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Titanic Timeline

Titanic Timeline

 Titanic Timeline


-Thomas Henry Ismay purchases the White Star Line, a line of sailing vessels, originally founded about 1850 - and mainly engaged in trade centered on Australian goldfields.


-Ismay forms the Oceanic Stream Navigation Company in order to establish White Star as a high-class steamship service in the Atlantic passenger trade.


-First ships built for White Star by Belfast shipbuilders Harland & Wolff.


-J. Bruce Ismay admitted to partnership of the White Star Line. He takes over after his father's death in 1899.


-William J. Pirrie becomes chairman of Harland & Wolff.


-American author Morgan Robertson publishes the 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.


-The White Star Line purchased by the International Mercantile Marine Company, a shipping trust headed by U.S. financier J. Pierpont Morgan. While White Star ships will still fly the British flag and carry British crews, the company is essentially controlled by American interests.


-J. Bruce Ismay, age 41, with Morgan's full support, becomes president and managing director of International Mercantile Marine with complete control. As well, Harland & Wolff chairman William J. Pirrie becomes a director of Mercantile Marine.


-At a dinner party in William J. Pirrie's London mansion, Ismay discusses the construction of two huge ships (with a third to be added later) to compete with the luxury, size, and speed of rival lines. These ships are to be known as the Olympic class of liners, and are intended specifically to beat out the Cunard Line for the Atlantic luxury passenger trade.


July 29: White Star owners, including Ismay, approve in principle the design plan for the Olympic class ships prepared by builders Harland & Wolff under direct supervision of Lord Pirrie, with the assistance of his nephew Thomas Andrews.

July 31: A contract letter is signed for construction in the Belfast shipyards of Olympic, Titanic, and a third sister ship (Britannic) to follow. Ultimate decisions of design, equipment, and decoration are to be made by J. Bruce Ismay. The size of Titanic will be 882 feet 9 inches long, 94 feet wide, and 100 feet high to the bridge level. Final cost: £1,500,000 or approx. $7,500,000. New docks have to accommodate the size of these ships. Harland & Wolff build specially strengthened slips to take their weight, and a new gantry under which the will be built.

December 16: Keel laid down for Harland & Wolff yard number 400 - Olympic construction begins.


March 31: Keel laid down for Harland & Wolff yard number 401 - Titanic construction begins.


October 20: Olympic hull successfully launched.


May 31: Titanic hull successfully launched, witnessed by more than 100,000 people. At the time, (together with Olympic) she is the largest man-made object ever moved. Twenty-two tons of tallow, soap, and train oil are used to grease the slipway bed to coat and protect against the enormous three-tons-per-square-inch pressure of the freshly painted hull. Titanic towed by tugs to fitting-out basin. Outfitting begins.

June: Olympic leaves on her maiden voyage.

July: First projected date agreed on by White Star and Harland & Wolff for Titanic's maiden voyage - March 20, 1912.

September 20: Olympic (with Captain Edward J. Smith who would later captain Titanic) has her hull badly damaged in collision with Royal Navy cruiser Hawke. Titanic's maiden voyage delayed due to necessary diversion of workers and materials to repair Olympic.

October 11: White Star officially announces new date for Titanic's maiden voyage in the London Times - April 10, 1912.


January: Sixteen wooden lifeboats are installed on Titanic under Welin davits (designed to handle two or three boats). The original designer, Alexander Carlisle (who was no longer in the employ of Harland & Wolff) had suggested davits capable of carrying more boats, but presented it as an economy measure, and not in the interests of increased safety. Outdated British Board of Trade regulations mean that Titanic's 20 lifeboats (including four "collapsible" canvas-sided lifeboats) actually exceed requirements by ten percent capacity.

February 3: Titanic successfully dry-docked at Belfast's Thompson Graving Dock.

March: Engineering crew begins to assemble in Belfast, some actually living on board ship.

March 25: Lifeboats are tested; swung out, lowered, and hoisted back into position under davits.

March 31: Except for a few minor details in some passenger staterooms, the outfitting of Titanic is complete. Her capacity includes a size of 46,328 gross tons, with approximately 52,250 tons of displacement, 46,000 horsepower with 29 boilers, 159 furnaces, and funnels 73 feet above Boat Deck. She has three propellers and is estimated to be able to make some 24 knots full speed (although this is never put to the test). Although Titanic and her sister ship Olympic are identical in dimensions, more staterooms and suites were added to Titanic (plus structural additions) making her the heavier of the two. Titanic is now the largest ship in the world.

April 1: Sea trials delayed due to high winds.

April 2 - 6:00 AM: Sea trials begin. Titanic assisted by two tugs through Victoria Channel to Belfast Lough. All equipment tested, including wireless. Speed and handling trials undertaken, including various turning and stop-start maneuvers. Major stopping test conducted: runs full ahead at 20 knots and then stops full astern.

2:00 PM: Running test conducted. She travels for about two hours (about 40 miles) out into the open Irish Sea at an average speed of 18 knots, and then returns in two hours to Belfast. All tests meet Board of Trade standards. Trials have lasted less than a day.

8:00 PM: Leaves Belfast (under Captain Bartlett) for overnight trip to Southampton, her port of embarkation (about 570 miles).

April 3: Arrives port of Southampton just after midnight to begin provisioning and staffing for maiden voyage.

April 5 - Good Friday: Titanic is "dressed" in panoply of flags and pennants for a salute to the people of Southampton. Only occasion she is ever "dressed."

April 6: Recruitment day for remainder, and majority, of crew. General cargo begins to arrive. The final total cargo includes 559 tons and 11,524 separate pieces. As well, 5892 tons of coal are loaded on board.

April 8: Fresh food supplies taken on board. All final preparations overseen by ship's builder Thomas Andrews down to the tiniest detail.

April 10, Wednesday - Sailing Day:

7:30 AM: Captain Edward J. Smith boards Titanic with full crew. Officers have spent the night on board. Smith receives sailing report from Chief Officer Wilde.

8:00 AM: Entire crew mustered, followed by brief lifeboat drill using only two starboard boats, No's 11 and 15.

9:30 to 11:30 AM: Second-and-third-class boat-trains arrive and passengers board ship.

11:30 AM: Arrival of first-class boat-train from London at dockside. First-class passengers board and are escorted to cabins.

Noon: Titanic casts off and is towed from dock by tugs.

During downstream passage into River Test under her own steam, the water displaced by Titanic's movement causes all six mooring ropes on the New York to break and her stern to swing toward Titanic. Quick action narrowly averts a collision by only four feet. Departure delayed for an hour. This incident (along with the Olympic-Hawke collision) indicates unfamiliarity with ships of this size by those handling them.

1:00 PM: Titanic resumes 24-mile trip downstream to English Channel en route to Cherbourg, France.

4:00 PM: Boat-train from Paris arrives Cherbourg. Late arrival announced.

5:30 PM: Cherbourg - passengers finally board tenders and wait to be ferried out to Titanic.

6:30 PM: Titanic rides at anchor in Cherbourg harbor, all lights ablaze. Twenty-two cross-Channel passengers disembark, and some cargo is unloaded.

8:00 PM: 274 Cherbourg passengers are all aboard and tenders return to shore.

8:10 PM: Anchor raised and Titanic leaves for Queenstown, Ireland, taking her through the English Channel and around England's south coast.

April 11, Thursday morning: Captain Smith takes Titanic through some additional practice turns en route to Queenstown to test maneuverability.

11:30 AM: Titanic rides at anchor in Queenstown harbor, about two miles from land. 114 third-class and seven second-class passengers board from tenders with 1485 bags of mail. Seven passengers disembark.

1:30 PM: The starboard anchor is raised for the last time and Titanic departs on her first Trans-Atlantic crossing for New York. Estimated total number of passengers on board: 2227. (Exact total unknown due to

discrepancies in passenger/crew lists.)

April 11 to 12: Titanic covers 386 miles in fine, calm, clear weather.

April 12 and 14: Titanic covers 519 miles. Fine weather continues. Various ice warnings received, which is not uncommon for April crossings.

April 14, 10:30 PM: Heavy ice pack warning signaled by passing Rappahannock, which has sustained damage coming through the ice field.

April 14, Sunday: 9:00 AM: Titanic picks up wireless message from Caronia warning of field ice and icebergs in 42ºN, from 49º to 51ºW.

10:30 AM: Divine service held in first-class dining saloon.

11:40 AM: Dutch liner Noordam reports "much ice" in about the same position as the Caronia.

Noon: As usual, the ship's officers gather on the wing of the navigating bridge to calculate daily position with sextants: "Since noon Saturday, 546 miles."

1:42 PM: Iceberg warning received via the Baltic and "large quantities of field ice" in latitude 41º 51'N, longitude 49º 52' W about 250 miles ahead of Titanic. Message delivered to Captain Smith. Smith later gives it to J. Bruce Ismay, who puts it in his pocket.

1:45 PM: "Large iceberg" warning received via German liner Amerika (41º 27' N, 50º 8' W). Message not sent to the bridge.

5:30 to 7:30 PM: Air temperature drops ten degrees to 33ºF.

5:50 PM: Captain Smith alters ship's course slightly south and west of normal course - possibly as a precaution to avoid ice.

6:00 PM: Second Officer Lightoller relieves Chief Officer Wilde on the bridge.

7:15 PM: First Officer Murdoch orders forward forecastle hatch closed to stop the glow from inside interfering with crow's nest watch above.

7:30 PM: Three warning messages concerning large icebergs intercepted from the Californian (42º 3' N, 49º 9' W). Message delivered to bridge. Captain attending dinner party below. Ice now only 50 miles ahead.

8:40 PM: Lightoller gives order to look after ship's fresh water supply, as outside seawater is now close to freezing.

8:55 PM: Captain Smith excuses himself from dinner party, goes directly to bridge, and discusses calm and clear weather conditions with Lightoller, as well as visibility of icebergs at night.

9:20 PM: Captain Smith retires for the night with the order to rouse him "if it becomes at all doubtful..."

9:30 PM: Lightoller sends message to crow's nest to watch carefully for icebergs until morning.

9:40 PM: Heavy ice pack and iceberg warning received from the Mesaba (lat. 42º N to 41º 25' N, long. 49º W to 50º 30' W). Message overlooked. Wireless operators busy with passenger traffic. Altogether the day's six ice warnings show a huge field of ice some 78 miles long directly ahead.

10:00 PM: 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.

10:30 PM: Sea temperature down to 31º F.

10:55 PM: Some 10 to 19 miles north of Titanic, the Californian is stopped in ice field, and sends out warnings to all ships in area. When the Californian's wireless operator calls up Titanic, his ice warning is interrupted by a blunt "Keep out! Shut up! You're jamming my signal. I'm working Cape Race." The Californian's sole operator listens in to Titanic's wireless traffic and then at 11:30 turns off his set and retires for the night, as is the custom.

11:30 PM: Lookouts Fleet and Lee in crow's nest note slight haze appearing directly ahead of Titanic.

11:40 PM: Titanic moving at 20½ knots. Suddenly, lookouts see 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 down to the bridge: "Iceberg right ahead." Sixth Officer Moody on bridge acknowledges warning, relays message to Murdoch who instinctively calls "hard-a-starboard" to helmsman and orders engine room to stop engines and then full astern. Murdoch then activates lever to close watertight doors below the waterline. Helmsman spins wheel as far as it will go. After several seconds 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 elapsed from sighting to collision.

11:50 PM: During first ten minutes after impact, water rises 14 feet above the keel, forward. First five compartments begin to take on water. Boiler room No. 6, five feet above keel, is flooded in eight feet of water.

12:00 AM: Mail room, 24 feet above keel, begins taking enough water to float mail bags. Following reports to Captain Smith, now on the bridge, of water pouring into number 1, 2, and 3 holds, and boiler room No. 6, and his own rapid tour to inspect damage with Thomas Andrews, Smith asks Andrews for his assessment. Andrews calculates the ship can stay afloat from one to two-and-a-half hours only. This is based on the mathematical certainty that if more than four holds are flooded, once a compartment fills with water, the water will spill into the next compartment and so on. Titanic's bow begins to sink. The ship is doomed. Captain Smith orders CQD distress call for assistance sent out over ship's wireless. Titanic's estimated position: 41º 46' N, 50º 14' W. Boilers shut down and relief pipes against funnels blow off huge noisy clouds of steam.

April 15, Monday: 12:05 AM: Squash court, 32 feet above keel is awash. Orders are given to uncover the lifeboats and to get the passengers and crew ready on deck. Only enough room in the lifeboats for 1,178 of the estimated 2,227 on board if every boat is filled.

12:10 to 1:50 AM: 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 seems to increase until they are out of sight of each other.

12:15 to 2:17 AM: Numerous ships hear Titanic's distress signals, including her sister ship the Olympic, some 500 miles away. Several ships, including Mount Temple (49 miles away), Frankfort (153 miles), Birma (70 miles), Baltic (253 miles), Virginian (170), and Carpathia (58 miles) prepare at various times to come to assist.

12:15 AM: Band begins to play lively ragtime tunes in first-class lounge on A Deck, later moving up to Boat Deck near port entrance to Grand Staircase.

12:20 AM: Order given to start loading lifeboats with women and children.

12:25 AM: Order given to start loading the lifeboats with women and children first. The Carpathia, southeast some 58 miles, receives distress call and immediately heads full speed to rescue.

12:45 AM: The first lifeboat, starboard No. 7, is safely lowered away. It can carry 65 people, but leaves with 28 aboard. First distress rocket fired. Eight rockets will be fired altogether. Fourth Officer Boxhall observes vessel approach Titanic and then disappear despite attempts to contact her with Morse lamp. Boat No. 4 begins loading between 12:30 and 12:45.

12:55 AM: First port-side boat No. 6 lowered with only 28 aboard, including Molly Brown and Major Peuchen. Starboard No. 5 is lowered. Ismay is chastised by Fifth Officer Lowe for interfering with his command. (41 aboard - room for another 24.)

1:00 AM: Starboard boat No. 3 is lowered with only 32 aboard including 11 crew.

1:10 AM: Starboard No. 5 is lowered (capacity 40) with only 12 aboard, including Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, and seven crew. Port-side No. 8 loaded and lowered carrying only 39 people. It is steered in the water by the Countess of Rothes.

1:15 AM: Water reaches Titanic's name on the bow and she now lists to port. The tilt of the deck grows steeper. Boats now begin to be more fully loaded.

1:20 AM: Starboard No. 9 leaves with some 56 people aboard. Titanic has now developed a noticeable list to starboard.

1:25 AM: Port-side boat No. 12 is lowered with 40 women and children on board. Two seamen are put in charge of boat. After Titanic sinks, this boat is tied together with boats 4, 10, 14 and collapsible D. Later on survivors are moved from boat 14 to the other boats by Fifth Officer Lowe so he can return to pick up swimming passengers. Boat 12 is subsequently overloaded with 70 passengers, many rescued from collapsible D.

1:30 AM: Signs of panic begin to appear among some passengers on the ship. As port-side boat 14 is lowered with 60 people, including Fifth Officer Lowe, a group of passengers appears ready to jump in the already full boat, and Lowe fires shots into the air to warn them away. Titanic's distress calls now near desperation. "We are sinking fast" and "Women and children in boats. Cannot last much longer"

1:35 AM: Port-side No. 16 is lowered with over 50 people. Starboard boat No. 14 leaves with 64 people, mostly second and third-class women and children. Starboard boat No. 15 is lowered 30 seconds later with 70 aboard and barely avoids collision with boat 14 as it is lowered on top of No. 14. The latter pulls away in the water in the nick of time.

1:40 AM: Most of the forward boats have now away, and passengers begin to move to the stern area. Ismay leaves on collapsible C (39 aboard), the last starboard-side boat launched. The forward Well Deck is awash.

1:45 AM: Last words heard from Titanic by the Carpathia on her way to the rescue - "...Engine room full up to boilers..." Port-side boat No. 3 is lowered and leaves with only 25 people. She can carry 40.

1:55 AM: John Jacob Astor, refused entry to port-side boat No. 4 by Lightoller, sees his wife off safely as boat is lowered with 40 women and children and some crew aboard. In the rush, 20 places in the boat are left empty.

2:00 AM: Water now only ten feet below Promenade Deck.

2:05 AM: There are now still over 1,500 people left on the sinking ship. Collapsible D is one of the last boats left. It has room for 47 people. To prevent a rush on the boat, Lightoller waves (and possible fires) his pistol into the air and crew members form a circle around it, with arms locked together, and allow only women and children aboard. The boat is lowered with 44 aboard. Titanic's forecastle head sinks under water, the tilt of her decks growing steeper.

2:10 AM: Captain Smith releases wireless operators from their duties.

2:17 AM: Philips continues to send last radio message. Captain Smith tells crew members, "It's every man for himself," and is seen returning to the bridge, possibly to await the end. Thomas Andrews, the ship's builder, is seen alone in the first-class smoking room staring into space. 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 one hundred second and third-class passengers gathered at the aft end of the Boat Deck. The ship's band stops playing. Many passengers and crew jump overboard. 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.

2:18 AM: A huge roar is heard as all moveable objects inside Titanic crash toward the submerged bow. The ship's lights blink once and then go out. Many survivors witness the ship break in two. The bow half sinks.

2:20 AM: Titanic's broken-off stern section settles back into the water, righting itself for a few moments. Slowly it fills with water and again tilts its stern high into the air before slowly sinking into the sea. Over 1,500 souls are lost in the "greatest maritime disaster in history."

3:30 AM: The Carpathia's rockets sighted by lifeboats. Her normal speed is 14½ knots, but she has raced to the rescue at a shuddering 17½ knots.

4:10 AM: First boat, No. 2, is picked up by the Carpathia. Ice float all about the disaster area amid debris from Titanic.

5:30 AM: The Californian advised by the Frankfort of the loss of Titanic and makes for the disaster area.

5:30 to 6:30 AM: Collapsible A survivors rescued by boat No. 14, and collapsible B by boats 4 and 12.

8:30 AM: Last boat, No. 12, picked up by the Carpathia. Lightoller is the last survivor to come on board. The Californian arrives at side of the Carpathia, and then steams through disaster area to undertake final check for survivors.

8:50 AM: The Carpathia leaves area bound for New York. She carries 705 survivors. An estimated 1,522 souls have been lost. 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 later."

April 17: Hired by White Star, the Mackay-Bennett leaves Halifax to search for bodies at disaster site.

April 18, 9:00 PM: 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. 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 Titanic's boats. The Carpathia then returns to the Cunard pier to finally unload the survivors.

April 19 to May 25: Inquiry into the Titanic disaster undertaken by United States Senate Inquiry, headed by Senator William A. Smith. Eighty-two witnesses are called.

April 22: White Star sends the Minia out from Halifax to help overtaxed Mackay-Bennett, which has picked up 306 bodies. The Minia finds only another 17 after a week-long search.

April 24: As 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 6: White Star sends out the Montmagny from Sorel, Quebec, to help search for bodies. Recovers four.

May 15: White Star sends out the Algerina from St. John's, Newfoundland. Recovers only one body. Altogether the White Star-commissioned ships find a total of 328 bodies.

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 Captain Lord of the Californian, Lightoller who endures 1,600 questions alone, members of the crew, the ship's owners, and the members of the British Board of Trade. The final judgment recommends "more watertight compartments in ocean-going ships, the provision of lifeboats for all on board, as well as a better lookout."


April: International Ice Patrol created to guard sea lanes of North Atlantic under direction of U.S. Coast Guard.


February: Titanic's second sister ship, Britannic, is launched.


November: Britannic, converted to a hospital ship, is sunk by German mines.


November 18: The Grand Banks Earthquake is thought to have triggered a huge underwater mudslide which some feel may have buried wreck of Titanic in same vicinity.


After 24 years of safe and reliable service, including war service carrying troops, and four major refittings, Olympic is retired. She has crossed the Atlantic 500 times, steamed a million and a half miles, and earned the nickname "Old Reliable."


July: U.S. entrepreneur and explorer Jack Grimm funds scientific expedition which sets out to locate wreck of Titanic. Dogged by bad weather and equipment malfunction, expedition fails to find Titanic.


June: Jack Grimm's second sets out to locate Titanic, but again fails to find the wreck.


July: Third and final expedition funded by Jack Grimm fails to find Titanic.


September 1: Franc-American scientific expedition led by Dr. Rober Ballard finally discovers and photographs remains of the wreck of Titanic at a depth of 12,460 feet on the ocean floor.


July: Dr. Ballard returns to Titanic with a second expedition. Landing the submersible Alvin on her decks, he explores and photographs the entire wreck and debris field in detail.


The U.S. Congress moves to make Titanic an international memorial. A French expedition recovers approximately 900 artifacts from the Titanic wreck.


Director James Cameron begins production on a movie based on the disaster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.