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October 31, 2015

16 Incredible Stories You Never Knew About the RMS Titanic

You may already know that the Titanic hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on the night of April 14, 1912 and sunk just over two-and-a-half hours later, but do you know the following 16 facts about the Titanic?

1. The Weather Was Perfect

The Titanic sets sail from England

It's easy to picture the Titanic battling huge waves at sea, with the fog and rain obscuring the iceberg that famously consigned her to a watery grave. In reality, the opposite was true. As the Titanic sailed toward her doom, the weather was perfectly, eerily calm. With no wind or waves, the sea was stretched out like a flawless mirror, the only ripples in the water coming from the ship herself as she glided along. And that perfect weather may just have been her doom.

2. It Was on Fire the Whole Trip

Location of where the Titanic sank

Shortly before her fateful maiden voyage, a fire started in the Titanic's coal bunkers. As revealed during the British inquiry into the disaster, the flames were still raging when the ship set out for New York, creating a potentially dangerous situation for those on board.

According to surviving stoker J. Dilley: “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.” That didn’t turn out to be necessary, since Dilley claimed the flames were extinguished when the iceberg ripped through the hull and flooded the bunkers with seawater.

3. The Captain Failed His Navigation Test

Captain Edward John Smith

Edward John Smith, captain of the Titanic, has been the subject of countless myths since the fateful night when he went down with his ship. Many even believe that he personally saved a child's life before disappearing into the Atlantic. However, it has also been alleged that this heroic picture isn't the whole truth.

Not only did Captain Smith ignore several ice warnings and fail to keep the ship at a reasonable speed, he also allowed lifeboats to leave the ship half-empty—the first boat to depart had just 27 passengers in 65 seats. Smith additionally failed to issue a clear “abandon ship” order, which led to many passengers not realizing the gravity of the situation they found themselves in.

In 2012, it was revealed that Smith had actually failed his navigation exams the first time he took them. He did eventually pass in 1888, but that initial failure was perhaps a bad omen. Ironically, before the Titanic disaster, Smith had actually earned himself the nickname of “the millionaire's captain” due to his reputation for smooth reliability.

4. Canceled Lifeboat Drill

Rescued lifeboats, all that is left from the great ship Titanic, New York, 1912.

Originally, a lifeboat drill was scheduled to take place on board the Titanic on April 14, 1912 - the day the Titanic hit the iceberg. However, for an unknown reason, Captain Smith canceled the drill. Many believe that had the drill taken place, more lives could have been saved.

5. Lifeboats Not Full

Last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic, 15 April 1912.

Not only were there not enough lifeboats to save everyone on board, most of the lifeboats that were launched off the Titanic were not filled to capacity. For instance, the first lifeboat to launch, Lifeboat 7 from the starboard side, only carried 24 people, despite having a capacity of 65 (two additional people later transferred to Lifeboat 7 from Lifeboat 5). However, it was Lifeboat 1 that carried the fewest people - only seven crew and five passengers (a total of 12 people) despite having a capacity for 40.

6. Only Seconds

Illustration of the Titanic sinking

From the time the lookouts sounded the alert, the officers on the bridge had only 37 seconds to react before the Titanic hit the iceberg. In that time, First Officer Murdoch ordered "hard a-starboard" (which turned the ship to port -- left). He also ordered the engine room to put the engines in reverse. The Titanic did bank left, but it wasn't quite enough.

7. The Sole Japanese Passenger

Masabumi Hosono, 1912.

The only Japanese passenger on board was a middle-aged civil servant named Masabumi Hosono, who was in Europe studying railway systems before he boarded the Titanic to start his journey back home. When the ship began to sink, he made his way to the main deck, determined to face death with dignity. With the “women and children first” policy enforced at gunpoint, his survival seemed unlikely, but Hosono still found himself looking for any chance to get to safety.

His opportunity came when a crew member shouted that there were two spaces left in a lifeboat. After seeing another man jump in, Hosono followed suit. If he had known what the rest of his life would be like, he might have decided to go down with the ship.

At the time, it was considered much better for a man to suffer an honorable death than to survive in a shameful manner. When he arrived back in Japan, Hosono found himself branded a coward and ostracized from his community. He was also fired from his government job, although he was later rehired. A number of negative reports about an Asian survivor in lifeboat 13 didn’t help matters much, since these were often associated with Hosono.

In 1997, he was somewhat exonerated after his handwritten account of the disaster was discovered among his personal belongings. In a letter written to his wife, Hosono mentions that he was in lifeboat 10, meaning that he couldn’t have been the man in lifeboat 13 after all.

8. The Titanic's Newspaper

An officer of a period liner edits the daily paper. Titanic's was called “The Atlantic Daily Bulletin.”

The Titanic seemed to have everything on board, including its own newspaper. The Atlantic Daily Bulletin was printed every day on board the Titanic. The newspaper included news, advertisements, stock prices, horse-racing results, society gossip, and the day's menu.

9. Only Two Bathtubs

Titanic Turkish Bath

Although most passengers had to share bathrooms (only the two promenade suites in first class had private bathrooms), third class had it rough with only two bathtubs for more than 700 passengers.

10. Another Boat Was Closer for Rescue

Life jacket inspection

When the Titanic began sending out distress signals, the Californian, rather than the Carpathia, was the closest ship; yet the Californian did not respond until it was much too late to help. At 12:45 a.m. on April 15, 1912, crew members on the Californian saw mysterious lights in the sky (the distress flares sent up from the Titanic) and woke up their captain to tell him about it. Unfortunately, the captain issued no orders.

Since the ship's wireless operator had already gone to bed, the Californian was unaware of any distress signals from the Titanic until the morning, but by then the Carpathia had already picked up all the survivors. Many people believe that if the Californian had responded to the Titanic's pleas for help, many more lives could have been saved.

11. Two Dogs Rescued

Dogs on Titanic

With the order for women and children first into the lifeboats, plus the knowledge that there were not enough lifeboats for everyone on board the Titanic to be saved, it is a bit surprising that two dogs made it into the lifeboats. Of the nine dogs on board the Titanic, the two that were rescued were a Pomeranian and a Pekinese.

12. The Fourth Funnel

Actually the fourth funnel did not have any function at all. It even exposed the steamer additional air resistance.

In what is now an iconic image, the side view of the Titanic clearly shows four cream and black funnels. While three of these released the steam from the boilers, the fourth was just for show. The designers thought the ship would look more impressive with four funnels rather than three.

13. A Royal Mail Ship

On board the Titanic

The R.M.S. Titanic was a Royal Mail Ship, a designation which meant the Titanic was officially responsible for delivering mail for the British postal service. On board the Titanic was a Sea Post Office with five mail clerks (two British and three American). These mail clerks were responsible for the 3,423 sacks of mail (seven million individual pieces of mail) on board the Titanic. Interestingly, although no mail has yet been recovered from the wreck of the Titanic, if it were, the U.S. Postal Service would still try to deliver it (the USPS because most of the mail was being sent to the U.S.).

14. Corpses Recovered

Titanic survivors return to England

On April 17, 1912, the day before survivors of the Titanic disaster reached New York, the Mackay-Bennett was sent off from Halifax, Nova Scotia to search for bodies. On board the Mackay-Bennett were embalming supplies, 40 embalmers, tons of ice, and 100 coffins. Although the Mackay-Bennett found 306 bodies, 116 of these were too badly damaged to take all the way back to shore. Attempts were made to identify each body found. Additional ships were also sent out to look for bodies. In all, 328 bodies were found, but 119 of these were badly damaged and thus were buried at sea.

15. Charles Joughin, The Titanic's Baker, Survived Because of Intoxication

Charles Joughin was the chief baker on the Titanic, and when the iceberg struck. and things started happening, he decided this was the perfect time for a drink. Joughin ended up extremely intoxicated, and the alcohol in his body actually kept him alive while he floated in the freezing waters until he was rescued.

16. Titanic Ticket Prices

The cost of a first class ticket on RMS Titanic ranged from £30 to £870 – that’s the equivalent of between £2,592 and £71,778 in today’s money. First class passenger could stay in a parlour suite or opt for a small, and rather pricey, private deck. They also had access to other amenities, such as a gymnasium, swimming pool, Turkish bath, elevators and even a squash court.

The average price for a second class ticket was £13, which is the equivalent of £1,123 today. Second class passengers could enjoy their own library, while the men had full access to a private smoking room.

Third class passengers paid from between £7 (£605 today) and £9 (£777), and the cost was determined by their place of origin.


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