The RMS Titanic is one of the most famous and well-known ships in history. And while the ocean liner and its disastrous fate inspired the once highest-grossing movie of all time, sometimes truth is stranger — or in this case, creepier — than fiction. From the tragic circumstances of its building, to decadence and scandal on board, to what exactly happened to its victims, here are some of the wildest little-known facts about Titanic.
1. A Deadly Construction Project
The Titanic‘s death toll began even before the ship ever set off on its journey across the Atlantic Ocean, let alone before a single person boarded the ocean liner. The ship was originally built in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and required long hours of work from a team of about 3,000 builders.
During its construction, eight men were killed in accidents related to the work they had been performing to get the ship ready for its voyage. Most died as a result of falling, and one was crushed by falling timber. The identities of only five of these casualties are known, while three have remained unnamed. A memorial plaque dedicated to those eight casualties was erected in 2012 on the site of the ship’s construction.
2. From Titanic to Game of Thrones
A ship as massive as the Titanic required an equally massive amount of space to build it. That same huge space once used as a hangar for the Titanic is now one of Europe’s largest film studios, called Titanic Studios. One of the studios in the area is called Paint Hall, as it was the specific hangar used to paint the Titanic in climate-controlled conditions. Now it serves a much different purpose.
In 2007, that same hall was used to film City of Ember and it has also been used as a set for Game of Thrones for seasons 1 through 4. And here’s another odd bit of Titanic-Game of Thrones trivia: the company charged with burying Titanic‘s victims in Nova Scotia was led by a man called…John Snow.
3. First-Class Decadence
It is a well-known fact that only a select few of the world’s wealthiest people who were lucky enough to be able to afford a first-class ticket aboard the RMS Titanic were treated like royalty. Incredibly, the amenities aboard the ship were sometimes even nicer than what these aristocrats could afford at home.
The enviable list of first-class amenities included a Parisian-style café, tea gardens, a library, a heated swimming pool, a Turkish bath, squash courts, a barbershop, a dog kennel, a gymnasium, a smoking room, and a reading and writing room. And that is not even including their luxurious bedroom suites, beautiful upper-deck space, and sprawling grand dining hall.
4. Third-Class Contrast
One of the many factors that led to an everlasting public fascination with the Titanic was the sheer amount of wealth, glitz, and glam that was aboard the extraordinarily opulent ship. But for the majority of passengers aboard the ship, the reality was that they never really saw any of those luxuries.
While the first-class passengers got to enjoy their trip while steaming in their very own sultry Turkish baths, third-class was sorely lacking. Although the conditions were said to be comparable, if not slightly nicer, than the third-class facilities on other ships, the nearly 1,000 third-class passengers all had to share just two bathtubs.
5. Happy Honeymooners
Without being able to see into the future, going aboard one of the most elegant ocean liners in the world to sail from Southampton to New York would seem like a perfectly divine way for a newlywed couple to celebrate their honeymoon. But as we all know in retrospect, this dream vacation would become one of the most horrifying nightmares imaginable.
In total, thirteen couples were spending their honeymoon aboard the Titanic. One of those couples were New Yorkers Daniel and Mary Marvin, who had enjoyed part of their honeymoon in Europe and decided to extend the celebration by boarding the Titanic back home. As the ship sank, Daniel told his new wife to board a lifeboat as he stayed behind. It was the last time Mary ever saw her husband.
6. A Book Predicted The Titanic‘s Fate
14 years before anyone had even heard of the Titanic, American writer Morgan Robertson penned a novel called Futility which told a story that was eerily similar to the story of the Titanic. In the story, a ship said to be unsinkable was making a trip across the Northern Atlantic when it hit an iceberg. So what was this ship’s name? The Titan, of course. And the creepy coincidences don’t stop there.
In the book, one detail about the ship Titan was that it did not have enough lifeboats on board to save everyone. Like a cherry on top of this bizarrely prophetic book, the crash described was said to also have happened in April. When asked about the similarities, Robertson simply said: “I know what I’m writing about, that’s all.”
7. The Richest Man In The World
Not only was John Jacob Astor IV the richest man aboard the Titanic, he was also estimated to have been the richest man in the world at the time. His net worth totaled $150 million, or about $3.5 billion by today’s standards. The 47-year-old was on the ship with his new wife, Madeleine Talmage Force, who was 18 years old. He’d been divorced not long before their marriage, and the age difference raised plenty an eyebrow.
The couple was reportedly on honeymoon in Europe in order to escape the gossip surrounding their marriage, but had decided to return to the U.S. when Mrs. Astor became pregnant. Mr. Astor was among the victims who perished in the sinking, and his body was later found with $2,440 in his pocket, equivalent to about $60,000 today.
8. Keeping Passengers Fed And Happy
The RMS Titanic was carrying a lot more than the 3,300 passengers and crew members that were aboard. Hosting all those people required an extremely large haul, including 15,000 bottles of beer, 1,000 bottles of wine, 850 bottles of liquor, and 8,000 cigars for all of the merriment that was expected to happen on the Titanic‘s maiden voyage.
All those creature comforts, and yet what about food? Feeding the passengers required 75,000 pounds of meat, 7,500 pounds of bacon, 36,000 oranges, 1,000 loaves of bread, and 40,000 eggs. About 12 dogs, 38 roosters, and one canary were also brought along for the ride, and there were estimated to be 10 cars stored in the bottom of the ship.
9. The Infamous Canceled Lifeboat Drill
Every Sunday on the Titanic, Captain Edward John Smith and his crew would go to the upper decks of the ship and perform a lifeboat drill. This seemed like a bit of a waste of time to many. After all, the Titanic was always touted as being unsinkable. In hindsight, even with these drills, the crew were barely prepared to cope with a disaster of this scale.
But on Sunday, April 14, 1912, the lifeboat drill was canceled for unknown reasons by the ship’s captain, Edward Smith. It was just one of many elements in a perfect storm that led to the Titanic‘s sinking being one of the most notorious disasters in modern history.
10. A Final Meal, With Ten Courses
In the evening of Sunday, April 14, 1912, as the passengers aboard RMS Titanic sat down for their dinners, no one could possibly have had even the slightest inkling that this would in fact be their last meal aboard the ship. Still, the Titanic‘s last supper was wonderfully lavish — for its first-class passengers, that is.
The last dinner in the grand dining hall consisted of an astounding 10 courses. The meal included oysters, cream of barley soup, and salmon, and that was just the hors d’oeuvres. Filet mignon, lamb, chicken, roasted duck, beef sirloin, and foie gras pâté were all served as well, along with an assortment of desserts.
11. The Binoculars Blunder
One simple mistake may have cost the lives of over 1,500 victims the night of the Titanic‘s iceberg crash. On that fateful Sunday night, close to 11:40 PM, as the lookouts switched shifts, one from the previous shift forgot to pass off a key to the lockbox where the ship’s binoculars were kept.
Instead, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee had to rely on their own eyesight. It was Fleet who yelled the now-infamous words “Iceberg, right ahead!” after spotting it in the distance. Somehow, years later, the key to the locker that housed the binoculars was miraculously recovered and put up for auction, where it sold for $130,000.
12. Desperately Under-Equipped
It’s one of the best-known facts about the Titanic even today: the ship did not have enough lifeboats for the passengers. But the actual figures as to how badly-prepared the ship was are quite horrifying. There were only twenty lifeboats on the Titanic when it went down, meaning only enough for a third of the people aboard. To make matters worse, it wasn’t as if there wasn’t enough space for more lifeboats.
In fact, the ship had the capacity to hold 64 lifeboats, and each boat could hold up to 65 people. Instead, the first lifeboat lowered into the ocean only had 28 people on board. Though women and children were put on boats first, even in disaster, class was an issue. Only four women from first class died that night, compared to 89 women from third class.
13. Opting Out of Rescue
There are at least two women known to have been boarded a lifeboat before quickly jumping off, sealing their tragic fate. One of those women was Ida Straus, the wife of the co-owner of the Macy’s department store. When she realized her husband could not board the lifeboat with her, she left the boat. Ida was last seen walking hand-in-hand with her husband on the Titanic‘s deck.
The other known instance of a woman abandoning her lifeboat was Ann Elizabeth Isham, who left her lifeboat when she was told that she would not be able to bring her dog with her. Rumors have circulated that her body was later found holding her beloved Great Dane.
14. Life-Saving Cross-Dressing
Even as panic was fully setting in aboard the sinking Titanic, most of the crew helping to evacuate still held firmly to the strict guidelines of only letting women and children board the lifeboats first. However, some men were rumored to have gotten around this directive in order to save their own lives: by disguising themselves as women.
One couple of survivors from Michigan, Dickinson and Helen Bishop, actually ended up getting a divorce after Dickinson had been accused of dressing up as a woman to secure a spot on a lifeboat, a charge that “plagued their relationship.” But he was not the only one. Three other men were also said to have done the same thing.
15. Bottoms Up!
Hearing that a ship deemed “unsinkable” is about to be sucked into freezing waters is enough for anyone to want to take a drink. Apparently the Titanic‘s chef, Charles Joughin, felt the same way. He reported that when he heard that the ship was going down, he snagged himself two bottles of whiskey — and proceeded to drink as much as he could.
The water of the North Atlantic that night was 23 degrees below freezing, and most of the passengers who did not make it into lifeboats died within a matter of minutes not from drowning, but hypothermia. Miraculously, Joughin survived, and credited his alcohol consumption for saving his life.
16. The Unsung Doomed Heroes
The Titanic was a massive ship, and it took an incredible amount of manpower to keep everything running. About 600 to 800 tons of coal were used per day to power the cruise liner. And each and every ton was hand-shoveled into furnaces by the team of engineers on board, grimy and sweating in the constant blazing heat.
The job was grueling, but these men were extremely committed. So much so, in fact, that every single engineer stayed behind to continue to power the ship until the moment it went underwater. Their work was crucial, as it kept the lights on and kept the radio running so that nearby ships could hear their distress signals. Trapped below, all 25 men drowned.
17. Tragically Young
One of the most memorable and heartbreaking moments of the 1997 Titanic film involved the ship’s band, as the musicians decided to continue to play together right up until the end. And in reality, for two hours and five minutes, the band tried to calm passengers as they strummed their final set. All of them lost their lives.
But the band members were in fact much younger than depicted in the film. Cello player Roger Bricoux was only 21 years old when he took the job aboard the Titanic. Bricoux was not officially declared dead until 2000, after a legal battle was waged when the French Army labeled him a deserter when he did not show up for his World War I enlistment.
18. Too Close And Yet Too Far
The RMS Carpathia became known as the ship that was able to help save most of the Titanic survivors, and has been said to be the closest ship to the Titanic at the time. But there was another ship even closer. The SS Californian was less than 20 miles away from the Titanic as it sank, but the telegraph operator had gone to sleep early that night.
The captain of the SS Californian even saw the flares from the Titanic, but assumed they were fireworks and didn’t think to take action. Instead, the RMS Carpathia responded from 58 miles away, taking four hours to reach the survivors. But three years later, the SS Californian would meet a similar fate when it also sunk at sea.
19. Most Bodies Were Never Recovered
When the Titanic sank in the dark early hours of April 15, 1912, an estimated 1,500 passengers died. But well over a century after the disaster, the exact number of victims is still not known. Of all those deaths, only 360 bodies were ever found, pulled frozen from the Atlantic. They were brought to Canada, buried in cemeteries in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The rest of the bodies were never recovered.
The estimated death toll was taken from ship logs. But some of the Titanic‘s passengers had traveled under fake names and documentation. Moreover, they were from all over the world, from Sweden to Ireland to Lebanon, so logs were not exactly the most accurate manifests. The remains of one child were found but were not identified until 100 years later, when a museum DNA-tested his shoes and made a match.
20. Not The Last Tragedy To Survive
At age 24, an Irish-Argentine woman called Violet Jessop took work as a stewardess on board the Titanic. Four days later, as the ship sank, she was told to board a lifeboat to show non-English speakers how to safely step on. Jessop survived the shipwreck — but it was not her last.
Four years later, she took another job as a stewardess on Titanic‘s sister ship, the HMHS Britannic, which also famously sank. The year before Titanic sailed, Jessop also survived the RMS Olympic crashing at sea. But she was not the only one to endure multiple catastrophes. Another passenger was rumored to have lived through a ship fire in 1871, and boarded the Titanic as a way to finally face his fears. He sadly did not survive.
21. The Powerful People Who Never Boarded
There is a group of people who must have been sighing in relief as they joined the “Never Boarded” or the “Just Missed It Club.” As the name suggests, this club refers to the people who had bought tickets for the Titanic, but skipped the trip for one reason or another. And the names on this list of lucky travelers are pretty surprising.
Chocolate entrepreneur Milton Hershey was one of the people who never boarded, instead opting to take a ship with an earlier departure to the United States for a business meeting. J.P Morgan, the founder of General Electric and US Steel, skipped the trip so that he could extend his time at a spa.
22. The Fourth Smokestack Was Useless
Even now, as massive cruise liners have become much more commonplace, the image of the Titanic is iconic and pretty easily recognizable for many reasons. But one of those reasons is because it featured four giant smokestacks shooting out from the upper decks. But it turns out that that was all just for show.
Only three of the smokestacks on top of the ship were actually functional. The fourth one did not really serve any purpose, other than aesthetics in order to make the ship look more impressive. That must have been a lot of effort just to make the ship look more powerful, considering that it took 100 horses to carry the main anchor onto the ship.
23. Gravely Mistaken News Reports
The way news of the Titanic‘s sinking was relayed was way different than the 24-hour news cycle of today. So as competing newspapers raced to be the first to get the story, some of them got it very, very wrong. A few papers, including the Daily Mail, the Evening Sun, The World, and the Belfast Telegraph all reported that there were no casualties.
It took two days after the disaster for these newspapers to report on the deaths. American newspapers, on the other hand, were able to use the time difference to their advantage, and in those few extra hours they gathered more information and more accurately reported on the death toll.
24. Last Surviving Passenger Died In 2009
Born in southern England, Millvina Dean was just two months old when she was wrapped in a blanket and taken on one of the lifeboats escaping the sinking Titanic. She was the last living Titanic survivor. Millvina passed away in 2009 at the age of 97, almost a century after the disaster.
But she was not the most famous child survivor of the tragedy. Edmond and Michel Navratil were rescued when they were just two and four years old. The toddlers spoke no English, and their parents were nowhere to be found. Their names were in every newspaper, labeling them the “Titanic orphans,” until gratefully, their mother saw the report and reunited with her children a month later.
25. Titanic‘s Remains Could Be Gone As Soon As 2030
The Titanic had been sitting undisturbed 2 miles down at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean for 73 long years when it was discovered in 1985. But those remains likely will not be there for long, according to experts. Marine biologists aptly named a specific bacteria found on the ship Halomonas titanicae — and it’s destroying everything.
This newly-discovered bacteria has been feasting on the remains of the Titanic for years. That metal-eating bacteria, plus the effects of currents and salt corrosion, means that within just a few years, even Titanic‘s skeleton could be completely gone. But estimates on when exactly that will happen have ranged.
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