Saturday, 14 April 2012

One hundred years on

One hundred years ago RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. She struck an iceberg at 11.40pm (ship's time) on the evening of Sunday 14th April 1912, and by 2.20am on Monday 15th April she had sunk. 818 passengers and 696 crew members lost their lives ... including Charles Kennell, a 30-year old chef and member of the ship's victualling staff. He was also one of my wife's relatives.

By modern standards Titanic was quite small:
  • Tonnage: 46,328 gross registered tonnage
  • Length: 882' 6" (269.0m)
  • Beam: 92' (28.0m)
  • Draught: 34' 7" (10.5m)
  • Propulsion: Two 3-blade wing propellers (driven by two reciprocating steam engines) and one 4-blade centre propeller (driven by a low-pressure turbine) using steam from 24 double-ended and 5 single-ended boilers
  • Power: 46,000 HP
  • Speed: 21 knots (cruising speed); 24 knots (maximum speed)
  • Capacity: Passengers: 2,435; Crew: 892
This compares with the latest cruise liner I have been aboard, P&O's MV Azura:

  • Tonnage: 115,005 gross registered tonnage
  • Length: 951' 5" (290.0m)
  • Beam: 118' 1" (36.0m)
  • Draught: 26' 3" (8.0m)
  • Propulsion: 6 × Wärtsilä diesel engines powering electric motors
  • Power: 46,000 HP
  • Speed: 22 knots (maximum speed)
  • Capacity: Passengers: 3,096; Crew: 1,226
Despite all the hype, the sinking of the RMS Titanic was not the worst ever disaster at sea. It was a tragedy that should not have happened, but compared to other disasters at sea, it is by no way the worst. For example:
  • MV Wilhelm Gustloff which sank after being torpedoed by a Soviet submarine on 30th January 1945. It is estimated that over 9,000 people lost their lives, most of them being civilians fleeing from the advancing Soviet armies who were invading East Prussia.
  • MV Goya which was torpedoed and sunk by a Soviet submarine on 16th April 1945. Between 7,000 and 8,000 civilians and military personnel died when she sank.
  • RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20 on 7th May 1915 off the coast of southern Ireland. 1,198 of the people aboard died when the ship sank in less than eighteen minutes.
  • MV Costa Concordia was the largest passenger-carrying ship to be lost at sea when she partially sank after hitting rocks off Isola del Giglio on the night of 13th January 2012.


  1. Hi Bob

    Fond as you are of the sea cruise I believe it in your interests to never sail in a ship built in an Irish yard, like Titanic. I reckon that, in spite of the iceberg, sadly she would not have made it across the Atlantic anyway.

    That Soviet sub skipper was really regarded with skepticism when he reported his "success" and only received any recognition, and indeed his pension, many years later.


  2. Thanks for this Bob.

    You could add the Empress of Ireland to that list, the largest loss of life ever in Canadian waters.

    I watched a piece on US public television last week, about the engineering staff of Titanic and how they stayed at their posts until the end, so that the lights, wireless, and pumps could all have power. Amazing heroes, those guys.

  3. I take it that most folks have heard the conspiracy story concerning the Titanic and her sistership the Olympic.

    If not have a look at:

  4. We went to see a special showing of a CBC documentary on the Canadian side of the story last night - not bad.

    What I found interesting from your comparison is that despite all the progress in ship and engine design and computers and CAD, RMS Titanic had a 2 knot advantage in maximum speed over the Azura. I know the water resistance equation has a speed squared component but there was some pretty slick engineering going on back in Belfast.

  5. I think the main difference between these two ships apart from the generation gap is that one is an ocean liner designed to get a large amount of people across the Atlantic quickly, some in luxury, and the other is a cruise ship designed to accomodate a large amount of people in various degrees of luxury and take them sedately wherever.

    I saw the Queen Mary in Long Beach last summer and I was surprised how roughly finishedand riveted the hull plates looked compared to a modern cruise ship whose hull was all smooth welds.

  6. Arthur,

    As the ship I most recently cruised on was built in Italy, I will not comment on the standards of shipbuilding in different countries, save to say that the Titanic was built by a shipyard that had an excellent reputation ... and continued to do so until it closed only a few years ago.

    I understand that the Soviet sub captain had a reputation for being a heavy drinker, and that this was one reason why his claim was discounted.

    All the best,


  7. Mad Padre,

    I did think about including the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in my list as it was such a notable disaster.

    I understand that the reason why marine engineers wear a purple strip between the gold braid on their badges of rank was in recognition of the heroism and self-sacrifice exhibited by Titanic's engineers The order that this distinguishing colour – a Royal colour – should be used was made by King George V.

    They were true heroes.

    All the best,


  8. Jim Duncan,

    It is a wonderful myth ... and very easily disproved!

    All the best,


  9. Pat G,

    The Azura has a bulbous bow that increases the ship's hull efficiency and reduces the amount of power needed to achieve a given speed.

    The men who designed the Titanic certainly knew they job, and produced an excellent ship design ... for her time, not forgetting that all their calculations were done by hand and without the use of a computerised CAD/CAM system!

    All the best,


  10. Jim Duncan,

    You are absolutely right; they are not really comparable in terms of function even if their tonnage is almost the same.

    I know which of the two I would prefer to travel on ... and not just because of the lifeboat issue!

    All the best,



Thank you for leaving a comment. Please note that any comments that are spam or contain phishing messages or that come from Google Accounts that are 'Unknown' will be deleted.