From the very beginning, even before she was launched, the Titanic was an object of fascination. At the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast where she was built, workers marveled at the size of the ship. In Southampton, England, the first stop on her maiden voyage, thousands of people came to the docks to see the largest moving object ever constructed by man. And after the Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic on the sixth day of her maiden voyage — April 15, 1912 — the unsinkable ship began her voyage into time immemorial. These pictures help tell her tragic story.
The Titanic under construction in a photograph taken June 10, 1911.
The Grand Staircase of the Olympic, which was identical to the Titanic's.
No photos of the Titanic’s staircase exist.
A Titanic second-class two-berth stateroom.
A berth in a second-class cabin could be booked for the equivalent of $1,375 in today’s dollars.
The Titanic docked at Southampton before her maiden voyage.
At 11:45 a.m. April 10, 1912, the Titanic’s triple-toned steam whistle blew three times — a very loud roar of a C note — and 20 minutes later, the great vessel cast off.
The Titanic lifeboat, holding some of the lucky few survivors.
In the lifeboats, survivors listened to the agonizing cries of their fellow passengers and crew dying in the ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic. The survivors shivered and huddled together for warmth. Most lifeboats did not have lamps or a compass. Occasionally, someone would light a piece of paper to signal their lifeboat’s position to the other lifeboats. All eyes scoured the horizon for the Carpathia, the rescue ship they’d heard about.
Margaret Tobin Brown, known to the world as "the unsinkable Molly Brown."
Ms. Brown took charge of Lifeboat 6 and threatened to throw Quartermaster Robert Hichens overboard when he refused to allow her and the other women in Lifeboat 6 to row back to the site of the Titanic’s sinking to look for survivors in the water. She died 20 years after surviving the Titanic. (No one called her Molly until after her death.)
The April 16, 1912 edition of The World reporting the sinking.
Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon testifies at the British Commission of Inquiry.
The British Commission of Inquiry issued its “Report on the Loss of the Titanic” on July 30, 1912. The report was generally considered a whitewash. It absolved Captain Smith and the White Star Line of any blame for the disaster. The report completely overlooked the lack of lifeboats as a cause of the tragedy.
First Officer William Murdoch: the man in charge of the bridge at the time of the collision with the iceberg.
Photo copyright Mary Evans/Illustrated London News Ltd/Everett Collection
The mystery remains as to Murdoch’s fate. Did he kill himself on the bridge, as some survivors said they witnessed? Or did he dutifully go down with the ship, a selfless hero? The uncertainty is part of what has kept the Titanic legend alive for a century.
Captain Edward J. Smith: ultimately responsible for more than 2,200 lives and the $7.5 million vessel.
Photo copyright Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection
History is inconclusive about Captain Smith’s final acts and last words. Whatever the doomed commander said, all post-rescue accounts of his last words emphasized Smith’s heroism and self-sacrifice. He was reported to have said all, some, or none of the following:
“Be British, boys! Be British!”
“Every man for himself!”
“Goodbye, boys! I’m going to follow the ship!”
“I will follow the ship!”
“Well, boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves.”
“All right, boys. Good luck, and God bless you.”
The members of the Titanic's main orchestra.
Throughout the years, “Nearer, My God, To Thee” has become ensconced in the Titanic legend as the ship band’s final song. Many survivors are on record as recalling hearing the song being played as the lifeboats were being loaded and the ship continued to sink. One 1912 newspaper account even stated that some of the lifeboat passengers actually hummed along with the band as it played the popular hymn.
John Jacob Astor IV: a real estate multimillionaire who went down with the ship.
Although Colonel John Jacob Astor didn’t survive the sinking, his 18-year-old wife did. After seeing his pregnant wife, her maid, and her nurse into a lifeboat, Astor retreated to the deck of the Titanic. Madeleine Astor refused to talk about the sinking, except to describe her last memory . . . seeing her husband’s pet Airedale, Kitty, pacing the Titanic’s deck.
A scene from the 1958 movie, A Night to Remember.
A Night to Remember starts with an error: It shows the Titanic being christened with a bottle of champagne. In reality, the White Star Line never christened its ships. Otherwise, the movie’s special effects are decent for the time, and the portrayal of the ship is mostly convincing. To build the sets, the filmmakers used actual Titanic blueprints. And the actors chosen resembled the people they were portraying.