Deep Dive into History: The Sinking of the Titanic

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Thursday, Apr 15 2021 by

Everyone has seen the movie and knows the story about the sinking of the Titanic, but few know the details about the ship’s creation and journey before it hit the fateful iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on April 14, 1912.

Construction in Belfast, Ireland

The ship was dreamed up as the world’s largest ship, a luxury liner to move people between Europe and the United States in style. It was commissioned by the White Star Line of Britain, and built in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

When the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic were built, no slips were big enough to build them. The ship was plagued by tragedy from the start, as eight men died during construction, which took nearly five years and cost $400 million in today’s dollars.

For years after the tragedy, Belfast did little to acknowledge the amazing ship or the tragedy of its sinking. However, the shipbuilding area was redeveloped as part of the city coming to terms with its history, and was turned into an area called Titanic Quarter.

Site of the slipways where Titanic and Olympic were built (Google Maps)
Site of the slipways where Titanic and Olympic were built

Titanic Belfast Memorial

Shortly after the sinking, the people of Belfast raised funds to erect a memorial to the souls who perished on the ship. The memorial was moved in time for the centennial commemoration of the tragedy to the Titanic Memorial Garden. It includes the names of 22 men who perished on the ship.

Titanic Memorial (Belfast) (StreetView)
Titanic Memorial (Belfast)

Titanic Belfast Monument

After decades of downplaying the ties Belfast had to the doomed ship, the city opened a monument to the ship on the centennial of its sinking on the site of the old shipyard where the Titanic was built.

The monument building has more than 130,000 square feet of floor space covered with galleries, community facilities, and stories related to the construction and sinking of the ship.

'Titanic Belfast' by Todd Architects (StreetView)
'Titanic Belfast' by Todd Architects

Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland

The Titanic left its origin point in Southhampton, England on April 10, and made a few stops before heading into the Atlantic Ocean. It first sailed across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France. They picked up a few hundred passengers, and then sailed to Queenstown, now Cobh, in Ireland.

Here, the ship took on 123 more passengers. The Titanic then set sail for New York City on April 11. There is a memorial in the city to the tragedy, which lists the names of the passengers from Queensland; 79 perished and 44 were saved.

RMS Titanic memorial in Cobh (StreetView)
RMS Titanic memorial in Cobh

Wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean

Four days into the journey, the Titanic began to receive warnings from other ships that large icebergs were sighted in the area. That evening, the ship hit an iceberg and began to sink. No more than two hours and forty minutes later, the ship had gone down.

Of the 2,224 passengers and crew on board, only 338 survived. More than two thirds perished by drowning or going down with the ship. The ship remained unmolested at the bottom of the ocean for more than 70 years.

In 1985, the ship was recovered by an expedition, and since then, renewed interest in the Titanic and the people who were on her maiden voyage has increased significantly.

Titanic location (Google Maps)
Titanic location

Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Right away, efforts to gather the dead and provide them proper burials was undertaken by the ship line. While many people were buried at sea, at least 209 bodies were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Those bodies who made it to Halifax were buried in cemeteries around the city.

Fairview Cemetery (StreetView)
Fairview Cemetery

More than 100 passengers were buried at Fairview Cemetery in a special section dedicated to the sunken ship. About one third of the bodies were not identified, and their markers have only their number and the date of the sinking.

There is a touching memorial to the “unknown child” who was later identified by DNA to be an 19-month old child who died along with his entire family.

RMS Titanic Victim's Graves (StreetView)
RMS Titanic Victim's Graves

“Unsinkable” Molly Brown

The Titanic was billed as a luxury cruise liner, but the ship was also used to ferry immigrants and laborers to the United States. In fact, the majority of passengers were second and third class passengers. Shockingly, the majority of those who survived were first class passengers. The disparity in survival caused an international uproar, and the insufficient amount of lifeboats led to international regulations that provided for safer shipping and emergency procedures.

One passenger who survived, and added fame and interest to the event was Molly Brown, a self-made millionaire and philanthropist. She worked to help people evacuate the sinking ship, and eventually got into a lifeboat. She attempted to get the lifeboat captain to pick up survivors, but he refused for safety reasons.

Once the rescue ship RMS Carpathia made it to port in New York City, Molly Brown was given the nickname “Unsinkable Molly Brown”. This moniker stuck with her her entire life, and she was memorialized in a play, movie, and as a character in the 1997 film Titanic.

Molly Brown ("The Unsinkable Molly Brown") House (Birds Eye)
Molly Brown ("The Unsinkable Molly Brown") House

These are just a few sites related to the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Even though it was more than 100 years ago, the event still resonates with many people. While many people died in the tragedy, it did have positive impacts on shipping travel. Regulations about lifeboat safety, evacuation protocols, and other safety measures are now a routine part of ship travel, saving countless lives over the years.