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Episode
309

The Titanic

Oct 25, 2022
History
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27
minutes

On April 10th, 1912, The Titanic set sail for New York.

Four days later she would hit a huge iceberg, sinking the "unsinkable" ship, and resulting in the deaths of 1,500 passengers.

In this episode, we learn about the story of the world's most famous maritime disaster.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Titanic. 

[00:00:28] On the evening of April 14th 1912, passengers of all nationalities and classes were settling down for another night on the largest ship ever built. 

[00:00:39] However, after four days of straightforward voyage, the truly unthinkable happened.

[00:00:45] The legendary ship struck a giant iceberg.

[00:00:49] Water started pouring on board, and the vessel sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, taking over 1,500 passengers and crew down with it. 

[00:01:00] So, let’s get right into it, and tell the story of The Titanic.

[00:01:06] The start of the 20th century saw great competition between industrialists.

[00:01:11] The Industrial Revolution had seen great factories built, trains, and machines of all sorts.

[00:01:18] Buildings grew taller. 

[00:01:20] The Flatiron Building in New York turned heads when, in 1903, its 22 floors towered over the city.

[00:01:29] And boats, of course, were no exception.

[00:01:32] There was a rush to build the biggest and most spectacular vessels to have ever been put to sea.

[00:01:39] Britain was one of the great shipbuilding nations, and two companies, Cunard and White Star Line, were in fierce competition to build the biggest and most impressive ships.

[00:01:52] At the turn of the century, Cunard launched the fastest passenger ships ever, transporting passengers between Britain and North America.

[00:02:02] In response, White Star Line wanted something that would blow the competition out of the water.

[00:02:09] So, it commissioned a Northern Irish shipbuilding company to build three new Olympic-class ocean liners, instructing the company to spend whatever was required.

[00:02:20] As far as the construction of these ships was concerned, money was no object.

[00:02:27] All three ships were given names appropriate to their owner’s ambitions and loyalties.

[00:02:34] The first was called Olympic, the third Brittanic, and the second, well, you’ve probably guessed, it was the Titanic, or RMS Titanic to give it its full name.

[00:02:48] RMS, by the way, means Royal Mail Ship, it means that the ship is registered to carry letters for the postal service, and these ships would carry mail between the UK and the United States.

[00:03:01] The Titanic took three years to build, and cost around €200m in today’s money. 

[00:03:09] By the time she was ready to launch, to take what’s called her “maiden voyage”, the world was captivated.

[00:03:17] Now, let me quickly interrupt this story to tell you something that might surprise you, and it’s that most people think that English doesn’t have genders, that a table isn’t masculine or feminine, it’s just “a table”.

[00:03:31] And that is right, but there are some objects in English that do have genders, and a ship is one of them. A ship is technically always feminine, so you should refer to one as “her”, although it’s not really wrong if you call it “it”.

[00:03:48] OK, with that grammar point out of the way, let’s talk a little bit more about this beast.

[00:03:55] By 1911, she was ready.

[00:03:59] She was the largest moving object ever built, her anchor alone weighed 16 tonnes and required 20 horses to transport it.

[00:04:09] She was 270 metres long and 53 metres high. 

[00:04:14] There were even doubts over whether she would fit in ports, with the New York Tribune writing, “How can we dock this marine monster when she reaches the port of New York?”.

[00:04:25] It wasn’t just the size and luxury that attracted press attention either, which brings us onto one of the most infamous marketing claims to have ever been made. 

[00:04:36] In a fatal foreshadowing, a hint of what was to come, the vice-Chairman of White Star Line claimed. “We are perfectly satisfied that the Titanic is unsinkable”. 

[00:04:50] Of course, this was partially to try to get people to buy tickets, but White Star Line did have reason to believe it. 

[00:04:59] Architects and engineers had installed 16 water-tight compartments across the hull, the bottom part of the ship, and the idea was that even if many of these did flood, did take on water, the Titanic would be able to stay afloat.

[00:05:18] So, the ship was built, the route from Southampton to New York was planned, and the proud passengers arrived, eager to get onboard the world’s most luxurious ocean liner

[00:05:31] Who better then, to captain her maiden voyage than the so-called ‘Millionaires’ Captain’ himself; Edward Smith?

[00:05:40] The 62-year-old Smith was a distinguished Captain, and this was to be his final voyage before retirement.

[00:05:49] So, who was actually travelling on this ship? Who managed to get a ticket?

[00:05:54] Well, the very fact that it was the biggest ship in the world made it a luxurious and special experience.

[00:06:01] But how special it was depended on how much you were prepared to fork out, how much you paid for a ticket.

[00:06:09] Ticket prices for the trip were surprisingly similar to today’s rates. 

[00:06:15] The cheapest option was a third class ticket costing around €500 in today’s money, with second class costing €1500, and first class costing €4500.

[00:06:29] But White Star Line wasn't satisfied with leaving it there.

[00:06:34] The wealthiest passengers, like billionaire John Jacob Astor, bought luxury suites for today’s equivalent of well over €70,000. 

[00:06:45] For this you would have enjoyed two luxurious bedrooms, a sitting room, private bathroom, servants and the latest trend, a private balcony. 

[00:06:57] The standards on the Titanic were so high that even 2nd class was like 1st class on pretty much any other ship. 

[00:07:05] For the most expensive sections of the boat, the public areas were modelled on The Ritz Hotel in London and stylish Parisian cafes, with a Grand Staircase as the centrepiece

[00:07:19] The facilities included a heated swimming pool, a squash court, a gym, a barber shop, bands, dancers and the largest dining room ever seen on a ship, serving only the very best food.

[00:07:33] To feed all these hungry passengers, the kitchen store rooms contained 35,000 eggs, 34 tonnes of meat, and 15,000 bottles of ale - this was a floating hotel like no other.

[00:07:48] But if you had bought the cheapest ticket, third class, it wasn’t such a luxurious experience.

[00:07:55] Of the approximately 2,000 passengers, 700 travelled in third-class. 

[00:08:02] This meant that the rooms had bunk beds, beds on top of each other, there wasn’t much space, and there were only two bathrooms between the entire 700 passengers. 

[00:08:14] One for men, one for women.

[00:08:17] If that wasn’t bad enough, the rooms were right next to the engines, which were, as you’d expect, rather loud.

[00:08:26] And what’s more, as we’ll find out shortly, the consequences of buying a third class ticket were, in many cases, lethal.

[00:08:36] Now, whilst their experience doesn’t sound like the best, it’s important to remember that this would have been the standard experience for most people on a TransAtlantic voyage.

[00:08:48] Most of these passengers wouldn’t have had hot water at home, sharing a bathroom wouldn’t have been particularly strange, and on other ships, they would have been expected to bring their own food on board. 

[00:09:01] And although everyone on board was taking part in this magical experience, there was a very clear division between the classes of passengers.

[00:09:11] There was no sneaking upstairs for some Foie Gras or a swim.

[00:09:16] There were gates that closed off the different sections, and this will become sadly important later on in the story.

[00:09:24] So, to the story of the fateful voyage.

[00:09:28] It’s the morning of April 10th, 1912 and the big day has arrived, the Titanic is waiting at Southampton. 100,000 onlookers watch The Titanic fill up with crew and passengers, and Captain Smith departs at midday. 

[00:09:47] She stops at Cherbourg, in France and Queenstown, in Ireland to pick up the remaining passengers before heading west towards the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

[00:09:57] She would be due at New York on April 17th, exactly a week later.

[00:10:03] As we both know, she would never make it.

[00:10:07] The first 4 days, however, went as planned.

[00:10:11] The upper classes enjoyed the luxuries and the less fortunate passengers waited in anticipation for their new lives in America.

[00:10:21] April 14th is when things take a dark turn.

[00:10:26] The ship was in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

[00:10:29] Warnings were beginning to come in concerning the number of icebergs, so Captain Smith plots a new course, he changes direction slightly. 

[00:10:39] As the night draws in, the temperature drops below freezing. 

[00:10:44] There was no moonlight, only stars, and the waves were calm. 

[00:10:49] The Titanic, which in sunny Southampton seemed like a giant feat of human engineering, now appeared almost insignificant compared to the huge, freezing, dark ocean. 

[00:11:03] It’s about 600km southeast of Newfoundland, in Canada and nearing midnight. 

[00:11:10] With a crew hard at work, and passengers either partying or getting to sleep, it’s at this point that events begin to unfold very quickly.

[00:11:21] At 11:40PM, Sailor Frederick Fleet is positioned in the Crow’s Nest, the ship’s lookout point. 

[00:11:29] As well as challenging weather conditions, his job is made even more difficult by the fact that the ship’s binoculars are locked in a box, and the keys are still in Southampton. 

[00:11:42] Another officer, a man named Officer Blair, had been removed from the Titanic just before departure and he had forgotten to hand over the keys.

[00:11:54] Fleet spots the tip of an iceberg, not too far in the distance, and urgently rings the bell. 

[00:12:01] He follows this up with a call to the ship’s bridge, “ice right ahead!”.

[00:12:07] With great haste, with great speed, the ship is turned and a head-on collision is narrowly avoided. 

[00:12:16] Whilst this may sound like good news, it isn’t, but more on that later.

[00:12:22] The side of the ship had scraped along the 122 metre iceberg ripping several holes below the water line. 

[00:12:30] The Titanic itself is made of metal, and weighs nearly 50,000 tonnes.

[00:12:36] The iceberg may be made only of frozen water and is only 30 metres high, 20 metres shorter than the Titanic.

[00:12:46] But it would have extended about another 300m below the surface. Put simply, it is absolutely massive, and would have weighed millions of tonnes. 

[00:12:58] As the iceberg crushed against the side of the ship, huge fragments of ice were chipped away, landing on deck

[00:13:08] Many of the passengers still thought nothing of this though, with one survivor saying, ‘We picked up blocks and most of us played snowballs.’

[00:13:18] 10 minutes later, at 11:50PM, Captain Smith and a ship architect named Thomas Andrews inspect the damage. It’s not good news.

[00:13:30] The mail room was flooding, but it wasn’t just wet letters that they had to worry about.

[00:13:36] Five of the supposedly ‘watertight’ compartments were already flooding.

[00:13:41] The ship’s architect, Andrews, who knew the ship’s design inside out, he knew it thoroughly, insists that because more than four compartments are flooded, the ship is, in fact, sinking.

[00:13:57] At midnight, 20 minutes after the collision, Captain Smith sends out his first distress call over the radio, he calls for help.

[00:14:06] The passengers are ordered to board the lifeboats. The unsinkable ship is officially sinking.

[00:14:13] It is only around this time that the metal gates segregating the lower classes from the upper classes are opened up. 

[00:14:22] Whilst the scene in the famous movie showing these passengers frantically trying to open them is slightly fictionalised, this slight delay in opening them does mean that the first class ticket holders are already at the front of the lifeboat queue.

[00:14:39] And, tragically, just 20 of the possible 64 lifeboats had been installed on the boat. 

[00:14:47] This was to try to keep the deck, the upper area, looking nice and tidy

[00:14:54] It might have made the ship look pretty, but it meant that there were only enough lifeboats for an absolute maximum of half of the ship’s passengers. 

[00:15:04] Shockingly, this actually met the minimal legal requirements of the time, as the idea was for the lifeboats to transport passengers to rescue ships and return to pick up more, not transport all passengers at the same time.

[00:15:21] As we’ll find out, this simply wasn’t possible for the Titanic.

[00:15:27] So, we’re still at about midnight now. 

[00:15:30] The ship continues to transmit distress signals, calling out for someone, anyone, to come to save it.

[00:15:37] The Carpathia, 107km away, receives the message, ‘Come at once. We have struck a berg.’ and it changes course to help.

[00:15:48] It would take another 25 minutes for the lifeboats to start boarding.

[00:15:53] ‘Women and children first’ is the protocol, but some officers think this means that no men at all are allowed to board, whilst others think that men can fill up the remaining spots.

[00:16:06] As a result of the confusion, the first lifeboat leaves with just 28 of the 65 spots filled. By 1 o'clock in the morning, the lower decks are now totally flooded, and the bow, the front of the ship sinks further and further below the icy surface. 

[00:16:27] Water rushes in 15 times faster than it can be pumped out.

[00:16:32] The writing is on the wall for the Titanic.

[00:16:36] 15 minutes later, at a quarter past one in the morning, the weight of the flooding in the bow, the front part of the boat, causes the stern and propellers at the opposite end to rise out of the water, and the incline of the ship begins tipping passengers towards the freezing cold ocean. 

[00:16:57] By this time, it is total chaos. The last few lifeboats are departing, desperate passengers push their way to them. 

[00:17:07] Some men, in a bid to survive, do whatever they can to get on the boats. Others accept their fate and stay put, rather than be labelled a coward back home.

[00:17:19] At half past one, the signals continue from the ship's officers, with two writing “women and children in boats. Cannot last much longer”.

[00:17:31] One of the most famous stories from the Titanic’s sinking is that the band kept playing whilst the ship went down, and this features in the movie. 

[00:17:41] Whilst they were playing to calm passengers when the lifeboats were being filled, they soon packed up and strapped their instruments to their back. 

[00:17:50] Sadly, none of the 8 musicians made it.

[00:17:53] By five minutes past two, the last lifeboat leaves.

[00:17:58] There are 1,500 passengers remaining on board, with no options left.

[00:18:05] The deck, the upper part of the ship, is now at such a steep angle that it becomes almost impossible to stand. 

[00:18:12] Hundreds fall or jump into the freezing water.

[00:18:17] Now, the sea temperature was 2 degrees below zero. Hypothermia would have set in within minutes.

[00:18:25] Two minutes later, at 2.17am, the Captain of the ship, Captain Smith, announces “it’s every man for himself”. 

[00:18:35] The ship snaps in half and the stern, the back bit, sinks to the bottom of the ocean. 

[00:18:42] Following a longstanding maritime tradition, Captain Smith goes down with his ship. 

[00:18:49] Accounts of his death vary widely. 

[00:18:52] Some say they saw him swimming towards a lifeboat, some say he sat by the wheel whilst it flooded, and some say they saw him shoot himself with a pistol. We’ll never know. 

[00:19:04] A minute later, at 2:18, all the lights go out on the ship, plunging the tragic scene into darkness.

[00:19:13] And by 2.20am, just two minutes later, the rest of the ship sinks, floating to the bottom of the ocean.

[00:19:23] Some resilient swimmers are pulled onto lifeboats. 

[00:19:27] In one of the most remarkable survival stories, the Titanic’s baker managed to survive long enough in the water to be pulled onto a boat. 

[00:19:37] How did he manage it? 

[00:19:38] Well, he says that he decided to drink a load of whiskey, and that this enabled him to stay calm to focus on swimming.

[00:19:47] Unfortunately, almost everyone else who fell into that icy water never made it out alive.

[00:19:55] The rescue ship, The Carpathia arrived at the scene 2 hours afterwards. It came as fast as it could, but it was 93km away when the Titanic struck the iceberg, and as you’ve heard, the entire tragedy was over very quickly. 

[00:20:12] There was, however, a ship that was much closer, one that could perhaps have saved hundreds of lives.

[00:20:19] It was called The Californian, and it was only 25 kilometres away. 

[00:20:25] The Captain of The Californian, and his lookouts did repeatedly see the lights and distress signals from The Titanic, but they thought them to be shooting stars. 

[00:20:37] Others also misidentified the ship and didn’t believe it to be the Titanic. 

[00:20:43] Crucially, the warning system wasn’t set up by the radio operator before he went to sleep, meaning any distress calls made by the Titanic fell on deaf ears, they weren’t heard. 

[00:20:56] The Californian did eventually arrive, but only at 8:30am, 8:30 the following morning. 

[00:21:03] Nobody could have lasted that long in the freezing temperatures, and all it found was the Carpathia rescuing the lucky few who had managed to get on a lifeboat.

[00:21:15] Perhaps surprisingly, no one knows the exact figures of how many people died on the early morning of April 15th, but it’s estimated that there were 703 survivors and 1503 deaths. 

[00:21:31] And unfortunately, how much you paid for your ticket had a large impact on how likely you were to survive.

[00:21:39] Some 61% of the first-class passengers survived, whereas less than 25% of third-class passengers survived. 

[00:21:49] The evacuation deck was only accessible at first to upper class guests so poorer passengers were disproportionately affected. 

[00:21:59] There were also reports of bribery, like the so-called ‘Money Boat’, where it was alleged that wealthy guests paid the lifeboat crew to sail away even though there was space for more people.

[00:22:12] Another reason that deaths were higher among third class passengers was that there were more families. When you consider the ‘men saved last’ policy, it’s important to underline that boys as young as 13 were considered men. 

[00:22:28] As a result, mothers refused to leave their sons behind and countless families died together.

[00:22:35] As news of the disaster spread, the world was shocked. 

[00:22:39] Within days, both British and American investigations were launched.

[00:22:44] Death tolls like this were extremely rare, and with so many wealthy passengers on board, powerful people wanted answers.

[00:22:53] So, what were the findings? Who is to blame, if anyone at all?

[00:23:00] This is the subject of much historical debate but by and large, it was considered to be just terrible misfortune, it was bad luck. 

[00:23:10] No serious errors were found to have been made by the late Captain Smith, and the Titanic was on the correct course the entire time. 

[00:23:20] More contemporary analysis shows that the North Atlantic Ocean was unusually icy at this time, which created strange weather conditions. 

[00:23:30] Without getting too technical, these unusual conditions created something called, ‘abnormal refraction’ which causes light to bend unexpectedly. Visibility would have been far worse than it actually appeared to be, so the ship was only able to see the iceberg far too late.

[00:23:51] Also, whilst turning away from the iceberg seems like the best decision, peculiarly, a full-frontal impact, hitting the iceberg directly without changing course would likely have saved the ship.

[00:24:07] A Titanic architect gave evidence and said that in the event of crashing directly into the ice, the front of the ship would have crumpled, killing around 40 firemen, but the rest would have held intact

[00:24:23] It has to be said, however, that the other side of the debate judges those involved more harshly

[00:24:30] Airtight areas weren’t completely sealed, which meant watertight compartments were anything but

[00:24:37] Also, the steel and iron of the hull, of the bottom of the ship, were weakened by the freezing temperatures and speed of travel, which caused the rivets, the screws, to pop out easily, which massively sped up the speed at which the ship sank.

[00:24:54] And we can’t forget the crucial fact that no one had the key to the binoculars

[00:25:00] Could spotting it seconds earlier have made all the difference?

[00:25:04] The story is filled with many agonising ‘what ifs?’.

[00:25:08] In terms of the legacy of the Titanic, to this day it remains one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters, in terms of loss of life.

[00:25:19] In the immediate aftermath, there were regulations that required all ships to have wireless equipment and crucially, there had to be a ‘lifeboat for every soul’ on board. 

[00:25:30] And as to the question of where the Titanic is now, the ship still sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. 

[00:25:39] Her wreck was discovered in 1985, but experts say that bringing it 4km to the surface would be impossible. 

[00:25:49] What’s more, due to rust and water pressure, what remains of the ship will likely disintegrate within 30 years. 

[00:25:58] So, while the physical remains of the ship will not be around for much longer, the tragic story of the Titanic will remain forever, a powerful reminder of the dangers of human pride, of the limits of engineering, or perhaps, simply of the immense power of mother nature.

[00:26:18] OK, that is it for today’s episode on The Titanic.

[00:26:24] I imagine you knew something of the story already, and perhaps you’ve seen the most famous film adaptation, but I hope that this went a little deeper into what really happened.

[00:26:34] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:26:38] Have you ever read any of the heartwarming stories from survivors of the Titanic?

[00:26:43] Have you heard any of the tragic stories about husbands and wives who wouldn’t abandon each other, and perished together in the freezing cold waters?

[00:26:52] Why do you think that this story continues to have such a cultural impact, well over 100 years later?

[00:27:00] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:27:03] The place for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:27:09] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:27:14] I’m Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I’ll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Titanic. 

[00:00:28] On the evening of April 14th 1912, passengers of all nationalities and classes were settling down for another night on the largest ship ever built. 

[00:00:39] However, after four days of straightforward voyage, the truly unthinkable happened.

[00:00:45] The legendary ship struck a giant iceberg.

[00:00:49] Water started pouring on board, and the vessel sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, taking over 1,500 passengers and crew down with it. 

[00:01:00] So, let’s get right into it, and tell the story of The Titanic.

[00:01:06] The start of the 20th century saw great competition between industrialists.

[00:01:11] The Industrial Revolution had seen great factories built, trains, and machines of all sorts.

[00:01:18] Buildings grew taller. 

[00:01:20] The Flatiron Building in New York turned heads when, in 1903, its 22 floors towered over the city.

[00:01:29] And boats, of course, were no exception.

[00:01:32] There was a rush to build the biggest and most spectacular vessels to have ever been put to sea.

[00:01:39] Britain was one of the great shipbuilding nations, and two companies, Cunard and White Star Line, were in fierce competition to build the biggest and most impressive ships.

[00:01:52] At the turn of the century, Cunard launched the fastest passenger ships ever, transporting passengers between Britain and North America.

[00:02:02] In response, White Star Line wanted something that would blow the competition out of the water.

[00:02:09] So, it commissioned a Northern Irish shipbuilding company to build three new Olympic-class ocean liners, instructing the company to spend whatever was required.

[00:02:20] As far as the construction of these ships was concerned, money was no object.

[00:02:27] All three ships were given names appropriate to their owner’s ambitions and loyalties.

[00:02:34] The first was called Olympic, the third Brittanic, and the second, well, you’ve probably guessed, it was the Titanic, or RMS Titanic to give it its full name.

[00:02:48] RMS, by the way, means Royal Mail Ship, it means that the ship is registered to carry letters for the postal service, and these ships would carry mail between the UK and the United States.

[00:03:01] The Titanic took three years to build, and cost around €200m in today’s money. 

[00:03:09] By the time she was ready to launch, to take what’s called her “maiden voyage”, the world was captivated.

[00:03:17] Now, let me quickly interrupt this story to tell you something that might surprise you, and it’s that most people think that English doesn’t have genders, that a table isn’t masculine or feminine, it’s just “a table”.

[00:03:31] And that is right, but there are some objects in English that do have genders, and a ship is one of them. A ship is technically always feminine, so you should refer to one as “her”, although it’s not really wrong if you call it “it”.

[00:03:48] OK, with that grammar point out of the way, let’s talk a little bit more about this beast.

[00:03:55] By 1911, she was ready.

[00:03:59] She was the largest moving object ever built, her anchor alone weighed 16 tonnes and required 20 horses to transport it.

[00:04:09] She was 270 metres long and 53 metres high. 

[00:04:14] There were even doubts over whether she would fit in ports, with the New York Tribune writing, “How can we dock this marine monster when she reaches the port of New York?”.

[00:04:25] It wasn’t just the size and luxury that attracted press attention either, which brings us onto one of the most infamous marketing claims to have ever been made. 

[00:04:36] In a fatal foreshadowing, a hint of what was to come, the vice-Chairman of White Star Line claimed. “We are perfectly satisfied that the Titanic is unsinkable”. 

[00:04:50] Of course, this was partially to try to get people to buy tickets, but White Star Line did have reason to believe it. 

[00:04:59] Architects and engineers had installed 16 water-tight compartments across the hull, the bottom part of the ship, and the idea was that even if many of these did flood, did take on water, the Titanic would be able to stay afloat.

[00:05:18] So, the ship was built, the route from Southampton to New York was planned, and the proud passengers arrived, eager to get onboard the world’s most luxurious ocean liner

[00:05:31] Who better then, to captain her maiden voyage than the so-called ‘Millionaires’ Captain’ himself; Edward Smith?

[00:05:40] The 62-year-old Smith was a distinguished Captain, and this was to be his final voyage before retirement.

[00:05:49] So, who was actually travelling on this ship? Who managed to get a ticket?

[00:05:54] Well, the very fact that it was the biggest ship in the world made it a luxurious and special experience.

[00:06:01] But how special it was depended on how much you were prepared to fork out, how much you paid for a ticket.

[00:06:09] Ticket prices for the trip were surprisingly similar to today’s rates. 

[00:06:15] The cheapest option was a third class ticket costing around €500 in today’s money, with second class costing €1500, and first class costing €4500.

[00:06:29] But White Star Line wasn't satisfied with leaving it there.

[00:06:34] The wealthiest passengers, like billionaire John Jacob Astor, bought luxury suites for today’s equivalent of well over €70,000. 

[00:06:45] For this you would have enjoyed two luxurious bedrooms, a sitting room, private bathroom, servants and the latest trend, a private balcony. 

[00:06:57] The standards on the Titanic were so high that even 2nd class was like 1st class on pretty much any other ship. 

[00:07:05] For the most expensive sections of the boat, the public areas were modelled on The Ritz Hotel in London and stylish Parisian cafes, with a Grand Staircase as the centrepiece

[00:07:19] The facilities included a heated swimming pool, a squash court, a gym, a barber shop, bands, dancers and the largest dining room ever seen on a ship, serving only the very best food.

[00:07:33] To feed all these hungry passengers, the kitchen store rooms contained 35,000 eggs, 34 tonnes of meat, and 15,000 bottles of ale - this was a floating hotel like no other.

[00:07:48] But if you had bought the cheapest ticket, third class, it wasn’t such a luxurious experience.

[00:07:55] Of the approximately 2,000 passengers, 700 travelled in third-class. 

[00:08:02] This meant that the rooms had bunk beds, beds on top of each other, there wasn’t much space, and there were only two bathrooms between the entire 700 passengers. 

[00:08:14] One for men, one for women.

[00:08:17] If that wasn’t bad enough, the rooms were right next to the engines, which were, as you’d expect, rather loud.

[00:08:26] And what’s more, as we’ll find out shortly, the consequences of buying a third class ticket were, in many cases, lethal.

[00:08:36] Now, whilst their experience doesn’t sound like the best, it’s important to remember that this would have been the standard experience for most people on a TransAtlantic voyage.

[00:08:48] Most of these passengers wouldn’t have had hot water at home, sharing a bathroom wouldn’t have been particularly strange, and on other ships, they would have been expected to bring their own food on board. 

[00:09:01] And although everyone on board was taking part in this magical experience, there was a very clear division between the classes of passengers.

[00:09:11] There was no sneaking upstairs for some Foie Gras or a swim.

[00:09:16] There were gates that closed off the different sections, and this will become sadly important later on in the story.

[00:09:24] So, to the story of the fateful voyage.

[00:09:28] It’s the morning of April 10th, 1912 and the big day has arrived, the Titanic is waiting at Southampton. 100,000 onlookers watch The Titanic fill up with crew and passengers, and Captain Smith departs at midday. 

[00:09:47] She stops at Cherbourg, in France and Queenstown, in Ireland to pick up the remaining passengers before heading west towards the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

[00:09:57] She would be due at New York on April 17th, exactly a week later.

[00:10:03] As we both know, she would never make it.

[00:10:07] The first 4 days, however, went as planned.

[00:10:11] The upper classes enjoyed the luxuries and the less fortunate passengers waited in anticipation for their new lives in America.

[00:10:21] April 14th is when things take a dark turn.

[00:10:26] The ship was in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

[00:10:29] Warnings were beginning to come in concerning the number of icebergs, so Captain Smith plots a new course, he changes direction slightly. 

[00:10:39] As the night draws in, the temperature drops below freezing. 

[00:10:44] There was no moonlight, only stars, and the waves were calm. 

[00:10:49] The Titanic, which in sunny Southampton seemed like a giant feat of human engineering, now appeared almost insignificant compared to the huge, freezing, dark ocean. 

[00:11:03] It’s about 600km southeast of Newfoundland, in Canada and nearing midnight. 

[00:11:10] With a crew hard at work, and passengers either partying or getting to sleep, it’s at this point that events begin to unfold very quickly.

[00:11:21] At 11:40PM, Sailor Frederick Fleet is positioned in the Crow’s Nest, the ship’s lookout point. 

[00:11:29] As well as challenging weather conditions, his job is made even more difficult by the fact that the ship’s binoculars are locked in a box, and the keys are still in Southampton. 

[00:11:42] Another officer, a man named Officer Blair, had been removed from the Titanic just before departure and he had forgotten to hand over the keys.

[00:11:54] Fleet spots the tip of an iceberg, not too far in the distance, and urgently rings the bell. 

[00:12:01] He follows this up with a call to the ship’s bridge, “ice right ahead!”.

[00:12:07] With great haste, with great speed, the ship is turned and a head-on collision is narrowly avoided. 

[00:12:16] Whilst this may sound like good news, it isn’t, but more on that later.

[00:12:22] The side of the ship had scraped along the 122 metre iceberg ripping several holes below the water line. 

[00:12:30] The Titanic itself is made of metal, and weighs nearly 50,000 tonnes.

[00:12:36] The iceberg may be made only of frozen water and is only 30 metres high, 20 metres shorter than the Titanic.

[00:12:46] But it would have extended about another 300m below the surface. Put simply, it is absolutely massive, and would have weighed millions of tonnes. 

[00:12:58] As the iceberg crushed against the side of the ship, huge fragments of ice were chipped away, landing on deck

[00:13:08] Many of the passengers still thought nothing of this though, with one survivor saying, ‘We picked up blocks and most of us played snowballs.’

[00:13:18] 10 minutes later, at 11:50PM, Captain Smith and a ship architect named Thomas Andrews inspect the damage. It’s not good news.

[00:13:30] The mail room was flooding, but it wasn’t just wet letters that they had to worry about.

[00:13:36] Five of the supposedly ‘watertight’ compartments were already flooding.

[00:13:41] The ship’s architect, Andrews, who knew the ship’s design inside out, he knew it thoroughly, insists that because more than four compartments are flooded, the ship is, in fact, sinking.

[00:13:57] At midnight, 20 minutes after the collision, Captain Smith sends out his first distress call over the radio, he calls for help.

[00:14:06] The passengers are ordered to board the lifeboats. The unsinkable ship is officially sinking.

[00:14:13] It is only around this time that the metal gates segregating the lower classes from the upper classes are opened up. 

[00:14:22] Whilst the scene in the famous movie showing these passengers frantically trying to open them is slightly fictionalised, this slight delay in opening them does mean that the first class ticket holders are already at the front of the lifeboat queue.

[00:14:39] And, tragically, just 20 of the possible 64 lifeboats had been installed on the boat. 

[00:14:47] This was to try to keep the deck, the upper area, looking nice and tidy

[00:14:54] It might have made the ship look pretty, but it meant that there were only enough lifeboats for an absolute maximum of half of the ship’s passengers. 

[00:15:04] Shockingly, this actually met the minimal legal requirements of the time, as the idea was for the lifeboats to transport passengers to rescue ships and return to pick up more, not transport all passengers at the same time.

[00:15:21] As we’ll find out, this simply wasn’t possible for the Titanic.

[00:15:27] So, we’re still at about midnight now. 

[00:15:30] The ship continues to transmit distress signals, calling out for someone, anyone, to come to save it.

[00:15:37] The Carpathia, 107km away, receives the message, ‘Come at once. We have struck a berg.’ and it changes course to help.

[00:15:48] It would take another 25 minutes for the lifeboats to start boarding.

[00:15:53] ‘Women and children first’ is the protocol, but some officers think this means that no men at all are allowed to board, whilst others think that men can fill up the remaining spots.

[00:16:06] As a result of the confusion, the first lifeboat leaves with just 28 of the 65 spots filled. By 1 o'clock in the morning, the lower decks are now totally flooded, and the bow, the front of the ship sinks further and further below the icy surface. 

[00:16:27] Water rushes in 15 times faster than it can be pumped out.

[00:16:32] The writing is on the wall for the Titanic.

[00:16:36] 15 minutes later, at a quarter past one in the morning, the weight of the flooding in the bow, the front part of the boat, causes the stern and propellers at the opposite end to rise out of the water, and the incline of the ship begins tipping passengers towards the freezing cold ocean. 

[00:16:57] By this time, it is total chaos. The last few lifeboats are departing, desperate passengers push their way to them. 

[00:17:07] Some men, in a bid to survive, do whatever they can to get on the boats. Others accept their fate and stay put, rather than be labelled a coward back home.

[00:17:19] At half past one, the signals continue from the ship's officers, with two writing “women and children in boats. Cannot last much longer”.

[00:17:31] One of the most famous stories from the Titanic’s sinking is that the band kept playing whilst the ship went down, and this features in the movie. 

[00:17:41] Whilst they were playing to calm passengers when the lifeboats were being filled, they soon packed up and strapped their instruments to their back. 

[00:17:50] Sadly, none of the 8 musicians made it.

[00:17:53] By five minutes past two, the last lifeboat leaves.

[00:17:58] There are 1,500 passengers remaining on board, with no options left.

[00:18:05] The deck, the upper part of the ship, is now at such a steep angle that it becomes almost impossible to stand. 

[00:18:12] Hundreds fall or jump into the freezing water.

[00:18:17] Now, the sea temperature was 2 degrees below zero. Hypothermia would have set in within minutes.

[00:18:25] Two minutes later, at 2.17am, the Captain of the ship, Captain Smith, announces “it’s every man for himself”. 

[00:18:35] The ship snaps in half and the stern, the back bit, sinks to the bottom of the ocean. 

[00:18:42] Following a longstanding maritime tradition, Captain Smith goes down with his ship. 

[00:18:49] Accounts of his death vary widely. 

[00:18:52] Some say they saw him swimming towards a lifeboat, some say he sat by the wheel whilst it flooded, and some say they saw him shoot himself with a pistol. We’ll never know. 

[00:19:04] A minute later, at 2:18, all the lights go out on the ship, plunging the tragic scene into darkness.

[00:19:13] And by 2.20am, just two minutes later, the rest of the ship sinks, floating to the bottom of the ocean.

[00:19:23] Some resilient swimmers are pulled onto lifeboats. 

[00:19:27] In one of the most remarkable survival stories, the Titanic’s baker managed to survive long enough in the water to be pulled onto a boat. 

[00:19:37] How did he manage it? 

[00:19:38] Well, he says that he decided to drink a load of whiskey, and that this enabled him to stay calm to focus on swimming.

[00:19:47] Unfortunately, almost everyone else who fell into that icy water never made it out alive.

[00:19:55] The rescue ship, The Carpathia arrived at the scene 2 hours afterwards. It came as fast as it could, but it was 93km away when the Titanic struck the iceberg, and as you’ve heard, the entire tragedy was over very quickly. 

[00:20:12] There was, however, a ship that was much closer, one that could perhaps have saved hundreds of lives.

[00:20:19] It was called The Californian, and it was only 25 kilometres away. 

[00:20:25] The Captain of The Californian, and his lookouts did repeatedly see the lights and distress signals from The Titanic, but they thought them to be shooting stars. 

[00:20:37] Others also misidentified the ship and didn’t believe it to be the Titanic. 

[00:20:43] Crucially, the warning system wasn’t set up by the radio operator before he went to sleep, meaning any distress calls made by the Titanic fell on deaf ears, they weren’t heard. 

[00:20:56] The Californian did eventually arrive, but only at 8:30am, 8:30 the following morning. 

[00:21:03] Nobody could have lasted that long in the freezing temperatures, and all it found was the Carpathia rescuing the lucky few who had managed to get on a lifeboat.

[00:21:15] Perhaps surprisingly, no one knows the exact figures of how many people died on the early morning of April 15th, but it’s estimated that there were 703 survivors and 1503 deaths. 

[00:21:31] And unfortunately, how much you paid for your ticket had a large impact on how likely you were to survive.

[00:21:39] Some 61% of the first-class passengers survived, whereas less than 25% of third-class passengers survived. 

[00:21:49] The evacuation deck was only accessible at first to upper class guests so poorer passengers were disproportionately affected. 

[00:21:59] There were also reports of bribery, like the so-called ‘Money Boat’, where it was alleged that wealthy guests paid the lifeboat crew to sail away even though there was space for more people.

[00:22:12] Another reason that deaths were higher among third class passengers was that there were more families. When you consider the ‘men saved last’ policy, it’s important to underline that boys as young as 13 were considered men. 

[00:22:28] As a result, mothers refused to leave their sons behind and countless families died together.

[00:22:35] As news of the disaster spread, the world was shocked. 

[00:22:39] Within days, both British and American investigations were launched.

[00:22:44] Death tolls like this were extremely rare, and with so many wealthy passengers on board, powerful people wanted answers.

[00:22:53] So, what were the findings? Who is to blame, if anyone at all?

[00:23:00] This is the subject of much historical debate but by and large, it was considered to be just terrible misfortune, it was bad luck. 

[00:23:10] No serious errors were found to have been made by the late Captain Smith, and the Titanic was on the correct course the entire time. 

[00:23:20] More contemporary analysis shows that the North Atlantic Ocean was unusually icy at this time, which created strange weather conditions. 

[00:23:30] Without getting too technical, these unusual conditions created something called, ‘abnormal refraction’ which causes light to bend unexpectedly. Visibility would have been far worse than it actually appeared to be, so the ship was only able to see the iceberg far too late.

[00:23:51] Also, whilst turning away from the iceberg seems like the best decision, peculiarly, a full-frontal impact, hitting the iceberg directly without changing course would likely have saved the ship.

[00:24:07] A Titanic architect gave evidence and said that in the event of crashing directly into the ice, the front of the ship would have crumpled, killing around 40 firemen, but the rest would have held intact

[00:24:23] It has to be said, however, that the other side of the debate judges those involved more harshly

[00:24:30] Airtight areas weren’t completely sealed, which meant watertight compartments were anything but

[00:24:37] Also, the steel and iron of the hull, of the bottom of the ship, were weakened by the freezing temperatures and speed of travel, which caused the rivets, the screws, to pop out easily, which massively sped up the speed at which the ship sank.

[00:24:54] And we can’t forget the crucial fact that no one had the key to the binoculars

[00:25:00] Could spotting it seconds earlier have made all the difference?

[00:25:04] The story is filled with many agonising ‘what ifs?’.

[00:25:08] In terms of the legacy of the Titanic, to this day it remains one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters, in terms of loss of life.

[00:25:19] In the immediate aftermath, there were regulations that required all ships to have wireless equipment and crucially, there had to be a ‘lifeboat for every soul’ on board. 

[00:25:30] And as to the question of where the Titanic is now, the ship still sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. 

[00:25:39] Her wreck was discovered in 1985, but experts say that bringing it 4km to the surface would be impossible. 

[00:25:49] What’s more, due to rust and water pressure, what remains of the ship will likely disintegrate within 30 years. 

[00:25:58] So, while the physical remains of the ship will not be around for much longer, the tragic story of the Titanic will remain forever, a powerful reminder of the dangers of human pride, of the limits of engineering, or perhaps, simply of the immense power of mother nature.

[00:26:18] OK, that is it for today’s episode on The Titanic.

[00:26:24] I imagine you knew something of the story already, and perhaps you’ve seen the most famous film adaptation, but I hope that this went a little deeper into what really happened.

[00:26:34] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:26:38] Have you ever read any of the heartwarming stories from survivors of the Titanic?

[00:26:43] Have you heard any of the tragic stories about husbands and wives who wouldn’t abandon each other, and perished together in the freezing cold waters?

[00:26:52] Why do you think that this story continues to have such a cultural impact, well over 100 years later?

[00:27:00] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:27:03] The place for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:27:09] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:27:14] I’m Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I’ll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Titanic. 

[00:00:28] On the evening of April 14th 1912, passengers of all nationalities and classes were settling down for another night on the largest ship ever built. 

[00:00:39] However, after four days of straightforward voyage, the truly unthinkable happened.

[00:00:45] The legendary ship struck a giant iceberg.

[00:00:49] Water started pouring on board, and the vessel sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, taking over 1,500 passengers and crew down with it. 

[00:01:00] So, let’s get right into it, and tell the story of The Titanic.

[00:01:06] The start of the 20th century saw great competition between industrialists.

[00:01:11] The Industrial Revolution had seen great factories built, trains, and machines of all sorts.

[00:01:18] Buildings grew taller. 

[00:01:20] The Flatiron Building in New York turned heads when, in 1903, its 22 floors towered over the city.

[00:01:29] And boats, of course, were no exception.

[00:01:32] There was a rush to build the biggest and most spectacular vessels to have ever been put to sea.

[00:01:39] Britain was one of the great shipbuilding nations, and two companies, Cunard and White Star Line, were in fierce competition to build the biggest and most impressive ships.

[00:01:52] At the turn of the century, Cunard launched the fastest passenger ships ever, transporting passengers between Britain and North America.

[00:02:02] In response, White Star Line wanted something that would blow the competition out of the water.

[00:02:09] So, it commissioned a Northern Irish shipbuilding company to build three new Olympic-class ocean liners, instructing the company to spend whatever was required.

[00:02:20] As far as the construction of these ships was concerned, money was no object.

[00:02:27] All three ships were given names appropriate to their owner’s ambitions and loyalties.

[00:02:34] The first was called Olympic, the third Brittanic, and the second, well, you’ve probably guessed, it was the Titanic, or RMS Titanic to give it its full name.

[00:02:48] RMS, by the way, means Royal Mail Ship, it means that the ship is registered to carry letters for the postal service, and these ships would carry mail between the UK and the United States.

[00:03:01] The Titanic took three years to build, and cost around €200m in today’s money. 

[00:03:09] By the time she was ready to launch, to take what’s called her “maiden voyage”, the world was captivated.

[00:03:17] Now, let me quickly interrupt this story to tell you something that might surprise you, and it’s that most people think that English doesn’t have genders, that a table isn’t masculine or feminine, it’s just “a table”.

[00:03:31] And that is right, but there are some objects in English that do have genders, and a ship is one of them. A ship is technically always feminine, so you should refer to one as “her”, although it’s not really wrong if you call it “it”.

[00:03:48] OK, with that grammar point out of the way, let’s talk a little bit more about this beast.

[00:03:55] By 1911, she was ready.

[00:03:59] She was the largest moving object ever built, her anchor alone weighed 16 tonnes and required 20 horses to transport it.

[00:04:09] She was 270 metres long and 53 metres high. 

[00:04:14] There were even doubts over whether she would fit in ports, with the New York Tribune writing, “How can we dock this marine monster when she reaches the port of New York?”.

[00:04:25] It wasn’t just the size and luxury that attracted press attention either, which brings us onto one of the most infamous marketing claims to have ever been made. 

[00:04:36] In a fatal foreshadowing, a hint of what was to come, the vice-Chairman of White Star Line claimed. “We are perfectly satisfied that the Titanic is unsinkable”. 

[00:04:50] Of course, this was partially to try to get people to buy tickets, but White Star Line did have reason to believe it. 

[00:04:59] Architects and engineers had installed 16 water-tight compartments across the hull, the bottom part of the ship, and the idea was that even if many of these did flood, did take on water, the Titanic would be able to stay afloat.

[00:05:18] So, the ship was built, the route from Southampton to New York was planned, and the proud passengers arrived, eager to get onboard the world’s most luxurious ocean liner

[00:05:31] Who better then, to captain her maiden voyage than the so-called ‘Millionaires’ Captain’ himself; Edward Smith?

[00:05:40] The 62-year-old Smith was a distinguished Captain, and this was to be his final voyage before retirement.

[00:05:49] So, who was actually travelling on this ship? Who managed to get a ticket?

[00:05:54] Well, the very fact that it was the biggest ship in the world made it a luxurious and special experience.

[00:06:01] But how special it was depended on how much you were prepared to fork out, how much you paid for a ticket.

[00:06:09] Ticket prices for the trip were surprisingly similar to today’s rates. 

[00:06:15] The cheapest option was a third class ticket costing around €500 in today’s money, with second class costing €1500, and first class costing €4500.

[00:06:29] But White Star Line wasn't satisfied with leaving it there.

[00:06:34] The wealthiest passengers, like billionaire John Jacob Astor, bought luxury suites for today’s equivalent of well over €70,000. 

[00:06:45] For this you would have enjoyed two luxurious bedrooms, a sitting room, private bathroom, servants and the latest trend, a private balcony. 

[00:06:57] The standards on the Titanic were so high that even 2nd class was like 1st class on pretty much any other ship. 

[00:07:05] For the most expensive sections of the boat, the public areas were modelled on The Ritz Hotel in London and stylish Parisian cafes, with a Grand Staircase as the centrepiece

[00:07:19] The facilities included a heated swimming pool, a squash court, a gym, a barber shop, bands, dancers and the largest dining room ever seen on a ship, serving only the very best food.

[00:07:33] To feed all these hungry passengers, the kitchen store rooms contained 35,000 eggs, 34 tonnes of meat, and 15,000 bottles of ale - this was a floating hotel like no other.

[00:07:48] But if you had bought the cheapest ticket, third class, it wasn’t such a luxurious experience.

[00:07:55] Of the approximately 2,000 passengers, 700 travelled in third-class. 

[00:08:02] This meant that the rooms had bunk beds, beds on top of each other, there wasn’t much space, and there were only two bathrooms between the entire 700 passengers. 

[00:08:14] One for men, one for women.

[00:08:17] If that wasn’t bad enough, the rooms were right next to the engines, which were, as you’d expect, rather loud.

[00:08:26] And what’s more, as we’ll find out shortly, the consequences of buying a third class ticket were, in many cases, lethal.

[00:08:36] Now, whilst their experience doesn’t sound like the best, it’s important to remember that this would have been the standard experience for most people on a TransAtlantic voyage.

[00:08:48] Most of these passengers wouldn’t have had hot water at home, sharing a bathroom wouldn’t have been particularly strange, and on other ships, they would have been expected to bring their own food on board. 

[00:09:01] And although everyone on board was taking part in this magical experience, there was a very clear division between the classes of passengers.

[00:09:11] There was no sneaking upstairs for some Foie Gras or a swim.

[00:09:16] There were gates that closed off the different sections, and this will become sadly important later on in the story.

[00:09:24] So, to the story of the fateful voyage.

[00:09:28] It’s the morning of April 10th, 1912 and the big day has arrived, the Titanic is waiting at Southampton. 100,000 onlookers watch The Titanic fill up with crew and passengers, and Captain Smith departs at midday. 

[00:09:47] She stops at Cherbourg, in France and Queenstown, in Ireland to pick up the remaining passengers before heading west towards the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

[00:09:57] She would be due at New York on April 17th, exactly a week later.

[00:10:03] As we both know, she would never make it.

[00:10:07] The first 4 days, however, went as planned.

[00:10:11] The upper classes enjoyed the luxuries and the less fortunate passengers waited in anticipation for their new lives in America.

[00:10:21] April 14th is when things take a dark turn.

[00:10:26] The ship was in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

[00:10:29] Warnings were beginning to come in concerning the number of icebergs, so Captain Smith plots a new course, he changes direction slightly. 

[00:10:39] As the night draws in, the temperature drops below freezing. 

[00:10:44] There was no moonlight, only stars, and the waves were calm. 

[00:10:49] The Titanic, which in sunny Southampton seemed like a giant feat of human engineering, now appeared almost insignificant compared to the huge, freezing, dark ocean. 

[00:11:03] It’s about 600km southeast of Newfoundland, in Canada and nearing midnight. 

[00:11:10] With a crew hard at work, and passengers either partying or getting to sleep, it’s at this point that events begin to unfold very quickly.

[00:11:21] At 11:40PM, Sailor Frederick Fleet is positioned in the Crow’s Nest, the ship’s lookout point. 

[00:11:29] As well as challenging weather conditions, his job is made even more difficult by the fact that the ship’s binoculars are locked in a box, and the keys are still in Southampton. 

[00:11:42] Another officer, a man named Officer Blair, had been removed from the Titanic just before departure and he had forgotten to hand over the keys.

[00:11:54] Fleet spots the tip of an iceberg, not too far in the distance, and urgently rings the bell. 

[00:12:01] He follows this up with a call to the ship’s bridge, “ice right ahead!”.

[00:12:07] With great haste, with great speed, the ship is turned and a head-on collision is narrowly avoided. 

[00:12:16] Whilst this may sound like good news, it isn’t, but more on that later.

[00:12:22] The side of the ship had scraped along the 122 metre iceberg ripping several holes below the water line. 

[00:12:30] The Titanic itself is made of metal, and weighs nearly 50,000 tonnes.

[00:12:36] The iceberg may be made only of frozen water and is only 30 metres high, 20 metres shorter than the Titanic.

[00:12:46] But it would have extended about another 300m below the surface. Put simply, it is absolutely massive, and would have weighed millions of tonnes. 

[00:12:58] As the iceberg crushed against the side of the ship, huge fragments of ice were chipped away, landing on deck

[00:13:08] Many of the passengers still thought nothing of this though, with one survivor saying, ‘We picked up blocks and most of us played snowballs.’

[00:13:18] 10 minutes later, at 11:50PM, Captain Smith and a ship architect named Thomas Andrews inspect the damage. It’s not good news.

[00:13:30] The mail room was flooding, but it wasn’t just wet letters that they had to worry about.

[00:13:36] Five of the supposedly ‘watertight’ compartments were already flooding.

[00:13:41] The ship’s architect, Andrews, who knew the ship’s design inside out, he knew it thoroughly, insists that because more than four compartments are flooded, the ship is, in fact, sinking.

[00:13:57] At midnight, 20 minutes after the collision, Captain Smith sends out his first distress call over the radio, he calls for help.

[00:14:06] The passengers are ordered to board the lifeboats. The unsinkable ship is officially sinking.

[00:14:13] It is only around this time that the metal gates segregating the lower classes from the upper classes are opened up. 

[00:14:22] Whilst the scene in the famous movie showing these passengers frantically trying to open them is slightly fictionalised, this slight delay in opening them does mean that the first class ticket holders are already at the front of the lifeboat queue.

[00:14:39] And, tragically, just 20 of the possible 64 lifeboats had been installed on the boat. 

[00:14:47] This was to try to keep the deck, the upper area, looking nice and tidy

[00:14:54] It might have made the ship look pretty, but it meant that there were only enough lifeboats for an absolute maximum of half of the ship’s passengers. 

[00:15:04] Shockingly, this actually met the minimal legal requirements of the time, as the idea was for the lifeboats to transport passengers to rescue ships and return to pick up more, not transport all passengers at the same time.

[00:15:21] As we’ll find out, this simply wasn’t possible for the Titanic.

[00:15:27] So, we’re still at about midnight now. 

[00:15:30] The ship continues to transmit distress signals, calling out for someone, anyone, to come to save it.

[00:15:37] The Carpathia, 107km away, receives the message, ‘Come at once. We have struck a berg.’ and it changes course to help.

[00:15:48] It would take another 25 minutes for the lifeboats to start boarding.

[00:15:53] ‘Women and children first’ is the protocol, but some officers think this means that no men at all are allowed to board, whilst others think that men can fill up the remaining spots.

[00:16:06] As a result of the confusion, the first lifeboat leaves with just 28 of the 65 spots filled. By 1 o'clock in the morning, the lower decks are now totally flooded, and the bow, the front of the ship sinks further and further below the icy surface. 

[00:16:27] Water rushes in 15 times faster than it can be pumped out.

[00:16:32] The writing is on the wall for the Titanic.

[00:16:36] 15 minutes later, at a quarter past one in the morning, the weight of the flooding in the bow, the front part of the boat, causes the stern and propellers at the opposite end to rise out of the water, and the incline of the ship begins tipping passengers towards the freezing cold ocean. 

[00:16:57] By this time, it is total chaos. The last few lifeboats are departing, desperate passengers push their way to them. 

[00:17:07] Some men, in a bid to survive, do whatever they can to get on the boats. Others accept their fate and stay put, rather than be labelled a coward back home.

[00:17:19] At half past one, the signals continue from the ship's officers, with two writing “women and children in boats. Cannot last much longer”.

[00:17:31] One of the most famous stories from the Titanic’s sinking is that the band kept playing whilst the ship went down, and this features in the movie. 

[00:17:41] Whilst they were playing to calm passengers when the lifeboats were being filled, they soon packed up and strapped their instruments to their back. 

[00:17:50] Sadly, none of the 8 musicians made it.

[00:17:53] By five minutes past two, the last lifeboat leaves.

[00:17:58] There are 1,500 passengers remaining on board, with no options left.

[00:18:05] The deck, the upper part of the ship, is now at such a steep angle that it becomes almost impossible to stand. 

[00:18:12] Hundreds fall or jump into the freezing water.

[00:18:17] Now, the sea temperature was 2 degrees below zero. Hypothermia would have set in within minutes.

[00:18:25] Two minutes later, at 2.17am, the Captain of the ship, Captain Smith, announces “it’s every man for himself”. 

[00:18:35] The ship snaps in half and the stern, the back bit, sinks to the bottom of the ocean. 

[00:18:42] Following a longstanding maritime tradition, Captain Smith goes down with his ship. 

[00:18:49] Accounts of his death vary widely. 

[00:18:52] Some say they saw him swimming towards a lifeboat, some say he sat by the wheel whilst it flooded, and some say they saw him shoot himself with a pistol. We’ll never know. 

[00:19:04] A minute later, at 2:18, all the lights go out on the ship, plunging the tragic scene into darkness.

[00:19:13] And by 2.20am, just two minutes later, the rest of the ship sinks, floating to the bottom of the ocean.

[00:19:23] Some resilient swimmers are pulled onto lifeboats. 

[00:19:27] In one of the most remarkable survival stories, the Titanic’s baker managed to survive long enough in the water to be pulled onto a boat. 

[00:19:37] How did he manage it? 

[00:19:38] Well, he says that he decided to drink a load of whiskey, and that this enabled him to stay calm to focus on swimming.

[00:19:47] Unfortunately, almost everyone else who fell into that icy water never made it out alive.

[00:19:55] The rescue ship, The Carpathia arrived at the scene 2 hours afterwards. It came as fast as it could, but it was 93km away when the Titanic struck the iceberg, and as you’ve heard, the entire tragedy was over very quickly. 

[00:20:12] There was, however, a ship that was much closer, one that could perhaps have saved hundreds of lives.

[00:20:19] It was called The Californian, and it was only 25 kilometres away. 

[00:20:25] The Captain of The Californian, and his lookouts did repeatedly see the lights and distress signals from The Titanic, but they thought them to be shooting stars. 

[00:20:37] Others also misidentified the ship and didn’t believe it to be the Titanic. 

[00:20:43] Crucially, the warning system wasn’t set up by the radio operator before he went to sleep, meaning any distress calls made by the Titanic fell on deaf ears, they weren’t heard. 

[00:20:56] The Californian did eventually arrive, but only at 8:30am, 8:30 the following morning. 

[00:21:03] Nobody could have lasted that long in the freezing temperatures, and all it found was the Carpathia rescuing the lucky few who had managed to get on a lifeboat.

[00:21:15] Perhaps surprisingly, no one knows the exact figures of how many people died on the early morning of April 15th, but it’s estimated that there were 703 survivors and 1503 deaths. 

[00:21:31] And unfortunately, how much you paid for your ticket had a large impact on how likely you were to survive.

[00:21:39] Some 61% of the first-class passengers survived, whereas less than 25% of third-class passengers survived. 

[00:21:49] The evacuation deck was only accessible at first to upper class guests so poorer passengers were disproportionately affected. 

[00:21:59] There were also reports of bribery, like the so-called ‘Money Boat’, where it was alleged that wealthy guests paid the lifeboat crew to sail away even though there was space for more people.

[00:22:12] Another reason that deaths were higher among third class passengers was that there were more families. When you consider the ‘men saved last’ policy, it’s important to underline that boys as young as 13 were considered men. 

[00:22:28] As a result, mothers refused to leave their sons behind and countless families died together.

[00:22:35] As news of the disaster spread, the world was shocked. 

[00:22:39] Within days, both British and American investigations were launched.

[00:22:44] Death tolls like this were extremely rare, and with so many wealthy passengers on board, powerful people wanted answers.

[00:22:53] So, what were the findings? Who is to blame, if anyone at all?

[00:23:00] This is the subject of much historical debate but by and large, it was considered to be just terrible misfortune, it was bad luck. 

[00:23:10] No serious errors were found to have been made by the late Captain Smith, and the Titanic was on the correct course the entire time. 

[00:23:20] More contemporary analysis shows that the North Atlantic Ocean was unusually icy at this time, which created strange weather conditions. 

[00:23:30] Without getting too technical, these unusual conditions created something called, ‘abnormal refraction’ which causes light to bend unexpectedly. Visibility would have been far worse than it actually appeared to be, so the ship was only able to see the iceberg far too late.

[00:23:51] Also, whilst turning away from the iceberg seems like the best decision, peculiarly, a full-frontal impact, hitting the iceberg directly without changing course would likely have saved the ship.

[00:24:07] A Titanic architect gave evidence and said that in the event of crashing directly into the ice, the front of the ship would have crumpled, killing around 40 firemen, but the rest would have held intact

[00:24:23] It has to be said, however, that the other side of the debate judges those involved more harshly

[00:24:30] Airtight areas weren’t completely sealed, which meant watertight compartments were anything but

[00:24:37] Also, the steel and iron of the hull, of the bottom of the ship, were weakened by the freezing temperatures and speed of travel, which caused the rivets, the screws, to pop out easily, which massively sped up the speed at which the ship sank.

[00:24:54] And we can’t forget the crucial fact that no one had the key to the binoculars

[00:25:00] Could spotting it seconds earlier have made all the difference?

[00:25:04] The story is filled with many agonising ‘what ifs?’.

[00:25:08] In terms of the legacy of the Titanic, to this day it remains one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters, in terms of loss of life.

[00:25:19] In the immediate aftermath, there were regulations that required all ships to have wireless equipment and crucially, there had to be a ‘lifeboat for every soul’ on board. 

[00:25:30] And as to the question of where the Titanic is now, the ship still sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. 

[00:25:39] Her wreck was discovered in 1985, but experts say that bringing it 4km to the surface would be impossible. 

[00:25:49] What’s more, due to rust and water pressure, what remains of the ship will likely disintegrate within 30 years. 

[00:25:58] So, while the physical remains of the ship will not be around for much longer, the tragic story of the Titanic will remain forever, a powerful reminder of the dangers of human pride, of the limits of engineering, or perhaps, simply of the immense power of mother nature.

[00:26:18] OK, that is it for today’s episode on The Titanic.

[00:26:24] I imagine you knew something of the story already, and perhaps you’ve seen the most famous film adaptation, but I hope that this went a little deeper into what really happened.

[00:26:34] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:26:38] Have you ever read any of the heartwarming stories from survivors of the Titanic?

[00:26:43] Have you heard any of the tragic stories about husbands and wives who wouldn’t abandon each other, and perished together in the freezing cold waters?

[00:26:52] Why do you think that this story continues to have such a cultural impact, well over 100 years later?

[00:27:00] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:27:03] The place for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:27:09] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:27:14] I’m Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I’ll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]