On April 10, 1912, the “unsinkable” Titanic set sail with around 2,200 people aboard.
The Titanic, a British passenger liner operated by White Star Line, was sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City.
At 11:40pm on April 14, an iceberg was spotted 400 nautical miles south of Newfoundland, Canada, but the ship was too late to change course.
Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee, the two lookouts, failed to spot the iceberg in time. Their task had been made more difficult by an unusually calm ocean, which made the icebergs less visible, and by the fact that their binoculars had gone missing.
The Titanic made an attempt to avoid the iceberg, but did not turn in time. As the ship collided with the iceberg, it ripped a hole in the ship’s side, rupturing at least five of the watertight compartments.
The Titanic’s stern sank by 2:20 a.m., and the surviving passengers never saw it again.
The ship was quickly filling with water after only an hour, and passengers were terrified. The water continued to sink the ship’s bow, causing the stern to rise into the sky.
The captain released the crew at 2 a.m. The Titanic’s lights went out shortly after, the ship split in two, and the bow sank beneath the waves. The stern followed suit 20 minutes later, sending hundreds of crew members and passengers into the sea.
Only about 700 of the Titanic’s 2,200 passengers made it to the lifeboats.
As the ship began to take on water, only women and children were allowed to board the lifeboats. The Titanic had only 20 lifeboats, which could carry up to 1,178 people — only half of the ship’s passengers and crew.
These boats were launched at a lower capacity because the device used to lower them would break if they were too full. The first lifeboat to leave the Titanic, had a capacity of 65 people but only held 25 when it launched.
People in lifeboats returned to the ship after it sank to look for survivors. Instead, they found the majority of the people frozen to death in the icy waters.
When the Titanic sank, the SS Californian was close by, but its radio was turned off for the night.
Additionally, when the captain was awakened by flares from the Titanic, he assumed they were fireworks.
Instead, the RMS Carpathia responded to the Titanic’s distress signal and altered course to help.
The Carpathia, a transatlantic passenger liner commanded by Captain Arthur Rostron, received the Titanic’s distress call at 12:20 a.m., but it was more than 3 hours away.
Similarly, another ship, the Olympic, was too far away to help.
The Carpathia arrived at 3:30 a.m. to rescue the survivors in the lifeboats.
The Carpathia was reached and boarded first by Lifeboat No. 2. The ship would take several hours to pick up all of the survivors.
The last person from the Titanic’s lifeboats boarded the Carpathia at 8:30 a.m.
The captain then directed the ship to search the wreckage and frigid waters for any other survivors, but none were found.
The Carpathia’s passengers and crew tried to accommodate the survivors once they boarded, but many of them were inconsolable as a result of their life-changing experience.
According to the Maritime Executive, the Carpathia’s crew and fellow passengers offered survivors their beds as well as warm clothing and blankets. Many of the survivors were upset and could only cry, or they were shell-shocked by what they had witnessed.
Rather than continuing on their original path, the captain of the Carpathia chose to return to New York City.
The closest destination was Halifax, but it required more ice travel. If the Carpathia had wanted to stay on course, it could have gone to the Azores, which are islands off the coast of Portugal, but the ship didn’t have enough supplies to feed the increased number of passengers on such a trip.
The captain of the Titanic decided to return to New York, the ship’s original destination.
Rumors of the Titanic’s sinking sparked a public frenzy at the White Star Line’s office.
According to the New York Daily News, the White Star Line office in New York was flooded with people seeking confirmation on the fate of the Titanic, but White Star initially refused to confirm if the ship had sunk.
Even as news of the sinking began to circulate, White Star Line would not confirm the news to the public until nearly two days after the ship went down.
As the Carpathia approached New York, reporters hired tugboats to sail alongside the ship and interview survivors.
Rostron had ordered the crew to ignore press inquiries about the Titanic, so journalists shouted questions at the passengers and crew through megaphones from the tugboats to get the scoop.
On April 18, at 9:30 a.m., the Carpathia arrived at Pier 54.
Only seven days prior, the ship had departed from the same dock.
Around 30,000 people had gathered to welcome the survivors.
According to the New York Daily News, families of passengers arrived hoping to be reunited with loved ones. Ambulances and hearses lined the streets, ready to attend to the survivors or transport the dead.
Thousands of people greeted the survivors of the Titanic as they left Carpathia.
Families were reunited, while others learned that their loved ones had died.
The crew and third-class passengers suffered the most casualties, with 700 and 536 deaths, respectively.
The crew of the Carpathia returned 13 of Titanic’s lifeboats to White Star Line.
According to Titanic Universe, the Carpathia did not have enough space for all 20 passengers and abandoned seven lifeboats in the North Atlantic.
The White Star Line took possession of the 13 lifeboats they brought back.
Rostron was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal for his rescue efforts.
Rostron was hesitant to speak publicly about his role in the Titanic rescue, and he avoided all public attention for the rest of his life.