How Cold Was the Water When the Titanic Sink?

May 19, 2022 5 min read

Almost 200 years ago, the Titanic sank. In this article, we will discuss the temperatures that existed aboard the ship when it sank, and how they compared to the actual temperature of the ocean. The temperature was 20 degrees below the freezing point of fresh water, and the ship was speeding at around 80 km/h or 30 knots. It is also noteworthy to note that there were five compartments that failed.

20 Degrees Celsius

The temperatures on 15 April 1912 were just over 20 degrees Celsius. According to historical records, it was a calm and cold night. The temperature of the Atlantic Ocean was approximately 20 degrees Celsius. The ship struck an iceberg approximately twenty minutes before midnight, and within three hours, the hull broke. Although there were plenty of life jackets, there were not enough life rafts and on board to save all the people on board. Also, the cold north air was associated with high pressure in eastern Canada. This cold north air caused the air temperature on board to drop to less than 28 degrees Celsius. Low water and air temperatures were the cause of many deaths. 

It's hard to say how many people died on the Titanic, but the icebergs are likely too big to be seen by the crew. The officers on the bridge knew that if the ocean was still, there were no icebergs to be seen. That made the temperature even more frightening. The surface temperature was at least 28 degrees Celsius, which is deadly for humans. Although there is no official data on the ocean temperature, climatology suggests that the area a few hundred miles southeast of Grand Banks would be warmer at that time.

80 km/h

As the Titanic approached the iceberg, the crew and passengers had no choice but to attempt a rescue. The ship's carpenter and senior officers inspected the half-flooded two-deck postal room. Within four hours of the collision, the captain ordered the lifeboats to be ready for boarding. Fourteen men were saved in the lifeboats. The captain's order to "full astern" (toward the port side) the engines of the ship's engines was sent out by the first white distress rocket.

At 2:20 a.m., the ship began to sink. A series of explosions caused the forward section of the ship to pull away from the stern and draw it almost vertical. As the Titanic continued to sink, the speed accelerated. One survivor noted that the stern section of the ship was nearly perpendicular as it went into the water. The rest of the ship remained afloat for a few minutes before it sank.

30 knots

The crew was sailing at approximately 30 knots when the iceberg struck the Titanic at 11:15 p.m. on April 15, 1912. When they saw the iceberg, a lookout rang a bell and called the bridge. The engines were reversed and the Titanic turned quickly to avoid impact. It had a graze contact with the iceberg and scattered ice fragments over the forward deck. The lookouts were relieved, but were not aware that the iceberg was slashed through the hull with a jagged underwater spur. The iceberg's impact slashed the Titanic's hull 300 feet below the waterline.

Captain Smith orders the lifeboats to be readied, while stewards bang on cabin doors to rouse the passengers. The Titanic had no public address system, so passengers and crew had to make their own announcements. First-class passengers are assisted by the crew, while third-class passengers must fend for themselves. Despite the high risk, the lifeboats saved countless lives.

5 Compartments Ruptured

The first two compartments of the Titanic sank immediately, but the third and fourth failed to survive this fateful day. The upper section of the ship began to collapse about 2:12, and the stern and bow continued to fill with water. They reached a mass of over 16,000 tons by 2:18 and sank into the water. At this time, the ship had lost its topmost deck and was coasting at a rate of 13 miles per hour. By 2:20, the ship had sunk below its surface, and its bow had been in the water for almost ten minutes.

The iceberg struck the ship at 22 knots, and Titanic's captain and crew were not able to steer the ship quickly enough to avoid the iceberg. Aside from the iceberg, the ship ruptured at least five compartments in its hull, sending passengers and crew to the sea below. Although it was designed to stay afloat even with four compartments submerged, at this point the ship's crew realized the ship was doomed, and the passengers were rushed to lifeboats.
No lifeboats

The reason for the lack of lifeboats when the Titanic sunk is not clear. First-class and second-class passengers were the most likely to reach lifeboats, while third-class passengers had to struggle to get there, as stairs and corridors were difficult to navigate. Furthermore, the language barrier among immigrants made it nearly impossible for them to communicate with crew members and read the signage. However, despite these flaws, investigators noted that the crew was not properly prepared for the situation and never performed more than a token lifeboat drill.

The lack of lifeboats was an unfortunate result of outdated maritime safety regulations. In addition to fewer lifeboats than the vessel had, the crew was not properly trained to use them, causing the evacuation process to be sluggish and unorganized. Because of this, many of the lifeboats were half-empty when they were launched. The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. There were still approximately 1,500 people aboard at the time of the disaster, and about 710 of them were in a lifeboat. The lifeboats floated away, and a second rescue ship, the RMS Carpathia, picked up the survivors over four hours. The rescue ship Carpathia took 13 lifeboats to the survivors.
Captain Edward Smith

Almost half of the passengers and crew of the Titanic died when the ship hit the iceberg. The water temperature on that fateful night was only 2.2 degrees Celsius. That is still a bit warmer than the iceberg itself. The surrounding seawater was 28 degrees below freezing point but did not freeze due to the high concentration of salt in the ocean. So, if the Titanic sank in water only 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the survivors could recover fully. There were also 12 dogs on board, which makes you wonder if they had spare life jackets for dogs as well.

Some rumors about the icebergs on the seafloor have been disproved by the British Inquiry, however. While the crew did receive warnings about icebergs from other ships, they were only supposed to use the radios for passenger calls. The crew had a plan to steer the ship south and swerve it around the iceberg at nine forty-five knots. But, Captain Edward Smith did not heed the warning, and his ship sank anyway.

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