RMS Titanic

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RMS Titanic before departing Southampton, England
Owner: White Star Line
Port of Registry: Liverpool, Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
Builder: Harland and Wolff yards in Belfast, Ireland
Yard number: 401
Laid down: 31 March 1909
Launched: 31 May 1911
Christened: Not christened
Maiden voyage: April 10, 1912
Fate: Sank after hitting an iceberg on April 15, 1912
General characteristics
Class and type: Olympic-class ocean liner
Tonnage: 46,328 gross register tons (GRT)
Displacement: 52,310 tons
Length: 882 ft 9 in (269.1 m)
Beam: 92 ft 6 in (28.2 m)
Draught: 34 ft 7 in (10.5 m)
Installed power: 24 double-ended (six furnace) and 5 single-ended (three furnace) Scotch boilers. Two four-cylinder reciprocating triple-expansion steam engines each producing 15,000 hp for the two outboard wing propellers at 75 revolutions per minute. One low-pressure turbine producing 16,000 hp. 59,000 hp was produced at maximum revolutions.[1]
Propulsion: Two bronze triple-blade wing propellers. One bronze quadruple-blade centre propeller.
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h/24 mph)
maximum 23–24 knots
Capacity: 3,547 passengers and crew, fully loaded

RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner owned by the White Star Line and built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. At the time of her launching in 1912, she was the largest passenger steamship. During her maiden voyage, Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, and sank two hours and forty minutes later on April 15, 1912.

The sinking resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people, ranking it as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history and, by far, the most famous. The Titanic used some of the most advanced technology available at the time and was popularly believed to be “unsinkable”. When the ship sank it was a great shock to many people that despite the advanced technology and experienced crew, the Titanic still sank with a great loss of life. The media frenzy about Titanic's famous victims, the legends about what happened on board the ship, the resulting changes to maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck in 1985 by a team led by Robert Ballard have made Titanic persistently famous in the years since.



The first-class Grand Staircase aboard the Titanic
The first-class Grand Staircase aboard the Titanic

The Titanic was a White Star Line ocean liner, built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, designed to compete with rival company Cunard Line's Lusitania and Mauretania. The Titanic, along with its Olympic-class sisters, the Olympic and the soon to be built Britannic (originally named Gigantic), were intended to be the largest, most luxurious ships ever to operate. Construction of the RMS Titanic, funded by the American J.P. Morgan and his International Mercantile Marine Co., began on March 31, 1909. Titanic's hull was launched May 31, 1911, and its outfitting completed March 31 the following year. Titanic was 882 ft 9 in (269 m) long and 92 ft 6 in (28 m) wide, had a gross register tonnage of 46,328 tons, and a height from the water line to the boat deck of 60 ft (18 m). Although it enclosed more space and therefore had a larger gross register tonnage, the hull was exactly the same length as Titanic's sister ship Olympic. Titanic contained two reciprocating four-cylinder, triple expansion, inverted steam engines and one low pressure Parsons turbine which powered three propellers. There were 29 boilers fired by 159 coal burning furnaces that made possible a top speed of 23 knots (43 km/h). Only three of the four 63 feet (19 m) tall funnels were functional; the fourth funnel, which only served as a vent, was added to make the ship look more impressive. The ship could hold a total of 3,547 passengers and crew and, because it carried mail, its name was given the prefix RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) as well as SS (Steam Ship).

In her time, Titanic surpassed all rivals in luxury and opulence. She offered an on-board swimming pool, a gymnasium, a Turkish bath, libraries in both the first and second-class, and a squash court.[2] First-class common rooms were adorned with elaborate wood panelling, expensive furniture and other decorations.[3] In addition, the Café Parisien offered cuisine for the first-class passengers, with a sunlit veranda fitted with trellis decorations.[4]

March 6, 1912: Titanic (right) had to be moved out of the drydock so her sister Olympic, which had lost a propeller, could have it replaced. Olympic is about to enter the drydock with the help of the tugs
March 6, 1912: Titanic (right) had to be moved out of the drydock so her sister Olympic, which had lost a propeller, could have it replaced. Olympic is about to enter the drydock with the help of the tugs

The ship incorporated technologically advanced features for the period. She had an extensive electrical subsystem with steam-powered generators and ship-wide electrical wiring feeding electric lights. She also boasted two wireless Marconi sets, including a powerful 1,500-watt radio manned by operators who worked in shifts, allowing constant contact and the transmission of many passenger messages.[5]

Comparisons with the Olympic

The Titanic closely resembled her older sister Olympic, but there were a few differences. Two of the most noticeable were that half of the Titanic's forward promenade A-Deck (below the boat deck) was enclosed against outside weather, and her B-Deck configuration was different from the Olympic. The Titanic had a specialty restaurant called Café Parisien, a feature that the Olympic did not have until 1913. Some of the flaws found on the Olympic, such as the creaking of the aft expansion joint, were corrected on the Titanic. The skid lights that provided natural illumination on A-deck were round; while on Olympic they were oval. The Titanic's wheelhouse was made narrower and longer than the Olympic's.[6] These, and other modifications, made the Titanic 1,004 gross register tons larger than the Olympic and thus the biggest active ship in the world during its maiden voyage in April 1912.

Maiden voyage

Titanic safely on her way. On the left can be seen the Oceanic and the New York.
Titanic safely on her way. On the left can be seen the Oceanic and the New York.

The ship began its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, bound for New York City, New York, on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, with Captain Edward J. Smith in command. As the Titanic left its berth, the powerful suction created by the ship's propellers caused the liner New York, which was docked nearby, to break away from its moorings and was drawn dangerously close (about 4 feet) to the Titanic before a tugboat towed the New York away. The near accident delayed departure for one hour. After crossing the English Channel, the Titanic stopped at Cherbourg, France, to board additional passengers and stopped again the next day at Queenstown (known today as Cobh), Ireland, before continuing towards New York with 2,240 people aboard.[7]

The Titanic had three class sections segregating the passengers. Third–class, also known as steerage, comprised of small cabins on the lower decks, was occupied mostly by immigrants hoping for a better life in America. Second–class cabins and common rooms, located towards the stern, were equal to first–class accommodations on other ships. Many second–class passengers were originally booked first–class on other ships but, because of a coal strike, transferred to the Titanic. First–class was the most luxurious part of the ship.

Some of the most prominent people in the world were travelling in first–class. These included millionaire John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine Force Astor; industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim; Macy's owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida; Denver millionairess Margaret "Molly" Brown; Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife couturiere Lady Lucille Duff-Gordon; George Elkins Widener and his wife Eleanor; John Borland Thayer, his wife Marian and their seventeen-year-old son, Jack; journalist William Thomas Stead; the Countess of Rothes; U.S. presidential aide Archibald Butt; author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee; author Jacques Futrelle, his wife May, and their friends, Broadway producers Henry and Irene Harris; silent film actress Dorothy Gibson; and others. Also travelling in first–class were White Star Line's managing director J. Bruce Ismay who came up with the idea for Titanic and the ship's builder Thomas Andrews, who was on board to observe any problems and assess the general performance of the new ship.


The Titanic reported its location at 41° 46′ N, 50° 14′ W.  The wreck was found at  41° 43′ N, 49° 56′ W.
The Titanic reported its location at 41° 46′ N, 50° 14′ W. The wreck was found at 41° 43′ N, 49° 56′ W.

On the night of Sunday, April 14, the temperature had dropped to near freezing and the ocean was completely calm. There was no moon out and the sky was clear. Captain Smith, in response to iceberg warnings received via wireless over the last few days, altered the Titanic's course slightly to the south. That Sunday at 1:45 PM, a message from the steamer Amerika warned that large icebergs lay in the Titanic's path, but inexplicably, the warning was never relayed to the bridge. Later that evening, another report of numerous, large icebergs, this time from the Mesaba, also failed to reach the bridge.

At 11:40 PM while sailing south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly ahead of the ship. Fleet sounded the ship's bell three times and telephoned the bridge exclaiming, "Iceberg, right ahead!" First Officer Murdoch ordered an abrupt turn to port (left) and full speed astern, which stopped and then reversed the ship's engines. A collision was inevitable and the iceberg brushed the ship's starboard (right) side, buckling the hull in several places and popping out rivets below the waterline over a length of 300 ft (91 m). As seawater filled the forward compartments, watertight doors shut. However, while the ship could stay afloat with four flooded compartments, five were filling with water. The five water-filled compartments so weighed down the ship that the tops of the forward watertight bulkheads fell below the ship's waterline, allowing water to pour into additional compartments. Captain Smith, alerted by the jolt of the impact, arrived on the bridge and ordered a full stop. Following an inspection by the ship's officers and Thomas Andrews, and shortly after midnight on April 15, lifeboats were ordered to be readied and a distress call sent out.

The first lifeboat launched, boat 7, was lowered at 12:40 AM on the starboard side with 28 people on board. The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats with a total capacity of 1,178 persons. While not enough to hold all of the passengers and crew, the Titanic carried more boats than required by the British Board of Regulations. At the time, the number of lifeboats required was determined by a ship's gross register tonnage, rather than its human capacity.

First and second–class passengers had easy access to the lifeboats with staircases that led right up to the boat deck, but third–class passengers found it more difficult. Many found the corridors leading from the lower sections of the ship difficult to navigate and had trouble making their way up to the lifeboats. Third–class passengers were also hampered by gates kept locked by crew members waiting for orders to let them up to the deck.

Photograph of an iceberg in the vicinity of the RMS Titanic’s sinking taken on April 15, 1912 by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adelbert.
Photograph of an iceberg in the vicinity of the RMS Titanic’s sinking taken on April 15, 1912 by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adelbert.

Wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were busy sending out CQD, the international distress signal. Several ships responded, including Mount Temple, Frankfurt and Titanic's sister ship, Olympic, but none were close enough to make it in time. The closest ship was Cunard Line's RMS Carpathia 58 miles (93 km) away, which arrived in about four hours—too late to rescue Titanic's survivors. The only land–based location that received the distress call from Titanic was a wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland.

From the bridge, the lights of a nearby ship could be seen off the port side. Not responding to wireless, Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe attempted signalling the ship with a Morse lamp and later with distress rockets, but the ship never appeared to respond. The SS Californian, which was nearby and stopped for the night because of ice, also saw lights in the distance. The Californian's wireless was turned off, and the wireless operator had gone to bed for the night. Just before he went to bed at around 11:00 PM the Californian's radio operator attempted to warn the Titanic that there was ice ahead, but he was cut off by an exhausted Jack Phillips, who snapped, "Shut up, shut up, I am busy". When the Californian's officers first saw the ship, they tried signalling it with their Morse lamp, but also never appeared to receive a response. Later, they noticed the Titanic's distress signals over the lights and informed Captain Stanley Lord. Even though there was much discussion about the mysterious ship, which to the officers on duty appeared to be moving away, the Californian did not wake its wireless operator until morning.

At first, passengers were reluctant to leave the ostensibly safe Titanic, showing no outward signs of being in imminent danger, and board small lifeboats. As a result, most of the boats launched partially empty; one boat meant to hold 40 people left the Titanic with only 12 people on board. With "Women and children first" the imperative for loading lifeboats, Second Officer Lightoller, who was loading boats on the port side, allowed men on only if oarsmen were needed and for no other reason, even if there was room. First Officer Murdoch, who was loading boats on the starboard side, let men on board if women were absent. As the ship's list became more apparent, people started to become nervous, and some lifeboats began leaving fully loaded. By 2:05 AM, the entire bow was under water, and all the lifeboats, save for two, had launched.

Around 2:10 AM, the stern rose out of the water exposing the propellers, and by 2:17 the waterline had reached the boat deck. Events began to transpire rapidly as the last two lifeboats floated right off the deck, one upside down, the other half–filled with water. Shortly afterwards, the forward–most funnel collapsed, crushing part of the bridge and people in the water. On deck, people were scrambling towards the stern or jumping overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat. The ship's stern slowly rose into the air, and everything not secured crashed towards the water. While the stern rose the electrical system finally failed and the lights went out. Shortly afterwards, the stress on the hull caused Titanic to break apart between the last two funnels, and the bow went completely under. The stern righted itself on the water slightly and then rose back up vertically. After a few moments, at 2:20 AM, this too sank into the ocean.

Survivors aboard a lifeboat.
Survivors aboard a lifeboat.

Of a total of 2,223 people, only 706 survived; 1,517 perished.[8] The majority of deaths were caused by victims succumbing to hypothermia in the 28 °F (−2 °C) water. Only two of the 18 launched lifeboats rescued people out of the water after the ship sank. Lifeboat 4 was close by and picked up five people, two of whom later died. Close to an hour later Lifeboat 14 went back and rescued four people one of which died afterwards. Other people managed to climb onto the lifeboats that floated off the deck. There were some arguments in some of the other lifeboats about going back, but many survivors were afraid of being swamped by people trying to climb into the lifeboat or getting pulled down by the suction from the sinking Titanic, though it turned out that there had been very little suction.

As the ship fell into the depths, the two sections ended their final plunges very differently. The streamlined bow planed off approximately 2,000 feet (609 m) below the surface and slowed somewhat, landing relatively gently. The stern, however, fell violently to the ocean floor, the hull being torn apart along the way from massive implosions caused by the air still trapped inside. The stern smashed into the bottom at high speed, grinding the hull deep into the silt.

Long-term implications

The sinking of the RMS Titanic was a factor that influenced later maritime practices, ship design, and the seafaring culture. Changes included the establishment of the International Ice Patrol, a requirement for twenty-four-hour radio watch keeping on foreign-going passenger ships, and new regulations related to lifeboats.[citation needed]

International Ice Patrol

The Titanic disaster led to the convening of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in London, on 12 November 1913. On 30 January 1914, a treaty was signed by the conference that resulted in the formation and international funding of the International Ice Patrol, an agency of the United States Coast Guard that to the present day monitors and reports on the location of North Atlantic Ocean icebergs that could pose a threat to transatlantic sea lane traffic. It was also agreed in the new regulations that all passenger vessels would have sufficient lifeboats for everyone on board, that appropriate safety drills would be conducted, and that radio communications on passenger ships would be operated all day along with a secondary power supply, so as not to miss distress calls. In addition, it was agreed that the firing of red rockets from a ship must be interpreted as a distress signal (red rockets launched from the Titanic prior to sinking were mistaken by nearby vessels as celebratory fireworks, delaying rescue). This treaty was scheduled to go into effect on 1 July 1915 but was upstaged by World War I.

Ship design changes

The sinking of Titanic changed the way passenger ships were designed. Many existing ships, such as the Olympic, were refitted for increased safety. Besides increasing the number of lifeboats on board, improvements included reinforcing the hull and increasing the height of the watertight bulkheads. The bulkheads on Titanic extended 10 feet (3 m) above the waterline; after Titanic sank, the bulkheads on other ships were extended higher to make compartments fully watertight. While Titanic had a double bottom, she did not have a double hull; after her sinking, new ships were designed with double hulls; also, the double bottoms of other ships, including the Olympic,[9] were extended up the sides of their hulls, above their waterlines, to give them double hulls.

Legends, myths, and controversy

Use of SOS

Despite popular belief, the sinking of Titanic was not the first time the internationally recognised Morse code distress signal "SOS" was used. The SOS signal was first proposed at the International Conference on Wireless Communication at Sea in Berlin in 1906. It was ratified by the international community in 1908 and had been in widespread use since then. The SOS signal was, however, rarely used by British wireless operators, who preferred the older CQD code. First Wireless Operator Jack Phillips began transmitting CQD until Second Wireless Operator Harold Bride suggested half jokingly, "Send SOS; it's the new call, and this may be your last chance to send it." Phillips, who later died, then began to intersperse SOS with the traditional CQD call.

Titanic's rudder and the ship's turning ability

The memorial to the Titanic's engineers in Southampton.
The memorial to the Titanic's engineers in Southampton.

Although Titanic's rudder was not legally too small for a ship its size, the rudder's design was hardly state-of-the-art. According to researchers with the Titanic Historical Society: "Titanic's long, thin rudder was a copy of an 18th-century steel sailing ship. Compared with the rudder design of the Cunard's Mauretania or Lusitania, Titanic's was a fraction of the size. Apparently no account was made for advances in scale, and little thought given to how a ship 882 1/2 feet (269 m) in length might turn in an emergency, or avoid a collision with an iceberg. This was Titanic's Achilles' heel."[citation needed]

Perhaps more fatal to the design of the Titanic was its triple screw engine configuration, which had reciprocating steam engines driving its wing propellers, and a steam turbine driving its centre propeller. The reciprocating engines were reversible, while the turbine was not. When First Officer Murdoch gave the order to reverse engines to avoid the iceberg, he inadvertently handicapped the turning ability of the ship. Since the centre turbine could not reverse during the "full speed astern" manoeuvre, it simply stopped turning. Furthermore, since the centre propeller was positioned forward of the ship's rudder, the effectiveness of that rudder would have been greatly reduced. Had Murdoch simply turned the ship while maintaining its forward speed, the Titanic might have missed the iceberg with metres to spare.

It has also been speculated that the ship could have been saved if it had rammed the iceberg head on. It is hypothesised that if Titanic had not altered its course at all and had ran head on into the iceberg, the damage would only have affected the first or, at most, first two compartments. This would have disabled it severely, but would not likely have resulted in its sinking since Titanic was designed to float with the first four compartments flooded.

Titanic's band

One of the most famous stories of Titanic is of the band. On 15 April, Titanic's eight-member band, led by Wallace Hartley, had assembled in the first-class lounge in an effort to keep passengers calm and upbeat. Later they moved on to the forward half of the boat deck. The band continued playing music even when it became apparent the ship was going to sink.

None of the band members survived the sinking, and there has been much speculation about what their last song was. Some witnesses said the final song played was the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee." Hartley reportedly said to a friend if he was on a sinking ship "Nearer, My God, to Thee" would be one of the songs he would play. Walter Lord’s book A Night to Remember popularised wireless operator Harold Bride’s account that he heard the song "Autumn" before the ship sank. It is considered Bride either meant the hymn called "Autumn" or "Songe d'Automne," a popular song at the time.

David Sarnoff

An often-quoted story that has been blurred between fact and fiction states that the first person to receive news of the sinking was David Sarnoff, who would later found media giant RCA. Sarnoff was not the first to hear the news (though Sarnoff willingly promoted this notion), but he and others did man the Marconi wireless station atop the Wanamaker Department Store in New York City, and for three days relayed news of the disaster and names of survivors to people waiting outside.[citation needed]

The "Titanic curse"

When Titanic sank, claims were made that a curse existed on the ship. One of the most widely spread legends linked directly into the sectarianism of the city of Belfast, where the ship was built. It was suggested that the ship was given the number 390904 which, when read backwards in a mirror, was claimed to spell 'no pope', a sectarian slogan attacking Roman Catholics that was (and is) widely used provocatively by extreme Protestants in Northern Ireland, where the ship was built. In the extreme sectarianism of north-east Ireland (Northern Ireland itself did not exist until 1920), the ship's sinking, though mourned, was alleged to be on account of the sectarian anti-Catholicism of its manufacturers, the Harland and Wolff company, which had an almost exclusively Protestant workforce and an alleged record of hostility towards Catholics. (Harland and Wolff did have a record of hiring few Catholics; whether that was through policy or because the company's shipyard in Belfast's bay was located in almost exclusively Protestant East Belfast — through which few Catholics would dare to travel — or a mixture of both, is a matter of dispute.)

The 'no pope' story is in fact an urban legend, with no basis in fact. RMS Olympic and Titanic were assigned the yard numbers 400 and 401 respectively. The source of the story may have been from reports by dock workers in Queenstown (Cobh) of anti-Catholic graffiti that they found on its coal bunkers when they were loading coal.

The rediscovery of Titanic

Titanic's bow as seen from the Russian MIR I submersible.
Titanic's bow as seen from the Russian MIR I submersible.

The idea of finding the wreck of Titanic, and even raising the ship from the ocean floor, had been around since shortly after the ship sank. No attempts were successful until September 1, 1985, when a joint American-French expedition, led by Jean-Louis Michel and Dr. Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, located the wreck. It was found at a depth of 2 miles (3,800 m), south-east of Newfoundland at 41°43′55″N, 49°56′45″W, 13 miles (22 km) from fourth officer Joseph Boxhall's last position reading where Titanic was originally thought to rest.

The most notable discovery the team made was that the ship had split apart, the stern section lying 1,970 feet (600 m) from the bow section and facing opposite directions. There had been conflicting witness accounts of whether the ship broke apart or not, and both the American and British inquires found that the ship sank intact. Up until the discovery of the wreck, it was generally assumed the ship did not break apart.

The bow section had imbedded itself 60 feet (18 m) into the silt on the ocean floor. Besides parts of the hull having buckled, the bow was mostly intact, as the water inside had equalized with the increasing water pressure. The stern section was in much worse condition. As the stern section sank, water pushed out the air inside tearing apart the hull and decks. The speed at which the stern hit the ocean floor caused even more damage. Surrounding the wreck is a large debris field with pieces of the ship, furniture, dinnerware and personal items scattered over one square mile (2.6 km²). Softer materials, like wood and carpet, were devoured by undersea organisms. Human remains suffered a similar fate.

The iceberg buckled Titanic's hull allowing water to flow into the ship.
The iceberg buckled Titanic's hull allowing water to flow into the ship.

Originally, historians thought the iceberg had cut a gash into Titanic's hull. Since the part of the ship the iceberg damaged was buried, scientists used sonar to examine the area and discovered the iceberg had caused the hull to buckle, allowing water to enter Titanic between its steel plates. During subsequent dives, scientists retrieved small pieces of Titanic's hull. A detailed analysis of the pieces revealed the ship's steel plating was of a variety that loses its elasticity and becomes brittle in cold or icy water, leaving it vulnerable to dent-induced ruptures. Furthermore, the rivets holding the hull together were much more fragile than once thought. It is unknown if stronger steel or rivets could have saved the ship.

The samples of steel rescued from the wreck hull were found to have very high content of phosphorus and sulfur (four times and two times as high as common for modern steels), with manganese-sulfur ratio of 6.8:1 (compare with over 200:1 ratio for modern steels). High content of phosphorus initiates fractures, sulfur forms grains of iron sulfide that facilitate propagation of cracks, and lack of manganese makes the steel less ductile. The recovered samples were found to be undergoing ductile-brittle transition in temperatures of 32 °C (for longitudinal samples) and 56 °C (for transversal samples—compare with transition temperature of −27 °C common for modern steels—modern steel would became so brittle in between −60 and −70 °C). The anisotropy was likely caused by hot rolling influencing the orientation of the sulfide stringer inclusions. The steel was probably produced in the acid-lined, open-heart furnaces in Glasgow, which would explain the high content of P and S, even for the times.[citation needed]

Dr. Ballard and his team did not bring up any artefacts from the site, considering it to be tantamount to grave robbing. Under international maritime law, however, the recovery of artefacts is necessary to establish salvage rights to a shipwreck. In the years after the find, Titanic has been the object of a number of court cases concerning ownership of artefacts and the wreck site itself. In 1994 RMS Titanic, Inc. was awarded ownership and salvaging rights of the wreck, even though RMS Titanic Inc. and other salvaging expeditions have been criticized for taking items from the wreck.

Approximately 6,000 artefacts have been removed from the wreck. Many of these were put on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, and later as part of a travelling museum exhibit.

Current condition of the wreck

Many scientists, including Robert Ballard, are concerned that visits by tourists in submersibles and the recovery of artefacts are hastening the decay of the wreck. Underwater microbes have been eating away at Titanic's iron since the ship sank, but because of the extra damage visitors have caused, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that "the hull and structure of the ship may collapse to the ocean floor within the next 50 years."

Ballard's book Return to Titanic, published by the National Geographic Society, includes photographs depicting the deterioration of the promenade deck and damage caused by submersibles landing on the ship. The mast has almost completely deteriorated and has been stripped of its bell and brass light. Other damage includes a gash on the bow section where block letters once spelled Titanic, and part of the brass telemotor which once held the ship's wooden wheel is now twisted.

Ownership and litigation

Titanic Memorial, grounds of Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland.
Titanic Memorial, grounds of Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland.

Titanic's rediscovery in 1985 launched a debate over ownership of the wreck and the valuable items inside it. On 7 June 1994, RMS Titanic Inc., a subsidiary of Premier Exhibitions Inc., was awarded ownership and salvaging rights by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.[10] (See Admiralty law)[11] Since 1987, RMS Titanic Inc. and its predecessors have conducted seven expeditions and salvaged over 5,500 historic objects. The biggest single recovered object was a 17-ton section of the hull, recovered in 1998.[12] Many of these items are part of travelling museum exhibitions.

In 1993, a French administrator in the Office of Maritime Affairs of the Ministry of Equipment, Transportation, and Tourism awarded RMS Titanic Inc's predecessor title to the relics recovered in 1987.

In a motion filed on 12 February 2004 RMS Titanic Inc. requested that the District Court enter an order awarding it "title to all the artifacts (including portions of the hull) which are the subject of this action pursuant to the Law of Finds" or, in the alternative, a salvage award in the amount of $225 million. RMS Titanic Inc. excluded from its motion any claim for an award of title to the objects recovered in 1987, but it did request that the district court declare that, based on the French administrative action, "the artifacts raised during the 1987 expedition are independently owned by RMST." Following a hearing, the district court entered an order dated 2 July 2004, in which it refused to grant comity and recognize the 1993 decision of the French administrator, and rejected RMS Titanic Inc's claim that it should be awarded title to the items recovered since 1993 under the Maritime Law of Finds.

RMS Titanic Inc. appealed to the United States Court of Appeals. In its decision of 31 January 2006[13] the court recognized "explicitly the appropriateness of applying maritime salvage law to historic wrecks such as that of Titanic" and denied the application of the Maritime Law of Finds. The court also ruled that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the "1987 artifacts", and therefore vacated that part of the court's 2 July 2004 order. In other words, according to this decision, RMS Titanic Inc. has ownership title to the objects awarded in the French decision (valued $16.5 million earlier) and continues to be salvor-in-possession of Titanic wreck. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court to determine the salvage award ($225 million requested by RMS Titanic Inc.).[14]

Titanic in popular culture

Willy Stöwer: Untergang der Titanic (Sinking of the Titanic)
Willy Stöwer: Untergang der Titanic (Sinking of the Titanic)

The sinking of Titanic has been the basis for many novels describing fictionalized events on board the ship. Many reference books about the disaster have also been written since the Titanic sank, the first of these appearing within months of the sinking. Survivors like Second Officer Lightoller and passenger Jack Thayer have written books describing their experiences. Some like Walter Lord, who wrote the popular A Night to Remember, did independent research and interviews to describe the events that happened on board the ship.

Morgan Robertson's 1898 novella Futility, which was written 14 years before RMS Titanic's ill-fated voyage, was found to have many parallels with the Titanic disaster; Robertson's work concerned a fictional state-of-the-art ocean liner called Titan, which eventually collides with an iceberg on a calm April night whilst en route to New York. Huge amounts of people died because of the lack of lifeboats. Both Titan itself and the manner of its demise bore many striking similarities to the eventual fate of Titanic, and Robertson's novella remains in print today as an unnerving curiosity.

Titanic has featured in a large number of movies and TV movies, most notably:

The most widely-viewed is the 1997 film Titanic, directed by James Cameron and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It became the highest-grossing film in history. It also won 11 out of 14 Academy Awards, tying with Ben-Hur (1959) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) for the most awards won.

The story was also made into a Broadway musical, Titanic, written by Peter Stone with music by Maury Yeston. Titanic ran from 1998 to 2000. The 1960 Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown tells survivor Margaret Brown's life story, which included the events on Titanic. The musical was written by Richard Morris with music by Meredith Willson. A film version starring Debbie Reynolds was released in 1964.

Other media includes Titanic: Adventure Out of Time which was a 1996 computer game that took place on the Titanic. Starship Titanic was another computer game that takes place in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe and was a parody of the Titanic disaster. Many television shows have also referenced the Titanic disaster. The show The Time Tunnel featured a visit to the ship on its first episode and the animated series Futurama had the cast boarding a space-faring vessel called Titanic. The spaceship was torn in half by a black hole on its maiden voyage. Other shows have also had minor references to the Titanic, for example in the show Doctor Who, the title character claimed to have been on board the ship when it sank. There was later an episode of the same show in which the doctor was on board a re-made Space Ship Titanic. In movies like Time Bandits and Cavalcade the Titanic has had brief appearances.

In 1982, renowned Italian singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori released the album Titanic, featuring three songs (the titular Titanic, I muscoli del capitano and L'abbigliamento di un fuochista) that talk about the ship, its passengers and its crew.

Last living survivor

  • Millvina Dean, who was only two months old at the time of the sinking, is the only living survivor of the Titanic. Currently 96 years old, she has remained active in Titanic-related events and lives in Southampton, England.

Recent survivors' deaths

For more, see Recent survivors' deaths

100th anniversary

On 15 April 2012, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic is planned to be commemorated around the world. By that date, the Titanic Quarter in Belfast is planned to have been completed. The area will be regenerated and a signature memorial project unveiled to celebrate Titanic and her links with Belfast, the city that built the ship.[15]


See also


  1. ^ Mark Chirnside interview, January 2005, markchirnside.co.uk
  2. ^ RMS Titanic facts.
  3. ^ Titanic:A voyage of discovery.
  4. ^ Titanic-construction.
  5. ^ Wireless and the Titanic.
  6. ^ Titanic's Blueprints [Roy Mengot] db-09
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ U.S. Senate inquiry stats
  9. ^ Lynch, Don; Marschall, Ken (1997). Titanic - An Illustrated History, 2nd edition, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 218. ISBN 0-340-56271-4. “Following the Titanic disaster, the Olympic spent six months at Harland and Wolff undergoing an extensive refit that extended the double bottom up the sides of the vessel to give her a "double skin"....” 
  10. ^ Comprehensive resume of ownership questions
  11. ^ Corporate Profile. RMS Titanic, Inc.. Retrieved on February 1, 2006.
  12. ^ Expeditions. RMS Titanic, Inc.. Retrieved on February 1, 2006.
  13. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the fourth circuit, R.M.S. TITANIC, INCORPORATED vs. THE WRECKED AND ABANDONED VESSEL - January 31, 2006PDF (127 KiB)
  14. ^ Commented excerpts of the Court of Appeals decision.
  15. ^ BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Titanic tourist project unveiled

Further reading

External links

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Preceded by
World's largest passenger ship
1911 – 1912
Succeeded by

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