On this day in 1912, the RMS Titanic sunk at 2:27 am near Newfoundland after hitting into an iceberg a few hours prior. Infamously, the Titanic was thought to be ‘unsinkable’, yet on the boat’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City occurred one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters, killing over 1500 people.
With over 2200 people aboard, the RMS Titanic was the largest passenger liner at the time; the second of three Olympic Class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line. The ship embodied considerable levels of luxury, including swimming pools, libraries, gymnasiums and fine dining for those able to afford it. Furthermore, the Titanic had been built with advanced safety technology to protect its journey; watertight compartments as well as remotely activated watertight doors all contributing to a perception of security; impervious to dangers. Despite this, the Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for a capacity of 1178 people, just one third of the ships total capacity.
The RMS Titanic received 6 warnings of ice in the surrounding sea however the ship continued to move near her maximum speed, meaning the reality of spotting ice threats and being able to manoeuvre the ship away from danger was particularly limited. The ship was unable to turn in sufficient time, taking a hit to the right and opening 5 compartments to the sea. The design of the ship accounted for four compartments being flooded but no more, making the situation particularly precarious and making it obvious that the ship would be unable to recover, necessitating emergency measures to be initiated and help to be sought. Distress flares were set off and radio communication engaged whilst passengers were organised into lifeboats however, with no ships in the nearby vicinity, the likelihood of survival became evidently unrealistic, particularly as even if able to make it into a lifeboat, there was still dependence upon finding another ship to board. Many lifeboats were released before they were full, exacerbating the shortages of seats already outlined in the design of the Ship.
By 2:21am, the Titanic had sunk; over 1000 passengers had remained on board with many dying minutes after hitting the water as a result of hypothermia. RMS Carpathia arrived an hour and a half later, aiding those passengers fortunate enough to have gained a space on a lifeboat. It was said that the musicians on the Titanic played music as it sunk, intending to instil calm amongst the passengers, playing until the last minutes of the disaster.
The handling of the disaster sparked public outrage due to the lack of regulations allowing for such inadequate preparations as well as the hierarchy that was instilled between the different classes of passengers, with first class passengers being prioritised in the evacuation of the ship.
The legacy of such a disaster can further be seen with the subsequent inquiries and legislative reforms; both an inquiry in the USA and the UK reached the conclusion that existing regulations that had allowed for such inadequate safety provisions needed to be changed. The results of such commissions included enhanced maritime regulation with greater requirements in terms of lifeboat numbers as well as requiring lifeboat drills to ensure that the crews of ships were able to be prepared for emergency. Furthermore, an International Ice Patrol was created as well as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, both of which are still currently operational.