The building of the RMS Titanic and her tragic loss is a story that has fascinated thousands of people over the last century. This timeline sets out the key points, from the transatlantic liner’s conception as an idea, through its design, construction, and launch to the fatal collision with the iceberg, the sinking, and finally, many decades later, the discovery of the wreck. The story continues today, with more trips down to the wreck and the raising and restoration of further Titanic items.
Lord Pirrie, chairman of Harland and Wolff Shipbuilders, and Bruce Ismay, director of the White Star Line, decide to build three huge, luxurious liners called Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic.
March 31, 1909
Construction of the Titanic begins.
May 31, 1911
Titanic is launched, watched by more than 100,000 people.
March 31, 1912
Fitting out is complete and the Titanic is ready to sail.
April 2, 1912
Tugs pull the Titanic out to sea for her sea trials.
8:00 p.m. The Titanic leaves Belfast for Southampton.
April 3, 1912
Shortly before midnight the Titanic arrives in Southampton having traveled 570 miles (917 km).
April 4–10, 1912
Last-minute painting and the fitting of furniture and carpets; the hiring of the seamen, firemen, and stewards; loading coal into the bunkers, cargo into the holds, and provisions for the journey.
April 5, 1912
Flags and pennants adorn the ship to salute the people of Southampton and mark Good Friday.
Wednesday, April 10, 1912
6:00 a.m. Crew boards Titanic.
6:30 a.m. Thomas Andrews arrives.
7:30 a.m. Captain Smith boards.
9:30 a.m. Bruce Ismay arrives. He will stay in one of the parlor suites with a private promenade deck.
9:30-11:30 a.m. Passengers board.
At 12:00 noon Titanic finally sets sail for France, but is slightly delayed by the near collision with the New York.
6:35 p.m. Titanic drops anchor in Cherbourg harbor. Two small White Star steamships bring passengers, luggage, and mail out to the Titanic.
8:10 p.m. Titanic sets off for Ireland.
Thursday, April 11
11:30 a.m. Titanic arrives at Queenstown and anchors 2 miles (3 km) off shore.
1:30 p.m. Titanic leaves Queenstown and sets sail for New York.
Friday, April 12
Titanic receives wireless messages of congratulations on the maiden voyage, and also warning that there is ice in the sea lanes. Captain Smith steers farther south.
Saturday, April 13
11:00 p.m. The wireless machine stops working. Jack Phillips and his assistant Harold Bride work all night and repair it by 5:00 a.m.
Sunday, April 14
9:00 a.m. Titanic receives an ice warning from the Caronia. Captain Smith sends it to the officers on the bridge.
11:40 a.m. Dutch liner Noordam reports that there is a lot of ice.
1:42 p.m. White Star Liner Baltic warns of icebergs and field ice. Captain Smith shows this warning to Bruce Ismay.
1:45 p.m. German liner Amerika reports two large icebergs. This message fails to reach Captain Smith.
7:30 p.m. Harold Bride overhears an ice warning from the Californian and sends it to the bridge. The ice is approximately 50 miles (80 km) ahead.
9:30 p.m. Second Officer Lightoller instructs the lookouts to “keep a sharp lookout for ice.”
9:30 p.m. The steamer Mesaba warns of pack ice and large icebergs. Jack Phillips is busy sending passengers’ messages and does not send the warning to the bridge.
10:55 p.m. Jack Phillips, exhausted, cuts off the Californian’s ice warning.
11:40 p.m. Lookout Frederick Fleet sees the iceberg. First Officer Murdoch orders the engine room to stop the engines and put them in reverse, tells Quartermaster Robert Hichens, who is at the wheel, to turn “hard a’starboard” (sharp left) and closes the doors between the watertight compartments.
11:40 p.m. The Titanic hits the iceberg, only 37 seconds after Fleet’s warning.
11:41 p.m. Captain Smith instructs Fourth Officer Boxhall to inspect the ship for damage.
11:50 p.m. Thomas Andrews inspects the damaged areas.
Monday, April 15
12:00 midnight Thomas Andrews tells Captain Smith the ship will sink within an hour and a half.
12:05 a.m. Captain Smith orders the lifeboats to be uncovered.
12:10 a.m. Captain Smith asks Jack Phillips to send out a call for help. He uses the Morse code distress signal, “CQD.” Later he uses the new international call, “SOS.” The Olympic, Frankfurt, and Carpathia reply.
12:25 a.m. Carpathia sets off to the rescue, but is 58 miles (93 km) away.
12:45 a.m. The first lifeboat is lowered.
12:45 a.m. The first distress flare is fired. About
1:00 a.m. First news reaches the US that the Titanic has struck an iceberg.
2:05 a.m. The last lifeboat is lowered.
2:17 a.m. The bow plunges under the water.
2:18 a.m. The Titanic breaks into two. The bow section sinks.
2:20 a.m. Two of the collapsible lifeboats wash overboard, one half-flooded, the other upside down.
2:20 a.m. The stern sinks.
4:10 a.m. Survivors from the first lifeboat board Carpathia.
8.10 a.m. Survivors from the last lifeboat board Carpathia.
12:00 a.m. Reports reach New York that the Titanic is still afloat and all are safe.
6:16 p.m. Captain Haddock of the Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship, confirms that the Titanic has sunk.
Tuesday, April 16
Carpathia sends a list of survivors, which is posted outside the New York Times office.
Wednesday, April 17
The Mackay-Bennett, a small steamer chartered by the White Star Line, leaves Halifax. It searches the area for nine days and finds 306 bodies. Later steamers find another 22 bodies.
Thursday, April 18
Carpathia reaches New York with 705 survivors.
April 19—May 25
Inquiry into the disaster by the US Senate.
May 2—July 3
British Board of Trade Inquiry into the disaster.
Dorothy Gibson, one of the survivors, writes and stars in a silent movie Saved from the Titanic.
July 3, 1958
World Premiere of the film A Night To Remember.
Opening of the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
July 1980, June 1981, July 1983
American Jack Grimm leads three attempts to find the wreck.
September 1, 1985
Robert Ballard’s French/ American expedition with search ship Knorr and uncrewed submersible Argo discovers the wreck of the Titanic.
Robert Ballard returns and photographs the wreck in a tiny submarine called Alvin.
A salvaging expedition, with search ship Nadir and crewed submersible Nautile starts lifting objects from the wreck. Further expeditions in 1993 and 1994 raise more than 5,000 objects.
A Soviet/Canadian expedition films the wreck for a documentary called Titanica.
DEC 18, 1997
The film Titanic opens in the US.
Premiere of the film Ghosts of the Abyss.