The Titanic: Looking Back at the Ship's Tragic History

The Titanic, a luxury British ship, hit an iceberg and sank early in the morning on April 15, 1912

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The RMS Titanic

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The RMS Titanic famously sank off the coast of Newfoundland in the early hours of April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. The luxury passenger ship, touted as unsinkable, was famous from its inception, known as the largest and one of the most lavish of its kind at the time. More than 1,500 of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board lost their lives in the tragedy, which was the basis of the 1997 film Titanic.

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The Titanic Is Built

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The White Star Line steamship was built by Harland & Wolff at the company's shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, beginning in 1909, and took three years to construct.

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The Titanic's First Trial Run

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In May 1911, the ship made its first trial run in Belfast's River Lagan, with more than 100,000 people looking on. The launch went smoothly and took just more than one minute, according to The next year was spent constructing the decks, interiors and boiler rooms.

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The Aftermath of the Titanic's Demise

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Two weeks after the disaster, surviving stewards of the shipwreck were questioned by a board of inquiry. Five separate boards, British and American, conducted interviews with witnesses and consulted maritime experts as part of the investigation on the ship's sinking.

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On Board the Titanic

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Adjacent to the ship's first class restaurant was the popular Café Parisien, a feature that provided the option for a sort of al fresco dining — the windows could be opened — with a view over the Atlantic.

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The Titanic's First Class Lounge

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The first class lounge, outfitted with ornate furniture, was a gathering place for the ship's numerous wealthy passengers. Many prominent families of the day were aboard the ship, and many were among those who perished: millionaire John Jacob Astor, the richest passenger on board, died, as did Benjamin Guggenheim, of the famous mining magnate family, along with Isidor Strauss, the co-owner of Macy's, and his wife Ida.

Among the famous survivors were Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes, and socialite Molly Brown, famously depicted in the 1997 film by Kathy Bates.

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The Titanic's Downfalls

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The Titanic was woefully under-equipped with lifeboats, carrying just 16 of them, plus four Engelhardt "collapsibles." In total, they could accommodate a mere 1,178 people — just one-third of the ship's 3,300-person capacity.

At the time, however, the ship's lifeboat supply not only met but exceeded the British Board of Trade's requirements, according to

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The Iceberg that Took the Titanic Down

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Titanic began receiving reports of ice on April 14, but at the time the seas were calm and clear. By 11:30 p.m., a lookout spotted the iceberg (pictured here) that would soon prove to be deadly. While the crew was able to slow down and avoid a head-on collision, the ship ultimately sideswiped the iceberg, causing the fatal 300-foot tear in the hull.

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The Titanic Leaves Port

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The ship set sail from Southampton, England, for New York City on April 10, 1912, first making stops in Cherbourg, France, and Cobh, Ireland.

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The Titanic's Captain

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Chief Purser Walter McElroy, who oversaw the handling of money and passenger comfort onboard, and Captain Edward J. Smith, are seen in uniform aboard the Titanic during the ship's initial voyage to Cobh, Ireland.

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The Titanic's Rescue Efforts

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Women and children were boarded first, with first class passengers taking priority. When none were at hand, men were allowed to board the lifeboats. Amid the chaos, the majority of the boats — which could accommodate 65 people each — were lowered with far fewer people onboard. The boats were later rounded up by the RMS Carapathia, which responded to the Titanic's distress signals.

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The Titanic's First Class Staircase

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The aft first class staircase allowed passengers to make a grand entrance; a replica was prominently featured in the 1997 film Titanic.

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The Titanic's Dining Room

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In addition to the first class à la carte restaurant and Café Parisien, passengers could also eat in the main dining room.

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The Titanic's Propellers

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Here, a group of the men working on the ship posed beneath one of its propellers in May 1911.

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Family Members of Titanic Travelers

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Only 706 of the 2,240 passengers survived the maritime disaster. Pictured are survivors' families anxiously awaiting the arrival of their loved ones upon their safe return to Southampton.

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