The Titanic: From Sinking to Salvage


Join Active Minds as we tell the story of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic as well as the discovery and salvage operation that began over 70 years later. We will also tell the story of the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown and her link to Denver.

Key Lecture Points

  • The Titanic was one of the largest peacetime maritime disasters in history. The allegedly “unsinkable” Titanic, hailed as the largest and most luxurious ocean liner of its time, hit an iceberg at 11:40pm on April 14, 1912. Less than three hours later, at 2:20am, the last part of the great ship had dipped below the waters of the North Atlantic, taking the lives of 1509 of the 2228 passengers aboard. The passengers came from high society, as well from poor, mainly European, backgrounds, and everywhere in between—the different decks of the ship reflected these different socio-economic backgrounds. Not surprisingly, the poorer passengers were the ones more likely to perish in the tragedy.
  • Factors contributing to the high death toll include the decision to sail at night at 20 knots through iceberg infested waters; insufficient number of life boats and inefficient loading of the lifeboats aboard; as well as communication breakdowns among the crew, with the passengers and with other ships in the area.
  • The 705 survivors of the Titanic were rescued by the Carpathia. Among them was Colorado’s own Margaret Tobin Brown, a long-time resident of Leadville before she moved to Denver in 1894. Her husband, J.J. Brown, was a mining engineer who presided over a huge gold discovery in Leadville in 1893. Her efforts to preserve the lives aboard the lifeboats, and provide for those who were orphaned by the Titanic disaster led to her nickname, the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown.
  • In 1985, seventy-three years after the Titanic sunk, oceanographer and marine biologist Dr. Robert Ballard located the remains of the ship 2.5 miles below the ocean’s surface. Advances in satellite, sonar and deep-dive technologies made possible the discovery of the Titanic’s remains. Debris from the ship was strewn across the sea floor. The bow and the stern were found nearly 2000 ft. apart, proving that, contrary to earlier conclusions, the ship broke into two pieces just before it sank.

Exploration Questions

  • The Titanic was hailed as unsinkable—what state-of-the- art technology used in its construction led to this claim?
  • What were the factors contributing to the loss of so many lives when the Titanic sank?

Reflective Questions

  • Why do you think we continue to be fascinated by the Titanic?
  • How did the Titanic reflect the social mores of the time?

More to Explore

  • Records and photos related to the sinking of the Titanic Click here
  • Transcript of 1912 US Senate Report Click here

Books for Further Reading

  • Molony, Senan.  Titanic: Why She Collided, Why She Sank, Why She Should Never Have Sailed.  Lyons, 2021. 336 pages. Molony reveals, among other things, new evidence that a coal fire in the ill-fated ship may well have contributed to the 1912 disaster.
    Click here to order
  • Barczewski, Stephanie. A Night to Remember. Continuum, 2012. 384 pages. The anniversary edition of the classic account of the Titanic.
    Click here to order