We’ve all heard of the Titanic, a luxury British steamship, that sank on April 15, 1912 and killed more than 1,500 passengers and crew. But not all of us know the nitty-gritty details about the sinking.
Today, the ship’s tragic story remains one of the most talked-about topics in history. Want to know what it might have felt like to be onboard the great Titanic? Read on to learn more!
The Titanic’s sinking was marked one of the greatest tragedies in modern history
Only 710 people survived the Titanic sinking. The majority of the victims were third-class passengers whose quarters were situated at the bottom of the ship. Apparently, the stairwell gates separating them from others were locked, which resulted in these passengers’ entrapment and death.
There were several warnings before the collision
Radio operators passed on multiple warnings about a piece of floating sea ice that was headed towards the Titanic before the unfateful collision transpired. Unfortunately, the most critical of these warnings never reached Captain Edward Smith, or it would have turned the odds around.
The crew had less than a minute before the collision
Frederick Fleet, the ship’s lookout, spotted the iceberg only about a minute before the Titanic hit it. At that point, the officers at the bridge had only about 30 seconds to act, but at that point, it was too late.
Fleet’s binoculars were out of reach
Fleet, in his testimony at the Titanic’s investigation hearings, said he had binoculars but not at the time of the sinking. Apparently, the ship’s second officer switched at the last minute and forgot to turn over the key to the binoculars’ chamber.
An optical illusion may have blocked the iceberg’s view
At the time of her voyage to America, the Titanic tread a calm Atlantic Ocean, which might have relaxed the crew guards. Scientists also deduced the night’s atmospheric conditions likely caused super refraction, which could have camouflaged the iceberg. This may explain why the iceberg wasn’t spotted early on until it was too near for the ship to avoid.
The ship was running at full speed before sinking
The Titanic’s top speed was 23 knots, which is equivalent to about 26 mph. It was reported that Captain Smith did not slow down while sailing the iceberg-heavy waters of the North Atlantic. Of course, with a ship as enormous as the Titanic, bound at full speed toward the iceberg, it isn’t that hard to imagine how huge the collision impact was.
A fire in the ship’s coal bunkers compromised its defense
Some theories believe the fire in the ship’s bunkers prior to its departure led to the Titanic’s ultimate demise. The fire, which had been going on for three weeks before the voyage, burned at temperatures of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This might have weakened the ship’s steel, and therefore compromised the ship’s overall defense.
There weren’t enough lifeboats on board
While it is unlikely that lifeboats would’ve totally prevented the loss of lives from the sunken ship, such a massive number could have been avoided if there were enough rafts to begin with. The Titanic had room for 64 rafts, but the shipping management wanted uninterrupted views of the ocean so it only brought 20.
The scheduled lifeboat drill was canceled
On the morning of April 14, the day the Titanic collided with the iceberg, a lifeboat drill was supposed to be conducted. For some unknown reasons, it was canceled by Captain Smith. While there’s no guarantee that all the lives would have been saved had the drill happened, some people find its cancellation an ominous coincidence.
Ship engineers died saving people
The 25 ship engineers of the Titanic died in the sinking. They continued working for as long as they could to keep the vessel’s power running while passengers evacuated. They also kept the radio running, which put out distress signals until minutes before the ship sank.
The orchestra kept playing music while the ship sank
As portrayed in the 1997 movie, the orchestra actually played music during the Titanic’s sinking. The band tried their hardest to console the passengers and mostly played upbeat dance music. When their tragic fate became certain, they played hymns at the request of stranded passengers. It remains uncertain as to what their final song was.
American businessman, Benjamin Guggenheim died onboard
One of the prominent figures to die in the Titanic’s sinking was American businessman, Benjamin Guggenheim. Upon realizing his deadly fate, he spent his last hours helping women and children onto the rescue boats.
The ship held plenty of wealthy passengers
John Jacob Astor IV was the wealthiest passenger on board. His estimated net worth was around $85 million at the time (approximately $2 billion today). He traveled with his pregnant wife, whom he successfully loaded onto a lifeboat before the Titanic sank. Unfortunately, he died and drowned with the ship.
The Titanic’s youngest survivor was barely one year old
Elizabeth Gladys “Millvina” Dean was only 2 months old when she boarded the Titanic with her parents and older brother. She survived the shipwreck along with her mother and brother, but her father died in the sinking. Millvina was the last living survivor of the Titanic disaster when she died in 2009, at the age of 97. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered from the docks in Southampton, where she boarded the ship with her family.
Whiskey magically saved a survivor’s life
One of the ship’s cooks, Charles Joughin, survived the sinking by swimming in the freezing Atlantic Ocean for nearly two hours before a lifeboat rescued him. Thanks to the generous amount of whiskey he had drunk prior to the accident, he was able to survive much longer in the cold water. On the contrary, most people die from hypothermia within 15 minutes.
One Titanic passenger survived two tragedies
Violet Jessop, a stewardess and nurse aboard Titanic, survived by a small margin. She was among the first ones to get into the lifeboat to assure women they were safe. Years later, Jessop would again work on another steamship named Britannica, which would also drown after an explosion caused by a German U-boat in 1916. Jessop would luckily escape again, but this time with a serious head injury.
Many famous people were supposed to board Titanic but didn’t
Hershey’s Chocolate founder Milton Hershey reportedly wrote a $300 check to reserve a cabin on the RMS Titanic. However, an urgent business concern came that ultimately canceled the supposed trip with his wife. In addition, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and American business tycoon J.P. Morgan were also bound to board the ship but eventually didn’t.
The iceberg the Titanic collided with was bigger than it seemed
Reports initially estimated the iceberg that hit the Titanic appeared around 100 feet above surface water. However, experts believe the entire iceberg was much bigger, standing between 200 and 400 feet long, including the part submerged in the ocean. In case you’re wondering, that’s about twice the size of Leaning Tower in Pisa and 100 ft taller than the Statue of Liberty.
It took 73 years to find the Titanic’s wreckage beneath the ocean
The Titanic’s wreckage was so deep in the ocean, it took decades for scientists and historians to eventually locate it. In 1985, oceanographer Robert Ballard finally found the shipwreck of the Titanic, resting 12,600 feet underwater. The ruins lie nearly 2.5 miles beneath the surface of the ocean, approximately 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Seeing the underwater Titanic wreckage is possible
If you’re a history buff or just plain curious about the Titanic’s remains on the ocean floor, you can actually visit and see them for yourself. A private company called Deep Ocean Expeditions, carries out trips down to the wreckage site for $59,000 per person.
A novel almost foreshadowed the Titanic’s fate
Fourteen years before the Titanic’s maiden voyage, author Morgan Robertson wrote a novel called The Wreck of the Titan. It talked about a large fictional ship named Titan, and its uneventful sinking upon colliding with an iceberg. Oddly, its measurements were nearly identical to the Titanic, and so were the speeds they were going when they met the disaster. They also both sank in April, at the exact same location, with few lifeboats aboard the ship. The similarities were so uncanny, and people praised Robertson for his clairvoyance, but he simply claimed an extensive knowledge about ships and sailing.
The Titanic was a one-of-a-kind ship
During its launch in 1912, the RMS Titanic was the biggest passenger vessel in the world. It measured 882 feet in length, 175 feet in height, and 46,328 tons in weight. At the time of its voyage, it bore the letters RMS in its name, which stood for Royal Mail Ship. The title was supposedly given as a sign of distinction and quality.
The ship’s interior was inspired by a world-class hotel
Titanic’s posh interiors were rumored to be inspired by the luxurious Ritz Hotel in London. The inside of the ship featured a grand staircase, a heated swimming pool, a squash court, a state-of-the-art gym, four restaurants, and several lounges. It was designed to be the absolute height of extravagance at that time.
Tickets came at a high price
As a luxury passenger vessel, the ticket price to take a trip on the Titanic was undoubtedly expensive. The first-class tickets ranged from $30 to $4,350 ($775 to $112,000 today when adjusted for inflation). Second-class tickets were sold between $12 and $60 ($300-$1,500 today), while third-class tickets cost between $8 and $40 ($200-$1,100 today).
Only three of the Titanic’s funnels worked
Over 600 tons of coal powered the ship’s engines each day. With so much coal, ample amounts of smoke came from the ship’s vessels, too.