The Real Jack and Rose: 15 Bonkers Facts About the Titanic
Thanks to the Terminator guy, we know all about the most dramatic parts of the sinking of the Titanic: the slow snap of the ship, the hot mess of the lifeboats, the literally steamy sex that didn’t happen between two movie stars but definitely happened for someone. But at three and a quarter hours, there was simply no room to cram in some of the most bizarre elements of that doomed journey.
Small By Today’s Standards
The Titanic may have been, well, a titan at the time, but it would totally get bullied by today’s cruise ships, which are about 20% longer and twice as high on average.
One Stack For Show
Everyone is familiar with images of the Titanic proudly displaying its four towering smokestacks, but one of them didn’t actually do anything. The designer just thought it would look impressive to have more smoke stacks. Anything it produced came only from the smoking room hidden inside.
The Day’s Lifeboat Drill Was Canceled
Once the ship took off, no one bothered running any lifeboat drills, although one was scheduled for the morning of the sinking but canceled for unknown reasons by the captain. Instead, he led a church service, so maybe he was just really into those joyless hymns.
Fire in the Hull
The sinking of the Titanic really was a perfect storm (no, wait, that was that other boat movie). Photographic evidence suggests a fire that began weeks before takeoff and quietly raged in the hull damaged the ship right where the iceberg struck.
Even outer space seemed to be conspiring against the Titanic. Four months earlier, the moon got closer to the Earth than it had in 1,000 years or will for 200 more, causing “unusually strong tides that sent a flotilla of icebergs southward—just in time for Titanic’s maiden voyage.” Maybe instead of “once in a blue moon” we should say “once in a Titanic supermoon.”
Finally, the keys to the locker containing the lookout crew’s binoculars walked off the ship with a crew member who was replaced at the last minute by someone with more experience. He forgot to hand them back, forcing the lookouts to rely on eyesight alone, and probably felt really bad about it forever.
Some Famous Figures Narrowly Missed It
We all remember Guggenheim and Astor “going down life gentlemen,” but several other important men, including Milton Hershey, Guglielmo Marconi, and J.P. Morgan, were only kept off the ship by business, stodginess, and a spa day, respectively. American chocolate was never the same (i.e. worse).
People Survived in Some Strange Ways
The ship’s chief baker, Charles Joughin, is seen in the 1997 film sipping from a flask as the ship goes down, but in reality, it was two bottles of whisky. The impressive amount of alcohol in his system is likely a reason he survived. Another man really did manage to float on top of a door until a lifeboat returned to rescue him.
There Was a Much Closer Ship
The SS Carpathia was more than twice as far away from Titanic as the SS Californian, but even though the ship had taken a little rest stop on account of all those dangerous ice bois, its captain dismissed reports of flares from Titanic as insignificant and went back to bed. To be fair, the Californian’s crew had earlier warned Titanic about the ice and were told to “shut up,” so at least they tried.
Most Bodies Were Never Recovered
Only about 300 bodies were ever recovered from the site of the disaster, which means the vast majority of the 1,500 victims are still floating around out there. Some may very well be stuck in the wreckage, so Bill Paxton was just asking to be haunted.
The Bandleader’s Violin Was Found 100 Years Later
You know how the band played on and such? Well, the violin the bandleader used was found in some rando’s attic in 2006. Seven years later, it sold for $1.7 million.
Newspapers Initially Reported No Fatalities
In their rush to drum up a story between the ship’s middle-of-the-night sinking and that morning’s press time, many newspapers reported that there had been thankfully no deaths. In a truly wrongheaded display of positive thinking, one ran the headline, “The Titanic Sinking, But Probably No Lives Lost.”
In 1943, Hitler’s crew made a movie about how those idiot Brits sank the Titanic despite the (fictional) heroic efforts of the Germans. With a budget equivalent to $180 million in today’s money, it was the most expensive propaganda film ever made.
It Was Predicted By a Novel
Fourteen years before the Titanic sank, an American writer published a novel about a supposedly unsinkable ship that was the largest in the world taking off from England to New York in April, hitting an iceberg, and killing most of its passengers thanks to a lack of lifeboats. The boat was even called the Titan.
The Real Jack and Rose
There really was a forbidden love story involving an expensive necklace onboard the Titanic, though it was a bit more sordid than class-crossed lovers. Kate Florence Phillips was traveling to America to start a new life with her married boss, who had sold his businesses to give the money to his wife and child and, of course, buy his mistress a diamond and sapphire necklace that he made sure she was wearing before she boarded her lifeboat. He didn’t make it, but he left his legacy in the necklace and the baby they apparently conceived on the ship. Their daughter sold it in the ‘90s instead of dropping it into the ocean like an asshole.
Top image: 20th Century Fox