The Titanic's sinking is one of, if not the most, famous maritime accident in the history of shipwrecks. On April 10, 1912 the luxurious ship embarked upon its maiden voyage from Southampton across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.

Titanic drew many newspaper headlines as it illustrated the luxurious ship which was so vast and impressive. Eyes across the world were interested in this first trip and, as such, it received a lot of publicity.

Titanic, unpainted
Credit: By Robert Welsh (died 1936) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The yet not painted Titanic. Wikimedia Commons has this photo being taken "1911-1912"

The Disaster

On the evening of April 14, 1912 the Titanic was sailing at fast speeds across the Atlantic when it hit an iceberg at approximately 11:40 p.m. after many of its passengers had retired for the night. The ship saw its final hours above the sea at approximately 2:20 a.m. on April 15, at which time it took its last breath and fell beneath the cold waters. The voyage held a total of 2,228 passengers and crew, only of which 705 survived.

What Led to Titanic's Sinking?

Aside from the massive iceberg Titanic collided with, over the years there have been many speculations as to why this happened and who was at fault. It appears there were several potential factors which likely influenced the reasons of why the ship sank, causing so many people to perish in this terrible accident.

Complacency seems to be one of the biggest offenders. Headlines deemed the grand Titanic an "unsinkable" ship and people bought into this mindset, never thinking such a horrible accident could occur. This way of thinking led to a false sense of security, which even those in charge of Titanic sadly seem to have bought into and went against their better judgment in favor of believing the ship was infallible.

In favor of luxury and grandness, as opposed to being safety conscious, the ship's owners decided to do away with extra lifeboats to free up the amount of usable deck space for passengers. The required number of lifeboats according to regulation at that time was 16 boats for the ship. This number of boats was not enough lifeboat capacity to hold the total number of passengers and crew that were on board in the event of an accident. The 16 lifeboats, if filled to capacity, roughly could have held just over 50 percent of the people on board. 

Titanic Boat Deck plan with lifeboats
Credit: By Anonymous Harland & Wolff draughtsman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Titanic boat deck plan with lifeboats. The number of people on board far outnumbered the number these boats would be able to carry.

Even back in the early 20th century the laws could not keep up with the pace of technology. (Ironically, this is still occurring today in our massive race to create technology that outdoes previous innovations, sometimes before current products even hit the market.) This was the first mistake in a series of events transpiring which led to the Titanic's ultimate and sad demise.

Long-Term Implications from Titanic's Sinking

There are several long term implications which emerged from the sinking of the Titanic. In the wake of this tragedy, there were some eye-opening realizations which forever transformed the perception of many people. As the grand ship was sinking, women and children were allowed to board the lifeboats first as per custom, but this was done according to economic class.

Economic Inequities

After all was over, statistics indicate a much higher number of first class passengers survived as opposed to the lower economic third class passengers. Some accounts claim that third class passengers remained locked to their "area" of the ship, not being allowed to escape until the more elite passengers had already departed off the ship into the lifeboats. By the time third class passengers were released from the depths of the Titanic, the lifeboats were long gone.

According to

  • 61 - the percentage of First Class passengers who survived.
  • 42 - the percentage of Standard Class passengers who survived.
  • 24 - the percentage of Third Class passengers who survived.

This accident brought to light the discriminatory factors related to the different economic classes and forever left its stamp because of the way people were left to drown simply because of their financial status.

Better Safety Standards

After the sinking, new laws and regulations were passed which stipulated stricter safety requirements and also called for enough lifeboats to hold all people on board a ship. Safety patrols were instituted and all of these changes were developed in hopes of preventing another tragedy like the Titanic. With all the tragedy surrounding this accident, a positive was these strides were made as a preventative so the world would never again experience such horror and loss of life. Maritime law was changed to ensure enough lifeboats are on board to save everyone.

Titanic survivors on the Carpathia, 1912
Credit: Public Domain image, accessed via Wikimedia Commons https://,_1912.jpg

Titanic survivors on the Carpathia, 1912

Safety Before Appearances

Today those who engage in sea fare are acutely aware of the risks and dangers and pay heed to warnings. Safety comes first and headlines and reputations second; this is a big transformation from the societal attitudes of high society in days' past. Titanic's tragedy brought to light the superficial appearances so many people thought important at that time. This catastrophe brought realization of the value of life and that appearances should never supersede the well being of others.

First class smoking room on Titanic
Credit: Jay Henry Mowbray, Ph.D., LL.D. The Minter Company, Harrisburg, PA, 1912

An image of the first class smoking room on Titanic. On this ship, luxury was a priority, but having enough lifeboats on board in the event of a disaster, was not.

Parallels to Modern Day

This disastrous sinking had a profound effect on society which continues to this day.  It also showed us how complacency can also lead to disaster; a lesson learned is no matter how strong, or powerful something appears, this does not make it flawless. Yet, have we learned?

Sure, in some ways we have learned as indicated by changes made in the aftermath of Titanic's sinking. But in other ways, society still has a way to go. This maritime disaster is an interesting parallel to modern day as technology continues to flourish at a rapid rate. We should learn lessons from the mistakes of the past, but yet history always seems to repeat itself.

As laws today fail to keep up with the same pace, society languishes in the problems caused by technology and, in some ways, is leading to our complacency. Technology is a fantastic advancement and tool which can improve quality of life, but people must always remember to use good judgment and not rely solely on technical advancements to prevent disaster. Glitches happen and people in charge of creating or running the technology can make mistakes. As seamless as technology is, nothing is infallible. And even if the tech appears to be perfect or knowledge is strong, other forces can undermine it, not unlike the massive iceberg Titanic struck.

Titanic iceberg
Credit: By The chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert [Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Description from Wikimedia Commons:

"The iceberg suspected of having sunk the RMS Titanic. This iceberg was photographed by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, 1912, just a few miles south of where the “Titanic” went down. The steward hadn't yet heard about the Titanic. What caught his attention was the smear of red paint along the base of the berg, indication that it had collided with a ship sometime in the previous twelve hours. This photo and information was taken from "UNSINKABLE" The Full Story of RMS Titanic written by Daniel Allen Butler, Stackpole Books 1998. Other accounts indicated that there were several icebergs in the vicinity where the TITANIC collided."

Those in charge on that doomed day the Titanic sank did not take seriously the warning signs, did not properly heed caution, nor did they have a disaster recovery plan in place. These ill-fated decisions go down in history as being connected to one of the worst nautical disasters ever. Even more than 100 years later, we still can learn from this tragedy.

Related reading:

Possible Factors Contributing to the Tragedy of Titanic, by Leigh Goessl
The Priest and the Titanic, by Moina Arcee
Some People Who Missed the Titanic, by jarome1

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