Titanic Disaster, one of the worst maritime disasters in history. The British luxury liner Titanic (46,000 gross tonnes) of the White Star Line, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, struck an iceberg about 153 km (95 mi) south of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland Island just before midnight on April 14, 1912. Of more than 2,220 people aboard, about 1,513 died, including the American millionaires John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, and Isidor Straus.
The ship had been proclaimed unsinkable because of its 16 watertight compartments, but the iceberg punctured five of them, one more than had been considered possible in any accident, and the Titanic sank in less than three hours.
Subsequent investigations found that the ship had been steaming too fast in dangerous waters, that lifeboat space had been provided for only about half of the passengers and crew, and that the Californian, close to the scene, had not come to the rescue because its radio operator was off duty and asleep. These findings led to many reforms, such as the provision of lifeboat space for every person on a ship, lifeboat drills, the maintenance of a full-time radio watch while at sea, and an international ice patrol.
The sinking of the Titanic has been the subject of several books and films, most recently the Hollywood blockbuster, Titanic (1998). It was not until September 1985 that the wreck was found and the area photographed. This was done by a joint French-United States expedition, through the use of robot submersibles equipped with television cameras (see Deep-Sea Exploration).
In July 1986 the US researchers explored the Titanic in the three-person Alvin submersible; they took pictures of the interior, but recovered no artefacts. The following year a controversial French salvage effort retrieved dishes, jewels, currency, and other artefacts, which were exhibited in Paris in September 1987 and in Hamburg in 1997. In August 1998 a substantial section of the ship’s outer hull was recovered from the sea floor. Surveying and investigation of the wreck continues.
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