The RMS Titanic began to sink into the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1914, at 2:20 am, becoming the largest commercial maritime disaster in history. 129 Irish people were among the 1,500 who died in the tragedy. 

Just before midnight on April 14, 1912, the Belfast-built ship, which had left Southampton in England and stopped in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now Cobh), Co Cork, struck an iceberg.

Two and half hours later, the ship carrying 2,240 passengers and crew began to sink some 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada, never to arrive at its destination in New York.

Read on to learn about the timeline of the RMS Titanic and its ultimate fate.

July 29, 1908

The design for the Titanic was approved.

March 31, 1909

The keel of Titanic was laid

May 31, 1911 - 12 pm

The hull of Titanic was successfully launched

January 1912

16 wooden lifeboats were fitted onboard the Titanic

March 31, 1912

The fitting of Titanic was completed

The Titanic was designed by the Co Down-born shipbuilder Thomas Andrews and built at Harland and Wolff, the East Belfast shipyard. The shipyard, responsible also for the construction of Titanic's sister ships Olympic and Britannic, two other mammoth liners, employed 15,000 people. The Belfast crew was behind the design, structure, and mechanics of the ships as well as their ornate and luxurious fixtures and fittings.

RMS Titanic was 883 feet in length, from stern to bow, and its hull was divided into 16 compartments that were presumed to be watertight. Four of these compartments could be flooded without causing a critical loss of buoyancy. This was the reason the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable.

April 2, 1912 - 6:00

Titanic began sea trials.

It’s estimated that over 100,000 people turned out to watch the launch of the Titanic from the Queen’s Island slipway. This was a golden age of shipbuilding in Belfast and the city showed its pride.

Circa 1912: The luxury White Star liner 'Titanic', which sank on its maiden voyage to America in 1912, seen here on trials in Belfast Lough. (Getty Images)

Circa 1912: The luxury White Star liner 'Titanic', which sank on its maiden voyage to America in 1912, seen here on trials in Belfast Lough. (Getty Images)

April 3, 1912

Titanic arrived in Southampton, England.

Titanic leaving Southampton on April 10, 1912. (Public Domain)

Titanic leaving Southampton on April 10, 1912. (Public Domain)

April 10, 1912

9:30 -11:30 am: Passengers arrived in Southampton and began boarding the ship.

12 pm: The Titanic set sail and began her maiden voyage. Even before they had left port at Southhampton, the Titanic passengers and crew had a scare as they almost collided with another large liner, the New York.

6:30 pm: Titanic reached Cherbourg, France and picked up more passengers.

April 11, 1912

11:30 am: Titanic reached Queenstown (now Cobh), in Co Cork, Ireland. Seven people disembarked, including the famous photographer Father Francis Brown. 103 people boarded the ill-fated ship at Queenstown.

The local newspaper, the Cork Examiner, printed an account of the historical arrival of the Titanic at Cork Harbour: "As one saw her steaming slowly, a majestic monster floating it seemed irresistibly into the harbor, a strange sense of might and power pervaded the scene. She embodies the latest triumphs in mercantile engineering."

April 11, 1912: Titanic in Cobh Harbour. (Public Domain)

April 11, 1912: Titanic in Cobh Harbour. (Public Domain)

April 12 & 13, 1912

The Titanic sailed through calm Atlantic waters.

April 14, 1912

Throughout the day, seven iceberg warnings were received, some even made it to the bridge. The Titanic, traveling at 22.5 knots, was heading straight for the ice field.

11:40 pm: Lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg dead ahead. The iceberg struck the Titanic on the starboard (right) side of her bow.

At least five of Titanic's hull compartments were ruptured in the collision, and water began to fill the successive compartments, causing the bow to ultimately sink and the stern to raise up to an almost vertical position above the water.

April 15, 1912

12:00 am: Captain Edward Smith was told the ship could only stay afloat for a couple of hours. He gave the order to call for help over the radio.

12:05 am: The orders were given to uncover the lifeboats and to get passengers and crew ready on deck. There was only room in the lifeboats for just over half of the people on board.

12:25 am: Loading of the lifeboats began with women and children first.

The Carpathia, which was approximately 58 miles southeast of the Titanic, picked up the distress call and changed course to aid the stricken liner and her passengers.

12:45 am: The first lifeboat was safely lowered away. Although it could carry 65 people, it left with only 28 on board. The first distress rocket was fired. Eight rockets were fired the whole night.

2:05 am: The last lifeboat left the ship. There were still more than 1,500 people left on the ship. The tilt of Titanic's deck grew steeper and steeper.

2:17 am: The last radio message was sent. Captain Smith announced, “Every man for himself.”

2:20 am: The Titanic's broken-off stern settled back into the water, becoming more level for a few moments. Slowly, it filled with water and tilted its end high into the air before sinking into the sea. People in the water slowly froze to death.

3:30 am: Carpathia's rockets were spotted by the survivors. (It was later discovered that the Leyland Liner, the Californian, was only 20 miles away but had failed to hear the Titanic’s distress signals as the radio operator was off duty.)

4:10 am: The first lifeboat was picked up by the Carpathia.

8:50 am: The Carpathia left the area bound for New York. She had 705 survivors of the Titanic disaster on board.

April 15, 1912: An image taken from The Carpathia of the last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic. (Public Domain)

April 15, 1912: An image taken from The Carpathia of the last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic. (Public Domain)

April 18, 1912

9:00 pm: The Carpathia arrived in New York.

Due to human errors, the shortage of lifeboats and lack of satisfactory emergency procedures the Titanic went down and took 1,500 souls with it. Most of the 700 survivors were women and children.

There were many Irish people among the survivors and 129 among the dead.

April 19 to May 25, 1912

American inquiry into the disaster was held.

April 22 to May 22, 1912

Several ships were sent to the disaster site to recover bodies. A total of 328 bodies were found floating in the area.

May 2 to July 3, 1912

British Board of Trade held an inquiry into the disaster.

News of the tragedy caused outrage, on both sides of the Atlantic. The disaster led to the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, which was held in 1913. Rules were adopted to ensure there was a safe ratio of lifeboats to people on ships and that safety drills be held. The International Ice Patrol was also established to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. It is also required that ships have a 24-hour radio watch.

September 1, 1985

A Franco-American expedition located the wreck of the Titanic lying on the ocean floor at a depth of c.13,000 feet.

* Originally published in 2016, updated in April 2024.