class Passenger:
"This is the most wonderful boat you can think of. In length it would reach from the corner of the Rue de la Paix to about the Rue de Rivola. Everything imaginable: swimming pool, Turkish bath, gymnasium, squash courts, cafes, tea gardens, smoking rooms, a lounge bigger than the Grand Hotel Lounge; huge drawing rooms, and bed rooms larger than in the average Paris Hotel. It is a monster, and I can't say I like it, as I feel as if I were in a big hotel, instead of on a cozy ship; everyone is so stiff and formal. There are hundreds of help, bell boys, stewards, stewardesses and lifts. To say the ship is wonderful is unquestionable, but not the cozy ship board feeling of former years."

The Titanic heading west on the open sea. Friday afternoon, April 12, 1912

After making stops at Cherbourg, France and then Queenstown, Ireland she headed for New York City. Two days later, it would slide beneath the North Atlantic, taking with 1,522 passengers and crew, including the captain, E.J. Smith.

The Titanic heads into her final sunset. Sunday, April 14, 1912 - 7:00 p.m.

Lawrence Beesley, 2nd Class Passenger:
"Each night the sun sank right in our eyes along the sea, making an undulating glittering pathway, a golden track charted on the surface of the ocean which our ship followed unswervingly until the sun dipped below the edge of the horizon, and the pathway ran ahead of us faster than we could steam and slipped over the edge of the skyline - as if the sun had been a golden ball and had wound up its thread of gold too quickly for us to follow."

The Titanic racing toward destiny. Sunday, April 14, 1912 - 9:30 p.m

Archibald Gracie, First Class Passenger:
"That night after dinner, with my table companions, according to the usual custom, we adjourned to the palm room, with many others, for the usual coffee at individual tables where we listened to the always delightful music of the Titanic's band. On these occasions, full dress was always en regle; and it was a subject both of observation and admiration, that there were so many beautiful women then especially in evidence aboard the ship."

Despite reports from other ships warning of ice ahead, the Titanic continued to increase her speed. Late Sunday night, an iceberg was sighted by the lookouts in the crow's nest. But it was too late. The Titanic could not turn out of its way in time and the iceberg scraped along the starboard side of the ship, creating a series of punctures and buckled plates 300 feet long.

View of the iceberg from the bridge. Sunday, April 14, 1912 - 11:39 p.m.

The Titanic bearing down on the iceberg. Sunday, April 14, 1912 - 11:40 p.m.

Robert Hichens, Quartermaster:
"All went along very well until 20 minutes to 12, when three gongs came from the lookout, and immediately afterwards a report on the telephone, 'Iceberg right ahead.' The Chief Officer (First Officer Murdoch) rushed from the wing to the bridge. He rushed to the engines. I heard the telegraph bell ring, also give the order 'Hard astarboard'. The sixth officer repeated the order, 'The helm is hard astarboard, sir.' But during the time, she was crushing the ice, or we could hear the grinding noise along the ship's bottom. I heard the telegraph ring. The skipper came rushing out of his room - Captain Smith - and asked, 'What is that?' Mr. Murdoch said, 'An iceberg.'"

Early signs of trouble. Sunday, April 14, 1912 - 11:59 p.m.

Norman Chambers, First Class Passenger:
"... I looked at the starboard end of our passageway, where there was the companion leading to the quarters of the mail clerks and farther on to the baggage room, and I believe, the mail sorting room, and at the top of these stairs I found a couple of mail clerks wet to their knees, who had just come up from below, bringing their registered mail bags. As the door in the bulkhead in the next deck was open, I was able to look directly into the trunk room which was then filled with water, and within 18" or 2 feet of the deck above. We were standing there joking about our baggage being completely soaked and about the correspondence which was seen floating about on the top of the water. While we were standing there three of the ship's officers descended the first companion and looked into the baggage room, coming back up immediately, saying that we were not making any more water. This was not an announcement, but merely a remark passed from one to the other. Then my wife and myself returned in the direction of our stateroom, a matter of a few yards only, and as we were going down our own alleyway to the stateroom door our room steward came by and told us that we could go on back to bed again, that there was no danger."

The Titanic fires another distress rocket. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 1:10 a.m.

Third Officer Herbert Pitman:
"I should say about a dozen rockets were fired. They were fired from the rail. They make a report while leaving the rail, and also an explosion in the air, and they throw stars, of course, in the air."

There were not enough lifeboats on the Titanic for all the passengers. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that a ship the size of the Titanic, which was "practically unsinkable," would never have a need for that many lifeboats.

The bow sinks closer to the surface. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 1:20 a.m.

Elizabeth Shutes, First Class Passenger:
"Our lifeboat, with 36 in it, began lowering to the sea. This was done amid the greatest confusion. Rough seamen all giving different orders. No officer aboard. As only one side of the ropes worked, the lifeboat at one time was in such a position that it seemed we must capsize in mid-air. At last the ropes worked together, and we drew nearer and nearer the black, oily water. The first touch of our lifeboat on that black sea came to me as a last good bye to life, and so we put off - a tiny boat on a great sea - rowed away from what had been a safe home for five days. The first wish on the part of all was to stay near the Titanic. We all felt so much safer near the ship. Surely such a vessel could not sink. I thought the danger must be exaggerated, and we could all be taken aboard again. But surely the outline of that great, good ship was growing less. The bow of the boat was getting black. Light after light was disappearing ..."

Lifeboat 15 descends on Lifeboat 13. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 1:25 a.m.

Lawrence Beesley, Second Class Passenger in No. 13:
"... And all the time we got closer to the sea and the exhaust roared nearer and nearer - until finally we floated with the ropes still holding us from above, the exhaust washing us away and the force of the tide driving us back against the side. The resultant of these three forces was that we were carried parallel to the ship, directly under the place where boat 15 would drop from her davits into the sea. Looking up we saw her already coming down rapidly from B deck; she must have filled almost immediately after ours. We shouted up, 'Stop lowering 14' (He did not know the correct number of the boat at the time) and the crew and passengers in the boat above, hearing us shout and seeing our position immediately below them, shouted the same to the sailors on the boat deck; but apparently they did not hear, for she dropped down foot by foot - twenty feet, fifteen, ten - and a stoker and I in the bows reached up and touched her bottom swinging above our heads, trying to push away our boat from under her. It seemed now as if nothing could prevent her dropping on us, but at this moment another stoker sprang with his knife to the ropes that still held us and I heard him shout, 'One! Two!' as he cut them through. The next moment we had swung away from underneath 15, and were clear of her as she dropped into the water in the space we had just before occupied."

Loading lifeboats number 14 and 16. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 1:30 a.m.

Fifth Officer Harold Lowe:
"Numbers 12, 14, and 16 were down about the same time. I told Mr. Moody that three boats had gone away and that an officer ought to go with them. He said: 'You go.' There was difficulty in lowering when I got near the water. I dropped her about five feet because I was not going to take the chance of being dropped down upon by somebody. While I was on the Boat Deck, two men tried to jump into the boat. I chased them out. We filled boats 14 and 16 with women and children. Lightoller was there part of the time. They were all women and children, barring one passenger, and he sneaked in dressed like a woman. He had a shawl over his head. As I was being lowered, I expected every moment that my boat would be doubled up under my feet. I had overcrowded her, but I knew that I had to take a certain amount of risk. I thought if one additional body was to fall into that boat - that slight additional weight might part the hooks, or carry away something. So as we were coming down past the open decks, I saw a lot of people all along the ship's rails. They were glaring more or less like wild beasts, ready to spring. That is why I yelled out to 'look out' and let go, bang! ... right along the ship's side. There was a space I should say of about three feet between the side of the boat and the ship's side, and as I went down I fired these shots without any intention of hurting anybody and with the positive knowledge that I did not hurt anybody. I fired, I think three times"

Collapsible C is lowered. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:00 a.m.

George Rowe, Crewman:
"All the time my boat was being lowered the rubbing strake kept on catching on the rivets down the ship's side, and it was as much as we could do to keep her off. When the boat was in the water the well deck was submerged. It took us a good five minutes to lower the boat on account of this rubbing going down."

The steamer Californian observes with binoculars Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:00 a.m.

Second Officer Herbert Stone, Steamer Californian:
"Have a look at her now, Gibson. She seems to look queer now."

Apprentice James Gibson, Steamer Californian:
"She looks rather to have a big side out of the water."

The last lifeboat is lowered. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:10 a.m.

Hugh Woolner, First Class Passenger:
"... the electric lights along the ceiling of A Deck were beginning to turn red, just a glow, a red sort of glow. So I said to Steffanson: 'This is getting rather a tight corner. I do not like being inside these closed windows. Let us go out through the door at the end.' And as we went out through the door the sea came in onto the deck at our feet. Then we hopped up onto the gunwale preparing to jump out into the sea, because if we had waited a minute longer we should have been boxed in against the ceiling. And as we looked out we saw this collapsible, the last boat on the port side, being lowered right in front of our faces. It was full up to the bow, and I said to Steffanson: 'There is nobody in the bows. Let us make a jump for it. You go first.' And he jumped out and tumbled in head over heels into the bow, and I jumped too, and hit the gunwale with my chest, which had on this life preserver, of course, and I sort of bounced off the gunwale and caught the gunwale with my fingers, and slipped off backwards. As my legs dropped down I felt that they were in the sea. Then I hooked my right heel over the gunwale, and by this time Steffanson was standing up, and he caught hold of me and lifted me in. Then we looked over into the sea and saw a man swimming in the sea just beneath us, and pulled him in. By that time we were bumping against the side of the ship. She was going down pretty fast by the bow. We were exactly opposite the end of the glass windows on the A Deck."

Two hours and forty minutes later the brand new Titanic - the largest in the world - sank to the bottom of the ocean.

The bridge dips below the surface as the Titanic begins her fateful plunge. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:16 a.m

Second Officer Lightoller:
"Just then the ship took a slight but definite plunge - probably a bulkhead went - and the sea came rolling along up in a wave, over the steel fronted bridge, along the deck below us, washing the people back in a dreadful huddled mass. Those that didn't disappear under the water right away, instinctively started to clamber up that part of the deck still out of water, and work their way towards the stern, which was rising steadily out of the water as the bow went down. It was a sight that doesn't bear dwelling on - to stand there, above the wheelhouse, and on our quarters, watching the frantic struggles to climb up the sloping deck, utterly unable to even hold out a helping hand."

Seconds before the ship breaks apart. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:18 a.m

Olaus Abelseth, Third Class Passenger:
"I was standing there, and I asked my brother-in-law if he could swim and he said no. I asked my cousin if he could swim and he said no. So we could see the water coming up, the bow of the ship was going down, and there was kind of an explosion. We could hear the popping and cracking, and the deck raised up and got so steep that the people could not stand on their feet on the deck. So they fell down and slid on the deck into the water right on the ship."

The Titanic rears up. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:19 a.m.

George Crowe, Dining Room Steward:
"After getting clear of the ship the lights were still burning very bright, but as we got away she seemed to go lower and lower, and she almost stood up perpendicular ..."

The stern section floats upright. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:20 a.m.

Edward Buley, Able Seaman:
"She went down as far as the afterfunnel, and then there was a little roar, as though the engines had rushed forward, and she snapped in two, and the bow part went down and the afterpart came up ... She uprighted herself for about five minutes, and then tipped over and disappeared."

In the water. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 2:25 a.m.

Archibald Gracie, First Class Passenger:
"What impressed me at the time that my eyes beheld the horrible scene was a thin light-gray smoky vapor that hung like a pall a few feet above the broad expanse of sea that was covered with a mass of tangled wreckage. That it was a tangible vapor, and not a product of my imagination, I feel well assured. It may have been caused by smoke or steam rising to the surface around the area where the ship had sunk. At any rate it produced a supernatural effect, and the pictures I had seen by Dante and the description I had read in my Virgil of the infernal regions of Charon, and the River Leth, were then uppermost in my thoughts. Add to this, within the area described, which was as far as my eyes could reach, there arose to the sky the most horrible sounds ever heard by mortal man except by those of us who survived this terrible tragedy. The agonizing cries of death from over a thousand throats, the wails and groans of the suffering, the shrieks of the terror-stricken and the awful gaspings for breath of those in the last throes of drowning, none of us will ever forget to our dying day."

Archibald Gracie himself survived the disaster only to die in December that same year from illness.

The Carpathia arrives on the scene. Monday, April 15, 1912 - 4:00 a.m.

Bertha Mulvihill, Third Class Passenger:
"Dawn was just breaking when I saw a light way off in the distance. I spoke to the nearest sailor about it and asked if it possibly could be a vessel coming to us. He said it must be a ship's light, but someone spoke up and said it was probably a boat's light. Then two big green lights broke through the mist above it, and we knew it was a ship coming to rescue us. We cheered and cheered. Some cried. I just sat still and offered up a little prayer."

Its final resting place 12,460 feet down on the bottom of the ocean was discovered in 1985. Many expeditions had tried to find the fabled liner in the intervening 73 years, but each had been unsuccessful.  The Titanic had almost mystical attraction it was "The Ship Of Dreams"  In this pre-world-war era there was a total belief in the marvels of new technology.   Such was the optimism of the time that people could actually believe such a thing as "unsinkable" and "ocean liner" could be paired in the same sentence. Faith in the new technology that went into creating the unsinkable Titanic (costing a little over eight million dollars to build) was so strong that it carried only enough lifeboats to accommodate 1,178 of the 2,227 on board (the ship was actually capable of carrying 3,500 passengers and crew).

The faith in his unsinkable ship encouraged the captain to virtually ignore a total of seven iceberg warning messages sent to the Titanic as he kept plowing on full steam ahead in the hope of breaking the transatlantic crossing record. And he would have done so, were it not for an encounter with one of those icebergs he had been warned about.

The Titanic struck the iceberg shortly after midnight on Sunday, April 14. Many on board never even realized the collision had taken place. When the captain ordered everyone to assemble on deck, the first class passengers complained about going outside in the cold. After all, what was there to worry about on an unsinkable vessel?

When the decision to abandon ship was made, the first lifeboat left with only 36 people on board, although it could carry 65. The other lifeboats similarly left the ship loaded to only about half capacity. By 2:00 am, all the lifeboats were in the water. Shortly after, the Titanic disappeared from sight, the unsinkable ship going down to a watery grave in a little over two hours. In all, only 705 people survived.

You have heard their words, picture the image of what it was like.

Out on the icy cold Atlantic that fateful dark night.

Aboard the boasted Titanic, the greatest ship ever to be made.

Your feet freezing cold from waters of a bow that has started to fade.

One of hundreds of doomed passengers with no salvation in sight.

The ocean begins to take this vessel and all left remaining this night.

Crying, screaming wails, prayers offered up from the young and old.

No boats left to save, no land within sight, nothing but the sea so cold.

Knowing their fates, there was no doubts as the ship snapped in two.

The stern rose as in a last grand farewell salute to those in her view.

As if pausing for one last look she inhaled her last breath.

Drawing down hundreds with her as she took to the ocean's depth.

The bitter iceberg chilled waters surrounded each soul.

The lungs that no longer took air were then added to the toll.

Lovers held to each other as the ocean waters formed their grave.

No more pain and grief, nor burdens of life to make them a slave.

Young and old, wealthy and those of meager means.

No social classes, upper and lower decks had no purpose it seems.

Equality was had by those who slipped into the cold ocean that night.

No religious order, no color, no race found but waters in sight.

Equally they were returned from whence they all came.

These terrified souls who died in an ocean that will never be tamed.

Some feel their presence now sheltered forever in the ocean so deep.

A lesson learned at the expense of many we shall always keep.

Boasting never again about the impossibilities of man's creations.

Titanic like the Hindenburg and Challenger among the reasons.

To those lost and long departed souls now remembered this day.

Had you ever envisioned creating history in quite this way?


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2,227 people were on board this ill-fated voyage. Only 705 survived.

This work is dedicated to the 1,522 people who lost their lives in the icy Atlantic waters that night.


                                                   Cheryl C. Helynck


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