It may have occurred over 100 years ago, but the sinking of the RMS Titanic has captured imaginations in a way few historic tragedies have, and not just because of the 1997 film starring Leonardo Dicaprio (R.I.P Jack, you could have fit on the door,) but because it was such an iconic story of history.
Practically everyone knows the story. Only four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean at approximately 11:40pm, and sank in the early hours of the 15th April 1912.
The passenger liner was on its way from Southhampton to New York City, and had 2,224 people on board at the time.
This was particularly shocking as the Titanic was dubbed “the unsinkable ship,” a serious case of sod’s law if we ever saw one.
It took just two hours and forty minutes for the liner to go down, and as it was one of the largest and most luxurious passenger ships of its era, many wealthy patrons died alongside the poor.
The day before the accident the Titanic received no less than six sea ice warnings, but was still travelling at almost full speed when ship lookouts spotted the deadly iceberg.
Unable to turn in time, the ship suffered a blow to its starboard side, ripping open five of her sixteen compartments.
The ship had been constructed to stay afloat if up to four of her compartments were breached, and the crew quickly realised they were going down.
What happened next was to shock the nation and go down in history, as due to poor management and a lack of life boats over 1,490 died.
A large portion of the blame came down to the fact that although the Titanic had enough room for 48 lifeboats, they only carried 20 – less than half the recommended number.
Four of these were collapsible, and were difficult to open when the sinking began.
When the event was over public enquiries in both Britain the US began, which did lead to improvements in maritime safety, so at least something positive came from the catastrophe.
The wreck of the Titanic was lost for almost 70 years after it went under, until it was discovered in 1985.
It was found via a partnership between Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER (France) and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (USA).
Since then there has been much interest in the wreckage, but it is now too fragile to ever be raised and is protected by UNESCO.
So, could the disaster have been avoided? Here’s 21 facts you didn’t know about the Titanic tragedy.
1. There Were Only Two Bathtubs for Third Class Passengers
Despite the luxury that first class passengers enjoyed, third class had literally only two bathtubs for 700 men, women and children.
The third-class accommodations on the Titanic was often known as ‘steerage,’ and despite their poor conditions by today’s standards, they were among the best at the time.
The White Star Line wanted to appeal to every class when designing Titanic’s interiors.
Third-class cabins were designed to hold two to six passengers, grouped by family or gender.
Furnishings, including bunk beds, washbasins, electricity and heat helped to catch the attention of many immigrants making their way to the United States to start a new life.
Some had paid only $20 to make the journey to America, although at the time it would have been equivalent to $488.67.
Third class passengers were the main source of profit for liners such as the Titanic, due to the sheer number of them onboard.
Once passengers were on board Titanic they stayed in their respected areas based on class.
You could often find third-class passengers in the General Room.
Poor old Jack only had a third class ticket! We wonder how many baths he had before that dinner with Rose!
2. A Fortune Teller Predicated the Tragedy
Two months before the ship’s maiden voyage, future passenger Alice Elizabeth Fortune visited a psychic in Egypt.
She was told: “You are in danger every time you travel on the sea, for I see you adrift in an open boat.
“You will lose everything but your life.”
The 24-year-old survived the actual sinking.
However, her brother and father did not.
In an another eerie coincidence, the Titanic disaster was foretold in a book called The Sinking of a Modern Liner by British journalist W.T. Stead, published in 1886.
Although fiction, the story and account of the Titanic disaster are creepily similar.
In the book, a fancy ocean liner leaves Liverpool and heads to New York City.
While on course it becomes involved in a collision, and due to the panic that follows and not enough life boats, several passengers drown.
To top it off, Stead himself was onboard the Titanic when it sank, dying in the process.
However, Stead’s book was not the only accidental foreshadowing of the tragedy rendered in fiction.
There is also Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, by Morgan Robertson, published in 1898.
In Robertson’s book, the Titan has almost the exact same dimensions as the Titanic did in real-life, and also possessed too few lifeboats.
Even stranger, the ships both sank in the same way, by crashing into an iceberg.
3. The Ship’s Baker Lived – But Only Because He Was Drunk
Who said being drunk never helped anyone?
After helping to save as many passengers as he could, Charles Joughin, the ship’s baker, got wasted while he waited for death.
Surprisingly, he survived by treading water for two hours in the freezing, 28 degree water – the guy was so drunk his blood was too thin for him to contract hypothermia!
So there you go, if you ever find yourself in the same position, drink plenty of booze.
It might just save your life.
4. A Lot Of Garlic Bread Went Down With The Ship
And finally, the Titanic sank with approximately 3000 pounds of garlic bread on board.
Excuse us whilst we chip in for one of those tickets to go and explore the vessel.
We’ll be attempting to rescue as much of that garlic bread as possible.
All those years underwater would have made it pretty salty too!
5. A Man in Drag Was Saved By His Outfit
Just like in the James Cameron movie, one man did dress up as a woman to get a spot on a life boat.
While waiting to board, a woman threw a shawl over the shoulders of Daniel Buckley, which in the end saved the 22-year-old’s life.
No one is sure who the woman was, but Buckley himself believed it was Mrs Astor, the wife of the wealthiest man on the ship who perished in the disaster.
The young man said: “I was crying. There was a woman in the boat, and she had thrown her shawl over me, and she told me to stay in there.”
“I believe she was Mrs. Astor. Then they did not see me, and the boat was lowered down into the water, and we rowed away from the steamer.”
6. The Titanic Was the First Ship to Come with a Heated Swimming Pool
Talk about luxury, the Titanic had a heated swimming pool on its deck, the first of its kind onboard a ship.
The swimming pool was filled with seawater.
It also boasted a state-of-the-art gymnasium for its time.
The gym had rowing machines and exercise bikes, which were sold as being ‘good for the liver’.
With all the drink they were consuming, they probably needed a few hours in the gym.
7. Still, Three Dogs Made it On To the Life Boats
Although nine dogs were killed during the sinking of the Titanic, three lucky ones somehow managed to get on to the life boats – two Pomeranians and a pekinese.
One of the surviving pups belonged to Henry Harper of Harper and Row publishing.
When asked why he chose his dog over other passengers, he said: “There seemed to be lots of room, and nobody made any objection.”
The Titanic also had on official cat named Jenny.
Jenny was kept aboard Titanic as a mascot and also worked to keep down the ship’s rat and mice population.
Jenny gave birth a week before Titanic set sale.
he dog owners on the ship had planned to hold a dog show aboard the ship on the morning of 15 April, but the Titanic would sink the preceding night.
8. A Life Boat Drill Was Cancelled on the Morning of the Disaster
It’s fair to say that on the day the Titanic sank, the life boat situation was beyond poor.
Due to mass panic some boats left without their full capacity, meaning many more could have been saved.
I guess we can’t blame the passengers for panicking though! We would have done the same.
It is speculated that the cancelled that the cancelled drill allowed passengers to attend church services instead.
Many people are convinced that more lives would have been saved if the drill had taken place as planned.
Titanic carried 20 lifeboats, enough for 1178 people.
The boat was designed to carry 32 lifeboats but this number was reduced in order to decrease the clutter on deck, so that passengers could comfortably walk on the ship’s luxurious esplanade.
In addition to the lifeboats, the Titanic carried 3560 lifebelts (jackets) and 49 life buoys.
Depending on the location of the lifeboats, if launched from Port side, they were only 55% filled and if launched from Starboard side of ship, they were 75% filled.
9. A Letter Written on the Day of the Sinking Still Exists
The note was from Esther Hart and her daughter Eva, who wrote a letter to Esther’s mother about the wonderful time they were having onboard.
It was the only letter written on the actual day of the sinking to survive.
In it, Mrs Hart says how the ship was expected to arrive in New York 12 hours ahead of schedule.
She also said how her her seven-year-old daughter sang her favourite hymn ‘Oh God our help in ages past’ in the church service that morning.
She said: ‘She sang out loudly, she is very bonny.’
Although Esther’s husband sadly passed away in the disaster, Esther and Eva survived.
The letter was kept by the Hart family for years, until it was sold at auction for $18,000.
That’s an impressive sum for a letter!
10. There Was a Daily Newspaper Onboard
The Titanic had it’s own daily newspaper called the Atlantic Daily Bulletin, created with a mini printing press.
It featured everything from news and society gossip to how to hire deckchairs.
Every night during the First Watch, Marconi operator Jack Philips would copy down the Marconi news service broadcast.
He would the send his copy down to the Purser’s Office, where the bulletins were typed by the Purser (or one of his assistants) on a single sheet called the Atlantic Daily Bulletin.
This was posted each night in the First Class Smoking Room.
Today, the Atlantic Daily Bulletin is the name of the British Titanic Society’s quarterly newsletter.
We wonder just how many people actually bothered to read it amongst all the socialising?
11. There Was a Closer Rescue Ship Nearby Than the Carpathia
Although the Carpathia was the ship that came to the Titanic’s rescue, it turns out there was another ship nearby that could have got there sooner.
The ship was called the SS Californian.
The ship’s captain Stanley Lord became infamous for not responding to the Titanic’s distress calls.
Debate still rages on about whether he ignored their flares on purpose or by mistake.
The United States Senate inquiry and British Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry into the sinking both concluded that the Californian could have saved many or all of the lives that were lost, had a prompt response been mounted to the Titanic’s distress rockets.
Californian was later sunk herself, on 9 November 1915, by the German submarine U-35, in the Eastern Mediterranean during World War I.
12. Only a Third of the Bodies Were Found
No one is really sure whether there are still any human remains amongst the wreckage, but searchers only managed to find 340 bodies after the ship had gone down.
That leaves at least 1,100 still missing to this day.
The bodies found floating in the sea were mostly third class passengers, emigrants and crewman.
The cruelty of the disaster is most evident with the bodies.
Some of them appeared battered, bruised, and cut up from the event of the sinking.
They were frozen in the treacherously cold north Atlantic, at night, and were bleached by the sunlight, during the day.
13. Eight People Were Killed While Constructing the Titanic
In total, eight people died while building the Titanic.
The first was 15-year-old Samuel Scott, who fell from a ladder and fractured his skull in 1911.
Another was called Robert Murphy, a rivetter, who fell and died.
What makes Murphy’s case particularly tragic is that his son died whilst working on Titanic’s sister ship, The Olympia.
Another 254 injuries were also reported before construction was complete.
14. Captain Smith was About to Retire
More irony! Edward John Smith, the Stoke-on-Trent born captain of the Titanic, was planning to retire after this voyage was over.
There are mixed views on the Captain.
Some call him a hero who chose to go down with his ship, while others believe the accident could have been avoided if someone else was in charge.
For his stoicism and fortitude in the face of adversity, Smith became an icon of British “stiff upper lip” spirit and discipline.
There are conflicting accounts of Smith’s death. Some survivors said they saw Smith enter the ship’s wheelhouse on the bridge, and die there when it was engulfed.
Other survivors claim to have seen Smith jump from the bridge.
I bet he wished he took early retirement.
15. The Interior Was Based on London’s Iconic Ritz Hotel
The fancy interior of the Titanic was based on the famous Ritz hotel in London.
This included ornate ceilings and plush carpets, with first class rooms designed to resemble the hotel’s luxurious suites.
The restaurant on board the ship was actually called The Ritz.
It was situated on deck B for the use of first class customers only.
It was in addition to the already sumptuous first class dining room.
16. There Were 13 Couples Honeymooning Onboard
To make the Titanic tradegy even more depressing, there were 13 couples honeymooning abroad on that fateful excursion.
Daniel Warner Marvin and Mary Marvin (nee Farquarson) were newlyweds when they stepped aboard RMS Titanic at Southampton on 10th April 1912.
The couple were originally set to sail on RMS Carpathia.
The couple switched because Captain Smith was a family friend and asked them to go on the maiden voyage.
Daniel lost his life during the disaster whilst his new wife luckily survived, along with their child whom she was pregnant with at the time.
They were returning as first class passengers to their home of New York City from their honeymoon in Europe.
We bet they wished they had gone to Brighton or Skegness instead. Much safer.
17. Feeling Morbid? You Can Go Visit the Wreckage!
For an eye-watering fee of $60,000, you can go visit the ship’s wreckage firsthand with diving company Conciergeservice Bluefish.
After inflation is taken in to account, this equates to about the same price as a first class ticket on the voyage.
People will be flown out by helicopter to a base yacht and spend two days there before the decent.
The wreckage is two miles underneath the surface of the water.
Why you’d want to go is another matter.
18. The Last Meal Had an Impressive 11 Courses
First-class diners on 14th April 1912 were treated to a decadent 11-course supper that included cream of barley soup, poached salmon and waldorf pudding, all prepared by top French Chef Auguste Escoffier.
There were only two surviving menus that were pulled from the wreckage.
At the time, the wealthy lived off a high fat diet and meals were accompanied by liquor.
It’s a good job that passengers had a fully equipped gym to work out in.
And of course that heated indoor swimming pool.
19. One of the Smoke Stacks Was Non-Functional
Images of the ship at sea always contain the vessel’s iconic smoke stacks bleaching out air pollution, but one of them was purely for decoration.
There were two reasons for this.
One was that smoke stacks had become associated with better speed.
Other fast ships at the time all had four smokestacks, so the public and press expected to see four on the Titanic.
The other reason was so that it gave the ship the appearance of being well balanced.
Four smokestacks meant that they could spread them across the vessel.
Smoke stacks aren’t that aesthetically pleasing if you ask us, but each to their own.
20. The Ship’s Lookout Didn’t Have Binoculars
If the ship’s lookout had been equipped with binoculars, he might have the spotted the deadly iceberg sooner.
Sadly, the binoculars were in a lock box, and on that fateful night no one could find the key.
We’re not sure why you would have needed binoculars to see a massive iceberg.
We also don’t think that this was a major contributing factor to the sinking.
21. The Last Survivor Passed Away Less Than a Decade Ago
The last survivor of the Titanic disaster died in 2009 at the age of 97.
Millvina Dean was only an 8-week-old baby at the time of the sinking, and she died on the same date, albeit it almost 100 years later – spooky!
We’re pretty sure that Miss Dean will not remember much from the boat itself.
22. The Titanic tragedy was “predicted” by an American author
The novella The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility was written by Morgan Robertson in 1898, and seems to have predicted the sinking of the famous ship.
The novella is about a huge ocean liner by the name of Titan which, just like the Titanic, sinks after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
The fictional Titan also had a severe lack of lifeboats on board, leading to great amounts of casualties.
After the events in his novella played out in reality 14 years later, Robertson was called a clairvoyant – but he rejected the claim.
23. An optical illusion made both the iceberg and the sinking Titanic difficult to spot
On the night of the tragedy, the atmosphere might have hindered the lookout’s ability to see well.
Smithsonian magazine explains: “Atmospheric conditions in the area that night were ripe for super refraction, Maltin found.
“This extraordinary bending of light causes miraging, which, he discovered, was recorded by several ships in the area.”
He says it also prevented the Titanic’s lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time and the freighter Californian from identifying the ocean liner and communicating with it.
24. The full moon might have increased the likelihood of the sinking too
Scientists think that the full moon on the night of the sinking contributed to the disaster.
Richard A. Lovett from National Geographic wrote: “That full moon, on January 4, 1912, may have created unusually strong tides that sent a flotilla of icebergs southward — just in time for Titanic’s maiden voyage.”
He continued by saying that the lunar approach observed on that night was the closest since the year 796.
It really did seem that fate was simply conspiring against The Titanic and that no other outcome was possible!
25. The first newspaper report of the tragedy wrote that there were no casualties
The Daily Mail made a horrific mistake when reporting the sinking of the Titanic the day after, on Tuesday 16th April.
They reported the events, but stated that no lives had been lost.
Soon after, they realised what an awful mistake they’d made.
The newspaper said: ‘She sank at 2.20 in the afternoon (7.20 in the afternoon). No lives were lost.’
It also said the Virginian was towing the Titanic towards Halifax.