Earl Chapman’s Titanic Chronology

Countdown to Disaster – 85 Years Ago

Many thanks to Earl Chapman of Montreal, Canada, for allowing me to post his
daily Titanic chronology. This gives a chronology of events in the days
leading up to the maiden voyage, and the fateful collision with the iceberg.

Friday, April 5, 1912

It’s good Friday and the Titanic, the pride of the White Star Line,
is “dressed” overall with flags and pennants for a salute to the people
of Southampton. It is the only occasion she is ever “dressed”. The
Titanic had arrived in the port of Southampton just after midnight to begin
provisioning and staffing for her maiden voyage.

Earl Chapman

Saturday, April 6, 1912

Recruitment day for the majority of the crew. General cargo begins to
arrive. The final cargo totals almost 560 tons and includes 11,524
individual pieces. Union halls and the White Star Line’s hiring hall were
jammed. Hundreds signed on from the British Seafarer’s Union and the
National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union, all anxious to get back to work (the
coal strike had caused widespread unemployment among Southampton’s
sailors). The fact that Titanic was brand new and commanded by Edward
J. Smith certainly did not hurt although some seamen were undoubtedly
deterred by the upcoming maiden voyage. While the majority came from
Southampton, a few came from Liverpool, London, and Belfast, “a British
crew for a British ship”. By the end of the day, most of the operating crew
had been obtained. In addition to the many pieces of general cargo, over
5,800 tons of coal were loaded through the side coaling ports— a messy
business. It took 24 hours to coal a large liner like the Titanic, after which
the ship’s carpenter would seal up the coaling ports with a buckram gasket
soaked in red lead. Following that, every railing, deck, staircase and
passageway had to be cleaned thoroughly, to remove the fine coating of
black dust that spread everywhere.

Earl Chapman

Easter Sunday, April 7, 1912

The Titanic remains tied up at Berth 44. The White Star Line has used
Southampton for its express passenger service since 1907. Berths 43 and
44, dredged to a depth of 40 feet above mean tide, served major liners such
as Titanic and Olympic. By 1912 Southampton’s population had grown to
120,512 and continued to grow as more and more shipping companies
made Southampton their port of call. The coal strike had ended on April 6
but there was not enough time for newly mined coal to be shipped to
Southampton and loaded on Titanic. Coal from five International
Merchant Marine (owner’s of the Titanic) ships in port and leftover coal
from her sister ship Olympic had rumbled down into Titanic’s spacious coal
bunkers. She had arrived with 1,880 tons of coal and to this was added
4,427 tons while in Southampton. The week in port consumed 415 tons
for steam to operate cargo winches and to provide light and heat
throughout the ship. The waterfront was deserted on this Easter Sunday
and all work aboard the Titanic had ceased for the day. No smoke or
steam rose from her funnels. The ship’s bell rang across the harbour
marking the passing hours and her Blue Ensign fluttered at her stern
flagstaff…it was the last quiet hours Titanic would ever know.

Earl Chapman

Monday, April 8, 1912

The Titanic still remains tied up at Southampton’s Berth 44, getting ready
for her scheduled maiden voyage on Wednesday. Monday saw a
resumption of the activity but at a more frantic pace what with fewer than
three days before departure. Fresh food supplies are taken on board, being
brought by train to the dock and then carted over to the ship. Seventy-five
thousand pounds of fresh meat and eleven thousand pounds of fresh fish
are put into the large refrigerators and store-rooms on “G” Deck aft. For
those with a sweet tooth, 1,750 quarts of ice cream are also loaded. So
little time remains before departure. All last minute details are overseen by
her builder Thomas Andrews as well as problems encountered during her
short trip from Belfast. Thomas would stay on board until 6:30 this
evening when he would return to the Harland and Wolff offices to sign
letters and conduct other office business.

Earl Chapman

Tuesday, April 9, 1912

This will be Titanic’s final full day in Southampton…tomorrow she begins
her maiden voyage. Food and stores continue to be taken on board.
Captain Clark, the Board of Trade surveyor, is on board inspecting just
about every part of the ship. According the Second Officer Charles
Lightoller “he did his job, and I’ll certainly say he did it thoroughly”.
Captain E.J. Smith, Titanic’s Commander, performs his own inspections.
While he is visiting the bridge, a London photographer takes his picture.
The photograph will gain immortality as the only picture every taken of
E.J.’ on the bridge of his largest, and last, command. Thomas Andrews
stops to rest and writes to Mrs. Andrews: “The Titanic is now about
complete and will I think do the old Firm credit tomorrow when we sail”.
All of the officers, except Smith, spend the night on board, keeping regular
watches and supervising the final night in port. With only a skeleton crew,
and without any passengers, the last night in Southampton is eerily quiet.
It is a rather cool night and one of the watch officers, standing in the port
bridge wing cab, looks over Southampton’s skyline, his hands kept warm
by the steaming cup of tea. Like all sailor’s facing a maiden voyage, his
emotions are a controlled mixture of excitement, fear, and pride. Pride at
being chosen to serve on the flagship of the White Star Line on this her
maiden voyage.

Earl Chapman

Wednesday, April 10, 1912

Captain Smith boards the Titanic at 7:30 a.m. and receives the sailing
report from Chief Officer Henry Wilde. The long straggling procession of
firemen, trimmers, greasers, stewards, and others slowly make it’s way
through the streets and dockyard area eventually boarding the sleek new
liner. Every so often a peremptory blast from Titanic’s siren warns all
within miles that it is sailing day. J. Bruce Ismay, President of the White
Star Line, boards immediately after breakfast and begins a thorough tour of
his new flagship. Between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., the three White Star Line
boat-trains arrive carrying 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class passengers from
Waterloo Station near London. Lawrence Beesley boards at 10:00 a.m.
with two friends who had come from Exeter to see him off. Well before
sailing, the pilot, Captain George Bowyer walks aboard Titanic and the
pilot’s flag is immediately run up. Shortly before noon, the Titanic’s siren
warns of her impending departure. Visitors from shore begin to leave, as
well as all shore staff and harbour officials. At noon the Titanic casts off
and is towed from the dock by tugs, one of which is the “Vulcan” which
saves the day when Titanic’s movement causes all six mooring ropes on the
liner “New York” to snap, causing her to swing towards the Titanic. Quick
action by all concerned narrowly averts a collision. After some delay the
Titanic resumes her 24-mile trip down the English Channel en route to
Cherbourg, France. By 5:30 p.m., the Titanic arrives in Cherbourg.
Cherbourg passengers finally board tenders and wait to be ferried out to
Titanic. Titanic rides at anchor in Cherbourg Harbour, all lights ablaze. By
8:30 p.m. the anchor is raised and the Titanic leaves for Queenstown,
Ireland, taking her through the English Channel and around England’s
south coast.

Earl Chapman

Thursday, April 11, 1912

The short voyage from Cherbourg over to Queenstown was uneventful,
giving passengers time to examine the great new liner. But no rest for the
trimmers, stokers and greasers in the coal bunkers and engine rooms.
There was also no rest for Thomas Andrews and the 9-member guarantee
group’ from Harland and Wolff’s yards who continued to assist Titanic’s
engineering staff with all of the infra structural systems needing attention.
An emergency full dress rehearsal was held with alarm bells sounding
followed by gradual descent of the watertight doors. By 11:30 a.m., the
Titanic was riding at anchor in Queenstown harbour, about two miles from
land, and prepared to take aboard additional passengers and mail brought
over on the tenders “America” and “Ireland”. At 1:30 p.m. the starboard
anchor was raised for the last time and the Titanic departed on her first
transatlantic crossing, bound for New York. There are an estimated 2,227
passengers and crew on board. The Titanic throbbed to life as the great
propellers began to revolve pushing her forward towards her icy
rendezvous in the North Atlantic. A brief stop to drop off the pilot at the
Daunt light-ship followed by a wide turn to starboard, the green fields of
Ireland slipped past. A French fishing vessel passes dangerously close, so
close that the fishermen are splashed with spray from Titanic’s bow. Their
cheering is returned by Titanic’s watch officer with a blast from her
whistles. On a fine, brisk Irish afternoon, Titanic passes the Old Head of
Kinsale’ on her way down St. George’s Channel. There were many who
saw the great liner that day, steaming within 4 or 5 miles of the rugged
coast. To the end of their lives, some would remember the splendid
spectacle of the great liner, with her black hull and white upper works
gleaming in the sunlight, sweeping on proudly past their viewpoints.

Earl Chapman

Friday, April 12, 1912

By daybreak Titanic was well out in the Atlantic running at 21 knots.
Between April 11 and 12, Titanic covers 386 miles in fine, calm, clear
weather. Each day, as the voyage went on, everybody’s admiration of the
ship increased: for the way she behaved; for the total absence of vibration;
for her steadiness even with the ever-increasing speed. As Lightoller
observed “we were not out to make a record passage; in fact the White
Star Line invariably run their ships at reduced speed for the first few
voyages”. Lawrence Beesley would remark that the wind was rather cold,
generally too cold to sit out on deck to read or write, so many spent a
good deal of the time in the library. Beesley also remarked to the way
Titanic listed to port. The purser explained that likely coal had been used
mostly from the starboard side. This excess starboard coal consumption
was due to the fire which had burned continuously in boiler room number 6
since Titanic’s sea trials almost two weeks earlier, but by Friday had been
almost brought under control. During the day, Titanic had received many
wireless messages of congratulations and good wishes including those from
the “Empress of Britain” and “La Touraine”. Each greeting had also
contained advice of ice, but this was not uncommon for an April crossing.
Late in the evening, Titanic’s wireless apparatus ceased to function forcing
Phillips and Bride to work through the early morning hours to trouble
shoot the apparatus and locate the problem. As Friday passed into
Saturday, vessels were encountering ice all along the North Atlantic
shipping lanes.

Earl Chapman

Saturday, April 13, 1912

Between noon Friday and noon Saturday, Titanic covers 519 miles. At
10:30 a.m. Captain Smith begins the daily inspection. During the engine
room inspection, Chief Engineer Bell advises Smith that the fire in boiler
room 6 has finally been extinguished. However the bulkhead which forms
part of the coal bunkers shows some signs of heat damage and one of the
firemen is ordered to rub oil onto the damaged areas. Deep down in the
stokeholds, the black gang’, stripped to the waist, continue to meet the
harsh demands of the furnaces in an atmosphere thick with coal dust. It
was hard to realize, in the terrific heat of the stokehold, that up on deck
it is nearly freezing. Hour and after hour, watch after watch, the
merciless back-breaking labour continued.

Earl Chapman

Sunday, April 14, 1912

The fine weather continued with a smooth sea and a moderate
south-westerly wind. Everyone was in good spirits. The hardier
passengers paced briskly up and down the Boat Deck, even though the
breeze was chilly but invigorating. Between Saturday and Sunday, the
Titanic covered 546 miles. Earlier, Titanic had picked up a wireless
message from the “Caronia” warning of ice ahead, followed by a message
from the Dutch liner “Noordam”, again warning of “much ice” ahead. In
the early afternoon, the “Baltic” reports “large quantities of field ice” about
250 miles ahead of the Titanic (this is the message which Smith eventually
gives to J. Bruce Ismay). A short time later, the German liner “Amerika”
warns of a “large iceberg” but this message was not sent to the bridge. Just
before 6:00 pm Smith alters the ship’s course slightly to south and west of
its normal course, perhaps as a precaution to avoid the ice warned by so
many ships. Titanic’s course is now South 86 West true. But no orders are
given to decrease speed, in fact at this time, the Titanic’s speed was actually
increasing. At 7:30 pm, 3 warning messages concerning large icebergs are
intercepted from the “Californian” indicating that ice is now only 50 miles
ahead. After excusing himself from Dinner, Smith heads for the bridge
where he discusses the unusually calm and clear conditions with 2nd
Officer Lightoller. Around 9:20 pm Smith retires for the night with the
usual order to rouse him “if it becomes at all doubtful” after which
Lightoller cautions the lookouts to watch carefully for ice until morning.
At 9:40 pm, a heavy ice pack and iceberg warning is received from the
“Mesaba”. This message is overlooked by Bride and Phillips due to their
preoccupation with passenger traffic. Altogether the many ice warnings
received this day show a huge icefield 78 miles long and directly ahead of
Titanic. By 10:00 pm Lightoller is relieved by 1st Officer Murdoch. At
10:55 pm, some 10-19 miles north of Titanic, the “Californian” is stopped in
ice and sends out warnings to all ships in area. Bride rebukes the
“Californian” with the famous reply “Keep out! Shut up! You’re jamming
my signal. I’m working Cape Race” and the “Californian” wireless officer
shuts down his set for the night. By this time, 24 of 29 boilers were fired
and the Titanic was now running at over 22 knots, the highest speed she
had ever achieved. At 11:30 pm, lookouts Fleet and Lee note a slight haze
appearing directly ahead. At 11:40 pm with the Titanic steaming at over 22
knots, Fleet sees a large iceberg dead ahead and signals the bridge. Sixth
Officer Moody acknowledges the signal and relays the message to
Murdoch who instinctively orders “Hard-a-starboard” and telegraphs the
engine room to stop all engines, followed by full astern. He also closes the
watertight doors. Titanic slowly begins to veer to port, but an underwater
spar from the passing berg scraps and bumps along the starboard side
forward for a 300-foot distance fully opening five forward compartments
to the sea, as well as flooding the coal bunker servicing the No. 9
stokehold. By 11:55 pm, 15 minutes after the collision, the post office on
“G” Deck forward is already flooding. After a quick inspection of the
damage by Wilde, Boxhall and Andrews, Smith knows the worst…that
Titanic was sinking and the more than 2,200 people on board were in
extreme peril. With a heavy heart, Smith personally takes the Titanic’s
position, worked out by 4th Officer Boxhall, to the wireless room.
Handing the paper to Phillips shortly after midnight, he ordered a call for
assistance. Phillips taps out the regulation distress signal

Earl Chapman

Monday, April 15, 1912

Shortly after midnight, the Squash court, 32 feet above keel, is awash. The
majority of the boilers have been shut down and huge clouds of steam roar
out of the relief pipes secured to the sides of the funnels. Smith orders that
the lifeboats be uncovered and musters the crew and passengers. There is
only enough room for 1,178 people out of an estimated 2,227 on board if
every boat is filled to capacity. Between 12:10 am and 1:50 am, several
crew members on “Californian” see what is thought to be a tramp steamer’s
lights. Rockets are also observed but no great concern is taken.
Numerous ships have heard the Titanic’s wireless distress signals and many
are on their way to assist, including the Cunard liner “Carpathia” under the
command of Arthur Rostron some 58 miles southeast of the Titanic’s
position. At 12:15 am, Wallace Hartley and his band begin to play lively
ragtime tunes in the 1st class lounge on “A” Deck. They would continue to
almost the end and every member of the band would be lost. At 12:25 am
Smith gives the order to start loading lifeboats with women and children
and this order is particularly followed to the letter by 2nd Officer
Lightoller. By 12:45 am, starboard lifeboat No. 7 is safely lowered away
with only 28 people while it can carry 65. At about this same time, the first
distress rocket is fired by Quartermaster George Rowe, under the direction
of Boxhall, from the bridge rail socket on the Boat Deck by the No. 1
emergency cutter. They soar 800 feet in the air and explode into 12
brilliant white stars along with a loud report. Boxhall sees a vessel
approach and then disappear despite attempts to contact her via Morse
lamp. By 1:15 am water has reached Titanic’s name on the bow and she
now lists to port. By this time, seven boats have been lowered but with far
fewer passengers and crew than rated capacity. The tilt of the deck grows
steeper and boats now begin to be more fully loaded with starboard No. 9
lowered at 1:20 am with some 56 people aboard. The Titanic has now
developed a noticeable list to starboard. By 1:30 am signs of panic begin to
appear as port No. 14 is lowered with 60 people, including 5th Officer
Lowe. Lowe is forced to fire three warning shots along the ship’s side to
keep a group of unruly passengers from jumping into the already full boat.
Wireless distress calls tapped out by Phillips now near desperation status
with messages such as “we are sinking fast” and “cannot last much longer”.
Smelting magnate Ben Guggenheim along with his manservant Victor
Giglio return to their cabins and change into evening dress explaining
“We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like
gentlemen”. By 1:40 am most of the forward boats have left and passengers
begin to move to the stern area. J. Bruce Ismay leaves on collapsible “C”
with 39 aboard, the last starboard boat to be lowered. The forward Well
Deck is awash. By 2:00 am water is now only 10 feet below the Promenade
Deck. At about this time, Hartley chooses the band’s final piece ‘Nearer,
My God, to Thee’. Hartley had always said it would be the hymn he would
select for his own funeral. With more than 1,500 still on board, and just 47
positions available in Collapsible “D”, Lightoller instructs the crew to lock
arms and form a circle around the boat, permitting only women and
children to pass through the circle. At 2:05 am, “D” begins its downward
journey with 44 people out of a rated capacity of 47. The sea is pouring on
to the forward end of “A” Deck and Titanic’s tilt grows steeper. At this
same time, Smith goes to the wireless cabin and releases Phillips and Bride
telling them that they have “done their duty”. On the way back to his
bridge, Smith tells several crewmen “It’s every man for himself”. His last
thoughts are likely of his beloved wife Eleanor and his young daughter
Helen. As Walter Lord described the scene in “A Night to Remember”,
“with the boats all gone, a curious calm came over the Titanic. The
excitement and confusion were over and the hundreds left behind stood
quietly on the upper decks. They seemed to cluster inboard, trying to
keep as far away from the rail as possible”. The stern begins to lift clear of
the water and passengers move further and further aft. At about 2:17 am
Titanic’s bow plunges under while hundreds of 2nd and 3rd class
passengers hear confession from Father Thomas Byles gathered at the aft
end of the Boat Deck. At 2:18 am a huge roar is heard as all moveable
objects inside Titanic crash toward the submerged bow. The lights blink
once and then go out leaving Titanic visible only as a black silhouette
against the starlit sky. Many are convinced that the hull breaks in two
between the 3rd and 4th funnels. The ship achieves a completely
perpendicular position and remains there for several minutes. At 2:20 am
she settles back slightly and slides down to the bed of the North Atlantic
some 13,000 feet below. That was the end of the greatest ship the world
had yet seen. Almost at once, the night was punctuated with the cries of
the survivors, growing in number and anguish until in Thayer’s words they
became “a long continuous wailing chant”. The ghastly noise would
continue for some time but mercifully many would freeze to death rather
than drown. The cries even affected the hardened Lightoller who heard the
“heartrending, never-to-be-forgotten sounds” from overturned Collapsible
“A”. Later he would confess that he had never allowed his thoughts to
dwell on those terrible cries. At 3:30 am the “Carpathia’s” rockets are
sighted by those in the lifeboats and at 4:10 am Titanic’s No. 2 lifeboat is
picked up. By 5:30 am after being advised by the “Frankfort” of Titanic’s
loss, the “Californian” makes for the disaster site and arrives about three
hours later just as the last boat, No. 12, is rescued by the “Carpathia”.
True to form, Lightoller is the last survivor to come on board. At 8:50 am
the “Carpathia” leaves the searching for survivors to other ships and heads
for New York. She carries only 705 survivors. An estimated 1,522 souls
have been lost. J. Bruce Ismay sends the following message to the White
Star Line’s New York offices:

“Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with
iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later.”titanic_photo_no_bg