On 10 April 1912 RMS Titanic – then the world’s largest ship – cruised down Southampton waters at the start of her maiden voyage to North America, watched by large crowds. Barely 5 days later she was gone, swallowed up by the Atlantic after striking an iceberg.
Below is a timeline of the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage.
10 April 1912
12:00 RMS Titanic left Southampton, watched by crowds who had come to watch the start of the maiden voyage of the World’s largest ship.
18:30 The Titanic arrived at Cherbourg, France, where it picked up more passengers.
20:10 Titanic departed Cherbourg for Queenstown, Ireland.
11 April 1912
11:30 The Titanic anchored in Queenstown.
13:30 After the last tender left RMS Titanic, the ship departed Queenstown and began its ill-fated voyage across the Atlantic.
14 April 1912
19:00 – 19:30 Second Officer Charles Lightoller testified a drop of 4 degrees Celsius as RMS Titanic crossed from the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream to the much colder waters of the Labrador Current.
Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, dined with the passengers. Contrary to the myths, he did not get drunk.
23:39 The lookouts in the Crow’s Nest of RMS Titanic spotted an iceberg ahead of them. Immediately they rang the warning bell three times. This meant iceberg dead ahead.
The engines were ordered to stop, as the crew desperately attempted to evade a collision.
23:40 The Titanic struck the iceberg on its starboard side. The damage appeared relatively light at first. The iceberg had only scraped the ship.
What was significant, however, was the length of the damage. The ‘side-swipe’ collision had occurred along 200 feet of Titanic’s length. 5 water-tight compartments were damaged and started taking in water.
The crew immediately had the watertight doors of the damaged compartments sealed.
23:59 Just before midnight RMS Titanic came to a halt. Excess steam was vented to prevent the boilers in the damaged compartments from exploding when coming into contact with the sea.
Around the same time the order was given to prepare the lifeboats and wake the passengers.
00:22 As the Titanic started taking on a starboard list her designer, Thomas Andrews, who was onboard, confirmed that the damage was too extensive and that Titanic would sink. Titanic was capable of staying afloat with 4 watertight compartments being breached, but it couldn’t sustain 5.
Andrews estimated that they would have 1-2 hours before Titanic submerged beneath the waves. Within minutes Titanic’s radio operators sent out the first distress call.
The nearby SS Californian did not pick up the distress call as their sole radio operator had just gone to bed.
00:45 By quarter to one the lifeboats on board RMS Titanic were readied for loading. So far only two boats had been launched. The lifeboats had the capacity for up to 70 people, but fewer than 40 passengers were on board each.
The first distress rocket was launched.
SS Californian spotted the distress rocket and their crew tried to signal the Titanic with morse lamps. Titanic would respond, but neither ship could read the morse because the still, freezing air was scrambling the lamp signals.
00:49 RMS Carpathia picked up the distress call of Titanic by accident. The ship headed for Titanic’s location, but it was 58 miles away. It would take 4 hours for Carpathia to reach Titanic.
01:00 Mrs Strauss refused to leave her husband, as women and children were loaded onto the lifeboats first. She gave her place on the lifeboat to her maid.
As this was unfolding the Titanic orchestra continued to play, trying to keep the passengers calm as the crew lowered them into the lifeboats.
01:15 The water had risen up to Titanic’s nameplate.
c.01:30 Lifeboats continued to be launched, each now with more people onboard. Lifeboat 16, for instance, was launched with 53 people.
Meanwhile more ships had responded to Titanic’s distress call. RMS Baltic and SS Frankfurt were on their way. SS Californian, however, had not moved.
01:45 More lifeboats were launched and there was almost a collision as Lifeboat 13 struggled to escape from under Lifeboat 15 as the latter was being lowered.
01:47 Despite being close, SS Frankfurt was unable to locate Titanic due to miscalculated coordinates.
01:55 Captain Smith ordered the telegraph operators to abandon their posts and to save themselves. The operators, Harold Bride and Jack Phillips, decided to stay longer and continued sending out transmissions.
02:00 Captain Smith made a futile attempt to call back half-filled lifeboats to allow more passengers on. The attempts failed. The orchestra continued playing.
02:08 The last wireless transmission was sent, but with power fading and the ship within minutes of sinking, the message was unintelligible.
02:10 The last collapsible boats were lowered into the water with passengers onboard. Moments later 4 explosions were heard deep within Titanic.
Around 1,500 people were still onboard the ship. Almost all of them were on the stern.
c.02:15 The stern of RMS Titanic broke away from the rest of the ship. Because the ship was so well sub-divided, the stern then crashed back down into the water. For a moment the people still on the stern thought this meant the stern would stay afloat.
But RMS Titanic’s submerged, water-saturated bow started to tug the floating stern underwater.
Rather than rise up into the air, the stern slowly – and very quietly – started to sink. One passenger who survived later recalled how he swam off the stern as it started to submerge. He didn’t even get his head wet.
02:20 RMS Titanic’s stern had by now disappeared beneath the water.
The water’s freezing temperatures ensured that many survivors in the water died of hypothermia before rescuers arrived.
c.04:00 RMS Carpathia arrived to rescue the survivors.