The Tragic Story Behind The Titanic, Explained

History

| LAST UPDATE 04/08/2022

by Hayden Katz
titanic iceberg sinking history
Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images

On April 14, 1922, the water in the North Atlantic ocean began to decrease. And yet, despite the near-freezing waters, the captain of the Titanic, Captain Edward J. Smith, continued to set sail to New York. But what Smith didn't know was how many warnings were coming in. Here's what happened moments before the ship famously sank.

Jack Phillips, the senior wireless operator aboard the ship, wrote down a message he received at around 7:30 pm from a closeby ship explaining that there was "heavy pack ice and a great number of bergs." But unfortunately, Phillips failed to pass the news along to his Captain. A few hours later, at roughly 10:55 pm, a second ship, the Californian, alerted the Titanic that they had stopped their trio due to large quantities of ice in the water. "Shut up, shut up!" Phillips radioed back. "I am busy!" Sadly, he hadn't realized how serious the messages were since neither one included the crucial code that would have made it necessary for the operator to alert the Captian of the news. 

titanic sinking iceberg history
Hulton Archive / Stringer via Getty Images
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Finally, at 11:40 pm, a crew member aboard noticed the first iceberg up ahead. Lookout Frederick Fleet was the first to see it, and he quickly rang the warning bell three times. He called the bridge, who responded, “What did you see?” Fleet responded, “Iceberg, right ahead.” But sadly, they were far too deep to do anything. First Officer William Murdoch, who was on the other line, quickly went into action. He ordered a “full speed astern” and demanded the engine room to turn left. For a few seconds, he thought he had saved the passengers on the Titanic, but due to the darkness, they had no idea just how large the iceberg really was. 

Roughly nine-tenths of an iceberg cant be seen since it is underneath the water. The ship's starboard hull plates were tragically hit by the underwater chunk. More tragedies quickly hit as water entered the first five compartments in the forward boilers and mailrooms. It was clear that the Titanic was doomed. The water onboard would eventually cause the whole thing to sink into the freezing water, unfortunately taking all the passengers on the Titanic down with it.

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