The Sinking Of The “Unsinkable”: The Big Build

The Titanic’s 1st class lounge area.

I know Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater weren’t real people but fictitious ones made up for James Cameron’s movie Titanic. But I still get so pissed off when I think about Rose not letting Jack get on the door with her, we all know there was plenty of room for him. Here is where Nick would chime in and say: “BaBe It’S cAlLeD bUoYaNcY aNd DiStRiBuTiOn Of WeIgHt.”. Ok, Nicholas, I get that, I really do but I would have made room for you! Nick is huge as I’ve mentioned before he’s 6”10’ and over 300lbs but I would’ve let him on the damn door. We sure as shit would have sunk but hey baby we would have gone down together. Till death do us part, am I right? Shit, I wouldn’t have gotten in a lifeboat in the first place if he wouldn’t be able come with me. If you have to stay on the ship boo, I’m staying right there with you. He can’t get rid of me that easily. Anyhow, Rose could have let Jack on the door but instead, she let the man she supposedly loved (after only knowing him for like 3 days) freeze in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean (which in reality was a heated pool). WHAT WAS THE REASON ROSE? WHAT WAS THE REASON?

Wow, ok, as you can tell I feel strongly about this fictional situation and Rose’s bitch ass. Thanks for letting me rant. By the way, has anyone heard that they’re building a Titanic II and it’s going to be more or less an exact replica of its predecessor? I don’t know about you guys but you will not find me on that thing. That’s just asking for trouble, that’s just a bad omen, getting on there would be some bad juju. Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me dawg. I would rather sit in a glass case full of spiders than get on that cursed thing. If you take a cruise on it and live to tell the tale I would love to know about it. But if you sink don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh, and because there’s a lot of information to pack in here this will be a 2 part article. I know how much you guys love those, so who am I to deprive you of them?

The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland as the 2nd of 3 Olympic-class ocean liners, the first being the RMS Olympic and the last being the HMHS Britannic (originally named the Gigantic). These 3 were the largest ships ever built by the White Star Line’s fleet. The White Star Line faced a long-standing challenge from its main rivals Cunard, who had recently launched the Lusitania and the Mauretania, the fast passenger in service at the time. It was 1912 so how fast could those suckers have been? They also faced challenges with the German lines Hamburg America and Norddeutscher Lloyd. White Star Line Chairman J. Bruce Ismay decided to compete with his competitors on size rather than speed and proposed a new class of liners that would be larger than anything that had been launched before as well as being the last word in comfort and luxury. White Star Line’s American financer, J.P Morgan, was all for the idea. The company also wanted to replace their oldest pair of passenger ships still in service, the SS Teutonic (launched in 1889) and the SS Majestic (launched in 1890). The Teutonic was replaced by the Olympic while the Majestic was replaced by the Titanic. However, the Majestic would be brought back into service after the loss of the RMS Titanic.

All three ships were constructed by the Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, who had a long-established relationship with the White Star Line dating back to 1867. The company put its leading designers on the job. The project was overseen by Lord Pierri, a director of both Harland and Wolff and the White Star Line; naval architect Thomas Andrews, the managing director of Harland and Wolff’s design department; Edward Wilding, Andrews’ deputy and responsible for calculating the ship’s design, stability, and trim; and last but not least Alexander Carlisle, the shipyard’s chief draughtsman, and general manager. Carlisle’s responsibilities included the decorations, equipment, and all general arrangements, including the implementation of an efficient lifeboat davit design (the importance of this will come into play later on). On July 29, 1908, Harland and Wolff presented the drawings to Ismay and other White Star Line executives. The designs were approved and Ismay signed three “letters of agreement” two days later, authorizing the start of the construction.

Construction on the Titanic started on March 31, 1909, and was built virtually parallel to the Olympic whose construction started on December 16, 1908. Both ships took around 26 months to complete and followed an almost identical construction process. The size of the Titanic and her sister ships posed a major engineering challenge for Harland and Wolff; no shipbuilder had ever before attempted to construct vessels this size. They were designed as an enormous floating box girder (I had to google what that was and it’s a box-looking thing of some sort), with the keel acting as the backbone and the frames of the hull forming the ribs. At the base of both ships, a double bottom about 5 feet 3 inches deep (that’s as tall as I am) supported 300 frames, each between 24 and 36 inches apart and up to about 66 feet long. They stopped at the bridge deck and were covered with steels plates that formed the outer skin of the ships.

Construction of the Titanic and Olympic

There were 2,000 plates used to construct the hull of the Titanic. The single pieces of rolled steel measuring up to 6 feet wide and 30 feet long were laid in an overlapping fashion. Each roll of steel weighed roughly 2.5 to 3 tons and was 1 to 1.5 inches thick. Welding methods were still in their infancy so, like most iron and steel structures of the time, the hull was held together using over three million iron and steel rivets, which alone weighed over 1,200 tons. They were fitted using hydraulic machines or were manually hammered in. One of the last items to be added on the Titanic before the ship’s launch was her (why are boats always females? Do any of you know the answer to that?) two sides and one center anchor. The center anchor was the largest to ever be forged by hand, weighing nearly 16 tons. The construction of both ships was very difficult and dangerous and the safety precautions put in place for the 15,000 workers were mediocre at best. As a result, 246 injuries were recorded, with 28 of them being deemed severe. Among the severe ones were arms severed by machines or legs being crushed after a worker fell of a piece of steel. 6 people died on the ship itself while she was being constructed and another 2 died in the shipyard workshops and shed. Just before the Titanic’s launch, a man was killed when a piece of large wood fell on him. A lot of the work was carried out without the use of hard hats or handguards.

Titanic was powered, layout, and amenities. The Titanic was equipped with 3 main engines; 2 reciprocating 4 cylinders, triple-expansion steam engines, and one centrally placed low-pressure Parsons turbine; each driving a propeller. Guys, when I tell you I researched this article, I mean I RESEARCHED FOR THIS ARTICLE! The 2 reciprocating engines had a combined output of 30,000 horsepower. The output of the steam turbine was 16,000 horsepower. The White Star Line used the same combination on engines on the SS Laurentic and it was a huge success. It provided a good combination of performance and speed. The engines were heated by burning coal, 6,611 tons of which would be carried on the Titanic’s bunkers, and another 1,092 tons in another part of the ship. 176 firemen worked around the clock to shovel over 600 tons of coal into the furnaces a day. The Titanic’s electrical plant was capable of producing more power than an average city power station of the time.

The Titanic was 882 feet 9 inches long with a maximum width of 92 feet 6 inches. Her total height, measured from the base of the keel to the top of the bridge, was 104 feet. She measured 46,328 gross register tons with a draft of 34 feet 7 inches, she displaced 52,310 tons. All three of the Olympic-class ships had 10 decks (not counting the top officer’s quarters), eight of which were for passenger use. From to bottoms, the decks were: 

  1. The Boat Deck – This is where the lifeboats were housed and lowered if needed. Which they were. 
  2. A Deck also called the Promenade Deck – This deck was reserved exclusively for 1st class passengers and contained 1st class cabins, the 1st class lounge, smoke room, reading and writing rooms and Palm Court. 
  3. B Deck also called the Bridge Deck – This held more 1st class passenger accommodations as well as 6 staterooms featuring their own private promenades. The A La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien were also located here for 1st class passengers. 
  4. C Deck also called the Shelter Deck – This deck served as part of the 3rd class promenade. Crew cabins and 3rd class public rooms were housed here. There were also a mix of 1st class cabins on that deck as well along with the 2nd class library. 
  5. D Deck also called the Saloon Deck – This deck was dominated by 3 large public rooms; the 1st class reception room, the 1st class dining saloon, and the 2nd class dining saloon. There was also an open area provided for 3rd class passengers. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class passengers all had cabins on this deck. There were berths for the firemen located there as well.  
  6. E Deck also called the Upper Deck – This deck was predominantly used for passenger accommodations for all 3 classes. This deck also supplied berths for cooks, seamen, stewards, and trimmers. Along the length of this deck ran a passageway nicknamed Scotland Road. This was used by 3rd class passengers and crew members. 
  7. F Deck also called Middle Deck – This deck mainly accommodated 2nd and 3rd class passengers and several departments of the crew. The 3rd class dining saloon was located on this deck, along with the swimming pool, Turkish bath, and kennels for pets. 
  8. G Deck also called the Lower Deck – This was the lowest complete deck that carried passengers and had the lowest portholes, that sat just above the waterline. The squash court was located here along with the travelling post office where letters and packages were sorted for delivery when the ship docked.  
  9. The Orlop Decks and Tank Top – The lowest level of the ship that sat below the waterline. This deck was used as cargo space while the Tank Top provided the platform where the ship’s boilers, engines, turbines, and electrical generators were housed. The Tank Top housed the engine and boiler rooms, areas which passengers were not allowed to see  

The passenger facilities aboard the Titanic aimed to meet the highest standards of luxury. The ship could accommodate 833 1st class passengers, 614 2nd class passengers, and 1,006 3rd class passengers, for a total of 2,453 passengers. Her capacity for crew members exceeded 900, bringing the total number of travelers on the ship to 3,547. The Titanic was laid out similar to that of a contemporary high-class hotel. Designers used the Ritz Hotel as a reference point. 1st class cabins were finished in the Empire Style (an early 19th-century design movement). Various other decorative styles, ranging from the Renaissance to Louis XV, were used to decorate cabins and public rooms in 1st and 2nd class areas of the ship. Designers tried to give passengers the impression that they were in a floating hotel rather than a ship. Passenger amenities included a 7 feet deep saltwater swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, and a Turkish bath that had a steam room, cool room, massage room, and hot room. 1st class common rooms were impressive and lavishly decorated. They included a Palace of Versailles style lounge, a massive reception room, a men’s smoking room, and a reading and writing room. There was also an A la Carte restaurant which was run by famous Italian restaurateur Gaspare Gatti. The Café Parisien was decorated in the style of a French sidewalk café, complete with ivy-covered trellises and wicker furniture. The Verandah Café served tea and light refreshments and offered gorgeous views of the ocean. The dining saloon on D Deck, designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll, was the room afloat and could seat almost 600 passengers at a time.

3rd class accommodations on the ship were not as luxurious as 1st and 2nd classes but were still better than on many other ships at the time. They reflected the improved standards which the White Star Line had adopted for lower-class travel. On most other North Atlantic Passenger Ships at the time consisted of little more than open dormitories, where hundreds of people were confined, often without adequate food or bathrooms. The White Star Line divided their 3rd class accommodations on the Titanic into 2 sections. Single men were quartered in the forward areas of the deck, while single women, married couples, and families were quartered in the end area of the deck. White Star Line also provided 3rd class passengers with private, small but comfortable cabins that could house 2,4,6,8 and 10 travelers. Most other ships only had 3rd class berth sleeping arrangements. 3rd class accommodations also included a dining room, as well as public gathering areas, including adequate open deck space that could be used a social hall. A smoking room for men and a general room on C Deck that women could use for reading and writing was also available. Although they were not as glamorous as the upper-class areas, they were still well above average for the time. Leisure activities and facilities were provided for all 3 classes to help pass the time. A passenger list was published before launching the ship to inform the public of which great and good passengers were on board.

One of the Titanic’s most distinctive features was her 1st class staircase, known as the Grand Staircase or Stairway. It was built out of solid English Oak and had a sweeping curve, the staircase descended through 7 decks of the ship, between the Boat Deck to E Deck. It turned into a simple single flight of stairs on F Deck. It was topped with a dome of wrought iron and glass that allowed natural light to shine into the stairwell. Each landing of the staircase gave access to the ship’s entrance halls and was paneled in the William & Mary style. At night it was lit by gorgeous crystal light fixtures. This is probably my favorite part of the ship, you know, before it was on the ocean floor. 

The Titanic’s infamous Grand Staircase

Although the RMS Titanic was a passenger liner, she also had a substantial amount of cargo space. She was designated as a Royal Mail Ship (hence RMS) which means she carried mail under contract with the Royal Mail as well as the United States Post Office (USPS). Letters, packages, bullion, coins, and other valuables were held in an allocated 26,000 cubic feet space in the ship’s holds. The Sea Post Office on G Deck was manned by 5 postal workers, 3 Americans, and 2 Brits (is that the proper term?). All 5 works 12-hour days, 7 days a week sorting up to 60,000 items daily. Oh no honey, you will never see me working 7 days a week, hell to the no. The ship held a huge amount of baggage for passengers that were held in a different 19,455 cubic feet spaced hold. Keep in mind, this was only 1st and 2nd class baggage. They would need a lot more space for my shit. I always pack like I’m moving to wherever we’re going. A 3-day trip requires at least 3 pieces of luggage. Just ask Nick. Despite myths that have been floating around luggage on the Titanic was rather mundane. There was no gold, diamonds, or a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. That was a very old and famously coveted book from Iran that was originally written in Farsi before later being translated to English. I’m Iranian trust me I just know these things naturally. Ok, fine, I googled it. According to the Senate Inquiry, the most highly valued item of luggage or cargo was a neoclassical oil painting titled, La Circassienne au Bain by French artist Merry-Joseph Blondel. It’s some painting of a naked bitch with her chesticals hanging out. You can look it up.

The Titanic was equipped with 20 lifeboats: 14 standard wooden ones that held 65 passengers and 4 collapsible wooden ones that held 47 passengers. She also had 2 emergency cutters that held 40 passengers. All of the lifeboats were attached securely on the ship and all the standard lifeboats were connected to davits. Both cutters were kept swung out, hanging from the davits, ready for immediate use. Collapsible lifeboats were kept on the boat deck. Each boat carried food, water, blankets, and a spare life vest. They were equipped with ropes that would enable them to save passengers stranded in the water if necessary. The RMS Titanic has a total of 16 davits, each able to handle the lowering of 4 lifeboats. This gave the ship the ability to carry up to 64 standard wooden lifeboats. I REPEAT, 65 STANDARD WOODEN LIFEBOATS! Which would have been enough space for 4,000 passengers to be safely removed from the ship during an emergency. THAT IS CONSIDERABLY MORE THAN HER MAXIMUM CAPACITY! Also, don’t be impressed by my math, I googled the mess out of that calculation. However, White Star Line decided that only 16 standard wooden lifeboats and the 4 collapsible boats would be needed. This would only accommodate 1,178 passengers. That was only 1/3 of the Titanic’s capacity. In White Star Line’s defense, the Board of Trade’s regulations required British ships over 10,000 tons to carry a minimum of 16 lifeboats with a capacity of 990 occupants. Therefore, White Star Line provided more lifeboat accommodation than was legally required at the time. It would have helped if they used them properly.

The Titanic’s gymnasium

The Titanic had approximately 885 crew members on board for her maiden voyage. Like many ships of the time, she did not have a permanent crew and a majority of members were casual workers who only boarded the ship a few hours before leaving from South Hampton. I bet they wish now they just stayed unemployed. Some recruits signed up on March 23, 1912, where they served as the skeleton crew during the Titanic’s sea trials and her trip to England. The White Star Line’s most senior captain, Edward John Smith, was transferred from the Olympic and took command of the Titanic. Chief Mate, Henry Tingle Wilde, was also transferred over from the Olympic. William McMaster Murdoch and Charles Lightoller were Titanic’s First and Second Officers respectively. Herbert Pitmit MBE was the third officer and was the only deck officer not a member of the Royal Naval Reserve. The original Second Officer, David Blair, had been dropped from the crew altogether. We don’t know why he was pulled from the crew but my thoughts are that someone was watching over him at the time. What a lucky man.

The crew was divided into 3 primary departments: Deck, with 66 crew; Engine, with 325; and Victualling, with 494. A good majority of the crew were not seamen (don’t laugh, ok, you can laugh because I did) but were rather engineers, firemen, or stokers. They were responsible for looking after the engines, steward, galley staff, and passengers. Over 97% of the crew were males (which isn’t surprising for the period) and only 23 members were female, mainly the stewardesses. Other crew members had a great diversity of professions, such as; bakers, chefs, butchers, fishmongers, dishwashers, gymnasium instructors, laundrymen, waiters, bed-makers, cleaners, and a printer, who sent out the daily newspapers for passengers titled the Atlantic Daily Bulletin which had the latest news received by the Titanic’s wireless operators. Most of the crew members signed on in Southampton and approximately 699 of the crew were from there and 40% were natives of the town. A few specialists were self-employed or subcontracted. That group included 5 postal clerks from the RM and USPS, the staff of the A La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien, the radio operators (employed by Marconi), and the 8 musicians (employed by an agency). Crew pay varied, from Captain Smith’s £105 a month (£10,500 today) to the £3 (£350 today) that stewardesses earned. However, the lower-paid crew members were allowed to accept tips from passengers to help supplement their income.

Ok, I think with that I will end this 1st article because all that’s left to talk about is her maiden voyage and that fateful night. It was such a catastrophic disaster that I still can’t wrap my head around it. Even after researching it in-depth and watching countless documentaries about the tragedy. So, stay tuned for the article that is going to end exactly how we know it will. Still act surprised as you’re reading it though. Just do it to appease me. Ok, Thanks!

The Titanic had approximately 1,317 passengers on board: 324 in 1st class, 284 in 2nd class, and 709 in 3rd class. 869 passengers were male and 447 were female. There were approximately 107 children on the ship, most of whom were 3rd class passengers. The ship was expected to be booked full for her maiden voyage but a national coal strike in the UK disrupted shipping schedules, causing many crossings to be canceled. Many passengers chose to postpone their travel plans until the strike ended. Those people were f smart! The strike ended a few days before the Titanic was set to depart but that was too late to have much of a change passenger-wise. The ship was only able to set sail on schedule because coal was transferred from other ships that had gotten tied up in Southampton.

Some of the most prominent people of the day booked a trip aboard the Titanic, traveling 1st class. Among them were (if there is a plus sign next to their name it means they died in the wreck); American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV+ and his wife Adeleine Force Astor, industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim+, painter and sculptor Francis Davis Millet+, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus+ and his wife Ida+ (I’m so glad his death didn’t end the rise of Macy’s because I get some good ass shit on sale there all the time), Denver millionairess Margaret “Molly” Brown, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, Lieut. Col. Arthur Peuchen, writer and historian Archibald Gracie, cricket player and businessman John B. Thayer+ with his wife Marian and their son Jack, George Dunton Widener+ with his wife Eleanor and son Harry+, Noel Leslie, Countess of Rothes, Mr.+ and Mrs. Charles M. Hays, Mr. And Mrs. Henry S. Harper, Mr.+ and Mrs. Walter D. Douglas, Mr.+ and Mrs.+ Hudson J.C Allison, Mr.+ and Mrs. George D. Wick, Mr.+ and Mrs. Arthur L. Ryerson, Mr. And Mrs. Dickinson Bishop, architect Edward Austin Kent+, brewery heir Harry Molson+ (That sucks, they make some damn good beer.), tennis players Karl Behr and Dick Williams, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, future lawyer Elsie Bowerman and her mom Edith, journalist William Thomas Stead+, fashion buyer Edith Rosenbaum, New York socialite Edith Corse Evans+, wealthy divorcee Charlotte Drake Cardeza, French sculptor Paul Chevre, author Jacques Futrelle+ and his wife May, silent film actress Dorothy Gibson and her mom Pauline, President of the Swiss Banverein Col. Alfons Simonius-Blumer, James A. Huges’s daughter Eloise, banker Robert Williams Daniel, the chairman of the Holland America Line Johan Reuchlin, Arthur Wellington Ross’s son John H. Ross, Washington Roebling’s nephew Washington A. Roebling II, Andrew Sak’s (he was the founder of Sak’s off 5th) daughter Leila Saks Meyer and her husband Edgar Joseph Meyer+, William A. Clark’s nephew Walter M. Clark and his wife Virginia, great-great-grandson of soap manufacturer Andrew Pears Thomas C. Pears and his wife, John S. Pillsbury’s grandson John P. Snyder and his wife Nelle, and Dorothy Parker’s manufacturer uncle Martin Rothschild and his wife, Elizabeth. There were others as well but I think you get the idea. Some damn important people were on this sucker.

The Titanic’s owner, J.P Morgan, was scheduled to travel on the maiden voyage but canceled at the last minute. That was probably one of the best decisions his ass ever made. Also on board were J. Bruce Ismay and the Thomas Andrews+ (the Titanic’s designer). They were there to observe any problems that might arise and assess the ship’s general performance. I’d say they got to observe a huge f problem. Not all who booked tickets made it on the ship, approximately 50 reservations were canceled before the voyage for various reasons.

Sources:

“Titanic” – Wikipedia

“The Titanic: Sinking and Facts” – History

“Remembering The Titanic” – National Geographic

“The Titanic” – Smithsonian Institution

“Titanic: Conspiracy of Failure” – Science Channel

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