It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a century since the RMS Titanic sunk, shocking the world. There have been numerous stories told about the Titanic since the tragedy happened, and it’s one event that never gets old.
It’s chilling to imagine “the unsinkable ship” that night, traveling through water that was so still that the Captain had to worry about icebergs. It’s sad to think that it wasn’t even bad weather that they traveled through, just eerie calm. The whole time, no one on the ship had any idea that their lives were about to change forever in just a matter of hours. How different the passengers may have spent their last nights had they known that the ship was about to go into a watery grave where it would never return. There was the calm sea, the fact that the iceberg wasn’t spotted in time, and of course, the ship’s inability to take a sharp turn away from the iceberg. The Titanic had only a little over a minute to try to change its course, and it just wasn’t enough time to make a difference. Once the Titanic struck the iceberg, there was a ticking clock on all the lives on the ship; there was only so much time before it would be at the bottom of the ocean, and there weren’t enough lifeboats for all. That’s the story of the sinking of the Titanic — there was a lot that we already knew about the tragedy because of the many movies and books available, but what about the true stories that we don’t know?
15. An Optical Illusion Prevented the Ship from Being Rescued
There have been a lot of theories about what really happened the night the Titanic sank mainly because it seemed like such a blunder that never should have happened in the first place. British historian Tim Malton believed that there were many optical illusions going on the night that the Titanic sank that not only prevented the crew from seeing the iceberg but also prevented other ships from seeing the Titanic at a time when they could have helped them. Smithsonian magazine reported, “Atmospheric conditions in the area that night was ripe for super refraction, Maltin found. This extraordinary bending of light causes maraging, which, he discovered, was recorded by several ships in the area. He says it also prevented the Titanic’s lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time and the freighter Californian from identifying the ocean liner and communicating with it.”
14. They Were Supposed to Do A Lifeboat Drill
The night the Titanic sunk, everything was in chaos, and if the movies are a good indication of how things went that night, it was a wonder that anyone got on those lifeboats at all. Not only were the wealthy men and women taking their sweet old time getting on the boats, but the officers putting them in the boats weren’t even filling them up to maximum capacity. It seemed like it was one huge sh!t show, and considering it was a luxury liner, you would think they would have had better procedures than that. Why did no one know what the hell was going on that night? Apparently, it was reported later that there was supposed to be a lifeboat drill the very day that the Titanic sunk, but the Captain canceled the drill, and no one knows why. It could have been because they were overconfident that they would never need the boats in the first place, and maybe they thought the drill would be a waste of time.
13. The Ship Was on Fire the Entire Trip
Seriously! It’s true. The whole time that the ship was sailing, it was on fire, and that would have easily caused a lot of danger to the passengers. As if an iceberg wasn’t bad enough… The fire began in the coal bunkers and started almost immediately after the ship embarked on the voyage. J. Dilley, one of the surviving stokers, explained what happened: “We didn’t get that fire out, and among the stokers, there was talk that we’d have to empty the big coal bunkers after we’d put the passengers off in New York and then call on the fireboats there to help us put out the fire.” There was a lot of talk that the fire had something to do with the sinking of the ship, but after investigation, they found that the fire had been put out a day before the Titanic hit the iceberg.
12. The Musicians Continued to Play
In the movie Titanic by James Cameron, one of the saddest moments of the film showed the musicians that continued to play amongst the chaos of the sinking ship. Even when they knew that no one was paying attention to them, they carried on as if they were determined to do the job that they were hired for. You felt bad for them because it was as if they had completely given up on the opportunity to survive and just tried to keep others calm while the boats were being loaded up. Well, the musicians were real on the RMS Titanic, and they did play the entire time that the ship was sinking. Unfortunately, and it’s no big surprise, none of the musicians survived that fateful night. They truly did play until the end and went down with the ship.
11. The Titanic Tragedy Was Predicted by William T. Stead
One shocking fact that you may not be aware of is that the William T. Stead actually wrote a fictional novel in 1886 about an Atlantic mail steamer sinking. As if that’s not eerie enough, in the story, most of the passengers drowned because there weren’t enough lifeboats on the ship. If you’re thinking it was some form of prediction, it wasn’t; it was just the way things were run back then that the likelihood of something like that happening was high. Stead was trying to draw attention to the lax nautical regulations that these steamers had. The lax regulations back in that time didn’t require that the ships had to have enough lifeboats for everyone, which was clearly a problem. Stead went on to write another novel in 1892 that starred the White Star Line’s Majestic liner, and that ship actually hit an iceberg. “There was a sound as if the steamer was crashing through the ice and the screws were churning amid ice blocks. Passengers felt their way cautiously to the deck. It was wet and clammy and bitterly cold. Every half-minute the fog whistle blew. The crashing of ice against the sides of the ship and clamping of ice under the screws made it difficult to speak so as to be heard. Then there came a cry: ‘Icebergs on the starboard.’” Creepy? Definitely.
10. Milton Hershey Was Supposed to Be on the Titanic
We’re sure there were probably many people that canceled tickets or had considered taking the maiden voyage on the Titanic and were grateful that they never did. So many people lost their lives that night that it’s sad to think about how many lives could have been saved had they just had been able to take the lifeboats on the boat. So many influential people died because of sheer stupidity, and there could have been even more. It turned out that Milton Hershey, the man responsible for all that delicious Hershey’s chocolate, was supposed to be on the Titanic. For reasons unknown, he decided to cancel his reservation and not take the trip after all. He was probably thanking his lucky stars after he heard what happened to the ship and all the passengers. A blessing in disguise some would say.
9. The Navigation Test Was Failed by the Captain
What? We all want to hope that this is not true, but it turned out that the Captain may have had some issues with navigating ships. There were many rumors surrounding the Captain of the Titanic before it went down that fateful night. The Captain seemed a little clueless at times even though he was responsible for everyone on the ship. He ignored the iceberg warnings even though he had years of experience in those situations; he instructed the ship to go faster against his better judgment, and then he stood there in shock for the most part as boat after boat was sent off with half the occupant load. How did this guy even get his job? It took until 2012 for the world to discover that Captain Smith had failed his navigation exams the first time he had taken them. I mean, we all fail tests at some point in our lives, but the one Captain Smith failed seems like a big one.
8. A Japanese Passenger Was Considered Dishonorable for Not Dying on the Ship
And the cold as ice award goes to Japan! There was only one Japanese passenger on the Titanic that night, and he survived the terrible ordeal. Apparently, that was not a cause for celebration in Japan. Masabumi Hosono was a civil servant studying railway systems when he boarded the Titanic. Like most men on the ship, Masabumi assumed that he was a dead man as they were only boarding women and children. At some point during the night, however, one crew member announced that there were two seats left and Masabumi and another man took the seats, and their lives were saved. Shockingly, when Masabumi returned to Japan, he was branded a coward as many believed he should have gone down with the ship instead of surviving “in such a shameful manner.” He was fired from his government job and ostracized from the community in which he lived.
7. Not All the Smokestacks Worked
As if the Titanic was not impressive enough, they just had to keep going to try to make it the most impressive ship that it could be. It was considered to be the ship of dreams, a ship like no other, and that was why so many of the elite made sure they were aboard the maiden voyage of the Titanic. I’m sure they all regretted it the night it sunk, however, but hindsight is 20/20. When it came to the design of the ship, they wanted it to look glorious, and they definitely pulled that vision off. They built four iconic smokestacks for the Titanic, and everyone assumed they were there for a purpose, but only three of the four smokestacks actually worked. The fourth one was just there to make the ship look more impressive. Seems kind of silly, but so do a lot of things they did with the Titanic.
6. Forbidden Romance
People believe that the story of Rose and Jack was completely fictional, especially when it came to the Heart of the Ocean. But it turned out that there was such a romance on the ship that included the exchange of a very valuable sapphire necklace. Kate Florence Phillips and Henry Morley were lovers, and he gave her the necklace while aboard the Titanic. Morley was a wealthy married man who planned on leaving his wife and children for Kate, who was his assistant. They were going to elope while on the Titanic and then start a new life together. Kate made it on a lifeboat but Henry wasn’t so lucky, and he died that night. Kate was pregnant with his child, and eventually, their daughter, Ellen, as a 76-year-old woman, retrieved a photo of her father. What a story!
5. London Daily Mail Made a Boo-Boo
When it comes to reporting the news, it’s very important to get your facts straight so that you don’t look like a complete ass later. The British magazine, London Daily Mail, didn’t get that memo, however, as they reported that the Titanic had indeed sunk but that everyone survived. Yikes! That would have made everyone waiting for loved ones very happy, that is, until they found out that more than half the passengers on the ship died that night. In their initial story about the sinking on April 16, 1912, the London Daily Mail reported, “Titanic Sunk, No Lives Lost” in the newspaper. There were other papers that reported the same thing as the photo listed here. It must have been terribly embarrassing for the newspaper when they found out the reality of the situation. There must have been a huge outcry against the paper for the false news. Lesson: always check your sources before printing something, especially when it’s about something as serious as the sinking of the Titanic.
4. Did They Really Hit an Iceberg?
There have been many myths and legends swirling around the night that the Titanic sunk, probably because no one could really figure out why the Titanic hit the iceberg in the first place. When it came time to investigate the sinking, both British and US investigators claimed that the ship had been traveling too fast. Everyone believed that had the Titanic been traveling at a slower speed, there would have been less damage, and the ship could have survived. There was word of a cover-up in 2010 when the granddaughter of the second Officer Charles Lightoller claimed that the accident was the helmsman’s, Robert Hitchins’ fault because he panicked and turned the ship in the wrong direction. Her grandfather apparently tried to cover the whole thing up because he was worried about tarnishing the White Star Line’s reputation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, two astronomers from Texas State University also claimed that there was a super moon that night that set the iceberg in motion towards the Titanic.
3. The New York Times
The Titanic sinking was obviously really big news at the time; it would have been at any time. All those lives lost on one of the most luxurious steamers around. It was beyond the most tragic event at that time and in all of history. When the sinking happened, The New York Times devoted a whopping 75 pages of their spread just for the Titanic coverage. That’s insane, especially if it had happened these days. But back then, they didn’t have news that was much bigger than that, and they continued to cover the disaster for a full week after the sinking. That’s pretty impressive, but at the time, there would have been a lot of things to cover. They would have talked about the passengers that died and the families they left behind, not to mention what exactly went wrong with the ship and all the politics behind that. They would have had mountains of news to report.
2. Elizabeth Shutes Hated the Smell of Ice
Remember in the movie the Titanic, one of the crew members who were watching out for icebergs stated that there was nothing to worry about because he could smell ice a mile away. He couldn’t have been more wrong about that, but the ice story had some connection to one of those aboard the ship. Elizabeth Shutes was a passenger on the Titanic, and she used to complain about how the smell of ice prevented her from getting any sleep. It bothered her because it reminded her of an ice cave that she visited once. She was a survivor of the Titanic, and she wrote a gripping account of the sinking. She was a governess to a nineteen-year-old girl named Margaret Graham. Elizabeth was one person that wrote about the fact that there were only 36 people in her boat, and it could fit double that.
1. The Californian Was Close By
When the Titanic sent out its distress signals, no one came to help them during the time when more people could have been saved. The Carpathia was the only ship that ended up showing up, and it was hours after the Titanic had been sitting in its watery grave. It turns out that there was another ship called the Californian that was only 19 miles away from the Titanic, a lot closer than the Carpathia. So why didn’t they come to the rescue? Well, it turned out that the wireless operator for the Californian had already gone to bed and didn’t hear the distress signals issued by the Titanic. The crew woke the operator up at one point and mentioned the white signals in the air, but since they weren’t red, he figured there was no cause for concern and issued no orders. Many people believed that if the Californian had responded, there could have been many more lives saved.