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Titanic

Titanic frozen in time

A chronological summary of events of the Titanic's maiden voyage

On May 31, 1911, the black hull of the Titanic is launched after 15,000 shipbuilders labored two years to build the largest moving object made by man in the world. When fitted, the liner would be 11 stories high and almost three football fields in length.

Titanic prepares to depart Southampton, England, shortly after noon Wednesday, April 10, 1912, on its maiden voyage, a six-day trip across the Atlantic to New York. The ship carries about 2,225 passengers and crew.

There is an hour delay when the liner New York breaks free of its moorings and almost collides with Titanic as it moves down the narrow channel. Many in the crowd on the dock consider it an ominous beginning.

The ship arrives at Cherbourg, France, at dusk. Small boats ferry passengers to the Titanic, including Col. John Jacob Astor and his wife, Madeleine. A hotel and real estate mogul, Astor is one of the richest men in America.

Arriving in Queenstown, on the south coast of Ireland, the next day, Titanic takes on mail and more passengers while anchored off Roche's Point. Passengers either watch the activity or go to lunch. The ship departs Queenstown at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11.

The voyage proceeds uneventfully, with passengers often strolling the decks or retiring to the appropriate first-, second- or third-class lounge to socialize. The weather is clear, the seas calm, on April 11 and 12, Thursday and Friday.

On Saturday, as Titanic approaches the mid-Atlantic, White Star President J. Bruce Ismay seems determined to beat the crossing time set by Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, and land a day early in New York. Titanic increases speed to more than 22 knots.

First-class passengers quickly gravitate to the Verandah Cafe and Cafe Parisien, enjoying menu choices aside from those served in the dining saloon. The smoking room is reserved for men, so a Georgian-style reading room is available to women. First-class passenger Mrs. Frederic Spedden tries a Turkish bath and says never again though she does enjoy a plunge in the pool, she writes in her diary.

At 9 a.m. Sunday, April 14, Cunarder Caronia message arrives reporting icebergs, growlers (smaller bergs) and field ice in the area.

Religious services are conducted in the dining saloons about 10:30 a.m. Eva Hart, 7, is delighted that one of her favorite hymns, Oh God Our Help in Ages Past, is sung at the service for second-class passengers.

At 11:40 a.m., Dutch liner Noordam reports ice in much the same position as noted by Caronia.

Third-class accommodations are in the lower parts of the ship, with single men and women separated by a ship's length: men in the bow and women in the stern. Families stay together. The white-painted, third-class dining room serves fruit and pudding for dessert.

At 1:42 p.m. Sunday, as Titanic's wireless operators Jack Phillips, 25, and Harold Bride, 21, work to send a backlog of passenger messages after the wireless set broke down the previous evening, an incoming message from the White Star steamer Baltic says it has clear weather but reports of passing icebergs and a large quantity of field ice perilously close to Titanic's course. Capt. Edward J. Smith gives the message to Ismay without comment. Ismay puts it in his pocket, where it stays for 5 1/2 hours before it joins other ice warnings posted on the bridge.

Amerika reports two large icebergs in the same area at 1:45 p.m.

Cold weather drives most of the passengers indoors. Many gossip about Titanic's speed, saying the ship had never run so fast. Emily Ryerson of Philadelphia takes a walk around the deck with friend Marian Thayer. Ryerson rarely leaves her stateroom: Her son had been killed in an automobile accident and she was returning home with her husband, their younger son and two daughters for the funeral on Friday.

At 5 p.m., Titanic reaches the "corner" -- a navigational reference point at 42 degrees N, 47 degrees W. Capt. Smith delays the due-west turn to New York, probably due to earlier ice warnings, and makes the corner 50 minutes later and 16 miles farther southwest.

George and Eleanor Widener host a party for some of the ship's more prominent passengers and Capt. Smith in the a la carte restaurant on B-deck. Nearly a hundred passengers gather in second-class dining saloon for a hymn sing.

An iceberg watch is ordered. Ship lights to the fore are extinguished at 7:15 p.m., so icebergs will be easier to see. The temperature is 43 degrees. The ice warning from the Baltic -- the one Ismay put in his pocket -- is finally posted on bridge.

In the crow's nest, lookouts Archie Jewell and George Symons peer into the darkness.

At 7:30 p.m., an ice warning from Californian is intercepted, reporting three large bergs about 19 miles north of Titanic's location. Temperature drops to frigid 38 degrees, but weather is clear and calm with no moon.

Capt. Smith retires at 9:30 p.m., after checking with First Officer Charles Lightoller on conditions, at a critical point in Titanic's voyage.

At 9:40 p.m., the steamer Mesaba messages: "Much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs" in a 78-mile-wide rectangular field ahead of Titanic. It was the sixth ice message of the day. Busy with other transmissions, wireless operator Phillips fails to send the message to the bridge, reasoning they had had enough ice warnings. Mesaba's warning pinpoints where Titanic will meet its doom.

Speed is maintained at about 22 1/2 knots. Officers reason the clear night will allow sighting of iceberg at a distance adequate to alter course.

Shift change on the bridge and in the crow's nest occurs at 10 p.m. Titanic is approaching a field of ice and bergs several miles wide and stretching north and south some 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

Many of the passengers retire for the night as the temperature dips to 31 degrees. The first- and second-class smoking rooms are crowded, though, with several card games in progress and acquaintances conversing over drinks.

For no particular reason, passenger Lawrence Beesley, a college science teacher from London traveling on holiday, takes his lifebelt down from the top of the wardrobe in his room before retiring to bed to read.

Californian messages at 11 p.m. that it is stopped and surrounded by ice. "Keep out," radios back Phillips, buried in passenger messages to be sent. "You're jamming my signal." Before Californian can give its position, it is cut off. About 11:35 p.m., the Californian's wireless room shuts down.

Lookout Frederick Fleet spots a haze on the ocean's surface and begins to make out a black object in their path at about 11:40 p.m. "Iceberg right ahead," he tells the wheelhouse by phone, after ringing the brass bell in the crow's nest three times. "Thank you," replies Sixth Officer James Moody.

Chief Officer William Murdoch orders the ship "hard a-starboard," meaning the ship's bow will swing to port, or left of the iceberg, and orders the engine room to go full-speed reverse. Murdoch also pushes a button for 10 seconds signaling he will close the ship's much-vaunted watertight doors.

Evidence later shows the iceberg is spotted at a distance of less than 500 yards. Titanic cannot stop in time. At 11:40 p.m., failing to turn quickly enough, the massive ship collides with the iceberg on its starboard side, the berg scraping along the first 300 feet of the hull, below the waterline.

There is no sound of a crash, no frightening jar, for most of the passengers. Only an unusual rattle, a bit of extra vibration in the mattress. Several crew members think the ship has lost a blade from a propeller, as did Ismay. Others hear a grinding sound. In the first-class smoking room, a card player's drink spills.

Capt. Smith rushes to the bridge: "What have we struck?"

Below, water begins pouring into the forward boiler room No. 6 through a gash about 2 feet off the floor. Two crewmen scramble out of the flooding compartment to see boiler room No. 5 filling as well. Water is gushing into the mail hold, and mail clerks furiously haul mail bags to the next level.

An eerie quiet settles on the ship as its engines stop and its wake dies away.

At 11:50, water is already 14-feet above the keel in the first five compartments.

The ship's designer, Thomas Andrews, on board to take care of details during its maiden voyage, makes his report to Capt. Smith shortly after midnight. The iceberg has damaged the first six of the ship's 16 hull compartments. Titanic is doomed, he says. They have less than two hours, he says.

Third-class passengers in forward cabins, unlike most aboard, are jolted awake by the collision, some knocked from bunks. As water seeps into their rooms, they carry their belongings through the corridors, toward the open deck.

Other passengers and crew are unaware of the problem. Some of the more curious go up on deck to investigate the sudden silence. Some are told they've struck an iceberg but are given no sense of trouble. Passengers scoop up ice chunks from the deck, shaved from the iceberg when the ship scraped by, to wage snowball fights.

Almost imperceptibly, the Titanic's bow is settling deeper into the water as her forward compartments flood like the sections in an ice cube tray.

At 12:05 a.m., Smith gives the order to prepare the lifeboats. Many in the crew do not get the word. In the dining saloons, stewards prepare the tables for breakfast as usual. Others stewards are banging on cabin doors and telling passengers to put on their lifebelts and come up to the boat deck.

Passenger Edwina Troutt, 27, sees only a starry night and calm ocean from the stern of the boat deck. Then she sees crewmen gathered around a lifeboat and peeling back its canvas cover. She leaves to tell her two second-class roommates.

The weather is freezing, and the roar from excess steam being released from the boilers makes shouting the only way to communicate on deck. Many are driven back inside. Some take refuge in the gymnasium. Others crowd the purser's office, wanting their money and valuables.

At 12:10, Capt. Smith steps into the wireless room for the second time since the collision. The first time he tells the two wireless operators that the Titanic has struck an iceberg. Now he tells them to send the distress call.

Several passengers and crew see the lights of another ship, perhaps as close as 6 miles away.

At 12:25 a.m., Carpathia receives distress message from Titanic minutes before Carpathia's sole radio operator retires for the night. Come quick, radios Phillips. Carpathia is 58 miles southeast of Titanic's position. Responses also will come from the Ypiranga, Frankfurt, Baltic, Caronia, Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, Mount Temple and Titanic's sister ship, Olympic. None is close enough to reach Titanic in time.

Helen Bishop, a passenger in first class, leaves her beloved dog Frou-Frou in her cabin after sending her husband for her muff.

No one will get on a lifeboat. The night is cold and dark, and the Titanic is much more solid than the small wooden boats, passengers believe. Newlyweds John and Nelle Snyder of Minneapolis along with other couples and a number of men from the smoking room, finally climb into lifeboat No. 7. With a capacity of 65 but carrying only 28, it is lowered to the water on the starboard side at about 12:35 a.m. The evacuation has begun.

On the port side, the rule tends to be women and children only in the lifeboats. On the starboard side, men are allowed to board if no women are waiting. And whether by intent or not, first- and second-class passengers are being given the first chance to escape the sinking ship.

Alfred White, a greaser in the engine room, goes to his post at 12:40 and makes coffee, believing he is in for a long night of making repairs.

When the roaring of the steam suddenly stops, the band comes up from the lounge, assembled on the starboard deck and plays cheerful ragtime numbers. Many believe the women are simply being put off the ship as a precaution, and in short time the lifeboats will return.

Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall fires the first of eight distress rockets at about 12:45 a.m., and repeats the act every five minutes. "They wouldn't send those rockets unless it was the last," Emily Ryerson tells her husband, Arthur.

Boxhall, too, sees a mystery ship on the horizon. In subsequent hearings, it is determined to be the Californian. The mystery ship does not respond to wireless transmissions, rockets or a Morse lamp message sent by Titanic. The crew on Californian sees white rockets in the distance but doesn't realize they are distress signals. Californian is tantalizingly close but does not receive the Titanic distress call. After Titanic, ships will be required to have 24-hour radio watch.

At 12:55 a.m., lifeboat No. 5 becomes the second in the water. Anna Warren of Portland, Ore., peeks into the ship's portholes as it is lowered to see D-deck, the deck of her stateroom, at water level. No. 6 is lowered the 50 or so feet to the water on the port side. Major Arthur Peuchen climbs down the ropes into the boat midway down when it is realized another seaman is needed to help row.

The whistle and boom of the distress rockets convinces those aboard that their situation is serious. But boats still are being lowered less than half-full. Some of the crew are unaware the davits have been tested and fear they cannot take the weight. They intend to fill the boats to capacity at the gangway doors in the side of the ship. The doors are never opened. Others can find no women to put aboard. Boat No. 1, with a capacity of 40, has only 12 aboard.

Passengers in third class stumble through a maze of corridors and stairways seeking a way to the boat deck. Some crewmen bar them from leaving their assigned levels. Most of the passengers on the well deck wait quietly, watching the boats pull away from the side of the ship. Others play cards and joke.

Father Thomas R. Byles recites the rosary, hears confessions and gives absolutions to more than 100 passengers, mostly second- and third-class, on the aft end of the boat deck.

Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Allison and their two small children are still asleep in their C-deck cabins. The Allison's maid, Sarah Daniels, who had been scolded by Mr. Allison when she knocked on their door, is put on lifeboat No. 8 while protesting she must warn her employer and his family.

At 1:15 a.m., the Titanic lurches to port, the deck tilting. As the band plays, boats No. 9 and No. 10 are lowered, this time with 56 and 55 people, respectively. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe brandishes his gun to deter men from rushing boat No. 14.

Below decks, engineer Jonathan Shepherd breaks his leg when he steps into an open manhole. Engineer Herbert Harvey, working the pumps, sees a wave of ocean water pouring through the opening between the boilers and scrambles up an escape ladder. When he looks back, he sees stoker Fred Barrett and Shepherd engulfed by the green water.

Minnie Coutts, after waiting for nearly an hour in her third-class cabin for instructions while her two sons sleep, finally heads for the boat deck but is blocked by a locked door. She tells 11-year-old Willie that he must promise to care for his brother should she drown.

Mr. Allison is finally awake and goes to investigate. The children's nurse, Alice Cleaver, takes baby Trevor and climbs aboard lifeboat No. 11, where Nellie Becker and her two young children are seated. There are some 70 people aboard. Mrs. Becker realizes her 12-year-old daughter, Ruth, is still on the Titanic. "Get in another boat!" she calls.

Coutts and her two sons are shown an alternate route to the boat deck by a crewman. Others in third class are not so fortunate. A line of men crawls along the cargo cranes into second class to reach the boats.

Ruth Becker asks Sixth Officer James Moody if she may board boat No. 13. Moody picks her up and drops her in. In the rush to escape, boat No. 13 is almost crushed when it is washed under the descending boat No. 15.

There are more than 1,700 people left on the Titanic. Still, some hesitate. "Ladies, you must get in at once," cries Thomas Andrews, the designer. "There is not a minute to lose."

Collapsible boat C is two-thirds full when a group of passengers try to storm it. Chief Purser Herbert McElroy fires his pistol twice. Ismay, White Star director, climbs aboard the boat as it is lowered -- an action that will bring vilification later.

It is well past 1:30 a.m., and those in the boats are quickly aware of how fortunate they are. The ship's huge propellers are rearing out of the water.

In the confusion, boat No. 4, with its load of wealthy women, is forgotten. After being ordered back and forth between decks, the women finally clamber out of a cranked-open window on A-deck. John Ryerson, 13, is almost prevented from going with his mother until his father intervenes. Astor asks to board to assist his pregnant wife but is denied. He tells her he will catch another boat and lights a cigarette as No. 4 is lowered about 1:55 a.m.

At 1:40 a.m., the mystery ship turns away or is no longer visible.

Capt. Smith shouts through a megaphone, ordering partly filled boats to return for more passengers but none responds.

At 2 a.m., the water has risen to just 10 feet below the promenade deck. More than 1,500 people are left on board. Collapsible D, with 42 women and children, is the last boat and ready for lowering. First Officer Lightoller draws his revolver to keep the men from rushing the boat. Passengers Hugh Woolner and Mauritz Hakan Bjornstrom-Steffanson make a jump for it, taking places 43 and 44 of the 47 available. The lifeboat is lowered at 2:05.

Water crashes through the wrought-iron and glass dome over the first-class Grand Staircase.

Wireless operator Phillips continues to send the distress signal, even as Capt. Smith dismisses him: "Abandon your cabin. I release you. That's the way of it at this kind of time. Every man for himself." His partner, Bride, finds a crew member trying to sneak off with Phillips' lifebelt and a fight ensues. Phillips decides it is time to go.

The last wireless signal is sent at 2:17 a.m.

Crewmen, including Bride, struggle to free Collapsible B on the roof of the officers' quarters. It will eventually float off the ship, overturned, and save the 28 men who balance and cling to its curved hull in the icy Atlantic.

As the bow of the Titanic begins to plunge and a wave rolls aft from the forward end of the boat deck, Capt. Smith dives into the ocean. Many are washed overboard. Cook John Collins and a steward, each carrying a small child, are engulfed. The two children, their mother and the steward are swept away.

Although the bow is fully submerged, the lights still glow on the Titanic. There is a roar as everything movable in the ship, from five grand pianos to countless trunks to delicate china, crashes forward. People are sliding into the water. Those in the lifeboats can hear screaming and see people jumping from the ship.

Collapsible A, also stowed on the roof of the officers' quarters, floats free and more than a dozen people climb into the swamped boat from the water.

At 2:18 a.m., the lights suddenly go out. The ship begins to split between the third and fourth funnels, an echoing, cracking sound. The bow sinks immediately. The stern rights itself for a moment, standing almost vertical, and then begins to sink, too, in a perpendicular position with people "clinging like bees" to benches, railings, ventilators. The stern flops back into the water and plummets the 2 1/2 miles to the bottom.

It is 2:20 a.m. The Titanic is gone.

-- The Titanic timeline was compiled by Times staff writer Susan Aschoff from the following sources:

    Titanic: An Illustrated History, by Don Lynch, paintings by Ken Marschall, 1992, Madison Press.
    The Titanic: The Extraordinary Story of the "Unsinkable" Ship, by Geoff Tibballs, 1997,
    Reader's Digest.
    Titanic: The Exhibition, an exhibit catalog, text by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas,
    1997, Wonders.
    A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord, 1955, Bantam.
    Down With The Old Canoe, A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster, by Steven Biel, 1996,
    W.W. Norton.
    The Titanic Disaster: As Reported in the British National Press April-July 1912,
    by Dave Bryceson, 1997, W.W. Norton.
    Inside the Titanic: A Giant Cutaway Book, by Ken Marschall, 1997, Little, Brown and Co.
    On Board The Titanic, by Shelley Tanaka, 1996, Hyperion Books for Children.
    Last Dinner on the Titanic, by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley, 1997, Hyperion/Madison Press.
    "How We Found Titanic," by Robert D. Ballard, National Geographic magazine, December 1985.
    "A Long Last Look At Titanic," by Robert D. Ballard, National Geographic magazine,
    December 1986.
    "The Tragedy of the Titanic," by George Howe Colt, LIFE magazine, June 1997.


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