The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri
History & Biography

A Night to Remember: RMS Titanic

On April 12, 1912, the White Star liner Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City. The noted luxury liner nicknamed the "Millionaire's Special" carried many prominent and wealthy passengers such as John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Molly Brown, the ship's designer Thomas Andrews, and White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay.

Late in the evening of Sunday, April 14, the sea was still as the Titanic moved through the icy water. Wireless messages from other ships warned of an ice field and icebergs ahead. Captain Smith altered course slightly to the south but maintained the speed of 22 knots. At 9:40 p.m. the Mesaba warned of an ice field. Then at 10:55 p.m. the nearby liner Californian said it had stopped because it was surrounded by ice. Jack Phillips, one of Titanic's wireless operators, was busy sending passenger messages to the Newfoundland relay station, Cape Race. Annoyed by the Californian's interruption, Phillips brusquely cut off communication with the other liner. The critical warnings from the Mesaba and the Californian were not relayed to the bridge. The Titanic continued on at full speed toward the sea ice.

At 11:40 p.m. the crew in the crow's nest alerted the bridge that there was an iceberg dead ahead. First Officer Murdoch ordered the ship turned "hard-a-starboard" and the engines reversed. It was too late: the iceberg scraped along the starboard side of the ship, rupturing up to five compartments below the water line. Based on the amount of water surging into the ship, Andrews told Captain Smith that the vessel would founder in a few hours.

The wireless operators aboard the Titanic began to send out distress signals, but no vessel was near enough to come to the ship's immediate rescue. The ship's officers thought they saw the lights of another ship nearby, so distress rockets were also sent up to burst in the dark night sky. The distant ship never responded to the emergency signals. Its identity was never clearly established.

Captain Smith ordered the passengers to the lifeboats. Titanic's lifeboats could only hold 1,178 people, far short of the 2,200 souls aboard. The Cunard vessel Carpathia was the closest ship in contact with the Titanic and the ship steamed as quickly as possible to the Titanic's coordinates. Despite the Carpathia's desperate rush to the stricken ship, it didn't arrive until 3:30 a.m., an hour after the Titanic sank. In the end, only 705 people would survive.

Few disasters have captivated the human imagination as much as the sinking of the Titanic. Over the years many dramatic films, documentaries and hundreds of books have told the tale of the doomed luxury liner. One hundred years later, the story of the Titanic still lives on.

To learn more about the Titanic and the people aboard it, go to The Library catalog, type Titanic in the subject field. Also, the May 9 Book Discussion at The Library Center will be Walter Lord's classic, A Night to Remember.

Here are some other resources about the Titanic:


Titanic Historical Society

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Titanic

Encyclopedia Titanica

New York Times articles

RMS Titanic Resource Guide

Titanic Myths

All About Icebergs


 A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
The classic on the subject of the Titanic. It recounts the demise of the "unsinkable" Titanic, the massive luxury liner that housed extravagances such as a French "sidewalk cafe" and a grand staircase, but failed to provide enough lifeboats for the 2,207 passengers on board.

 The Band That Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down With the Titanic by Steve Turner
The first real account of the brave men who chose to stay aboard the sinking ship even though they weren't crew members.  Instead, they played soothing and popular music to help calm the chaos and turmoil on the Boat Deck as the massive ship foundered.

 Lost Voices From the Titanic: The Definitive Oral History by Nick Barratt
No one can better tell the tale of the doomed ship than the people who survived it. The use of primary sources as the background for the book reveals some details missing in other accounts of the sinking.

 On Board the Titanic: The Complete Story With Eyewitness Accounts edited by Logan Marshall
This is a reprint of a book which came out the year of the sinking. What is surprising is that the eyewitness accounts don't always match up.

 Return to Titanic: A New Look at the World's Most Famous Lost Ship by Robert D. Ballard
Written by the man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, it is illustrated with haunting photographs. Ballard describes how the years and recklessness of later visitors to the wreck are taking its toll.

 Shadow of  the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson
This book describes not only the survivors' stories of the wreck but also what happened to them after their rescue. Many of the survivors suffered mental distress for years. This volume shines a light into the darker corners of the survivors' lives.

 Titanic at Two A.M. by Paul J. Quinn
The author uses structural details gleaned from the accounts of Ballard and many survivors to reconstruct a vivid description of the final 20 minutes of the vessel's life. Quinn belongs to the Titanic Historical Society and the book shows excellent knowledge of the layout of the ship.

 Titanic: The Last Great Images by Robert Ballard with Ian Coutts
Vivid recent photographs illuminate the grandeur of the world's most storied maritime disaster and offers us a whole world frozen at the moment of a disaster.

 Titanic: The Tragedy That Shook the World by the editors of Life
This oversized book includes archival photography, past reporting in "LIFE," and the modern-day explorations of Robert Ballard and others that inspired the James Cameron film.

 Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner by Jon Maxstone-Graham
The author devotes his considerable knowledge to salient and rarely investigated components of the story, including the role of newly invented wireless telecommunication, the construction and its ramifications at  the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and the dawn rendezvous with the rescue ship Carpathia.

 Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, ShipBuilders, Aristocrats, and the World They Came From by R.P.T. Davenport-Hines
While many accounts of the Titanic's voyage focus on the technical or mechanical aspects of why the ship sank, Davenport-Hines follows the stories of the men, women, and children whose lives intersected on the vessel's fateful last day.


A Night to Remember directed by Roy Ward Baker
A classic and dramatic rendition of the Titanic disaster based on Walter Lord's popular book.

Titanic: Anatomy of A Disaster by Discovery Classics
Scientists and researchers combine underwater archaeology, forensic science, metallurgy, microbiology and sonar imaging to investigate the sinking and attempt to answer puzzling questions about the wreck.

Titanic: The Complete Story by The History Channel and A&E
Almost 5 hours long, this documentary series follows the Titanic from the shipyard through the disaster as numerous iceberg warnings go unheeded. Lifeboats edge away from the crippled liner as futile SOS signals flare into the night, leaving 1500 passengers to parish in a watery grave. It also explores the deep sea expedition to unearth Titanic's secrets.

Titanic's Final Moments: Missing Pieces by A&E
How the Titanic broke apart and sank has been a mystery for decades. What actually happened after the ship hit the iceberg? In 2005 explorers set out to investigate a virtually unexplored site rarely looked at before.

Titanic: How It Really Sank by National Geographic
The disaster was the result of a long, long chain of mistakes, a fatal series of avoidable human errors that sent Titanic and more than half of her passengers to their watery graves.

Titanic directed by James Cameron
The Oscar-winning Best Picture follows two people from different worlds as they meet and fall in love on the brief, tragic maiden voyage of the grand ocean liner.


Music From the Motion Picture Titanic by James Horner
Based on Celtic musical motifs and popular music from the era, James Horner's haunting score will be instantly recognizable.

Back to the Titanic by James Horner
The second soundtrack disc for James Cameron's "Titanic."

The Titanic Songbook by Nostalgia
This multi-disc set contains music as heard on the fateful voyage, April, 1912.


Find this article at