When you think about when and where the RMS Titanic slipped beneath the waves for the final time, it’s completely astounding that we know as much about her as we do.
We have images, written history, video – largely thanks to the obsession of James Cameron – that mean one of history’s most epic disasters will never be forgotten.
That said, like all great ships, the Titanic seems determined to hold onto at least a few of her mysteries, scientific advancements be damned.
10. Why didn’t the crew have binoculars?
All of the Titanic’s binoculars were in a locked storage compartment – and the key was with a disembarked crew member back in London. He was transferred last minute and “forgot” he had the key.
Coincidence? Accident? Or something more…
9. Could a fire have been the thing that spelled her doom?
There is credible evidence that the ship had been damaged by a coal fire that had raged for three weeks before she even left port.
The fire could have weakened the hole, causing the swift sinking after the collision.
8. Why didn’t the captain take the ice warning seriously?
The S.S. Californian was nearby – less than 20km away – and radioed to inform Titanic that they were stopped by a “dense ice field.” The radio operator, Jack Phillips, either never conveyed the warning to Captain Smith or relayed it as “non-urgent.”
We’ll never know which, or why, because he went down with the ship.
7. Why was the captain going so fast?
The prevailing theory on this is simple – there was pressure on Captain Smith to make the crossing as fast as possible, since Titanic was supposed to be the newest, best thing in ocean travel.
One Robert H. Essenhigh, though, published a paper claiming the real reason for speed was to burn coal as quickly as possible due to the aforementioned coal fire issue.
6. Why didn’t the Californian respond to Titanic’s distress calls?
We mentioned how close the Californian was when Titanic’s first distress calls went out – yet, they never responded. They claimed that they didn’t ignore the repeated calls for help, but instead didn’t hear them because the radio operator had gone off duty.
Plenty of fodder there for a conspiracy theory, if you’re so inclined.
5. Why did the ship break into two pieces?
It was 1985 when oceanographer Robert Ballard first discovered Titanic’s wreckage, 2.5 miles below the surface of the ocean.
We learned for the first time that the ship had broken in two before sinking, and engineers began to speculate whether design flaws and skimping on quality materials could have been the cause of death for hundreds.
4. The Samson also failed to respond to distress calls.
A Norwegian ship, the Samson, was also nearby – maybe even closer than Californian – but they ignored distress calls, too.
It’s thought they were out hunting seals illegally and didn’t want to get caught.
3. Could it have been torpedoed?
Some conspiracy theorists believe a German U-boat torpedoed the ship, and if you think that’s farfetched, well…they did sink a passenger ship, the Lusitania three years later.
2. Why weren’t there enough life boats?
There’s no disagreement on the fact that, had there been sufficient lifeboats for passengers and crew, far fewer people would have perished that fateful night.
Instead of having enough for everyone, the “luxury” liner carried only 20 lifeboats – the legal minimum – which smacks of cutting corners.
Corners that cost hundreds of lives.
1. Did it really hit an iceberg?
Professional mariner Captain L.M. Collins, and others with similar experience, believe that the Titanic steamed into a hidden floe of “pack ice,” instead of hitting an iceberg.
Pack ice is multi-year-old sheets of ice floating near the ocean’s surface, and Collins points out that eyewitness accounts could be due to the natural optical illusion. Also, he believes the ship would have sunk much quicker had an iceberg been the real culprit.
I’d never even considered some of these and now I want to know! Argh!
What’s your favorite Titanic fact? Share it with us in the comments!