100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic

Friday, 13th April 2012 by

On the 15th April 1912, exactly 100 years ago this weekend, the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Titanic had 2,223 people on board at the time, over 1,500 of whom died.

Titanic was owned by the White Star Line shipping company and at 269m (882 ft) in length she was the world's largest passenger liner in service at the time. She was one of three Olympic class ocean liners commissioned by the company, the other two being the HMHS Britannic (who was sunk after 11 months service during WWI) and their older sibling, RMS Olympic (who served a long career, earning the nickname "Old Reliable").

KML file via GPSed.com

All three of the Olympic class liners were built by Harland and Wolff (who are still in business) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The drydock where the ship was fitted out has been preserved as a museum to this day, and the 259m long space gives us a clear view of the massive ‘physical footprint of the Titanic’.

Nearby we can see Belfast's iconic twin shipbuilding gantry cranes Samson and Goliath (who are owned by Harland & Wolff). By comparison the drydock beneath these 70m (229 ft) tall cranes is 556m (1,824 ft) long - in fact it's the largest drydock in the world.1

Also nearby is the SS Nomadic - a ship built by Harland and Wolff as a tender for Olympic and Titanic. Today she is the last surviving White Star Line vessel in the world. In the aerial imagery here she is not much more than a hull, but Harland and Wolff have in the past few months completed an initial phase of restoration that replaced the missing bridge and flying bridge decks, as seen in this ground level photo.

Soon after Titanic sank, proposals were made to salvage her wreck (despite the fact that her exact location was unknown). Of course even if divers had been able to somehow locate the wreck, they couldn't get anywhere near deep enough to actually retrieve anything.

Despite repeated attempts to locate her, Titanic remained resolutely lost for the next 73 years, until she was finally found by a team led by Dr. Robert D. Ballard on 1 September 1985.

Titanic is in two main pieces 600km (370 miles) south-east of Newfoundland. The bow is located here, and the stern is here, about 600m (1,970 ft) to the south.

James "deep sea diver" Cameron and his digital effects team recently created a new animation of how they believe Titanic collided with the iceberg, sank, and reached the ocean floor2.


There are various museums around the world that have items on display that have been recovered from the wreck of Titanic, including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia; the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich; the Sea City Museum in Southampton; the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool; the Titanic Historical Society's museum in Massachusetts; and there's a permanent exhibition of Titanic artefacts at the Luxor in Las Vegas.

While not strictly a museum, the White Swan Hotel, Alnwick, has an "Olympic Suite" which is decorated using paneling, mirrors, stained glass windows and other furnishings removed from the RMS Olympic's first class lounge when she was being dismantled in 1936. The first class lounge on Olympic was identical to that of Titanic so a visit here could potentially be a great way of experiencing Titanic's splendour.

Meanwhile, in Inverness, Scotland, this guy (the one next to Mater) has built a 100 ft Titantic replica out of a couple of old caravans and a shed. Sadly it seems that he was refused planning permission for the model, which now faces an uncertain future. I believe the model has been built on the other side of his house, so it isn't visible on Street View, but could that be it in the satellite imagery?

Meanwhile, the wreck of Titanic continues to decay at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, losing an estimated 100 kilos of hull per day to iron-eating bacteria, and within time she will disappear into the seabed completely.

  1. Previously featured on this site all the way back in 2006. ↩︎

  2. It's an interesting watch, but be warned, Cameron adds a fairly insensitive commentary. ↩︎