What Really Sank the Titanic

In the memory of the Titanic and of all those who needlessly died one cold night of April, one hundred years ago.


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Home » Science » Titanic Story

What are the unfortunate circumstances that led to the Titanic's demise?


The Legend of The "Unsinkable"

We all heard about Titanic's tragic story. Some of us read about it, many saw the movie starring DiCaprio, while most of us heard the theme song of the movie ("My Heart will Go On" by Celine Dion) on the radio. But how much do we know about the Titanic?

Let's see if you can you answer the following questions:

  1. When did the Titanic sank?
  2. How the Titanic Sank?
  3. Where the Titanic sank?
  4. Who was the captain of the Titanic when it sank?

I must admit, the last question was added just to mess with you. However; if you answered correctly to all the first three questions, congratulations! You know a great deal about the Titanic in comparison with other people. If that the case, then it's probably better if you skip straight to What Really Sank the Titanic headline of this article.


When did The Titanic Sank?

Apparently, an "event cascade" is the actual cause behind the unfortunate sinking of the Titanic exactly one hundred years ago, according to a new study published in the current issue of "Physics World."

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To answer the question when did the Titanic sank, it was on April 14, 1912, when the RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 11:40 pm (ship's time). Because it took three hours for the ship to sink, one could say that the actual date the Titanic sank is April 15, 1912, on a Monday morning.


Where did The Titanic Sank?

The Titanic left Southampton, England, on 10 April, on her maiden voyage to New York City. Unfortunately, the Olympic-class ocean liner sank after hitting an iceberg about 380 miles south of Newfoundland. More than two-thirds of the 2,224 passengers and crew died and the Titanic sank to a depth of about 12,400 feet (3,800 m).

map of where titanic sank
Map of Where Titanic Sank. Image Source.

The British merchantship SS Mesaba sent out a crucial icebergs warning when the Titanic was only 50 miles away from an area of icebergs. The exact location is 42° to 41°, 25' N; 49° to 50°, 30' W. Today we know that the location where Titanic sank is somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, south of Newfoundland, Canada, as shown in the picture above.


The Theories on What Really Sank the Titanic

The real question surrounding the Titanic mystery is: "How could a 46,000-ton ship sink so quickly?" science writer Richard Corfield asks the readers of the latest issue of "Physics World." Had the "unsinkable" Royal Mail Steamer stayed afloat longer, the death toll could have been much lower, thanks to the RMS Carpathia who managed to save 710 survivors. At 2:20 am the Titanic broke up and sank with over 1000 people on board. As you could have guessed, those in the water died within minutes from hypothermia.

According to investigations carried out by both the United States and United Kingdom in the year the Titanic sank, multiple circumstances lead to the disaster, such as the ship has been sailing too fast, the Captain ignored the iceberg warnings and the low number of lifeboats on board the Titanic (enough for only 1,200 people).

Corfield concluded that "no one thing conspired to send Titanic to the bottom of the Atlantic" on April 14, 1912. He believes "it was a classic 'event cascade,'" where one thing lead to another. Other details that would answer the question What really sank the Titanic would be: the missing of binoculars in the crow's nest, the fact that the senior radio operator forgot to pass on an important ice warning sent by the SS Mesaba, and the poorly cast wrought-iron rivets that caused the steel plates on the hull to break. The climate thousands of miles away may have also contributed to the sinking of the Titanic...

what really sank the titanic
The Times Reporting the Titanic Sinking. Image Source.

So there you have it: the answer to your question. A chain of unfortunate circumstances -- called "event cascade" by those who analyze disasters -- led to the Titanic's downfall. "The best planning in the world cannot eliminate every factor that might negatively impact on the design and operation of a complicated machine such as a massive passenger ship," wrote Corfield. Eventually, enough of these variables combine and the disaster cannot be avoided. In conclusion, the event cascade is the answer to the question how the Titanic sank.


PS1. On April 4th 2012, the 100th anniversary of Titanic's maiden voyage will be commemorated by re-releasing the 1997 movie Titanic in 3D.

PS2. By the way, the answer to the question "Who was the captain of the Titanic when it sank?" is . He died when the ship sank in 1912.

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