Education Forum
Science Illustrated
Conspiracy Theory
Discovery News
Eyewitness to History
Plenary Quiz
Watch the Movie
Conspiracy Documentary

Activities Week History Mystery: Why did the Titanic sink?

In groups of 4 try and solve the mystery of the sinking of the Titanic. By the end of the double you must be ready to present your conclusions to the rest of the group in whatever format you prefer. Good answers will be rational and supported by convincing evidence
This page and its links and search facilities
Ipads and laptops

Background Information (Wikipedia)
RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of 15 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK to New York City, US. The sinking of Titanic caused the deaths of more than 1,500 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in modern history. The RMS Titanic, the largest ship afloat at the time it entered service, was the second of three Olympic class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, and was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast with Thomas Andrews as her naval architect. Andrews was among those lost in the sinking. On her maiden voyage, she carried 2,224 passengers and crew.

The Titanic - Why did the Titanic sink? (Historyonthenet)

"We have struck iceberg ... sinking fast ... come to our assistance."

The ship was doomed and it was slowly sliding into its watery grave. But why did the largest, most advanced ship of the century sink?

It was Captain Smith's fault

Captain E J Smith of the Titanic

This was Captain E. J. Smith's retirement trip. All he had to do was get to New York in record time. Captain E. J. Smith said years before the Titanic's voyage, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." Captain Smith ignored seven iceberg warnings from his crew and other ships. If he had called for the ship to slow down then maybe the Titanic disaster would not have happened.

It was the shipbuilder's fault


About three million rivets were used to hold the sections of the Titanic together. Some rivets have been recovered from the wreck and analysed. The findings show that they were made of sub-standard iron. When the ship hit the iceberg, the force of the impact caused the heads of the rivets to break and the sections of the Titanic to come apart. If good quality iron rivets had been used the sections may have stayed together and the ship may not have sunk.

It was Bruce Ismay's fault

Bruce Ismay

Bruce Ismay was the Managing Director of the White Star Line and he was aboard the Titanic. Competition for Atlantic passengers was fierce and the White Star Line wanted to show that they could make a six-day crossing. To meet this schedule the Titanic could not afford to slow down. It is believed that Ismay put pressure on Captain Smith to maintain the speed of the ship.

It was Thomas Andrews' fault

Thomas Andrews

The belief that the ship was unsinkable was, in part, due to the fact that the Titanic had sixteen watertight compartments. However, the compartments did not reach as high as they should have done. The White Star Line did not want them to go all the way up because this would have reduced living space in first class. If Mr Andrews, the ship's architect, had insisted on making them the correct height then maybe the Titanic would not have sunk.

It was Captain Lord's Fault

Captain Lord

The final iceberg warning sent to Titanic was from the Californian. Captained by Stanley Lord, she had stopped for the night about 19 miles north of Titanic. At around 11.15, Californian's radio operator turned off the radio and went to bed. Sometime after midnight the crew on watch reported seeing rockets being fired into the sky from a big liner. Captain Lord was informed but it was concluded that the ship was having a party. No action was taken by the Californian. If the Californian had turned on the radio she would have heard the distress messages from Titanic and would have been able to reach the ship in time to save all passengers.

Was Captain Smith past his best?

Was money a key factor in the disaster?

Did laws need to be changed?

Who was to blame for the sinking of the Titanic?

Both America and Britain held inquiries into the disaster. both reached the almost identical conclusions.

The American inquiry concluded that Captain Smith should have slowed the speed of the boat given the icy weather conditions.

The British inquiry, on the other hand, concluded that maintaining speed in icy weather conditions was common practice.

Both inquiries agreed on who was most at fault - Captain Stanley Lord of the Californian. The inquiries stated that if Lord had gone to Titanic's assistance when the first rocket was seen then everyone would have been saved.

Both inquiries made recommendations:

All ships must carry sufficient lifeboats for the number of passengers on board.
Ship radios should be manned 24 hours a day.
Regular lifeboat drills should be held.
Speed should be reduced in ice, fog or any other areas of possible danger.


[Page visit counter]
Built by ZyWeb, the best online web page builder. Click for a free trial.