The Unsinkable Titanic

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, we dug into our archives for this remarkable account of the disaster and its aftermath. Plus: Titanic video clips of the survivors, the wreckage, and more.


Also in Reader's Digest Magazine April 2012

The original Unsinkable Titanic
For its original publication in 1986, our editors had compiled and condensed this story from dozens of sources. Today, the chronicle is as fresh and moving—and shocking—as it was several decades ago.

Plus: 13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Titanic >>

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.

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