The Titanic, of the White Star Line, the greatest ocean liner the world had ever seen, left Southampton for New York on 10 April 100 years ago.
Key below-water structures were built so that compartments could be isolated from the others. This gave those who sailed on the vessel unprecedented confidence.
The guardian of the more than 2,220 souls on board for Titanic’s maiden voyage, Edward Smith, was nicknamed ‘the Captain of millionaires’.
While most of the First Class passengers had paid the equivalent today of around 1,700 euros for a one-way ticket, the most privileged paid nearly 50,000 euros. Second Class was a little over 600, and Third Class passage would be roughly 450 euros today.
The ship took on mostly well-heeled passengers in Cherbourg, Normandy, immigrants at Queenstown, Ireland – bound for a fresh start in the new world.
The ship ploughed toward a field of floating ice on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912, in North Atlantic waters of two degrees below Celsius. It was setting a speed record for the crossing, and so several iceberg warnings sent from other ships were ignored. Also, the Morse operator was busy with passengers’ messages.
The threat to the Titanic was sighted when it was too late, at twenty minutes to midnight.
The proud ship went down two hours and twenty minutes later. Its mere 20 lifeboats saved only some 700 people. More than 1,500 perished.
The Carpathia found the Titanic’s last position more than an hour after the sinking. The survivors were taken to New York.
The ship Californian, one of those that had sent out warnings, had stopped in the ice near enough to see the Titanic’s distress rockets, but took no action – its radio operator and captain by then were in bed.
The whole world would be horrified to learn how other ships, later dispatched from Halifax, retrieved fewer than 330 bodies.
The Carpathia drew into New York on the evening of April 18.
Memorial services and formal inquiries followed. Regulations were redrawn, about lifeboats, class distinction, wireless duty and sea-lanes.
The wreckage was found by underwater explorer Robert Ballard, well after two world wars had passed, in 1985. It was at a depth of more than three and a half kilometres, on the continental shelf off Newfoundland.