RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of 15 April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Of the 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, making it one of the most tragic maritime disasters in modern history. Most of the fatalities were of the lower classes of passengers. The largest ship afloat at the time it entered service, the RMS Titanic was the second of three Olympic class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, and was built by Irish yard labourers of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, many of whom died during construction work. Thomas Andrews, the Irish designing engineer who projected the Titanic, died in the disaster.
Under the command of Edward Smith, who went down with the ship (together with many gentlemen from the crew and passengers who sacrificed their lives to allow more space on the insufficient number of life boats) Titanic carried some of the wealthiest people in the world. As well as hundreds of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and elsewhere throughout Europe seeking a new life in North America. A powerful radiotelegraph transmitter was available for sending passenger “marconigrams” (telegraph messages) by “marconists” (from the name of the Italian inventor of the wireless telegraph Guglielmo Marconi) and for the ship’s operational use. Although Titanic had advanced safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors, there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard due to outdated maritime safety regulations. Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for 1,178 people—slightly more than half of the number on board, and one third of her total capacity.
On 14 April, four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland Titanic hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship’s time. The collision caused the ship’s hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard (right) side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea; the ship gradually filled with water. Meanwhile, passengers and some crewmembers were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partially loaded, which further aggravated the life loss of this disaster. At 2:20 a.m., she broke apart and foundered—with well over one thousand people still aboard. Just under two hours after Titanic sank, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived at the scene, where she brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors, mostly women and a number of children.
The disaster was met with worldwide shock and outrage at the huge loss of life and the regulatory and operational failures that had led to it. Public inquiries in Britain and the United States led to major improvements in maritime safety. One of their most important legacies was the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which still governs maritime safety today. Additionally, several new wireless regulations were passed around the world in an effort to learn from the many missteps in wireless communications—which could have saved many more passengers, specifically providing “marconist” wireless communications operative for the entire 24 hrs of each day of sea travel.
The wreckage of the Titanic, first discovered over 70 years after the sinking, remains on the seabed, split in two and gradually disintegrating at a depth of 12,415 feet (3,784 m). Since her discovery in 1985, thousands of artefacts have been recovered and put on display at museums around the world. Titanic has become one of the most famous ships in history; her memory is kept alive by numerous works of popular culture, including books, folk songs, films, exhibits and memorials and last not but not least by Robin Gibb and his Son RJ Gibb musical tribute.