Titanic Timeline

by James William
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The Titanic hits an iceberg and begins to sink. This timeline highlights the most significant events leading up to and immediately following the collision and the ship’s eventual sinking.

Senior wireless operator Jack Phillips receives several iceberg warnings from ships including the Caronia and Amerika. But none of these warnings reach the bridge.

March 31, 1909

Construction of titanic timeline begins at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. On April 10, 1912, the luxury liner sets sail from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage to New York City. An estimated 100,000 people cheer and wave handkerchiefs as she departs.

At noon, senior wireless operator Jack Phillips receives iceberg warnings from other ships, including the liner Caronia which reports “field ice and growlers” in an area a day’s sailing away (42o N, 49o to 51o W).

At 9:40 pm, lookouts spot a large iceberg in the distance. They alert the bridge, which immediately signals a “stop” order to engines and full astern. They also call for a request for assistance to be broadcast, but the nearest ship, Californian, has turned off its wireless and would have been too far away to respond in time.

April 14, 1912

John Jacob Astor IV and wife Madeleine Force board the Titanic at 6:35 p.m., just before the ship leaves Cherbourg for New York. The Astor’s maid and a nursemaid accompany them.

Lookout Frederick Fleet calls the bridge and says, “Iceberg right ahead!” Sixth Officer Moody changes course hard to starboard to avoid the ice field – but this change actually puts the Titanic on a collision path with the iceberg.

Thomas Andrews reports that the first six watertight compartments have been compromised. He predicts the ship can stay afloat for only two hours. Passengers are ordered to enter the lifeboats. St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Carlos Hurd secretly takes notes about the panicked passengers and stows them in a cigar box, tying champagne corks to it for buoyancy. His eyewitness account is later printed in the newspaper.

April 15, 1912

2:18 AM: The bow of the Titanic snaps in half and the ship sinks. The first lifeboat, number 7 on the starboard side, is lowered. It is loaded well below capacity, partially due to the crew’s worries that the davits could not handle a fully loaded boat. Madeleine Astor asks to join the boat, but Second Officer Lightoller, who adhered to the rule of women and children first, refuses.

9:40 PM: The Titanic receives a wireless message from the liner Caronia warning of field ice and growlers (small icebergs that are harder to see) in an area a day’s sailing away (42% N, 49o to 51o W). The message is not passed up to the bridge. The Titanic changes course, but the new direction places it on a collision course with the iceberg. It will not be able to change course in time to avoid impact.

April 16, 1912

The whistles on Titanic’s two forward funnels sound, indicating that the ship is about to leave. Several stokers run down the quay and try to get on board before a train passes by, but Sixth Officer Moody waves them away.

At about 11:40 pm, lookout Frederick Fleet spots an iceberg dead ahead. He alerts the bridge, which changes course to avoid the area of the gulf stream where the iceberg was reported.

The change puts Titanic on a collision course with the iceberg, which will eventually cause her to founder and sink. It is the worst maritime disaster in history. More than a century later, the story of the Titanic continues to fascinate people. This is reflected in the continuing search for the wreck, the ongoing research into her fate, and the numerous books, plays and films that have been produced about her.

April 17, 1912

The Titanic collides with an iceberg and sinks. As the bow sinks, lifeboats are lowered into the water. The first one, Number 7 on the starboard side, leaves around 12:45 a.m., carrying 27 people (it could hold 65). The ship also starts firing distress rockets.

Captain Smith orders the crew to begin loading the lifeboats, women and children first. He also tells the passengers to stay in their cabins. Meanwhile, the White Star-commissioned Carpathia arrives. News of the Titanic’s fate spreads, and families rush to the ship’s offices in hopes of finding their loved ones. This begins a long tradition of ships and stories that make the Titanic one of history’s most famous shipwrecks. Follow along with this Titanic timeline to learn about the twists and turns of its tragic end.

April 18, 1912

The Titanic, a massive and luxurious ocean liner, sets sail on its maiden voyage. She is advertised as unsinkable because of her numerous watertight compartments and doors. She carries a surprisingly diverse group of people, including a number of early 20th-century tycoons, socialites, and celebrities.

The lookout Frederick Fleet spots an iceberg dead ahead of the ship and sends a message to the bridge. Captain Smith orders the ship to change course in an attempt to avoid the iceberg. Unfortunately, this change puts the ship on a collision course with the iceberg.

The White Star Line ships Minia and Montmagny are sent to help the overtaxed Mackay-Bennett. They recover 306 bodies, but only 17 survive. The Carpathia arrives at Pier 54 in New York City, outrunning hordes of newspaper reporters clamoring for news. The survivors board the ship, and it heads for Southampton to drop off more passengers.

April 19, 1912

The first lifeboat is lowered. It carries only 27 people, despite the fact that it has room for 65. This is because passengers are afraid to leave their belongings or fear that the davits will not be able to support a fully-loaded boat. Also, many passengers believe that the Titanic is almost certainly unsinkable.

In her final hours, a harrowing series of human dramas plays out on the decks of the ship. Men see off wives and children, families are separated and selfless individuals give up their places in the lifeboats to allow others to escape.

The White Star liner Minia arrives from Halifax to help the overtaxed Mackay-Bennett, which has recovered 306 bodies. The Montmagny from Sorel also joins the search. It recovers four bodies.

April 20, 1912

Titanic leaves Cherbourg and sets sail for Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland. The voyage is relatively uneventful until an iceberg warning is received from several ships.

At around midnight, the Titanic strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic and begins to sink. The resulting disaster was one of the deadliest peacetime maritime accidents and spurred international action to improve safety standards on ships.

The US Senate holds hearings and an inquiry into the disaster. The British Board of Trade also launches an investigation into the incident. New safety regulations are enacted as a result of the tragedy, including requiring ships to have more lifeboats and not to load women and children into first-class boats. Titanic’s sister ship, Britannic, is launched and serves as a hospital ship after the disaster. It sank in November 1910. Almost all of the passengers and crew were rescued by RMS Carpathia.

April 21, 1912

Using a wireless signal, lookout Frederick Fleet reports an iceberg ahead. The bridge immediately sends a signal to change course. The move should have put Titanic into an area of the gulf stream free of icebergs. But because of a change in currents, it instead puts the ship on a collision course with the iceberg.

At 12:05 a.m., Captain Smith orders the crew to prepare the lifeboats. He gives strict instructions that women and children will be put into the boats first.

A few minutes later, the first lifeboat is lowered into the water—it’s packed with only 27 people when it should have held 65. Other lifeboats follow, all woefully under-filled.

April 22, 1912

Titanic’s maiden voyage draws a who’s who of early 20th-century tycoons, socialites and celebrities. It’s also an opportunity for emigrants to sail from their home countries and begin new lives in the United States.

While docking in Southampton, Titanic’s colossal propellers churn water and displace enough that nearby ships, including the SS New York, become unmoored and drift toward Titanic’s port side. Captain Edward Smith’s quick thinking (and help from a tugboat) prevents a collision.

At 2:20 am, Titanic hits the iceberg. Within hours, hundreds of human dramas play out, ranging from craven cowardice to extraordinary bravery. The disaster inspires countless books, plays and films. The ship’s wreck remains the subject of ongoing research and exploration. In 1985, Robert Ballard’s expedition team discovers the wreckage. In 1997, James Cameron’s motion picture Titanic reignites the world’s fascination with the ship and its tragic end.

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