The White Star Liner Titanic, the largest ship the world had ever known, sailed from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage to New York City on Wednesday, April 10, 1912. She was built with double bottoms, and her hull was divided into 16 watertight compartments. She was thought to be unsinkable. The liner carried more than 2,200. Occupying the first-class suites were many well-known men and women—Col. John Jacob Astor and his young bride; President William Howard Taft’s close adviser Maj. Archibald W. Butt; former congressman and Macy’s chief executive Isidor Straus; and J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line. In the crowded cabins of steerage class were more than 700 immigrants heading to the land of promise.
Sunday the 14th dawned fair and clear. At 9 a.m., a message from the steamer Carolina sputtered into the wireless shack: “Captain, Titanic—westbound steamers report bergs, growlers, and field ice in 42 degrees N. from 49 degrees to 51 degrees W. Compliments—Barr.” The message was delivered to Capt. E. J. Smith, who wired an acknowledgment.
Just before noon, the rasping spark of early wireless spoke again across the water. It was the Baltic, warning the Titanic of ice on the steamer track. The wireless operator sent the message up to the bridge. Captain Smith read it as he was walking on the promenade deck and then handed it to Bruce Ismay without comment. Ismay read it, stuffed it into his pocket, told two women about the icebergs, and resumed his walk.