The 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster just passed in April 2012. No other shipwreck in history has garnered the attention of this disaster, which claimed the lives of 1,517 souls. Although everyone knows about the Titanic, there are many interesting facts about the ship and the wreck that few know. Read on to learn 10 of them.
1. Lifeboats On the Ship Met Regulatory Standards of 1912
You might think from watching the famous 1997 movie that White Star, the builder of the ship, had done something dastardly by not providing enough boats on Titanic. The fact is that the ship had more lifeboats than were actually required by law in 1912. Only 16 were required to be on the ship, and there were at least five more than that. At that time, the philosophy about lifeboats was to build the ship itself as a lifeboat. That is, to make the ship completely unsinkable.
2. The Ship Was Very Big
Yes, well, we all know the Titanic was big, the largest passenger ship built at the time. However, you may not know it was so large that when it took on its passengers in Southampton, England, it had to be anchored offshore and passengers were delivered by ferry to board. The 1997 movie showed the Titanic as being tied at the pier, which is not how it was.
3. A Nearby Ship Warned the Titanic About Ice
A few hours before the Titanic hit the iceberg, a nearby ship named the Californian had warned the Titanic wireless operator that there were bergs in the area. The Titanic’s wireless operator was busy relaying messages on the telegraph for first class passengers and angrily wired back to the Californian to leave him alone. It is believed that the Californian was the ship that people on the Titanic and in the lifeboats could see in the distance. However, the ship either did not see the Titanic or understand what was happening. Recent theories have indicated that it is possible that atmospheric conditions that night in the region may have made it both harder to see the iceberg in the distance, as well as the output from the signal lamps on both the Californian and the Titanic. If that was indeed the case, it is possible that the crew of the Californian may have mistaken frantic signals from the signal lamp of the Titanic as mere twinkling of ship lights.
The wireless on the Californian had been shut off for the night by the time of the accident, so the ship unfortunately was unaware of what had happened until it was far too late to help.
4. Many People At First Didn’t Want to Get Into Lifeboats
The 1997 movie makes it appear that the crew was purposely putting few people into lifeboats to keep the passengers comfortable. The reality is that many people didn’t want to leave the ‘safe,’ warm confines of the ship. It was a very cold night, and the water temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. The idea of getting into a tiny boat in the middle of Atlantic probably did not have much appeal when the passengers were standing in a large, warm and seemingly safe vessel. Also, most believed the Titanic could not sink. For this reason, many passengers ended up staying on board the Titanic until it was too late and most of the life boats had left. By the end, people were frantically scrambling into what lifeboats were left. Many people ended up going into the frigid water and perished within minutes because of the cold.
5. Only 706 Passengers Lived
Most of the survivors were in first class, and most of the deaths were caused by hypothermia. The water was so cold that it would cause a healthy adult to die in 15 minutes. Also, only 20% of the men survived and 75% of women survived. This might indicate that chivalry was very much alive at that time in the early 20th century.
6. The Wreck Was Discovered in 1985
When it was discovered by the vessel Knorr in 1985, the most surprising finding was that the ship had split in two. It is thought that the ship split when it was going down, and did not split on the surface, as is depicted in the film. The recorded memories of most survivors indicate that the ship was intact as it sank. The 1997 film, probably for dramatic purposes, showed that the ship split as its keel raised in the air. According to the historical record, there is no indication that this happened..
7. John Jacob Astor Was the Richest Man to Die
John Jacob Astor was the first millionaire in the US and he actually made the first trust in the United States. He was worth over $20 million in 1912, which is $100 billion in 2006 US dollars.
8. There Was a Crew Member Named J. Dawson
He didn’t look like Leonardo Decaprio, and his name wasn’t Jack, but there was a J. Dawson on the ship. He was a member of the crew and he was one of the shovelers of coal into the giant boilers. He survived the sinking and is buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is no indication that more crew members survived than passengers, indicating that most of them did do their duty and did not try to escape without helping the passengers.
9. An 8-Piece Band Did Play As the Ship Sank
A violinist named Wallace Hartley was the leader of the band, and after the impact, he assembled his band on deck and they played for hours. They played waltzes for the most part. All of them died in the sinking of the Titanic.
10. Isador and Ida Strauss Chose to Die Together
There is a scene in the film where an old man and woman embrace in bed and choose to go down with the ship. The real couple actually were in deck chairs on deck, but it is true that they chose to die together. Isador Strauss refused a place on a lifeboat because there were still women aboard, and his wife chose to stay with him.