Known as the unsinkable ship and appearing in countless movies and documentaries, the Titanic is history’s most infamous ship. Many people have wondered how something that was designed with so much thought and detail could have possibly met such a tragic end on its maiden voyage. Did its size contribute to its unfortunate fate? Just how tall was the Titanic?
Interestingly, the builders of the Titanic never actually said it was unsinkable. That was a bold claim made by the 1997 movie about Jack Dawson’s ill-fated journey from the United Kingdom to New York City. However, the builders did declare it was “
practically” unsinkable. At launch, the Titanic was the largest ship to move on water, but it was not built for speed. Cunard’s Mauretania and Lusitania were built to be faster. While the Titanic was the largest ship of its time, it was not the fastest.
In This Article…
How Tall Was the Titanic?
The Titanic had some impressive statistics for its time. Compared to the modern mega cruise ships we know today, the Titanic would seem unimpressive. However, for its day, it was awe-inspiring.
Accommodations on the cruise ship were spacious and luxurious. Even the third-class cabins offered a better standard than other ships, but there were still lines that were better than the Titanic at the time. What was impressive about this liner was the amenities: a swimming pool, squash courts, gymnasiums, Turkish baths, and a barbershop.
- Height: 104 feet (base of keel to top of bridge)
- Length: 882 feet 9 inches
- Breadth: 92 feet 6 inches
- Tonnage: 46,329 gross, 21,831 net
- Number of decks: 7
- Engine: 2 triple-expansion with eight-cylinder engines, one low-pressure turbine, capable of 6,906 horsepower (46,000 total horsepower)
- Average speed: 21 knots
- Estimated top speed: 23-24 knots
In its day, the Titanic was deemed a marvel. It was seen as futuristic regarding travel capabilities as it had newly emergent technology. The Titanic promised a luxurious ocean crossing for those who could afford it.
Did Titanic’s Size Cause Its Demise?
To answer this question, we must go into the history and construction of this massive vessel. A great deal of ambition, detail, and thought went into the Titanic.
During the early 20th century, only a handful of companies constructed ships. Cunard Line, which also built the Lusitania, was one of them. White Star began construction on their most ambitious vessel, the RMS Titanic. (RMS stands for Royal Mail Service, which was also on board).
The Titanic’s name came from Greek mythology. The Titans were large, powerful gods, and the Titanic was designed to be a “floating behemoth,” the largest passenger ship in the world upon launch.
Construction began in 1909 in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. The liner took about three million rivets and 3,000 workers to complete. The ship cost $7 million to build, which equates to $200 million in today’s currency.
Read Also: How Much Was a Ticket on the Titanic?
The Titanic’s size is one-third shorter and half as wide as our modern cruise ships. However, at the time, it was a record-breaker. White Star planned to construct 60,000-ton ships, with the Titanic weighing in at only 46,000 tons.
However, it was still the largest ship built for that era. Shipbuilders were not thrilled with the Titanic’s size. They warned that it might be too big to dock.
How Size Could Have Hastened Sinking
White Star vice president Phillip Frank boasted there was no danger of the Titanic sinking. The ship line exploited the size and added luxury amenities to attract wealthy patrons. While the builders of the Titanic didn’t spare any expense when it came to attractions, the ship fell short on what it ended up needing the most: lifeboats.
Infamously, on April 14, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Of the approximately 2,200 passengers and crew on board, more than 1,500 people died. There were simply not enough lifeboats for everyone.
Modern experts feel the Titanic sank more quickly than perhaps it should have. The reason may have been because of its size. Despite containing several below-deck compartments created to take on water if there was a breach, they were not watertight. Each compartment took more water than the vessel could handle, quickly sinking it.
Size may have worked against the large passenger liner in another way as well. Redirecting and slowing such a large ship requires more time and distance than the crew had once realized they were headed for an iceberg.
Without adequate distance to clear the object, the liner sideswiped the iceberg, damaging 100 meters of the right side of the ship’s hull below and above the waterline.
As the front filled with water and began to sink, the rear pulled downwards on the opposite end. The three massive propellers weighed down the back end, causing the vessel to almost split in half.
Lessons Learned: Does Size Matter When Constructing a Ship?
This horrific accident busted the myth of the unsinkable ship. After it sank, Harland and Wolff made drastic changes to the RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. They added a second internal hull, higher bulkheads, fireproof materials, and more lifeboats.
Today, modern cruise ships contain safety features and protocols to prevent sea disasters. A 2021 report from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty indicated that the number of lost ships had decreased year after year.
Only 54 ships in the global fleet (shipping vessels included) sank in 2021 compared to the 127 that sank ten years ago. During Titanic’s area, the overall loss of vessels was 10% or 1 in 10.
Still, we haven’t “arrived” when it comes to engineering. Improvements are constantly being made even today. The biggest lesson learned from the Titanic disaster was that no ship is unsinkable.
When we consider how tall the Titanic was–a whopping 104 feet–and compare it to today’s ships, our cruise ships are taller and heavier than the Titanic. The average weight of Royal Caribbean’s fleet is 133,000 tons, and many cruise ships are twice the height of the Titanic, proving that large cruise ships can sail safely. Size alone is not a factor in whether a ship sinks or floats. It ultimately was the maneuverability and testing the limits of its speed that caused the Titanic to sink.