Inside The Tragic Sinking Of The RMS Titanic And The Full Story Behind It

Published August 20, 2021
Updated April 19, 2023

Discover the most fascinating facts and stories about the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, from how it happened to how many people died.

When the RMS Titanic first set sail, countless people cheered for the “unsinkable” ship. But the vessel’s maiden voyage ultimately ended in tragedy when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Ever since that fateful night, the story of the Titanic has fascinated the world. What really happened when the ship sank? What was it like onboard the doomed vessel? Who died during the disaster — and who survived?

RMS Titanic

Wikimedia CommonsA famous depiction of the RMS Titanic sinking. Engraving created by Willy Stöwer in 1912.

Below, discover some of the most frequently asked questions about the RMS Titanic — and the tragic night it sank to the ocean floor.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 64: The Titanic, part 1: Building The ‘Unsinkable Ship’, also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Where Was The RMS Titanic Built?

The RMS Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. The only known footage of the Titanic shows the ship leaving Belfast — with onlookers clearly unaware of the tragedy that would soon unfold.

How Long Was The Titanic?

The Titanic measured an impressive 882 feet long. When it first debuted, the world was shocked at how big the Titanic was. At the time, it was the largest passenger ship in the world, as well as the largest ship ever built.

When Did The Titanic Set Sail?

Titanic Maiden Voyage

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesThe RMS Titanic leaving Southampton, England, and sailing toward tragedy.

Following its construction in Belfast, the Titanic first set sail on its maiden voyage with passengers aboard on April 10, 1912.

Where Did The Titanic Sail From And Where Was It Going?

The Titanic set sail from Southampton, England. Ultimately, the Titanic was going to New York City. But it would make additional stops in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (today, Cobh), Ireland to pick up more passengers.

What Would A Ticket On The RMS Titanic Ship Cost Today?

Passengers on the Titanic could purchase three types of tickets depending on what they could afford: first-class, second-class, or third-class.

A first-class ticket cost $150 (£30), which would be over $4,000 today. Wealthy people could also spring for one of the two Parlour Suites, which cost $4,350 (£870) — or about $121,000 today. Those passengers enjoyed amenities like the ship’s gym, as well as its swimming pool.

Second-class passengers paid around $60 (£12) for their tickets, and third-class passengers paid approximately $15 to $40 (£3 to £8). In today’s money, second-class passengers paid over $1,600, and third-class passengers paid between $415 and $1,100 — so even the “affordable” options weren’t cheap.

How Many People Were On The Titanic?

In all, about 2,240 people boarded the Titanic in April 1912. They paid varying amounts for their tickets, but all would soon face disaster.

Who Was The Richest Person On The RMS Titanic?

The richest person on the Titanic was John Jacob Astor IV. Believed to have been one of the richest men in the world at the time, his exact wealth is difficult to calculate. But Astor was certainly worth millions, and perhaps even billions in today’s money. He ultimately went down with the ship.

What Was The Last Meal Served On The RMS Titanic?

Titanic Menu

Wikimedia CommonsA third-class menu from the night the RMS Titanic sank.

As the Titanic drifted toward doom, its passengers feasted on different dinners depending on what class they were in on the ship.

The first-class passengers enjoyed a panoply of oysters, lamb, foie gras, and French ice cream. People in the second-class had a selection of baked haddock, chicken and rice, and American ice cream. And those who traveled in steerage dined on rabbit pie, baked potatoes, and Swedish bread.

What Year Did The Titanic Sink?

The Titanic sank in 1912, the same year that it set off on its maiden voyage. In fact, the ship was just four days into the trip when it struck an iceberg.

How And Why Did The Titanic Sink?

The Titanic collided with an iceberg on April 14, 1912, around 11:40 p.m. This collision, without a doubt, played the biggest role in the ship’s sinking.

The Titanic had been designed with 16 watertight compartments, and it was able to stay afloat if four of those compartments flooded. But as the starboard side of the ship struck the iceberg, holes formed in the steel plates, which caused six compartments to flood — and that was too many.

RMS Titanic Sinking

Wikimedia CommonsThe RMS Titanic famously broke in two while it sank, as the flooded bow slipped below the water and the stern rose above. These models explore two popular theories on how the Titanic broke apart in its final moments.

Although the collision with the iceberg is undisputed, new theories have emerged about additional causes of the sinking. Some suspect that ship officials covered up an earlier fire that had weakened the Titanic‘s hull. Another theory claims that the Northern Lights played a role in the disaster. Yet others have blamed the construction of the ship itself — and argued that the rivets holding it together could’ve been stronger.

When Did The Titanic Sink?

After hitting the iceberg on April 14th, the Titanic slid beneath the waves in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912.

What Time Did The Titanic Sink?

The Titanic sank at approximately 2:20 AM on April 15, 1912.

Where Did The Titanic Sink?

Surrounded by ice, the Titanic sank about 400 miles east of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic Ocean.

How Long Did It Take The Titanic To Sink?

In all, it took about two hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic to completely sink. During that time, people onboard desperately tried to survive.

Meanwhile, the ship’s eight musicians famously played on. While some initially thought that the band was ordered to keep playing, one historian later discovered that the musicians were not Titanic employees and could have tried to escape at any time. It’s now believed that they kept playing voluntarily in hopes of calming the crowds — even in the face of doom.

How Many Lifeboats Were On The Titanic?

Titanic Lifeboats

Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesTitanic passengers near the ship’s small number of lifeboats. April 1912.

The Titanic had just 20 lifeboats — for 2,240 people. Tragically, the ship could have carried many more. But officials reportedly declined the “extra” lifeboats for aesthetic reasons and also to cut costs.

How Cold Was The Water When The RMS Titanic Sank?

Passengers who plunged into the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean that night faced water temperatures around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. It took only minutes for most people to die of hypothermia.

However, the ship’s chief baker Charles Joughin miraculously survived nearly three hours in the icy waters — partly thanks to the whiskey he sipped as the ship went down. During a later inquiry, one investigator found that “his getting a drink had a lot to do with saving his life.”

Did They Really Lock Third-Class Passengers Below Deck On The RMS Titanic Ship?

In one memorable scene from the classic 1997 movie Titanic, third-class passengers are locked below deck as the ship sinks. According to the BBC, some of these gates were indeed locked during the ship’s voyage.

However, this was not meant to prevent people from reaching lifeboats in the event of a disaster, but instead to follow American immigration laws — as officials worried about the potential spread of disease.

Nevertheless, the result was the same. Passengers in third-class were forced to navigate a trickier pathway to reach the boat deck, and there were no lifeboats stored in the third-class sections of the ship. And so those in third-class had a much lower survival rate than those in second or first.

How Many People Died On The Titanic?

About 1,500 people died when the Titanic sank. Over 800 were passengers and nearly 700 were crew members.

How Many Kids Died On The RMS Titanic?

Tragically, about half the children aboard the Titanic went down with the ship. Of the more than 100 kids on the vessel, 53 children died.

Michel And Edmond Navratil

Library of CongressYoung Titanic survivors Michel and Edmond Navratil, pictured in April 1912 after the ship’s sinking.

But other children suffered the loss of a parent — usually the father. Titanic survivors Michel and Edmond Navratil arrived in New York City alone after their father went down with the ship. It took officials a long time to find their mother, especially since she was still in Europe at the time.

How Many People Survived The Titanic?

Just 706 people managed to survive the Titanic‘s sinking. They included people from first-class, second-class, steerage, and even a small number of Chinese immigrants (whom the United States promptly deported).

While there were many shocking survival stories that emerged after the disaster, perhaps no passenger had a more astounding story than 21-year-old R. Norris Williams. As the ship slid beneath the waves, Williams saved another passenger’s life by breaking down a door. Then, Williams was forced to watch in horror as one of the Titanic‘s four funnels came crashing down, only missing him by mere feet — and killing his father instead. 

Nevertheless, Williams eventually made it into a lifeboat. But his legs were still exposed to enough freezing water that doctors later wanted to amputate them. Williams refused the operation — and then went on to win the U.S. National Championship in tennis later that same year.

Where Is The Titanic Today?

Today, the Titanic can be found at the site of its sinking — about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, in the North Atlantic Ocean. However, the wreck is disappearing fast due to metal-eating bacteria.

How Deep Is The Titanic In The Ocean?

The Titanic lays on the ocean floor at a depth of approximately 12,600 feet.

When Was The Titanic Found?

The wreck of the Titanic was discovered on September 1, 1985. It was found by American oceanographer Robert Ballard and French scientist Jean-Louis Michel. By that point, it had been lost to the sea for 73 years.

What Was Found In The RMS Titanic Shipwreck?

Shipwreck Artifacts

Premier ExhibitionsA pair of gloves found near a suitcase by the Titanic.

Since its discovery in 1985, divers have recovered more than 5,000 artifacts from the Titanic wreck. These artifacts include musical instruments, clothing, jewelry, dishware, and even pieces of the ship itself.

One of the most heartbreaking artifacts was a pocket watch that belonged to passenger Sinai Kantor. In a tragic story widely compared to that of Jack and Rose from the 1997 film, Kantor helped get his wife Miriam onto a lifeboat before dying in the icy waters when there was no room for him.

Not long afterward, his body was recovered from the North Atlantic, along with some of his belongings that remained intact. Included was the watch, which features numbers written in Hebrew, and an embossed design on the back that depicts Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

Is Anyone Still Alive From The Titanic?

No. All of the Titanic survivors have since passed away. The last Titanic survivor, Millvina Dean, died in 2009 at the age of 97.

At the time of the sinking, she was just two months old.

For more about the RMS Titanic, read about how a novel called The Wreck Of The Titan predicted the tragic sinking. Then, discover more astonishing stories of famous shipwrecks from around the world.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.