Use this KS1 Titanic timeline to keep pupils up-to-date with key events that happened as the giant steamship crashed into an iceberg and sunk. This resource will help you to explain how this hugely tragic event unfolded.
Lookout Frederick Fleet picks up a call on the bridge and reports that an iceberg is directly ahead of the ship. First Officer Murdoch orders a hard starboard turn.
In Belfast, the titanic timeline leaves Harland & Wolff shipyard after three years under construction. It is the largest passenger ship ever built at that time. The new ship is taking her maiden voyage to Southampton, England, after a stop at Cherbourg in France.
During the voyage, the ship’s passengers and crew are becoming familiar with the ship’s many public rooms. Carpets are being laid and decorations are being put up.
April 11, Thursday morning: Captain Smith takes Titanic through some practice turns en route to Queenstown to test maneuverability. 114 third-class and seven second-class passengers disembark from tenders.
Lookouts spot an iceberg dead ahead, towering some 55-60 feet above the waterline. They sound a warning bell and signal the bridge. Sixth officer Moody relays the message to Murdoch, who instinctively calls “hard-a-starboard” and spins the helm as hard as he can. The ship hits the iceberg and its bergenes and is crippled.
The Olympic reaches the end of her crossing and returns to Harland and Wolff in Belfast. The new Titanic is nearly ready to leave the shipyard as well. She will spend one day on display for the press before she departs from Southampton for her maiden voyage to New York.
April 12: Titanic covers 386 miles in fine weather. She receives a number of wireless messages from other ships reporting ice. The Cunard liner Caronia warns the Titanic of a field of ice in 42° N and 50° W.
Titanic’s wireless operator Boxhall looks at the damage to the Orlop deck and determines that it has been flooded forward of the fourth watertight bulkhead. Captain Smith asks Boxhall to establish the ship’s position. He also instructs Thomas Andrews and the ship’s carpenter to sound the ship for watertight integrity. The crew is told that they should be able to float for at least two hours. Port-side boat No. 4 is lowered with only 25 women and children and some seamen aboard. It could have held 40.
In preparation for Titanic’s maiden voyage, the ship undergoes a full lifeboat drill to meet British Board of Trade standards. The drill is a success, but it takes time to complete.
Around noon, Titanic departs Southampton dock. As she passes ships moored along the harbor, her movement creates a suction that draws the Olympic-class schooner New York toward Titanic’s side. Quick action averts a collision by only four feet.
The first distress signal is sent to the Cunard liner Carpathia, which immediately begins heading full speed for rescue. The water is now up to the name plate on the bow. First Officer Lightoller sees that port-side boat No. 3, which can carry 40 people, is leaving with only 25. He refuses to let wealthy passenger John Jacob Astor enter the boat, which ultimately leaves with only 20 passengers and crew. The water is now ten feet below Promenade Deck. The ship’s band stops playing.
Titanic departs Belfast. She passes a series of sea trials, including speed and handling tests. Her equipment meets all Board of Trade requirements. She also conducts a lifeboat drill, lowering and raising all her boats under Welin davits designed to hold only two or three each. The ship carries 16 wooden lifeboats and four collapsibles, but due to outdated British regulations Titanic’s lifeboat capacity exceeds requirements by ten percent.
During her downstream passage into River Test Titanic’s motion creates a suction that draws the anchored steamer New York toward her side. Fast-acting tugboats avert a collision by a matter of feet.
Captain Edward J. Smith, who has been commanding Olympic during her last transatlantic voyage, assumes command of the White Star Line’s newest flagship. First Officer Murdoch is demoted to second officer, while Charles Lightoller takes over the watch in the Crow’s Nest (lookout). A pair of binoculars belonging to a crew member are stolen before he is demoted to a third-class room.
The ship’s design and outfitting are completed, but she is still testing her seaworthiness. Thomas Andrews, White Star’s Southampton Marine Superintendent, begins a thorough inspection of the ship. Crew members conduct a full crew muster and lifeboat drill.
At 11:40 PM, Titanic’s lookouts see an iceberg dead ahead. They signal the bridge, which signals Sixth Officer Moody to activate the levers that close watertight doors below the waterline. The action averts a collision, but the iceberg hits her stern glancingly and compromises five of her watertight compartments.
Captain Smith realizes Titanic is in trouble and orders the wireless operators to send a CQD distress call. He also gives the order to begin loading women and children into lifeboats. Lightoller waves (possibly fired) his pistol to stop a rush on port-side boat No. 4, which can carry 47 people; John Jacob Astor and his wife, Madeleine, are refused entry. Water reaches Boat Deck and the ship develops a noticeable list to starboard.
Aboard, a team led by White Star’s Southampton Marine Superintendent Maurice Clarke begins a thorough inspection of Titanic. He and Lightoller spend hours checking that the ship meets safety requirements.
At 11 a.m., the Cunard liner Caronia sends a series of wireless messages warning about ice in the area. Captain Smith acknowledges them.
2:05 AM: At 11:30, the starboard lifeboat No. 5 is loaded (capacity 40). To prevent a rush, Lightoller waves (and possibly fires) his pistol into the air and crew members form a circle with arms locked together, allowing only women and children aboard. It is lowered and the ship lists to port.
Titanic’s bow sinks under the surface of the water, but her stern still remains on the ocean floor. The Carpathia’s first of seven lifeboats is lowered. It is steered in the direction of Titanic’s name on her bow. The ship’s lights blink and go out.
Captain Smith cancels a scheduled lifeboat drill without explanation. Messages from the steamship Baltic and German liner Mesaba warn of icebergs in their vicinity, but are not passed to the bridge.
Lookouts spot a large iceberg dead ahead. Sixth Officer Moody calls to the bridge, and Second Officer Murdoch takes over watch duties. He instinctively calls “hard-a-starboard” to the helmsman and closes watertight doors below the waterline.
The first lifeboat is lowered but has room for only 27 people. To prevent a panic, Lightoller refuses entry to boat No. 7, which is lowering with women and children only. As he does so, he waves (and possibly fires) his pistol into the air. In the rush to board, 20 places in the boat remain empty. Several more are lowered, but all are full or nearly so. The ship’s musicians play lively ragtime music from the first-class lounge. Some sources say they continue to play until just before the Titanic sinks.
The iceberg hits Titanic’s starboard bow side. The impact shatters the ship’s bow section and compromises five watertight compartments. The ship’s lookouts report that the iceberg is moving toward them at a considerable speed.
The first lifeboats are lowered into the water. The passengers load into them as quickly as possible, but many of the boats are under-filled. Some of the smaller boats have only 20 people aboard when they could hold 65. Several women and children are left behind.
The White Star-commissioned cable-laying ship Minia is sent to help the overtaxed Mackay-Bennett. The two ships recover a total of 328 bodies. The stokers of Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, go on strike because they don’t want to work on a ship that doesn’t carry enough lifeboats. The stokers’ action leads to the cancellation of Olympic’s voyage. The chief officer, William Murdoch, demotes Charles Lightoller to first officer. Lightoller will become the most senior officer to survive the disaster, surviving in an overturned collapsible lifeboat.
This general timeline does not include every event that occurred on Titanic’s voyage or the aftermath. However, over the years the Titanic has captured the imaginations of many people around the world. It has inspired research, countless memorials and monuments, and it’s been the subject of books, plays, television shows, songs, and movies.
Herbert J. Haddock signs on as captain of the White Star Line’s new flagship, Titanic. He will serve in the position for a week until Captain Edward J. Smith, commander of Olympic, arrives from Southampton to assume command of the Titanic. Also today, the ship’s lifeboats pass a seaworthiness test. Sixteen wooden lifeboats are loaded under davits, four of them “collapsible” boats with canvas sides that allow the boats to expand and hold more passengers. The boats exceed British Board of Trade regulations by ten percent capacity.
The Titanic’s ill-fated journey in 1912 marked a turning point in maritime history. The shocking loss of lives and the subsequent investigations led to significant improvements in safety regulations and emergency procedures for ocean liners. This tragic event continues to serve as a poignant reminder of the risks and consequences of complacency at sea.
- Were there enough lifeboats on the Titanic? No, the Titanic had a total of 20 lifeboats, which was only enough to accommodate around half of the ship’s passengers and crew. This lack of lifeboats contributed significantly to the loss of life during the sinking.
2. Were any famous personalities aboard the Titanic? Yes, there were several notable passengers on board the Titanic, including American businessman John Jacob Astor IV, millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, and Macy’s department store owner Isidor Straus, among others. Many prominent individuals lost their lives in the disaster, attracting widespread attention and grief