On April 15, 1912, at approximately 2:20 in the morning, RMS Titanic slipped below the waves of the North Atlantic, not to be seen again until its wreckage was discovered in 1985. Today, the very name Titanic is synonymous with disaster. So well known is the tale of the “unsinkable” ship that you would be hard-pressed to find anyone unfamiliar with Titanic’s fate. However, pieces of Titanic’s story have managed to elude most history textbooks for over a century. These fascinating details shed new light on the ship’s original splendor as well as the tragic nature of its demise.

At the time it was built, Titanic represented cutting-edge technology and design. The ship was so large and carried such a large quantity of passengers that Titanic published its own newspaper, The Atlantic Daily Bulletin. For first-class passengers, unique amenities such as Turkish baths, a squash court, and a dog kennel were available during the voyage. In regard to epicurean delights, Titanic’s crown jewel was its Ritz Restaurant, modeled after the famous Ritz Hotel. On Titanic’s final evening above the ocean’s surface, the Ritz Restaurant served an eleven-course meal consisting of caviar, salmon, quail, oysters, lobster, roast duckling, lamb, and other luxurious dishes. Because of the sheer size of the ship, it required a shocking amount of coal to keep its propellers in motion, approximately 600 tons each day. Modern studies estimate that a daily average of 100 tons of ash poured from Titanic’s smokestacks into the Atlantic Ocean.

Several curious occurrences eventually lead up to the ultimate disaster that befell Titanic. A lifeboat drill was scheduled for the morning of April 14, but, for reasons unknown, the drill was canceled by ship captain Edward Smith. The situation was further complicated when the lookouts on duty that fateful evening climbed into the crow’s nest without a pair of binoculars. Later investigations revealed that the ship’s binoculars were stowed in a lockbox, and its key was still in the possession of Second Officer David Blair, a White Star Line employee that had been removed from the crew of Titanic a few days before the voyage began. The lack of binoculars allowed for very little reaction time once the iceberg was spotted. After Titanic struck the iceberg, crew members began desperate attempts to make contact with surrounding ships. Although the Carpathia would eventually rescue Titanic’s few survivors, another ship was even closer during Titanic’s final moments: the Californian. However, the radio receivers on the Californian were shut off for the night, and the distress flares fired from Titanic’s sinking deck went unheeded.

Surprisingly, the Daily Mail’s headline on April 16, 1912, declared that there were no fatalities as a result of Titanic’s sinking. Unfortunately, this report was quickly proven to be false. Roughly 1,500 lives were lost during the accident with only 700 passengers making it safely into lifeboats. Among the lives spared were two prized pooches belonging to first class passengers. A twenty-two-year-old man was saved by the selfless efforts of a woman who disguised him with her shawl; he had been ordered to exit a lifeboat because he was neither a woman or child, but another passenger used her shawl to help the frightened young man evade attention and remain in the lifeboat. Today, the tragedy of Titanic is immortalized in film, literature, and museum displays across the globe. The sacrifices of the passengers and crew who died aboard the doomed ocean liner as well as the strength of the survivors will continue to inspire curious minds for generations to come.


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