33 Rare Titanic Sinking Photos Taken Just Before And After It Happened

Published October 25, 2021
Updated May 26, 2022

These poignant Titanic sinking photos capture the disaster that took 1,500 lives one April night in 1912.

Photo Taken Before Titanic Sinking
The Titanic sits near the dock at Belfast, Northern Ireland soon before starting its maiden voyage. Circa April 1912.Wikimedia Commons

Lifeboats On Titanic
The lifeboats sit in their davits on the Titanic soon before the ship set off. April 1912.© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Where The Titanic Sank
The icy waters where the Titanic sinking occurred, as seen just days before the disaster. April 4, 1912.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Titanic Sea Trials
The Titanic begins its sea trials at Belfast, Northern Ireland soon before setting off on its voyage. April 2, 1912.National Archives/Wikimedia Commons

Titanic Reading Writing Room
The reading and writing room on the first-class deck of the Titanic, as seen soon before the vessel took off. 1912.Wikimedia Commons

Titanic At Southampton
Crowds line the docks as the Titanic prepares to take off on its voyage. Southampton, England. April 10, 1912.ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Interior Of The Titanic
The first-class lounge aboard the Titanic, as seen soon before the vessel took off. 1912.Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Titanic Dock
The Titanic sits at the dock in Southampton, England soon before setting off. April 10, 1912.Wikimedia Commons

Silhouette Photo Taken Before Titanic Sinking
The Titanic leaves port at Southampton, England to begin its voyage. April 10, 1912.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

People Walking Past Lifeboats
Titanic passengers stroll past the ship's onboard lifeboats soon before the ship went down. Circa April 10-14, 1912.Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Boy Playing Before Titanic Sinking
A child plays on the playground located on the saloon deck of the Titanic three days before the ship went down. Circa April 10-11, 1912.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Titanic Interior
The Café Parisien portion of the first-class restaurant aboard the Titanic, as seen soon before the vessel took off. 1912.Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Titanic Captain
Captain Edward J. Smith (right) and Purser Hugh Walter McElroy stand aboard the Titanic as it travels between Southampton, England and Queenstown, Ireland, just one day into its voyage — and three days before it would sink. Circa April 10-11, 1912.

The man who took this photograph, Rev. F.M. Browne, got off at Queenstown. Both Smith and McElroy died in the Titanic sinking.
Ralph White/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Titanic Inside
The main dining room aboard the Titanic, as seen soon before the vessel took off. 1912.George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

The Iceberg That Sunk Titanic
The iceberg suspected of having sunk the Titanic, as photographed by the steward of a passing ship the morning after the Titanic sinking. The other ship had not yet received word about the Titanic sinking but the steward reportedly saw red paint smeared along the base of the iceberg, indicating that a ship had struck it within the last several hours. April 15, 1912.Wikimedia Commons

Iceberg Titanic
An iceberg, possibly the one that sunk the Titanic, floats in the North Atlantic near the site where the ship went down. 1912.National Archives

Titanic Rescue Boats
Two lifeboats carry Titanic survivors toward safety. April 15, 1912.National Archives

Pictures Of The Titanic Sinking
Following the Titanic sinking, a lifeboat carries survivors to safety. April 15, 1912.National Archives

Hoisting Rescue Craft
A lifeboat, believed to be from the Titanic, is hoisted and drained of water. Date unspecified.National Archives

Rescue Boat Survivors
A rescue boat full of survivors makes its way trough the water following the Titanic sinking. April 15, 1912.National Archives

Titanic Lifeboat
The last lifeboat launched from the Titanic makes its way through the water. April 15, 1912.National Archives/Wikimedia Commons

Titanic Survivors Being Rescued
A lifeboat full of Titanic survivors are picked up by the Carpathia. April 15, 1912.Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Huddled Survivors After The Titanic Sinking
Survivors of the Titanic sinking sit on the deck of the Carpathia, wrapped in blankets and clothes given to them by Carpathia passengers, soon after their rescue. April 15, 1912.George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Titanic Survivor Children
The "Titanic orphans," French brothers Michel (left, age 4) and Edmond Navratil (right, age 2), who were left temporarily parent-less their father died on the ship. The brothers survived and made it to New York, where they stayed for a month before their mother, who was had stayed in France and not boarded the ship, finally recognized them from a newspaper photo and came to claim them. This photo was taken before they were identified. April 1912.Bain News Service/Library of Congress

Titanic Survivors On Deck
Survivors of the Titanic sinking sit aboard the Carpathia just after their rescue. Circa April 15-18, 1912.Library of Congress

Titanic Sinking Pictures Headlines Of The Disaster
A newspaper boy sells copies of the Evening News telling of the Titanic sinking outside the off ice of the White Star Line (the company that launched the Titanic) in London a day after the ship went down. April 16, 1912.Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Crowd Outside Office
Crowds wait outside the White Star Line office in order to hear the latest news on the disaster. New York. Circa April 15-18, 1912.George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Crowd Awaits Titanic Survivors
A crowd awaits Titanic survivors in New York. Circa April 18, 1912.Bain News Service/Library of Congress

Titanic Sinking Lifeboats
The lifeboats of the Titanic that had carried survivors from the sinking ship hang from the side of the Carpathia, the ship that made the rescue, as it reaches the pier in New York. April 18, 1912.George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Titanic Sinking Children
The Navratil brothers, one seated with a toy boat similar to the Titanic, arrive in port (presumably New York) aboard a rescue ship. Circa April 18, 1912.George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Awaiting Survivors
A crowd awaits the return of survivors of the Titanic sinking in Southampton, England. April 1912.Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Titanic Survivors Waiting
Survivors of the Titanic sinking sit at Millbay Docks in Plymouth, England upon their return home. May 1912.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Survivors Gathered Together
Survivors of the Titanic sinking are greeted by their relatives upon their safe return to Southampton, England. April 1912.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The winter of 1911-1912 had been a mild one. Higher-than-usual temperatures in the North Atlantic had caused more icebergs to drift off the west coast of Greenland than at any point in the previous 50 years.

And if not for that one anomalously warm winter, perhaps the Titanic might never have had any iceberg to hit.

In fact, there may be no tragedy in history more suited to the "what if?" parlor game than the sinking of the Titanic.

What if one nearby ship's radio warning of icebergs in the area had actually reached the Titanic instead of failing to transmit for reasons that still remain unclear?

What if the radio aboard the Titanic hadn't temporarily broken down the day before the disaster, causing radio operators to work through such a backlog of outgoing messages that they had no time to listen to yet another nearby ship's warning of ice in the area on the night of the wreck?

What if there'd been no mix-up back at port in England and the ship's lookouts had actually been given the binoculars that they should have received?

What if First Officer William Murdoch had tried simply turning away from the iceberg instead of attempting the more complex port around maneuver in which he tried to turn sharply to one side to clear the bow from danger and then immediately turn back the other way to clear the stern?

What if the Titanic had carried its full capacity of 64 lifeboats instead of the mere 20 that it was carrying?

Just days before the sinking of the Titanic, passengers were photographed on deck strolling by these very lifeboats, completely unaware that they'd soon have to be put to use.

And beyond this one haunting photo, there exist dozens of poignant Titanic sinking photos that capture the tragic ignorance of the crew and passengers who had no idea that the "unsinkable" ship was about to go down.

See some of these photos — and photos of what came immediately after — in the gallery above.

After viewing this collection of photos from the RMS Titanic's sinking, see 28 other Titanic photos that we promise you've never seen before. Then, discover Titanic facts that are sure to surprise you. Finally, learn more about the story of when the Titanic sank.

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 of history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.