Titanic 107th Anniversary: Seven Things You Didn’t Know About The Luxury Ship’s Doomed Maiden Voyage

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April 15 marks the 107th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The luxury ocean liner crashed into an iceberg and sank southeast of Newfoundland, Canada, during its maiden voyage from Southampton England to the United States on April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 lives were lost. Decades later, the ship’s wreckage remains at the bottom of the ocean at a depth of more than 12,000 feet.

For more than 100 years after the Titanic plunged into the icy North Atlantic sea, the tragedy has spawned fascinating tales of survival and sadness.

There were several deaths before Titanic ever set sail.

The luxury ship may have been cursed from the start. According to National Geographic, five days before Titanic sank, a report was presented that detailed the deaths and accidents that had occurred during the ship’s construction. There were eight fatal accidents that occurred while building the Titanic and more than 200 other serious mishaps. The first life lost was that of Samuel Joseph Scott, a 15-year-old rivet catcher, who died from a fractured skull after he fell from a ladder on the ship’s scaffolding.

The last song played by the ship’s musicians may not be what most people think.

For decades, many sources have noted that the final song played by the ship’s musicians before the Titanic plunged into the ocean was “Nearer My God To Thee.” But in a 1912 interview with The New York Times, surviving crew member Harold Bride said the brave eight-member band led by violinist Wallace Hartley played the hymn “Autumn” as the ship went down. The Titanic’s junior wireless operator immediately recounted the tale upon his arrival in New York aboard the rescue ship Carpathia, and he mentioned the song “Autumn” multiple times.

“The way the band kept playing was a noble thing,” McBride said. “I heard it first while still we were working wireless when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing ‘Autumn.’ How they ever did it I cannot imagine.”

The ship’s baker survived because he was drunk

Chief baker Charles Joughin was an unlikely Titanic survivor. According to The National Post, during the British Titanic inquiry, it was revealed that the 33-year-old Englishman was so drunk after the ship began to sink that he had enough “liquid courage” to calmly paddle around in the freezing water until dawn as hundreds of other frantic passengers died around him. Joughin, who reportedly began pouring himself drinks as soon as the ship hit the iceberg, was one of the last passengers to get into the water and he managed to stay calm once he was in it. After two hours of paddling and treading water, the ship’s baker was rescued by a lifeboat, miraculously unscathed.

The first film about Titanic came one month after the tragedy.

One of the Titanic survivors was 22-year-old silent film actress Dorothy Gibson. Within a month of her rescue from the sinking ship, Gibson’s boyfriend Jules Brulatour released the film Saved From the Titanic, which starred the actress in a fictionalized version of the tragedy. According to The Los Angeles Times, Gibson even wore the same white silk evening dress in which she abandoned the sinking ship. The only known prints of the film were destroyed a few years later in a fire.

Film poster Saved from the Titanic (1912).
Featured image credit: Public DomainWikimedia Commons

Third class passengers had an unheard-of perk

While many stories have been recounted of the luxurious first-class amenities on Titanic, the third class accommodations weren’t bad compared to other ships of the era. BBC notes that there was a “general room” for the third class passengers to socialize in, and it included a piano. Third class passengers also had their own dining room in which they were served rice soup, biscuits, roast beef, and fruit. While that menu pales in comparison to the high-end dishes served in first class, it should be noted that on most other ships, third class passengers were expected to bring their own food to last for the entire journey.

The last remaining survivor of the Titanic died 97 years after the tragedy.

Millvina Dean was only 9 weeks old and the youngest passenger on the ship when she was put on a lifeboat and saved as Titanic went down. According to The Guardian, Dean’s death in 2009 at age 97 came one month after Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet donated money to help pay for her nursing home expenses after being approached by a charity. The Oscar-winning film’s director James Cameron has also made a donation.

An English biscuit from a Titanic lifeboat survival kit survived more than 100 years.

In 2015, 103 years after the maritime disaster, a biscuit that was part of a Titanic lifeboat survival kit was sold via auction to a Greek collector for $23,000, according to The Washington Post. The Spillers and Bakers brand cracker was part of a collection from James and Mabel Fenwick, newlyweds who in April 1912 began a three-month honeymoon trip to Europe on board the SS Carpathia, the ship that ended up rescuing survivors of the Titanic. The unsinkable snack was kept intact in a Kodak film envelope by James Fenwick. Auctioneer Alan Aldridge explained that the Titanic biscuit was similar in composition to a hot cross bun, and he stated that it will never rot.