With construction of a Titanic replica well underway in China, we’ve unearthed a few interesting facts about the original.
1. The RMS Titanic was the world’s largest passenger ship when it entered service, measuring 269 metres (882 feet) in length, and the largest man-made moving object on Earth. The largest passenger vessel is now Harmony of the Seas, at 362.12 metres.
2. The ship burned around 600 tonnes of coal a day – hand shovelled into its furnaces by a team of 176 men. Almost 100 tonnes of ash were ejected into the sea every 24 hours.
3. The ship’s interiors were loosely inspired by those at the Ritz hotel in London. Facilities on board included a gym, pool, Turkish bath, a kennel for first class dogs, and a squash court. It even had its own on board newspaper – the Atlantic Daily Bulletin.
4. There were 20,000 bottles of beer on board, 1,500 bottles of wine and 8,000 cigars – all for the use of first-class passengers.
5. The Grand Staircase on board descended down seven of the ship’s 10 decks and featured oak panelling, bronze cherubs and paintings. Replicas can be found at the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri.
6. The staircase at the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick, contains banisters from the Grand Staircase of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic. They are presumed to have been identical.
7. Only 16 wooden lifeboats and four collapsible boats were carried, enough to accommodate 1,178 people. That’s only one-third of Titanic’s total capacity, but more than legally required.
8. There were 246 injuries and two deaths recorded during the ship’s 26-month construction in Belfast.
9. Twenty horses were required to carry the main anchor.
10. 100,000 people turned up to see the ship’s launch on May 31, 1911.
11. 22 tons of soap and tallow (rendered beef or mutton fat) were smeared on the slipway to assist its unhindered passage into the River Lagan.
12. The ship made two stops after leaving Southampton – at Cherbourg in northern France, and Cobh (then Queenstown) in Ireland.
13. Of the 885 crew on board, just 23 were female. 699 boarded in Southampton, and four in 10 were natives of the English town.
14. The last supper served to first-class passengers consisted of 11 courses.
15. First-class passengers were given a music book containing 352 songs. Musicians on board were required to know them all, in case requests were made.
16. John Jacob Astor IV was the richest passenger on board, with a net worth of around $85m (approximately $2bn today), and went down with the ship. One legend claims that after the ship hit the iceberg he quipped to a waiter: “I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous”.
17. Another notable victim was Benjamin Guggenheim, an American businessman. Realising that the ship was going down, he and his valet, Victor Giglio, reputedly changed into their evening wear while he remarked: “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” They were last spotted on deck chairs drinking brandy and smoking cigars.
18. Noel Leslie, the Countess of Rothes, was also on board, but survived. She is mentioned in an episode of Downton Abbey. “Isn’t this terrible? When you think how excited Lucy Rothes was at the prospect,” remarks the Countess of Grantham when she hears of the disaster.
19. Two of the nine dogs on board were rescued – a Pomeranian and a Pekinese.
20. Numerous people held tickets for the journey, but did not actually sail, including Milton S. Hershey, founder of the chocolate firm, Guglielmo Marconi, and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who died on the RMS Lusitania three years later.
21. The last remaining survivor of the disaster, Millvina Dean, died on May 31, 2009, aged 97. She was two months old at the time.
22. The iceberg was spotted at 11.40pm on April 14, 1912, by lookout Frederick Fleet, who proclaimed: “Iceberg! Right ahead!” Fleet survived the disaster and was a lookout on the RMS Oceanic during the Twenties, before serving in the Second World War. Pranksters placed a pair of binoculars on his grave in 2012 with a note saying: “Sorry they’re 100 years too late”.
23. The iceberg was around 100 feet tall and came from a glacier in Greenland.
24. Just 37 seconds elapsed between the sighting of the iceberg and the collision.
25. First Officer William McMaster Murdoch ordered the ship to turn, but it was too large to do so in time. It has been suggested that the ship would not have sunk if it hit the iceberg head-on. Murdoch went down with the ship; a memorial to him is found in his hometown of Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.
26. Edward Smith, the ship’s captain, also went down with the vessel. His last words were: “Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.” A statue of him can be seen in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
27. The ship received six warnings about icebergs during the voyage.
28. A lifeboat drill, scheduled for April 14, was cancelled for unknown reasons.
29. The ship broke in two at around 2.20am on April 15, and sunk, sending all remaining passengers into the ocean. The temperature would have been -2°C – few would have survived longer than 15 minutes in the water, while around one in five would have died within two minutes from cold shock.
30. Charles Joughin, however, the ship’s baker, reportedly trod water for two hours before being rescued with little ill-effects. He claimed he had not felt the cold due to the amount of whiskey he had drunk.
31. Twenty-six of those on board were honeymooning couples.
32. Musicians played for two hours and five minutes as the ship sank.
33. The SS Californian was criticised for ignoring the Titanic’s distress signals. She was sunk herself three years later by a German submarine.
34. The RMS Carpathia arrived at 4am and transported the survivors to New York. 40,000 greeted its arrival at Pier 54.
35. Only 306 bodies were found. The dead were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Its Maritime Museum has a dedicated section that includes a deckchair recovered from the wreck, mortuary bags, and the shoes of an unknown victim. See maritime.museum.gov.ns.ca.
36. The wreck of the Titanic was discovered in 1985 and lies 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, around 12,500 feet below the surface. The marine dive specialists Deep Ocean Expeditions previously offered trips to the wreck using a Mir submersible chartered from the Russian Academy of Sciences – with berths costing $59,000 – but stopped offering them in 2012.
37. The bow penetrated 18 metres into the sea bed.
38. Dozens of films and documentaries have been made about the disaster, the most controversial of which was commissioned by Joseph Goebbels in 1943. Its plot discredited British and American businessmen and features brave German passengers. The epilogue states: “The deaths of 1,500 people remain un-atoned, forever a testament of Britain’s endless quest for profit.”
39. James Cameron’s 1997 effort is undoubtedly the most successful – it has grossed more than $2bn and won 11 Oscars. (click here to know more about Leo Dicaprio)
40. The film’s main theme song – My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion – was the biggest selling single of 1998 and has been covered by Neil Diamond, Sarah Brightman, Kenny G (instrumental) – and Miss Piggy from the Muppets.
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