Titanic Timeline

by James William
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The Titanic strikes an iceberg. The Captain orders the crew to prepare the lifeboats. He gives women and children priority.

Water begins to reach the bridge deck. The first lifeboat, number 7, is lowered. Its occupants include passenger Molly Brown and lookout Fleet.

The Californian learns about the sinking of the Titanic and heads for the scene.


Construction of the titanic timeline began in 1909 with the laying down of the keel, or the backbone, at Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. Because of the enormous size of the vessel and the complexity of its structure, it took a long time for the first phase to be completed, known as “building up.” In addition, there were several deaths among workers during this stage, including a riveter who fell off a girder at the age of 19, a driller who was crushed by timber struts, and a worker who was hit by a moving crane.

Once the frame of the Titanic was built up, the building could move on to a second phase, known as “outfitting.” This included installing everything from elevators and staircases to opulent dining areas. Many workers were employed in this phase and it would take months to complete.

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set out on its maiden voyage to North America, watched by large crowds. A day later, the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and went down.

The ship was in a dangerous area of the Atlantic at the time, and it is believed that senior wireless operator Jack Phillips was receiving warnings about icebergs from ships further west. Despite the warnings, Captain Smith was determined to make the voyage and continued on toward New York.

At about 11:30 p.m., lookout Frederick Fleet spots an iceberg and calls the bridge. Sixth Officer Moody answers and is told, “Iceberg right ahead! Full astern!” The order is given and the Titanic turns hard to the left. This change in course should have put the ship into an area of the gulf stream that was free of icebergs, but the iceberg struck the starboard side of the ship at about the same time as the Titanic changed course.

The crew prepares the ship for evacuation and the first lifeboats are launched. Among the first people to leave the sinking ship is its band, which is playing one of their final songs, either Autumn or Nearer My God to Thee. The musicians will not survive the disaster.


RMS Titanic, at the time the world’s largest ship, leaves Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. Crowds watch as she cruises down Southampton waters at the start of her ill-fated journey.

April 11: Titanic arrives in Cherbourg, France, where she picks up more passengers. April 13: At 1:30 p.m., Titanic departs Cherbourg for Queenstown, Ireland. April 14: At 9:40 p.m., Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, retires to his room. That night, a series of seven warnings about icebergs are received in the wireless room. But the final warning never makes it to the bridge.

At 2:20 a.m., Titanic receives another message about icebergs from the steamship Baltic. But the only way to change course is for a crew member to send a signal to the nearest port. Lookout Frederick Fleet hears the call but mistakenly assumes it is a request for assistance from the nearby SS Californian, which has turned off its wireless.

Several ships hear Titanic’s distress call, including her sister ship Olympic. But none can get to her in time to help. Even if four of Titanic’s watertight compartments were flooded, she could stay afloat for a while with only 1,500 people onboard.

2:17 a.m.: Titanic hits the iceberg, which causes her to list slightly to starboard. The stern then crashes down into the water. Fortunately, the well-designed ship was so well-divided that its stern remained above water, but it soon lost stability.

3:10 a.m.: The band stops playing ragtime and order is given to begin loading lifeboats. Because they are already full of women and children, the boats can only hold about 350 people.

4:15 a.m.: The stricken Titanic goes down in the North Atlantic.

The wreck of the Titanic, discovered in 1985 by American oceanographer Robert Ballard and his team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is now considered an international memorial. It is a symbol of the greatness and fragility of human endeavor. The wreck continues to inspire lawmakers, historians, researchers and filmmakers, including James Cameron, who is planning a movie about the disaster starring Leonardo DiCaprio.


In 1909, the shipbuilding company Harland & Wolff begins construction of the Titanic at its Belfast, Ireland, plant. The massive liner is designed to be the ultimate in luxurious comfort, safety and speed. The Titanic, conceived in the age of industrialization and advancing science, is to be the symbol of a new generation of wealth and power.

April 12, 1912: Titanic departs from Southampton, England, on her ill-fated voyage to New York City. She is commanded by Captain Edward Smith.

At about 10:00 pm, Smith excuses himself from a dinner party and goes to the bridge. He asks Lightoller to keep a lookout for icebergs and discusses the calm, clear weather conditions. Smith notes that an absence of wind will make it more difficult to spot icebergs because the surface of the water will not be rippled by breaking ice.

A telegram is received from the SS Californian (Lat 42°N, Long 51°W) reporting three large icebergs in a field of ice 78 miles ahead. This message is destined to be passed to the captain, but it is missed because assistant wireless operator Harold Bride has been distracted by passenger traffic and has not yet passed the telegram on to the bridge.

About 20 minutes after the iceberg is seen, it strikes. The hull is damaged but it remains afloat. Many passengers and crew remain asleep, including the crow’s nest lookout. The first lifeboat is lowered, but it only has 28 of the 65 people aboard.

The port-side boat is lowered, carrying 40 women and children. Two seamen are placed in charge of the boat. Later, this boat will be tied to boats 4, 10, 14, and collapsible D. It is also used to pick up survivors from collapsible D. Fifth Officer Lowe will return to this boat to move more survivors from it to the other lifeboats. This will allow him to use boat 14 to pick up more swimming passengers from the water. The lowering of this and the following boats is haphazard. Hundreds of human dramas play out during this period as men see off wives and children, families are separated and selfless passengers give up their seats in the lifeboats to save others.


As day turned to night on 14 April 1912, little did the passengers and crew of the Titanic know that they would soon be plunged into one of history’s greatest disasters. This timeline tracks the disaster hour by hour, as the iceberg hit and the ship slowly sank into the Atlantic.

At around 12 noon, senior wireless operator Jack Phillips starts to receive iceberg warnings from ships further west, including a liner called Caronia, which spotted both large bergs and “growlers,” smaller but harder to spot. By evening, the icebergs are much closer and the Titanic’s lookout Frederick Fleet spots one dead ahead.

About 11:40 pm, an iceberg strikes the Titanic on her starboard bow (right side). The collision causes several compartments to flood, with water filling up the space between the hull and the outside air. This causes the ship to rise to a steep angle and sinks the bow half.

The ship’s alarm bells ring and the lifeboats are readied. But the 20 boats have only room for 1,178 of the 2,200 people aboard. The order is given that women and children must board first, with crewmen helping to row and guide the boats.

The last boat, collapsible D, is lowered. Lightoller waves (and possibly fired) his pistol to prevent a rush, and only women and children are allowed aboard. Some men refuse to go and are shot by the crew.

Around 2:20 am, the stern begins to submerge and the ship goes down. Two hours later, the bow half sinks.

2:30 am: RMS Carpathia, the rescue ship, is alerted to the distress call by SS Californian’s radio operator. Carpathia, 58 miles away, heads toward Titanic’s location.

The surviving lifeboats are launched into the freezing ocean, with a maximum capacity of 1,178 people. Many are shocked to find that there is no more room in the boats than originally believed — only about half of the total number of passengers and crew were saved. This tragedy has inspired countless books, songs, and films, and still remains the most famous shipwreck in maritime history.


The Titanic’s tragic maiden voyage in 1912 remains a poignant reminder of the consequences of human arrogance and complacency. Despite being deemed “unsinkable,” the ship met a devastating fate, leading to the loss of over 1,500 lives. The disaster sparked significant advancements in maritime safety and serves as a cautionary tale for generations to come.


  1. What caused the Titanic to sink? The Titanic struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The collision caused significant damage to the ship’s hull, leading to flooding of several compartments. The ship’s design, with inadequate watertight bulkheads, contributed to its rapid sinking, ultimately leading to the tragic loss of life.
  2. Were there enough lifeboats for all passengers? No, the Titanic did not carry enough lifeboats to accommodate all passengers and crew. The ship was only equipped with lifeboats for about half of its total capacity. This shortage was partly due to the prevailing belief that the ship was unsinkable, leading to complacency in safety measures. As a result, many people were left without lifeboats during the evacuation, exacerbating the loss of life.

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