Today marks the 104th anniversary since the tragic night in the dark North Atlantic Ocean when the S.S. Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crewmembers. Even more than 100 years later, people everywhere are still enthralled by the stories of heroism, tragedy, and sacrifice that are part of the Titanic’s legacy. If you or your children are among the people who can’t get enough information about every facet of the story, here are 4 little known facts to bolster your knowledge of this infamous event.
- As the Titanic pulled away from its dock in Southampton, England, it displaced so much water in the narrow channel that it snapped all six of the massive ropes that moored the nearby New York. As the smaller ship swung helplessly toward the Titanic, Captain Edward J. Smith was able to avoid a collision, but the effort put him nearly an hour behind schedule. Historians at the time couldn’t help asking what if questions about this event such as, “What if the Titanic had actually collided with the New York and was forced to stay in port for repairs, would this have averted the disaster?” and “What if the Titanic had left the port on time, would it have missed the iceberg or would other ships have been close enough to help the sinking vessel?”
- The actions of the captain and crew of the Californian were carefully scrutinized—twice—following the sinking. At first it was believed that the Californian, a British ship of the Layland Line, was the closest vessel to the Titanic and less than 10 miles away when the ship sank but later investigations concluded that the two ships would have been significantly farther away and would not have been in each other’s line of sight. It is also believed that the crew of the Californian did observe the Titanic’s signaling rockets but took no action because those rockets were not fired at regular five-minute intervals to indicate distress signals.
- People often mention that the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats for all passengers on board the ship. Yet under British regulations adopted in 1894, the Titanic was required to maintain lifeboats for just 962 people. The number of lifeboat seats was based on the ship’s tonnage, not the number of passengers it could hold. The White Star Line actually added four boats, bringing the total capacity of lifeboat spaces to 1,178 passengers. Even if the ship had carried more lifeboats, however, it is unlikely that there would have been time to launch all of them. Crewmembers were still trying to free the last two collapsible lifeboats when the Titanic
- In the blockbuster movie Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is named Jack Dawson. There is a tombstone in one of the cemeteries in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for a member of the Titanic crew named J. Dawson, but director James Cameron didn’t know of Dawson’s existence when he wrote the screenplay for the movie.
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