When the Titanic first sank, more than two thirds of its passengers met a watery end. Would you have been one of the lucky survivors...?
When the Titanic was launched, she was the biggest ship in the world. A vast ocean liner, she was built to carry passengers and cargo to and fro across the Atlantic. Other ships may have been faster, but the Titanic's owners, White Star, claimed she was the biggest, the best, the most luxurious – and the safest ship of all time…
To make sure the Titanic didn't sink, her hull was made up of 16 separate sections. If two, or even three, sections got holes, the ship would still have time to sail to safety. White Star were so sure the Titanic was unsinkable, they didn’t put enough lifeboats on board. This would prove to be a BIG mistake…
On 10 April, 1912, the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage, from Southampton, UK, to New York, USA. At first, she made good progress, but just before midnight of day five, in the freezing-cold North Atlantic Ocean, an iceberg loomed out of the darkness. The Titanic was so big, she couldn’t change direction quickly enough. She scraped along the iceberg's side, tearing holes in at least four sections of the hull!
Captain Edward John Smith and his crew knew that the Titanic would sink in just a few hours, and so they quickly tried to make ready the few lifeboats they had. However, many of the passengers were asleep, and most didn’t believe that anything bad was happening. The ship was still afloat, and not tilting. And, after all, the Titanic was unsinkable – wasn’t it?
The first lifeboats were launched half-empty, wasting precious spaces. When the ship did start to go down, everyone rushed for the last lifeboats. But it’s thought that only about 705 of the 2,200-plus people on board made it to safety. Many jumped into the ocean to try to escape. But the water was a body-numbing 2°C, so most of those who went into the sea died from the cold, not from drowning!
The longest living survivor from the Titanic was Millvina Dean, who lived to be 97 years old. She was just a baby when she, her mother and brother made it into one of the lifeboats. Millvina lived to tell the tragic tale until 2009, when she passed away.
In 1985, oceanographer (a sea scientist) Dr Robert Ballard (right) used the Argo, a robot submarine, to find the wreck of the Titanic lying on the seabed. Since then, lots of interesting items have been salvaged from the sunken ship, such as tickets, letters and priceless jewellery.
So, if you had been on board would you have survived? It all depends on who you were...
- YOU were a woman or child: Women and children were allowed to board the lifeboats first. However, some men did get a place when the first few lifeboats didn't fill up.
- YOU were rich: First-class passengers were lucky – they had cabins on the upper decks, closest to the lifeboats. Many poorer passengers, in ‘steerage’ class on the lower decks, didn’t reach the lifeboat deck in time.
- YOU obeyed orders: If you had got into a lifeboat as soon as the crew told you to, you would probably have survived. Remember that, next time you're on a ship!
- YOU were brave:
Many people were too scared to leave the big ship for the tiny lifeboats. Others stayed on board because they didn’t want to lose sight of their friends or family. To survive, you needed the courage to go for it.
- YOU were willing to push: In the final struggle for lifeboat places, those who pushed, won!
- YOU had stamina: Some survivors were plucked from the icy water after hanging onto bits of floating wreckage for more than half an hour. They had hung on to life!