In a time when Twitter, Facebook and Google weren’t even a forethought, one of the most astonishing tragedies unfolded without the world even knowing.

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set out on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City with 2,224 passengers on board.

Her passengers included some of the wealthiest people in the world to emigrants seeking a new life in North America. The ship was designed to be the best in comfort and luxury, with a gymnasium, swimming pool, several libraries and high class restaurants on board.

She had advanced safety features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors in case of an emergency. Through a series of ill-advised decisions, there weren’t enough lifeboats on board, but no one could see the need for them. The Titanic was thought to be the unsinkable ship.

Four days into the ship’s voyage, about 375 miles south of Newfoundland, the ship hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. The collision caused the hull plates to buckle inward in several compartments on the starboard side and open five of the 16 watertight compartments to the sea.

Even though other ships had warned the Titanic of drifting ice in the area, Captain Edward Smith could not “imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”

The ship gradually filled with water over the next two and a half hours. Many of the lifeboats were launched partly full with passengers and crew members. Women and children were the first to board the life boats. Many men (over 90 percent from the second class) and families who chose not to be separated remained aboard the ship.

Just before 2:20 a.m., the Titanic broke apart and sank, bow first, into the deep abyss with over 1,000 still aboard. Those in the water died within minutes due to hypothermia. The 710 survivors were taken aboard the RMS Carpathia a few hours later

Initial reports of what happened to the Titanic and her passengers were that the ship was being towed to port by the SS Virginian. It wasn’t until the Carpathia reached New York, three days after the sinking, that the world learned of Titanic’s fate.

Research from Texas State University has shown a new theory in what caused the ship to sink: a ‘celestial fluke’ lead to a plethora of icebergs. According to this study, factors caused higher sea-levels, causing grounded icebergs to break free and flow in greater numbers than usual for this time of year.

It was thought that the ship sank in one piece. Many schemes were put together to raise the wreckage, but the depth of the wreckage posed the greatest problem. The ships hull lies over 12,000 feet below the surface of the water, where water pressure is over 6,500 pounds per square inch. Several expeditions were mounted to find the Titanic, but she was not found until Sept. 1, 1985.

The team discovered that the ship had split apart before hitting the sea bed at considerable speed, the bow and stern lie about a third of a mile apart in a canyon on the continental shelf off the coast of Newfoundland. The force of the hit caused the bow to crumple and the stern to collapse entirely.

Debris was found in a field around the two pieces measuring five miles by three miles. Thousands of items from the ship and it’s passengers have been recovered from the sea bed, including furniture, dinnerware and personal items. Many artifacts can be seen in touring exhibits around the world and in permanent exhibition at the Luxor Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, the 1997 feature film, “Titanic,” was shown in 3D and in IMAX theaters. The cruise ship, Balmoral, was chartered to follow the original route of the Titanic, intending to stop over the point on the sea bed where she rests on April 15. Fifty of Balmoral’s passengers are descendants of some who died on the Titanic.

It has estimated that the hull and structure of the Titanic will collapse entirely within the next 50 years because of metal-eating life forms and from too many visits to the site. Dr. Bob Ballard has been working to preserve what’s left of the Titanic and to build a virtual museum using high-def cameras that go safely into the wreckage.

So, why does Titanic still fascinate the world a century later? “Had it gone down in minutes like the Lusitania, it would be just another lost ship,” Ballard said in an interview with NatGeo. “But the fact that it took so long to sink allowed time for many stories to unfold. We have heroes and villains, [friction] between the upper and lower class, couples who chose to die together rather than be separated. And of course, through it all, the band played on. For sheer human drama, you cannot top this story.”

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers