Titanic Sinking

History Uncovered Episode 67:
The Titanic, Part 3: Sinking Into The North Atlantic

Published June 26, 2023

Over the course of two hours and 40 minutes starting on the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic sank below the surface of the North Atlantic. This is the harrowing story of its last moments.

In the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, as word began to spread that something horrible had happened to the RMS Titanic during its maiden voyage, the White Star Line released a reassuring statement.

“While we are not in direct communication with the Titanic,” the company’s New York-based vice president P.A.S. Franklin told the press, “we are perfectly satisfied that the ship is unsinkable.”

By that point, the “unsinkable” ship was already at the bottom of the sea. The Titanic had struck an iceberg the night before at around 11:40 p.m., and by 2:20 a.m. on April 15, the ship was gone, lost beneath the waves. To this day, more than 110 years later, those two hours and 40 minutes remain some of the most acutely tragic in all of modern history.

Titanic At Sea

Wikimedia CommonsThe tragic sinking of the Titanic resulted in the deaths of some 1,500 people.

At first, the Titanic‘s passengers were assured that all was well. Despite the terrible creaking they heard, and the emergency flares flashing overhead, and the ashen faces of the crew, it seemed probable, at first, that complete disaster could be averted. People were even told that the lifeboats, dispatched at a painstakingly slow pace, were merely a precaution. Crew members reassured them that that rescue was mere minutes away.

In fact, the closest ship, the Californian, had not heard the Titanic‘s distress calls as its radio operator had gone to bed. The ship that had, the Carpathia, was three hours away — too far to offer much help.

Before long, people onboard began to realize with increasing panic that the ship was going down. As water slowly filled the vessel and no rescue appeared on the dark horizon, the ship’s passengers and crew were swept into the frenzy of a disaster that had been unthinkable mere hours before.

Amid the chaos, many brave people aboard the ship leapt into action. Titanic baker Charles Joughin tried to help others by throwing deck chairs overboard as makeshift-flotation devices and by dragging terrified women and children into lifeboats. Others, like Titanic designer Thomas Andrews, also tried to help others before he resigned himself to his fate. Andrews was last seen in the first-class smoking room, staring off into the distance, his life vest sitting on a table nearby.

In all, the sinking of the Titanic would claim an estimated 1,517 lives. And the 706 who survived would emerge from the catastrophe with haunting stories of the doomed ship’s final moments.

Next, go back and listen to The Titanic, Part 2: Sinking Into The North Atlantic or keep going with The Titanic, Part 4: Heroism And Despair In The Ship’s Final Moments. Then, dig deeper into the story of the tragic deaths caused by the sinking of the Titanic.

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