On April 10, 1912, the Titanic, the largest ship in the water, left England on her maiden voyage to New York City. Despite being touted as the safest ship ever built, four days into the journey, on the night of April 14, the ship struck an iceberg. The iceberg destroyed the ship’s hull compartments, filling them with water and dooming the souls on board. Here are fatal facts about the ship and the unforgettable disaster.
1. Prophetic Novel
Some things are just fated. Creepily enough, some say that an 1898 novel predicted the wreck of the Titanic 14 years before she took her maiden voyage. The details are eerie: Morgan Robertson’s novel Futility tells the tale of an ocean liner named Titan that strikes an iceberg the first time she even hits the water. Sound familiar?
2. Simply the Best
Titanic captain Edward Smith has gone down in infamy for his folly that night in April, but his real story is more complicated. Smith was actually one of the most experienced sea captains out there. He even had a cult following: certain well-to-do passengers would refuse to go on Atlantic voyages unless he was at the helm of the ship.
3. The Cream of the Crop
Since the Titanic was one of the most luxurious liners in the world, some of its first-class passengers were huge celebrities of their day. Among the most illustrious was the mega-wealthy John Jacob Astor IV, the founder of the famed Astoria hotel in New York, and Benjamin Guggenheim—yes, like the museums—who was on board with his cheeky French mistress Leontine Aubart.
4. Not Too Shabby
There were over 1,000 third-class passengers on board the Titanic. Wanting to change the attitudes toward third-class travel, the designers of the Titanic created individual closed cabins rather than dormitory rooms. They still would have had to share the experience with strangers, but the closed cabins offered the passengers a degree of privacy.
5. Unsinkable Molly Brown
The “Unsinkable” Molly Brown was one of the most famous Titanic survivors, and her moniker, it’s said, came from her words following the Titanic’s sinking. When reporters interviewed her about the disaster, Brown had a legendary reply. She allegedly stated, “Typical Brown luck. We’re unsinkable.” The phrasing stuck.
6. What Are the Odds?
In the 10 years before the Titanic disaster, White Star Line had carried over 2 million passengers, and only experienced two fatalities.
7. You Can’t Take It With You
John Jacob Astor was the richest man on board, even in a boat full of the world’s wealthiest. When he was alive, he had a net worth of a staggering $85 million, which is billions today. In fact, he was so wealthy that when they recovered his body, rescuers found a veritable treasure trove in his pockets—including a diamond ring and $2,440 in American notes.
8. May-December Romance
Astor was on the Titanic to travel back to America with his young and pregnant second wife Madeleine. Their relationship was a huge society scandal. Astor had just married her in September 1911, and, at 18 years old on their wedding, the bride was almost three decades younger than him. Madeleine was even a full year younger than Astor’s own son Vincent.
9. They’d Been Warned
The iceberg that the Titanic struck didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The crew had received six ice warnings prior to the collision, all of which they ignored.
10. Music of the Heart
Famously, all eight members of the ship’s orchestra played until the Titanic sank, just to keep spirits up. They heroically went down with the ship.
11. Putting on the Ritz
The interiors of the Titanic were loosely inspired by those of the Ritz hotel in London. The facilities included a gym, a pool, a Turkish bath, a kennel for the first-class dogs, and squash courts. The ship even had its own newspaper, The Atlantic Daily Bulletin. It truly was a world unto itself on board the Titanic.
12. Think Fast
The moment lookout Frederick Fleet spotted the iceberg to the time of its impact was only 37 seconds. He rang the bell in warning and telephoned the bridge, but they were simply unable to avoid it.
13. Straight Shooting
When the chief officer on the bridge received the iceberg warning, he ordered the helmsman to turn the wheel “Hard astarboard.” This was actually a huge mistake. Researchers now believe that the ship could have been saved had the officer not ordered the turn. The Titanic had collision bulkheads in the bow, so the vessel would have very likely survived a head-on impact.
Experts have stated that the damages from a head-on collision would have either saved the ship from sinking entirely, or else allowed it to sink much more slowly, giving rescuers more precious time to save the people on board.
14. Movin’ on up
The ornate staircase on the Titanic was designed for the exclusive use of first-class passengers. It descended five decks from the first-class entrance to the lower accommodation decks, lounges, and dining room. The staircase featured oak paneling and ironwork, and the whole staircase was lit by a huge glass dome that allowed spectacular light to flow in overhead.
15. Close, But No Cigar
Six forward compartments flooded when the Titanic struck the iceberg; four was the maximum number that could flood without risk of the ship sinking.
16. Going out in Style
At first, Benjamin Guggenheim thought the iceberg collision was a minor blip—but when he realized it was the end, he had an unforgettable response. He put on his finest clothes along with his personal valet. Then he apparently descended the ship’s glorious staircase, sat himself down with a cigar, and said, “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”
17. Not-So Gentle Giant
The Titanic was the world’s largest passenger ship at the time. It measured 882 feet in length, and was the largest man-made moving object on Earth.
18. We Both Go Down Together
Macy’s department store magnates Isidor and Ida Straus were another wealthy, first-class couple traveling on the Titanic—and they met a heartbreaking end. When the ship started to go down, attendants ushered the elderly Ida into a lifeboat, but she refused to leave her beloved husband. Isidor, meanwhile, rejected the idea of leaving before the other men.
Instead, the couple went down beside each other. As Ida said, “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together.” Witnesses last saw the pair on the deck, their arms around each other. Their fate remains one of the most tragic love stories in history.
19. 20,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
The Titanic had 1,500 bottles of wine, 8,000 cigars, and 20,000 bottles of beer on board. All of these were exclusively for the use of the first-class passengers.
20. Losing Streak
In many ways, the Titanic disaster happened because of a streak of bad luck, ending with the iceberg that hit and doomed the ship. You see, in April 1912, there were 300 icebergs in the North Atlantic Shipping lanes—this was the most seen in the route between Europe and North America in half a century. It really was wrong place, wrong time.
21. Self Sacrifice
First-class passenger or not, John Jacob Astor was willing to die for the sake of others. When it was clear the Titanic was sinking into the freezing Atlantic, Astor loaded his young wife Madeline into a lifeboat. According to an eyewitness account, just as Astor was about to get in beside her, he saw a horrifying sight.
Behind him were two terrified children still in need of saving. Unwilling to abandon people in need, Astor stepped aside and gave up his place in the boat.
22. Where’s My Smoking Jacket?
Of course, Astor’s heroic effort doomed him. Around 1:55 am, just as Lifeboat 4 was lowered into the water, witnesses reported watching Astor standing alone on the Titanic. His final moments are legendary. One of the last times anyone spotted him alive, he was smoking a cigarette with fellow passenger Jacques Futrelle. Just a half hour later, the Titanic slipped into the ocean.
23. This Is Not a Drill
There was an agonizing 60 minute delay from the time of collision to when the first lifeboats launched. Why? Well, some people thought the alarms were just a drill and stayed warm inside. But there was a bigger problem. Even for people who believed the alarms were real, there was a lot of confusion about where to go—since there hadn’t been any lifeboat drills.
24. Running out of Time
As a result of the delay launching the first lifeboat, there was not enough time to successfully launch the remaining lifeboats. The crew never even launched two of the collapsible lifeboats.
25. Slow Your Roll
During the initial investigations into the cause of the Titanic disaster, Captain Edward Smith was blamed for going too fast in dangerous waters. While Smith couldn’t possibly have predicted the amount of icebergs in the area, he could have reduced the ship’s speed as a precaution, particularly after getting warnings. But did he? Nope.
26. You’re Tearing Me Apart
When the Titanic sank, experts widely believed that the iceberg had caused a 300-foot gash along the side of the ship. Once the wreck of RMS Titanic was discovered in 1985, the ship told a different story. The actual damage was clearly visible: The ship sustained six separate tears totalling just 15 square feet.
27. Life Finds a Way
Survivor Phillip Mock said he saw John Jacob Astor one last time before the tycoon’s death. Mock witnessed Astor and his valet huddled on a raft before they both froze and met their tragic, watery ends. But his sacrifice was not in vain. John Jacob’s beloved Madeleine Astor and his unborn child both survived the wreckage.
28. I Will Remember You
Among the personal effects rescuers found on John Jacob Astor’s body was a gold pocket watch. Astor’s son Vincent claimed the memento, and even wore it for the rest of his life.
29. Desperate Times
Passengers were utterly frantic at the very end. When Collapsible B Lifeboat floated away upside down, people tried to right it, but were unsuccessful. Just 30 stubborn people, clinging to life, managed to survive by standing on top of the upturned boat.
30. Not A Watertight Defence
The Titanic featured a double bottom and 15 watertight bulkhead compartments equipped with watertight doors. Sounds great, right? Except there was one fatal flaw. The walls separating the bulkheads allowed water to pour from one compartment to another—especially if the ship began to list or pitch forward. Another bout of bad luck.
31. Calm and Collected
Though it was a night of great tragedy, April 14, 1912 was also a test of great heroism. Noel Leslie, the beautiful Countess of Rothes, more than rose to the occasion. As her lifeboat dipped into choppy waters, the cool-headed countess grabbed the tiller and helped steer and row the vessel to safety even as the Titanic sunk behind her.
While steering, Noel only paused her duties to comfort another passenger, a Spanish newlywed who had lost her husband in the wreck.
32. The Plucky Little Countess
The surviving crew started calling Noel Leslie “the plucky little countess,” and even gave her the brass number plate from her lifeboat as a token of their appreciation.
33. Not Good Enough
Including the crew, the ship was carrying around 2,208 people. Not wanting to clutter the deck, the number of lifeboats on board was reduced to 20 fully wooden lifeboats with four collapsible lifeboats—enough for only about half the passengers.
34. Shell Shocked
People are divided to this day about whether or not Captain Edward Smith was a villain or a victim. While some portray his mistakes that fateful day as understandable and his subsequent actions as heroic, others reveal a darker side. According to some reports, Smith became paralyzed with fear when he realized the situation, and did little to save the souls on his ship.
35. Ice Cold
Most people that night died not from drowning, but from freezing in the icy Atlantic waters.
36. Thank God for Booze
The ship’s baker, Charles Joughin, had an utterly bizarre survival story. When he found out the ship was doomed, he sent men to get provisions from the bakery to the lifeboats on deck. Once away from the crowds, he began partaking in the ship’s well-stocked bar. Known to enjoy his whiskey, and figuring he was about to die, he got drunk.
Nonetheless, rescuers found him after about two hours, treading water and showing minimal health problems. Alcohol generally increases your risk of hypothermia, but there is some evidence that it helps slow heat loss as well.
37. A Bare Affair
Contrary to what some might think, there was very little pomp attached to the launch of the Titanic. As was White Star Line’s policy, there was no champagne or a ceremonial naming of the ship. The only announcement of the ship’s launch were two rockets fired; one 15 minutes before, and one at the point of launch.
38. Not a Glass Half Full Situation
When all of the lifeboats did finally leave the Titanic, they were not filled to capacity. Each boat could safely carry approximately 70 people, but senior surviving officer Charles Lightoller claimed that he could not have filled the boats to capacity without the mechanism holding them collapsing. Lifeboat 6 even left when it was less than half full.
39. Bring up the Bodies
New documents about the Titanic disaster reveal a chilling story. According to these documents, rescue crews doing damage control after the wreck tossed the bodies of third-class passengers into the sea in order to prioritize first and second-class remains. It’s all laid out in disturbing detail in a series of telegrams between a recovery ship and the White Star Line.
So while second- and first-class bodies were returned to their loved ones, many third-class families were left in the dark.
40. Furry Friends
First-class passengers were allowed to bring their dogs on the RMS Titanic, and there were 12 confirmed dogs on board, including a Fox Terrier, a French Poodle, a French Bulldog, and John Jacob Astor’s Airedale,Terrier Kitty. Some pups got happy ends: Three of the smaller dogs were smuggled onto the lifeboats, and made it safely to New York.
41. The Lucky Few
For one reason or another, several famous people had tickets for the Titanic but didn’t sail on that fateful voyage. George W. Vanderbilt and his wife canceled because someone in their family was worried that “so many things can go wrong on a maiden voyage.” Well…can’t really say they were wrong about that one.
42. Missed Connections
As details about the tragedy emerged, researchers discovered that the liner Californian had been less than 20 miles away from the Titanic, but failed to hear its distress call because the radio operator was off-duty. Again and again, just one moment of good luck might have saved so many people, but the Titanic couldn’t catch a break.
43. Safety First
One positive outcome of the Titanic disaster was an overhaul to sea safety rules. After the tragedy, the first international Convention for Safety of Life at Sea overhauled the rules and regulations of sea travel to make sure this never happened again.
44. Lost and Found
In 1985, a team of researchers found the wreck of the Titanic lying on the ocean floor. This is where things get eerie. Coincidentally, the discovery came just before 2:20am, which was the exact time the ocean liner sank. Several earlier attempts to locate the ship had been made since its sinking, all of them coming up empty-handed.
Thanks to this team, we now know exactly where the titanic sank.
45. The Millionaires’ Captain
Before helming the Titanic, Captain Edward Smith was so popular with luxury liners that people called him “The Millionaires’ Captain.”
46. Luxury Living
The main dining room for the first-class passengers was 114 feet long, and spanned the full width of the ship. It could seat 532 passengers, and was the largest dining room ever seen on a ship. The designs for the dining room were based on fine houses in England, and all of the furniture was designed to add luxury and comfort.
47. Turn This Boat Around
“The Unsinkable” Molly Brown was lucky enough to snag Lifeboat No. 6, but she had to be dragged away from helping other passengers and pushed in. Her next actions earned her a place in history. Brown began to argue with Quartermaster Robert Hichens, who was in charge of the boat, reportedly urging him and her fellow passengers to go back toward the wreckage to save more people.
48. Why I Oughta
Sadly, Hichens refused to listen to Brown, saying that the poor souls in the waters might try to get in and drag the boat down, dooming everyone. It’s unclear whether Brown was ever able to get the boat to turn around, but we do know she was pretty feisty about it. She took an oar and tried to steer the boat back by herself, and was heard loudly threatening to throw Hichens overboard.
49. Not Without Her Dog
One of the most famous legends of the Titanic disaster is that of Anne Elizabeth Isham. Legend says that she refused to leave the ship without her beloved Great Dane, who crew members had deemed too big for a lifeboat. Instead, Isham made an incredible sacrifice. She allegedly stayed behind rather than leave him.
Later, authorities found the body of a woman holding a large dog.
50. Down With His Ship
Captain Edward Smith went down with the Titanic, and his last words were heartbreaking. He said to his crew, “Well boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves.” Smith was last seen on the bridge minutes before the ship sank, and experts believe he must have gone directly under the waves and drowned.