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 and 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. Brand new and deemed the “unsinkable ship,” it lasted but a few days before sinking. There were also hundreds of immigrants heading to the United States looking to start a new life.
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.
Poor Utilization of Lifeboats
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 more lives could have been saved had the lifeboats been competently loaded and utilized.
Analyzing How Many People Died on the Titanic
Of the ~1300 passengers, 812 died leaving a survival rate of just 37%. There were also 918 staff and crew members, yet only 215 survived leaving 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 meant 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 breakdown of how many passengers died on the Titanic by women, children and men is as follows:
- Women: 412 passengers; 304 survived and 108 died (72% survival rate)
- Children: 112 passengers; 56 survived and 56 died (50% survival rate)
- Men: 776 passengers; 128 survived and 648 died (16% survival rate)
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.
While the Titanic sinking was a tragedy the dramatic loss of life led to drastic improvements in maritime safety laws. Much of these changes were for the better and were aimed to help prevent the tremendous loss of life from any future disaster.