70 Huge Facts About the ‘Titanic’

The RMS 'Titanic'
The RMS 'Titanic' / Print Collector/GettyImages

When the Titanic crashed into an iceberg and sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the disaster inspired countless books, Titanic museum exhibits, several Hollywood films (including one that earned a Best Picture Oscar), and a cottage industry of theories and memorials. The Titanic sinking became the most infamous shipwreck in history—but what really happened on that unusually calm night in the North Atlantic? Read on for some surprising Titanic facts.

1. The Titanic was built to compete with other ships.

In the early 20th century, new technology and an increasing population of European immigrants allowed Britain’s largest passenger steamship lines to build the biggest and most opulent ocean liners then known. Liverpool-based Cunard launched the two fastest and sleekest liners, the Mauretania in 1906 and the Lusitania in 1907, capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in record time. The White Star Line, hoping to compete with its main rival, countered by ordering three massive ocean liners—the Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic. Built by the Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, Ireland (now Northern Ireland), the ships were designed to be the most luxurious liners afloat.

On board the RMS Titanic (the “RMS” stood for “royal mail ship”), passengers could enjoy the swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, a gymnasium, sunrooms, fine dining rooms, and much more. The ship had “one hundred more first-class cabins than the Olympic, and a Parisian boulevard on B Deck [was added] to create the illusion of a sidewalk café. Ultimately, the Titanic outweighed her sister by more than 1000 tons,” Paul R. Ryan wrote in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution magazine Oceanus.

2. Thomas Andrews didn’t really design the Titanic

Harland & Wolff’s chief naval architect Thomas Andrews played an important role in seeing the ship’s construction to completion, and he was part of the design firm’s “guarantee group” aboard the maiden voyage, there to look out for and potentially address any issues—but he wasn’t actually responsible for the aesthetic or practical design of the ship. By the time he became the shipyard’s chief architect, construction on Titanic was already underway.

Alexander Carlisle, the general manager of Harland & Wolff, claimed responsibility for “[t]he details, the decorations, the equipments, and general arrangements” for the Titanic and its sister ship, the Olympic. He also said the ships were “entirely designed practically by Lord Pirrie,” his brother-in-law.

The misattribution of Titanic’s design comes primarily down to poetic license. When Walter Lord’s book A Night to Remember was turned into a film in the 1950s, the image of the ship’s conscientious designer perishing as his creation sank below the icy North Atlantic proved too tempting to filmmakers, even if it meant fudging the historical facts.

3. Everything on the Titanic was huge—except the number of lifeboats.

The Titanic was not only the largest passenger ship of its time—it was the world’s largest moving, man-made object. Its steel construction was held in place by 3 million rivets weighing 1200 tons. The ship’s main anchor weighed 16 tons—roughly the same as 32 concert grand pianos—while each link in the anchor chains weighed 175 pounds. Twenty-nine boilers produced enough energy to achieve 50,000 horsepower and an average speed of 21 knots (just over 24 mph). The distance between the keel (the underside of the ship) and the top of the four gigantic funnels was 175 feet. The ship measured 882.5 feet from bow to stern and 92.5 feet at its widest point. “She was, in short, 11 stories high and four city blocks long,” wrote Walter Lord in his definitive history of the Titanic sinking, A Night to Remember.

According to the British government’s official inquiry, the ship carried about 1316 passengers and 885 crew on its maiden voyage (other sources have slightly different numbers), but only 20 boats, each of which could safely hold between 40 and 60 people for a total capacity of 1178. At the time, Board of Trade regulations for passenger liners required only 14 lifeboats on board. The Titanic had 14 lifeboats plus two cutters and four collapsible boats.

4. Alexander Carlisle wanted to install more lifeboats on the ship.

He said during the inquiry into the sinking that he had laid out a plan to include as many as 40. Thomas Andrews was also said to have petitioned for more lifeboats, but was supposedly rebuffed by J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the the White Star Line, because the vessels would ruin the view for first-class passengers on the upper deck.

5. The Titanic was launched with the help of 20 tons of lubricant.

Before it could get out to sea, Titanic had to make its way from land to water via a large slipway—emphasis on the slip. Over 20 tons of lubricant—primarily rendered animal fat and soap—were applied to the slipway to ease the ship’s transition into the water. (It worked: in just over a minute, the ship was in the water, “as though she were eager for the baptism,” in the somewhat inappropriate language of the Belfast News Letter.) And once the Titanic was in the open seas, it burned so much coal that roughly 110 tons of ash were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean every day of its journey. 

6. The plot of an 1889 novel bore eerie similarities to the events that would befall the Titanic.

The Wreck of the Titan, or, Futility, by little-known novelist Morgan Robertson, may not have predicted the Titanic’s sinking, but it includes some uncanny coincidences. In the book, the most fabulous ocean liner ever built—the Titan (!)—is crossing the Atlantic on its maiden voyage when it collides with an iceberg and sinks. The Titan was 800 feet long; the Titanic was 882.5 feet. Both ships could reach speeds of 25 knots. Both sailed in April. Both could carry 3000 people, and both had far too few lifeboats.

7. The Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage April 10, 1912, leaving from Southampton, England.

In what can now be interpreted as a bad omen, the ship almost immediately had a run-in with another ship, the New York, which was docked nearby. The New York was evidently pulled toward the Titanic as it took off due to suction, and it took an hour of maneuvering to prevent an accident. Weirdly, a similar thing had happened with the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, which actually did collide with another ship called the Hawke and had to undergo weeks of repair.

8. Its passengers hailed from across the globe.

As you might expect, the vast majority of passengers aboard Titanic were either American or European. American, British, Irish, and Swedish passengers were the best-represented nationalities. But there were people aboard from all over the world, including a large number of Syrian passengers. South African, Portuguese, Australian, and Chinese travelers filled the various cabins as well.

9. Captain Edward Smith was well regarded by celebrity travelers.

Many of the crew and passengers aboard Titanic were as notable as the ship itself. Captain Edward John Smith became popular with so many rich and famous passengers over the course of his career that people called him “the millionaires’ captain.” In fact, some VIPs enjoyed his company so much that they made it a point to travel on his ships. 

10. John Jacob Astor IV was the Titanic’s wealthiest passenger. 

The Prow of the Titanic Under Construction
The prow of the 'Titanic' under construction. / Krista Few/GettyImages

Today, John Jacob Astor IV is probably best remembered for building a few of New York City’s most famous hotels—including the St. Regis, the Knickerbocker, and the Astoria half of the Waldorf-Astoria.

Astor inherited a lot of his wealth from his ancestors’ success in the fur trade. It definitely didn’t come from his short-lived career as a science fiction writer. In 1894, he published a novel called A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future. The story, set in the year 2000, features space travel, solar power, and a global telephone system. It also features something called the “Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company,” which could literally straighten Earth’s tilt, and clairvoyant spirits that live on Saturn. And oh yeah—Jupiter is a jungle full of winged lizards and carnivorous plants. The New-York Daily Tribune bought the premise, writing, “The author … dates the story so as to make it consistent with the advances which shall have been achieved in science and otherwise in the year 2000.” Optimistic!

11. First-class travelers enjoyed haute cuisine …

Those rich passengers had some rich accommodations on board. A first-class luncheon menu offered dozens of delectable dishes, including fillets of brill, chicken à la Maryland, grilled mutton chops, corned beef, mashed, fried, and baked jacket potatoes; apple meringue, custard pudding, salmon mayonnaise, Norwegian anchovies, soused herrings, potted shrimps, roast beef, galantine of chicken, veal and ham pie, corned ox tongue, and French and English cheeses, all washed down with iced draught Munich lager.

That menu represented the last lunch ever served on the Titanic. It was retrieved by first-class passenger Abraham Lincoln Salomon and sold at an auction in 2015 for $88,000.

12. … While third-class passengers supped on less extravagant fare.

The food options for those in third class were still quite hearty. If you couldn’t afford a ticket to the fancy first-class dining room, you might have eaten in the third-class saloon on Deck F. Roast pork with onions, boiled potatoes, currant buns, and plum pudding were some of the offerings for those that could paid the £7 ticket (which is equivalent to about $725 today.)

13. To work off all of those extravagant meals, Titanic passengers had access to a pretty impressive gymnasium. 

Some of the highlights included punching bags, “cycle racing machines” (which were essentially stationary bikes), an electric horse and an electric camel, and a squash court. Women were allowed to use the gym in the morning, and men were permitted in the afternoon. One of the more ironically efficient pieces of exercise equipment available was a mechanical rowing machine.

14. The Titanic had its own luxurious Turkish bath.

It was reserved for first-class passengers and included steam rooms, massage rooms, and an electric bath, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. In his book Titanic: Building the World’s Most Famous Ship, author Anton Gill described it as resembling an iron lung or “a modern tanning bed, which even sophisticated first-class passengers viewed with suspicion.”

15. Passengers’ cabins were appointed according to class.

Sleeping arrangements varied greatly by ticket price. First-class passengers could have enjoyed one of the 39 private suites at the top of the ship, which had two large bedrooms and even a guest room.

Second-class passengers would often be in a room a bit lower in the ship with either two or four beds that had a sink and mirror, but no private bathrooms. They did have access to an outdoor promenade, smoking room, and library, however. 

Third-class passengers slept near the noisy bottom of the ship. Rooms with bunk beds held up to 10 people at a time. Single men slept in the bow of the ship, while single women and families were usually in the stern. Reportedly, there were only two baths for everyone in third class, which comprised over 700 passengers.

16. In April 1912, ocean liners encountered more icebergs than usual in the North Atlantic.

Icebergs were a common sight between Ireland and Newfoundland, but a 2014 study published by the Royal Meteorological Society suggested that weather conditions produced more of them than average in April 1912. Freezing air from northeast Canada met the southward flow of the Labrador Current off the coast of Newfoundland, leading to a stream of icebergs that were swept farther south than was typical for most of the 20th century. “In 1912, the peak number of icebergs for the year was recorded in April, whereas normally this occurs in May, and there were nearly two and a half times as many icebergs as in an average year,” the authors wrote.

Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography told Physics World that environmental conditions that year happened to conspire so that “icebergs, sea ice, and growlers were concentrated in the very position where the collision happened.”

17. The Titanic’s radio operators received warnings about ice from other ships.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic received several wireless messages from other ships warning of ice along their routes. Shortly before hitting the iceberg, the Titanic’s radio operator received a warning from another ship, the Californian, about the risks presented by a nearby ice field. The message evidently didn’t have the proper coding to ensure it made its way to Captain Smith, though, and it didn’t include the precise location of the ice field. The response from Titanic’s radio operator? “Shut up,” according to testimony from the Californian’s operator Cyril F. Evans.

18. The Titanic was thought to be unsinkable.

Contrary to popular belief, the White Star Line never touted the Titanic as “unsinkable” ahead of its maiden voyage. It did come pretty close, but always hedged on the claim. A 1910 article in the Birmingham Weekly Post reported, “As far as it is possible to do so, [the Titanic and Olympic] are designed to be unsinkable.” There were also references to Titanic being “practically unsinkable,” but nothing quite as hubristic as Cal Hockley’s statement that “God himself could not sink this ship” (and please do not mention that Cal Hockley was not a real person).

The most famous “unsinkable” statement actually came after the ship had sunk. As the first reports of the disaster started coming in, White Star Line executive Philip Franklin said, “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is absolutely unsinkable.” Hours later, Franklin admitted he was wrong but maintained “there were a sufficient number of lifeboats on board the Titanic to take all her passengers.” Wrong again.

19. The Titanic’s watertight bulkheads were supposed to keep it afloat.

The ship had 16 watertight bulkheads, from bow to stern below the waterline, that would keep the ship afloat even if the first four of the compartments were breached. Unfortunately, at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, the lookout saw a towering iceberg directly in the Titanic’s path. The alarm was relayed to the bridge, where First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship put “hard-a-starboard” and the engines reversed; he also pulled the lever that closed the watertight compartment doors. But it was too late. Thirty-seven seconds after the lookout’s warning, the Titanic grazed the iceberg on the starboard side, opening a series of cuts that stretched across six consecutive watertight compartments 10 feet above the keel. Within 10 minutes, 7 feet of water filled the first compartment.

Based on glacier calving data from Greenland, the Royal Meteorological Society study suggested that the iceberg had originated on Greenland’s west coast and measured about 125 meters (410 feet) long and 15 to 17 meters (49 to 55 feet) tall above the ocean’s surface, giving it a mass of 2.2 million tons. The dimensions are consistent with those in a photo of an iceberg bearing a streak of red paint, photographed by the captain of the Minia, a rescue ship later sent to pick up Titanic survivors.

20. After the collision, few Titanic passengers were worried.

The Upper Deck of the Titanic
The upper deck of the 'Titanic.' / Krista Few/GettyImages

When the ship smashed into the giant berg, smaller bits of ice fell onto the ship’s deck. People turned these little chunks of the deadly iceberg into playthings; some lobbed the ice at one another, while others began a game of soccer, using the ice as a ball.

For his 1955 book, Walter Lord spoke with more than 60 Titanic survivors, who echoed this initial lack of concern after the collision with the iceberg. Many in first and second class hardly felt the impact and either went back to what they were doing or asked crew members why the ship’s engines had stopped. But soon, the truth began to dawn on them, according to Lord’s account:

“Far above on A Deck, second class passenger Lawrence Beesley noticed a curious thing. As he started below to check his cabin, he felt certain the stairs ‘weren’t quite right.’ They seemed level, and yet his feet didn’t fall where they should. Somehow they strayed forward off-balance … as though the steps were tilted down toward the bow.”

21. The Titanic’s postal clerks raced to save the mail.

Just hours earlier, the Titanic’s five sea post clerks were having a small birthday party for Oscar Scott Woody, one of their own. They had spent the day, as they did every day at sea, sorting mail so it could be easily dispatched once the ship reached land. After the collision, the sea post clerks hurried down to the mail sorting room. The cruise liner was carrying as many as 9 million pieces of mail: There were 200 registered mail sacks, stuffed with a total of about 1.6 million pieces of mail, plus another 3164 bags of standard mail, each full of about 2000 items.

For the sea post clerks, losing the mail was simply not an option: they had sworn to protect it at all costs. As the mailroom quickly filled with water, they focused on lugging the sacks of registered mail to the upper decks. 

Time was against them. Even as their storage room flooded in the 20 minutes after the ship struck the iceberg, the five men dashed between the sorting room and the Titanic’s higher levels, ferrying as much mail as they could to safety. But their efforts were futile. Every single one of the sea post clerks—as well as all of their mail—was lost in the disaster.

22. Titanic passengers and crew hadn’t received clear instructions for boarding lifeboats.

Once it became clear that the ship was listing, the process of filling the boats was chaotic. Women and children boarded first, with deference given to first- and second-class passengers; their male companions were told (or opted) to stay with the ship. Boats were lowered with only half of their seats filled. Male and female third-class passengers were largely left to fend for themselves.

23. The Titanic’s band kept playing.

They kept going for two hours and five minutes after the iceberg impact, attempting to maintain a façade of calm as the chaos unfurled around them. According to legend, the last song they played was the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” But it’s not clear that’s true. As one survivor recalled, the ship’s final song was “Autumn,” which historians usually identify as a waltz called “Songe d’Automne.” According to Ian Whitcomb, who produced a CD of music played aboard the Titanic, the band would have never played a sad song like “Nearer, My God, to Thee” during a maritime disaster, and would have instead opted for a more upbeat tune.

All of the Titanic’s engineers chose to stay behind, as well, even after the captain had freed them of their duties. They worked nonstop to try to keep the ship running.

24. The Titanic’s wireless operator called for rescue using two distress signals.

The Titanic had a Marconi telegraph, so its operator signaled for help using “CQD,” the distress code created by the Marconi Company. Five years earlier, however, the Morse code distress signal “SOS” had officially been put into use as well. After the Titanic’s junior wireless operator Harold Bride joked that they should try “SOS” as well as “CQD,” senior operator Jack Phillips used both codes. 

25. Benjamin Guggenheim sent a sentimental final telegram.

Benjamin Guggenheim, one of the wealthiest passengers aboard, instructed a steward to transmit the following message to his wife, Florette Seligman Guggenheim: “If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I’ve done my best in doing my duty.” Guggenheim and his valet went down with the ship.

It was a very dignified end to a marriage that had begun on less dignified ground, thanks to a typo. When the Seligmans telegrammed their European relatives about Ben and Florette’s engagement circa 1894, they meant to write “Florette engaged Guggenheim smelter,” a reference to the groom’s family-owned mining business. According to their daughter, famed art collector Peggy Guggenheim, the cable accidentally closed with “Guggenheim smelt her.”

26. Ida Strauss gave her seat on a lifeboat to her maid. 

Macy’s co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida, declined seats on a Titanic lifeboat. Ida gave her spot—and her fur coat—to her maid, Ellen Bird. Perhaps for good reason: Ellen almost wasn’t on the ship at all.

On April 4, Ida wrote to her children from London explaining that she’d hired a “nice English girl”—i.e. Ellen—to replace their former maid, Marie, whom they’d just discharged because “she has been behaving very badly over here. When papa sours on a girl you know there is good cause, and he is disgusted with her.” Marie … What did you do? And also … good call?

27. The Californian was the closest ship to the Titanic, but didn’t come to its aid.

The nearest ship, a merchant vessel called the Californian, was fewer than 10 miles away from the Titanic when it began sinking, but it failed to act on the liner’s distress signals. The reasons for the inaction have been debated ever since. Scholars have argued that the Californian had stopped its engines for the night due to icebergs and the wireless operator, Cyril Evans, had gone to bed. Those two factors may have prevented the Californian’s crew from realizing the extent of the disaster and responding in time. 

28. The Carpathia, belonging to White Star’s rival Cunard, came to the Titanic’s rescue. 

That left the Cunard passenger steamship Carpathia, 58 miles away, to come to the Titanic’s aid. It took almost two hours to reach the first Titanic survivors and arrived at the Titanic’s last coordinates around 4 a.m., then began picking up survivors in lifeboats.

29. Hundreds of Titanic survivors were rescued—but more than a thousand perished.

The Carpathia then spend toward New York City with hundreds of shivering, shocked survivors on board. Its captain, Arthur Henry Rostron, later received the Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts.

Of the 2201 passengers and crew on board the Titanic, just 711 survived the sinking, a death toll of 1490 according to the British government’s figures. (Other inquiries found 1503, 1517, and as high as 1635 deaths). First-class passengers suffered the fewest casualties—203 out of 325, or 62 percent, survived. In second class, 118 of 285 passengers, or 41 percent, survived. And in third class, just 178 of 706 passengers, or 25 percent, made it out alive.

Of the crew, 673 out of 885, or 76 percent, went down with the ship, including Captain Edward Smith, First Mate William Murdoch, the Marconi wireless operator Jack Phillips, who sent the CQD and SOS distress signals; and all eight members of the Titanic’s band.

30. A department store telegraph manager may have broken the news of the Titanic sinking.

The 'Titanic' colliding with an iceberg, 1912.
The 'Titanic' colliding with an iceberg, 1912. / Print Collector/GettyImages

After the Titanic’s final wireless message, listeners sought updates from ships sent to its aid. Only fragments of messages reached New York, where the Titanic had been headed. David Sarnoff, a Marconi manager at the Wanamaker’s department store in New York, picked up a message at 4:35 p.m. on April 15 from the Olympic relaying definitively that the Titanic had sunk. Sarnoff and his two wireless operators told the press and continued to intercept messages relayed from the Cape Race station in Newfoundland.

Later, Sarnoff exaggerated the details and his role in the Titanic sinking, claiming that he alone received a distress signal from the Titanic itself and then remained in the Wanamaker’s wireless station for 72 hours straight to receive the names of the survivors.

31. The White Star Line hired other ships to retrieve bodies.

The cable company ship Mackay-Bennett, chartered specifically for its grim task, left Halifax, Nova Scotia, to go pick up the dead. Along with a minister and an embalmer, the ship carried all of the embalming fluid available in Halifax, 100 wooden coffins, 100 tons of ice, and 12 tons of iron. After seven days at the site where the Titanic went down, the Mackay-Bennett’s crew had recovered 306 Titanic victims’ bodies. Many were embalmed and transported to Halifax, but eventually the supplies were exhausted; the last 116 had to be buried at sea.

32. Titanic carried at least 12 canine passengers on its final voyage.

Sadly, only three survived—and they shared two traits in common. They were owned by first-class passengers, and they were tiny. Margaret Bechstein Hays smuggled her Pomeranian onto a lifeboat by wrapping her in a blanket. Elizabeth Jane Rothschild also owned a Pomeranian, and she kept it hidden from the other passengers on her lifeboat until they were rescued by the Carpathia in the morning. The third dog was a Pekingese named Sun Yat Sen, named after the first president of the Republic of China. When the dog’s owner, Henry S. Harper, was later asked about bringing a pet into a lifeboat with limited space, he replied, “There seemed to be lots of room, and nobody made any objection.” 

People traveling with bigger dogs had a harder time sneaking their furry companions off Titanic. According to one legend, Ann Elizabeth Isham refused to board a lifeboat if it meant abandoning her beloved pup, and instead chose to perish with him on the ship. Though the legitimacy of this story is disputed, it is true that Isham was one of just four women from first class who died in the disaster.

33. The Titanic sinking left tragic “what if?” questions.

Walter Lord summed up the chain of tragic—and avoidable—missteps that led to the disaster:

“If the Titanic had heeded any of the six ice messages on Sunday … if ice conditions had been normal … if the night had been rough or moonlit … if she had seen the berg 15 seconds sooner—or 15 seconds later … if she had hit the ice in any other way … if her watertight bulkheads had been one deck higher … if she had carried enough boats … if the Californian had only come. Had any one of these ‘ifs’ turned out right, every life might have been saved.”

34. The Titanic’s high speed seemed suspicious.

One of the most commonly identified culprits in the collision is the high speed at which the Titanic was traveling. Some speculated, after the crash, that Captain Smith had been trying to set a new speed record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. That idea is pretty easily debunked based on the ship’s route and pace. A more plausible, though probably unconfirmable, theory is that Smith was simply trying to best the crossing time recently achieved by the Olympic. That might explain why Smith went so quickly through a field of icebergs. But it’s not the only possible reason. 

35. Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton testified at the Titanic sinking inquiry.

Sir Ernest Shackleton, already a widely hailed veteran of two expeditions to Antarctica, knew a lot about icebergs, which explains why he was called as an expert witness in the British government’s inquiry into the Titanic sinking. He believed it was likely that the lookouts missed the gigantic iceberg in the ship’s path until it was too late. “With a dead calm sea there is no sign at all to give you any indication that there is anything there. If you first see the breaking sea at all, then you look for the rest and you generally see it,” Shackleton said. “From a height it is not so easily seen; it blends with the ocean if you are looking down at an angle like that.”

Shackleton wasn’t the only celebrity to offer testimony: Guglielmo Marconi, a Nobel laureate and inventor of the wireless system used on nearly every ocean liner by that point, explained the regulations for sending distress signals.

36. The Titanic’s youngest passenger grew up to be its oldest survivor.

Millvina Dean was only two months old when she boarded Titanic with her family in 1912. The Deans had planned to sail to America to open a tobacco shop in the Midwest. They actually booked passage on a different ship owned by the White Star Line. When that trip was canceled due to a national coal strike, the company offered them third-class tickets on the Titanic as a replacement. 

Millvina, her mother Georgetta, and her 23-month-old brother Bertram, Jr. survived, but her father Bertram died in the shipwreck. Georgetta moved her children back to England, and Millvina grew up to work as mapmaker for the British Army and later as a secretary at an engineering firm. When asked about the impact the incident had on her in 2002, she said with characteristic British reserve, “It changed my life because I would have been American now instead of English.” The youngest survivor of Titanic eventually died as its oldest living survivor at age 97 on May 31, 2009.

37. A Titanic crew member survived shipwrecks on all three of White Star’s luxury liners.

Stewardess Violet Jessop had already lived through one maritime snafu when she boarded the Titanic. In 1911, she was working aboard the Olympic when it collided with a smaller ship off Southampton, but both ships were repaired and put back into service. She survived the sinking of the Titanic in lifeboat number 16, which was picked up by the Carpathia. And in 1916, during World War I, she survived the wreck of the Britannic when it hit a mine in the Mediterranean Sea. Jessop continued to work at sea until 1950.

38. Other Titanic survivors were not as lucky.

Mary (or Maria) Nackid was the first person to die after surviving the disaster, succumbing to meningitis in July 1912 at just a year old. Some who made it off Titanic ended up dying at sea within years of the incident: Titanic greaser Frederick William Scott, who had oiled machinery aboard the ship, died three years later in an explosion on the S.S. La Marguerite

One of the most famous Titanic survivors to die shortly after the wreck was Reginald Robinson Lee. Along with Frederick Fleet, Lee was a lookout in the crow’s nest when the ship hit the iceberg that brought it down. He went back to working at sea until late summer of 1913, when he died of complications related to pneumonia at age 43.

39. White Star’s director was vilified after the Titanic disaster.

J. Bruce Ismay, the aforementioned managing director of the White Star Line, survived on collapsible lifeboat C—and became the villain of the whole affair for doing so, with an assist from the film adaptation of A Night to Remember. Rumors flew that Ismay had hopped into the very first lifeboat—he hadn’t—and that he’d even disguised himself as a woman to secure a spot, which was also untrue. It didn’t matter. The press blasted him, and people called him “J. Brute Ismay.”

The name Ismay was so despised that reports surfaced of residents in Ismay, Montana, maneuvering to rename their town after someone who did go down with the ship. They supposedly considered Astor, Butt, Smith, and Straus. But according to J. Arthur Peck, an Ismay school principal, all those reports came as a surprise to Ismay locals.

As he wrote in a letter to The Star Press of Muncie, Indiana, “We would not attach any undue importance to this newspaper talk were it not for a feeling that an injustice had been done to our town and also to Mr. Ismay. We feel very well satisfied with the name of our thriving little community, and would not recognize any necessity of changing it even if someone bearing the same name had reflected discredit upon it.”

Peck went on to defend the disgraced director. So if certain inhabitants were talking about retitling their town, maybe they just decided not to share the plans with Peck. In any case, they never came to fruition: Ismay is still Ismay today. Population: 17

40. The later lives of six Chinese passengers who survived the shipwreck are mysteries.

Titanic - 2nd Class Dinner Menu, 1912
Titanic second-class dinner menu. / Print Collector/GettyImages

J. Bruce Ismay and many other survivors have been immortalized in books and movies, but the fates of at least six people who made it onto the Carpathia remain largely unknown. Lee Bing, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Ah Lam, Chung Foo, and Ling Hee were part of a group of eight Chinese sailors being reassigned from their route in Britain to North America. When the ocean liner struck the iceberg, five of the men escaped onto lifeboats.

Fang Lang went into the water with the ship, but he managed to survive by holding onto a piece of debris until help came. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, his life after the disaster was a mystery for decades. The anti-immigration law prevented the six Chinese passengers on Carpathia from disembarking in New York with the rest of the survivors. They were instead put to work on a cargo ship bound for Cuba and disappeared from the public eye. The stories of their post-Titanic lives remained untold until 2020, when the James Cameron-produced documentary The Six premiered. The filmmakers traced the paths of some survivors, including Fang Lang, whose own son hadn’t known he’d been on Titanic until after his death in 1985.

Lang’s survival aboard ship debris even inspired part of the ending for that other James Cameron film about Titanic

41. The first Titanic film was released on May 14, 1912, just 29 days following the sinking.

The producers behind the first-ever Titanic film wasted no time in getting the story of the ship on screen. Saved from the Titanic starred Dorothy Gibson, an actress who was on board the actual Titanic and lived to—well, act about it. She even wore the same clothes she had on as a passenger. If this sounds like good psychotherapy, it wasn’t. Gibson was reportedly often upset during filming, and even at the time, the film was accused of being made in poor taste.

42. One 1970s Titanic movie cost more to make than The Empire Strikes Back.

The least appreciated Titanic film may be Raise the Titanic!, a fictional take which was based on a 1976 book by Clive Cussler, part of his bestselling Dirk Pitt adventure series. In Raise the Titanic!, the U.S. government attempts to salvage the ship to obtain a rare mineral that’s believed to be on board. Released in 1980, it cost $40 million to make, more than The Empire Strikes Back, but only grossed $7 million, or roughly what Lucasfilm probably makes in sales of baby Yoda action figures per minute.

43. Someone spiked the chowder on the set of James Cameron’s Titanic.

Everyone knows the real Titanic blockbuster came in 1997, when director James Cameron unleashed his massive production on the world and made it the highest-grossing movie of all time—at least, until his own Avatar and the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along. But making the movie was far from smooth sailing. Among its many production troubles was the time the cast and crew had to be rushed to the hospital after someone spiked the chowder from catering with PCP, a hallucinogenic street drug. No culprit was ever caught.

44. Titanic nabbed Oscar noms in 14 categories—but not Best Actor.

Tripping your eyeballs out on checkered chowder may have been a small price to pay, as Titanic was a $2 billion box office hit and an Oscar sensation. It scored nominations in 14 categories, with one notable exception: Leonardo DiCaprio. The omission of his name from the Best Actor slate prompted over 200 angry Leo-heads to call and write the Academy to complain.

45. People tuned into the Oscars to see a potential Titanic sweep.

Everyone wanted to see Titanic clean up at the ceremony, where it scored 11 wins. Roughly 87 million viewers tuned in at some point, making it the most-watched Oscars of all time.

46. Leo’s Titanic hairstyle was considered illegal in Afghanistan.

There was another faction besides the Academy that wasn’t a fan of DiCaprio’s character—the Taliban. United Press International reported in 2001 that the group had jailed barbers in Afghanistan for giving customers a haircut that resembled the floppy hairstyle DiCaprio sported in the movie, calling it an “anti-Islamic Western hairstyle.” Although the movie had been banned in the country, bootleg videotapes had circulated and caused a wave of Titanic fandom, including wedding cakes made in the shape of the ship.

47. Cameron changed a key moment in Titanic

Cameron has never gone full Lucas in revisiting the film after the fact, but he did make one key change for the 3D release after getting an email from Neil deGrasse Tyson, who explained to him that the star field observed by Rose in the movie wouldn’t have been visible to her at that place and time. Cameron digitally altered it for accuracy, and the world finally knew peace once more.

48. No one knew the exact location of the Titanic wreckage for decades.

People were talking about searching for and salvaging the Titanic pretty much as soon as it sank. That promised to be a difficult task, thanks to its remote location in the North Atlantic, the depth of the ocean in the area, and the fact that no one knew exactly where it had gone down. An estimate made by an expert right after the incident put the ship 500 miles from Halifax and 70 miles south of the Grand Banks, at a depth of two miles.

In reality, Titanic was about 720 miles from Halifax—nearly 15 miles from the position given during distress calls—at a depth of nearly 13,000 feet. People assumed the ship had gone down in one piece, but in fact it was split into two big pieces around a third of a mile apart with a debris field measuring 15 square miles. And at the time, the technology to find the wreck and get humans down to it simply didn’t exist—the pressure where the Titanic rests is around 400 times greater than what we experience at sea level.

49. The first serious attempt to find the Titanic didn’t occur until 1953.

The salvage company Risdon Beazley Limited tried using explosives to generate soundwaves that would allow them to find the ship through echolocation. It was a good idea, but the company failed to turn up the Titanic.

Then, in 1960, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh climbed in a bathyscaph and descended in a special vessel to the very deepest part of the ocean—Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, some 36,000 feet below the surface—and made it back alive. The feat showed that it was possible to get equipment and people down to the deepest, literally bone-crushing depths of the ocean. It also helped to inspire a man named Robert Ballard, who was 18 at the time of Piccard and Walsh’s groundbreaking voyage, and who, after a career in the military and developing submersibles of his own, would make it his goal to find the Titanic.

50. Robert Ballard made his first trip in search of the Titanic in 1977.

A publicity photo for the 1997 movie "Titanic."
A publicity photo for the 1997 movie "Titanic." / Getty Images/GettyImages

He sailed aboard a drillship that had cameras and other equipment on the drill pipe. He had to give up after the pipe broke, but he returned from the mission with a new goal: To build a remotely controlled submersible that could make the trip and explore the ocean floor for hours.

51. The true reason why Ballard was out there wasn’t declassified until the 21st century.

Ballard built his subs, but as you might imagine, mounting an expedition to the North Atlantic is not a cheap endeavor. So he had to get creative with his funding. And that’s why the mission that finally found the Titanic wasn’t technically searching for the ship at all.  

Ballard went to the Navy and hit them up for funding to search for the Titanic. They were not on board with that, but they were interested in covertly checking out two subs that had sunk in the 1960s, the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion. Ballard told CNN, “What they wanted me to do was go back and not have the Russians follow me, because we were interested in the nuclear weapons that were on the Scorpion and also what the nuclear reactors (were) doing to the environment.” This was the ‘80s, and the Cold War was very much on. 

The Navy told Ballard that if he checked out the subs, he could spend whatever time was left over to do whatever he wanted. Ballard said yes. Ronald Reagan signed off. The mission was a go.

In the summer of 1984, Ballard set out for the North Atlantic, where, officially, he was testing his new remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, the Argo and the Angus, and, in the words of The New York Times, was “only incidentally interested in the wreck” of the Titanic. That year, he sent his subs down to photograph and map the Thresher wreck. 

52. Ballard had only 12 days to locate the Titanic.

He returned in the summer of 1985 on a ship called the Knorr, and on August 17, finished checking out the Scorpion. Now, he had 12 days to do with as he pleased. With help from a French ship with side-scanning sonar called the Suroit, it was time to look for the Titanic.

Using a detail he had learned from mapping the wreckage of the subs—which had imploded under pressure and spread wide debris fields—Ballard began to scan the sea floor looking not for the Titanic, itself, but for its debris field. This provided a much bigger target than the ship, and would hopefully lead explorers right to the motherlode. 

53. Ballard’s crew worked around the clock.

As the days passed, Ballard was beginning to accept that this mission, too, would be a failure. Then, at 2 a.m. on the morning of September 1, Ballard was in his cabin reading when he heard a knock on the door. The ship’s cook told him that he was needed in the command center. Ballard recalled to Forbes that “I knew something had happened, so I flew out of my bunk and blew past him. It took me about four seconds to slide down six banisters of stairs.”

As the engineers piloted the ROV, its camera transmitted pictures to the research vessel. On September 1, 1985, an image of the Titanic’s boilers slowly came into view—the first time in 73 years that people had seen the ship.

54. Ballard and crew began to celebrate—then stopped.

Someone pointed out that it was nearly the exact time the Titanic had sunk beneath the waves 73 years earlier. Ballard wrote in his memoir, Into the Deep, that he was deeply affected by the synchronicity: “A world tragedy had played itself out on this spot, and now the site itself took hold of me. Its emotion filled me and never let go.”

55. The Titanic was in surprisingly good condition.

The body of the ship was found the next day. While there was obviously some damage to parts of the ship from the collision with the iceberg and the subsequent sinking, Ballard said in interviews that the hull was “standing upright on the bottom. It appears to be in superb condition. One would expect that, given the fact that we’re working in extremely deep water that’s ice cold and in total darkness. It’s an environment of high preservation.” He described intact cases of wine bottles, unbroken plates, and a “totally pristine” but flagless flagpole on the bow, as well as very little marine growth.

56. Ballard initially kept the exact location to himself.

Ballard wouldn’t give the exact location of the wreck, saying, “The Titanic is in beautiful condition and we don’t want anyone to come out and maul it.” But its location wouldn’t stay secret for long: Thanks to photos released by researchers and a private plane circling overhead, the site of the ship’s watery grave soon became public knowledge.

57. He and his crew took 60,000 photos of the wreck.

In 1986, Ballard returned to the site and made the first crewed trip down to the wreck in a submersible, snapping nearly 60,000 photos and taking hours of video footage. From examining the wreck, they determined that the iceberg had not caused a huge gash in the ship, but instead had caused the seams in that area to split, which then flooded the ship with water.

Photos of the Titanic’s watery grave—its ghostly hull and a trail of unbroken wine bottles, silver platters, a leaded glass window, bedsprings, and other artifacts resting 2.4 miles below the surface—were published and broadcast around the world.

58. Marine microbes were covering the shipwreck in “rusticles.”

They also found that the ship was quite rusty, which left it fragile. About that rust: It was actually the work of ocean microbes that feed on the iron from the ship and form long “rusticles.” These microbes are literally devouring the Titanic. The stern is deteriorating more quickly than the bow, partly because food stored there provided nutrients for the bacteria. The steel there was also more distorted, which provided more surface area for the rusticles to form and thrive. Some believe it will only be a few decades before the Titanic disappears completely. 

59. Scientists discovered a new species of bacteria on the Titanic.

In 2010, scientists announced that a new bacteria had been found in samples of rusticles brought up from the ship, which was dubbed Halomonas titanicae.

60. Ballard was disturbed by Titanic treasure hunters.

A life belt from a 'Titanic' survivor.
A life belt from a 'Titanic' survivor. / Kat Long

Ballard didn’t pull anything up from the wreck of the Titanic—he thought doing so would be akin to desecrating a gravesite, and was horrified by the Titanic-mania his discovery set in motion. Something he said in 2012 pretty accurately sums up his take: “You don’t go to Gettysburg with a shovel.”

61. Salvagers started recovering artifacts anyway.

Not everyone shared Ballard’s view, and beginning in 1987, there were seven trips down to the wreck to recover artifacts, mostly by RMS Titanic Inc., which owns the salvage rights to the ship.

Interestingly, there’s a law that requires them to get permission to take anything off the actual ship itself, so they tend to focus on the debris field surrounding it. Also, fun fact: Since 2012, it’s been a big no-no for ships traveling in the area to jettison any garbage or sewage near the wreck.

62. Artifacts recovered from the Titanic reflect the passengers’ lives.

Among the artifacts that have been brought up are things like shoes—one even has the imprint of a foot inside—pajamas, gloves, and other clothing; sheet music from a Broadway show; a bronze cherub from the ship’s grand staircase; and a 30,000-pound piece of the ship’s hull. The items are shockingly well preserved thanks to the cold, dark, oxygen-poor environment where the ship rests, and the fact that some items, like the shoes, were treated with chemicals that actually made them impervious to ocean microbes. Even many paper items survived if they were contained in things like leather suitcases

63. More than 5500 objects have been collected so far.

In all, RMS Titanic Inc has collected more than 5000 pieces. There was a long process to get the artifacts ready to be displayed. As the Dothan Eagle described it:

“When artifacts are recovered from the wreckage site, they are immediately placed in tanks of salt water. The treasures are slowly transitioned to salt-free water and then dried the next few months. Paper is freeze dried and then vacuumed to remove all salt and debris.”

All told, the process can take anywhere from several months to two years. The goal is to stabilize the artifacts to make sure they can be exhibited and studied for years to come.

64. Artifacts recovered from the wreckage are included in several Titanic museum exhibits.

In Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Titanic collection includes important pieces of the ship’s story. A life belt saved by a Titanic survivor and a nameplate removed from one of the Titanic’s lifeboats aboard the Carpathia are on display. There is an actual telegram, sent from the Carpathia’s captain Arthur Rostron to Cunard headquarters, telling the company about the disaster. Artifacts retrieved from the wreckage itself include porcelain dishes, a pair of pince-nez glasses, and gold hat pins. The museum also owns the sole surviving first-class ticket for the Titanic’s only voyage: The clergyman who bought it opted to stay home and tend to his wife who had fallen ill the night before departure.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History also owns a number of Titanic artifacts, including Carpathia passenger Bernice Palmer Ellis’s Kodak “Brownie” camera and photos she took of the rescued Titanic survivors.

While the ship itself remains on the seabed, a 12-foot-by-26-foot piece of the starboard hull went on display in a Titanic museum exhibit at the Luxor in Las Vegas in 2011.

65. One artifact you won’t see—at least not anytime soon—is the Titanic’s Marconi radio.

A judge actually ruled in 2020 that RMS Titanic Inc. could proceed with its attempt to collect the instrument used to send the famous distress calls, against the advice of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and UNESCO. 

It was a controversial decision: Authors Helen Farr and Fraser Sturt, co-chairs of UNESCO’s Unitwin Network for Underwater Archaeology, wrote at The Conversation that the effort to get the radio was “directly at odds with the ethics of modern archaeological practice.” They went on to say that “From an archaeological perspective, recovering the radio will involve further damage to the memorial site for very limited gain with regard to scientific and cultural knowledge. We already know the make, model and history of this radio. So motivation for the salvage appears to lie in the radio’s economic potential as a tourist attraction and through a possible future sale.” The court ruling, they concluded, “risks suggesting that the principles of shared heritage and selective intervention can be easily negated through simplistic arguments of degradation and profit,” putting further culturally significant sites at risk.

And then, COVID happened. In 2021, RMS Titanic Inc. announced that they were short on funds due to exhibitions of artifacts being closed during the pandemic, which also made logistics way more complicated. The result was that they had to abandon the salvage mission indefinitely. So for now, the radio remains with the rest of the ship.

66. Deep-sea robots mapped the ship’s debris field.

In 2012, researchers from Woods Hole, the Waitt Institute, and RMS Titanic, Inc.—the wreck’s legal custodian—announced that they had created a map of the 15-square-mile debris field using underwater robots. Sonar data and about 10,000 photos were synthesized to create the high-resolution map, which revealed the widely scattered artifacts extending outward from where the two large bow and stern sections of the ship came to rest on the seafloor about a half-mile apart.

The data also provided new clues as to how the Titanic sank. After 1 a.m. on April 15, 1912, as the flooded bow dipped first, the ship’s stern rose out of the water at a steep angle. As the ship slid under the surface, the stern broke away and spiraled downward in a corkscrew pattern to the seabed, rather than falling in a straight line.

67. There might still be some cheese down there.

By the time the Titanic wreckage was found, most of the food that had sunk with the ship was long gone. But according to Holger W. Jannasch, senior scientist in Woods Hole's biology department in 1985, there might have been some brie lingering in the pantry. “Some foodstuffs, such as cheese, are protected from decay by the very microbial activity that starts the degradation process. If kept in boxes, it may have changed little over the extended time period,” Jannasch wrote in Oceanus. “The microbes that turn milk or whey into cheese produce either highly acidic or highly alkaline conditions, both of which protect these highly proteinaceous foodstuffs from further spoiling.” Similarly, wines seen on the seafloor “may still be drinkable and possibly of excellent quality, the normal aging process being slowed down during the [then 73] years of deep-sea storage at about 36°F,” he wrote.

68. Titanic II may never set sail.

Eccentric Australian billionaire Clive Palmer dreamed up Titanic II (not to be confused with the made-for-TV 2010 disaster flick of the same name). For history buffs and fans of Cameron’s film, it might go down as one of the best publicity stunts of all time. That is, provided it ever actually gets built or sets sail. The idea is to build a replica of the doomed ship. What could go wrong?

Pretty much everything: Since it was first announced in 2012, the project has been besieged by bad luck, from financial disputes to criticism from notable figures like Charles Haas, president of the Titanic International Society, who disparaged it as “an imperfect approximation” of the famous ocean liner and referred to it as “a matter of sensitivity, respect, and thoughtfulness” in an interview with Scientific American in 2019. As Haas said, “We commemorate tragedies and those lost in them, not duplicate them.”

The ship was originally slated to set sail in 2016, but the launch was delayed to 2018, then to 2022. As of right now, the official website is a bit like a ghost ship itself: You can’t buy tickets and no official launch date has been released. Even the ship’s Twitter account seems virtually abandoned; it hasn’t been updated since 2019.

69. The company behind Titanic II, the Blue Star Line, seems to have taken its cues from the source.

The original RMS Titanic was owned and operated by the White Star Line. Titanic II is slated to look a lot like its namesake, but with some notable differences. The Titanic II is meant to hold 2400 passengers along with 900 crew members, which is greater than the 2200 passenger count of the original. It’ll also be 13 feet wider to meet current safety regulations and won’t be powered by steam engines and boilers, but rather by a diesel engine system.

70. Titanic II will have a lifeboat place for everyone on board.

According to reports, the ship is slated to start its journey in China, then eventually make its way to Southampton, England, and follow the same route as the original Titanic did in 1912 across the Atlantic Ocean, before ultimately ending up in New York City. Whether it’ll come into close contact with an iceberg along the way to fully recreate the experience still seems up for debate.

This article was originally published in 2019; it has been updated for 2023.