On its first voyage from Southampton, England, to New York with stops in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, the Titanic was carrying 2 206 people, including a crew of 898.
A relatively mild winter had produced a bumper crop of icebergs in the North Atlantic, but the crew, believing their ship was unsinkable, paid no attention to warnings. And, on the night of Sunday, 14 April, other ships in the area reported icebergs by radio, but their messages were not delivered to the bridge or the captain of the Titanic.
The iceberg that struck the ship was spotted at 11:40pm. Despite avoiding a head-on collision, the Titanic’s starboard side scraped the iceberg violently, and six compartments were ripped open. The ship was designed to withstand a maximum of four flooded compartments, and began to sink.
Minutes later, the crew radioed for help, sending out an SOS signal, the first time the new type of help signal was used.
Ten minutes after midnight, the order for the passengers to head for the lifeboats was given. Unfortunately, there were only enough lifeboats for about half the people on board. In addition, no one had received instruction for or been drilled in an emergency evacuation procedure, and general panic broke out on deck.
The survivors – those who successfully made it into the lifeboats – were largely women who were travelling first class. In fact, the third-class passengers were not even allowed onto the deck until the first-class female passengers had abandoned the ship.
White Star President, Bruce Ismay, jumped onto the last lifeboat although there were women and children still waiting to board.
At 2:20am, the Titanic finally sank. Breaking in half, it plunged downward to the sea floor. Captain Edward Smith went down with the ship. The Carpathia arrived about an hour later and rescued the 705 people who had made it into the lifeboats. The people who were forced into the cold waters all perished, resulting in a death toll of 1 517.
Official blame for the tragedy was placed on the captain and bridge crew, all of whom had died.
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