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Remembering the Titanic over a century later: What caused the luxury ship to sink, how many lives were lost?

Over a century ago, the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Sea, taking over a thousand souls that were trapped on board the massive cruise liner. 

Historians believe that disaster could have been avoided if the ship’s leadership had prepared with enough lifeboats and reduced their speed at night to avoid hitting the ice. 

Regardless, the tragedy of the Titanic shocked the world and resulted in numerous portrayals on the big screen and theater. 

Why did the Titanic sink?

The Titanic, one of the wonders of the world in 1912, became infamous after it sank within four days of its first voyage in the Atlantic Ocean

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Several factors before and during the voyage ultimately led to the Titanic sinking; however, the primary reason for the ship’s demise was colliding with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The damage from the iceberg ripped open compartments within the ship’s interior, and water began to flood the lower levels. 

The wreckage of the Titanic still lies below the North Atlantic Sea over a century after the event.

The wreckage of the Titanic still lies below the North Atlantic Sea over a century after the event. (Getty Images)

Immediately during the collision, approximately five compartments were breached before the water began to make its way throughout the entire ship. A variety of other reasons for the crash include incorrect navigation decisions and going too fast at night on the sea. 

The captain of the Titanic, E.J. Smith, ordered the crewmen to sail the ship at 22 knots in the North Atlantic despite earlier reports of icebergs in the water. 

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In addition, the crew had difficulty spotting the iceberg before the collision due to the lack of binoculars on board, making it almost impossible to avoid a disaster at night. 

How many people survived the Titanic sinking?

The sinking of the Titanic was one of the biggest maritime disasters in recorded history due not only to the unplanned tragedy of the iceberg hitting the ship but also because of the lack of lifeboats to save passengers. Much of the loss of life could have been avoided if the ship’s leadership had followed the necessary protocol to ensure sufficient lifeboats. 

The Titanic only had 20 lifeboats on board before taking off for the sea. The boat was originally designed to hold up to 32 lifeboats near the deck, but the numbers were reduced to allow for more space above the board. Furthermore, ship inspectors recommended that the Titanic increase its lifeboat capacity by nearly 50% before the voyage, but the advice was ignored. 

  • The Titanic movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet Image 1 of 2

    The infamous sinking led to creation of the movie "Titanic," in 1997, directed by James Cameron and starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. (CBS via Getty Images)

  • The RMS Titanic leaves England Image 2 of 2

    The Titanic left Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, for the United States, only to sink four days later. (AP Photo/File)

In total, more than 1,500 people died of the 2,240 passengers on board the luxury cruise liner. Much of the death toll comprised crew members – 700 deaths – and third-class passengers – 710 deaths. Only around 174 third-class passengers were able to survive. In comparison, approximately 706 people survived the sinking itself. 

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Many deaths occurred after the ship had sunk, with passengers forced to swim in freezing waters.

How long did it take the Titanic to sink?

Four days after the ship set sail from England, the Titanic sank on April 14 within less than three hours after hitting the notorious iceberg in the North Atlantic. 

One of the reasons more passengers died than necessary was the decision to delay the deployment of lifeboats. 

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There was approximately an hour-long delay between when the Titanic hit the iceberg and when the lifeboats were deployed with passengers seeking to survive. 

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