Titanic sets sail on maiden voyage
In the early 20th Century, the race to build the ultimate ocean liner intensified as engineering became more sophisticated, daring, and, for leisure sector shipbuilding, commercially viable.
Cunard had the Lusitania and the Mauretania; two behemoths in ocean going passenger cruise ships. Both held the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing. Rivals White Star were also preoccupied with size and luxury. This was an age of bigger and better. With their Olympic class ocean liner RMS Titanic they had created the ultimate vanity piece in their fleet. ‘Practically unsinkable’, and offering unparalleled luxury, the Titanic was the largest ship in the world. She was a national treasure before she was launched.
Built in Belfast at Harland And Wolffe, the Titanic was 269 metres in length. She would never be as fast as the Lusitania and the Mauretania – she offered something different. To her owners, especially, she offered profitability. But on a purely engineering level, she was something of an anachronism when compared to her Cunard rivals.
The Lusitania and the Mauretania made full use of the latest technology, pioneered in wartime and used commercially to great effect. Their propulsion was far more efficient and modern that the Titanic. The principals of design on the Titanic focussed on taking existing methods of propulsion and making them bigger to create the monster liner. By doing this, sacrifices would be made with regards to manoeuverability – navigating through seas studded with icebergs, manoeuverability would be crucial. There was little doubt that the Titanic was built with size and luxury in mind.
Nobody knew the Titanic was doomed. Concerns over the provision of life rafts that could only cater for just over half of the ships passengers and crew were understandably drowned out over the excitement surrounding the ships launch. Besides, the Titanic was the maritime disaster that saw safety regulation tightened considerably; this was a more innocent age. In puncturing this innocence with the loss of over 1,500 lives, the Titanic was a watershed moment for seafaring vessels.
The Titanic’s maiden voyage served as a portent of things to come. On leaving Southampton , the Titanic’s wake broke the New York from its moorings; the stricken liner narrowly avoiding collision as a tug boat pulled the New York from the Titanic’s hull. A near miss. But in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland it was not so lucky.