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Sinking of the Titanic – Causes

Titanic Model Ship

Sunday, April 14, 1912. Captain Smith reacted to warnings of icebergs he received over the radio on the days before, and took Titanic on a new course that detoured further south. However, at 1:45 pm, a message relayed from steam ship Amerika warned of large icebergs ahead of Titanic, but Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, wireless radio operators employed by Marconi, did not relay this message, as they only would relay messages to and from the passengers. Yet another report of several large icebergs came in from Mesaba, but this message was not relayed either.

At 11:40 pm, the Titanic sailed 400 miles south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where lookouts Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee noticed a large iceberg lie directly in front of Titanic. The lookouts sounded the ship’s bells three times and informed the bridge of the “Iceberg, right ahead!”. To this, First Officer Murdoch ordered “hard-a-starboard”, and either ordered a “full reverse” or “stop” of the engines. Needless to say, the Titanic collided starboard side with the gigantic iceberg, causing the hull to buckle and the rivets to pop out below the waterline for nearly 300 feet. Frigid ocean water began to fill the compartments even as the water tight doors closed. With four flooded compartments Titanic would have been able to stay afloat, but five compartments filled with water, weighing the ship down and causing the forward watertight bulkheads to fall below the waterline and fill the ship with more water. Captain Smith then ordered that Titanic be halted for a full inspection, which led the ship’s officers and Thomas Andrews to ready lifeboats, and send out a distress signal.

While Titanic began its plunge into the ocean depths, the lights from a mysterious ship could be seen port side. However, this ship’s identity remains a mystery, with some speculating it to either be the SS Californian or the Sampson. This ship did not respond to wireless, nor did it respond to Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe’s attempt at signalling the ship with a Morse lamp, and distress rockets. The closest ship to Titanic was the California, which was stopped for the night due to the ice. However, the Californian’s wireless operator made a call to Titanic to inform them of the treacherous condition of the waters, but was dismissed by an angry Jack Phillips who replied “Shut up! Shut up! I am busy. I am working Cape Race”. After this important exchange of communications, the Californian shut off its radio and the operator went to bed for the night. The Californian had also previously attempted to signal the Titanic with their Morse lamp, but never received a response. After the iceberg was struck, Titanic wireless operators Jack Philips and Harold Bride began sending out CQD, but with the closest ship, Californian, having their wireless transmission cut off, there were no ships within close enough proximity to rescue all of Titanic’s passengers. The ships that did respond included: Mount Temple, Frankfurt, Olympic, and Carpathia. Carpathia was the closest ship at 58 miles away, but would not be able to reach Titanic for an estimated four hours.

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