FYI logo

Great Danes, Whiskey, and Classified Missions – Things You Never Knew About the Titanic

(Un)Common Knowledge about the Ship of Dreams

By Kristen NazzaroPublished 3 years ago Updated about a year ago 9 min read
Top Story - March 2021

A week ago the extent of my knowledge about the Titanic was minimal at best. Everything I knew I learned from the James Cameron movie, and the only thing that really stuck with me was that there was definitely room for two on that floating door. A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition in Orlando, Florida and I was able to hear the real story. Below is a list of 15 of the most fascinating, little known facts that I learned that day.

1. It wasn’t always known as the Titanic.

The Irish believed that it was bad luck to name a ship before the building of it was complete. Instead, they referred to the ship as ‘401’. It didn’t become the Titanic until it was ready to set sail.

2. The Titanic set the standard for luxury . . . for some people.

The Titanic was advertised as the epitome of luxury cruising at that time. And it was – for the upper classes. It was the first ship to have running hot water, an amenity that the first class passengers took full advantage of. Things were much different down in third class, however. Not only did they lack running hot water, they only had five toilets and two bathtubs for all 709 passengers.

3. Not everyone had a fighting chance at survival.

When the boat started going down, first and second class passengers had an obvious advantage over third class. But even among the passengers in third class, not everyone had the same odds of survival. The layout of the Titanic resembled a maze and according to the servants, who had boarded the boat early to get things ready, it took them two weeks to learn their way around. The passengers only had about four and a half days to get familiar with the ship before the crash. Adding to the disadvantage of many was the fact that there were 27 different languages spoken in third class and the signs on the ship were in English only.

By Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

4. Dinner was looonnnggg.

There was no entertainment on the ship, so dinner time was considered the time to socialize. It was an elaborate event, in which first class passengers began getting ready up to two hours ahead of time. The women wore formal ball gowns and the men could be seen in tail coats and ties. The dinner itself was approximately five hours, and consisted of ten courses. Imagine sitting through that in a corset!

5. Third class passengers had to undergo health checks before being allowed to board.

In order to board the boat, the third class passengers had to pass a health inspection. As they boarded, their eyes were examined for evidence of jaundice. They were instructed to cough into a handkerchief to check for tuberculosis. Lastly, officials ran a comb through everyone’s hair to check for lice. Screening passengers for contagious diseases was a great idea in theory, but the execution of it left much to be desired. The same handkerchief and comb was used on every passenger, so if you didn’t have lice beforehand, you probably did after.

6. It wasn’t just humans making the journey.

Aside from the 2,223 passengers, there were also chickens, roosters, cats, and 12 dogs on board. Each dog was required to have their own ticket, which cost about half of a normal first class ticket. Sadly, only about 3 of the 12 dogs made it out alive, and they were all small breeds who could easily fit on their owners lap in the lifeboat. One story that emerged from that fateful night showed the unbreakable bond between a woman and her dog. First class passenger, Ann Elizabeth Isham, brought her Great Dane on board with her. When the large dog wasn’t allowed in the lifeboat, Miss Isham refused to get in as well. When the area was later canvased for survivors, Miss Isham was found frozen to death with her arms wrapped around her Great Dane.

7. The search for the Titanic actually started out as a classified mission for the United States Navy.

In 1982 a man named Richard Ballard approached the Navy about his plan to find the Titanic. He was requesting funding in order to develop a robotic submarine that would be able to reach the ship and take photographs of it. The Navy had other ideas, however. They wanted Ballard to create the technology, but not to locate the Titanic. Instead they were interested in finding two wrecked nuclear submarines that were resting at the bottom of the ocean, the U.S.S. Thresher and the U.S.S. Scorpion. The Navy was conducting a secret investigation into the environmental impact of disposing nuclear materials into the ocean. They were also interested in finding out if there was any evidence that the submarines had been shot down by the Soviets.

Ballard was successful in locating the U.S.S. Thresher and the U.S.S. Scorpion. Afterwards, he requested permission to search for the Titanic. Although he was never given explicit permission, officials told him that he could “do what he wanted” if there was time left on his mission. With 12 days remaining Ballard began his search for the Titanic. On the second to last day of the trip, a crew member came knocking on Ballard’s door to give him the news he was waiting for – the Titanic had been found.

8. They have recovered some incredible artifacts, including a full bottle of champagne.

The Titanic was first discovered in 1985. Since then, there have been at least 5,500 artifacts recovered. All of them are fascinating, but none more so than that of an unopened bottle of champagne, still completely full. Divers had to be especially careful when recovering the bottle because the water pressure could easily shatter it. As a result, it took 20 hours to slowly raise the bottle out of the water.

9. The Titanic was almost involved in an earlier collision, which likely would have saved it.

On April 10, 1912, in Southampton, the Titanic was pulled into the water by six tugboats. One of the boats, the SS New York was tied up alongside another vessel, the RME Oceanic. It was too soon when Captain Smith ordered the tugs to let go and started the Titanic’s engine. The force of the propellers caused the rope between the New York and the Oceanic to snap, and the New York was sucked towards the Titanic. The two boats came within two feet of colliding, but the Captain quickly reversed the propellers, pushing the smaller boat away. If the two boats actually had crashed, it’s likely that the Titanic would have had to cancel the rest of its voyage.

10. The iceberg was actually a “blackberg” – a far more dangerous formation.

The danger with icebergs is that only 1/8 of their mass can be seen above the water. Blackbergs – also known as blue icebergs – are twice as treacherous because the top of them can’t be seen either. The ice is turned black as a result of periods of continuous melting and refreezing. The effect is similar to black ice on the road; both are near impossible to spot because light doesn’t reflect off of it. Lookout Frederick Fleet, the first to spot the iceberg, described it as “even darker than the darkness”.

11. It was a perfectly clear, calm night – which is part of the reason the Titanic crashed.

Many people think that there must have been inclement weather that contributed to the collision. On the contrary, it was a perfectly calm night with no wind or rain. Ironically, that was the problem. At nighttime it was pitch black out, and the only way to see what was coming up was by the light of the stars. When the weather was windy, it caused waves and allowed the crew to see what was in front of them every time the waves crashed. When the water was as calm as it was that night, there was no way to see the iceberg coming up. In fact, the only way they were able to identify the iceberg was because it blocked out a chunk of the sky, causing a giant gap in the star light. By then, however, it was too late.

12. Whiskey saved the day.

One of the survivors, Charles Joughin, was found floating in the 28 degree water for two hours. The below freezing temperature of the water had frozen most of the passengers to death within 45 minutes. Joughin, however, had been drunk off all the whiskey he consumed earlier that night. He was so intoxicated that the alcohol thinned out his blood, delaying the onset of hypothermia long enough for him to be rescued.

13. A nearby ship could have helped rescue the Titanic an hour before it sank.

John George (“Jack”) Phillips, a telegraphist, was working on the Titanic along with his assistant Harold Bride. Their job was to relay personal messages from the passengers aboard the ship. On the night of the tragedy, there was a backlog of messages that Phillips was trying to get out as quickly as possible. A nearby ship, the Californian, sent a warning that it was surrounded by ice and had to stop. Phillips, anxious to get caught up on the messages he had to send out, scolded the Californian for clogging up the lines. He responded to their warning with “Keep out, I am working.” After that, the Californian turned its radio off for the night and never received the Titanic’s distress call. The Californian was only an hour away, but because it never received the SOS, the Titanic had to wait for the next closet ship, the Carpethia, which was 4-5 hours away. Had the Californian heard the Titanic’s cry for help, they would have been there a good hour before the ship sank completely.

Although a critical mistake, Phillips did attempt to right his wrong by continuing to place distress calls, even as the boat was sinking. He is often referred to as a hero for this, as it ended up costing him his life.

14. The Titanic is disappearing.

The last dive down to the Titanic was 14 years ago. When the divers got down there, they were shocked to find that the ship was deteriorating. Not just deteriorating, but actually being devoured by rust-eating bacteria. Between the deterioration caused by the currents, and the bacteria eating the rest of the ship, it’s expected that in another 20 years the Titanic will be completely gone. Which brings us to our last fun fact...

15. You can explore the Titanic yourself - for $125,000.

For years OceanGate Expeditions, an undersea exploration company, talked about allowing citizens to join the crew of their five person submersible as it explores the wreck site of the Titanic. It was initially planned for 2018, but has since been pushed back twice. It is now scheduled for May 2021, which is when the first of six missions will take place. Each of the missions has up to nine slots for qualified citizens who are willing to dish out $125,000 for the experience. The dive consists of a ninety minute descent to the wreck site, followed by a three hour exploration of the ship, and another 90 minute trip back up to the surface. With the ship deteriorating at the rate it is, this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.


About the Creator

Kristen Nazzaro

Photographer. Writer. Attorney. Wife. Driven by insatiable wanderlust.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.