April 14

This Day in History

General Interest

Apr 14, 1912:

RMS Titanic hits iceberg

Just before midnight in the North Atlantic, the RMS Titanic fails to divert its course from an iceberg, ruptures its hull, and begins to sink.

Four days earlier, the Titanic, one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever built, departed Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. While leaving port, the massive ship came within a couple of feet of the steamer New York but passed safely by, causing a general sigh of relief from the passengers massed on the ship's decks.

The Titanic was designed by the Irish shipbuilder William Pirrie and spanned 883 feet from stern to bow. Its hull was divided into 16 compartments that were presumed to be watertight. Because four of these compartments could be flooded without causing a critical loss of buoyancy, the Titanic was considered unsinkable. On its first journey across the highly competitive Atlantic ferry route, the ship carried some 2,200 passengers and crew.

After stopping at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up some final passengers, the massive vessel set out at full speed for New York City. However, just before midnight on April 14, the ship hit an iceberg, and five of the Titanic's compartments were ruptured along its starboard side. At about 2:20 a.m. on the morning of April 15, the massive vessel sank into the North Atlantic.

Because of a shortage of lifeboats and the lack of satisfactory emergency procedures, more than 1,500 people went down in the sinking ship or froze to death in the icy North Atlantic waters. Most of the approximately 700 survivors were women and children. A number of notable American and British citizens died in the tragedy, including the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus, Astor, and Guggenheim fortunes. The announcement of details of the disaster led to outrage on both sides of the Atlantic. The sinking of the Titanic did have some positive effects, however, as more stringent safety regulations were adopted on public ships, and regular patrols were initiated to trace the locations of deadly Atlantic icebergs.

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