Titanic Sets Sail - What went wrong?

Lifeboats Recovered from the Titanic
From 'The Pageant of the Century'
Published by Odhams Press Limited 1912

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, for her maiden voyage. On April 15, the Titanic sank.  With her, 1,517 people perished.  She was one of the the largest, most lavish, and safest ships on the seas.  How could this have happened? 
  • On Sunday, the day of the crash, the ship's lifeboat drill was cancelled for unknown reasons.  During the evacuation, the lifeboats were not filled to capacity, and many believe this is due to the crew and passengers' lack of familiarity with the equipment and procedures.
  • Despite numerous ice warnings, the Titanic's captain, Edward J. Smith, maintained the ship's normal cruising speed of 21 knots (down 2 knots from a maximum speed of 23 knots.) This was typical of the day, since it was assumed that icebergs of concern would be seen easily from miles away.
  • Fitted with newer tiller steering, the ship required steering orders opposite those for older sailing ships.  This change in equipment and orders may have caused to the pilot to initially steer the ship into the iceberg.
  • The glancing blow against the iceberg scraped alongside the ship, opening 5 of 16 watertight compartments.  The ship was constructed to float if the front four or any two of those compartments filled with water.
  • The ship was constructed with a double hull (a detail that reduced the number of life rafts required).  The double hull, however, only covered the bottom of the ship but not up the sides to the waterline.
  • The ship's inadequate number of lifeboats was actually two more than regulated.  Maritime regulations did not keep up with the pace as ships were being built larger and larger and assumed that ships would be evacuated during stormy seas.  Before attributing losses solely to the number of lifeboats, one should note that two life rafts were never even deployed.
  • Ships' radio communications were designed and staffed largely for the convenience of passengers and were not required to be staffed or monitored 24/7.  The closest ship's radio operator, Cyril Evans of the Californian, had gone to bed after warning the Titanic of ice in the area.
  • The distress signal rockets fired by the Titanic crew (and seen by the Californian crew) did not indicate the ship was in distress since they were not fired at one minute intervals as the regulations at the time required. They were believed by the Californian to be identification flares or celebratory fireworks.
  • Lifeboats failed to pick up "floaters" soon enough, fearful of being sucked into the vortex caused by the sinking ship.  Although there were life vests for every person aboard the vessel, most victims that landed in the water died from hypothermia within 15 minutes due to the freezing water temperature.

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