10 mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic

While the story of the ill-fated ocean liner is known the world over, here are the little less-known ten mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

10 mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic

The mere muttering of Titanic evokes emotion and conjures memories of the infamous liner. Formally regarded as the RMS Titanic, the British ship was born and built in Belfast between 1909-1911. 

Spearheaded by the renowned White Star Line group, the passenger liner was envisioned to be the preeminent, most unrivalled feat of engineering the world had ever seen.

Titanic’s maiden voyage – which traced waters from Southampton to New York City – departed on 10 April 1912. Tragedy struck some five days later when the vessel hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean.

On the morning of 15 April 1912, Titanic sank. More than 1,500 people lost their lives that night – a startling figure given its estimated passenger log of 2,224 aboard. 

Indeed, there is the obvious factor (the iceberg collision) which led to the ship’s demise. However, many unspoken factors also attributed to this tragedy. If you’re interested in facts about the Titanic, keep reading!

Ireland Before You Die’s top facts about the Titanic

  • The Titanic ship was built in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. It was launched on 31 May 1911, and its maiden voyage left from Southampton, England on 10 April 1912.
  • When built, the Titanic was the largest ship afloat at approximate 882ft (269m) long and 175ft (53 metres high). You can see the difference in size between the Titanic and the world’s largest ship in 2024.
  • On 14 April 1912, four days into its voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean at around 11.40pm ship’s time. This led to the ship’s eventual sinking in the early hours on 15 April 1912. 
  • More than 1,500 people lost their lives during the sinking of the Titanic, from a total of around 2,224 passengers and crew onboard the ship. This led to significant changes in maritime safety regulations.
  • The story of the Titanic has since been adopted into a series of films and documentaries, capturing the minds and attention of people over a century on. The most famous is James Cameron’s 1997 film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet

10. Tides – higher waters bring a higher risk

Tides made it more of a risk for the Titanic.

In 2012, a group of astronomers at Texas State University published research on the impact of tides in January 2012, that could be attributed to the sinking of Titanic.

It appears that during its maiden voyage, the sun, the moon, and the Earth were aligned in such a way that would result in higher tides, and in turn, more icebergs along the Titanic’s route.

9. Climate – warmer weather bring impending doom

The climate didn't help either in making the Titanic's sinking.

According to Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, warmer-than-usual waters in the Gulf Stream could also be a contributing factor in this tragedy.

The increase in temperature at the time of Titanic’s maiden voyage resulted in a more significant number of corralling icebergs along the ship’s path, ultimately leading to its demise.

LEARN MORE: Read IB4UD’s article on the top 10 commonly believed myths and legends about the Titanic

8. Portholes – an oversight leading to a downfall

The portholes being left open were a problem.

After Titanic struck the iceberg, passengers – curious to review the damage – opened their porthole windows to look out. This was most certainly one of the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

As panic flared, passengers were advised to make their way to higher decks. The portholes were left open, enabling water to enter the sinking ship at a more rapid rate. 

7. Watertight doors – a logical approach which proves deadly

Watertight doors, while a good thing, turned into one of the top mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

As the water began filling the lower decks, closure of the watertight doors commenced. Indeed, this seems like a logical approach. However, if they had been left open, the water would have travelled through the ship’s tunnels, equally flooding the vessel. 

This would have given its passengers and crew more time to devise make-shift rafts, given that there were too few lifeboats onboard to save all souls. 

6. Rivets – bigger is not always better

Rivets were handmade, making another of the top mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

Due to the sheer size of the Titanic, its bow could not fit in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. As a result, the bow’s rivets had to been finished by hand, as opposed to hydraulics – yet another one of the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

Simply put, the ship’s infrastructure was not sturdy enough to withstand such impact due to the hand-fixed rivets.

5. Fire – a coal fire that ignited danger in the hull

Another one of the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic was fire that reduced integrity of the hull.

One of the less-discussed mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic is a crucial one. 

Ten days before the ship’s maiden voyage, a fire broke out in the coal bunker. This fire continued to burn wildly into the journey and, when met with the freezing Atlantic waters on collision, the stell hull’s integrity was severely compromised. 

RELATED: Learn more about the Titanic and head to Titanic Belfast – our article on 5 reasons you need to visit will convince you

4. Shortsightedness – one of the main mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic

Shortsightedness was another of the main mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

Another factor that greatly added to the tragedy that struck the Titanic was a case of shortsightedness.

As the ship left Southampton en route to New York, there was a reshuffling of officers. During this switch, the preceding officer failed to hand over the key which accessed the binoculars. Without these, the Titanic’s officers were left blind to the dangers that lay ahead.

3. Agility – too big to bypass

Lack of agility was one of the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

A lack of agility is another one of the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic. William McMaster Murdoch, the ship’s first officer, ordered the engine room – mere moments before impact – to reverse the vessel. 

However, due to the engineering of the stern, his intentions were unachievable. The propeller could only be halted, not reversed. This lack of agility in the face of danger greatly added to the ship’s demise, as it could not – at such short notice – navigate out of harm’s way.

See where this fact ranks on this list of the 10 mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

2. Speed – too fast to steer clear

The speed was one of  the problems with the Titanic and it's sinking.

Fundamentally, the ship was travelling too fast to be able to handle any challenges which lay ahead. 

Simon Mills, owner of the HMS Britannic wreck comments, “The simple fact is that she was going too fast – 22 knots in an ice field. Had she been going slower, she may have missed the berg.” 

1. Icebergs – the ultimate hazard

Avoiding icebergs was one of the top mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

The poor navigation of icebergs is undoubtedly the most well-known and momentous of mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

Indeed, the collision between the Titanic and an iceberg – on 14 April 1912 at 11:40pm – is what caused the tragedy. However, as seen above, this is a result of many mistakes, including poor leadership, engineering, natural factors, and human error.

Curious to find out more about the Titanic? Check out this Titanic memorabilia that’s been discovered.

NEXT: Become the expert and read IB4UD’s ULTIMATE article on the top 100 FACTS about the TITANIC (crazy & interesting)

Your questions answered about the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic

Still have some outstanding questions on the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic? Then we have you covered! Below, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

What were the causes of the Titanic sinking?

The primary causes of the sinking of the Titanic would include colliding with an iceberg, a lack of adequate lifeboat provisions, and a lack of immediate response to iceberg warnings.

What object caused the sinking of the Titanic in 1912?

This was the collision with the iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean.

What would have stopped the Titanic from sinking?

A more vigilant response to the warnings could have helped preventing it, and the likes of more lifeboat provisions could have helped reduce the scale of the tragedy.

What was the biggest mistake on the Titanic?

Some of the biggest mistakes included ignoring iceberg warning calls, potentially travelling too fast in the waters it was in, and a lack of lifeboat provisions.

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