Titanic History Timeline
The Titanic casts off and begins her maiden voyage. She has a near miss with the steamer
New York caused by the suction of Titanic's enormous displacement.
The unprofitable White Star Line is purchased by Thomas Henry Ismay and Sir Edward
Thomas Ismay's eldest son, J. Bruce Ismay is made a partner of White Star and one year
later Thomas retires.
American author Morgan Robertson publishes the short novel "Futility" in
which a British passenger liner called the Titan hits an iceberg and sinks on her maiden
voyage without enough lifeboats in the month of April in the North Atlantic. The fictional
ship is eerily similar to the yet-to-be conceived Titanic in size, speed, equipment,
numbers of passengers (both rich and poor), and those lost.
White Star Lines is taken over by International Mercantile Marine Company created by J.
Pierpoint Morgan. The purchase price is £10,000,000. J. Bruce Ismay stays on to
eventually become the managing director of White Star.
J. Bruce Ismay and Lord James Pirrie, a partner in the firm of Harland and Wolff meet
at a dinner party. Plans are made to build two luxury ships, the Olympic and the Titanic,
with a third, the Gigantic (renamed Britannic), to be built later. Cost of each:
Construction of the Olympic and Titanic begins in Belfast, Ireland, at the Harland and
- October 20:
- The Olympic is successfully launched.
- May 31:
- The hull of the Titanic is successfully launched. 10 months of fitting out follow.
- The Olympic leaves on her maiden voyage.
- September 20:
- The Olympic, outbound from Southampton, has a major collision with H.M.S. Hawke, a
British Royal Navy cruiser. Repairs made back at Harland and Wolff delay the fitting out
of the Titanic one month.
- Sixteen wooden lifeboats, along with four collapsible canvas-sided boats, are fitted on
board the Titanic.
- March 31:
- The outfitting of the Titanic is complete.
- April 10: Wednesday - Sailing day
- 9:30 to 11:30 am:
- Passengers arrive in Southampton and board ship.
The Titanic rides anchor in Cherbourg, France.
The Titanic leaves for Queenstown, Ireland.
April 11: Thursday
April 12 and 13: Friday and Saturday
The Titanic sails through calm, clear weather.
April 14: Sunday
Seven ice warnings are received during the day. Reports come in from the Noordamm,
Caronia, Baltic, Amerika, Californian and Mesaba.
- Anchored off of Roche's Point, Queenstown, Ireland. Francis Browne, a Jesuit seminarian,
disembarks and takes the last known photograph of the Titanic for the next 73 years. The
Titanic leaves Queenstown for New York.
April 15: Monday
- Church service held in first-class dining saloon.
- Lightoller relieved on bridge by First officer Murdoch. Lookouts in crow's nest
relieved. Warning to watch for icebergs passed between the watches. Temperature is 32º F,
sky cloudless, air clear.
- The Californian sends a wireless message directly to the Titanic telling them that they
were stopped and surrounded by ice.
- The Titanic is steaming at 20.5 knots. Suddenly, lookouts, Fredrick Fleet and Reginald
Lee, see an iceberg dead ahead about 500 yards away towering some 55-60 feet above the
water. They immediately sound the warning bell with three sharp rings and telephone the
bridge: "Iceberg right ahead." Sixth officer Moody on bridge acknowledges
warning, relays message to Murdoch who instinctively calls "hard-a-starboard" to
the helmsman and orders the engine room to stop engines and then orders full astern.
Murdoch then activates the lever to close all watertight doors below the waterline. The
helmsman spins the wheel as far as it will go. After several seconds, the Titanic begins
to veer to port, but the iceberg strikes starboard bow side and brushes along the side of
the ship and passes by into the night. The impact, although jarring to the crew down in
the forward area, is not noticed by many of the passengers. Thirty-seven seconds have
passed from sighting to collision.
- Captain Smith asks designer Thomas Andrews and the ship's carpenter to conduct a visual
inspection of the damage. Water has poured in and risen 14 feet in the front part of the
- Captain Smith is told by Andrews that the ship can only stay afloat for a couple of
hours. He orders radio operators Harold Bride and Jack Phillips to send "CQD",
the distress call. The Titanic's estimated position: 41º 46' N, 50º 14' W. The boilers
are shut down and relief pipes against funnels blow off huge noisy clouds of steam.
- Orders are given to uncover the lifeboats and to get the passengers and crew ready on
deck. But there is only enough room in the lifeboats for about half of the estimated 2,228
people on board.
- 12:10 to 1:50am:
- Several crew members on the Californian, some 10 to 19 miles away, see lights of a
steamer. A number of attempts to make contact with the ship with Morse lamp fail. Rockets
are observed, but as they appear so low over the ship's deck, and make no sound, they do
not seem like distress rockets, and no great concern is taken. Distance between ships seem
to increase until they are out of sight of each other.
- 12:15 to 2:17am:
- Numerous ships receive the Titanic's distress signal, including her sister ship the
Olympic, some 500 miles away. Several ships, including Mount Temple (49 miles away),
Frankfort (153 miles away), Birma (70 miles), Baltic (243 miles), Virginian (170), and
Carpathia (58 miles) prepare at various times to come to assist.
- The order is given to start loading the lifeboats with women and children first. The
Carpathia heads, full speed, to the rescue.
- The first of the lifeboats is safely lowered away. It can carry 65 people but pulls away
from the Titanic carrying only 28! The first distress rocket is fired. Eight rockets will
be fired throughout the night.
- Water begins to reach the Titanic's name on the bow. The tilt of the deck grows
increasingly steeper. Lifeboats now begin to leave more fully loaded.
- Most of the forward lifeboats have been lowered. Passengers now move towards the stern
of the ship.
- The last lifeboat leaves. There are now over 1,500 people left on board the sinking
ship. The tilt of the Titanic's decks grows steeper by the minute.
- Phillips continues to send last radio message. Capt. Smith tells crew members,
"It's every man for himself," and returns to the bridge to await the end. Thomas
Andrews, the ship's builder, is seen alone in the first-class smoking room staring into
space. The Titanic's bow plunges under enabling the ensnared collapsible B to float clear
upside down. Father Thomas Byles hears confession and gives absolution to over 100 second
and third class passengers gathered at the aft end of the Boat Deck. The ships band stops
playing. Many passengers and crew jump overboard The Titanic's forward funnel collapses
crushing a number of swimming passengers. Collapsible A now floats free and about two
dozen people in the water grab hold of it. It clears right side up, but is swamped and
dangerously overloaded. Lowe, in boat no. 14, saves them just before dawn. Probably as
many as half, however, have died.
- Items in the ship are heard crashing through walls and falling toward the sinking bow.
The ship's lights blink once and then go out. Several survivors see the ship break in two.
The bow section sinks.
- The Titanic's broken off stern section settles back into the water, becoming level for a
few moments. Slowly it fills with water and again it tilts its end high into the air,
before sinking vertically into the sea. Those struggling in the icy water slowly freeze to
death. Over 1500 people perish.
- The rescue ship, Carpathia's rockets are sighted by the survivors in the lifeboats.
- The first lifeboat is picked up by Carpathia.
- The Carpathia leaves the area bound for New York, carrying 705 survivors. J. Bruce Ismay
wires White Star New York offices: "Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this
morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars
- April 17:
- Hired by White Star, the Mackay-Bennet leaves Halifax to search for bodies at the
- April 18:
- The Carpathia arrives New York. She outruns hordes of newspaper reporters in boats
clamoring for news. As the Carpathia passes Statue of Liberty, 10,000 people are on hand
to watch. The Titanic's lifeboats hang at her sides. She passes the Cunard pier (no. 54)
and steams on up-river to the White Star piers, there to lower the Titanic's boats. The
Carpathia then returns to the Cunard pier to finally unload the survivors.
- April 19 to May 25:
- An inquiry into the Titanic disaster is conducted by the United States Senate, headed by
Senator William A. Smith. Eighty-two witnesses are called.
- April 22 to May 15:
- Several ships are sent to the disaster site to search for bodies. A total of 328 bodies
were found floating around the area.
- April 24:
- As the Titanic's sister ship Olympic is about to leave Southampton, her "black
gang" (stokers) go out on strike. They will not work on a ship that does not carry
enough lifeboats. 285 crew desert ship, and the Olympic's voyage is canceled.
- May 2 to July 3:
- British Board of Trade Inquiry is conducted. 25,622 questions are asked of 96 witnesses,
including such expert witnesses as the inventor of radio, Marconi, and the explorer Sir
Ernest Shackleton regarding ice and icebergs. The only passenger witnesses are Sir Cosmo
and Lady Duff Gordon and J. Bruce Ismay. Other witnesses include Capt. Lord of the
Californian, Lightoller, who endures 1600 questions alone, members of the crew, the ship's
owners, and members of the British Board of Trade. The final judgement recommends
"more watertight compartments in ocean-going ships, the provision of lifeboats for
all on board, as well as a better lookout."
- May 14:
- A one reel silent movie "Saved From the Titanic" is premiered. It starred
actor Dorothy Gibson who was also a Titanic survivor.
As a result of the Titanic disaster, the International Ice Patrol is created to guard
the North Atlantic sea lanes.
In the midst of public ridicule and rumors, J. Bruce Ismay loses his position as
chairman of White Star Lines by the IMM board of directors.
- The Titanic's second sister ship, the Britannic, is launched. She is sunk two years
later during the First World War.
Molly Brown dies in New York City at age 65.
After 24 years of service, including war service carrying troops, and four major
refittings, the Olympic is retired and scraped. She has crossed the Atlantic 500 times,
steamed a million and a half miles and earned the nickname "Old Reliable."
A reclusive J. Bruce Ismay dies at the age of 74.
Walter Lord writes a non-fiction best seller, "A Night To Remember". Three
years later a movie of the same title, based on the book, is made.
The film version of the Meredith Wilson's musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown is
released starring Debbie Reynolds as the most famous Titanic hero.
Clive Cussler's "Raise The Titanic" is made into a movie.
U.S. entrepreneur and explorer Jack Grimm funds a scientific expedition which set out
to locate the wreck of the Titanic. Dogged by bad weather and equipment malfunctions, the
expedition fails to find the Titanic.
Jack Grimm unsuccessfully attempts to locate the Titanic on his second expedition.
The third and final expedition funded by Jack Grimm fails to find the Titanic.
- September 1:
A joint French - American scientific expedition, IFREMER/Woods Hole, led by
Jean-Louis Michel and Robert
Ballard discovers the wreck of the Titanic at a depth of 12,500 feet.
Dr. Ballard returns to the Titanic and conducts extensive photographic exploration of
the wreck. Towed submersible used to photograph much of the exterior. Manned dives with
robot sub photograph significant sections of interior and exterior.
RMS Titanic Inc. is formed by an international group of businessmen anxious to see the
Titanic's remains preserved. In cooperation with the French National Institute for
Research and Exploration of the Sea (IFREMER), Titanic Inc. conducts research and recovery
expeditions to the wreck site in 1987, 1993, 1994 and 1996. Some 5,000 artifacts have been
recovered and are being preserved.
IMAX Corporation/P. P. Shirsov Institute films the Titanic in wide screen IMAX format.
Biological studies and metallurgical sampling of the hull plating are performed.
The Wreck of the Titanic - a major exhibition - opens at the National Maritime Museum,
London, displaying artifacts recovered by Titanic Inc. between 1987 and 1993.
P. P. Shirsov Institute & James Cameron conduct underwater filming for a fictional
motion picture slated for release in late 1997.
- August 26:
- IFREMER/RMS Titanic Inc. perform site mapping, artifact recovery, and photographic
exploration of the interior and exterior. The expedition tries, but fails, to bring up an
11-ton piece of the hull.
- December 18:
- The movie "Titanic", written and directed by James Cameron, begins its release
around the world. At over $200 million, "Titanic" is the most expensive motion
picture ever made. It goes on to win 11 Academy Awards.
- August 10:
- George Tulloch leads IFREMER/RMS Titanic Inc. in recovering a 20 ton piece of Titanic's
hull. It is successfully brought aboard the vessel Abeille.
- Amid widespread controversy Americans David Leibowitz and Kimberley Miller are married
inside a deep sea submersible at the gravesite of the Titanic.
- May 19:
- Walter Lord, author of the 1955 "A Night to Remember", dies in New York City
of Parkinson's Disease. He was 84.
- December 3
- On the 20th anniversary of the finding of the Titanic, co-discoverer
Robert Ballard proposes plans for the long term preservation of the
Titanic. He wishes to see the Titanic maintained as an undersea
Copyright © 1996-2005 James E. Sadur.