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Did You Know? – The Titanic

Joann Wolwowicz

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The month of April marks the anniversary of the sinking of the  Titanic, the British luxury passenger liner that sank on Apr. 14, 1912. Ninety-eight years ago, the ship took its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, killing about 1,500 passengers and ship personnel. Being one of the most famous tragedies in modern history, it has inspired numerous stories, several movies, and even a musical. Most have seen the famous movie that made millions and drew millions into the fictional story of Jack and Rose, but how many people know some of the hard facts associated with this tragic event in history?

The  Titanic was one of the largest and most luxurious ships in the world. It had a carrying capacity of 46,329 tons, and when fully laden, the ship weighed 66,000 tons. The  Titanic was 882.5 feet long and 92.5 feet wide at its widest point. Designed and built by William Pirrie’s Belfast firm Harland and Wolff, it was meant to service the highly competitive Atlantic Ferry route. It had a double-bottomed hull that was divided into sixteen compartments that were presumed to be watertight. Because four of these compartments could be flooded without endangering the liner’s buoyancy, it was considered unsinkable.

Shortly before midnight on Apr. 14, the ship collided with an iceberg about 400 miles south of Newfoundland. At least five of the watertight compartments towards the bow were ruptured. The first four of these five compartments filled with water, which pulled down the bow of the ship. The compartments were not capped at the top, so water from the ruptured forward compartments filled each succeeding compartment aft as the ship’s incline brought the bow below the waterline. The ship sank at 2:20 a.m. on Apr. 15. The  Titanic had only 1,178 lifeboat spaces for the 2,224 persons aboard, and many of the lifeboats were lowered into the water only partly filled with passengers, thus leaving many people stranded on the sinking ship. As a result, about 1,500 people died. Many of those who perished on the ship came from prominent American, British, and European families. Among the dead were the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus and Astor fortunes. The glamour associated with the ship, its maiden voyage, and its notable passengers magnified the tragedy of its sinking in the popular mind. Legends arose almost immediately around the night’s events, those who had died, and those who had survived. Heroes and heroines, such as American Molly Brown, were identified and celebrated by the press. The disaster and the mythology that has surrounded it have continued to fascinate millions.

On Sept.1, 1985, the wreck of the  Titanic was found lying upright in two pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of about 13,000 feet. The ship, located at about 41°46 N 50°14 W, was subsequently explored several times by manned and unmanned submersibles under the direction of American and French scientists. The expeditions found no sign of the long gash previously thought to have been ripped in the ship’s hull by the iceberg. In subsequent years marine salvagers raised small artifacts from the wreckage and even attempted to lift a large piece of the hull.

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Did You Know? – The Titanic