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The Sinking of the Titanic: A Timeline

VO: Rebecca Brayton
The sinking of the RMS Titanic is arguably one of the most famous shipwrecks in history, and was a great human tragedy. When she was built, this ship was thought by many to be unsinkable, and was a lavish feat of engineering. After hitting an iceberg in the late hours of April 14, 1912, the Titanic and many of her passengers met their fates early the next morning. When all was said and done, over 1,500 people perished in this disaster. In this video, learns more about the Titanic, from the building of the ship to her final hours, and finally to the discovery and exploration of the underwater wreck.

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The Sinking of the RMS Titanic: A Timeline

This ship was considered by many to be unsinkable, and its failure resulted in a massive loss of human life. Learn more about the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Construction Begins

The construction of the Titanic began on March 31st, 1909 in Belfast, Ireland. The finances behind this project came from American banker J.P. Morgan, who owned the White Star Line shipping company.

The World's Largest Passenger Ship

When it was built, the Titanic was the world’s largest passenger ship, and had a capacity of 3,547 people. Not only that, but this ship was also the most lavish and grand ship to date, in terms of décor, facilities and technology. It was also massively expensive to ride: the priciest package cost $4,375 in 1912, which today would translate to roughly $100,000.


Prior to setting sail, the Titanic was equipped with twenty lifeboats, which was more than the law required. Even so, only about one third of the boat’s capacity could be saved using this number of lifeboats.

Titanic Sets Sail

After the Titanic was deemed seaworthy, she set sail for New York City from Southampton, England on April 10th, 1912 with two thousand, two hundred twenty three people on board. A number of well-known people were on the ship, including millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, the owner of Macy’s Isidor Straus and his wife, and millionairess Molly Brown.

Icebergs Ahead

The first days of the journey were smooth, but the Captain began receiving information about icebergs along the ship’s path. However, direct warnings obtained by the ship’s Marconi wireless radio operators were not relayed to those in charge.

The Titanic Hits an Iceberg

It was at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14th when the ship was traveling just south of Newfoundland, Canada, that the lookouts spotted an iceberg directly in her path. Despite efforts to turn the Titanic off-course, the iceberg ripped down the right side of the ship and the lower compartments began to flood.

Distress Calls Made

Just after midnight, lifeboats were prepared and distress calls were sent out. The closest ship to receive the Titanic’s distress signal was four hours away, and this was too far away to save all the ship’s passengers. The temperature of the water was such that hypothermia would kill within fifteen minutes, and this turned out to be one of the main causes of death.

Empty Lifeboats

While the ship was sinking, the electricity continued working and the boat remained relatively level. For these reasons, passengers believed it was safer to stay aboard, and many lifeboats were launched practically empty.

A Sinking Ship

By the time all the lifeboats had been released, the Titanic’s bow was submerged. Once the stern started lifting out of the ocean, passengers either rushed to jump ship in the hopes they would find room on a lifeboat, or they struggled up the stern to stay out of the water.

The Titanic Breaks Apart

The mounting pressure finally split the Titanic in two pieces, and these sections both sank into the ocean by 2:20am.

Carpathia Picks Up Survivors

The RMS Carpathia arrived approximately two hours later to pick up survivors of the Titanic. She docked in New York on April 18th to drop off just over 700 passengers, meaning over 1,500 people perished. Because of the “women and children first” rule, women were most likely to survive, as were first class passengers. Also, there were proportionately more American survivors than British.

Inquiries Following the Disaster

The Titanic disaster prompted numerous inquiries, and these resulted in the drafting of new laws that would ensure the safety of future oceanliners.

Underwater Exploration

As for the ship herself, it was only in 1985 that the wreck was discovered and explored underwater. The two sections of the ship were found relatively intact, and artifacts like dinnerware, furniture and other items were scattered nearby. However, years underwater had decayed the ship, and the suggestion is the wreck will collapse within a few decades.


While rumors have circulated for years that the ship was cursed, there is no denying the impact the Titanic and its demise have had on history and popular culture.

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