This edited article about the Titanic originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 668 published on 2 November 1974.
On the deck of the Titanic
Titanic sinks as her passengers attempt to escape the disaster in the inadequate number of lifeboats by Peter Jackson
The famous Titanic liner was certainly aptly named. At the time of the disaster, when she sank on her maiden voyage in 1912, she was the largest ship afloat, could carry 3,320 persons, and weighed 46,328 tons.
The Titanic was of an all-steel construction and inside her steel hull were watertight compartments, each 60 feet long, which were entered, one from another, through watertight doors. She was, it was claimed at the time, unsinkable!
Armed with this confidence in the ship, the pride of the White Star shipping line, the first passengers set sail from Britain for America on the Titanic’s first and last voyage.
The water of the Atlantic on the night of the disaster was very calm and flat. She was steaming at her top speed of 22 knots and making good time.
The icebergs which float south from the Greenland coast can be a great hazard to ships on the busy routes between Europe and North America. They chill the air around them so that they are often surrounded by a cloud of mist.
And on that fateful night of April 14, 1912, one of these treacherous icebergs could not be seen from the ship as it sailed happily along. It struck the Titanic a gigantic blow ripping a hole right along the ship’s side below the water line.
She took two hours to go down and during that time 652 passengers managed to get into the lifeboats, and a further 60 into collapsible boats. In all, 712 people were saved but 1,513 others perished. These included the famous journalist W. T. Stead and John Jacob Astor, the American inventor.
The tragedy of the disaster was that many more people could have survived. Less than twenty miles away from the stricken vessel was the Leyland liner Californian which could have come to the Titanic’s rescue had its radio operator been on duty. Only the arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia 20 minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life.
As a result of the disaster, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was called in London in 1913. At this meeting rules were drawn up requiring that every ship should have lifeboat space for each person on board. The Titanic, incidentally, had only 1,178 boat spaces for the 2,224 on board. Also, that lifeboat drills be held during each voyage; and, since the Californian had not heard the distress calls of the Titanic, that ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch. The International Ice Patrol was also established to warn ships of ice in the North Atlantic shipping lanes.