Friday, April 13, 2012

True Facts about the Titanic

The RMS Titanic sunk on its maiden commercial voyage a century ago. Within 160 minutes after the celebrated ocean liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, 1,495 of the 2,207 passengers and crew aboard were dead. Julian Fellowes, the creator of the popular “Downton Abbey,” has written the miniseries “Titanic,” which will air in four parts on ABC on Saturday and Sunday. The List this week looks at 20 facts about the disaster, which still stirs emotion and fascination.

The voyage begins — At noon on April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail from Southampton, England. It arrived at Cherbourg, France, at 6:30 p.m. to pick up more passengers. At 11:30 p.m. on April 11, the liner reached Queenstown, Ireland. The ship sailed through clear waters toward New York for three days until 11:40 p.m. on April 14, when it struck an iceberg.

Readiness — The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats allowing a total capacity for 1,178 people, as well as 3,560 inflatable life jackets and 49 life buoys.

Silent-screen star — One of the survivors of the disaster was silent-screen actress Dorothy Gibson. She later made a film titled “Saved From the Titanic,” which was a huge success. The only known prints of the film were destroyed in a 1914 fire in what film historians consider one of the greatest losses of the silent era. Gibson later fell in love withAntonio Ramos, the press attache for the Spanish Embassy in Paris. She was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and imprisoned at San Vittore. She died of a heart attack in 1946 at 56.

At the helm — Capt. Edward John Smith, a 37-year veteran making his final crossing after serving with the White Star Line for 28 years, might have been ill-prepared for a giant liner. Smith learned much of his trade under sail and at the helm of modest steamers. On theTitanic, the 62-year-old ventured at 22 knots, full speed, into an area notorious for icebergs in mid-April. His only caution to the crew was that the Titanic stop at the first sign of ice.

Near collision — After leaving Southampton, the Titanic sucked into her path another liner, the SS City of New York. Quick work by theTitanic’s tugboats averted a collision.

Mystery ship — The SS Californian, which was eight to 15 miles away from the Titanic as it sank, did not respond to distress calls. Many Titanic buffs believe the Samson, a 254-ton schooner of Norwegian registry, was just five to eight miles from the Titanic, between the liner and the Californian. The Sampson may not have been eager to identify itself because of illegal seal hunting.

Foreboding Letter — Eileen Lenox Conyngham, 11, wrote a letter to her nurse, Louisa Sterling, four days before the disaster. The girl said the Titanic “broke the ropes” and rammed into the Oceanic while “floating about” Southampton dock. Young Eileen escaped the disaster because her family disembarked in France. Her letter arrived in Ireland within days of the Titanic’s sinking and was treasured by Sterling for the rest of her life.

Obscure memorial — Hidden away, where P Street ends at the Washington Channel in Washington, D.C., is a memorial to the “Brave men” of the Titanic, which was erected by the Women of Washington in 1931. The 13-foot-tall, partly clad male figure with arms outstretched originally stood at the current site of the Kennedy Center.

More: Weird Titan and Titanic Similarities

Harry Potter to Titanic — Geraldine Somerville, who plays Harry Potter’s mother, Lily Potter, in the “Harry Potter” films, stars in ABC’s “Titanic” miniseries.

Ticket prices — The Daily Mail reported that a first-class (parlor suite) ticket cost £870/$4,350 ($50,000 today). A first-class (berth) ticket cost £30/$150 ($1,724 today), second-class accommodations cost £12/$60 ($690 today), and a third-class ticket cost £3 to £8/$40 ($172 to $460 today).

Who saw the iceberg? — Lookout Frederick Fleet in the crow’s nest alerted the bridge to the iceberg ahead. An order was given to go “Full speed astern.

Swimming pool — It cost 1 shilling to use the 30-by-14-foot pool, which included use of a costume. Men and women were not allowed to use the pool together.

Cost to send a Marconi wireless telegram — Twelve shillings and sixpence/$3.12 ($36 today), for the first 10 words, and 9 pence per word thereafter. More than 250 passenger telegrams were sent and received during the voyage.

Double tragedy — Douglas Spedden was 6 years old when his nurse told him they were on a “trip to see the stars,” as she carried him to lifeboat No. 3 from which he was rescued. Three years later, at age 9, he was hit by a car in Maine and died two days later. It was one of the first recorded automobile accidents in the state.

The richest — The wealthiest passenger aboard was Lt. Col. John Jacob Astor IV, with a fortune estimated at about $100 million. He did not survive.

Auction — More than 5,500 items from the Titanic’s resting place went on auction in New York City on April 2. By law, the lot could not be broken up and the winning bidder must display the items for the public. The winning bid is to be announced Wednesday.

Hero — The most senior officer to survive the disaster was 2nd Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller. He took charge of an overturned lifeboat, then calmed and organized the survivors, numbering about 30. He was the last survivor taken on board the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. He served in the British navy in World War I and helped rescue soldiers during the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. He was portrayed by Kenneth More in the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” and Jonathan Phillips in the 1997 film “Titanic.”

Memorial museums — Two Titanic museums, one in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., with 2 million visitors since 2010, and the other, in Branson, Mo., with 5 million visitors since 2006, will conclude their activities Saturday by lighting memorial flames at the bows of the half-scale replicas of the ship. Both museums are billed as exhibiting the largest permanent collections of Titanic artifacts and memorabilia.

Orchestra — All eight members of the all-male Titanic orchestra perished. Three bodies, including that of John Hume Law, were found. Two weeks after his death, Law’s father received a bill from C.W. and F.N. Black, the Liverpool firm that employed the orchestra, demanding 5 shillings and 4 pennies for costs pertaining to his son’s uniform. According to those rescued, the musicians played until the ship went down. It has been suggested that the last tune was the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.” A concert was held at the Apollo Club in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 9, 1912, to aid the families of the musicians who perished in the sinking.

Suicides — Ten Titanic survivors later committed suicide. Stewardess Annie Robinson was the first. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, the 42-year-old was sailing across the Atlantic to visit her daughter in Boston when she jumped overboard as the ship entered a thick fog

    Other Known Titanic Facts during its maiden Voyage

    Canceled Lifeboat Drill  Originally, a lifeboat drill was scheduled to take place on board the Titanic on    April 14, 1912 - the day the Titanic hit the iceberg. However, for an unknown reason, Captain Smith canceled the drill. Many believe that had the drill taken place, more lives could have been saved. 
    Only Seconds From the time the lookouts sounded the alert, the officers on the bridge had only 37 seconds to react before the Titanic hit the iceberg. In that time, First Officer Murdoch ordered "hard a-starboard" (which turned the ship to port -- left). He also ordered the engine room to put the engines in reverse. The Titanic did bank left, but it wasn't quite enough. 
    The Titanic's Newspaper The Titanic seemed to have everything on board, including its own newspaper. The Atlantic Daily Bulletin was printed every day on board the Titanic. The newspaper included news, advertisements, stock prices, horse-racing results, society gossip, and the day's menu. 
    Lifeboats Not Full Not only were there not enough lifeboats to save everyone on board, most of the lifeboats that were launched off the Titanic were not filled to capacity. For instance, the first lifeboat to launch, Lifeboat 7 from the starboard side) only carried 24 people, despite having a capacity of 65 (two additional people later transferred to Lifeboat 7 from Lifeboat 5). However, it was Lifeboat 1 that carried the fewest people - only seven crew and five passengers (a total of 12 people) despite having a capacity for 40. 
    Only Two Bathtubs Although most passengers had to share bathrooms (only the two promenade suites in first class had private bathrooms), third class had it rough with only two bathtubs for more than 700 passengers. 
     Another Boat Was Closer for Rescue When the Titanic began sending out distress signals, the Californian, rather than theCarpathia, was the closest ship; yet the Californian did not respond until it was much too late to help. At 12:45 a.m. on April 15, 1912, crew members on the Californian saw mysterious lights in the sky (the distress flares sent up from the Titanic) and woke up their captain to tell him about it. Unfortunately, the captain issued no orders. Since the ship's wireless operator had already gone to bed, the Californianwas unaware of any distress signals from the Titanicuntil the morning, but by then the Carpathia had already picked up all the survivors. Many people believe that if the Californian had responded to theTitanic's pleas for help, many more lives could have been saved. 
     Two Dogs Rescued With the order for women and children first into the lifeboats, plus the knowledge that there were not enough lifeboats for everyone on board the Titanic to be saved, it is a bit surprising that two dogs made it into the lifeboats. Of the nine dogs on board the Titanic, the two that were rescued were a Pomeranian and a Pekinese. 
    The Fourth Funnel In what is now an iconic image, the side view of the Titanic clearly shows four cream and black funnels. While three of these released the steam from the boilers, the fourth was just for show. The designers thought the ship would look more impressive with four funnels rather than three. 
    A Royal Mail Ship The R.M.S. Titanic was a Royal Mail Ship, a designation which meant the Titanic was officially responsible for delivering mail for the British postal service. On board the Titanicwas a Sea Post Office with five mail clerks (two British and three American). These mail clerks were responsible for the 3,423 sacks of mail (seven million individual pieces of mail) on board the Titanic. Interestingly, although no mail has yet been recovered from the wreck of the Titanic, if it were, the U.S. Postal Service would still try to deliver it (the USPS because most of the mail was being sent to the U.S.). 
    Corpses Recovered On April 17, 1912, the day before survivors of the Titanic disaster reached New York, theMackay-Bennett was sent off from Halifax, Nova Scotia to search for bodies. On board theMackay-Bennett were embalming supplies, 40 embalmers, tons of ice, and 100 coffins. Although the Mackay-Bennett found 306 bodies, 116 of these were too badly damaged to take all the way back to shore. Attempts were made to identify each body found. Additional ships were also sent out to look for bodies. In all, 328 bodies were found, but 119 of these were badly damaged and thus were buried at sea. 


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