RMS Olympic: An Inauspicious Start for Titanic’s Sister

RMS Olympic during her sea trial. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
RMS Olympic during her sea trial. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1911, the RMS Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight.

Here are some things you may not have known about the collision involving one of the Titanic’s sister ships.

The Olympic was completed on May 31, 1911 and was the largest ship in the world. It’s maiden voyage attracted a large following. More than 8,000 visitors toured the ship after it successfully made the trip from Southampton to New York. More than 10,000 watched the ship depart on its return trip to England.

On her fifth voyage, under the command of Captain Edward Smith, Olympic was traveling off of the Isle of Wight, parallel to the cruiser HMS Hawke. The Olympic turned to starboard and the Hawke was unable to take evasive action.

The Hawke was designed with a reinforced bow, designed to sink ships by ramming them. The Hawke collided with the Olympic near the stern and tore two large holes in the hull and flooded two watertight compartments. Both ships successfully reached port.

The fact that it survived the incident bolstered the White Star Line’s claim that the Olympic-class ships were unsinkable.

The Olympic was patched up in Southampton and returned to Belfast for permanent repairs. The company used parts intended for Titanic to fix the Olympic, forcing Titanic’s maiden voyage back to April 10, 1912.

Onboard the Olympic in September 1911, besides Captain Smith, who would die in the sinking of the Titanic the next spring, was stewardess Violet Jessop and coal stoker Arthur John Priest. Jessop and Priest had the combination of bad luck and good luck to survive the Olympic collision, the sinking of the Titanic and the sinking of the Britannic during World War I off of Greece.

While the Olympic didn’t get off to an auspicious start, it ended up serving on the North Atlantic for 24 years. It made 257 round trips, transporting 430,000 passengers and logging 1.8 million miles.

Our question: What ship replaced Olympic as the largest British-built ocean liner?


Today is Universal Children’s Day in Germany, National Day in Nepal and National Youth Day in Thailand.

It’s unofficially National Gibberish Day, National Punch Day and Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Upton Sinclair, who was born in 1878; actress and comedian Anne Meara, who was born in 1929; and actress Sophia Loren, who is 82 today.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1972, the top song in the U.S. was “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” by Mac Davis.

The No. 1 movie was “Deliverance,” while the novel “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

In what song does Paul Simon allude to Art Garfunkel as Tom, a reference to their act’s original name, Tom and Jerry?


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