She was steaming at full speed, about 20 knots or 40 miles per hour, standard procedure at the time, despite having received warnings about icebergs and growlers from other ships.
Had Captain Edward Smith slowed his speed by half—
Had the ship steered straight for the looming mountain of ice instead of trying to turn away from it—
The Titanic’s maiden voyage would have been nothing more than another, ordinary news story.
Instead, 100 years ago today, the White Star Lines’ Olympic class ocean liner sank at 2:20a.m. (ship’s time) in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg just two hours and forty minutes earlier. About fifteen hundred of the just over twenty-two hundred passengers died in the frigid waters that morning. The RMS Carpathia steaming at full speed to the rescue arrived at about 4:00a.m. to pick up the seven hundred or so survivors.
The unsinkable ship sank, but the story of those few days of sailing and the final few hours have been the subject of speculation, keen interest, and obsession and spawned countless books and quite a few movies (beginning with one in 1912 months after the disaster) ever since.
Why are we still so fascinated by the Titanic one hundred years later?
A glittering pre-war era, many famous, very rich passengers, unsurpassed luxury and hubristic pride in the technological accomplishments of man—prime story elements brought together and then thrust into a battle so few would survive against a harsh random act of nature.