10 Facts About the Titanic | History Hit

10 Facts About the Titanic

Sophie Gee

08 Apr 2022
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April, 1912.
Image Credit: Public Domain

The Titanic: her name is synonymous with those of Jack and Rose, fictional passengers on her maiden voyage. In the midst of the many myths and fictions surrounding the famous cruise liner and her ill-fated maiden voyage, here are 10 facts about the Titanic.

1. People died on the Titanic even before it set out

During the 26 month construction of the Titanic at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, 28 serious accidents and 218 minor accidents were recorded. 8 workers were killed.

This was a smaller number than expected for the time, which was one death for every £100,000 spent. As the Titanic cost £1.5 million to build, 15 deaths could have been anticipated.

Most of the 8 were killed by injuries sustained from falling either from the ship or the staging surrounding it.

A 43-year-old shipwright, James Dobbin, was actually killed on the day of the Titanic’s launch. At 12:10 on 31 May 1911, an estimated 10,000 people watched as the massive ship slid from the yard onto the River Lagan.

Dobbin was crushed during the process of removing the timber stays which had been holding the ship upright.

The RMS Titanic ready for launch, 1911

Image Credit: Public Domain

2. The largest liner in the World

On her launch, the Titanic became the largest movable man-made object. She was 269 metres long and 28 metres wide. From keel to bridge she was 32 metres high, 53 metres to the top of the stacks.

Because of her grandeur, it was felt that the Titanic should have four exhaust stacks. Thomas Andrews’ efficient original design, however, necessitated only three. The ship therefore had one purely decorative stack.

Titanic’s unprecedented size resulted from competition between her owners at White Star Line, and Cunard Line.

3. One of three

Because of her size and the new equipment it would require, it would have been too expensive to build the Titanic alone. Instead, she was built alongside two sister ships, both of which also had eventful lifetimes.

Construction of the RMS Olympic began first, and the ship was launched on 20 September 1910. For the next twelve months, the fractionally smaller Olympic was the largest liner in the world.

RMS Titanic (right) at the fitting out wharf in Belfast, whilst RMS Olympic (left) gets repaired on 2 March 1912. Photograph by official photographer of Harland & Wolff

Image Credit: Public Domain

Less of the attention to detail applied to the aesthetic of the Titanic was used on the Olympic. After the former sank, however, improvements included lifeboats for all and, in October 1912, the installation of a watertight inner skin.

The Olympic rescued soldiers from the sinking British battleship, Audacious, in October 1914, and served as a troop ship carrying Canadian soldiers to the European front.

She was the only one of the three to survive more than half a decade. The third and biggest ship, the Britannic, went into production after the Titanic disaster and sank in 1916 after hitting a mine. She had been a British hospital ship.

4. Room for one (thousand) more

Around 2,200 people were on board when the Titanic sank in 1912, but her maximum capacity was around 3,500. Of these, 1,000 would be crew. In 1912, there were 908 crew members, but fewer passengers. There were 324 in First Class, 284 in Second, and 709 in Third.

Between 1,490 and 1,635 of these people died as the ship sank, including the Captain.

5. The estimated overall wealth of the passengers in first class was $500 million

$87 million of this is attributed to John Jacob Astor IV.

On their voyage from New York in January 1912, Astor and his wife Madeleine travelled on the Olympic. Astor was the richest passenger on the Titanic on their return journey, and one of the richest people in the world. He died in the sinking as a ‘women and children first’ protocol was generally followed.

Drawing of the Grand Staircase of the RMS Titanic, from the 1912 promotional booklet (Credit: Public Domain)

Image Credit: Public Domain

It is estimated that $6 million worth of belongings went down on the Titanic.

Not included, however, were the supposed riches of Alfred Nourney. Travelling under the false title Baron Alfred von Drachstedt, Nourney used his assumed aristocratic status to transfer to first class.

As the ship sank he quickly gained access to a lifeboat from the first class smoking room, unlike the 168 men in his original second class quarters, only 14 of whom survived the sinking.

6. In first class, Titanic was a place of luxury

The liner had 4 restaurants and passengers ate off the 50 thousand pieces of bone china crockery supplied by Liverpool’s Stonier and Co.

There were reading rooms, 2 libraries, 2 barber shops and a photographic darkroom on board. A heated swimming pool was reserved for use by first class passengers, at 1 shilling a time. There were also Turkish baths and electric baths, each for 4 shillings a time.

The swimming pool on the Titanic

Image Credit: Public Domain

The Titanic had its own Atlantic Daily Bulletin printed on board, including news, society gossip and the day’s menu.

A first class passenger would pay £30 for a regular room, or £875 for a parlour suite. The majority of passengers, however, were in third class, and payed between £3 and £8.

There were just two baths for all of the passengers in third class, many of whom were bunked in the 164 bed dormitory on deck G.

7. Titanic was officially responsible for delivering mail for the British Postal Service

There were 5 mail clerks, a post office and a mail room on decks F and G, along with 3,423 sacks of mail.

It was reported that during the 2 hours and 40 minutes that the ship took to sink, the clerks prioritised moving sacks of mail to the upper deck.

On 10 April 1912, RMS Titanic cast off from Southampton on her maiden voyage and into infamy.
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8. A lifeboat drill scheduled for the 14 April was called off

This was possibly because Captain Edward Smith wished to deliver a final Sunday service before retirement. The ship sank that night.

The crew had only done one lifeboat drill, whilst the ship was docked.

Even if the crew had been better trained and each lifeboat had been filled, there was only sufficient space for around a third of the ship’s maximum capacity. It was believed that the ship would not sink, so there would be time to ferry passengers off it.

This oversight was made possible by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which was not updated to accommodate ships exceeding 10,000 tonnes.

Photograph taken by a passenger of Cunard Line’s RMS Carpathia of a lifeboat from the Titanic

Image Credit: passenger of the Carpathia, the ship that received the Titanic's distress signal and came to rescue the survivors, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

9. The wreck was discovered in the last 50 years

The Titanic wreck lies 3,700 metres below the surface of the Atlantic. It was not discovered until 1985, at which time it was confirmed that the boat had split in two.

The task of finding the Titanic was included in a military operation to survey the remains of some nuclear submarines led by Robert Ballard.

The separated bow and stern are around a third of a mile apart. Debris from the ship covers an area of 15 square miles.

Many areas of the ship remain unexplored, as they are inaccessible to underwater vehicles.

The bow of the Titanic photographed in 2004 by the ROV Hercules

Image Credit: Public Domain

10. Titanic’s legacy endures

The sinking of the Titanic has inspired many films and documentaries. A requiem tracking the launch, journey, sinking and aftermath of the Titanic was written by Robin and RJ Gibb, and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Whilst the ship itself is too fragile to be brought to the surface, innumerable smaller parts and objects have been salvaged. Many, including a section of the hull, sit in the Luxor Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

Sophie Gee