The world’s largest man-made moving object – measuring 269 metres in length – struck an iceberg at 11.40pm on 14 April. Despite several warnings, Titanic was racing through dangerous waters almost at its top speed of 23 knots. The berg was spotted only 30 seconds before impact, thanks in part to the fact that lookouts were not equipped with binoculars.
It took just two-and-a-half hours for the colossal vessel to sink, sending survivors into the freezing waters. Overall, the maritime disaster claimed over 1,500 lives.
As today marks 102 years since the tragedy, here are 10 extraordinary facts about the ‘unsinkable’ liner…
1) Written 14 years earlier, Morgan Robertson’s novel Futility is eerily similar to the real life catastrophe. The uncanny resemblances include:
- The fictional liner is called the Titan. It is the world’s largest ship and is even described as “unsinkable”.
- Both ships struck an iceberg on the starboard side in the North Atlantic, in April.
Titanic was moving at 22.5 knots, while the Titan was at 25.
- Their final positions were between 300-400 miles from Newfoundland.
- Neither ship had enough lifeboats.
2) Originally designed for 64 lifeboats, Titanic only had 20 – not enough for the 2,200 passengers and crew on board. Many of the launched boats were not filled to capacity, with one carrying 24 people, even though it could fit 65. A lifeboat drill was planned for the day it hit the iceberg, but it was cancelled.
3) With the Atlantic Ocean’s temperature below zero, many people died within minutes of entering the water. The ship’s baker, Charles Joughin, however, survived for two hours, claiming he could not feel the cold as he was blind-drunk on whisky.
4) The iceberg caused a crack of over 200ft along Titanic’s starboard side. The size of the rupture meant five of the forward compartments flooded, with the ship’s design allowing for four to flood safely. It is widely believed that if the collision was head on, Titanic would have survived.
5) A day later, on 16 April, the Daily Mail reported on the disaster. The headline read, “Titanic sunk. No lives lost”. The true nature of the tragedy will not be known for several days.
6) Alongside the 705 survivors were two of the nine dogs brought aboard: a Pekinese and a Pomeranian.
7) Titanic had its own newspaper, The Atlantic Daily Bulletin. Printed every day, it included news, stock prices and horseracing results, as well as the day’s menu. (The last meal for the first-class passengers had 11 courses.)
8) Only three of its four funnels were needed to release steam from the boilers, which were burning through 650 tons of coal every day. The fourth was added for decoration only, as the designers thought it would make Titanic look bigger.
9) A band entertained first-class passengers throughout the voyage, having memorised all 350 songs from The White Star Line Songbook. As the ship was sinking, the band continued to play for two hours to calm people down.
10) Counted among the dead were some notable names…
- John Jacob Astor IV was one of the richest people in the world, but even his immense riches could not get him a spot on a lifeboat.
- WT Stead, a founding figure of investigative journalism, was allegedly last seen sitting in a leather chair as the ship sank, reading a book.
- Isidor Straus, owner of Macy’s department store, and his wife Ida died together. Ida was about to get into a lifeboat when she decided to stay with her husband.
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