RMS Titanic

An introduction to the greatest shipwreck drama of all time! Discover the key Titanic facts and find out how to learn more.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was a catastrophic event which has since passed into myth and legend. But what is the truth behind the myth?  Encyclopedia Titanica is here to help answer that question.

What was the Titanic?

RMS Titanic was a British registered four-funnelled ocean liner built in 1912 for the transatlantic passenger and mail service between Southampton and New York.

According to legend RMS Titanic was conceived at a dinner between Lord Pirrie of the Harland & Wolff shipyard and Joseph Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line, at Downshire House, Lord Pirrie's London home.

With the introduction of the Lusitania and Mauretania the Cunard Line had stolen a march on the White Star Line; with Olympic, Titanic and Britannic Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie saw a golden opportunity to regain the initiative and with it a hefty slice of the transatlantic passenger trade.

The new vessels would forsake speed for the increased safety and comfort that would come with a significant increase in scale. Fittings and appointments would also be improved over the competition. Lavish staterooms, a swimming pool, squash racquet court, gymnasium, stylish cafe and plush a la carte restaurant would attract the wealthy, while significantly improved accommodation in other classes was also provided. Millionaires might grab the headlines but it would be steerage (Third Class) and the growing middle class (Second Class) that would drive economic success.

When and where was the Titanic built?

RMS Titanic was designed and constructed at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast (Yard No. 401), Northern Ireland under the supervision of marine architect Alexander Carlisle and chief designer Thomas Andrews.

Having been laid down in 1909 it would take three years of construction and fitting out before RMS Titanic was ready for sea, commanded by veteran Captain Edward John Smith. After brief sea trials she departed for Southampton on 1 April 1912.

How big was the Titanic?

Titanic's Dimensions General Dimensions
Length overall - 882ft. 9in (269.1m)
Length (between perpendiculars) - 850ft (259.1m)
Breadth (extreme) - 92ft 6in (28.2n)
Draught - 34ft 7in (10.5m)
Depth (Moulded to Shelter Deck) - 64ft 3in (19.6m)
Depth (Moulded to Bridge Deck) - 73ft 3in (22.3m)
Total Height (from Keel to Navigating Bridge) - 104ft (31.7m)
Weight of hull at launching - 24,360 tons
Displacement - 52,310 tons
Gross tonnage - 46,328 tons
Net tonnage - 21,831 tons
Height: 175 feet (the boat deck was 60 feet above the waterline).
Gross tonnage: 46,328 tons
4 funnels (three carried smoke from the furnaces the fourth ventilated the kitchens)
9 Decks - See Titanic Deckplans

2 Emergency Cutters
14 Standard Lifeboats
4 Engelhardt Collapsible Lifeboats
See Lifeboat Specification.

Although she was the largest ship in the world, she was only fractionally greater in size than her sister ship RMS Olympic. RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic were constructed side-by-side and less than one year would elapse between their respective maiden voyages. They were practically identical in both appearance and fittings. A third sister Britannic would follow, but would enter World War One as a vast hospital ship; she would never see service as a passenger liner.

How was the Titanic propelled?

The Titanic was propelled by a novel arrangement of traditional steam powered reciprocating engines and a more modern steam turbine.

Engines: Two triple-expansion reciprocating steam engines
One low-pressure Parsons turbine
25 double-ended and 4 single-ended Scotch-type boilers
159 coal burning furnaces
Propulsion: Three propellers
5,892 tons of coal
Total horsepower - 51,000 H.P.
Service speed - 21 knots
Top speed : 23 knots.

Learn more in the Engine Room Engines & Propulsion Systems forum

When was the Titanic's Maiden Voyage?

On 10 April 1912 the Titanic sailed from Southampton, England with 2,200 passengers and crew she was bound for New York. Titanic's Schedule took in stops at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland.

Encyclopedia Titanica contains a biography for every single person that travelled on the maiden voyage as well as information about the places people came from and the ships her crew served on.

Titanic Passengers and Crew

Aboard were 2208 people - all ages, creeds and colour; the wealthy, middle class and the poor. If you could walk her decks of you would hear a dozen or more languages being spoken with every imaginable dialect.

Quick Facts

  Lost Saved Total
1st Class1 123 201 324
2nd Class2 166 118 284
3rd Class 528 181 709
Crew3 679 212 891
  1496 712 2208
  1. Includes 4 members of the Harland and Wolff Guarantee Group (all lost).
  2. Includes 8 Musicians (all lost)
  3. and 6 members of the Harland and Wolff Guarantee Group (all lost).
  4. Includes 5 Postal Clerks (all lost)

More Titanic statistics

What happened and why is the Titanic famous?

Four days after leaving Southampton the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank: 1500 people died and 700 survived.  The Titanic is famous for many reasons, these include

  1. She was the largest ship in the world
  2. She sank on her maiden voyage
  3. Her Captain received many warnings of ice on the route but did not reduce speed.
  4. There were not enough lifeboats for all the people on board.
  5. Many crew and paying passengers lost their lives but the man that effectively owned the Titanic somehow survived.
  6. With millionaires as well as people in dire poverty there was a diverse mix of passengers and crew and we have been left many fascinating stories of their lives.

Titanic in modern culture

RMS Titanic forms part of our cultural landscape. Since 1912 she has been depicted in countless films and books.

Through art, drama and music her tragedy is replayed and reinterpreted and collections of her relics can be seen in museums and exhibitions across the globe.

RMS Titanic has even entered the language: the phrase re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic exemplifies a futile exercise and the essence of her tragedy has formed the metaphorical basis of many an academic thesis.

Encyclopedia Titanica enables you to learn about how the RMS Titanic has been reflected in contemporary culture; Titanic on film and record, in photographic image and in art.

You can also learn about the true stories that inspired the movie makers including The Real Jack Dawson, the story of a real life Titanic victim who's namesake was the hero of James Cameron's 1997 epic Titanic movie.

You can also watch the rarest of all motion pictures: RMS Titanic archive film.

How can I get involved?

A great way to get involved and to learn more is to join the Encyclopedia Titanica community. It's free and you can ask questions and join in discussions on the message board

Join the Community

If you have a question that isn't answered on the site or in the forum you can also ask it here.

Ask a Question

How can I stay informed?

We'd love to stay in touch with you. So we have a very occasional newsletter. Don't wory you won't be inundated!

Join the Newsletter

How can I help support ET?

Send New Research

You can support the work of Encyclopedia Titanica in keeping alive the memory of the people by helping us tell the story of people from your own area. Learn how...

Annual Membership

Find out about the benefits of annual membership