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The History of the Titanic’s Construction

The history of the birth of the Titanic — how she was constructed and outfitted — provides a glimpse into the history of shipbuilding, as well as the construction that ultimately failed the Titanic:

  • March 31, 1909: Workers for Harland and Wolff (the shipbuilding company that constructed many ships for the White Star Line) lay down the keel of the Titanic in Yard 401.

  • April 1910: The Titanic is fully framed.

  • October 19, 1910: The plating of the Titanic (accomplished by assembling 1-inch-thick sheets of steel) is complete. Hydraulic riveting is used to give the best-quality plating for the ship.

  • May 31, 1911 (12:13 p.m.): Titanic is officially launched from Harland and Wolff Slip Number 3. The Titanic’s launch lasts 62 seconds and is witnessed by more than 100,000 people.

    Twenty-three tons of tallow, train oil, and soft soap are used to lubricate her slip and ease her entry into the water. Eighty tons of cable and three anchors on each side control her speed. Five tugs tow the Titanic to a deep-water berth for her fitting out (the phase when final construction of the ship, mostly of the interior, is completed).

  • January 1912: Sixteen wooden lifeboats and four collapsible Englehardt boats are fitted on board.

  • March 31, 1912: The outfitting of the Titanic is complete.

  • April 1, 1912: Scheduled sea trials for the Titanic are postponed due to strong northwest winds.

  • April 2, 1912 (6 a.m.): Five tugs tow the Titanic down Victoria Channel to Belfast Lough for sea trials.

    The trials include maneuvering the ship at different speeds, evaluating the performance of the helm, and performing an emergency stop. The Titanic travels less than a half mile at 20 knots before coming to an emergency stop.

  • April 2, 1912 (7 p.m.): The Titanic returns to Belfast Lough. The Harland and Wolff observers disembark. The ship is awarded her passenger certificate.

  • April 2, 1912 (8 p.m.): The Titanic departs Belfast under the command of Captain Edward J. Smith and proceeds to Southampton, England. (Captain Smith, known as the “millionaire’s captain,” has logged about 2 million miles aboard White Star Line ships.)

  • April 3, 1912: The Titanic arrives at Southampton and docks at Berth 44.

  • April 4 and 5, 1912: Workers begin preparing to load the Titanic with cargo and supplies for her maiden voyage, which is scheduled for six days hence.

  • April 6, 1912: A British coal strike is settled. The shortage of coal had made it necessary for the Titanic to load 4,427 tons of coal from the Olympic and five other International Mercantile Marine steamships docked at Southampton.

  • April 6, 1912: The majority of the Titanic’s crew arrives at the docks. Most crew members are drawn from the British Seafarer’s Union and the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union.

  • April 7, 1912 (Easter): No work is performed on the Titanic.

  • April 8, 1912: Foodstuffs are loaded onto the Titanic. The ship’s chief designer, Thomas Andrews, oversees all activity and remains onboard until 6:30 p.m., after which he returns to his office.

  • April 9, 1912: The Titanic passes its final day in Southampton. All the officers spend the night on board and keep regular watches.

  • April 10, 1912 (11:45 a.m.): The Titanic’s mighty triple-toned steam whistle blows three times. Twenty minutes later, the great vessel casts off and is towed from the Southampton dock by six tugboats.

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