Fun Facts: Titanic
"I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that."
—Edward John Smith, Captain of the Titanic
It is not true that the Titanic was never advertised as "unsinkable". One promotional White Star flyer for the Olympic and Titanic claimed that "as far as it is possible to do, these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable."
In 1898, fourteen years before the Titanic sailed in April 1912
on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, Morgan Robertson's novel
Futility was published. It was about an unsinkable and glamourous
Atlantic liner, the largest in the world. Like the Titanic, the
fictional vessel was triple-screw and could make 24-25 knots; at 800
feet it was a little shorter than the Titanic, but at 75,000
tons its displacement was 9,000 tons greater. Like the Titanic's,
its passenger list consisted of many of the top names in high society,
and there were insufficient lifeboats (24 in the novel, 20 on the Titanic). On a cold April night,
the fictional "unsinkable" vessel strikes an iceberg and sinks to the
bottom of the Atlantic. The name of this liner was the Titan.
Recalling the design meetings for the Titanic held in 1910,
Alexander Carlisle, the shipyard's managing director, who had unsuccessfully
proposed that the Titanic carry 48 lifeboats, remarked that 15
minutes were spent discussing lifeboats, while two hours were spent discussing
the carpet for the first-class cabins.
The captain of the Titanic, Edward John Smith, was planning to
retire immediately after the Titanic's maiden voyage to New York.
The Titanic was the first ship with an on-board swimming pool.
On the Titanic
's ill-fated maiden voyage, private promenade
suites sold for as much as $4,350, an amount equal to $100,000 today.
The Titanic was designed to hold 32 lifeboats (about enough
for all passengers); however, the law at the time only required 16 lifeboats,
so the number of lifeboats was reduced to 16 lifeboats and four collapsibles
to make more room on the first-class and second-class decks.
Many of the Titanic's lifeboats were lowered only half-full,
because some of the crew were not aware of their capacity, and because the
crew wanted to rescue "women and children first", and so men
who could have been rescued were not allowed on the lifeboats.
The iceberg that sunk the Titanic
The Titanic is the only ocean liner ever sunk by an iceberg.
On April 15th, after news of the Titanic's demise reached New York, the White Star Line, owners of the vessel, issued a statement in which
they stated that the great liner was unsinkable and that there was no reason
to believe that she had in fact sunk.
While the 1912 sinking of the Titanic with a loss of 1,514
lives was the greatest
marine disaster at that time, it is not the greatest of all time.
In 1945, the German vessel Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed in
the Baltic Sea by the Russian submarine S-13, with a loss of life of
nearly 8,000 people, mostly women and children.
It is true that the Titanic's band continued to play while
the ship sank. It is not certain, however, what the final song that they
played was. Some sources give the song as "Nearer, My God, To Thee";
other, more reliable ones give "Autumn".
It was originally proposed that the sister ship to the Olympic and the Titanic be named the Gigantic. The sinking of the Titanic caused White Star to re-think the name, and the ship was later launched as the Britannic.
During World War I, in 1915,
the Titanic's sister ship, the Britannic,
was torpedoed and sank. Although it sank in about the same amount of
time that it took the Titanic to sink, only 26 lives were lost
because regulations had since been changed to ensure that there was a
lifeboat seat for every passenger.
Among women on the Titanic, only 4 of 143 first-class
passengers died, while 15 of 93 in second-class died, and 81 of 179
in third-class died. The Titanic's crew ordered third-class
passengers to remain below deck, holding some of them there at gunpoint.
Gugliemo Marconi, the inventor of wireless telegraphy whose invention
was credited for saving the lives of over 700 of the Titanic's
passengers after it sank in April 1912, was offered free passage on the Titanic
but had chosen to go to America via the Lusitania three days
prior. Marconi also narrowly missed death at sea in 1915; he was on the
Lusitania in April 1915, about a month before it
was sunk by a German U-boat.
J. Bruce Ismay.
When J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, the
line that owned the
ill-fated Titanic, was rescued from one of that ship's lifeboats
by the Carpathia, his first words to the crew were, "For God's
sake get me something to eat, I'm starved. I don't care what it costs or
what it is. Bring it to me."
Among the famous people who died during the sinking of the Titanic
were John Jacob Astor, owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Francis Davis Millet, an American artist, Major Archibald Butt, military aide to U.S. President Taft, John Thayer, vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a former first-class cricket player, Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macy's, and Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway.
The Leyland liner Californian, travelling from London to
Boston in April of 1912, and which had room for 47 passengers but was
carrying none, was close enough to the foundering Titanic to
receive its distress messages sent by wireless. However, the radio
operator of the Californian was not on duty; he had no backup,
and he was asleep at the time.
According to reseach by British historian Tim Maltin, atmospheric
conditions in the North Atlantic on the night of April 14–15, 1912,
were ripe for an unusual optical phenomenon called "super refraction",
an extraordinary bending of light that causes miraging.
This phenomenon might have
prevented the crew of the Titanic from seeing the iceberg that
it hit, causing it to sink, and the crew of the nearby Californian
from being able to correctly interpret signals from the Titanic
which, if seen, could have resulted in many lives being saved.
On September 1, 1985, the wreck of the Titanic was seen
for the first time, 73 years after it sank, by three submersible robots,
ARGO, ANGUS, and ALVIN, which were sent from the U.S. Navy research
The last survivor of the Titanic disaster, Millvina Dean,
who was two months old when the ship sunk (making her the youngest person to be rescued from the Titanic), died in 2009 at the age of 97.
Some scientists have suggested that an unusually close approach to the Earth by the Moon in January of 1912 may have produced icebergs that were able to travel much further south than usual, which in turn caused the sinking of the Titanic in April. On January 4, 1912, the moon and sun lined up in such a way that their gravitational pulls enhanced each other. As well, the moon's closest approach to earth that January was the closest in 1,400 years, and the point of closest approach occurred within six minutes of the full moon. As well, the Earth's closest approach to the sun in a year had occurred just the previous day.