The Titanic under construction in the dock at Harland and Wolff, Belfast.

A timeline of the most famous ship ever created, from conception to completion, and a chronological depiction of the fateful night of the 14th of April.



William Ritchie of Scotland founded Belfast city’s first major shipbuilding company.

1792     William Ritchie’s first ship, The Hibernia was launched paving the way for a promising shipbuilding empire.
1854     Edward Harland a young English engineer arrived in Belfast to manage the Queen’s Island Shipbuilding yard.
1857     Harland employed German-born apprentice Gustav Wolff as his personal assistant who would later complement Harland’s talent in engineering design with his great flare in sales.
1858     For £5,000 Harland bought out his employer and established his own shipyard.
1861     Wolff joined forces with Harland and became his partner.

The new company officially became known as Harland and Wolff.

1864     A zoo, aquarium and aviary were all home to the Island however it was becoming better known for the shipbuilding firm until the fire in 1864.
1867     Thomas Henry Ismay and Sir Edward Harland purchase the unprofitable White Star Line.

The launch of Harland and Wolff’s first White Star vessel, the Oceanic.
Over the next few decades, Harland and Wolff built over 70 ships for White Star, the most famous being Titanic.

1874     William James Pirrie became a partner of Harland and Wolff and became the driving force for the company’s expansion.
1889     The Teutonic of White Star Line was launched.
1890     The Majestic of White Star Line was launched.

Thomas Ismay's eldest son, J. Bruce Ismay was made a partner of White Star and one year later Thomas retires.

1895     Edward Harland died, and Pirrie was the natural successor as Chairman.
By this time, Harland and Wolff was recognised as the World’s greatest shipbuilders, responsible for the White Star Line, such as the Teutonic and Majestic.
1904     Work began on the Thompson Graving Dock, the largest in the world, to accommodate the building of the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, the biggest ships ever built.
1906     White Star’s greatest rival Cunard launched the Lusitania and the Mauretania, whose size, speed and elegance indicated a new age in ocean liners.
1907     In effect following a discussion between Joseph Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line and Pirrie, Titanic was conceived.

July 31st the two companies agreed to the construction of two new ships, Olympic and Titanic.
The names of the two ships were to reflect their remarkable size, they would be over 880ft long with a 46, 328 gross tonnage. They were to exceed the tallest buildings of the time as the largest man-made moveable objects on earth.

1909     Work began on the ship that would become the most famous in the world, RMS Titanic. Belfast was one of the world’s greatest ports and a world leader in many industries, including shipbuilding.
1910 20th Oct   The Olympic is successfully launched.
1911 31st May   Titanic was launched before a cheering crowd of ten thousand onlookers. The grand empty vessel was then towed to the new Thompson Outfitting Wharf and Graving Dock to have the boilers and engines, funnels and superstructure added.
1912 2nd Apr   Thousands lined Belfast Lough to proudly watch ‘the new wonder of the world’ set off for Southampton.
  4th Apr   Titanic arrived at Southampton where it was to begin its maiden voyage to New York and the first passengers, representing a broad range of society began to board.
  10th Apr   Titanic departed Southampton, then dropped anchor at Cherbourg in the early evening, where a further 247 passengers boarded. With 2228 passengers and crew on board the splendid vessel, it was noted that only 20 lifeboats and four collapsible boats provided space for barely half the crew and passengers aboard.
  11th Apr   Titanic then made its way to Queenstown now known as Cobh, in Co. Cork on the South Coast of Ireland where at 1.30pm she set out for New York.
  14th Apr   At approximately 22.50 with 1,500 miles of ocean behind them the Californian sends a wireless message directly to the Titanic telling them that they were stopped and surrounded by ice.
    23.30 An iceberg was spotted however even with the steering wheel spun tight, it could not be avoided.
    23.40 Titanic struck the iceberg, scrapping its hull below the waterline, buckling it in several places and opening water channels into six watertight compartments. The ship was fatally damaged.
  15th Apr 00.00

Soon after midnight the first wireless messages for help were transmitted, as designer Thomas Andrews had to face the unthinkable, calculating that Titanic was going to sink within two hours.

    00.15 The first confused and terrified passengers were guided to the scarce lifeboats; women and children were the first priority boarders.
    00.45 The first lifeboat was lowered into the freezing waters. Though designed for 65 people devastatingly there were only 28 on board.
    02.10 The band stopped playing; it has been claimed that they now sang a final hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee”. People were washed off the forward end of the deck, the lights went out and the second and third funnel broke away.
    02.20 Titanic finally began to sink beneath the waves making its way to the seabed.
    04.10 The first lifeboat is picked up by Carpathia.
    08.50 The Carpathia leaves for New York, carrying 705 survivors. J. Bruce Ismay wires White Star New York offices: "Deeply regret to advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later."
  18th Apr 21.00 Carpathia arrives in New York with the survivors.