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Titanic (tĪtănˈĭk) [key], British liner that sank on the night of Apr. 14–15, 1912, less than three hours after crashing into an iceberg in the N Atlantic S of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 lives were lost. The Titanic, thought to be the fastest ship afloat and almost unsinkable, was on her maiden voyage and carried many notables among the more than 2,200 persons aboard. These circumstances made the loss seem the more appalling to the public in England and the United States.

Official and other investigations revealed that messages of warning had been sent but had either not been received by the commanding officers or had been ignored by them. The ship had continued at full speed even after the warnings were sent. She did not carry sufficient lifeboats, and many of the lifeboats were launched with only a few of the seats occupied. Other vessels in the vicinity were unable to reach the Titanic before she sank; one, only 10 mi (16 km) away, did not respond because her wireless operator had retired for the evening. A study published in 2008 revealed that the disaster can be blamed at least partially on low-grade rivets used in some portions of the ship, which broke on impact and caused the ill-fated liner to sink rapidly.

The disaster brought about measures to promote safety at sea, particularly the establishment of a patrol to make known the location of icebergs and of stringent regulations about the proper number and proper equipment of lifeboats to be carried by vessels. The catastrophe inspired a large literature. An expedition led by Robert D. Ballard discovered the wreck in 1985.

See L. Beesley, The Loss of the S.S. Titanic (1912, repr. 1973) A. Gracie, The Truth about the Titanic (1913, repr. 1973), W. Lord, A Night to Remember (1959), R. Brown, Voyage of the Iceberg (1983), B. Beveridge et al., Titanic—The Ship Magnificent (2 vol., 2008), and J. H. McCarty and T. Foecke, What Really Sank the Titanic (2008).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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