On this day in 1912, at 11.40pm, the RMS Titanic
hit an iceberg. The Titanic was the largest and most opulent passenger liner the world
had ever seen, attracting
notable dignitaries to its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The vessel was built in Belfast
for White Star Line, with the intention of trumping the company’s rivals at
Cunard. The Titanic was lauded as an ‘unsinkable’ ship, but subsequent
examinations have suggested some fatal flaws in the ship’s design, in addition to a
lack of lifeboats, which only could accommodate half the passengers.
Just four days after setting sail, on April 14th at around 11.40pm, the Titanic hit
an iceberg. The collision caused a massive gash in the ship’s hull,
dooming the vessel to sink. As the ship filled with water and
slowly sank, its over two thousand passengers rushed to lifeboats. The panicked evacuation was haphazard, with lifeboats lowered despite not being at full
capacity. The ship’s final hours saw a number of particularly touching stories,
including the elderly Straus couple who stayed in their cabin to die
together, the violin players continuing to perform as the ship sank, and
Benjamin Guggenheim changing into his formal dress and declaring “We are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” The Titanic finally
sank at around 2.20am, leaving thousands to die of hypothermia in the
freezing ocean. Over 1,500 people died in the tragedy, with
around 700 survivors rescued by the Cunard’s Carpathia. The demise of
the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic shocked the world, and the tragic fate of a symbol of early twentieth-century optimism continues to
captivate people’s imagination.
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RMS Carpathia Sinks After Being Struck by U-boat Torpedo
17 July 1918
On this day in British history, 17 July 1918, RMS Carpathia sank off the coast of Ireland after being torpedoed by a German U-boat. Carpathia was a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson. Carpathia made her maiden voyage in 1903 and became famous for rescuing the survivors of RMS Titanic after it struck an iceberg and sank on 15 April 1912. Carpathia was used during WWI to transport American and Canadian troops across the Atlantic.
On the summer morning of 17 July she was torpedoed in the Celtic Sea by the Imperial German Navy submarine U-55. Of three torpedoes fired at the ship, one impacted the port side while the other penetrated the engine room, killing two firemen and three trimmers. All 57 passengers and 218 surviving crew members boarded the lifeboats as the vessel sank. U-55 surfaced and fired a third torpedo into the ship and was approaching the lifeboats when the Azalea-class sloop HMS Snowdrop arrived on the scene and drove away the submarine with gunfire before picking up the survivors from Carpathia.
Thirty years ago today, September 1, 1985, a joint expedition of American and French oceanographers discovers the wreck of the RMS Titanic in approximately 12,500 feet of water at 41.7325° N, 49.9469° W - roughly 375 miles southeast of the coast of Newfoundland.
The search - being undertaken by a towed camera sled called ‘ARGO’ - discovered an anomalous object shortly before two in the morning local time. Upon rewinding the camera footage, the object was identified as debris from a shipwreck. The expedition leader, Dr. Robert D. Ballard, was called to the control room from his sleep.
Opening a nearby copy of Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember,” Ballard identified the object by a photograph of boilers awaiting installation on RMS Titanic in Belfast.
The next day - September 2 - Ballard and his expedition located the main hull of the Titanic, and photographed the ship for the first time since it had left Ireland.
After being lost for 73 years, some solid part of the Titanic had at last been discovered.