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Titanic by the Numbers: From Construction to Disaster to Discovery

Titanic by the Numbers: From Construction to Disaster to Discovery

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It took just two hours and 40 minutes for the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic to sink. The much-heralded ocean liner, on its glamorous five-day maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, headed out across the Atlantic on April 10, 1912, counting among its passengers the wealthy and prominent as well as poor immigrants making their way to America.

What would happen next has been the source of inspiration for books, poems, songs, TV shows and films, including one blockbuster Oscar-winning movie. Despite receiving several iceberg warnings on April 14, the Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, continued to sail full-steam ahead. It was a deadly decision: Unable to avoid collision, the doomed ship, upon impact with the iceberg, was punctured, causing it to flood and sink off the coast of Newfoundland in less than three hours, taking along with it some 1,500 lives.

A look at the sinking in terms of numbers, below, helps provide perspective into the tragedy.

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Cost to build: $7.5 million ($200 million with inflation)

The White Star Line's Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, starting in 1909, with construction taking three years. With a whopping 3 million rivets, weighing 46,000 tons and measuring 882 feet, 8 inches—the distance of more than four city blocks—Titanic was created with the labor of some 3,000 workers.

Ticketed passengers aboard: 1,317

Titanic was designed to carry up to 3,300 people. On the maiden voyage, it had about 2,200 aboard, including about 900 crew members. As for passengers, according to the United Kingdom's National Archives, 324 were first class, 284 were second class and 709 were third class.

WATCH: Titanic Survivor's Eyewitness Account

Bottles of wine in ship’s wine cellar: 1,000

On April 21, 1912, The New York Times reported the luxury liner was carrying cargo worth $420,000 ($11 million today). The manifest included such items as 3,000 teacups, 40,000 eggs, five grand pianos and 36,000 oranges. It was also a mail ship (RMS stood for Royal Mail Steamer) and contained a post office with 3,364 bags aboard.

Number of courses served during the ship’s final first-class dinner: 10

Menu choices included oysters, consommé, poached salmon, filet mignon, lamb with mint sauce, punch romaine, roast squab, cold asparagus vinaigrette, paté de foie gras and Waldorf pudding. Each course included wine pairings. And after dinner? Spirits and cigars were offered.

Second-class passengers, according to NPR, were served classic French bistro and American dishes, while third-class dinner was typically soup or stew.

READ MORE: Last Meal on Titanic

Number of iceberg warnings received that day: 6

According to Titanic: The Legend, Myths and Folklore by Bruce Alpine, Titanic received three ice warnings from other ships in the area on April 14 (one never reached Smith), as well as three messages from the SS Californian, a small steamer that had stopped approximately 19 miles from the luxury ship. Its final warning, sent at 11 p.m.: "We are stopped and surrounded by ice."

READ MORE: Why Did the Titanic Sink?

Miles sailed before sinking: 2,070

The ship embarked from Southampton, England, then made stops at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland before setting sail to New York. The ship was 400 miles south of Newfoundland on April 14 (1,250 miles from its final destination), when, at 11:40 p.m., watchmen saw the iceberg that punctured six of the Titanic's 16 water-tight compartments, which quickly filled with water. Experts say had only four compartments flooded, the ship would have stayed floating. The time between the first sighting of the iceberg and impact was a mere 37 seconds, with the ship sinking in 160 minutes.

Watch multiple documentaries on the Titanic's building, disaster, recovery and more on HISTORY Vault. Start your free trial today.

Temperature of the water: 28 degrees

Most of the Titanic deaths were caused by hypothermia due to the low water temperature. According to the American Red Cross, a water temp of 79 degrees can lead to death after prolonged exposure, while 50 degrees can cause death in an hour, and 32 degrees can be lethal in 15 minutes.

Number of lifeboats the ship was equipped to carry: 64

However, the ship actually carried 20 lifeboats (four were collapsibles) which, according to Alpine's book, could only hold 1,178 passengers and crew, but that number was still more than required by the 1883 Merchant Shipping Act. Still, just over 700 made it aboard lifeboats. "In 1912, the tradition for loading lifeboats during an emergency was 'Women and children first'," Alpine writes. "This tradition often caused time delays in filling the lifeboats as the women and children were singled out for priority in lifeboat placement, which often led to lifeboats being launched half full. This was certainly the case with Titanic."

READ MORE: The Craziest Titanic Conspiracy Theories, Explained

Number of people who died: 1,517

As the ship's string band played, the ship sank to its watery grave, taking those not already in the water with it. Nearly 32 percent of those who had been aboard Titanic survived. They were rescued by the RMS Carpathia, which responded to the Titanic’s distress call, arriving around 4 a.m.

READ MORE: 5 Things You May Not Know About Titanic’s Rescue Ship

Amount J.J. Astor, the richest passenger, was worth when he died in the sinking: $87,000,000 ($2.21 billion today)

“We are safer here than in that little boat,” John Jacob Astor IV reportedly told his 18-year-old pregnant wife after Titanic struck the iceberg. One of the world's wealthiest men at the time, the first-class passenger, known for building New York's Astoria Hotel (later known as the Waldorf-Astoria), Hotel St. Regis and the Knickerbocker, drowned. His wife survived.

Other prominent passengers on board included Macy’s department store co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida, who deboarded a lifeboat to face her fate with her husband. ("Where you go, I go," she reportedly said.) There was also Benjamin Guggenheim who, dressed in white tie and tails and helping passengers board lifeboats, was heard to say, “we’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” And 17-year-old Jack Thayer, heir to a Pennsylvania railroad fortune, miraculously survived after plunging into the icy waters and clinging to an upturned lifeboat.

Amount claimed for lost property by Molly Brown: $27,887

Known post-Titanic as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” Margaret Brown, a Denver socialite and philanthropist, drew fame for helping to row her lifeboat for hours to safety and, eventually, raising money for survivors who had lost everything. According to the U.S. National Archives, her claim for loss of property included 14 hats, some 20 gowns, three crates of "ancient models" for the Denver Museum, along with an opera cape, two Japanese kimonos, jewelry and more.

READ MORE: The True Stories That Inspired ‘Titanic' Movie Characters

Years before wreckage was discovered: 73

It wasn't until Sept. 1, 1985 that oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered the wreckage of the Titanic, which was found at 12,000 feet—2.3 miles below sea level. The debris field spread across 15 square miles with the hull buried under 45 feet of mud.

The discovery coincided with a top-secret Cold War-era investigation by the U.S. Navy to search for two wrecked U.S. nuclear submarines. Ronald Thunman, then the deputy chief of naval operations for submarine warfare, told National Geographic in 2017 that the Navy had permitted him to search for the ship once his mission was complete.

"But the Navy never expected me to find the Titanic, and so when that happened, they got really nervous because of the publicity," Ballard told National Geographic. "But people were so focused on the legend of the Titanic they never connected the dots."

READ MORE: The Real Story Behind the Discovery of Titanic’s Watery Grave

Cabin Allocations

The allocation of cabins on the Titanic is a source of continuing interest and endless speculation. Apart from the recollections of survivors and a few tickets and boarding cards, the only authoritative source of cabin data is the incomplete first class passenger list recovered with the body of steward Herbert Cave. The list below includes this data and includes the likely occupants of some other cabins determined by other means.

The difficulty in determining, with any degree of accuracy, the occupancy of cabins on the Titanic indicates the need for further research in this area.

Important Note: Highlighted rows and cabin numbers with question marks beside them, represent deductions or speculations or allocations which, as yet, have no identified source. Under no circumstances should these be taken as fact.

First Class

Sloper's cabin number is not known for certain. A-12: Given the port of embarkation and ticket office A-12 would have been permitted for the price Sloper paid. Sloper's account appears in the book "The life and times of Andrew Jackson Sloper" Which is a book he wrote about his father but seemed to consist mainly of his own memoirs. In it he claims he " was going through the door when Ross called out " This was most probably the door of his cabin. But even if Sloper was leaving A-12, he would have still heard Ross, since A-12 was next door to Ross' cabin A-10. Sloper also confuses the reader in his account. In it he describes playing cards in the Lounge with Miss Gibson and others, when they leave and are " standing at the top of the stairs " Miss Gibson decided they should all go for a walk before retiring. Sloper then continues that he ran down one flight of stairs to his cabin. This gives an impression that he was on B deck. But there is more evidence that he was on A deck, he remembers meeting Mr Dulles (A-18).

Dodge, Dr. Washington
Dodge, Mrs Washington (Ruth Vidaver)
Dodge, Master Washington

"B-52 is the room I had."
"You had the suite?"
" I had the suite."

It has been suggested (Eaton & Haas 1994) that Guggenheim occupied cabin B-82-84 while his valet was in B-86). Etches said that Guggenheim occupied cabin B-84 with his valet. "the next cabins were empty untill you come to B-84 occupied by Mr Guggenheim and his valet and Mr Carter's valet occupied 86, the inside cabin." Later when describing the lifebelts and talking about Guggenheim's cabin he said there were three lifebelts in a room occupied by two.

In Lynch (1992) Loring and Rheims are mentioned in the Smoking Room talking to a steward and Loring says that his stateroom is right under the Smoking Room. B-97 and 95 are the only unoccupied cabins right under the Smoking Room. Mr Loring did not survive and any information known about him comes from Mr Rheims. In addition to the smoke room incident any information on the whereabouts of Mr Loring's cabin comes from Mr Rheims' accounts or letters. But Mr Rheims never mentions either his or Mr Loring's actual cabin number.

Anna Ward may have occupied B-101, if so then she would have berthed with Gustave Lesneur, a possibility but it is perhaps more likely that she would have occupied the same cabin as Mrs Cardeza (q.v.).

Peuchen thought Beattie and McCaffry were in A-8 (q.v.) and in cabins with numbers to that affect (Source: Senate inquiry). It is possible that they were moved after the Cave List was printed.

Not mentioned in Cave List. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin of 19 April 1912 quotes Mrs. Schabert as saying she was in 'stateroom 28 on the port side.' She also wrote after the sinking: 'Mrs Straus, who had a stateroom near me and with whom I often talked, refused to leave her husband.' Since Mrs Straus had her cabin on C-deck, we can deduce that Mrs Schabert most likely had her cabin on this deck as well.

On the Cave List, Miss Earnshaw's cabin is given as C-53. This is probably a mistake.

"What deck were you assigned to, if any?"
"C deck aft, on the starboard side. In number 85 were Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Cummings"

In her account Mrs Futrelle writes that she crossed the corridor to go to the Harris cabin.

Mrs Douglas (of C-86) implies that her maid occupied a cabin with Mrs Carter's maid. (Senate inquiry Testimony) if this is the case it is possible that they shared C-140. They could not have shared C-136, since Etches was in that cabin taking out lifebelts and throwing them in the corridor. If C-136 was occupied, Etches would not have been able to do so. Please do not exclude the possibility of C140. Sereplan's employers were on a deck above, so perhaps Sereplan and LeRoy were in C140, closer to the stairs.

It is known that a single lady occupied this cabin. Mr McGough said he knocked on the cabin door (across the hall to him) of a lady. Possibilites include Mrs Flegenheimer, Mrs Candee, Miss Willard or Mrs Lindström.

Second Class

Her cabin is usually given as E-77 but this was actually a first class cabin. Although E-43 onward were originally second class cabins, first class cabins were later extended all the way to E-88 probably due to the anticipated demand which did not in fact materialize. It is possible that, once the low take-up of first class cabins was realized, E-69 onward were returned to second class, in which case Mrs Mack could have occupied E-77 although this is speculation. It is equally possible that E-77 is simply a transcription error.

Third Class

Sandström, Mrs Hjalmar
Sandström, Miss Beatrice Irene
Sandström, Miss Marguerite Rut

Ström, Mrs Wilhelm (Elna Matilda Persson)
Ström, Miss Telma (Selma) Matilda

Berth numbers were given for some passengers. Odd for lower berths and even for upper berths.

Available Documents
First Class Passenger List S.S. Titanic ("3rd Proof"), National Archives of Nova Scotia ["Cave List"]

Lawrence Beesley (1912) The Loss of the Titanic: Its Story and Lessons. Houghton Mifflin
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
Judith Geller (1998) Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Alan Hustak (1999) Titanic: The Canadian Story. Véhicule Press. ISBN 1 55065 113 7
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Walter Lord (1986) The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 140 27900 8
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
White Star Line (1912.) Record of Bodies and Effects (Passengers and Crew S.S. "Titanic") Recovered by Cable Steamer "MacKay Bennett" Including Bodies Buried at Sea and Bodies Delivered at Morgue in Halifax, N.S. Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Halifax, N.S., Manuscript Group 100, Vol. 229, No. 3d, Accession 1976-191, 76 pp., unpaged.
Claes-Göran Wetterholm (1988, 1996, 1999) Titanic. Prisma, Stockholm. ISBN 91 518 3644 0
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912

George Behe, USA
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Alan Hustak, Canada
Arthur Merchant, USA
Michael Poirier, USA
Charles Provost, Canada
Daniel Rosenshine, Australia


The Royal Mail Steamer Titanic was the product of intense competition among rival shipping lines in the first half of the 20th century. In particular, the White Star Line found itself in a battle for steamship primacy with Cunard, a venerable British firm with two standout ships that ranked among the most sophisticated and luxurious of their time. Cunard’s Mauretania began service in 1907 and immediately set a speed record for the fastest transatlantic crossing that it held for 22 years. Cunard’s other masterpiece, Lusitania, launched the same year and was lauded for its spectacular interiors. It met its tragic end–and entered the annals of world history–on May 7, 1915, when a torpedo fired by a German U-boat sunk the ship, killing nearly 1,200 of the 1,959 people on board and precipitating the United States’ entry into World War I.

Did You Know?

Passengers traveling first class on Titanic were roughly 44 percent more likely to survive than other passengers.

The same year that Cunard unveiled its two magnificent liners, J. Bruce Ismay, chief executive of White Star, discussed the construction of three large ships with William J. Pirrie, chairman of the Belfast-based shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff. Part of a new “Olympic” class of liners, they would each measure 882 feet in length and 92.5 feet at their broadest point, making them the largest of their time. In March 1909, work began in the massive Harland and Wolff yard on the second of these ships, Titanic, and continued nonstop until the spring of 1911.

On May 31, 1911, Titanic’s immense hull–at the time, the largest movable manmade object in the world–made its way down the slipways and into the River Lagan in Belfast. More than 100,000 people attended the launching, which took just over a minute and went off without a hitch. The hull was immediately towed to a mammoth fitting-out dock where thousands of workers would spend most of the next year building the ship’s decks, constructing her lavish interiors and installing the 29 giant boilers that would power her two main steam engines.

57 Titanic Statistics: Deaths, Passengers & Survivors

Titanic is, arguably, the most famous ship that has ever sailed. It is also the center of one of the most infamous disasters that took place on the seas. The effects of the tragedy where countless lives were lost still resonate today&mdashmost important of which was how it changed the maritime industry rules for sea travel. The company that built the ship also understandably drew flak from the public due to their previous claims that the ship was unsinkable.

Today, memorials to remember the victims of the tragedy are erected in various parts of the world. Furthermore, the sinking of the RMS Titanic was immortalized in books, stories, television shows, and movies, with one of the most iconic retellings of the disaster being James Cameron&rsquos blockbuster 1997 film, Titanic. This article contains various Titanic statistics surrounding the ship, the survivors, and more.

Titanic Statistics Table of Contents

Ship Statistics

In 1912, Titanic was the biggest ship afloat on the sea. It was an engineering marvel of its time and was indeed deserving to be named after the Titans of Greek mythology. The ship was constructed three years before its maiden and only voyage in a shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic sailed out of Southampton, England. The ship&rsquos final stop would have been in New York, USA.

To achieve its size and install top-class amenities, the ship&rsquos construction was costly. Even the maintenance required to keep the ship running was not cheap. The ship was also designed to carry enough lifeboats for everyone on board. However, due to the hubris of its creators, they only loaded 20 boats.

  • $7.5 million was the cost of building the RMS Titanic in 1912. If adjusted for inflation, the ship costs $174 million to make.
  • Today, if Titanic was to be reconstructed, it will cost over $400 million to make.
  • The maximum speed of the RMS Titanic was 23 knots or 26 mph.
  • It took three years to construct the RMS Titanic.
  • The ship had a total of 840 staterooms.
  • There were 16 watertight compartments, extending up to F deck.
  • The ship&rsquos size was 882 feet, 8 inches or 268 meters.
  • The ship had a gross tonnage of 46,328.
  • The net tonnage of the ship was 24,900 tons.
  • The ship&rsquos depth was 59.5 feet.
  • 825 tonnes of coal per day was used to fuel the ship.
  • The Titanic was equipped to carry 64 lifeboats.
  • The Titanic had 3560 life jackets and 49 lifebuoys.
  • There were a total of 20 lifeboats aboard the RMS Titanic.
  • The lifeboats had a rated capacity of 1,178 persons.
  • There were a total of 9 decks on the ship.

Passenger Statistics

The ship&rsquos route was from Southampton, England to Cherbourg, France to Queenstown, Ireland, and finally, New York, USA. Many of Britain&rsquos aristocrats and America&rsquos socialites boarded the ship with hopes of becoming part of its legendary maiden voyage. Additionally, ordinary people looking forward to moving to the US also boarded the ship.

  • The RMS Titanic could carry 3,547 passengers and crew.
  • The number of people aboard (passengers and crew) was 2,223.
  • The RMS Titanic&rsquos crew was 885 people.
  • All of the passengers accounted for a total of 1,316.
  • There were a total of 325 first-class passengers on the ship.
  • Cost of first-class (parlor suite) one-way ticket was £870 or $4,350 ($83,200 today).
  • 285 was the number of second-class passengers aboard the RMS Titanic.
  • Second-class tickets cost £12 or $60 ($1200 today).
  • Third-class passengers on board were 706.
  • £3 to £8 or $40 ($298 to $793 today) was the cost of third-class tickets.

Casualty Statistics

The tragedy of the Titanic continues to be one of the most infamous disasters around the world. The sinking claimed thousands of lives. It was a battle for survival because the ship didn&rsquot load the maximum number of lifeboats it can carry. Those who didn&rsquot die during the collision and remote explosions across the ship either drowned or died of hypothermia.

  • Over 1,500 people lost their lives.
  • 68.2% of the passengers and crews were lost.
  • 130 of the first-class passengers died during the sinking of the ship.
  • The second-class passengers lost 166 people.
  • Third-class passengers accounted for the largest loss of life among the passengers with 536.
  • The ship&rsquos crew suffered the most, losing over three-fourths of their numbers with 685 casualties.
  • The search and rescue team recovered only 306 bodies.

Survivor Statistics

Only a handful of the ship&rsquos passengers survived the incident. Furthermore, the number of survivors is directly proportional to the passenger class: the biggest portion of survivors were first-class passengers due to them being the first ones to board the limited number of lifeboats.

  • The total number of rescued survivors were 706.
  • The surviving passengers were 499.
  • 212 of crews survived the tragedy.
  • Almost 60% of the first-class passengers survived.
  • About 42% of second-class passengers were rescued.
  • Only about 26% of third-class passengers managed to survive the tragedy.

Sinking & Wreckage Statistics

On April 15, 1912, the unsinkable ship sunk.

The tragedy that befell the then world&rsquos largest ship shocked the world. It was a disaster nobody foresaw. The incompetence of the ship&rsquos crew in handling the crisis was partly to blame for the loss of lives. Additionally, external factors such as the slow rescue and freezing waters of the Atlantic put the floating passengers of the ship into a more precarious situation.

  • RMS Titanic struck an iceberg minutes before midnight on April 14, 1912.
  • The iceberg was estimated to be about 100 feet tall.
  • Upon collision, the ship ruptured at least five of its hulls.
  • The ship sunk at approximately 2:20 AM of April 15, 1912.
  • The water&rsquos temperature on the night of the sinking was estimated to be at 28 degrees Fahrenheit or -2 degrees Celsius.
  • On September 1, 1985, a joint US-French expedition located the wreck of the Titanic lying on the ocean floor at a depth of about 13,000 feet.
  • It took 74 years to find the wreck of the Titanic.
  • The Carpathia arrived in the area, firing rockets at 3:30 AM.

Lowest Human-made and Natural Points in the World (in Feet Below Sea Level)

Mariana Trench (Western Pacific)

Deepest solo submarine dive

Deepwater Horizon (Gulf of Mexico)

KTB Borehole/German Superdeep Hole (Germany)

Mponeng & TauTona Gold Mines (South Africa)

Wreck of the RMS Titanic (Canadian coast)

Depth of Cuvier`s Beaked Whale Dives

Source: Website (chilternthrustbore.co.uk)

Titanic in Media

As mentioned above, the tragedy that happened to the RMS Titanic was immortalized in various forms of media. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, documentaries, TV shows, and movies have been made about the incident. However, James Cameron&rsquos reimagining of the sinking of the gargantuan ship remains the most famous one.

The movie was centered on two passengers, Rose and Jack, who met and fell in love with each other aboard the ship. Though the two characters were fictional, most of the details surrounding the sinking were accurately portrayed in the film. Moreover, the film also based a few characters based on real Titanic passengers like Margaret Brown&mdashmost famously known as &ldquoThe Unsinkable Molly Brown.&rdquo The film went on to become a blockbuster hit and an Oscar darling.

  • The movie had a production budget of $200 million.
  • The domestic opening of the film raked in $28,638,131.
  • The earliest release date of James Cameron&rsquos movie was December 18, 1997.
  • The epic disaster film became the first-ever movie to cross $1 billion in the box office.
  • Titanic is one of the highest-grossing films of all time with $2,194,439,542 box office.
  • Titanic received 14 nominations, including Best Picture in the 70th Academy Awards.
  • The movie won 11 out of its 14 nominations.

Titanic: The Aftermath

For many people at the time, Titanic represented a golden age that was symbolically lost when the ship sunk, according to Dr. Eric Kentley. Until today, this interpretation debatably still stands because countless people are still fascinated by the legend surrounding the tragedy. Some people say that the ship sunk due to the hubris of its creators. Meanwhile, others say it was a manual error. Back then, the technology used to navigate open waters weren&rsquot as reliable compared to those used today. According to one of the crew&rsquos account, the cold sea air caused the air to bend abnormally downward. There was also a thick haze moments before the collision with the iceberg happened.

The company that made the Titanic also made reparations to the victims of this tragedy: White Star Line paid a total of $664,000 for all outstanding legal claims in December 1915. Moreover, the Claimants Committee estimated that the possible total value of claims was as high as $2.5 million.

On 12 November 1913, the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in London was held as an effect of the Titanic disaster. The convention led to the formation and international funding of the International Ice Patrol to monitor chunks of icebergs floating on the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The group was formally launched on January 30, 1914.

Today, the Titanic is often used as a metaphor by scholars across the world&mdasha reminder that one&rsquos hubris can lead to death and devastation.

Page options

As soon as the waves of the North Atlantic closed over the stern of RMS Titanic on 15 April 1912, the myths began surrounding her design, construction and transatlantic voyage. The Titanic disaster today is a classic tale, a modern folk story, but like all folk stories our understanding of what really happened has been clouded by the way the disaster has been recounted over the years.

The claim actually made was that she was 'practically unsinkable'.

It was said that the builders and owners of Titanic claimed she was 'unsinkable'. The claim actually made was that she was 'practically unsinkable', close enough, but nevertheless an unfortunate statement and one which would haunt both builder and owner for years.

Titanic, the largest vessel in the world when she entered service in 1912, was neither the finest nor the most technically advanced of her day. Size, seldom an indication that something is better, was the only record she held. The ships that Titanic, and her slightly older sister Olympic, were designed to compete with were the Cunard liners Lusitania and Mauretania, which entered service in 1907. Designed and built as record breakers, both held the coveted 'Blue Riband' for the fastest Atlantic crossing. They were built principally from lessons learnt from advances in warship construction, but most importantly both were powered by steam turbines driving quadruple screws, each fitted with a large balanced rudder, making them faster than the competition and easier to manoeuvre. This was a giant leap forward in marine engineering, comparable to the advances made in 1969 with the introduction of the Concorde supersonic aircraft.

Titanic and Olympic should best be described as the 747s of their day. As huge people carriers, travelling at moderate speed, with space for large cargoes, they posed a great commercial threat to the smaller and more expensive-to-operate Cunarders.

Titanic Construction

The Titanic was a White Star ocean liner, built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. The original design was engineered to compete with the Lusitania and Mauretina built by rival shipyard by the name of Cunard Line. The Titanic had two sisters named the Olympic and the Brittanic (originally called the Gigantic), all of which were designed to be the largest and most luxurious vessels in the world. The Titanic construction was the work of Lord William Pirrie (director of Harland Wolf and White Star), naval architect Thomas Andrews (Harland Wolf construction manager), and Alexander Carlisle, the shipyard’s chief draughtsman and general manager.

Construction of RMS Titanic, funded by the American J.P. Morgan and his International Mercantile Marine Co., began on 31 March, 1909. She was 882.9 feet long and 92 feet wide, 59 feet high from water level, and weighed over 46,328 tons. She was equipped with two reciprocating four-cylinder, triple-expansion steam engines and one low-pressure Parsons turbine, which powered three propellers. There were 29 boilers fired by 159 coal burning furnaces that made possible a top speed of 23 knots (43 km/h 26 mph). Only three of the four 62 feet (19 m) funnels were functional: the fourth, which served only for ventilation purposes, was added to make the ship look more impressive. The ship could carry 3,547 passengers and crew.

The Titanic was equipped with sixteen watertight compartments which had doors that would close automatically if the water level reached a certain height. The ship was designed so that it could remain afloat if any two of the compartments were flooded or if the first four were flooded. It was discovered that when the Titanic collided with the iceberg that the first six compartments were flooded. Although the Titanic was fitted with three funnels to expel gas which were constructed off site, only three were used the fourth funnel was simply added to make the ship look more powerful. The total cost of Titanic construction amounted to $7.5 million.

RMS Titanic Under Construction

Rare view of Titanic's internal construction, 1910

Finishing the Titanic Construction

Constructing Titanic's Keel

Workmen preparing new slipways for building Olympic and Titanic

Constructing the Titanic's Hull

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The Sad Story

Under the command of Edward Smith, the ship leaved Southampton with 2224 passengers aboard, including some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of poor emigrants from Europe seeking a new life in North America. The ship had advanced safety features, but there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard. Only 1,178 people can be carried in lifeboats.

Four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm ship's time. The glancing collision caused Titanic's hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea the ship gradually filled with water. Meanwhile, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partly loaded.

By 2:20 AM, the giant ship broke apart and foundered, with over 1000 people still aboard. Just under two hours after the sinking, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived and brought aboard about 705 survivors.

Small Numbers

74: The number of years it took to find the wreck of the Ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Story of Ruth Becker: Titanic Survivor

Ruth Elizabeth Becker, known later as Ruth Becker Blanchard, was one of the youngest passengers on the Titanic at 12 years old, and until relatively recently was one of the few remaining Titanic survivors. Her story is harrowing, but it’s inspirational that someone so young was able to exhibit such bravery, even in the face of a horrific disaster that few of us can truly picture in our minds.

The daughter of a Lutheran missionary, Ruth was born in Guntur, India in 1899. When her brother took ill, her mother Nellie decided to take him and the rest of the family to Benton Harbor, Michigan for medical treatment. Ruth, her mother, and her younger brother and sister boarded the RMS Titanic as second-class passengers, with her father waiting behind in India to rejoin them later.

Ruth and her family marveled at the beauty and grandeur of the ship, but their trip took a nasty turn when disaster struck. More specifically, the Titanic struck an iceberg and began sinking rapidly.

Ruth’s mother managed to get into Lifeboat No. 11 with her two youngest children, but there was no room left for Ruth. Nellie sobbed as she was separated from her daughter, who ended up in Lifeboat No. 13.
As Ruth’s lifeboat was lowered into the water, it was very nearly crushed by Lifeboat No. 15, which was being lowered too quickly. A crew member managed to cut the ropes binding No. 13 to the ship at the last minute, and the boat slid away in the nick of time.

The air was filled with the chilling sound of screams from those stranded in the icy water. A young Polish woman in Ruth’s lifeboat lamented her missing baby, who had been separated from her much like Ruth had been separated from her family. Though she didn’t understand German, Ruth did her best to comfort the upset mother.

Finally, the lifeboat was rescued by the Carpathia. After several tense hours of waiting and dreading the worst, Ruth was overjoyed to see her mother and siblings alive and well. She was also happy to discover that the Polish woman from her lifeboat had been reunited with her baby.

Ruth refused to talk about the traumatic Titanic sinking incident for many years. Later, she began to talk more about it, and made appearances at Titanic Historical Society conventions along with other Titanic survivors.

In 1990, Ruth Becker Blanchard took a cruise to Mexico, her first time as a passenger on a ship since the Titanic disaster. She died later that year at the age of 90, and her ashes were scattered at sea, directly over the Titanic wreck.

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The Sad Story

Under the command of Edward Smith, the ship leaved Southampton with 2224 passengers aboard, including some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of poor emigrants from Europe seeking a new life in North America. The ship had advanced safety features, but there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard. Only 1,178 people can be carried in lifeboats.

Four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm ship's time. The glancing collision caused Titanic's hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea the ship gradually filled with water. Meanwhile, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partly loaded.

By 2:20 AM, the giant ship broke apart and foundered, with over 1000 people still aboard. Just under two hours after the sinking, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived and brought aboard about 705 survivors.

Small Numbers

74: The number of years it took to find the wreck of the Ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The morning after. where were the bodies?

It was April 23, 1912, at daybreak, out on the North Atlantic. The seascape looked every bit like a well-adorned graveyard, with an overcast sky, rolling fog and, as far as one could see, pieces of wreckage that bobbed in the swells.

Doors, pillows, chairs, tables, and scattered remains were everywhere. White fragments dotted the debris --- clustering and moving along the waves like flocks of seagulls. Actually, these white specks were dead passengers and crew members, in their white life belts, left over from the Titanic disaster six days ago. 1

Left: Old “fittings” photograph of theTitanic. Right: Rare card postmarked May 7, 1912, which identifies the photograph as the steamship Titanic but that is, in fact, the Lusitania.

A “cutter” with five men aboard entered the sanctuary on its first run for that day. The oars groaned in the oarlocks, then became silent as the men approached one of the bodies. The ocean loudly washed against the sides of the little boat and, with an occasional thump, kicked up surf over the gunwale. As such, the men couldn’t hear the waves as they crested over the body’s head . . .“tish-sh . . . tish-sh . . . tish-sh.”

The life belt held the victim’s shoulders out of the water. Sometimes a larger wave made her entire body disappear. Her head was drawn back, and she faced upward, in the form of a figurine broken off an old ship’s bow. The woman’s hair and arms frolicked around, affording the men a glimpse at the water’s angelic playfulness.

No doubt, the thirty-year old Swedish emigrant was dead --- Alma Pålsson had been cut off from her four children, who went down with the Titanic, and from her husband in Chicago. Hundreds like her buoyed between the clefts of waves. As the crewman pulled her sea-drenched body into the boat, the steamer Mackay-Bennett stood nearby. 2

Men from Mackay-Bennett attempt to recover Titanic’s overturned life boat, or “raft,”
Collapsible “B.”

An overturned lifeboat in the sea between the cutter and the steamer seemed painted into this scene. Little more than a raft, with canvas sides, the broken boat resisted efforts to recover it. But, not the men’s axes.

It eventually faded from sight.

Mrs. Pålsson was brought back to Mackay-Bennett for identification. In her pockets were a letter from husband, Nils, in Chicago, 65 Swedish kronor, and her steamship ticket. The items were carefully tagged. Then she was put on ice in the ship’s hold. After another day or two of this gruesome business, Mackay­Bennett returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia. 3

Bodies in the North Atlantic

Mrs. Pålsson was one of several hundred bodies recovered by various ships, in April and May 1912, after the Titanic disaster. Roughly 1,526 people died when the ship foundered at 2:20 a.m., on April 15, 1912. Most people went down with the ship. But several hundred were either buried at sea or brought back, claimed by relatives, or buried in Halifax.

Why are the bodies important?

The bodies found floating in the sea were mostly third class passengers, emigrants and crewman. 4 They included children, mothers and fathers. As the rank and file, they were, by far, the most vulnerable of Titanic’s victims.

The cruelty of the disaster is most evident with the bodies. Indeed, some of them appeared battered, bruised, and cut up from the event of the sinking. They were frozen in the treacherously cold north Atlantic, at night, and were bleached by the sunlight, during the day. As if an amusement for a cruel sea, they bobbed, had their faces repeatedly dunked in the water, and became wrinkled and discolored as they decomposed.

Left: Postcard photographs of bodies recovered from the wreck of the steamer S.S. Eastland, which capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. Photographs of the bodies recovered in the Titanic disaster were made for identification purposes, and are rare. However, the postcards shown here were commonly sold and distributed after the Eastland disaster by manufacturers such as Max Stein, and others. 5

These were people with hopes, ideals, struggles --- each had an important story to tell. Brothers, sisters, parents, and children had loved them. Most of them had families and careers. Later, in Halifax, photographs were taken of them. As we shall see, the images of the bodies may be the starkest, most unalterable and truthful testimony to the ravages wrought by the Titanic’s foundering.

Witnesses see “fields” or “scores” of bodies

Wilburn and Evans accounts

There are many witnesses to the fact numerous bodies were present in the sea surrounding Titanic’s foundering, on Monday, April 15, 1912. The sea “became littered with bodies,” according to one survivor, Mary Davis Wilburn, who noted "The dead came up holding children in their arms. The poor people never had a chance.” 6

Seaman Frank O. Evans, who went back to the wreckage to recover any survivors after Titanic sank, noted that the water had “scores” of bodies, so “you couldn’t hardly count them”: 7

Senator SMITH. Any dead?

Mr. EVANS. One died on the way back, sir. There were plenty of dead bodies about us. Senator SMITH. How many? Scores of them?

Mr. EVANS. You couldn't hardly count them, sir. I was afraid to look over the sides because it might break my nerves down.

Evans further testified that he was still amongst the bodies at daybreak when the rescue ship Carpathia appeared:

Senator SMITH. A good many dead?

Mr. EVANS. Yes.

Senator SMITH. Did you see any women dead in the water? Mr. EVANS. No, sir mostly men. Senator SMITH. Was it daylight at this time? Mr. EVANS. Just breaking daylight.

Buley’s, Scarrot’s and Poingdestre’s accounts

Able seaman Edward J. Buley also noted that his boat was among the bodies and the wreckage when Carpathia appeared.

Senator FLETCHER. Did you get very far away from where the Titanic went down before the Carpathia was in sight?

Mr. BULEY. No, sir. When the Carpathia came and hove to, we were still amongst the wreckage looking for bodies.

Another seaman, Joseph Scarrot, testified at the British Inquiry that the water was thick with bodies, near the Titanic’s wreckage. He stated that there were “more bodies than there was wreckage”:

Mr. Scarrot: The boats were made fast and the passengers were transferred, and we went away and went among the wreckage. When we got to where the cries were we were amongst hundreds, I should say, of dead bodies floating in lifebelts.

440. Was it dark then? - Yes.

441. Still dark? - Yes, and the wreckage and bodies seemed to be all hanging in one cluster. When we got up to it we got one man, and we got him in the stern of the boat . . . the wreckage were that thick - and I am sorry to say there were more bodies than there was wreckage . . . We made sail and sailed back to take our other boats in tow that could not manage themselves at all. We made sail then, but just as we were getting clear of the wreckage we sighted the "Carpathia's" lights.

At the British Inquiry, Titanic’s seaman John Poingdestre in life boat number 14 admitted that he saw bodies in the water, at daylight:

2991. How far away from the "Titanic" were you? - About 150 yards.

2992. After she sank did your boat pull in towards the place where she sank? - Yes. 2993. For what purpose? - To pick up anybody who was there.

2994. Was there anybody there? - I never saw anybody. 2995. Did you see any corpses? - No.

2996. You saw nothing? - I saw some by daylight.

Thus, when Carpathia appeared, at daylight (approximately 4:10 a.m.), the bodies were seen by persons in life boats, near the wreckage left by the Titanic.

Collins, Senegal’s and Ray’s accounts

Assistant cook, John Collins, another Titanic crewman, testified that he saw Carpathia picking up bodies that were washed alongside the ship:

MR. COLLINS. She stopped in the one place, and, I think, lowered two or three of her own boats, and her own boats were kept in the water when one of our boats, the sailboat, went up alongside of her.

Senator BOURNE. Why did the Carpathia lower any of her boats as long as none of your boats were in distress?

Mr. COLLINS. To take up some of the bodies that had been washed up by the side of her.

A Carpathia passenger, Simon Senegel, observed that the “water was thick with bodies.” The Oakland Tribune reported on April 19, 1912:


NEW YORK, April 19. Simon Senegel, a Montreal merchant, who was a passenger on the Carpathia, said that after his vessel had rescued boatloads of women, a life raft on which were about twenty-four person was seen.

“One-half of these were dead,” said Senegel. “One of the Carpathia’s boats went to the raft and took off the living, leaving the dead.” “The water was thick with bodies.” The crew of the Carpathia in their work of rescue came across numerous bodies floating in the water. I know of seven instance of persons who had been rescued dying on board the Carpathia and being buried at sea.” 8

Poingdestre, Evans, Scarrot and Wilburn, strongly corroborate that the bodies were out there and visible to persons on the morning of April 15, 1912. Further, the Collins and Senegel accounts would appear to specifically establish that the bodies were seen, at least by some persons, from Carpathia.

Partial corroboration of Senegal’s account of the “raft” is found in the testimony of Frederick Ray, the Titanic’s saloon steward, who – like Senegel – says that saw the overturned life boat, from Carpathia.

Senator FLETCHER. Did you see the collapsible boats?

Mr. RAY. No sir not that I know of I did not see any collapsible boats.

Senator FLETCHER. In the morning?

Mr. RAY. No, sir only one that was turned upside down in the morning.

Senator FLETCHER. Where was that how far away from the wreck?

Mr. RAY. They were floating away. I saw that later on in the morning after I got on the Carpathia.

Senator FLETCHER. There was nobody in that boat then? Mr. RAY. No, sir they had been taken off.

Ward’s account

Finally, Carpathia eventually made it to the wreckage where the overturned life boat had been, and the bodies reasonably could be seen. Another Saloon Steward from Titanic, William Ward, testified that Carpathia came within “half a mile or so” of the site of the foundering to pick up his life boat, number 9:

Senator FLETCHER. Did the Carpathia come to you or did you go to the Carpathia?

Mr. WARD. We partially rowed and she partially came some of the way. We saw her at a distance. She was headed our way. She stopped and slued around a little, and we surmised that she was then picking up a boat. It was hardly light enough to see at the time. It was just breaking day at that time, but we could see her lights. Then, of course, we started to pull toward her. I think we were about the fourth or fifth boat to be picked up.

Senator FLETCHER. You were picked up about how far from where the Titanic went down? Mr. WARD. I should not think it would be more than about half a mile or so.

Carpathia, however, left without picking up any more bodies.

Mackay-Bennettis immediately dispatched to recover bodies

Meanwhile, that morning in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Titanic’s owners had already chartered the Mackay-Bennett to go to the scene. She was outfitted with embalming fluid, coffins, and canvas bags, for a body recovery mission. On Wednesday, April 17, 1912, at 12:35 p.m., she left Halifax for the scene of the disaster. 9 When Mackay-Bennett arrived at the scene, her crewman saw hundreds of bodies in the water: the bodies were found close together and once they saw more than a hundred that looked to the wondering crew of the Mackay-Bennett lie a flock of sea gulls in the fog, so strangely did the ends of the life belt rise and fall with the rise and fall of the waves. 10

S.S. Bremen’spassengers view the Titanicdisaster site

Many other witnesses saw “fields of bodies” floating in the abyss, for example, when the Nordeutscher Lloyd passenger liner Bremen bypassed the disaster site on Saturday, April 20, 1912.

The Nordeutscher Lloyd steamship S.S. Bremen.

The sight was appalling. It included a woman clasping a dog, several men held to a raft of deck chairs . . . even one woman who was purportedly holding a baby. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported, on April 25, 1912:


Captain and Passengers Say They Saw More than 150 Bodies Floating Near Scene of Disaster

New York, April 24-[Special]-- Capt. Wilhelm and passengers of the Bremen, which arrived today from Bremen, reported that between 3 and 4 o'clock last Saturday afternoon, while in latitude 42 N, longitude 49.23 W., in the vicinity of where the Titanic foundered, his vessel ploughed through fields of bodies of the victims of the disaster. "They were everywhere," the captain declared, "There were men, women, and children. All had life preservers on. I counted 125, then grew sick of the sight. There may have been as many as 150 or 200 bodies." "A short time before, about fifty or sixty miles north, we passed five icebergs in succession. Our lookout sighted them in time, however, and we had no difficulty in avoiding them." "Why didn't you slow down and take on some of the bodies," he was asked. "It was absolutely useless, for the simple reason that we had no means for caring for them." He said that he knew that the cable steamer Mackay-Bennett was searching for bodies and that he had communicated with its commander, informing him of where the bodies were. 11

One of Bremen’s passengers remarked that “We could see the white life­preservers of many more dotting the sea, all the way to the iceberg.” 12 The passengers and crew of Bremen recalled, in particular, seeing the overturned life boat in the waters at the time they saw the bodies. 13

Officers deny seeing bodies

On the morning of April 15, 1912, Carpathia’s Captain Arthur Henry Rostron, like Mackay-Bennett and Bremen, saw the overturned life boat. He observed the entire four mile wide area, at daybreak. It was horrific, with wreckage, and lots of ice. He accounted for all the lifeboats. 14 After recovering the survivors in the life boats, Rostron left the scene.

The Carpathia, Captain Rostron’s ship, which rescued the survivors
of the Titanic disaster. She was torpedoed during World War I.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee, Rostron depicted what he saw when he first arrived:

By the time we had the first boat's people it was breaking day, and then I could see the remaining boats all around within an area of about 4 miles. I also saw icebergs all around me. There were about 20 icebergs that would be anywhere from about 150 to 200 feet high and numerous smaller bergs also numerous what we call "growlers." You would not call them bergs. They were anywhere from 10 to 12 feet high and 10 to 15 feet long above the water. I maneuvered the ship and we gradually got all the boats together.

Rostron’s, Boxhall’s, Lightoller’s and Lord’s accounts

At the British inquiry, Rostron explained that until he reached the last life boat, he hadn’t come close to any of Titanic’s wreckage. In both the U.S. Senate and the British inquiries, Rostron reported seeing “one body.”

25496. Did you see any wreckage at all of the "Titanic"? – (Rostron) The only wreckage we saw there was very small stuff - a few deck chairs and pieces of cork from lifebelts, and a few lifebelts knocking about, and things of that description, all very small stuff indeed. There was very little indeed.

25497. Any bodies in the water? - We only saw one body.

25498. Would this be between four and six o'clock or something like that? - When we got up to the wreckage it would be about twenty minutes to eight, or a quarter to eight, or something like that.

25499. But you had been close to the spot for some time, had you not? - Yes, but we had not seen this wreckage. We had been dodging about picking up the other boats. I had not any idea where the wreckage was. As soon as we had finished taking the passengers from the boats I cleared off to another boat to pick them up, and was dodging about all over the place to pick them up. It was only when we got to the last boat that we got close up to the wreckage. It was close up to the wreckage. It would be about a quarter to eight when we got there.

25500. (The Commissioner.) I understand you to say those boats were spread over an area of five miles? - Four to five miles, yes.

Titanic’s officer Joseph G. Boxhall, also reported seeing the single body, as follows:

Senator SMITH. Did you see any floating bodies?

Mr. BOXHALL. I saw one floating body, sir.

Senator SMITH. That of a man or woman?

Mr. BOXHALL. A man, sir.

Titanic’s Second Officer, Charles Lightoller, who was on the overturned life boat near the scene of the sinking, claimed not to have seen any bodies:

Senator SMITH. I understood you to say that. What I particularly desired to know was whether at that time you saw any of the wreckage or floating bodies, dead or alive?

Mr. LIGHTOLLER. I saw none.

Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian, also sailed around the wreckage, and claimed to have seen no bodies, whatsoever. At the British Inquiry he testified:

7029. Did you see any wreckage anywhere? - I did.

7030. Where? - Near the "Carpathia."

7031. What did you see? - I saw several boats, deck chairs, cushions, planks.

7032. Collapsible boats? - I saw two collapsible boats [note: probably referring to “C” and “D,” not Collapsible “B”]

7033. Did you see any bodies? - No.

7034. Any lifebelts floating? - No.

7035. Any wreckage? - Yes.

7036. Much? - Not a great deal.

7037. Did you cruise round and search? - I did.

7038. To see if you could find any bodies or any living persons? - I did. I did not see anything at

Rostron got close to the wreckage before he had finished getting everyone aboard, in other words, before 8:30 a.m. Notably, Rostron then sent everyone inside for a memorial service.

At 8:30 all the people were on board. I asked for the purser, and told him that I wanted to hold a service, a short prayer of thankfulness for those rescued and a short burial service for those who were lost . . .I then got an Episcopal clergyman, one of our passengers, and asked him if he would do this for me, which he did, willingly. While they were holding the service, I was on the bridge,

of course, and I maneuvered around the scene of the wreckage.

The Senators questioned Rostron about the one body, and he explained:

I did not take him aboard. For one reason, the Titanic’s passengers then were knocking about the deck and I did not want to cause any unnecessary excitement or any more hysteria among them, so I steamed past, trying to get them not to see it.

The above testimony is somewhat inconsistent with Rostron’s British inquiry testimony, where he says he “dodged about all over the place” to pick up the life boats, not to avoid passengers seeing bodies. In any event, his American inquiry testimony suggests that he “maneuvered” or “dodged” to avoid passengers seeing a dead body or, perhaps, bodies.

Rostron “swung out” Carpathia’sboats

Meanwhile, Rostron says he had “swung out” Carpathia’s boats:

Of course lots of gear had been knocked out of the boats and thrown out of the way of the people as they were getting up so, while they were holding this service and while I was cruising around, I had had all of my boats swung out, ready for lowering . . .

While the passengers are inside at the service, and while he was maneuvering the ship, Rostron has his boats swung out, ready for lowering. For what? Rostron seems to imply that were out to recover “gear” that “had been knocked out.”

Rostron “heard” Tuesday afternoon, after leaving the disaster site, that Titanic’spassengers had worn life belts

Rostron admitted that he knew that Titanic’s passengers were wearing lifebelts --- but, he testified, he learned about the life belts later, on Tuesday afternoon, from passengers.

He noted “that was the only time I had anything to do with the people." Apparently without knowledge that Titanic’s passengers wore life belts, he purported to “cruise all around the vicinity of the disaster” to see if there were any such “people afloat.”

Mr. ROSTRON. I had very little opportunity of being amongst the passengers or any of them. To tell you the truth, I have been on the bridge, or about my duties most of the time. I had, however, one or two conversations with the passengers on Tuesday afternoon. That was the only time I had anything to do with the people, as I heard then that all the people on the Titanic, as far as they could see, had lifebelts on. They had all been supplied with lifebelts.

Senator SMITH. I assume that you kept watch to see whether there was any of these people afloat? Mr. ROSTRON. Precisely. I was cruising all around the vicinity of the disaster. Senator SMITH. How long did you cruise around there?

Mr. ROSTRON. In the actual vicinity of the disaster? Senator SMITH. Yes.

Mr. ROSTRON. Half an hour.

Passengers in the life boats approaching Carpathia were wearing life belts. Rostron saw those boats. Why did Rostron say that he learned only later on, the afternoon of the next day, Tuesday, that passengers aboard the Titanic had worn life belts?

Where were the bodies?

It seems incredible that literally “fields” of bodies could be seen days later by Bremen’s passengers, and “scores” of bodies, by Scarrot, only hours before Carpathia came up --- yet Rostron and Boxhall reported seeing only one, and Lightoller and Lord, none whatsoever. Senator Smith, too, noted the incongruity, and said so in his questioning of Boxhall.

Senator SMITH. Is that the only body you saw?

Mr. BOXHALL. That is the only body I saw.

Senator SMITH. The only body you saw either dead or alive?

Mr. BOXHALL. Yes dead or alive.

Senator SMITH. There must have been hundreds of bodies in the water about the Titanic.

Mr. BOXHALL. No one ever saw any, at all.

Who is to be believed? The answer calls for reading between the lines and connecting the “dots” . . . the “white dots,” in particular.

Captain Rostron: a “company man”

To begin with, Rostron was a career company man. Like most people, he was afraid of losing his job. Both immediately during the rescue, and thereafter, he constantly checked with company management. Moreover, during the trip back to New York, he checked out much of what he did with C. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the Titanic’s owner. Rostron admitted that even he, as captain, could be “liable to dismissal” at the hands of the “owners of the vessel.”

Senator SMITH. You say the captain of a ship is vested ordinarily with absolute control and discretion over the movements of his vessel?

Mr. ROSTRON. Absolutely. I wish to qualify that, however. By law, the captain of the vessel has absolute control, but suppose we get orders from the owners of the vessel to do a certain thing and we do not carry it out. The only thing is then that we are liable to dismissal.

It is worth noting that, months later, in November 1912, when Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian contacted him about his testimony, Rostron rebuffed him, wrote back that he had nothing further to say about what he saw that morning, and dutifully reported Lord’s contact of him to Cunard’s management. 15

A company man has no secrets from his bosses.

Rostron’s testimony

As set forth above, with his accounts above having “swung out” the boats, and learning about life belts in the afternoon, Rostron does not appear to have been a credible witness to the Senate Committee. Concededly, the Senators flattered him for rescuing the survivors. But Rostron evaded questions, gave some silly answers, and adopted a company man’s posture.

As of Friday, April 19, 1912, when Rostron testified, it had not yet been reported that passengers aboard the Bremen had seen “fields of bodies.” Further, Rostron testified on the first day of the proceedings and, as such, didn’t know what the passengers would say. Perhaps they would contradict him . . . perhaps they saw all the bodies out there . . . maybe they saw him lower Carpathia’s life boats to pick up bodies washed alongside . . . as John Collins testified.

Rostron did what most company men do when they are called as witnesses. He didn’t offer much testimony, supported the status quo, and constantly tried to leave himself openings so that he could rehabilitate his testimony, if necessary.

Reproduction of Cunard’s landing card aboard the Carpathia.

For example, his “one body” story, obviously, left open the possibility that if other passengers saw many bodies, he could amend his statement to say, “Oh, yes, further out, there were several more . . .”

Rostron defends Smith and the steamship companies

Frankly, the aftermath of the Titanic disaster was not a time for company men to beguile the public. But Rostron did. He defended Captain Smith, even likened himself to Smith in running his ship at top speed. Additionally, Rostron tried to rationalize the British Board of Trade’s inadequate life boat regulations as legitimate because newly-designed ocean liners were “life boats” in themselves.

Senator SMITH. Are these regulations of the British Board of Trade new regulations or old regulations?

Mr. ROSTRON. They are of recent date.

Senator SMITH. The fact that, under these regulations, you are obliged to carry 20 lifeboats and the Titanic was only obliged to carry 20, with her additional tonnage, indicates either that these regulations were prescribed long ago -

Mr. ROSTRON. (interposing): No, sir it has nothing to do with that. What it has to do with is the ship itself. The ships are built nowadays to be practically unsinkable, and each ship is supposed to be a lifeboat in itself. The boats are merely supposed to be put on as a standby. The ships are supposed to be built, and the naval architects say they are, unsinkable under certain conditions.

Senator Newlands caught him when he went out on a limb:

Senator NEWLANDS. How do you account for the fact that the Board of Trade of England, as the size of these ships has increased, has not compelled an increase in the number of life boats? Your maximum, as I understand, is 20 boats, is it not?

Mr. ROSTRON. Yes, I believe it is. But they have compelled a different construction of the ship itself. That is where the thing has come in.

Senator NEWLANDS. You regard each ship itself as a lifeboat?

Mr. ROSTRON. Yes, sir.

Senator NEWLANDS. That expectation was not realized in the case of this ship?

Mr. ROSTRON. It has been an abnormal experience as regards the Titanic.

Even though he would later rebuff Stanley Lord, when Lord asked for his help, Rostron came to Captain Smith’s defense. Rostron initially dodged the question of whether, like Smith, he would have run his ship at top speed, in an ice field. Then, incredibly, he drew an analogy between himself and Smith.

He said that he ran his ship at top speed into ice, and made it:

Senator SMITH. What would be a safe, reasonable speed for a vessel of that size on such a course and in proximity of icebergs?

Mr. ROSTRON. Of course I do not know the ship. I know absolutely nothing about her.

Senator SMITH. How would you have felt yourself about it. Suppose you had been taking that course with your ship how fast would you have felt it prudent to go in such a situation?

Mr. ROSTRON. I can only tell you this, gentlemen, I knew there was ice about.

Mr. ROSTRON. I knew the Titanic had struck ice. Therefore, I was prepared to be in the vicinity of ice when I was getting near him, because if he had struck a berg and I was going to his position I knew very well that there must be ice about. I went full speed, all we could -

Senator SMITH. You went full speed?

Mr. ROSTRON. I did, and doubled my lookouts, and took extra precautions and exerted extra vigilance. Every possible care was taken . . .

Senator SMITH. You had a smaller ship, however, and it would respond more readily to a signal?


Senator SMITH. Would it not?

Mr. ROSTRON. No, sir it would not. I do not maintain that, for one moment.

So, in effect, just like Titanic, Captain Rostron took the risk, went at a high speed into an ice field, and came out of it still afloat. Thus, he contended, going full speed wasn’t necessarily improper.

Rostron takes Ismay to New York

The Senators also became skeptical when Rostron told them that he was absolute master of his ship. They believed that he curried favor to C. Bruce

Ismay in immediately sailing back to New York, and otherwise accommodating Ismay’s desires, including, no less, collaborating on marconigrams, and maintaining a level of silence vis-à-vis the shore, for a long while.

Not surprisingly, Rostron anticipated the question, and volunteered his reasons for going back to New York. The Senators then questioned him about whether a managing director has any status aboard ship. Even though, earlier, he conceded that the company might fire him if he did something with out management’s approval --- Rostron, once again, told the committee that a managing director has “no authority whatever”:

Senator SMITH. Captain, is it customary to take orders from a director or a general officer of the company aboard?

Mr. ROSTRON. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. From whom do you take orders?

Mr. ROSTRON. From no one.

Senator SMITH. Aboard ship?

Mr. ROSTRON. At sea, immediately I leave port until I arrive at port, the captain is in absolute control and takes orders from no one. I have never known it in our company or any other big company when a director or a managing owner would issue orders on that ship. It matters not who comes on board that ship they are either passengers or crew. There is no official status and no authority whatever with them.

While, perhaps, technically true, Rostron’s other statements, and his constant checking with C. Bruce Ismay relative to any of his actions, seemed to beguile his representation that persons such as Ismay had “no authority” aboard Carpathia. Further, everyone knew that members of the shipping industry’s management, such as Ismay, were exceedingly powerful. They held wide influence in the industry, even with Cunard’s executives, such as its Managing Director, Booth, who was Rostron’s boss.

Senator SMITH. And you immediately reversed your course?

Mr. ROSTRON. I came right around for New York immediately, and returned to New York. Would you like to know my reasons for coming back to New York?

Senator SMITH. Yes.

Mr. ROSTRON. The first and principal reason was that we had all these women aboard, and I knew they were hysterical and in a bad state. I knew very well, also, that you would want all the news possible. I knew very well, further, that if I went to Halifax, we could get them there all right, but I did not know how many of these people were half dead, how many were injured, or how many were really sick, or anything like that. I knew, also, that if we went to Halifax, we would have the possibility of coming across more ice, and I knew very well what the effect of that would be on people who had had the experience these people had had. I knew what that would be the whole time we were in the vicinity of ice. I took that into consideration. I knew very well that if we went to Halifax it would be a case of railway journey for these passengers, as I knew they would have to go to New York, and there would be all the miseries of that. Furthermore, I did not know what the condition of the weather might be, or what accommodation I could give them in Halifax, and that was a great consideration - one of the greatest considerations that made me turn back.

These don’t sound like very good reasons, or truthful ones. In fact, Rostron may not have immediately turned his ship around and headed for New York. Wireless officer Harold Cottam testified that they originally aimed for Halifax.

Mr. COTTAM. . Yes I believe I did mention something about Halifax, sir, simply because the captain was bound for Halifax first, and then he changed his mind and was bound for New York. I may have mentioned Halifax. I can not quite remember whether I mentioned Halifax at first.

Senator SMITH. You say the captain was bound for Halifax?

Mr. COTTAM. Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH. How do you know?

Mr. COTTAM. I went and asked the captain, sir. Three or four ships around about wanted to know where we were bound for, and the captain said he was not decided, he thought he was bound for Halifax but later on in the morning he changed his mind.

Senator SMITH. At what time?

Mr. COTTAM. I can not remember the time.

Senator SMITH. About what time? Was it forenoon?

Mr. COTTAM. It may have been about noon.

Senator SMITH. Was it necessary to change his course, in changing his mind?

Mr. COTTAM. Slightly, sir

Seaman George Moore also seemed to indicate that Carpathia did not immediately head out for New York:

Senator NEWLANDS. Well, the ship [Carpathia] soon took a direction toward the southwest, did it not?

Mr. MOORE. I could not say.

Senator NEWLANDS. It must have done so in order to go to New York.

Mr. MOORE. I should say it went to the westward, sir.

Titanic’s owners had actually chartered a train there to pick up the survivors and return them to New York. Thus, P. Franklin and the owners in New York do not appear to have influenced the decision, since they were willing to move the passengers out of Halifax. Obviously, the senators strongly suspected that Rostron came back to New York, and not Halifax (even though Halifax was closer), at the instigation of Ismay. Rostron argued that he was “perfectly right” in making this decision to go to New York, purportedly without yet having Cunard's approval --- pretty gutsy for a company man.

Senator SMITH. And you took the chance?

Mr. ROSTRON. It was hardly a chance. Of course it was a chance, but at the same time I knew quite what I was doing. I considered that I was perfectly free, and that I was doing perfectly right in what I did.

Senator SMITH. I suppose no criticism has been passed upon you for it? Mr. ROSTRON. No.

Rostron’s pomposity

Rostron became so self-assured during the course of the interrogation that he refused to answer some of the Senators’ questions, suggesting that he didn’t want to speculate. He even levied a shot at ordinary passengers.

Senator SMITH. Have you any kind of knowledge at all regarding the force of the impact which wrecked the Titanic?

Mr. ROSTRON. I know nothing about it, sir. I have not asked any questions about this kind of business. I knew it was not my affair, and I had little desire to make any of the officers feel it any more than they did. Mind you sir, there is only this: I know nothing, but I have heard rumors of different passengers some will say one thing and some another. I would, therefore, rather say nothing. I do not know anything. From the officers I know nothing. I could give you silly rumors of passengers, but I know they are not reliable, from my own experience so, if you will excuse me, I would prefer to say nothing.

Rostron presented himself as a patronizing, self-assured company man who defended the organization, and the industry. Based on the foregoing, he did not turn out to be a particularly credible witness.

Postcard of Olympic Class ship.

An overturned life boat

But between the lines, and among the dots, even the articulate company man of the Carpathia revealed some key facts which would connect him to the bodies. For example, Rostron admitted that he saw the overturned life boat “near the wreckage” . . . as did the Bremen’s passengers, Mackay-Bennett, and several of Titanic’s crew, who saw the overturned life boat near the bodies.

Senator SMITH. How many of those were there?

Mr. ROSTRON. We accounted for two. One of these berthon boats capsized. That was three.

Subsequently, at the British inquiry in London, Rostron mentioned that he had, indeed, seen all of Titanic’s life boats that morning, including the overturned lifeboat:

25476. You picked up that boat. Altogether how many boats did you pick up? - We got 13 lifeboats alongside, two emergency boats, two Berthon boats. There was one lifeboat which we saw was abandoned, and one of the Berthon boats, of course, was not launched from the ship, I understand. That made twenty altogether.

25477. My impression is there is one collapsible still unaccounted for in that? - Oh, yes I beg your pardon, one bottom up one that was capsized. That was in the wreckage. That was the twenty.

25478. You picked up and actually took on board the "Carpathia" 13 of the "Titanic's" lifeboats? - Precisely.

25479. One of them you saw the occupants of the boat were rescued and taken on your boat, but the boat was left in the water? - Yes, she was damaged.

25480. You did not bother any more about her? - No.

25481. That made the 14 lifeboats. Then there were the two emergency boats were they taken on board the "Carpathia," or abandoned? - I cannot say which were the boats we took up. I took them as they came along, and after the whole thing was over we got as many boats as we could. I did not notice which they were.

25482. There were two emergency boats, and besides that there were -? - The two Berthon boats.

25483. The two collapsibles? - Yes and there is one Berthon boat which we saw amongst the wreckage bottom up. It was reported to me that there was another Berthon boat still on board the ship.

25484. That makes 19 out of the 20? - No, excuse me. It makes the 20 if you reckon the one still left, but I am not reckoning that. It comes to the same thing. If you reckon that one in, of course it accounts for the lot.

Rostron pinpointed the over turned life boat as being “in the wreckage” which, as set forth above, he approached at the very end of his “maneuvers.” All

the while he had Carpathia’s own lifeboats swung out on davits. In addition to seeing the overturned life boat that every other one of the “bodies” witnesses saw, Rostron admitted he had seen “one” body. He knew there were passengers in lifebelts, he searched the vicinity of the wreckage, sent passengers into a memorial service, maneuvered the ship so that people wouldn’t see something, and then hurriedly left the scene.

It seems obvious that something was out there that he didn’t want his passengers to see. If it was only “one” body, then he could easily have lowered one of Carpathia’s boats to recover that. In fact, as Collins and Senegel have stated, there were other bodies out there. Rostron’s diaphanously veiled actions that April morning, suggest he saw the bodies --- not just one body. 16

His “gear” and “knocked about” explanation for setting Carpathia’s boats in the davits doesn’t make sense. Further, Collins flatly contradicts it. In his British Inquiry testimony he doesn’t mention anything about the thing with the “gear.”

More likely, Rostron saw the bodies out there, had the boats in davits, and seriously considered whether to perform a body recovery operation while passengers were in the memorial service.

But he changed his mind and, instead, left the scene in a hurry. 17

Flocks of seagulls

Additionally, Rostron’s peculiar testimony about the Titanic’s passengers having worn life belts, which he says he only learned from passengers on Tuesday afternoon, well after leaving the disaster scene, deepens the mystery.

Did Rostron see Titanic’s passengers as the “flocks” of seagulls that Mackay­Bennett witnessed, or the “white dots” that Bremen’s passengers saw?

Did he realize that the seagulls or dots were Titanic’s passengers in life belts?

Rostron wasn’t asked these specific questions. But, his curiously defensive response, along with expressions of skepticism about passengers’ “rumors” --- suggests that he was posturing himself to answer those two questions in the affirmative.

Assuming he had seen the white dots, he would have excused his overlooking the bodies on the grounds that he was not informed, at the time, that those objects could have been Titanic’s passengers and crew. Of course, as set

forth above, this excuse lacks merit. Rostron obviously saw the life belts on passengers who came in life boats to his ship, and saw at least one body floating in a life belt. He knew Titanic’s passengers wore life belts.

The embarrassment of leaving the bodies behind

Why does it matter that Rostron left the bodies behind?

Leaving hundreds of people out there floating around may have made sense, given the circumstances that Rostron was faced with, including over 700 survivors in severe emotional and physical distress.

But one never knows how the public perceives something. Leaving the bodies behind might have been embarrassing for Cunard.

Indeed, as set forth above, one of the British company’s competitors, the German steamship company, Nordeutscher Lloyd, saw to it that the horrifying word about the bodies got out when its steamships, Rhein and Bremen, traversed the site on April 20, 1912. The Germans steered very close to the bodies, and went public with the lurid details.

Although newspapers reported that Mackay-Bennett had left Halifax for the disaster sight, there were no reports about the bodies rendered from that ship which were as horrifying as those of passengers aboard the Bremen.

Conclusion: “Morning after . . . the bodies were seen from Carpathia”

In any event, there is direct evidence (Collins’ testimony, and Senegal’s account), that the bodies were seen from Carpathia. Additionally, the circumstantial evidence is strong: Scarrot, Evans, and the other seaman and saloon steward from the Titanic saw “scores” of bodies at daybreak, when Carpathia arrived. Collapsible “B,” the “raft,” was purported to be in the wreckage, with the bodies. It was later seen there, along with “fields of bodies, by Bremen and Mackay-Bennett.

Ward reported that Carpathia was near the scene where Titanic had foundered.

Rostron saw the collapsible, admits to seeing “one” body, and his suspicious actions in sending the passengers inside, and hanging Carpathia’s boats out suggest that he saw more out there than cork, wood and a capsized boat. Perhaps he prepared for some sort of body recovery operation.

The manner of his testimony about being told on Tuesday that Titanic’s passengers wore life belts suggests, albeit remotely, that he may have witnessed the white dots that were the Titanic’s passengers, bobbing in the sea.

Finally, Rostron is a disappointing witness. He was a company man in the uniformed veneer of a ship’s captain, 18 defending his captain colleague, Edward Smith, sticking up for the British Board of Trade’s life boat regulations, and characterizing the Titanic as a “life boat.” He took it upon himself not to answer questions. Then, he tried to deny that he had curried favor to Ismay, and even showed contempt as he discounted “passengers silly rumors.”

He says he “immediately” steered for New York when, in fact, other testimony indicates that he may not have. Rostron expressed a grave concern that he could be “liable to dismissal” if he did something without Cunard’s approval, then self-assuredly insisted that he was “perfectly right” in going to New York without seeking anyone’s approval.

Fifth Officer Harold Lowe

Lowe was fast asleep when the Titanic hit the iceberg. When he eventually woke up, disturbed by noise, the ship was already at an angle. Lowe helped to load women and children into the lifeboats and took charge of lifeboat 14. After the cries and screams from the water had died down, Lowe put passengers from his lifeboat into others nearby before returning to pick up survivors. Lowe only found 4 people alive and one died before being rescued by the Carpathia. Lowe gave evidence at the inquiry.

Launching of the Titanic

After a lot of hard work, which lasted for about two years, the Titanic was partially completed. Its partly completed structure was launched on the 31st of May 1911, with over 100,000 people in attendance. After its launch, it took about 22 tons of soap to enable the Titanic’s passage into the River Lagan. Between 1911 and 1912, after it had been launched, the gargantuan ship was installed with its engines, interior, and other superstructures. There were also other little changes that were made to the original structure design however, they were not major alterations.

Watch the video: Deconstructing History: Titanic. History (July 2022).


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