When the Titanic sank: See a vintage newsreel with authentic footage (1912)

The Titanic about to leave England

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This is film footage from 1912 that was incorporated into a newsreel to show to moviegoers shortly after the Titanic disaster.

The video shows the Titanic leaving Belfast for Southampton, Captain Smith on the bridge, and the various rescue ships — including the Carpathia — returning to New York with the rescued survivors.

Titanic on film: Footage from the disaster and rescue

ALSO SEE: Scenes of horror and heroism on sinking Titanic (1912)

YouTube video

Music for this video (not featured on original newsreel): Chopin, Nocturne In E Flat Major, Op.9 No.2 / Footage courtesy British Pathe Film Archive

“She was literally too big to sink!”

An excerpt from Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic; The Ocean’s Greatest Disaster, by Henry Neil (1912)

As the Titanic drew away from the wharf to begin her only voyage, a common emotion quickened the thousands who were aboard her.

Grimy slaves who worked and withered deep down in the glaring heat of her boiler rooms, on her breezy decks men of achievement and fame and millionaire pleasure seekers for whom the boat provided countless luxuries, in the steerage hordes of emigrants huddled in straited quarters but with their hearts fired for the new free land of hope; these, and also he whose anxious office placed him high above all — charged with the keeping of all of their lives — this care-furrowed captain on the bridge, his many-varied passengers, and even the remotest menial of his crew, experienced alike a glow of triumph as they faced the unknown dangers of the deep, a triumph born of pride in the enormous, wonderful new ship that carried them.

For she was the biggest boat that ever had been in the world. She implied the utmost stretch of construction, the furthest achievement in efficiency, the bewildering embodiment of an immense multitude of luxuries for which only the richest of the earth could pay.

The cost of the Titanic was tremendous — it had taken many millions of dollars — many months to complete her. Besides (and best of all) she was practically unsinkable, her owners said; pierce her hull anywhere, and behind was a watertight bulkhead, a sure defense to flout the floods and hold the angry ocean from its prey.

MORE: Sketches of the Titanic sinking: A survivor explains how the huge ship went down (1912)

People in New York waiting to greet the Titanic survivors

Angry is the word — for in all her triumph of perfection, the Titanic was but man’s latest insolence to the sea. Every article in her was a sheer defiance to the Deep’s might and majesty.

The ship is not the ocean’s bride; steel hull and mast, whirling shaft and throbbing engine-heart (products, all, of serviceable wonderworking fire) — what kinship have these with the wild and watery waste? They are an affront and not an affinity for the cold and alien and elusive element that at all times threatens to overwhelm them.

But no one on the Titanic dreamed of danger when her prow was first set westward and her blades began the rhythmic beat that must not cease until the Atlantic had been crossed.

Of all the statesmen, journalists, authors, famous financiers who were among her passengers (many of whom had arranged their affairs especially to secure passage in this splendid vessel), in all that brilliant company it may be doubted if a single mind secreted the faintest lurking premonition of a fear.

Other ships could come safely and safely go, much more this monster — why, if an accident occurred and worse came to worst, she was literally too big to sink! Such was the instinctive reasoning of her passengers and crew, and such the unconsidered opinion of the world that read of her departure on the fatal day which marked the beginning of her first voyage and her last.

ALSO SEE: Titanic: Newspaper front pages with the first stories of the disaster on April 15, 1912

From 1912 - Real Titanic survivors on the rescue ship Carpathia (3)

No doubt her very name tempted this opinion: Titanic was she titled — as though she were allied to the famous fabled giants of old called Titans, who waged a furious war with the very forces of creation.

Out she bore, this giant of the ships, then, blithely to meet and buffet back the surge, the shock, of ocean’s elemental might; latest enginery devised in man’s eternal warfare against nature, product of a thousand minds, bearer of myriad hopes.

And to that unconsidered opinion of the world, she doubtless seemed even arrogant in her plenitude of power, like the elements she clove and rode — the sweeping winds above, the surging tide below.

But this would be only in daytime, when the Titanic was beheld near land, whereon are multitudes of things beside which this biggest of the ships loomed large.

MORE: The Titanic’s terrifying last moments before sinking to the ocean floor (1912)

When we imagine her alone, eclipsed by the solitude and immensity of night, a gleaming speck — no more — upon the gulf and middle of the vasty deep, while her gayer guests are dancing and the rest are moved to mirth or wrapped in slumber or lulled in security — when we think of her thus in her true relation, she seems not arrogant of power at all; only a slim and alien shape too feeble for her freight of precious souls, plowing a tiny track across the void, set about with silent forces of destruction compared to which she is as fragile as a cockle shell.

Against her had been set in motion a mass for a long time mounting, a century’s stored-up aggregation of force, greater than any man-made thing as is infinity to one. It had expanded in the patience of great solitudes.

On a Greenland summit, ages ago, avalanches of ice and snow collided, welded and then moved, inches in a year, an evolution that had naught to do with time. It was the true inevitable, gouging out a valley for its course, shouldering the precipices from its path.

Finally, the glacier reached the open Arctic, when a mile-in-width of it broke off and floated swinging free at last.

ALSO SEE: How I was saved from the Titanic: A Titanic survivor’s story (1912)

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