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Click below for facts about the Titanic and her two sister ships as well as the Rescue Ship.

RMS Titanic

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RMS Olympic

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HMHS Britannic

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"The Rescue Ship"
RMS Carpathia

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HMHS Britannic Facts

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Facts about the Ship

*Gross Tonnage - 48,158 tons
* Dimensions - 852 x 94ft (259.68 x 28.65m)
* Number of funnels - 4
* Number of masts - 2
* Construction - Steel
* Propulsion - Triple-screw
* Engines - Triple-expansion, eight and steam turbines
* Service speed - 21 knots
* Builder - Harland and Wolff in Belfast
* Launch date - 26 February 1914
* Passenger accommodation - 790 1st class, 836 2nd class, 953 3rd class

Story about the Ship
HMHS Britannic was the third Olympic-class ship of the White Star Line, sister ship of Titanic and Olympic.  She was originally intended to be named Gigantic, but in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster, and the patriotic feelings in Britain on the verge of the First World War, her name was changed to Britannic.

Britannic was launched on February 26, 1914 and fitting out began but before Britannic could commence regular service between New York and Southampton, the war broke out and the ship was repainted as a hospital ship.  Renamed HMHS (His Majesty's Hospital Ship) Britannic, she served successfully in the Mediterranean in this function.

But at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 21, 1916, while en route to pick up patients off the coast of Greece in the Kea Channel, the ship was rocked without warning by a violent explosion, and sank in 55 minutes.

The sinking occurred in calm weather within sight of land and, of the 1,300 crew and medical staff aboard, there were only 30 casualties.  After the Titanic disaster, all ships were fitted with enough lifeboats for everyone aboard and lifeboat space was not a problem on the Britannic.  The main cause of deaths was, in fact, the premature lowering of two lifeboats.  While the ship was still moving in an attempt to beach her, two lifeboats were lowered before the official "abandon ship" order was given, and the lifeboats were sucked in by the powerful propellers and destroyed - a grisly sight witnessed by passengers.   Eventually, the beaching attempt was abandoned and the rest of the crew escaped to the lifeboats and to shore.  Fortunately, the ship was carrying no patients at the time of the sinking, and thus the evacuation was relatively easy.

The cause of the sinking is now almost universally attributed to a German mine.  At the time of the sinking, and on occasional subsequent occasions, it was claimed that it was hit by a torpedo, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.  There is little evidence to support the torpedo theory, however Lusitania had been torpedoed the previous year by a German U-Boat.  It has also been discovered that a German U-Boat had mined the channel through which the Britannic passed only a few weeks before the sinking.

Why the ship sank has also been debated.  After the Titanic disaster, Britannic was designed to be able to survive damage far greater than that which sank Titanic.  The damage caused by the mine should have been within the limits that the ship could survive.

Two theories have emerged to explain why the ship went down.  Some have argued that there was a secondary explosion caused by an illegal supply of munitions being transported on the hospital ship.  New dives to the wreck have found no evidence for this, however.  The second theory was that the water-tight doors that were meant to divide the ship into separate compartments failed to close.  It is known however that many portholes were opened earlier by hospital staff to ventilate the ship in preparation for boarding wounded upon arrival later that day.  This was in violation of regulations for passage in a war zone and made the initial list irrecoverable.  In 2004, a team of British divers discovered why the ship sank so fast.  Apparently the ship struck the mine during a crew shift change.  The watertight bulkhead doors had been left open to allow the crew to move freely to and from their posts.  Water would have been free to progressively flood compartments that had not been damaged by the mine.

The wreck of Britannic sits in four hundred feet of water off the coast of Greece.  It was first discovered and explored by Jacques Cousteau in the 1970's. It is in shallow enough water that scuba divers can explore the wreck, but it is regarded as a British war grave and any expedition must be approved by both the British and Greek governments.