On April 10th 1912 the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage. After picking up passengers in Queenstown, Ireland on April 11th, the ship was never seen from land again. Scheduled to arrive in New York City on April 17th, the ship never made it there. On the night of April 14th, the ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic ocean and sunk several hours later. Just how many people died on the Titanic? Find out more.
The sinking of the Titanic has been thoroughly documented throughout history. It’s a story that resonates strongly with people, perhaps due to the tragedy and hubris of the event.
The ship was outfitted with the most advanced technology of the time and deemed “unsinkable” by the press. (Historians are quick to point out that the “unsinkable” moniker largely arose after the sinking occurred and was reported).1
The reaction of the press is a large reason why the Titanic is so ingrained in the memories of the modern day public. The sensationalist headlines and yellow journalism used by newspapers of the time owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer contributed greatly to the spread of the disaster and tragedy of the event.2
Looking back from a historical lens, the sinking could have been avoided. The captain did not take heed of the warnings of icebergs in the area. In order to make great time, the ship was traveling much faster than it should have.
The quickened pace left it less time to steer out of the path of the iceberg and all but ensured its collision and eventual sinking.
How Many People Died on the Titanic?
It is estimated that around ~1,515 people died on the Titanic including both passengers and crew members.
The extreme loss of life and popular belief at the time that the Titanic was “unsinkable” left deep scars on the American and British populace.3
Of the ~1300 passengers, 812 died leaving a survival rate of just 37%. 703 staff and crew members died on the Titanic out of 918 total leaving just a 23% survival rate. This means a total of over 1,500 people perished in the deadliest peacetime sinking in history at the time.
First Class passengers had the best survival rate. Of the 319 First Class passengers, 120 died while 199 survived. This equates to a survival rate of 62%.
Second Class passengers were also fairly well off (comparatively). Of the 272 Second Class passengers, 155 died while 117 survived. This meant a survival rate of 43%.
Third Class passengers were worst off by far (aside from the crew). Of the 709 Third Class passengers, 537 died while 172 survived. This translates into a survival rate of 25%.
The Staff and Crew had the smallest survival rate. Of the 918 Crew members, 703 died while 215 survived. This translates into a survival rate of just 23%.
How Many Men Died on the Titanic?
Overall about 1,349 men died on the Titanic when it sank into the Atlantic Ocean. This figure includes both passengers and crew members. In contrast 323 men survived the Titanic and made it to safety.
- Male Passengers: 776 men: 128 survived and 648 died (16% survival rate)
- Male Crew & Staff: 896 men: 195 survived and 701 died (21% survival rate)
Interestingly enough, more male crew members than passengers survived the sinking of the Titanic. This could be due to the fact that male crew members were assigned to be rowers in the lifeboats and were nearest to lifeboats as the ship went under.
As expected, first class men had the highest survival rate (~32%) though that did not necessarily guarantee the survival of the wealthiest members on the ship.
Boarding a lifeboat ahead of women and children was seen as dishonorable for a man at the time. Many of the most prestigious men onboard like John Jacob Astor IV whose family made a fortune in the fur trade opted to stay behind and perish with the ship.
How Many Women Died on the Titanic?
Overall about 110 women died on the Titanic when it sank into the Atlantic Ocean. This figure includes both passengers and crew members. In contrast 324 women survived the Titanic and made it to safety.
- Women Passengers: 412 women: 304 survived and 108 died (72% survival rate)
- Women Crew & Staff: 22 women: 20 survived and 2 died (91% survival rate)
In first and second class women had a disproportionately high survival rate (97% and 86% respectively) while third class women fared the worst by far (49%).
The survival rate of women was significantly aided by the policy of women and children boarding lifeboats first, though the rule was not followed as well for lower class passengers.
How Many Women and Children Died on the Titanic?
Overall about 166 women and children died on the Titanic when it sank into the Atlantic Ocean. This figure includes both passengers and crew members. In contrast 380 women and children survived the Titanic and made it to safety.
- Women and Children Passengers: 524 women and children: 360 survived and 164 died (69% survival rate)
- Women and Children Crew & Staff: 22 women and children: 20 survived and 2 died (91% survival rate)
There were no children among the Crew and staff, though in keeping with the general theme, third class women and children had the lowest survival rates among all passengers.
Due to the “women and children first” policy, each of those groups had a drastically better survival rate than men did. The captain and most of his senior staff all went down with the ship.
How Many Lifeboats Were on the Titanic?
A common question is just how many lifeboats were on the Titanic when the ship sunk?
At the very least, even if the ship was destined to sink on its maiden voyage, the tremendous loss of life could have been drastically reduced should better maritime policies been in place. As ridiculous as it sounds now, there were only enough lifeboats for about half the people on board. Despite this, the Titanic was actually not at fault, and was in full compliance of maritime safety regulations of the day.
The Titanic had 16 operational lifeboats and 4 “collapsible” boats that could carry a maximum of 1,178 people. Despite the severity of the situation there was initially little urgency from the crew and passengers in boarding and filling the lifeboats. The first boat launched only had 27 spots filled of a maximum of 65.
In addition, misinterpreted direction led to confusion. The orders were to allow women and children to board first. However, the officer on the port side interpreted this as women and children only. Thus, if there were no women and children waiting he would order the boats to be launched well below maximum capacity.
The crew was also drastically under trained in handling the lifeboats. On an unsinkable ship, what was the need? Crew members feared the buckling and breaking apart of the lifeboats while lowering to the water due to the weight of passengers.
They were all unaware that the lifeboats were reinforced with steel beams to prevent this and had been tested with the weight of 70 full grown men.
Nearly 500 fewer people could have died on the Titanic had the lifeboats been competently loaded and utilized.
To learn more about US history, check out this timeline of the history of the United States.
1) Frey, Bruno S., et al. “Behavior under Extreme Conditions: The ‘Titanic’ Disaster.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 25, no. 1, 2011, pp. 209–21, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23049445.
2) Levinson, Martin H. “A GENERAL SEMANTICS ANALYSIS OF THE RMS TITANIC DISASTER.” ETC: A Review of General Semantics, vol. 69, no. 2, 2012, pp. 143–56, http://www.jstor.org/stable/42579181.
3) Smith, Denis. “Exploring the Myth: The Sinking of the Titanic.” Industrial & Environmental Crisis Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3, 1994, pp. 275–88, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26162281.