6 Things You Never Knew About the Titanic

Posted Apr 17, by Alison Stanton

The Titanic sank because the sea conditions were too good.

Most ships lost at sea were the victims of huge waves caused by hurricanes or large storms.  But it was a lack of waves that contributed to the Titanic hitting the iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, and sinking on the 15th, a hundred years ago.  On that night the weather and the sea conditions were perfect  --  but for the Titanic, they were too perfect. 

There was no wind, and thus there were no waves.  It was a flat calm.  It was also a dark moonless night, which made it difficult to see an iceberg in the distance.  On such a night, waves would have made the iceberg more visible.  Even small waves would have caused a bright phosphorescent line around the base of the iceberg, due to the millions of dinoflagellates that migrate to the ocean surface at night. 

These tiny plankton glow brightly even with the slightest disturbance.  (Sailors had seen this phosphorescence many times as they rowed through such waters, every stroke causing a glow that clearly outlined each oar.)  On that night there was not even a gentle swell that could have caused a phosphorescent line around the iceberg.  

These were extremely rare conditions for the North Atlantic in April.  On almost any other night the huge iceberg would probably have been seen by the lookouts in enough time for the Titanic to avoid hitting it.  For more Ocean facts check out Dr. Bruce Parker's book: The Power of the Sea.

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The Titanic will completely disappear within 20 years.

It seems like the sea just won’t cut the poor Titanic a break. A newly discovered species of aquatic rust-eating bacteria is slowly consuming the 50 000 tons of iron that makes up the sunken liner. 

Experts believe that the invasive group of micro-organism will eventually swallow the ship like the ocean did those many years ago. The Titanic has already lasted 100 years but it has been predicted that in 15-20 years it will be nothing but a rust-stain on the bottom of the Atlantic. 

The ghostly skeleton of the once magnificent liner haunts the bottom of the oceans as well as our cultural memory. The “unsinkable” ship serves as an ironic warning against overconfidence. 

The living survivors of the Titanic are also slowly disappearing. With all this evidence gone, with many kids today not even knowing about the Titanic, is it possible that one day the Titanic will be forgotten as a cultural memory and the few people interested will have to rummage through Jack and Rose’s love story to retrieve a few blessed facts? 

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A Second Officer of the Titanic admitted years later the ship's binoculars were in a lock box that no one had a key to!

Lightoller was a veteran of the sea by the age of 21. He was the second officer and the most senior officer to survive the sinking of the Titanic. He was later a naval officer in World War I and headed sailboats in World War II. Speaking of the Titanic, though, Lightoller actually boarded the ship in Belfast as its first officer for the sea trials. Captain Smith gave Henry Wilde of the Olympic, the position of chief officer. That decision demoted William McMaster Murdoch to first officer and Lightoller became second officer. 

This all becomes relevant. So, the late change in staff left the original second officer, David Blair, out of the trip altogether. It was a problem, because Blair was the one with the key to the ship’s binocular case. The crew ended up having no access to the binoculars for the entire trip. Lightoller promised to buy binoculars once they docked in New York. We know that they never made it, and that those binoculars would have been crucial in saving thousands of lives.

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A man on the Titanic “fortified” himself with alcohol before going into the freezing water for several hours, and survived!

Charles John Joughin was the chief baker aboard the Titanic when it set sail in 1912. When the ship hit the infamous iceberg Charles was off duty sleeping. According to his testimony he immediately got up and began launching lifeboats. He also supplied food for those that were hungry and panicking and attempted to calm that crazed crowd. Because of his help and his position he was offered a spot on a lifeboat, but declined in hopes of aiding more people. Charles was certain that he would die so he decided to ingest "a drop of liqueur," which was a half full tumbler. As the ship sank he grabbed hold of a safety rail and rode it down as if it was an elevator and is now officially recognized as the last passenger aboard the Titanic to survive. While in the water he claims he kept paddling and treading water for two continuous hours and, thanks to the alcohol, hardly felt the cold. He was later rescued after lying aboard a collapsed life boat. While this shouldn't be an advertisement for the benefits of alcohol, Charles certainly claims it saved his life! (Source)


In Titanic, the scene showing an elderly couple embracing while the ship sunk was based on a real couple.

They were the owners of Macy's. Their names are Isidor and Ida Straus and their story is quite touching. Raised in the south during the Civil War, Isidor would go on to New York where he would jointly found a store that sold crockery and glassware with his brother. 

After becoming extremely wealthy, Isidor married Rosalie Ida Blun, and by all accounts the two were inseparable. When apart they would write letters every single day and tried to always stay in each other’s company. The Straus’ boarded the Titanic on their return trip from Germany to the United States when, on April 14, 1912, the ship struck an iceberg. 

The couple made it to a lifeboat, but Ida refused to board proclaiming, "I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together." When an officer offered for Isidor to join his wife he refused, instead giving his spot to his wife’s maid. 

The couple then proceeded to the back of the panicking crowd and were last seen sitting together in chairs on the deck of ship, calmly holding hands until a massive wave washed them into the sea. Today a memorial for Ida and Isidor can be seen on the main floor of Macy’s Department Store in Manhattan. 

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The only Japanese passenger on the Titanic survived. For this, he lived the rest of his life in shame

Talk about honor. Masabumi Hosono was the only Japanese person aboard the Titanic. He was a civil servant working for the Japanese Ministry of Transport. He was on a mission to Russia and London. It was there that he boarded the Titanic as a second -class passenger. A steward woke him up after the Titanic had already hit the iceberg. He made his way to the deck, where he saw in dismay how lifeboats were running out.

Then, a stroke of good fortune: One of the last boats had room for two more people. He describes the horror of what he saw from the lifeboat that was only 200 feet from the Titanic as it went under: there were "frightful shrills and cries of those drowning in the water." When he arrived in the US, he made his way to San Francisco, where he was dubbed the "Lucky Japanese Boy."

At first magazines in Tokyo were running his story and taking his pictures. Soon, however, he found himself the target of public condemnation. The man in charge of the lifeboat described him as a "stowaway that must have disguised himself as a woman to make it aboard."

The man temporarily lost his job and was condemned as a coward by the press. School textbooks described him as dishonorable and immoral. This is because people in Japan thought he was betraying the Samurai spirit of self-sacrifice. People thought he should have gone down with the ship. `The man lived the rest of his life in shame, and his bad image haunted his family for years to come.

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