Remembering the Titanic 2009

Sinking of the Titanic
The sinking of the Titanic as depicted in Untergang der Titanic, a 1912 illustration by Willy Stöwer

The British passenger liner Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean, four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. The largest ocean liner in service at the time, Titanic had an estimated 2,224 people on board when she struck an iceberg at around 23:40 (ship's time) on Sunday, 14 April 1912. Her sinking two hours and forty minutes later at 02:20 (ship's time; 05:18 GMT) on Monday, 15 April, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people, making it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

Titanic received six warnings of sea ice on 14 April but was travelling at a speed of roughly 22 knots when her lookouts sighted the iceberg. Unable to turn quickly enough, the ship suffered a glancing blow that buckled her starboard side and opened six of her sixteen compartments to the sea. Titanic had been designed to stay afloat with up to four of her forward compartments flooded, and the crew used distress flares and radio (wireless) messages to attract help as the passengers were put into lifeboats. In accordance with existing practice, the Titanic's lifeboat system was designed to ferry passengers to nearby rescue vessels, not to hold everyone on board simultaneously; therefore, with the ship sinking rapidly and help still hours away, there was no safe refuge for many of the passengers and crew with only 20 lifeboats, including 4 collapsible lifeboats. Poor management of the evacuation meant many boats were launched before they were completely full.

The Titanic sank with over a thousand passengers and crew still on board. Almost all of those who jumped or fell into the sea drowned or died within minutes due to the effects of cold shock and incapacitation. RMS Carpathia arrived about an hour and a half after the sinking and rescued all of the 710 survivors by 09:15 on 15 April, some nine and a half hours after the collision. The disaster shocked the world and caused widespread outrage over the lack of lifeboats, lax regulations, and the unequal treatment of third-class passengers during the evacuation. Subsequent inquiries recommended sweeping changes to maritime regulations, leading to the establishment in 1914 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) which still governs maritime safety today.


The RMS Titanic, a luxury steamship, sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic after sideswiping an iceberg during its maiden voyage. Of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board, more than 1,500 lost their lives in the disaster. Titanic has inspired countless books, articles and films (including the 1997 Titanic movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio), and the ship's story has entered the public consciousness as a cautionary tale about the perils of human hubris.

The Titanic was the product of intense competition among rival shipping lines in the first half of the 20th century. In particular, the White Star Line found itself in a battle for steamship primacy with Cunard, a venerable British firm with two standout ships that ranked among the most sophisticated and luxurious of their time.

Cunard’s Mauretania began service in 1907 and quickly set a speed record for the fastest average speed during a transatlantic crossing (23.69 knots or 27.26 mph), a title that it held for 22 years. Cunard’s other masterpiece, Lusitania, launched the same year and was lauded for its spectacular interiors. Lusitania met its tragic end on May 7, 1915, when a torpedo fired by a German U-boat sunk the ship, killing nearly 1,200 of the 1,959 people on board and precipitating the United States’ entry into World War I.

The R.M.S. Titanic departed from Southampton, England, for the first and only time on April 10th, 1912. The Titanic had nine decks with separate areas for first-class, second-class, and third-class passengers. There were close to 2,200 people aboard for the ship's maiden voyage.

One of the Greatest Maritime Tragedies in History.

On April 10, 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic left its port in Southampton, England, and began the transatlantic journey to New York City in the United States. Considered unsinkable, Titanic served as a luxury ocean liner for over 2,000 passengers and crew. On April 15, Titanic sank in just over two and a half hours after colliding with an iceberg.

More than one hundred years later, National Geographic Education marks the anniversary of one of the greatest maritime tragedies in history. From Titanic’s construction in Belfast, Ireland, to its discovery under icy waters by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Robert Ballard and oceanographer Jean-Louis Michel in 1985, the Titanic has long captivated the public mind. Use this collection of multimedia education resources to contextualize the anniversary for your students.

Timeline and Facts About the Titanic

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic embarked on its maiden voyage, sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City. Four days later the luxury liner struck an iceberg, and early the next day it sank, killing some 1,500 people. The tragedy captured the world’s imagination and made the Titanic an enduring legend.

  • On March 31, 1909, construction of the Titanic begins in Belfast, Ireland.
  • On May 31, 1911, the Titanic is launched, and later the fitting-out phase starts.
  • The maiden voyage begins on April 10, 1912, as the ship leaves Southampton, England.
  • On April 11, 1912, the Titanic makes its final European stop, at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland.
  • On April 14, 1912, an iceberg is spotted at 11:35 PM, but it is too late to avoid a collision.
  • On April 15, 1912, at 12:15 AM the first distress signals are sent.
  • At 12:20 AM the Carpathia rushes toward the Titanic.
  • At 12:45 AM the first lifeboats are lowered.
  • At 2:18 AM the Titanic’s bow sinks.
  • At 2:20 AM the Titanic founders.
  • At 3:30 AM survivors are rescued by the Carpathia.
  • On September 1, 1985, the shipwreck is discovered by an expedition led by Robert Ballard.

Titanic: First ever full-sized scans reveal wreck as never seen before
The bow of the Titanic is still instantly recognisable even after so long underwater

The world's most famous shipwreck has been revealed as never seen before. The first full-sized digital scan of the Titanic, which lies 3,800m (12,500ft) down in the Atlantic, has been created using deep-sea mapping. It provides a unique 3D view of the entire ship, enabling it to be seen as if the water has been drained away.

The hope is that this will shed new light on exactly what happened to the liner, which sank in 1912.
  • 'Haunting' new footage of Titanic shipwreck
  • Shackleton's lost ship found after 107 years
  • The book that records all disasters at sea
More than 1,500 people died when the ship struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. "There are still questions, basic questions, that need to be answered about the ship," Parks Stephenson, a Titanic analyst, told BBC News. He said the model was "one of the first major steps to driving the Titanic story towards evidence-based research - and not speculation."

The Titanic has been extensively explored since the wreck was discovered in 1985. But it's so huge that in the gloom of the deep, cameras can only ever show us tantalizing snapshots of the decaying ship - never the whole thing. The new scan captures the wreck in its entirety, revealing a complete view of the Titanic. It lies in two parts, with the bow and the stern separated by about 800m (2,600ft). A huge debris field surrounds the broken vessel. The scan was carried out in summer 2022 by Magellan Ltd, a deep-sea mapping company, and Atlantic Productions, who are making a documentary about the project. Submersibles, remotely controlled by a team on board a specialist ship, spent more than 200 hours surveying the length and breadth of the wreck. They took more than 700,000 images from every angle, creating an exact 3D reconstruction.

Titan submersible implosion
MV Polar Prince departed St. John's, Newfoundland (1), on 16 June 2023, and arrived at the dive site (2) on 17 June 2023, where Titan was deployed and began its descent the next day

On 18 June 2023, Titan, a submersible operated by American tourism and expeditions company OceanGate, imploded during its descent in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 370 nautical miles (690 km) off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, during a tourist expedition to view the wreck of the Titanic. The submersible contained Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate; Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French deep sea explorer and Titanic expert; Hamish Harding, a British businessman; and Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, a Pakistani-British businessman and his son.

Communication with Titan was lost 1 hour and 45 minutes into its dive, and authorities were alerted when it failed to resurface at the scheduled time later that day. After a search lasting nearly 80 hours, a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) discovered a debris field containing parts of Titan, about 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the bow of the Titanic. The search area was informed by the United States Navy's (USN) sonar detection of an acoustic signature consistent with an implosion around the time communications with the submersible ceased, suggesting the pressure hull had imploded while Titan was descending, resulting in the instantaneous deaths of all five occupants.

The search and rescue operation was conducted by an international team led by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), USN, and Canadian Coast Guard. Support was provided by aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force and United States Air National Guard, a Royal Canadian Navy ship, as well as several commercial and research vessels and ROVs. Numerous industry experts had raised concerns about the safety of the vessel. OceanGate executives, including Rush, had not sought certification for Titan, arguing that excessive safety protocols hindered innovation.