In the early hours on the 15 April, 1912, the British luxury passenger ship, the Titanic, sank off the coast of Newfoundland, after hitting an iceberg. Over a century later the Titanic’s disaster remains one of the most fascinating stories inspiring numerous books, articles, and films.
This tragic and mysterious tale was depicted for the first time in the film “Saved from the Titanic,” starring actress Dorothy Gibson, who was a Titanic survivor. Many films followed, but what truly happened, other than what we’ve seen in films? Here are some interesting facts about the Titanic to shed some light on the mystery…
RMS Titanic: Quick facts:
Set sail from Southampton: 10 April 1912, 12pm
Destination: New York
Crew and Passengers on board: 2,208 people
Captain: Edward Smith
Maximum Capacity: 3,547 people
Maximum Lifeboat Capacity: 1,178 people
Speed of Titanic: 22 knots
Iceberg Strike: 11:40 pm – 14 April, 1912
Titanic Sank: 2:20 am – 15 April, 1912
Total survivors: 705 passengers
The building of the Titanic
1. Rival shipping lines
The Titanic was a creation of intense competition among two rival shipping companies, the White Star Line and Cunard.
2. The largest ships of their time
When Cunard revealed its 2 magnificent liners, the chief executive of White Star, discussed the construction of 3 large ships, each measuring 882 feet in length and 92.5 feet at their widest point, making them the largest of their time.
3. The build
The work on the Titanic began in the massive Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, in March 1909, and continued nonstop for two years.
4. Titanic’s baby steps
On the 31st of May, 1911, Titanic’s enormous hull, the largest movable manmade object in the world at the time, made its way into the River Lagan in Belfast.
5. The launch
More than 100,000 people attended the launching of the Titanic.
6. Manpower and costs
During 1912, thousands of workers spend hours constructing the ship’s decks, extravagant interiors and installing the 29 giant boilers that would power the Titanic’s two main steam engines. The ship cost $7.5 million to build.
7. Titanic – the movie
James Cameron’s 1997 “Titanic” movie about the disaster had a production budget of $200 million.
Titanic’s fatal flaws
According to some theories, the Titanic was disaster-prone from the start by a design that many lauded as state-of-the-art. These Olympic-class ships had a double base and 15 watertight bulkhead sections equipped with electric watertight doors that could be operated individually or simultaneously by a switch on the bridge.
9. Shipbuilder magazine considered the Titanic “practically unsinkable”
It was the watertight bulkheads that inspired Shipbuilder magazine, to deem the Titanic as “practically unsinkable.”
10. The watertight section design had a flaw
In fact, that exact flaw in the watertight section design was a critical factor in the Titanic’s sinking.
11. Second critical safety failure
It’s a well-known fact that the insufficient number of lifeboats carried on the Titanic was actually the second critical safety failure.
The Titanic carried only 16 lifeboats, plus four collapsible boats of the Engelhardt type, that could accommodate just 1,178 people.
13. The ship’s capacity
The Titanic could carry up to 2,435 passengers, and a crew of approximately 900 bringing the ship to a capacity of more than 3,300 people.
The Titanic’s passengers
14. Her maiden voyage
Titanic created quite a fuss when it departed from Southampton, England, on the 10th of April, 1912.
15. The first transatlantic crossing
After stops in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, the ship set sail for New York with 2,240 passengers and crew on board.
16. Devastating tragedy
From the total number of 2,240 passengers and crew on-board the Titanic, more than 1,500 lost their lives in the devastating tragedy.
17. First-class travel
The passengers traveling first class on the Titanic were roughly 44% more likely to survive than the other passengers. Many of the passengers were high-ranking officials, wealthy industrialists, dignitaries, and celebrities.
18. White Star Line’s managing director and financier
Bruce Ismay, White Star Line’s managing director was also aboard the ship while the financier J.P. Morgan cancelled at the last minute due to some business matter.
19. Rich customers
The Titanic’s wealthiest passenger was John Jacob Astor IV, heir to the Astor family fortune.
20. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”
The widow and heiress Margaret “Molly” Brown earned the nickname “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” by maintaining calmness and order and boosting the spirits of her fellow survivors.
The fateful journey
21. The Titanic’s departure
The departure that started from Southampton docks wasn’t without some peculiarities, because in one of the bunkers a small coal fire was discovered.
22. Assessing the situation
After assessing the situation, the captain and chief engineer concluded that it was unlikely it had caused any damage that could affect the hull structure.
23. A narrow escape
Another unsettling event took place when the Titanic left Southampton docks narrowly escaping a collision with the America Line’s S.S. New York.
24. Superstitious Titanic fans
Some superstitious Titanic fans point to this narrow collision escape as the worst kind of omen for a ship departing on its first voyage.
The fatal Iceberg
25. The lookout saw an iceberg
On the 14th of April at about 11:30 p.m., a lookout spotted an iceberg. The engines made a sharp turn and the Titanic seemed to graze along the side of the berg, sprinkling ice fragments on the forward deck.
26. Unaware of the danger
The lookouts were relieved, not knowing that the iceberg had a sharp underwater spur, which slashed a 300-foot gash in the hull below the ship’s waterline.
27. The slow descend
By the time the captain saw the damaged area with Thomas Andrews, (the designer of the Titanic), five compartments were already filling with seawater, and the bow of the ship was leaning alarmingly downward.
28. Sinking estimation
Andrews did a quick calculation and estimated that Titanic might remain afloat for an hour and a half, perhaps slightly more.
29. After the iceberg collision
A little more than an hour later a confusing and disorganized evacuation began with the lowering of the first lifeboat.
30. Confusion and chaos
During the confusion and chaos, nearly every lifeboat would be launched under-filled, some with only a handful of passengers.
31. Women and children first
In compliance with the law of the sea, women and children boarded the boats first.
32. Exceeding Thomas Andrews’ prediction
Despite the Titanic designer’s prediction the Titanic stubbornly stayed afloat for close to three hours.
33. Craven cowardice and extraordinary bravery
Those 3 hours witnessed acts of craven cowardice and extraordinary bravery which became an integral part of the Titanic legend.
The sinking of The Titanic
34. Beneath the surface
The Titanic finally dove beneath the ocean’s surface at about 2:20 a.m. on the 15th of April, 1912.
35. Titanic’s distress call
After receiving Titanic’s distress call at midnight, Cunard’s ship, ‘Carpathia’ heroically navigated around the icebergs, and managed to save 705 survivors from the lifeboats.
Titanic’s disaster repercussions
36. The investigations
At least five separate inquiry boards conducted meticulous hearings on the Titanic’s sinking, on both sides of the Atlantic.
37. It took 73 years for the ship’s wreckage to be found
On the 1st of September, 1985, Dr.Robert Ballard and scientist Jean-Louis Michel located the remains of the Titanic. 40% of the crew all came from Southampton, with only 23 women as part of the 885 strong crew.
38. Titanic’s demise
In popular culture the ship’s demise has taken on a deeper, almost mythic, meaning. Many view this devastating tragedy as a morality play about the hazards of human hubris: Titanic’s creators believed they had built an unsinkable ship that could not be vanquished by the laws of nature!
This boldness explains the thrilling impact Titanic’s sinking had on the public. There was extensive scepticism that the ship could not possibly have sunk, and, due to the era’s slow and unreliable means of communication, misinformation thrived.
40. Newspapers initial reports
Initial reports in the newspapers were that the ship had collided with an iceberg but remained afloat and was being towed to port with everyone on board.
Early movies about the Titanic
Saved from the Titanic (1912)
A truly fascinating fact is that this first-ever Titanic film came out only 29 days after the boat sank!
In nacht und eis (1912)
Another silent drama, “Night Time in the Ice” was directed by Mime Misu and filmed in northern Germany. On the 17th of August, the movie had its premiere at a Berlin theatre.
Atlantic, also known as Disaster in the Atlantic (1929)
This was the very first “talkie” to be inspired by the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage.
Interestingly, in 1941, Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, was determined to create a big-budget film about history’s most famous shipwreck. Of course, with World War II underway it wasn’t exactly a faithful retelling!
Do you know any history or interesting facts about The Titanic? Share them in the comments below!
Frequently asked questions about The Titanic
Which company built the Titanic?
The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland by the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff
Who owned the Titanic?
The Ship Itself was actually owned by an American tycoon called John Pierpoint Morgan. The Titanic was however registered as a British ship as Morgan’s company owned the controlling stake in the successful British shipping company, White Star Line.
Who was the captain of the titanic?
The Titanic's captain was Edward John Smith (27 January 1850 – 15 April 1912). It's been alleged that he was in bed, drunk, at the time of the collision with the iceberg.