RMS Titanic was the largest passenger steamship in the world when she set off on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City on 10 April 1912. Four days into the crossing, at 23:40 on 14 April 1912, she struck an iceberg and sank at 2:20 the following morning, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. She set sail for New York City with 2,227 people on board; the high casualty rate when the ship sank was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people. The error on the ship’s maiden voyage between Southampton and New York in 1912 happened because at the time – in the midst of the conversion from sail to steam ships – there were two steering systems and different commands attached to them. Crucially, the two systems were the opposite of one another. So a command to turn “hard a-starboard” meant turn the wheel right under the older tiller system and left under the rudder system. When First Officer William Murdoch spotted the iceberg two miles away, his “hard a-starboard” order was misinterpreted by the Quartermaster Robert Hitchins, who turned the ship right instead of left.. To compound that straightforward error, the captain was convinced by Bruce Ismay, the chairman of Titanic’s owner, to continue sailing rather than stop. This added enormously to the pressure of water flooding through the damaged hull, sinking Titanic many hours earlier than it otherwise should have.
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