This Is the Last Known Photo of the Titanic Afloat, April 12th, 1912

This photograph is the last known picture of the RMS Titanic on the surface of the ocean. It was taken April 12, 1912 by a Jesuit priest who had sailed from England to Ireland on the first leg of Titanic’s last voyage.

This image captures the majestic ship as it leaves Queenstown (later called Cobh) headed westwards towards New York. Three days after the photo was taken, 1,514 people would perish after the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Titanic was considered practically “unsinkable” because it was designed to stay afloat in the event the hull was pierced and internal flooding occurred. The design was based on the division of the hull into 15 transverse watertight bulkheads with each one incorporating watertight doors. The doors could be closed automatically in the event of an accident. However, the compartments formed by the watertight bulkheads were not independently watertight. This was a major design flaw. If water filled a compartment higher than the top of a watertight bulkhead, then the adjoining compartments would flood. The design team assumed that this situation was impossible since all bulkheads rose to a level above the waterline.

It was strongly believed that when the Titanic hit the iceberg, a 350 foot gash was torn in the starboard side of the forward hull. The huge gash in the bow allowed water to infiltrate the ship and cause six of the sixteen watertight compartments to flood. The Titanic was designed to stay afloat if 3 or possibly 4 compartments flooded. As the sea rose above the watertight bulkheads, adjoining compartments filled with water (a simple way to conceptualize how Titanic flooded is to think of what happens when you fill an ice cube tray with water). The added water weight pulled Titanic’s bow deeper into the ocean until the great ship gave up its fight and finally sank.

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