The tragic tale of the Titanic is regarded as the most infamous naval sinking in history. CALLUM CAMPBELL reveals some little known facts about the disaster. 

The Titanic

1. There wasn’t enough lifeboats, but they didn’t even use all they had

Due to the grievous safety errors and overconfidence in the ship’s durability, the Titanic was only stocked with 18 lifeboats, each with a total capacity of 65 people. That meant that 1170 people could fit in the lifeboats, which is all well and good until you consider that the ship had a total population of 3457 people. What made this worse was that Captain Edward Smith allowed lifeboats to leave without being fully stocked. He let a lifeboat with a capacity of of 65 to leave with 27 people. 

2. A book predicted the Titanic disaster 14 years earlier

14 years before the disaster of The Titanic in 1898, a book was written by author Morgan Robertson called The Wreck of the Titan. It detailed the voyage of a ship called the Titan, which crashes into an iceberg in April and has a massive loss of life due to a shortage of lifeboats. This is creepily similar to the Titanic, down to the name, month on which the ship sank, where it sank and even specifics about the ships equipment, speed and size (Titan was 244m long compared to Titanic which was 269m). Many people ascribed Robertson with precognition and clairvoyance all of which he denied.

3. The brave musicians played music to try to calm passengers

Many brave acts were committed on the dreadful night of the sinking, one of which is owed to the 14 musicians of The Titanic, Theodore Brailey, Roger Bricoux, John Clarke, Wallace Hartley, John Woodward, Percy Taylor, John Hume and Georges Krins.

All of these men were heroes and have been memorised for their actions. After hearing that the ship was sinking they accepted their fate and in order to try and settle the panicking and pained passengers in their final hours they played their instruments with legendary vigour, bold and defiant of the cold waters coming to claim them.

This action greatly settled the crowd and provided them with comfort in a time of distress. A survivor of the tragedy quoted this “Many brave things were done that night but none was more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower into the sea”.

4. The Daily Mail got it wrong

The Daily Mail, based in London, was the first newspaper to hear of the event. They were able to inform the world that the Titanic had sunk; however, somehow they completely skimmed over the fact that there was a disastrous death toll by reporting that there were no deaths and there was a completely successful rescue. How on earth they managed to remain oblivious to the utter disaster that occurred I will never know.

Daily Mail Article announcing Titanic Disaster

5. Japan’s only Titanic survivor was hated by his own county because he survived

A hardworking member of the Japanese Transport Ministry, Masabumi Hosono, boarded The Titanic with the intention of travelling back to his homeland following a business trip in Russia.

After the ship crashed into the fateful iceberg, Masabumi was doubtful that he would survive and wrote a letter to his wife in order to record his final moments. Luckily for Masabumi, there was a spare space on a lifeboat near him and he ushered on.

Due to his lucky escape and the fact he was the only Japanese passenger on the ship when he returned to his country of birth he was greeted with a fair amount of media attention and became a minor celebrity.

This fame was short lived, however, as back in the United States, a first class passenger named Archibald Gracie wrote a vicious commentary on him falsely denouncing him as a stowaway. This turned the tide on Masabumi in Japan with many newspapers stating he was a weak man, who allowed others to die in order to save his own skin and that he should have sacrificed himself to aid others.

Due to the fact that Japanese culture at that time had a large focus on honour, these ideas forced many people against him and resulted in him losing his job. While he managed to reclaim his job, he was still hated until the day he died in 1939.

6. The ship’s baker survived the freezing cold by drinking whiskey

Despite that the main factor of death in the sinking of the Titanic was hypothermia over drowning Charles Joughin, the ship’s baker, claimed that he was able to withstand the hypothermia by drinking obscene amounts of whiskey on the ship. As well as this he displayed remarkable stamina by treading water that was minus 2.2 degrees celsius for two hours. The only damage this inflicted upon him was swollen feet and he did not require medical attention afterwards.

7. The Titanic’s owners had previously recorded only two deaths in nearly 70 years

Despite the catastrophe that happened on the 15th of April, 1912, The Titanic’s company The White Star Line had only had two fatalities previously which is impressive if you consider the company was founded in 1845. 

8. Millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim allowed others to take his seat on the lifeboats

One of the wealthiest passengers aboard the ship was Benjamin Guggenheim, an American businessman. When he and his valet Victor Gigilo were informed of the ship crashing they were extremely nonchalant about the event, perceiving it as a minor inconvenience.

They allowed other passengers to occupy their seats on the lifeboats and when they discovered that they were likely going to die, they were still without a care in the world about the situation. They both dressed up in their finest clothes and were spotted sinking into the ocean sitting on deck chairs while smoking cigars.

Other passengers even stated that Benjamin said: “We are all dressed up and prepared to go down like gentlemen.”

The two spent their final moments watching the world crash down around them while relaxing with a cigar and for that they have earned my admiration and the admiration of many others across the world.

Another factor who had a similar fate was Jacob Astor, after helping his pregnant wife into a lifeboat he was about to get in, however, he spotted two drenched passengers behind him and allowed them to take his place.

This action immediately signed his death sentence and similarly to Guggenheim he was last seen having a smoke.

9. Countess Noel Leslie took charge of a lifeboat and saved many lives

Noel Leslie, Countess of Rothe, was another passenger with a heart of a hero. While her lifeboat was awash with panic she took leadership of the situation and assisted the crew in navigating the freezing waters. Her actions gained her instantaneous respect from the crew and passengers and as a token of appreciation she was given the brass lifeboat number by the crew to commemorate her act. Not once did she stop rowing except when she comforted a hysterical wife that had watched her husband die in front of her.

10. There are many crazy conspiracy theories about the sinking of the Titanic

As any internationally famous event does, the sinking of the Titanic has accumulated many conspiracy theories over the years, some conceivable, some outright insane.

One idea proposes that the Titanic never existed and was simply White Star Line’s previous ship The Olympia which had been damaged on another voyage. Some people think that they simply patched up The Olympia, took insurance out on it then sunk it in order to gain money and dispose of the damaged ship.

Another theory is that The Titanic’s crash was caused by an Egyptian mummy curse. William Stead was a prominent English passenger who was heavily involved with the spiritualism movement and had spent the last few years preaching that a cursed mummy was wreaking havoc about London. When he boarded the ship he regaled the curious passengers with his stories about this mummy. When the ship crashed  a few passengers believed that the mummy curse story Stead had spread was true and it was responsible for the shipwreck.

One conspiracy theory is more of a fun fan theory thought out by fans of the Titanic film (1997). They speculate that Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) survived the events of Titanic and built a new life for himself in America in order to attract Rose (played by Kate Winslet). Speculators think that Jack Dawson became Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby. I suppose it is feasible as they are both in a similar time period, so it is a possibility.

The Titanic has many stories of heroism (Noel Leslie, Jacob Astor) and idiocy (The Daily Mail, Archibald Gracie) and it shows that dire times bring out the best and worst of humanity. I hope you earned some enjoyment, entertainment and education from this essay concerning the tragedy of The Titanic.    

Watch Titanic: Distaster in the Atlantic 1929 Full Movie

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