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Titanic Your double downfall


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The cold colossus was discovered too late on April 14, 1912: The Titanic rammed an iceberg. The "unsinkable" steel giant is dragging around 1,500 people into their deaths. Since then, the ship and its last secrets have been slumbering on the bottom of the Atlantic. But not for long ...

Status: 04/16/2012 | archive

This iceberg probably disenchanted the "unsinkable" Titanic on April 14, shortly before midnight: It was photographed from the German steamer Bremen, which crossed the disaster area shortly after the disaster. On the right you should see the place where the Titanic scraped off ice. BR reporter Henning Pfeifer bought the picture from a Czech collector in 2000 and said: "Since then, this iceberg in Titanic literature has been asserting itself more and more against the previous 'suspects'".

The lookout Frederick Fleet rings the alarm bell three times on April 14 at around 11.40 p.m.: "Iceberg, directly ahead!" The Titanic turns, but on its voyage from Southampton to New York it is traveling too fast and has already come too close to the cold colossus: At full cruising speed it scrapes along the starboard side of the iceberg. At the same time, 35-year-old Lawrence Beesley was reading in his cabin. "No cracking noise", "no discord as it could be when two heavy bodies meet", simply nothing prepares him, the roughly 1,300 other passengers and 900 crew members for the impending catastrophe. The engines are stopped and the Titanic lies peacefully on the surface of the water, the sea as calm as inland water.

Titanic swings at right angles

Titanic floating palace

The Titanic was 269 meters long, 28 meters wide, 53 meters high and with up to 60,000 horsepower, around 39 kilometers per hour.

Between the oak floors and glass domes everything was - at least in the first class - of the finest quality: In addition to the luxurious suites and the stylish smoking and dining rooms, there was a heated swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a gym with an electric horse and camel, a multi-storey squash court - and of course the promenade deck, on which the rich and famous used to stroll.

Passengers, including the four richest men in the world, paid up to 4,350 US dollars for the trip.

But the silence is deceptive: the Titanic has leaked, six of its 16 watertight segments are flooded, and the bow is beginning to lower. The sea makes its way through portholes, cargo hatches and ventilation shafts. The front part of the ship dips further and further into the water. At midnight, Captain Edward John Smith made the first emergency call, ordered the life jackets to be put on and the lifeboats made clear.

From 0.45 am, the first passengers will swap the luxurious, "unsinkable" steel giant for a small, wobbly wooden boat. From a distance they look back at the "beauty of the ship's lines and lights", as Beesley relates - and only then does the terrible angle in which the Titanic already lies is revealed to them.

"At that moment there was a noise that many people, I think wrongly, described as an explosion. It always looked to me that it was nothing more than the machinery crashing out of its bedding, crashing through the departments and everything smashed in their way ... I suppose they struck through the hull and sank first, still in front of the ship, but it was a sound that no one had ever heard before and no one will wish ever to to hear again. "

Lawrence Beesley in his book, Titanic - Eyewitness to the Disaster, which was published in June 1912

Titanic swallowed by the ocean

At around 2.20 a.m., the ship's hull can no longer withstand the increasing forces - and it breaks. The Titanic sinks into the icy Atlantic Ocean near Newfoundland, the stern pointing steeply upwards. With a speed of up to 80 kilometers per hour, it hits at a depth of more than 3,800 meters and bores up to 15 meters into the mud.

1,500 people died in the sinking of the Titanic

Together with other survivors, Beesley is brought to New York by the passing passenger ship Carpathia in the early hours of the morning. According to a British investigation report, only 711 people survived the disaster. Around 1,500 drown or die of hypothermia: The water temperature is below 0 degrees Celsius, a little above the freezing point of seawater.

Titanic found on the ocean floor

The bow of the Titanic slumbers at a depth of around 3,800 meters.

Countless researchers set out in the decades that followed to find the wreck of the luxury liner. On September 1, 1985, thanks to modern technology, the time had come: For the American deep-sea researcher Robert Ballard, "the first glance leaves no room for doubt" - he and his team find the Titanic. Ballard is committed to protecting the Titanic from grave robbers. Shortly before her death in 2009, the last survivor of the accident, Millvina Dean, protested against pieces being removed from the wreck. "I always hoped that no objects would be recovered from the ship. That's a grave, my father is down there."

Titanic evaporates

A look inside the Titanic: This is what a first-class cabin looks like now.

The Titanic itself is now dying: microorganisms decompose the ship's metal, literally eating it up. "One day the ship will collapse on the ocean floor," says RMS Titanic Inc., which secured the rights to the wreck in 1994. Technical equipment, jewelry, coins and other memories were recovered in several expeditions; there are now more than 5,500 finds. Researchers at the company are trying to preserve the entire wreck for eternity - if only as a three-dimensional digital model. In the newly opened Titanic Experience Center in Belfast, visitors can admire true-to-life replicas and animations, but also follow human tragedies.

Titanic is immortal anyway

Titanic in focus

The Titanic received its first attention spike in 1912: within a few weeks, dozens of books and films on the disaster were published. The second wave then occurred in the 1950s, inspired by the book "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.

John Wilson Foster, himself a Titanic book author, knows what happened next: "The event slumbered again until the 1980s." It wasn't until the discovery of the wreck in 1985 and Cameron's film in 1997 that interest then globalized.

The Titanic remains immortal in the mind: We have been fascinated by the downfall of the steel giant for a hundred years. Masses of books and films have tried to bring the glitz of the luxury liner and the horror of its end to life. At that time the titan was the strongest and most spectacular thing that mankind had to oppose to the forces of nature. Today it lies broken deep on the ocean floor, has to bow to nature - and yet can defy it as a myth.

  • 01/27/1850 - Titanic captain Edward John Smith born: January 27, 2015, 9:05 a.m., calendar sheet, radioWissen, Bavaria 2.
  • 04/10/1912 - Father Joseph Peruschitz goes on board the "Titanic": April 10, 2013, 9:05 a.m., calendar sheet, radioWissen, Bavaria 2.
  • Legendary shipwrecks: July 9th, 2012, 9.45pm, Planet Wissen, ARD-alpha.
  • 100 years of Titanic - how safe is shipping today? April 18, 2012, 11:45 p.m., W for knowledge.
  • The sinking of the Titanic and other accidents: April 15, 2012, 1:05 p.m., radio time travel, Bavaria 2.
  • Safety at sea - collision risks 100 years after the Titanic: April 14, 2012, 9:05 a.m., orange, Bavaria 2.
  • Unsinkable: What is so fascinating about the Titanic? April 13, 2012, 12:05 p.m., talk of the day, Bavaria 2.
  • Conversation with Henning Pfeifer, BR, on 100 years of the sinking of the Titanic: April 13, 2012, 6:05 a.m., radioWelt, Bavaria 2.