On April 14th, 1912, the Titanic, the world's largest and most luxurious "unsinkable" ship, struck an iceberg and sank in just under three hours. Immortalized in the movie Titanic, these rare photos give us a glimpse into what really happened that fateful night. Built using steel rivets, the Titanic was the latest technology of the time. Sadly, her maiden voyage became her last.
The Legacy of the Titanic
Practically everyone has heard of the RMS Titanic, a British passenger liner that infamously sank after colliding with an iceberg. It’s one of the most well-known disasters in human history. A fictional story surrounding the event was the basis for the 1997 film Titanic, which remains one of the highest grossing films ever made.
There Are Many Things You May Not Know
But despite how famous the liner and its story might be, there are many interesting facts and details about the doomed vessel that you may not know. As we step back into history and recall the true events surrounding the construction, voyage, and sinking of the Titanic, we’ll unearth many interesting facts you might not have known.
The Size of the Ship
For its time, the Titanic was massive, although today would seem relatively small compared to modern cruise ships. The Titanic was nearly 883 feet long and 104 feet tall. It had ten decks and three main engines that were powered by steam from 29 boilers and 159 furnaces.
Details About Lifeboats
There are many details about Titanic’s lifeboats that would be called into question following the sinking of the ship. There were a total of 20 lifeboats aboard the Titanic but there could have been up to 64. Had the Titanic been fully stocked, 64 lifeboats could have saved as many as 4,000 people, more than the ship’s total capacity.
What many people don’t know is that the Titanic actually had more lifeboats than legally required. At the time, lifeboats were considered a means to transport people from a sinking ship to a rescue ship. They were not considered to be a means to keep every single passenger from drowning or falling into the sea.
The Maiden Voyage
Titanic’s home port was Liverpool but it departed from Southampton due to its more advantageous location. At the time of its maiden voyage, the plan was for the ship to frequently travel between Southampton and New York. Because the Titanic was so large, a special deep-water dock was constructed to accommodate it.
Titanic’s Crew Members
The Titanic had a total of 885 crew members, 97% of which were male. The vast majority of these crew members were just temporary workers who first boarded the ship shortly before it left Southampton on its maiden voyage. The largest department was the engine crew, which had 325 workers.
Captain Edward Smith
The captain of the Titanic was Edward Smith. Smith had been captain of the Olympic, a sister ship to the Titanic. In 1911, the Olympic crashed into a British warship. Although the damage was considerable, the Olympic did not sink and was able to return to Southampton. The British Navy blamed the Olympic for the incident.
Passengers Aboard the Titanic
There were 1,317 passengers aboard the Titanic, the majority of whom were in third class. 66% of these passengers were male and 34% were female. Among the first class passengers were some famous or notable historical figures, such as John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isidor Straus, Archibald Gracie, and William Thomas Stead.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Perhaps the most well-known first class passenger aboard the Titanic was Margaret Brown, later known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Aside from surviving the Titanic’s sinking, she would later become known as an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. She even ran for the U.S. Senate in 1914.
A First Near Disaster
The Titanic began its first voyage at noon on April 10, 1912. Within minutes, it nearly caused an accident. The Titanic caused another ship’s mooring cables to snap, causing the ship to nearly collide with the Titanic. Thankfully, a nearby tugboat was able to gain control of the unmoored ship and avert disaster.
Last Known Photos
The Titanic first made its way to the French port of Cherbourg, 77 nautical miles away from Southampton. It then headed to Queenstown, New Zealand. Photos taken by passengers departing from Queenstown are the last known images of the Titanic before it sank. The two last known photos were taken by Francis Browne, a Jesuit trainee, and Kate Odell.
En Route to New York
The Titanic was scheduled to arrive in New York on April 17. For three days while traveling from Queenstown to New York, there were no major incidents aboard the ship. All seemed to be going well. But Captain Smith received some prescient warnings from other ships that he ignored.
The Titanic received warnings from other ships of drifting ice near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Despite these warnings, the Titanic continued at full speed ahead, which was considered appropriate action at the time. Warnings of ice were seen as advisories to be noted by lookouts and the bridge, who were tasked with sighting any dangerous icebergs.
Why the Captain Was Not Concerned About Icebergs
Although it seems obvious in retrospect that precautionary measures should’ve been taken, Captain Smith was not terribly concerned about icebergs while on board the Titanic. In 1907, a German liner collided with an iceberg but did not sink. The belief at the time was that ships like the Titanic would not sink even if they hit an iceberg.
The Titanic Hits an Iceberg
On April 14, at nearly midnight, a lookout spotted an iceberg in front of the Titanic and alerted the bridge. The order was made from the bridge to steer around the iceberg but it was too late. The starboard side of the Titanic was struck by the iceberg and dented so severely that a hole allowed water to enter the ship.
The Titanic is Doomed
As water began filling up the Titanic, five compartments were flooded, which meant disaster as only four could be flooded without catastrophe. The ship soon began sinking bow-first. Because lifeboats were intended only to transport passengers to rescue ships, there were not nearly enough aboard to save all the passengers.
People Thought It Was Unsinkable
At the time, most people, including Captain Smith, believed that liners were so well designed and constructed that they were essentially unsinkable. Thus, the idea of having enough lifeboats on board to save every passenger seemed unnecessary. The sinking of the Titanic, of course, would prove the folly of these beliefs.
Loading Up The Lifeboats
As the Titanic began to sink, crew members began loading people onto lifeboats. Unfortunately, these crew members were not well trained and did not know how many people could safely get onto each lifeboat. Thus, some lifeboats were sent out only half-full. Third class passengers were largely ignored and were forced to try to save themselves as their cabins filled with cold water.
Women and Children First
Protocol at the time dictated that women and children be saved first during an emergency. This resulted in about 75% of women onboard the Titanic being saved and around 50% of children being saved. Only about 20% of the adult men aboard the ship, passengers and crew members included, survived.
The Titanic Breaks in Half
At a little after 2am in the morning, two hours after the ship first hit an iceberg, the Titanic split in half. The bow completely sank but the stern remained above water, eventually becoming almost vertical as it was slowly dragged into the depths by the bow section of the ship.
The Titanic Sinks
As the stern part of the ship sank into the sea, hundreds of people were still desperately clinging to it. Before long, all of them were plunged into the icy cold waters. The water temperature was believed to be around 28 degrees Fahrenheit, which caused the remaining passengers still alive to die within minutes.
How They Died
While many people might think that the Titanic passengers died of hypothermia, in fact most of them died from cardiac arrest. These deaths would have occurred within roughly 15 to 30 minutes. Although the lifeboats nearby had room for around 500 additional passengers, they did not return to the sinking ship to save anyone.
The Titanic sent up several distress signals, including flares, but none of the ships that were relatively close to the Titanic could reach it before it sank. The closest ship was the Californian, which saw the flares shot up by the Titanic but didn’t make an attempt to save any of the drowning passengers.
The Carpathia Arrives
Eventually, at around 4am, the ship Carpathia arrived in response to the Titanic’s distress signals. The Carpathia was able to rescue 706 survivors. These survivors were then transported by the Carpathia to New York. The Carpathia’s captain noted that the area surrounding the Titanic was filled with dozens of icebergs.
Casualties and Media Reports
In the end, an estimated 1,517 people died as a result of the Titanic sinking. As the Carpathia traveled to New York, it sent word of the event back to the outside world. On April 15, reports reached most of the families of the Titanic’s passengers that the ship had sunk, killing most onboard.
The Heroic Carpathia Crew
The crew members of the Carpathia, who assisted in rescuing the Titanic survivors, were given a bonus of one month’s extra wage for their efforts. Some of the survivors of the Titanic disaster also pitched in to give the crew members of the Carpathia an additional bonus as a thank you for rescuing them.
The Survivors Arrive in New York
By the time the Carpathia reached New York with the survivors, the public was hungry to learn more about what had happened. Reporters quickly interviewed survivors to hear their stories. It took four days to complete a list of the survivors, leaving some family members in a state of anguish as they didn’t know whether their loved ones had lived or died.
Investigations Determine the Cause
Two investigations were quickly launched, one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom, to determine the cause of the disaster. Both reached similar conclusions, blaming laws and policies surrounding lifeboats, Captain Smith’s failure to be concerned about warnings of icebergs, and the ship’s rapid speed.
Who is to Blame?
Ultimately, it is difficult to assign blame to any one person or cause. Most of the mistakes that resulted in the disaster were common practice at the time. The sinking of the Titanic eventually resulted in widespread changes to ship policies, including having an adequate number of lifeboats and properly training crew members for emergencies.
The Role of the SS Californian
There was much inquiry and speculation about the role of the SS Californian, which saw Titanic’s distress signals but did not come to the ship’s aid. The Californian had previously warned the Titanic of icebergs in the area. Eventually, the Californian arrived at the scene of the disaster but only after the Titanic had already sunk and the Carpathia had rescued all the survivors.
Discovery of the Wreckage
The wreck of the Titanic lies approximately 12,000 feet below the water’s surface, making it extraordinarily difficult to find. It wasn’t until 1985 that it was finally discovered. The bow section of the ship remained surprisingly intact, while the stern section was completely destroyed. Surrounding the ship were many pieces of debris, including furniture, plates, and personal items belonging to passengers.
Recovery of Debris and Eventual Collapse
Over the years, thousands of items have been recovered from the wreck of the Titanic. Iron-eating bacteria is resulting in a rapid disintegration of the ship. By 2056, it’s estimated that the remaining wreckage of the Titanic will collapse, becoming mostly a pile of debris on the ocean floor.
Items on Display
Currently, recovered artifacts from the Titanic can be seen on display at an exhibition at the Luxor Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Other museums and collections contain some artifacts that have been collected over the years. There are also touring exhibitions around the world that display items from the wreckage or donated by families of the survivors.
The Ship was Never Called Unsinkable
Although many people believed at the time that the Titanic was unsinkable, the ship’s builders never actually quite called it that. Even they knew there was always a risk of disaster, albeit, in their view, very miniscule. They described instead the Titanic as “practically unsinkable,” a false and perhaps arrogant statement but still not quite the same as declaring it unsinkable.
The Captain Was Not Attempting to Set a Speed Record
Although it was determined by investigators that the Titanic was traveling at too fast a speed when it hit the iceberg, some people wrongly believe this is because Captain Smith was attempting to set a speed record. In fact, the Titanic was not designed nor expected to set any such records.
First Class Accomodations
The first class quarters of the Titanic were quite luxurious and included squash courts, a Turkish bath, a gym, a barber shop, tea gardens, and a heated swimming pool. This pool was the first ever to be built aboard a ship. Despite these luxury accommodations, the Titanic’s ritziness was rivaled by other liners at the time.
Liquor and Cigars Stocked Onboard
To accommodate its first class passengers, the Titanic crew had many bottles of liquor, as well as premium cigars, loaded onto the ship. There were 20,000 bottles of beer, 1,500 bottles of wine, and 8,000 cigars stocked onboard the ship when it left Southampton.
The Inventor of the Hershey Bar Was Supposed to be Onboard
Milton Hershey, inventor of the famous Hershey chocolate bar, was one of many passengers who for various reasons canceled their trips onboard the Titanic. Although he spent $300 for a stateroom, he and his wife ultimately had to call off their vacation due to pressing business issues.
Other Notable Figures Scheduled to Be Onboard
In addition to Hershey, other prominent figures of the time were scheduled to be onboard the Titanic but canceled their plans for one reason or another. Some of these figures include the novelist and Communist Party member Theodore Dreiser, as well as George Washington Vanderbilt II, a member of the wealthy Vanderbilt family.
A Baker Claims He Survived Because He Was Drunk
Charles Joughin, a baker onboard the Titanic when it sank, claimed he was able to tread water for two hours before being rescued because he had drunk lots of whiskey that night, keeping his body warm. Eventually, he was able to swim over to a lifeboat and was rescued.
Musicians Played for Hours as the Ship Sank
Consistent with the depiction of events in the 1997 film Titanic, musicians really did play songs for two hours as the ship sank. Although it’s not known exactly which songs were played, it’s believed that “Nearer My God to Thee” was the last song played before the musicians died.
13 Couples Were on their Honeymoon
It’s been reported that among all the Titanic’s passengers were 13 couples celebrating their honeymoon. One of these couples was John Pillsbury and Nellie Stevenson. John was the grandson of the founder of the Pillsbury baking company. Because the couples on honeymoon were given priority when loading lifeboats, both John and Nellie survived.
Isidor and Ida Straus Perished Together
Isidor and Ida Straus were the owners of the Macy’s department store in New York. As the lifeboats were being loaded with women and children, Ida refused to leave her husband behind. Isidor also refused to board a lifeboat with his wife, demanding that all the women and children be saved first. Ultimately, the couple died together onboard the Titanic.
The Wealthiest Passenger
John Jacob Astor IV was not only the wealthiest passenger aboard the Titanic, he was also among the wealthiest people in the world at the time. His net worth was around $87 million, which when adjusted for inflation, would be the equivalent of $2.44 billion today. Astor’s pregnant wife was loaded onto a lifeboat but Astor was told he could not join her. He died when the Titanic sank.
There were a number of international passengers aboard the Titanic from countries around the world, including China, Bulgaria, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. Six of the Chinese passengers survived the disaster but were not permitted to enter the United States due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Last Living Survivor
The last living survivor of the Titanic was Millvina Dean, who died in May of 2009. At only two months of age, she was also the youngest passenger aboard the Titanic. She was a third class passenger who survived along with her mother and brother. Their father died when the ship sank. She refused to watch any films about the disaster after watching the 1958 film A Night to Remember, which gave her nightmares.
Survivors by Class
There was an uneven survival rate among the Titanic’s first, second, and third class passengers. 61% of all first class passengers survived, while only 42% of all second class passengers and 24% of all the third class passengers survived. Only 24% of all the crew members survived as well.
An Alleged Survivor of Three Shipwrecks
One passenger onboard the Titanic, Frank Lucks Tower, was said to have survived a total of three shipwrecks throughout his life. He survived the Titanic wreck in 1912, the Empress of Ireland wreck of 1914, and the Lusitania wreck of 1915. However, lists of passengers and crew members onboard those three ships don’t all include his name, casting doubt on the validity of Tower’s claims.
The Titanic In Popular Culture
The sinking of the Titanic has been referenced and dramatized many times throughout popular culture, including songs, poems, novels, and nonfiction books. Perhaps the two most popular dramatizations of the disaster are the 1997 film Titanic, one of the highest grossing films ever made, and 1958’s A Night to Remember.