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On April 10, the RMS Titanic, one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever built, departed Southampton, England.on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Titanic was designed by the Irish shipyard William Pirrie and built in Belfast, and it was thought to be the fastest ship in the world. It spanned 883 feet from stern to bow, and its hull was divided into 16 compartments that were supposed to be watertight. Because four of these compartments could be flooded without causing a critical loss of buoyancy, the Titanic was considered unsinkable.
After stopping in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up some final passengers, the huge ship sped off toward New York City. However, just before midnight on April 14, the RMS Titanic failed to veer off course from an iceberg and ruptured at least five of her hull compartments. These compartments filled with water and pushed down the ship’s bow.
Because the Titanic’s compartments were not capped at the top, water from the ruptured compartments filled each successive compartment, causing the bow to sink and the stern to rise to a nearly vertical position above the water. . The Titanic then split in half, and around 2:20 a.m. on April 15, the stern and bow sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Due to the shortage of lifeboats and the lack of satisfactory emergency procedures, more than 1,500 people sank on the sinking ship or froze to death in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Most of the 700 survivors were women and children. Several notable American and British citizens died in the tragedy, including prominent British journalist William Thomas Stead and the heirs to the Straus, Astor and Guggenheim fortunes.
An hour and 20 minutes after the Titanic sank, Cunard’s ocean liner Carpathia arrived. Survivors from lifeboats were brought aboard and a few more were pulled from the water. Later it was discovered that Leyland’s ocean liner Californian had been less than 20 miles away at the time of the accident, but he had not heard the Titanic’s distress signals because his radio operator was out of order.
The announcement of the details of the tragedy generated outrage in both sides of the Atlantic. In the aftermath of the disaster, the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was held in 1913. Rules were adopted requiring each ship to have lifeboat space for each person on board and for lifeboat drills to be conducted.
An International Ice Patrol was established to monitor icebergs in North Atlantic shipping lanes. Ships were also required to maintain 24-hour radio watch.
On September 1, 1985, a joint US-French expedition located the wreckage of the Titanic. at the bottom of the ocean at a depth of about 13,000 feet. The ship was explored by manned and unmanned submersibles, which shed new light on the details of her sinking.