The Titanic has become an icon of collective imagination worldwide. It was one of the largest and most luxurious passenger ships of its time. It was built in the early 20th century in Northern Ireland at the behest of the White Star Line company. The ship’s maiden voyage had more than 2200 passengers and crew on board, and left the port of Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, bound for New York City. Four days later, a collision with an iceberg caused the ship to sink in the early hours of April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 people died.
The RMS Titanic, as it was officially called, was developed by the Harland & Wolff company, located in the city of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. The acronym RMS stands for Royal Mail Steamer, which indicates that it used to transport the mail of the British Royal Mail. The ship belonged to the Olympic class, and was commissioned by the White Star Line company.
Thomas Andrews Jr. became the engineer responsible for the Titanic’s design. The ship was equipped with an advanced revolutionary safety system: 16 watertight compartments that would prevent water from entering should any fracture occur in the hull. The Titanic was tagged as an unsinkable ship.
Construction of the Titanic began in the year 1909 at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Northern Ireland. The ship was the second in a series of three Olympic-class ocean liners developed by that company, and her delivery took place on May 31st, 1911. It set sail for its first and only voyage in April 1912.
The ship was 269 meters long, 28 meters maximum width and approximately 53 meters high. The cargo capacity of the RMS Titanic was 46,328 tons, reaching 52 tons when loaded. During the ship’s only voyage, the luggage alone weighed approximately 900 tons. The Titanic could carry more than 3,300 people between passengers and crew members. The Titanic was one of kind in terms of luxury. The ship consisted of 840 cabins, with 416 in first class, 162 in second class, and 262 in third class. It is estimated that the cost of building the RMS Titanic was $7.5 million at the time which today would be more than $230 million.
Sinking of the Titanic
The Titanic left the port city of Southampton in the early afternoon of April 10, 1912. On its way to New York, the ship made two stops: one in France and one in Ireland. There were 2223 people on board, including passengers and crew. On April 14th the ship collided with an iceberg. Although Captain Edward Smith tried to steer the ship away from the collision course, he was unsuccessful. Five of the ship’s watertight compartments were punctured. Water began to flood the lower compartments.
In the early hours of April 15, help was requested from the ship RMS Carpathia. Captain Smith gave orders for women and children to be taken out by lifeboats. Approximately three hours after colliding with the iceberg, the Titanic sank. It is considered one of the worst maritime disasters in history. The ship that came to the rescue of the passengers and crew of the RMS Titanic left the scene at 8:50 a.m. with 705 survivors.
The ship’s wreckage was only discovered in 1985. “Titanic was clearly the big Mount Everest at the time,” Robert Ballard, the American oceanographer who led the expedition that found the wreckage, told CNN. “So many others had tried.” At the time, Ballard was working with the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea. In parallel, he was conducting a secret US military mission to explore two wrecked nuclear submarines, as reported by CNN. Ballard asked President Reagan if could look for the remains of the Titanic after he had completed his mission.
Titanic – The movie
In 1997, James Cameron brought Titanic’s story to the big screen. The film proved immensely popular, holding the all-time box-office gross record for more than a decade after its release. Titanic was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, tying the record set by All About Eve (1950), and it won 11, equaling the record set by Ben-Hur (1959), which was later matched by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). In addition to winning Oscars for best picture and director, Titanic also received an Academy Award for the song “My Heart Will Go On,” performed by Céline Dion.
OceanGate Expeditions tragedy
OceanGate Expeditions, a company offering deep sea tourist dives to the wreckage of the Titanic for €250,000 per person, lost contact with its latest mission about 1h and 45 minutes after the submarine started descending on Sunday June 18th.
On Friday June 23rd, a remote-operated diving vehicle found some debris close to the Titanic wreck on the bottom of the ocean, which OceanGate confirmed was part of the Titan. Unwilling to give up hope, experts put forward the option of the ship discarding those parts intentionally in an effort to resurface. But as more debris was recovered, OceanGate and coast guard experts concluded Titan must have imploded as soon as contact was lost. “The debris field here is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vehicle”, confirmed US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger.
Even though Rush had previously described Titan as “rock solid”, it seems the ship’s structural integrity was not as solid as he believed. Under the immense pressures at such depth under water, the smallest imperfection can lead tot the submersible giving in.
“Either the hatch with the 17 bolts they used to seal them in has had a failure, which has then caused the hull to collapse at pressure because there’s huge amounts of pressure, even halfway down, or the pressure hull itself had a defect in it when they sailed and that’s fractured from the pressure, and caused the same result”, explained former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey.
There were five people aboard the Titan submersible, with Stockton Rush, OceanGate’s CEO, British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding and renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet believed to be among the crew. The family of Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood confirmed in a statement that he and his son were also on board. Unfortunately for the families of the victims, the bodies are unlikely to be recovered.