6 Facts About Titanic's Final Moments That Will Surprise You

One hundred years ago today, the RMS Titanic -- a luxury ship unlike any other -- sank in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on April 14 at 11:40 p.m.. We have all seen the James Cameron account of the tragedy with the fictional Rose and Jack fighting for survival on the ship. But few of us know much about the real ship.

Disturbingly, it seems some did not even know the ship was real and that more than 1,500 people perished on it. No, it is not just a James Cameron movie.

The real story was full of very real tragedies and stories that the movie did not tell. Here are 6 things I learned his week about the sinking of the Titanic while obsessively reading/watching everything to do with the tragedy:

  • People were uncharacteristically calm: Though many on board knew they would die, the passengers did not panic. They stayed orderly to the bitter end and helped women and children onto the lifeboats. When the Lusitania went down a few years later, it was mass chaos and panic.
  • The chef seen at the end of the movie was a real person: While the fictional Rose and Jack are headed into the water while holding to the stern of the ship, there is a man in a white cooks outfit with them. He takes a swig of drink. He is supposed to be Baker Charles Joughin.  He was standing on the stern as the ship went down, and paddled in the water without even being sucked down. He found Collapsible B (the overturned lifeboat) where he waited for rescue.
  • There was a ship near by: The Californian was the closest ship. It had stopped just outside the ice field where Titanic was lost for the night, but when the Captain was awakened after some on the ship spotted the Titanic's flares, he ordered everyone back to bed and never even checked the wireless room so he missed the distress call and also missed the opportunity to save many, many lives.
  • There were many near misses: If ONLY the Californian had come quickly. If ONLY they had not called the boat unsinkable. If ONLY the crew of the Olympic had not accidentally taken the keys to the locker that contained the binoculars for the lookouts. If ONLY they had enough lifeboats or heeded the ice warnings or did not turn the ship in a certain way when they saw the iceberg, maybe people would have lived. In fact, when First Officer Murdoch ordered the ship "hard a'starboard," he sealed her fate. She would have been better off plowing head first and may have stayed afloat long enough for rescue. The entire disaster was a series of small, seemingly avoidable mistakes.
  • J Bruce Ismay was considered the biggest coward in history: You may remember him from the movie as the man who "encouraged" Captain Smith to go faster. Indeed, legend holds that is true. As heir to the White Star Line and owner of the ship, he is also the one who refused enough life boats as a "waste of deck space." Then he jumped in one as soon as he could. He may have survived the sinking, but his reputation did not. He was seen as a massive coward and more or less went into hiding.
  • There was not that much suction at the stern: Despite what we think we know about the Titanic and about the sinking of ships in general, passengers who held on to the stern (like Jack and Rose) were able to just tread water off the boat. They were not sucked down as much as feared.

Did you know any of these things?


Image via Elsie esq./Flickr

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Roxygurl Roxygurl

One more fact I just heard about.

There were animals on board. Three small dogs survived but the rest perished.

nonmember avatar Heather

I knew all that but I am a Titanic buff. It's a sad state our country is in when people think this was not real. Sad sad sad

Simpl... Simply_Janeen

Titanic buff here as well. Even went to my local library and looked at the local news article from my newspaper back in 1912. Hard to believe that the first articles were how the ship was badly damaged but find and that everyone survived. The reality came to light a day or so later.

The weather was also an issue. It was oddly calm that night which meant that there were no waves that would have made spotting an iceburger easier (they would have hit the berg, making it easier to see). I recently found out too that unusual tide conditions earlier in the year (I think due to the moon being closer to the earth than usual) caused more ice to be out in the shipping lanes than ever before which was why the ice warnings were largely ignored by a seasoned ship captain, he was totally unaware that there was more ice than usual.

Simpl... Simply_Janeen

And I cannot believe that people do not know the ship actually existed. Wow. With all of the stories out there and the exhibits? Saw the big one in the Twin Cities back in 1999. Used to give me goosebumps when they sounded the whistle that used to be on the ship.

Oh, and there was a book written just 14 years earlier called Futility that was about a ship named the Titan, same size and everything and in the book, the exact same thing happened to it as what happened to the Titanic.

nonmember avatar Anon

Little known fact: There were three classes of passengers onboard the titanic. More first class men survived than third class children.

bills... billsfan1104

My daughter loves the titanic stories and infi. We watch the stuff all the time. My grandfather use to say all the time that if the Titanic hit the iceburg head on it probably would of been ok, because the front of any boat is the strongest.

nonmember avatar Mick bequik

"the RMS Titanic -- a luxury ship unlike any other"...apart from her two almost identical sister ships. There is so much misinformation on this topic

union... unionjack84

what about the pets? i know the mice drowned, but a bird could have flown away. as for people thinking titanic was just a movie, what does that tell you about education in this country?

nonmember avatar emma

In history class in college we learned that the crew really did lock the steerage (3rd class) passengers below while the lifeboats were loaded so that the upperclass would be sure to escape. That goes to show you the mentality of that era.

angev... angevil53

the largest number of people that died was the crew not 3rd class like so many think. and by percentage more children died than adults with about only half surviving.

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