It took just two hours and 40 minutes for the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic to sink. The much heralded ocean liner, on its glamorous five-day maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, headed out across the Atlantic on April 10, 1912, counting among its passengers the wealthy and prominent as well as poor immigrants making their way to America.
What would happen next has been the source of inspiration for books, poems, songs, TV shows and films, including one blockbuster Oscar-winning movie. Despite receiving several iceberg warnings on April 14, the Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, continued to sail full-steam ahead. It was a deadly decision: Unable to avoid collision, the doomed ship, upon impact with the iceberg, was punctured, causing it to flood and sink off the coast of Newfoundland in less than three hours, taking along with it some 1,500 lives.
A look at the sinking in terms of numbers, below, helps provide perspective into the tragedy.
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Cost to build: $7.5 million ($200 million with inflation)
The White Star Line's Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, starting in 1909, with construction taking three years. With a whopping 3 million rivets, weighing 46,000 tons and measuring 882 feet, 8 inches—the distance of more than four city blocks—Titanic was created with the labor of some 3,000 workers.
Ticketed passengers aboard: 1,317
Titanic was designed to carry up to 3,300 people. On the maiden voyage, it had about 2,200 aboard, including about 900 crew members. As for passengers, according to the United Kingdom's National Archives, 324 were first class, 284 were second class and 709 were third class.
Bottles of wine in ship’s wine cellar: 1,000
On April 21, 1912, The New York Times reported the luxury liner was carrying cargo worth $420,000 ($11 million today). The manifest included such items as 3,000 teacups, 40,000 eggs, five grand pianos and 36,000 oranges. It was also a mail ship (RMS stood for Royal Mail Steamer) and contained a post office with 3,364 bags aboard.
Number of courses served during the ship’s final first-class dinner: 10
Menu choices included oysters, consommé, poached salmon, filet mignon, lamb with mint sauce, punch romaine, roast squab, cold asparagus vinaigrette, paté de foie gras and Waldorf pudding. Each course included wine pairings. And after dinner? Spirits and cigars were offered.
Second-class passengers, according to NPR, were served classic French bistro and American dishes, while third-class dinner was typically soup or stew.
READ MORE: Last Meal on Titanic
Number of iceberg warnings received that day: 6
According to Titanic: The Legend, Myths and Folklore by Bruce Alpine, Titanic received three ice warnings from other ships in the area on April 14 (one never reached Smith), as well as three messages from the SS Californian, a small steamer that had stopped approximately 19 miles from the luxury ship. Its final warning, sent at 11 p.m.: "We are stopped and surrounded by ice."
READ MORE: Why Did the Titanic Sink?
Miles sailed before sinking: 2,070
The ship embarked from Southampton, England, then made stops at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland before setting sail to New York. The ship was 400 miles south of Newfoundland on April 14 (1,250 miles from its final destination), when, at 11:40 p.m., watchmen saw the iceberg that punctured six of the Titanic's 16 water-tight compartments, which quickly filled with water. Experts say had only four compartments flooded, the ship would have stayed floating. The time between the first sighting of the iceberg and impact was a mere 37 seconds, with the ship sinking in 160 minutes.
Temperature of the water: 28 degrees
Most of the Titanic deaths were caused by hypothermia due to the low water temperature. According to the American Red Cross, a water temp of 79 degrees can lead to death after prolonged exposure, while 50 degrees can cause death in an hour, and 32 degrees can be lethal in 15 minutes.
Number of lifeboats the ship was equipped to carry: 64
However, the ship actually carried 20 lifeboats (four were collapsibles) which, according to Alpine's book, could only hold 1,178 passengers and crew, but that number was still more than required by the 1883 Merchant Shipping Act. Still, just over 700 made it aboard lifeboats. "In 1912, the tradition for loading lifeboats during an emergency was 'Women and children first'," Alpine writes. "This tradition often caused time delays in filling the lifeboats as the women and children were singled out for priority in lifeboat placement, which often led to lifeboats being launched half full. This was certainly the case with Titanic."
Number of people who died: 1,517
As the ship's string band played, the ship sank to its watery grave, taking those not already in the water with it. Nearly 32 percent of those who had been aboard Titanic survived. They were rescued by the RMS Carpathia, which responded to the Titanic’s distress call, arriving around 4 a.m.
Amount J.J. Astor, the richest passenger, was worth when he died in the sinking: $87,000,000 ($2.21 billion today)
“We are safer here than in that little boat,” John Jacob Astor IV reportedly told his 18-year-old pregnant wife after Titanic struck the iceberg. One of the world's wealthiest men at the time, the first-class passenger, known for building New York's Astoria Hotel (later known as the Waldorf-Astoria), Hotel St. Regis and the Knickerbocker, drowned. His wife survived.
Other prominent passengers on board included Macy’s department store co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida, who deboarded a lifeboat to face her fate with her husband. ("Where you go, I go," she reportedly said.) There was also Benjamin Guggenheim who, dressed in white tie and tails and helping passengers board lifeboats, was heard to say, “we’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” And 17-year-old Jack Thayer, heir to a Pennsylvania railroad fortune, miraculously survived after plunging into the icy waters and clinging to an upturned lifeboat.
Amount claimed for lost property by Molly Brown: $27,887
Known post-Titanic as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” Margaret Brown, a Denver socialite and philanthropist, drew fame for helping to row her lifeboat for hours to safety and, eventually, raising money for survivors who had lost everything. According to the U.S. National Archives, her claim for loss of property included 14 hats, some 20 gowns, three crates of "ancient models" for the Denver Museum, along with an opera cape, two Japanese kimonos, jewelry and more.
Years before wreckage was discovered: 73
It wasn't until Sept. 1, 1985 that oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered the wreckage of the Titanic, which was found at 12,000 feet—2.3 miles below sea level. The debris field spread across 15 square miles with the hull buried under 45 feet of mud.
The discovery coincided with a top-secret Cold War-era investigation by the U.S. Navy to search for two wrecked U.S. nuclear submarines. Ronald Thunman, then the deputy chief of naval operations for submarine warfare, told National Geographic in 2017 that the Navy had permitted him to search for the ship once his mission was complete.
"But the Navy never expected me to find the Titanic, and so when that happened, they got really nervous because of the publicity," Ballard told National Geographic. "But people were so focused on the legend of the Titanic they never connected the dots."