When did the Titanic sink?

A question I am asked often about the history of the titanic is "When did the Titanic sink?"

While some people think that the sinking of the Titanic happened on Sunday April 14 1912, she actually slipped completely beneath the surface in the early morning hours of April 15 1912.

Even in the movie "Titanic" by James Cameron, Lewis (a character in the film) made a statement (based on a drawing dated April 14 1912 of Rose, a fictional passenger in the movie and who was wearing a diamond necklace in the drawing) that Rose was wearing the necklace the day the Titanic went down. But she was actually (albeit fictionally and again based on the date of the drawing), wearing the diamond the day before the ship went down.

It was very, very cold, just above freezing. A beautiful night - the stars were shining and the water was incredibly smooth, no waves. According to accounts, "as smooth as a millpond" was how many survivors described the water that night.

The lookouts, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee, were up in the crow's nest, struggling to stay warm, anticipating returning to their rooms at the end of their shift.

History of the Titanic crows nest

May be the Titanic's crow's nest

Titanic was steaming ahead, all of her boilers lit, at a reckless speed for being in an ice field.

Unfortunately, the smooth water made it hard to see the base of the icebergs and the lack of binoculars made it impossible to see far enough ahead into the dark night. It was too late when lookout Frederick Fleet saw the iceberg that would be the death of the Titanic and so many of her unsuspecting passengers.

By the time he rang the warning bell, Titanic's collision with the iceberg was imminent.

Picture of the Titanic iceberg

One of a few images depicted as being of
the iceberg that pierced the Titanic's hull

I was fortunate enough to attend the Titanic exhibit when it was in Los Angeles and I put my hand on the wall of ice that was near the end of the exhibit.

The Titanic wall of ice was there to allow us to feel just how cold it was in those waters that night. I don't think I was able to keep my hand on it for even thirty seconds. It was so cold that it felt like it was burning.

picture of the wall of ice at the titanic exhibit

Even as freezing cold as that ice was, while holding my hand there I knew that it was still beyond my comprehension of just how terrible it was for those poor people who were thrown into that water.

I could take my hand off of the ice when it was uncomfortable but those people couldn't escape the water, or death.

When did the Titanic sink? Common information...

The most commonly quoted response to the question "When did the Titanic sink?" is that at about 11:40 PM on the night of April 14 1912, Titanic hit the iceberg (sometimes referred to as the "Titanic iceberg") that ripped open her hull, and she immediately started taking on water.

Within about two hours and forty minutes of hitting the iceberg, at approximately 2:20 AM on the morning of April 15 1912, the Titanic's stern slipped beneath the surface of the water.

Survivors in Lifeboat with Debris in Water

If you look closely you can see
white debris floating in the water around the lifeboat.

The bodies and debris floating in the water, and several lifeboats nearby carrying survivors (less than 1/3 of all the passengers on Titanic), were the only evidence that Titanic had ever been there.

When did the Titanic sink? Conflicting information...


The information reported in "The New York Herald" newspaper stated that the first news of the Titanic hitting the iceberg was sent by the Titanic over the Marconi wireless system when the wireless operator sent out the C.Q.D. signal (the distress signal) at 10:25 PM. Jack Phillips and Harold McBride (Bride) were the wireless operators (Phillips was the lead operator).

The headline of this particular issue, published on April 16 1912:

TITANIC SINKS FOUR HOURS AFTER HITTING ICEBERG; 866 RESCUED BY CARPATHIA, PROBABLY 1250 PERISH; ISMAY SAFE, MRS. ASTOR MAYBE, NOTED NAMES MISSING

According to the article:

At 10:25 PM the Titanic's wireless operator reported hitting the ice berg and being in immediate need of assistance
...

At 10:55 PM the operator reported that the Titanic was sinking by the head
...

At 11:25 PM the Virginian was notified by the New York based Marconi station that Titanic was in urgent need of assistance
...

At 11:36 PM the Olympic was notified that female passengers were being put off on life boats and for the Olympic to have her boats ready to transfer the passengers
...

The article goes on to say that the last signals heard from the Titanic were at 12:27 AM April 15, when the Virginian reported hearing a few blurred signals before all signals ended abruptly.

Titanic wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold McBride (Bride)

Picture of Marconi room on the Titanic with McBride (Bride) at the desk

Actual Marconi wireless room on Titanic,
with Harold McBride (Bride) at the desk

Based on this account it sounds like the Titanic may have been slipping beneath the surface (or at least the room with the Marconi wireless system was) approximately two hours and thirteen minutes earlier than the more commonly told version of the tragic sinking.

So when did the Titanic sink?

So what's the correct answer to the question "When did the Titanic sink?"

While the exact time of the sinking of the Titanic may not ever be known, we do know that based on the recounting by the Titanic survivors, and the timing of the last messages (CQD - MGY and SOS [Titanic was one of the first ships ever to use SOS]) sent by Phillips, it was during the early morning hours of April 15 1912 that Titanic disappeared beneath the surface of the water ...

Black and white copyrighted picture of ocean with iceberg

... taking over 1000 passengers with her. May they forever rest in peace.





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More information: Where did the Titanic sink?


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Read Sean McDevitt's new Kindle novel to find out!

Sean was kind enough to give me a pre-release copy to read. It's quite an interesting take on Titanic!

I rolled when I read paragraph 30/31 (rough number) in Chapter 1 when one of the characters has a rather unpleasant encounter with a table. I could see myself in his position!

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