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Ship history

After it was fitted out at Harland & Wolff shipyard, the trials of Titanic took afterwards. The trials were originally scheduled for 10:00 in the morning on Monday, April 1st, just nine days before she was due to leave Southampton on her first voyage, but poor weather conditions forced the trials to be postponed until the following day.

Aboard Titanic were 78 stokers, greasers and firemen, and 41 members of crew. No domestic staff appear to have been aboard. Representatives of various companies travelled on Titanic’s sea trials, including Harold A. Sanderson of I.M.M and Thomas Andrews and Edward Wilding of Harland and Wolff. Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie were too ill to attend.

Jack Phillips and Harold Bride served as radio operators, and performed fine-tuning of the Marconi equipment. Mr Carruthers, a surveyor from the Board of Trade, was also present to see that everything worked, and that the ship was fit to carry passengers. After the trial, he signed an ‘Agreement and Account of Voyages and Crew’, valid for twelve months, which deemed the ship sea-worthy.

On April 2, following six hours of sea trials, Titanic left Belfast at noon for the 550-mile journey to Southampton, with Captain Charles A. Bartlett as the master.

The vessel began her maiden voyage from Southampton, bound for New York City on April 10, 1912, with Captain Edward J. Smith in command.

As Titanic left her berth, her wake caused the liner SS New York, which was docked nearby, to break away from her moorings, whereupon she was drawn dangerously close (about four feet) to Titanic before a tugboat towed New York away.

The incident delayed departure for about half an hour. After crossing the English Channel, Titanic stopped at Cherbourg, France, to board additional passengers and stopped again the next day at Queenstown, Ireland.

As harbour facilities at Queenstown were inadequate for a ship of her size, Titanic had to anchor off-shore, with small boats, known as tenders, ferrying the embarking passengers out to her. When she finally set out for New York, there were 2,240 people aboard.

John Coffey, a 23-year-old stoker, jumped ship at Queenstown by stowing away on a tender and hiding amongst mailbags destined for the shore. A native of the town, he had probably joined the ship with this intention, but afterwards he said that the reason he had smuggled himself off the liner was that he held a foreboding about the voyage. He later signed on to join the crew of Mauretania.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the moon was not visible in the clear sky, the temperature had dropped to near freezing, and the ocean was flat calm. Captain Smith, in response to iceberg warnings received via wireless over the preceding few days, had drawn up a new course which took the ship slightly further southward.

That Sunday at 1:45 pm, a message from the steamer Amerika warned that large icebergs lay in Titanic’s path, but because wireless radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were employed by Marconi, and paid primarily to relay messages to and from the passengers, they were not focused on relaying “non-essential” ice messages to the bridge.

Later that evening, another report of numerous large icebergs, this time from Mesaba, also failed to reach the bridge.

At 11:40 pm, while sailing about 400 miles (640 km) south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly ahead of the ship. Sounding the ship’s bell three times, Fleet telephoned Sixth Officer James Moody on the bridge exclaiming, “Iceberg, right ahead!”. First Officer Murdoch, hearing Moody repeat the message, gave the helmsman, Robert Hichens, the order “hard-a-starboard”, using the traditional tiller order for an abrupt turn to port.

At 2:10 am, the stern rose out of the water, exposing the propellers, and by 2:17 am the waterline had reached the boat deck. The last two lifeboats floated off the deck, collapsible B upside down, collapsible A half-filled with water after the supports for its canvas sides were broken in the fall from the roof of the officers’ quarters.

The forward funnel collapsed, crushing part of the bridge and people in the water. On deck, people were scrambling towards the stern or jumping overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat. The ship’s stern slowly rose into the air, and everything unsecured crashed towards the water. While the stern rose, the electrical system finally gave way causing the lights to go out.

Subsequently, the stress on the hull caused Titanic to break apart between the last two funnels, and the bow section went completely under. The stern section righted itself slightly and then rose vertically. After a few moments, at 2:20 am, it also sank.

Only two of the 18 launched lifeboats rescued people after the ship sank. Lifeboat 4 was close by and picked up five people, two of whom later died. Close to an hour later, lifeboat 14 went back and rescued four people, one of whom died afterward. Other people managed to climb onto the lifeboats that floated off the deck. There were some arguments in some of the other lifeboats about going back, but many survivors were afraid of being swamped by people trying to climb into the lifeboat or being pulled down by the suction from the sinking Titanic, though it turned out that there had been very little suction.

As the ship fell into the depths, the two sections behaved very differently. The streamlined bow planed off approximately 2,000 feet (610 m) below the surface and slowed somewhat, landing relatively gently. The stern plunged violently to the ocean floor, the hull being torn apart along the way from massive implosions caused by compression of water tight compartments inside the ship. The stern smashed into the bottom at considerable speed, grinding the hull deep into the silt.

After steaming at 17.5 knots for just under 4 hours, RMS Carpathia arrived in the vicinity and at 4:10 am, the ship began rescuing those who survived. At 8:30 AM, the ship picked up the last lifeboat with survivors and left the area 20minutes later bound for New York.