The sinking of the Titanic was one of the most infamous disasters in history. What day of the week and what time did the ship sink?
The RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg at 11:40 PM on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912. It sank two and a half hours, just after 2 AM in the early hours of Monday, April 15. The ship’s 700 survivors were discovered a couple of hours later at about 4 AM, by the RMS Carpathia.
For more on the sinking of the Titanic, read on.
The RMS Titanic left the shipyards of Belfast, Ireland on April 2, 1912. It made a short trip to the southern coast of England, docking in Southampton in order for the finishing touches to be applied to the ship.
It departed Southampton on April 10, carrying passengers for the first time, and made a brief stop at Cherbourg, France to collect passengers. After turning westward, the ship stopped in Queenstown, Ireland, its final detour before setting off across the Atlantic to New York City.
An exact count of how many passengers were on the ship is near impossible to determine. We know that certain individuals bought tickets but failed to board. There were others who were claimed to have died on the ship but never even purchased a ticket.
In any case, there were approximately 2,220 combined passengers and crew on the ship when it set out onto the open ocean for the first time. For four days, the journey passed without incident. The Titanic was an engineering marvel, though it couldn’t compete with the speed of the Cunard Line, White Star’s competition.
On the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the Titanic was passing through an area of the North Atlantic Ocean that was notorious for icebergs. The ship’s captain, Edward Smith, retired to his cabin after telling the bridge crew to wake him if there was an iceberg sighting.
Smith was woken at 11:40 PM, not by his crew but by the impact of the Titanic striking an enormous iceberg. The crew had seen the floating piece of ice at the last moment and steered away from it, but an underwater protuberance had gashed open the side of the ship.
Thomas Andrews, one of the Titanic’s two main designers, went to check the damage. The ship had been designed to use a system of bulkheads. These could individually be filled with water if the ship’s hull was penetrated, while allowing it to remain buoyant.
This system led to the belief that the Titanic was “unsinkable” but the bulkheads were not watertight, allowing them to flood each other in the event that too many were pierced. Andrews stated his belief that the ship would sink within a few hours.
On a ship carrying 2,220 people, there were only enough lifeboats for a thousand. It was believed that too many lifeboats would make the ship appear unsafe. After a long delay, Captain Smith finally ordered the lifeboats to be lowered at 12:30 AM on April 15. In the panic, some of the boats are only carrying half of their maximum capacity.
At about 2:10 AM, the front of the ship was completely submerged in the water, with the rear lifting into the air. This led to the Titanic’s electricity cutting out, leaving those fortunate enough to escape and those still on board in darkness.
Minutes later, at 2:17 AM, the weight of the ship’s rear was too much for the hull to support and it broke in two. There were conflicting eyewitness reports on the matter and it was only the discovery of the wreck in 1985 that confirmed the ship had broken in half.
Now in two enormous pieces, the Titanic sank below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean. At about 2:24 AM, the front half crashed onto the ocean floor. It was joined by the rear half two minutes later.
At about 4 AM, the RMS Carpathia, which had received a distress call, arrived at the Titanic’s last known location. The Carpathia’s crew had prepared to receive all 2,220 of the Titanic’s passengers and crew but, tragically, they found just over 700 on the ship’s lifeboats.
The Titanic itself would remain undiscovered on the ocean floor for decades. Today, its name is synonymous with one of the worst disasters in maritime history.