The legacy of the RMS Titanic still captivates us, and the mystique is amplified by the recent 2023 tragedy involving the Oceangate's Titan submersible tragedy. Explorers have gone to great lengths to try to unravel the mysteries and secrets that the ship holds. We've put together 24 chilling facts about the Titanic.
1. The Largest Human-Made Moving Object
We all know the Titanic‘s size was vast, making it the world's largest passenger ship. However, at the time, it was the largest moving construction the world had ever known. The ship was 882.5 feet long and 92.5 feet wide. In his historical account, A Night to Remember, Walter Lord wrote, “She was, in short, 11 stories high and four city blocks long.”
2. Insufficient Lifeboats
For a cruiseliner on which everything was huge — the three-million rivets holding the ship together alone weighed 1200 tons — there were a tiny number of lifeboats. The boat was carrying 1,316 passengers and 885 crew, though its 20 lifeboats could only hold a maximum of 1,178 people.
3. International Passengers
Naturally, we associate passengers on the Titanic as wealthy British, American, or Northern European citizens. However, passenger logs show a much more diverse traveling clientele. A big cohort of Syrians and people from China, Australia, Portugal, and South Africa were aboard the ship.
4. Iceberg Warnings Were Dismissed
As many as six drifting ice warnings came from other ships in the area that night, which were given scant regard, and public inquiries uncovered damning evidence of neglect. A nearby ship, California, issued an iceberg caution an hour before the collision. However, the Titanic‘s radio operator ignored the call because it didn't start with the prefix “MSG,” which stands for Master's Service Gram. The captain never even saw it.
5. The Ship Was Criticized for Its Speed
At the time of impact, reports show the Titanic traveled 22 knots. Some survivors even noted how they felt the ship was traveling too fast and criticized the captain's disastrous choices.
6. Wrong Shipbuilding Materials
According to many experts, the Titanic‘s main body was made of steel sheet material that suffered in cold conditions, causing it to crack easily. For all the boat's technological advancements, a key feature of the Titanic‘s downfall was how easily it ruptured on impact.
7. The Ship Turned Into the Iceberg
Louise Patten's grandfather was the senior-most ship officer to survive. In 2010, she shared his assertion that miscommunication caused a major error. The steersmen misheard an order to turn the ship “hard a-starboard,” thinking they were told to “make the ship turn right,” and toward the iceberg's path.
8. The Iceberg Was Big
Experts deduce the iceberg's length as being between 200 and 400 feet long and from 50 to 100 feet tall. One can only imagine the sheer terror as the ship's lights caught a first glimpse of the hulking, white hazard, regardless of the ship's 11-story height.
9. The Ship Had a Turkish Spa
Although an electric bath sounds like an oxymoron, the Titanic provided one as part of its Turkish baths — an option for first-class customers. Along with steam rooms, massage parlors, and prototype tanning beds. Reportedly, even the elites were nervous about getting inside what looked like an iron lung.
10. Sleeping Hierarchy
In an unintended metaphor, the Titanic‘s sleeping arrangements depended on the ticket's price. Unsurprisingly, those with third-class tickets slept ten-strong to a room in bunk beds lower down, nearer the loud engine rooms. Second-class travelers slept higher in shared suites and communal bathrooms, while top-tier tourists had private suites.
11. An Iceberg-Heavy Year
A 2014 Royal Meteorological Society study found that in April 1912, freezing Canadian northeastern winds met the Labrador Current near Newfoundland, bringing perfect iceberg-making conditions. It was the peak month that year, producing more than double the usual iceberg flow for the region.
12. The Iceberg Photo
The rescue ship Minia picked up survivors in the frigid North Atlantic seas, and during the excursion, the ship's captain photographed an iceberg with a red paint streak. The iceberg's dimensions matched those described by the Titanic‘s survivors.
13. No Binoculars
Due to a logistic error before the ship departed Southampton, the binoculars were locked away in storage. The key was with Second Officer David Blair, who had already transferred off the Titanic before her maiden voyage. Maybe there was hubris because of the ship's unsinkable legend, and though they may have been ineffective in spotting the rogue iceberg, who knows?
14. Nobody Was Fazed After the Impact
In truth, most people hardly felt the collision's impact and carried on with their activities, while those on deck were showered with chunks of ice. Somewhat ironically, it sparked impromptu hijinks — passengers lobbed ice at one another or used it like a soccer ball. However, before long, they started to feel a disturbing effect on their balance, signaling something was awry.
15. The Passengers Received No Lifeboat Boarding Instructions
The scenes of lifeboat treachery in the Titanic movie are hauntingly accurate, with first and second-class citizens given preferential treatment over those beneath them. However, boats were not filled to capacity, with some only half-full as they hit the sea.
16. Many Rich Passengers Saved Lives
Contrary to the evil millionaire tropes we love to remember, dozens of courageous men in first class gave up their seats for women and children of all classes. Millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim and his assistant Victor Giglio famously gave their seats on the lifeboats, choosing to go down with the ship “like gentlemen.”
17. No Human Remains Were Ever Discovered
With a little more than 1,500 people lost to the tragedy, one might think a body or two would be seen within the wreckage. However, no remains have yet been discovered in the wreck. The conditions at 12,000 feet below sea level dictate that seabed life would have eaten away anything that remained, with heavy pressure and salinity also a factor. Furthermore, the U.S. government is reluctant to allow searches into the wreck.
18. The Sinking Was Foreshadowed in Literature
An 1889 novel tells an uncannily similar tale to the Titanic story. Morgan Robertson wrote a novel known as Wreck of the Titan, later changed to Futility. In the book, the author describes an eerily similar depiction of a world-class, giant cruise liner on a voyage between England and New York, named after a Greek god, which sinks after grazing an iceberg.
19. Nobody Said It Was Unsinkable
Titanic owner White Star Line's vice president Phillip A.S. Franklin was reacting retrospectively to the accident, saying he thought the ship was unsinkable. Of course, it's a better moral story if the owners make outlandish declarations about an unsinkable vessel. Contrarily, they were just in shock that the ship sank so quickly.
20. Twenty Tons of Lubricant
In the early 20th century, shipyards used slipways to move finished ships into the water using lube, which comprised soap and animal fat. So heavy was the Titanic that it took 20 tons of such lubricant to ease the ship into the sea, taking only one minute for this feat.
21. An Immense Coal Cargo
We must remember that in the early 20th century, coal-fired the British Empire and most of the industrialized world. The huge ship needed a powerful combustion engine to move it; the Titanic had over 6,500 tons of coal onboard. The ship burned through 850 tons per day, producing a daily ash cloud weighing 110 tons.
22. High Dining for the Top Table
We know how well those in society's upper echelons lived in those days, and a first-class passenger's salvaged menu reveals the Titanic‘s final lunch. The menu, which sold in 2015 for $800,000, showed a huge range of delectable meals, including chicken à la Maryland, filets of brill, apple meringue, custard pudding, and soused herrings. Those in the third class had more humble offerings, such as roast pork with onions, boiled potatoes, plum pudding, and currant buns.
23. The Ship Had a Modern Gym
Surprisingly, exercise machines existed at the turn of the century. Descriptions of the gym show it had squash courts, punch bags, cycle machines, and two curiously named contraptions: an electric camel and an electric horse. Poignantly, the gym also had highly efficient mechanical rowing machines.
24. Nine Million Mail Items
The ship was also a mail-carrying vessel. The Titanic had five' sea post clerks' responsible for over nine million letters and packages needing delivery. The postal team embarked on a furious race against time to rescue their mail from the encroaching water, which started flooding the storage room 20 minutes after the collision. Sadly, their efforts were futile; all the clerks and mail were lost in the tragedy.
25. Twelve Titanic Dogs
Two first-class travelers, Margaret Bechstein, and Elizabeth Jane Rothschild, saved their Pomeranians from the disaster; a third owned by Henry S. Harper also brought his Pekingese onto the lifeboat. Sadly, the nine other dogs onboard didn't make it off the ship, including Ann Elizabeth Isham, who refused to board the lifeboat without her dog, choosing to stay behind. She was one of only four first-class female passengers to lose her life.