On this day, 99 years ago, the Titanic sailed out of Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage en route to New York. Joyous celebrations accompanied her departure as people shouted and sang. Well-wishers hugged their families and friends and bade them farewell as they boarded the ship. Passengers and onlookers alike marveled at the most luxurious and fastest steamship ever built as cameras rolled for the newsreels to carry the images to a public clamoring for details of the historic crossing. It was a glorious Wednesday.
On Sunday, April 14th, Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. It was shortly before midnight. The ship started taking on water and it soon became apparent to the captain and senior officers that the Titanic would sink. A call went out to get the women and children up to the lifeboats.
There had been no boat drills. There was no house address system to convey information to the passengers. And worst of all, there were not enough lifeboats to carry all of those on board. Information about the dire state of the foundering vessel was slow to get to the passengers according to testimony given in both the American and British Inquiries following the disaster. Many of the immigrants in third class remained below decks. Some historians believe the third class were barricaded behind gates, others say they were stalled by language barriers and fear of being separated from their families.
The crew struggled to ready the unfamiliar lifeboats on the new ship. Some of the first lifeboats to be lowered away were only half-filled. Then the rockets were fired to signal the need for help from any nearby ships. Panic broke out on the Titanic, now rapidly sinking by the head.
Within three hours of striking the iceberg, the Titanic broke apart and slipped beneath the sea, taking with her the lives of over 1,500 people on board.
A final note about the video featured in this post. The British Pathe website advises that some of the footage seen in the early parts of this film are not the Titanic, but are, in fact, her sister ship, the Olympic.