4.4 The Unsinkable Ship

On 10 April 1912, the largest luxury ship in the world set sail from Southampton in England to New York. She was called the Titanic. The word ‘titanic’ means ‘huge’. This was her maiden voyage, that is her first voyage. She set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean and she carried more than two thousand passengers. The Titanic was like a floating town.

Everyone called the Titanic the finest ship in the world. Everyone was proud of her. She was as tall as a building with fifteen storeys. Inside, she was like a large hotel with grand staircases, dining-rooms, shops and swimming pools.

 Everyone thought that the Titanic could never sink. They called her the unsinkable ship. The ship’s builders were so sure of this, that they put only a few life-boats on the ship.

 The journey was very comfortable. The passengers were proud because they were travelling in the best ship in the world. They felt safe.

 Then came the night of 14 April. The sky was clear and the sea was calm. Many of the passengers were asleep. Captain Smith knew that there were icebergs nearby, so he told a man to keep a watch from the top of the ship. Suddenly at 11.40 p.m. the man saw something. He grew cold with fear. A huge iceberg stood right in the path of the Titanic. ICEBERGE! He yelled.

Captain Smith fought hard to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg, but the ship changed direction slowly and her side scraped the mountain of ice. A shower of ice fell on to the decks and the iceberg cut holes along the ship’s side. Water began to pour into the lower decks. Most passengers heard nothing and slept on.

Captain Smith and his crew could not stop the water flooding through the ship. They knew the Titanic was in great danger. The unsinkable ship was sinking. At 12.15 a.m., Captain Smith sent urgent messages on the ship’s radio asking for help. ‘HELP!’ TITANIC SINKING! COME QUICKLY! Then he ordered the crew to wake all the passengers up.

A ship called ‘The California’ was only twenty miles away, but she did not receive Titanic’s messages. Her radio was turned off and the radio operator was asleep.

Another ship called the ‘Carpathia’ heard the Titanic’s calls and sailed at full speed towards her. Unfortunately, the Carpathia was far away and she took over three hours to reach the Titanic.

Meanwhile, the Titanic was sinking rapidly. The crew lowered the life-boats into the sea, but there was only enough space in the boat for a few hundred passengers. The Titanic had more than two thousand people on board. The ship began to tilt into the sea. People began to jump from the decks into the ice-cold water.

With its lights still shining, the Titanic stood upright for a few minutes. Then, at 2.20 a.m., on 15 April, she vanished into the sea. About fifteen hundred people drowned. Captain Smith and most of his crew went down with the ship.

The Carpathia arrived at 3.40 a.m. The ship’s crew found the life-boats and saved seven hundred people in them. They also found chairs and pieces of wood floating on the water. But almost all of the people in the water had drowned or died of cold. The Carpathia was too late to save them.

The sinking of the Titanic made people think harder about the safety of passengers on ships. They asked why ships carry such few life-boats and why they turn off their radios. In 1913, it was decided that all ships must have enough room in their life-boats to carry everyone on board. It was also decided that ships must keep their radios working every hour of the day and night.

In 1985, scientists sent a submarine to look for the wreck of the Titanic. They found the ship lying in two pieces on the ocean floor, at a depth of around 4000 metres (13,000 feet). Later, they took photographs of the wreck and brought small parts of it to the surface of the water.

There are many stories of bravery on that terrible night in April 1912. In 1998, the director James Cameron made a famous film of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. It is a very sad film. Almost everyone who sees the film leaves the cinema in tears.