It was supposed to be unsinkable, but when the 52,000-ton Titanic hit an iceberg 400 miles from Newfoundland, it quickly descended into a watery grave – taking many of its passengers with it. While most people know these facts, other details surrounding the notorious tragedy are not as well-known – but are no less chilling. Here, then, are 20 facts about the sinking of the Titanic that you probably didn’t know.
20.A lifeboat drill was canceled
On April 14, 1912 – just one day before the Titanic met its tragic end – a lifeboat drill was supposed to have taken place. For reasons that remain unknown, however, Captain Edward Smith called it off. Had it gone ahead, perhaps more passengers might have survived.
19. The Titanic’s distress flares were ignored
Not long before 1:00 a.m. on April 15, the crew onboard the Californian, which was sailing to Boston, Massachusetts, from Liverpool in England saw the Titanic’s distress flares in the distance. Its captain, however, decided against taking action. This meant that it was down to the Carpathia, which was further away, to rescue the survivors.
18. The Titanic sank 400 miles from land
The fact that the Californian sailed on was made worse by just how far the Titanic was from land. After all, the vessel was 400 miles south-east of Newfoundland, where the Atlantic Ocean is more than two miles deep.
17. 38,000 tons of water filled the Titanic’s bow
The Titanic’s bow was filled with so much water – approximately 38,000 tons, in fact – that before it snapped off, its stern was lifted high above sea level. Of course, this made for one of the most memorable scenes in the eponymous 1997 movie.
16. The first lifeboat was less than half full
Boat 7, the first of the Titanic’s lifeboats to be launched, could accommodate 65 people. When it was lowered at 00:40 a.m, however, just 28 souls were onboard. Officers apparently believed that lowering a fully loaded lifeboat could have resulted in the vessel buckling under the weight.
15. The Titanic received six iceberg warnings
That there were icebergs in the section of the Atlantic the Titanic was sailing in should have come as no surprise, for the vessel received six warnings before its devastating collision. One was sent by the Mesaba, and while this message required the attention of Captain Smith, it’s believed that he never saw it.
14. The Titanic hit the iceberg a minute after it was spotted
The 1912 Wreck Commission revealed that, after the Titanic caught sight of the infamous iceberg – when it was still about 1,500 feet away – just 37 seconds elapsed until the two collided. Recent research, however, revealed that around a minute passed before the ship ploughed into the ice.
13. The water temperature was 28°F
When the Titanic’s stern separated from its bow, at approximately 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the passengers who hadn’t made it to the lifeboats were plunged into icy waters of 28°F. Around 20 percent would have perished in just two minutes, while the majority of the others would have succumbed to the cold within a quarter of an hour.
12. The Titanic’s band did indeed continue playing
A detail made famous by James Cameron’s Titanic movie seems almost too extraordinary to be true: the ship’s musicians, who understood the gravity of what was happening, continued playing for more than two hours after the ship hit the iceberg. But it is true. And the last words of Wallace Hartley, the Titanic’s bandleader, were apparently, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.”
11. Just 306 bodies were recovered
More than 1,500 of the Titanic’s 2,224 passengers and crew died when the ship sank, but just 306 bodies were later recovered. Of these, 209 were shipped to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The remainder, which had decomposed to a greater extent, were buried at sea.
10. There were 13 sets of honeymooners onboard
There were 13 pairs of newlyweds onboard the Titanic, and among them were 24-year-old Victor Peñasco y Castellano and his 22-year-old bride, Maria. Victor secured his new wife a place on one of the lifeboats that was later picked up by the Carpathia. There was no room for him, however, and the harsh waters of the Atlantic later claimed his life. Nobody ever found his body.
9. More than 50 children died
The Titanic accommodated 128 children aged up to 14, and sadly 53 of them – all but one of whom were traveling in steerage, the lowest class – perished. The youngest, Sidney Leslie Goodwin, was just 19 months old.
8. More than half of the Titanic’s passengers could have been saved
Just 31.6 percent of the Titanic’s passengers and crew successfully made it to land after the ship’s sinking. This ratio could have been 53.4 percent if the vessel’s lifeboats had been filled to their designated capacities.
7. A fire may have led to the Titanic sinking
Some Titanic experts have a theory behind why the ship was traveling so fast, and why it was therefore unable to avoid the iceberg. It seemed that a coal fire may have broken out in one of the bunkers. This was something that wasn’t particularly uncommon, but if the fire became uncontrollable then the ship would have needed to reach New York quicker than planned. In fact, evidence of a modest fire was later uncovered.
6. The Titanic narrowly avoided another collision
When the Titanic set off from Southampton, England, it almost collided with the City New York, which was designed to be the Atlantic’s fastest liner. Only the quick thinking of Captain Smith avoided a crash, though some believe this was the worst possible omen ahead of a maiden voyage.
5. The Titanic chief designer stared at a painting in his last moments
Naval architect Thomas Andrews was the man in charge of designing the Titanic, so it was natural that he should travel on its maiden voyage. However, John Stewart, a steward, reportedly saw him in the first-class smoking room minutes before the ship sank. He was gazing blankly at a painting of south-west England’s Plymouth harbor – where the Titanic was due to return to – and his lifejacket had been left on an adjacent table.
4. The No.2 officer had “a queer feeling” about the Titanic
Henry Wilde, the Titanic’s second-in-command, never did want to travel on its first journey. In a letter written on board the ship, while it had stopped in Queenstown, Ireland, the No. 2 officer explained to his sister, “I still don’t like this ship… I have a queer feeling about it.” This and his other letters sold for $30,000 at an auction in October 2016.
3. Captain Smith may have had the wrong type of experience
The Titanic’s maiden voyage was supposed to be the last of Captain Smith’s 37-year career. He may have had lots of experience at the helm, but he was used to ships with sails – not vessels with two huge steam engines. Could it have been that the 62-year-old wasn’t necessarily the best man for the job?
2. A book predicted Titanic’s fate
Fourteen years before the Titanic set sail, a book by Morgan Robertson called Futility was published. In it, a British-owned vessel called Titan – “the largest ship ever built” and deemed unsinkable – hit an iceberg and consequently sunk, resulting in the deaths of around half of its passengers in the Atlantic.
1. Two dogs secured places on a lifeboat
There may have been a reluctance to put too many people onto the Titanic’s lifeboats, but two of the nine dogs on the ocean liner somehow found a place. One was a Pekinese, and the other was a Pomeranian.