Ten Facts on the Sinking of Titanic

Lingering as the most devastating nautical scar in Britain's maritime history, the sinking of Titanic remains a haunting two hours and forty minutes that froze the world.

For those who don’t know, the RMS Titanic was a British Passenger boat which left Southampton dock on the 10th April 1912 with over 2,200 passengers. On April 15, 1912, the ‘unsinkable’ liner hit a hidden iceberg and sunk, resulting in over 1,500 people tragically losing their lives.

Facts and opinions litter the internet regarding conspiracy theories over the deadly voyage. We thought we’d share ten facts you might not know about the beauty that was, the RMS Titanic.

1 - Once spotted by lookout Frederick Fleet, there were just 37 seconds between the sighting of the iceberg and the collision. Having received six warnings about the icebergs during the voyage, theorists, experts, and engineers have suggested the ship would not have sunk had it hit the iceberg head-on. First Officer William McMaster Murdoch gave the order for the ship to turn but the Titanic’s size prevented the action, resulting in the inevitable outcome.

2 - The Titanic was built to carry 64 lifeboats. Chief designer Alexander Carlisle originally planned for 48 to be stored on board, with three on each davit. Due to cosmetic preferences, this number was reduced to just 20 to avoid the decks being cluttered. The capacity of each boat varied upon its design; two wooden cutters could carry 40 people per boat, 14-foot wooden boats could carry 65 people in each, whilst four collapsible lifeboats managed a capacity of 47 persons on each. 

3 - Mystifyingly, the total number of boats would carry just a third of the passengers on board the Titanic, but this fraction wasn’t saved. A grand total of 1,178 people could have been rescued, but of the 18 lifeboats launched and two that floated away empty, 472 lifeboat spaces went unused.

4 – In 1912, the Titanic liner was deemed ‘unsinkable’ before it set off. The liner was designed with watertight compartments and doors, to stop water entering. The ship’s design also featured steel plates, which were held together by millions of rivets, reinforcing the ship’s strength. Following the sinking, it came to light that builders and ship makers claimed it was ‘practically’ unsinkable.

5 – Many famous icons were set to board the Titanic. John Jacob Astor IV was the richest passenger on the vessel. An American businessman, Benjamin Guggenheim was another notable figure, along with the ship’s architect, Thomas Andrews. All three went down with the ship. 

6 - Several people had tickets for the first voyage of Titanic but didn’t sail, including Milton S. Hershey who founded the famous chocolate brand and Guglielmo Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi, the Italian inventor, and engineer. 

7 – Written in 1898, it is said that U.S. writer, Morgan Robertson, predicted the devastation of Titanic just 14 years prior in his novel Futility. It’s hardly surprising surrounding the aftermath of the Titanic, people began to notice eerily similar traits between the Titanic and the ‘Titan’ in the novel. Both ships could travel at speeds of over 20 knots and were virtually the same size. Each ship carried the bare legal minimum of lifeboats in spite of having thousands of passengers on board and each incurred the same end.  

8 - Robertson himself denied being a clairvoyant and was an experienced seaman himself. Equipped with the knowledge of maritime history and naval trends in ships, he created a fantastical story abruptly different to the Titanic, focusing on the protagonist's downward spiral, not the ship itself. It’s rumoured overzealous editors had previously amended the story to interlink with the demise of the Titanic. Coincidences are more common than we imagine.

9 – There were 706 survivors out of 1,317 passengers. Measured by class, 61% of survivors were first class, 42% second class and 24% third class. The youngest survivor at just two months and 13 days was from the third class, Miss Elizabeth Gladys “Milvina” Dean. Milvina Dean was the last survivor of the Titanic. She passed away on 31, May 2009, aged 97.

10 – The price to pay to travel on the Titanic in 1912 was substantial. A First-Class Parlour ticket was $4, 350, the second class was $1,750 and third class $30. It’s estimated that the value of jewellery, bonds, and cash carried by the passengers on the Titanic was $6,000,000. It cost $7, 500,000 to build the RMS Titanic in total.

Whether you’re a history fanatic, or this particular moment is of interest, you can find further information, including genuine news reports and images from the time period in our dedicated  History of Titanic Newspaper Book.

Lingering as the most devastating nautical scar in Britain’s maritime history, the sinking of Titanic remains a haunting two hours and forty minutes that froze the world.