For centuries people been traveling overseas and boats have historically been tied to the need for transportation to reach other continents. As populations expanded, cross-continent business increased and many families relocated. Boats became a pivotal means for travel.

During this early part of the 20th century ships were still the primary means of transport to reach destinies across the ocean. Aircraft was still in its infancy, as at the turn of the century it was mostly an idea and a dream. That being the case, ships were the obvious method of choice for people who needed or wanted to travel long distances.

This era saw a large flux of ocean travel and, as a result, traditional overseas shipping transformed into a fierce competitive industry. Each company that was a key player in this booming industry set out to create the best travel experience for travelers. In the early 1900s large ships began to emerge, much larger than the ones constructed in earlier decades.

The White Star Line’s Grand Vision

The White Star Line, one of the primary competitors, wanted to solidify its position in the shipping industry. The company set out to become a leader in the industry by building enormous ships to try and attract customers to book travel through their company and sail across the sea on its ocean liners.

In order to accomplish this feat the company came up with a strategy to build three luxury ocean liners, the largest and the fastest ever constructed. The liners would be named the Olympic, Titanic and Gigantic (although it is debatable if this was the original name chosen - when the ship was eventually built, it was named the Britannic), these names reflecting their vast sizes. Each would be bigger than its predecessor. The plan for these ships was that they were not only conceived from a vision of fantastic construction, but to include amazing features.

Olympic and Titanic
Credit: Public Domain

March 5, 1212. Description from Wikimedia Commons: "The Olympic (left) at side of Famous Titanic, probably the only photograph of sister ships together." (This image was published in the US before 1923 and is in the public domain in the US)

The Olympic was completed circa 1910 and Titanic in 1912. On April 10, 1912 Titanic set out to sea upon her maiden voyage. This event, which had been hoped to be amazing, took a terrible turn. Its maiden voyage was tragically cut short on the evening of April 14 when the ship struck a large iceberg. Enough damage was done by this collision that the ship suffered severe damage and sadly sunk in only a mere few hours. The mighty ship glimpsed its last moment of the open ocean at 2:20 a.m. on April 15.

Titanic's majestic presence was designed primarily with careful physical and design features in mind:

Physical Structure

Titanic was constructed simultaneously with its sister ship, the Olympic. The Olympic was finished first and had been in service as the second ship was completed. Titanic was constructed to be 882 feet long and 92 feet wide (269M and 28 M respectively). The ship's height was as high as an 11-story building and weighed in at over 53,000 tons. At the time of its maiden voyage the Titanic was the biggest ship in existence.

Harland & Wolff Shipyards, located in Belfast, Ireland was hired to build the majestic Titanic. The idea of such a large and luxurious ship was made a reality through the joint efforts of Harland & Wolff and the White Star Line. The work was overseen by engineer Thomas Andrews, but the design was conceived and carried out by Lord Pirrie, chairman of Harland & Wolff, and General manager Alexander Carlisle.

Titanic was constructed with some safety features in mind when its foundation was built. The hull was built with a double bottom containing 16 watertight compartments. The ship was built to withstand either four compartments damaged on each end or two central compartmental injuries, but could not sustain any more damage than that and still remain afloat. Unfortunately, this design was created in mind without considering a ship might sustain more damage than four compartments, which is what happened to Titanic.

The Titanic contained three monstrous anchors. The center anchor weighed 15 tons and each anchor located on each side was around seven tons. The tremendous ship consumed 620 to 640 tons of coal a day. Titanic even had an electrical system which was run by a plant which was power-driven through the usage of steam from the boilers; it took 200 miles of electrical cable to create this incredible system.

The ship's four enormous funnels were approximately 63 feet (19 M) high, 19 feet (6 M) wide and 24 feet (7 M) long. The fourth funnel was not needed for the ship to function, but existed primarily as an example of the grandness and impressive nature of the ship. When thinking about the physical features of Titanic, one word continuously comes to mind and that is tremendous. A ship so large, so vast, was built to reflect a colossal existence, inside and out.

The Titanic compared with other means of transport
Credit: "Vergleich Titanic". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Design Features

When you think of Titanic, you probably think of the words lavish and luxury, and indeed Titanic was both. The ship was built with magnificence in mind and it seemed no expense was spared when designing this astonishing ship. For its time this ship was probably more lavish than many hotels or homes.

The first class cabins were constructed with top of the line materials and design. The rich and famous passengers who booked trips on Titanic were treated to the elegance and comfort they were accustomed to. Some of the more luxurious rooms were more like apartments and contained a living area, private decks and a couple of bedrooms. There were also second and third class quarters and while the second class decks were nicely done, they were probably not constructed with the same level of elegance of first class.

The first and second class menus were similar in quality, but the third class meals were relatively simple and nowhere near as expansive a menu as the first class was offered. The first class passengers were offered the option to dine in an elegantly designed dining room or the Parisien Cafe, but the second and third class passengers were limited in options. These passengers had to remain on their own decks and dining areas, which were not as fancy, the second being more fancy than the third class dining area.

One of the most famous features of Titanic was its first class lounge which had a marble fireplace and a spectacular staircase which had a covered glass dome constructed above it. There was also a magnificent clock on the top landing of the staircase; the staircase was large enough to take passengers through several levels of decks. Titanic also featured Turkish baths, cooling rooms and a gymnasium; there was even a swimming pool filled with sea water which was open to first class passengers for a nominal fee.

Titanic's construction and features were pretty amazing when you think about it, especially during the years it was constructed. The technology and designed used were modern and top of the line and considering the innovation put into it, it was a spectacular project. Unfortunately, too much attention was paid to these details and not enough to the safety factors.

Titanic survivors in a lifeboat
Credit: Public Domain

This is a photo of the one of the lifeboats rescued. This image was taken by a Carpathia passenger, the ship that rescued Titanic's survivors.

The ship lacked enough lifeboats, and the ones on board would hold not even half of its passengers; at the time 16 boats were regulation, but despite Titanic’s vast size and capacity, the powers that be decided adding more boats would clutter of the deck space and decrease the comfort of passengers. Ironically, it was this lack of foresight to add more boats would have better served the best interests of passengers.

The Titanic's creation was big news in its day and the media had dubbed the grand ship "practically unsinkable.” The public and, eventually, those in charge of Titanic bought into this notion. This complacency is perhaps one of the biggest issues associated with the sinking of Titanic.

Titanic is remembered as one of the most tragic and fatal accidents in maritime history.

Related reading:

The Priest and the Titanic, by Moira Arcee
Possible Factors Contributing to the Tragedy of Titanic, by Leigh Goessl
A Brief History of the Olympic-Class Ocean Liners, by MatthewA