Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Titanic..Reality Vs Movie

I wanted to get this thing done in April... 'Wanted To' being the key phrase. Ahhh...the best laid plans and so forth. Life, and a touch of procrastination (What? ME...Procrastinate???) changed those plans. The fact still remains that I'm, allegedly at any rate, a History Blogger. Sort of. And as such if I didn't pay homage to a certain 4-funnel luxury liner and her encounter with an iceberg on her maiden voyage I should turn in my keyboard. Especially this year. It was 100 years ago on the 14th of April...Three months back...that RMS Titanic had a glancing collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic and became the best known, most discussed shipwreck in history.

There were the inevitable few dozen specials, documentaries, and factoid shows on The Titanic back in April, none of which broke any really new ground. I watched most of them, and all of 'em were interesting and well viewed because...well because it's The Titanic! Titanic is one of those topics that just grabs people and won't let go. This was the 'Challenger Explosion' of her era. The (At the time) largest, most advanced ship ever built, packed full of the rich, famous, and celebrated folks of her day, going down with a majority of her passengers and crew on her maiden voyage....yeah, a legend was borne. Try to find someone who hasn’t heard of her...Ok, originally I said 'Ya Won't, but apparently some peole thought the movie was just that...a movie, and were surprised that it was set in the middle of an actual event (That is the definition of 'Sad', IMHO). But it'll still be hard to find anyone who hasn't heard of her.

Now this post isn't going to cover any new ground either, but I'm going to try to do something interesting (If not that different...more on that in a sec).
And the critics said it'd be The Flop Of The Century...Silly, silly critics!!

Arguably the best known artist rendition of Titanic after striking the iceberg...the classic view of her down by the bow with distress rockets being fired.

As we all recall, back in 1997 a guy named James Cameron made an obscure little flick about RMS Titanic, her fate, and a fictitious doomed romance. Critics derided the movie pretty much as one voice, declaring that it would be The Flop Of The Century. The critics, as we also recall, ended up eating a lot of words. The 'Potential Flop Of The Century'' became one of the biggest grossing films in cinematic history, and has become just about as well known as the Titanic herself... if not better known among the younger generation.
Titanic also gave us a lot of facts to compare and contrast in the 'Movie Titanic Vs Real Titanic' sort of way, and that's exactly what I'm going to do here.

Now it's been done before of course...type 'Movie Titanic vs Real Titanic' into any search engine and you'll get pages...and pages...and pages...of results. Also, I'm not going to dig into any of the following in deep and intricate detail, much as I'd like to...there are just to many facts, and I really want to get this posted at least during the 100th year after the disaster.

So with the preliminaries out of the way, let's get to the meat of the matter:,

 Jack Dawson When James Cameron was fleshing out the two main characters...Jack and Rose...he created them, named them, and gave them life and lines as fictitious characters. Jack Dawson and Rose
DeWitt Bukater, existed only as characters in a movie script.

Leo as Jack Dawson

OK, this is 99 or so percent true...and James Cameron didn't find out about that other 1 percent until after filming was complete, because there was a J. Dawson on board Titanic. His real name was Joseph, not Jack, and he was a member of the boiler room crew (The 'Black Gang' as they were called.). To be specific, he was a coal trimmer, responsible for evening out the piles of coal that the stokers shoveled into the fireboxes of Titanic's 27 boilers. He went down with the ship, his body was recovered, and he was buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Specifically, buried in Grave 227 in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in that city.

The real J Dawson's grave in Halifax, N.S.

Fans of the movie, upon learning of the real J (For Joseph, not Jack) Dawson's existence have descended upon the cemetery for years, leaving all nature of tokens of their esteem...who CARES if he's actually named Joseph, was a crew member rather than a third class passenger, never danced with an adorable little girl named Cora, and never fell in love with a beautiful First Class passenger named Rose. He's still 'J Dawson' and that's all that Titanic Fans and Leophiles need to know!

Jack's not the only character who had a real life sort of counterpart aboard The Titanic...Jack's Irish friend Tommy Ryan also had a real life counterpart...and he too was a crew member rather than a passenger. Thomas Ryan was a Third Class steward who went down with the ship, and whose body was never recovered.

Rose DeWitt Bukater. Rose's character (Portrayed flawlessly by Kate Winslette) was entirely fictitious, and had no counterpart aboard the real Titanic...and sorry, romatics, the love story portrayed in the movie didn't happen either, and very likely couldn't have happened. 

Kate Winslette as Rose Bukater

 There was however a Third Class Passenger named Rosa Abbot who jumped into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic with her two sons. She was the only woman, and supposedly the only passenger who was pulled from the water and survived.

For more on Rosa Abbot, click here:

Little Cora and her doll. During the first part of the movie, when the submersible is exploring the debris field, we see the head of a porcelain doll looking up eerily from the sea floor. The doll head is really there and in fact when Bob Ballard found The Titanic back in 1986 he at first thought this doll's head was a skull.
The doll's head in the Titanic's Debris field.
Cora Cartmell and The Doll

An identical doll was carried by little Cora Cartmell.  Cora was portrayed adorably by two young actresses named Alexandrea Owens and Liza Yumi Mitchell. Cora, as we may recall, stole everyone's heart in her most memorable scene at the dance in Third Class, where Jack told her 'You're still my best girl, Cora' just before he danced with Rose.

'You're still my best girl, Cora...'
Cora died in the sinking, and  there was, in fact, a deleted scene showing her death, a scene I am truly thankful wasn't included in the movie. Suffice it to say she and her parents were brought up short by one of the locked gates separating third class from the rest of the ship.

 Cora had her doll with her in this scene, and we would be led to believe, had the scene been included in the movie, that the doll head in the debris field was indeed Cora's doll.

Cora didn't really exist, of course...but she represented all of the children from Third Class who died in the sinking. There were 80 third class children on board Titanic...only 25 survived.

The doll, however, does exist. Thing is, the doll found in the debris field was very likely carried by a First or Second class child who lost it in the course of boarding and launching the boats...All of the 2nd class children and all but one of the first class children survived. A porcelain doll was not an inexpensive item and it was highly unlikely that a third class child would actually own one. A third class child would more than likely own a rag doll, A rag doll just as loved by it's owner as the most exquisite porcelain doll was loved by it's first or second class owner. But this is one time I tend not to let facts get in the way of the movie. In our minds, that doll's head belonged to an adorable little girl named Cora

The Car:  Everyone knows exactly what scene I’m speaking of here. Jack and Rose end up in the Titanic’s forward cargo hold, find a 1912 Renault town car, end up in the back seat, and partake in (If it had actually happened) one of the very first examples of what we called ‘parking’ back when I was in high school, 
A very powerful and romantic scene! Too bad it absolutely couldn’t have happened that way.

One the very first examples of 'Parking' Too bad it couldn't have actually happened...

First lets take a quick look at the car itself…The car that was loaded aboard the Titanic was a chauffeur driven Renault type CB Coupe DeVille with a French rating system 12 HP I-4 engine that probably would have been rated at closer to 40 HP using the modern system. 

The car was actually owned by William Carter of Bryn Mawr, who had purchased it in Europe and was shipping it back to the US. He and his wife both survived the sinking, and he placed a claim for 5,000 Dollars with Lloysds of London for it’s loss. James Cameron came close with that…the car shown in the movie was a 1914 model, but it was also the closest thing available. Lloyds of London kept (And keeps) immaculate records on all items it insures, and those records were still available…Cameron was able to use those records to restore the car bought for the filming to an all but exact replica of the Renault that went down with Titanic, as well as build a replica which was used for the famous 'Car Scene'

1912 Renault restored to the exact specs of the car that went down with The Titanic

 This is where Real Life and Movie Life diverge. In the movie, the Renault is owned by Rose's family, and arrives quayside occupied by Rose, her mom, Cal, and his (soon to be evil) manservant. They get out of their ride, baggage is loaded aboard the ship…and the next thing we know the Renault is being loaded aboard Titanic.  While it’s barely possible that the car could have been loaded a few hours before sailing, it’s hugely improbable. And all but impossible that it could have been loaded even as it’s former occupants were boarding the ship. A great deal of preparation was needed before the ride was loaded.

The Bukater's ride being loaded.  Cool Scene...couldn't have have happened this way.

 The gas tank had to be drained (Even back in1912 having an unneeded 20 or so gallons of gasoline in the hold of the ship was not allowable). The movie car was apparently shipped as baggage rather than cargo but even so, the wheels would have been removed, then the car’s axles would have been attached to a specially built frame mounted on a pallet. Then the car would have been loaded aboard ship.
 As the real car was purchased new, it’s quite likely that it was actually shipped as cargo, disassembled and crated, rather than palletized baggage.
In reality it would have also been highly unlikely for Jack and Rose (Or any real life contemporary) to make their way into the baggage hold unescorted, no matter who they were being chased by. Gaining access to the cargo hold would have been absolutely impossible. If the car was wheelless but palletized it’s possible for their romantic interlude to have taken place…but again the car would have been wheelless and attached solidly to the pallet rather than resting on it’s tires if any real life Titanic couple had used it to enact one of the first examples of ‘Parking’. If it had been loaded as cargo, the car would have been absolutely inaccessible to any passenger.

The ‘I’m King Of The World’ Scene:  Everyone remembers this one…Jack and Rose on the bow of the Titanic’, Jack proclaiming himself to be ‘King Of The World’, then holding Rose on the bow rail as she proclaims that she ‘Feels Like She’s Flying’. Sun setting beautifully into the ocean, Porpoises cavorting alongside the bow…One of the most beautiful scenes in all of Hollywood history. It’s been referenced, and repeated, and parodied repeatedly.

'I'm The King Of The World!!!... 'O, Jack, I feel like I'm flying!!'
 Only one problem, it couldn’t have happened. While the stern of the ship was accessible to Third Class passengers (It was in effect the Third Class Promenade Deck) The bow was off limits to all but crew…and even had The Couple of the Moment managed to make their way to the bow, they would have been in plain sight of the bridge. They would have been politely escorted back to where they belonged well before the scene could have taken place.
This also makes the pivotal scene when Jack and Rose were on the foredeck, just forward and to starboard of the crows nest just before the collision impossible as well, of course.
AN interesting point about the 'I'm King Of The World Scene...after the movie came out, pretty much any vessel that floated and carried paying passengers had to post crew members at the bow to prevent people from trying to reenact the scene!

Ida and Isidor Strous Ida and Isidor Strous were, of course, actual people...Isidor Strous was part owner of an obscure little retail chain called Macy's Department Stores'. He and his wife are best known in Titanic lore for refusing to be separated and going down with the ship. Isidor insisted that his wife board a lifeboat knowing that he would not be allowed to board, and she refused to be separated from him.

Ida and Isidor Strous

During the Nearer My God To Thee scene they were seen cuddling in bed in their cabin as it flooded but this in not the way it actually happened. In reality, after Isidor Straus refused to enter the lifeboat (Lifeboat #8) while there were women and children who could still be saved his wife refused to board without him, saying to him “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go." (There was actually a deleted scene depicting this moment.)

They insisted that their maid, Ellen Bird, save herself, then went to a pair of deck chairs and sat side by side to await their fate...they were seen being washed overboard by the wave created as the Titanic's bow went under. Isidor Strous' body was recovered by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett, which was contracted by White Star to recover bodies from the disaster...had they been in their cabin as depicted in the movie his body would have never been recovered. Ida Straus' body in fact was never recovered.

The employees of Macy's designed a brass plaque commemorating their boss' life and the great love he and his wife shared...Isidor Straus was apparently a very popular boss and quite a guy in general. The plaque was displayed for decades near what became known as 'The Memorial Entrance' on 34th street in Manhattan, but is now concealed behind temporary walls as the store undergoes a remodeling.

Memorial plaque for the Ida and Isador Strous, donated by the employees of Macy's.  The inscription reads:

                   IDA STRAUS ISIDOR STRAUS

BORN FEB. 6. 1849. BORN FEB. 6. 1845.

DIED. APRIL. 15. 1912



First Officer Murdoch shooting a passenger and then himself. First Officer William Murdoch's relatives...and the residents if his home town of Dalbeattie, Scotland...were P.O.ed BIGTIME at the way he was portrayed in the movie. Murdoch was shown shooting two men rushing a lifeboat, then saluting, putting the gun to his head, and killing himself. Before that he was depicted taking a bribe from Cal (Rose's fiancee') to be allowed in a lifeboat.
First Officer William Murdoch

Ewan Stewart as First Officer Murdoch
  There is no evidence what so ever that Murdoch (Or indeed, any of the Titanic's crew) ever took a bribe...that scene was probably added to the movie to show Cal's lack of integrity rather than Murdoch's. The shooting of the two passengers and suicide were also likely added for Dramatic Effect, though that is a bit closer to fact. Witnesses reported seeing one if the Titanic's officers shooting himself but no one could say with any certainty at all which officer this was. Also, while it is a known fact that some male passengers were held back from and/or removed from the boats at gunpoint, there is no evidence that any passengers were actually shot.

To make up for their inaccurate portrayal of Murdoch, studio executives actually flew to Murdoch's hometown, issued an apology and made an $8,500 donation to Murdoch's memorial fund.  

Captain Smith's death: Captain Edward John Smith was one of the White Star Line's best known, most experienced captains, and this is why he was given command of Titanic for her maiden voyage. The voyage was also to be his final trip before retirement.

Capt Edward J Smith
Bernard Hill as Capt Edward J Smith

In the movie, Captain Smith is seen entering the wheelhouse and closing the door behind him, then standing at the ships wheel and watching as the sea rose up on the wheelhouse windows while water slowly filled the bridge.. He died spectacularly as the water finally blew the windows in, drowning him.

In actuality, it's believed that Captain Smith survived the sinking and died of exposure (As did the great majority of those who died), though the true nature of his death remains a mystery. Many witnesses...both crew and passengers...testified that he was seen rescuing a small child and passing him or her up to those on board a lifeboat (Likely Collapsible 'C' as it was the last launched and was closest to the ship when she went down). Others noted that he shouted words of encouragement to them.

He was said to have been seen swimming back towards the ship, seen to sink, and never resurface, and yes, one first Class passenger even reported seeing him on the bridge just before Titanic's final plunge.

Another highly unlikely scenario was advanced by a young boy who was among the very last passengers to leave the stricken ship. The kid reported seeing Smith 'Put a gun to his head and fall down' but this possibility was strongly and vehemently denied by everyone...passengers and crew alike...who had ever known him.

The strangest (and least unlikely) tale comes from Captain Peter Pryal, a well known Baltimore sea captain who had sailed with Smith, and had known him for years. He reported in July 1912 that he had seen and spoken to Smith on the streets of Baltimore, and that Smith had boarded a train to Washington after stating that he was in town on business. This one is highly unlikely, and swerves into the bizarre, however. Capt Smith's wife lived until April 1931...it stands to reason that he would have gotten in touch with her sometime in the intervening 20 years. And had he lived he would have been the guest of honor at BOTH inquests held concerning the disaster...one in Britain, the other in The US.

My theory...he did everything possible to save his passengers, stayed with Titanic until the last possible instant and died a hero.

J Bruce Ismay, the order to maintain top speed, and his cowardice.
J Bruce Ismay was the Chairman and Managing Director of White Star Lines, and also president of MMC, the American firm that bought White Star in 1902. Ismay was vilified by both the popular press in 1912 and by the portrayal of him in two movies (A Night To Remember and 'Titanic'). Both told nearly the exact same story. Ismay hid reports of ice from Captain Smith, demanded that Titanic attempt a cross Atlantic speed record, refused to allow her to be slowed as they approached the area designated as an ice field, then dressed himself as a woman in order to get a place on a life boat.

Great story...just wasn't true.

J Bruce Ismay...Slanted Reporting  is NOT a new thing

First lets take a look at the speed record attempt. Trying to break the Atlantic Crossing Speed Record (Known as the 'Blue Riband') would have been a useless gesture because the Titanic was not built for speed, but rather for comfort and luxury. (Even her and her sister ship Olympic's third class accommodations were far better than the steerage accommodations on other ships). Titanic's top sustainable speed was around 22 knots, while the Cunard Lines Mauritania and Lusitania were capable of a sustained 26 knots. On top of that there was a major coal miners strike underway, and coal was in short supply...as a fuel conservation measure, two of her boilers weren't even fired up, further reducing her sustained top speed..

Another consideration was the disruption of the passengers...particularly the First Class passengers...schedules. Had Titanic arrived in New York a day early, the passengers arrivals would have been out of sync with hotel and train reservations, among other things, and changing reservations was nowhere near as easy to do in 1912 as it is in 2012. The result would have been a lot of rich, powerful, influential, pissed off people. Titanic's crew...and White Star's Managing Director...would have prudently maintained her normal schedule.

As for demanding that Titanic not slow down while approaching the Ice Field, it was normal procedure at that time to continue at normal crossing speed unless blocked by pack ice. The assumption was that lookouts, posted in the ship’s 'Crow's Nest' would be able to see an iceberg as much as 8-10 miles off, giving the ship 20-30 minutes to maneuver around it, a theory that was disproved spectacularly and tragically by the disaster. Ismay was also known for following proper chain of command and shipboard etiquette when at sea. The managing director did not outrank the ship's captain when it came to issues regarding operation and navigation of the ship. If anything he'd make suggestion, with the disclaimer 'Subject to your considering it prudent and in the interest of safe navigation to do so' almost always included.

Jonathon Hyde as J Bruce Ismay

As for the rumor concerning Ismay boarding a lifeboat while dressed as a woman...many witnesses report seeing him assisting with getting the boats loaded, and it's said that a crew member finally told him to abandon ship after he assisted in loading and lowering Collapsible 'C', which was the last boat to leave the ship. He jumped down into Collapsible 'C' and survived the sinking. Had he not done so he would have suffered the same fate as everyone else left aboard.

Another interesting little tidbit that belongs in both the the 'Be Careful Who You Piss Off' and 'Slanted reporting is not a new thing' categories...the majority of the rumors about Ismay first appeared in newspapers owned by media mogul William Randolph Hurst. Hurst absolutely despised Ismay because of what he considered to be Ismay's disrespect and lack of cooperation with the press from years back. Of course, the majority of people reading articles about the disaster and the aftermath didn't know this, and they'd read it in the paper...it had to be the truth!

The 'Coward of The Titanic', then, wasn't. He was an early victim of a slanted media with an agenda (And worse, a vendetta). He resigned form MMC/White Star in 1914, but stayed active in other businesses though Hurst, still in attack mode, claimed the resignation was a sign of guilt. Ismay stayed out of the public eye for most of his life, and died of a cerebral thrombosis in 1937. A British news paper NOT owned by Hurst put it as well as can be put. Ismay's only mistake was surviving the disaster.

So the true story of Bruce Ismay's actions and the movie/popular rumor version of his actions are just about 180 degrees apart.

The Iceberg, The Collision, and The Damage.

Iceberg, RIGHT ahead!!!! At this point her two reciprocating engines were pounding in full reverse, her helm was hard over, and the crew on the bridge and the look outs were praying for her bow to start swinging to port

We'll never know exactly what happened in the minute before 11:40PM on April 14, 1912 but I have a feeling that James Cameron came pretty close on this one. In fact, he got several things just about dead on.

One of the pivotal scenes in the movie shows Frederic Fleet (Portrayed by Scott G Anderson) first spotting the iceberg, then ringing the bell and picking up the phone to the bridge (Pick UP You bastards!!) and declaring 'ICEberg Right ahead! when it was answered.

I can just about bet that the sequence was pretty close. Fleet told 6th Officer James Moody, who relayed the message to first officer Murdoch...Murdoch then gave the order 'Hard A Starboard! To the quartermaster, who spun the wheel to port...the left. This seeming discrepancy is brought about because the old style steering orders, used when ships had tillers rather then wheels,were still used. Back in the day, tiller bars were attached directly to the rudder, and to turn the rudder, and the ship, to the left (Port) you pushed the tiller to the right (Starboard). This terminology was actually used into the twenties until the rudder orders were standardized to reflect modern technology.

At the same time he gave this order Murdoch rang the engine room telegraphs for the two main engines to 'Full Astern' ...the center turbine engine would stop automatically as it was not reversible, a bypass took the exhaust steam that ran it around the turbine and straight to the main condensers when the reciprocating engines were reversed. Marine historians have said that the scene that depicts the actions of the engine room, boiler room and bridge crews is just about dead on with what probably actually happened.

In 1912, steering engines...the mechanism that actually turned the rudder...were steam powered, and acted upon a toothed quadrant that was connected indirectly to the rudder post through huge springs, which acted as shock absorbers. Titanic wasn't meant to be as maneuverable as say, a destroyer, and it took several seconds for any movement of the helm to cause a change in direction.

Olympic's steering engine, which was identical to Titatnic's

 Also, when the engines were reversed, those huge 4 cylinder reciprocating engines (Huge 'Inline 4's cylinder arrangement wise.) had to be brought to all but a complete stop before they could be reversed. Then the reversing engine had to be thrown on-line, then the throttles opened back up. Between the steering orders and reversing the main engines it could have been as much as twenty to thirty seconds before the Titanic's bow actually started swinging to the left, and the iceberg wasn't sighted until about 37 seconds before impact. Only the two wing propellers, powered by the reciprocating engines, were reversed, as those engines were reversible while the Parsons turbine, which turned the center screw was not. This meant that the center propeller was stopped when All Reverse Full' was ordered. Only problem with that was the rudder was directly aft of the center prop. That propeller not providing extra thrust across and against the rudder likely reduced it's effectiveness...add that to the lag time between the wheel being put hard over and the steering engine actually swinging the rudder and you have a very, very sluggish turn. (Fleet's 'Why isn't she turning?!' and Murdoch mouthing 'come on, come on, come on...' as the iceberg got closer and closer). Interestingly enough, if her engines had NOT been reversed...had she kept on at the speed she was making, and the rudder had been put hard over, the extra bit of thrust from the center propeller acting on the rudder would have likely given her just enough additional maneuverability to miss the 'burg by a few feet.

The depiction of the collision was also dead on from what research, forensic investigation, and most importantly, testimony of passengers and crew at both the British and U.S. Hearings has revealed. She almost missed it...in fact she came so close to missing the 'burg that it was heart breaking. The forward 300 or so feet of the hull sideswiped an underwater out cropping of ice, opening riveted seams between hull plates in the first five compartments.. The impact was actually pretty slight above the water line, no more than a little extra vibration as the hull slid along the ice shelf. This was illustrated perfectly in the movie as well.

James Cameron got the depiction of the damage...being caused at that...right as well. For decades everyone thought that the iceberg had ripped a three hundred or so foot long gash in the Titanic's hull but in reality as the hull bumped along the the submerged portion of the iceberg rivets were popped as the hull plates were pushed inward, separating the plates and creating several openings only a couple of inches wide and ranging in length from five feet to forty-five feet, spaced out over the first two hundred and fifty feet of her hull. It wasn't the amount of damage that sunk her...the damage to the hull was actually minor...but the location of the damage, and specifically the location of the last area of damage. The berg slid along the hull for a final 45 feet starting about 210 feet aft of the bow, opening up the coal bunkers for Boiler room 6...the forward-most of the 6 boiler rooms, and extending a couple of feet into boiler room 5. This was the damage that sank her. The first several areas of damage caused the first 4 water tight compartments to flood, but that was no biggie...she was designed to stay afloat with all four of the first four watertight compartments breached. But with the first five flooded, the water would rise up above the limit of the waterproof bulkheads, and slop over into the next compartment dragging the bow under, and ultimately sinking the ship.

Just how much total damage was there? The total combined area of the openings was around twelve square feet...had it been one long narrow hole it would have been, at the largest, about the size of a standard door.

Lifeboats. Any discussion of The Titanic has to include discussion of her lifeboats, and here again James Cameron hit got it right…mostly.
The Titanic carried 20 lifeboats...fourteen full size boats, thirty feet long with a beam of 9 feet and a depth of 4 feet and two ‘cutters,’ 25 feet long with the same beam and depth. These boats had capacities of 65 and 40 passengers respectively. She also carried four Englehart Collapsible boats with a capacity of 47 people each...These capacities were possible only the most favorable conditions, but keep in mind that the North Atlantic was a calm as a mill pond on that long ago night, which pretty much equates to 'Most Favorable conditions. 

Titanic had approximately 2200 people aboard, but only enough room on board her lifeboats for about 1200 people. Back then the number of lifeboats a ship carried was based on her tonnage rather than her passenger capacity, and the tonnage classifications only went as high as 10,000 tons (Before the big liners such as Lusitania, and Mauritania, and White Star's Olympic and Titanic, a 10,000 tonner was a HUGE ship). The greatest number of lifeboats required was 16...regardless of how many passengers were on board. Therefore Titanic actually carried 4 more lifeboats than she was legally required to carry, thanks to the four 47 passenger capacity Englehart collapsible boats. 

R.M.S. Titanic.  Note the distance between the forward three and aft four lifeboats. ALL of that area could have been used for lifeboats. White Star lines decided that the First Class Passengers' view of the sea was more important. But thet STILL had four more boats than legally required.

It was a well known fact that the laws regarding lifeboat capacity were going to be changed soon, requiring boats for all aboard, but until that time companies were reluctant to spend the money for additional boats until it was required. (Some things really haven’t changed that much in a century)  Titanic and Olympic were even fitted with Welin Quadrant Davits, which were designed for 'Double Banking...having two boats at each station. The Titanic’s original plans called for double banking and her designer, Thomas Andrews, certainly insisted on it but to no avail. In fact, she was designed to, and originally supposed to, carry double the number of davits she was equipped with. Look at a picture of Titanic and note all of the deck space NOT occupied by lifeboats. The area not occupied by lifeboats was almost exclusively the First Class Promenade…Passenger convenience and money won out. White Stare 's Brass felt that double banking would decrease the amount of deck space available to First Class Passengers, and lining the entire boat deck with lifeboats would obscure their highest paying passengers’ view. Besides, why spend money on extra boats when you don't have to (I refer you again to my comment RE: Some things really  haven’t changed that much…). Bet if you had asked the First Class passengers still on board at about 2:38AM on April 15th, 1912 if they would have preferred more lifeboats or a better view, the answer wouldn’t have had anything to do with viewing the sunset. So Titanic sailed with lifeboats for just shy of 1200 passengers (Half the number of people she had on board that night) rather than just shy of 2400 (Around 150 more than she carried.)  

Then we get to the lifeboat drills...Wait...What lifeboat drills. A lifeboat drill was actually supposed to have taken place on the morning of April 14th...the day the Titanic struck the iceberg…but Capt Smith canceled it for unknown reasons, though it's possible he did so so the passengers could attend church. This wasn't even touched on in the movie (And is not a generally well known fact). 

And the crew was well trained and well versed in loading and launching the boats, right? Right? RIGHT?? Ahhhh...wrong.

Lifeboat 15 almost being lowered directly on top of Lifeboat 13

 They had little training at all in loading and launching the boats. Keep in mind that the boats were not that small. The larger lifeboats were 30 feet long and were not lightweights, and the lowering gear was manual and non synchronized...the crews lowering the boats had to work as a team to lower them on an even keel. There was very little organization involved in loading and lowering the boats, and no consistency in the 'Women and Children First' rule...That all depended on which side of Titanic you happened to be on. On the port side, this rule was enforced strictly, with a couple of men being bodily removed from boats they had boarded. On the Starboard side this was less rigorously enforced as husbands and older male children were allowed to board. All of this was shown as accurately as known facts allow.

Wait, you ask...OLDER male children??? Oh yeah...the term child was taken pretty literally. If you were a dude, on the port side of the ship, and had the suffix 'teen' affixed to your age you were pretty much S.O.L. 'Child' meant '12 and under'. This wasn't really brought out in the movie, but it was a true fact. Back in 1912, a fifteen or sixteen year old boy was not considered a child for the purposes of loading lifeboats in an emergency.  

Then we have the well known (And well portrayed) fact that many...in fact most...of the boats well under capacity. The first several boats loaded and lowered were grossly underloaded, and only the last three full size boats and only one of the two collapsibles launched from davits were even close to their capacity. Below’s a quick table showing the boats, their capacities, and the number aboard when launched.

Port Boat Number
Time launched
No. on board
Starboard Boat No.
Time Launched
No. on board
12:43 AM
Collapsible ‘D’
2:20AM **
Collapsible ‘A’
·         Washed overboard w/15 people on board. Sides had not been raised. Survivors transferred to Collapsible ‘D’. Three bodies left on board, recovered from still drifting life boat one month later
**     Collapsible ‘B’ washed over board inverted as Titanic’ started her final plunge. Several dozen climbed aboard overturned boat, only 13 survived the night.
The demographics of the surviving men, women and Children were interesting as well, though not directly portrayed in the movie.

Women Children Men Total
First Class

Total: 141
Died: 4 (0)Survived: 113 (24)
% Survived: 97% (100%)

First Class

Total: 7
Died: 1Survived: 6
% Survived: 86%

First Class

Total: 171
Died: 105 (10)
Survived: 54 (2)
% Survived: 32% (17%)

First Class

Total: 319
Died: 120
Survived: 199
% Survived: 62%

Second Class

Total: 92
Died: 13 (0)
Survived: 78 (1)
% Survived: 86%

Second Class

Total: 25
Died: 0
Survived: 25
% Survived: 100%

Second Class

Total: 155
Died: 138 (4)
Survived: 13
% Survived: 8% (0%)

Second Class

Total: 272
Died: 155
Survived: 117
% Survived: 43%

Third Class (Steerage)

Total: 179
Died: 91
Survived: 88
% Survived: 49%

Total: 412
Died: 108
Survived: 304
% Survived: 74%

Third Class (Steerage)

Total: 80
Died: 55
Survived: 25
% Survived: 31%

Total: 112
Died: 56
Survived: 56
% Survived: 50%
Third Class (Steerage)

Total: 450
Died: 391
Survived: 59
% Survived: 13%

Total: 776
Died: 648
Survived: 128
% Survived: 16%
Third Class (Steerage)

Total: 709
Died: 537
Survived: 172
% Survived: 25%

Total: 1300
Died: 812
Survived: 488
% Survived: 37%

SO Class distinctions did play a part in the survival of passengers....especially if that passenger happened to be a Third Class Passenger. The sad thing is, with the lifeboats being launched underloaded, there was lifeboat capacity to save ALL of the second and third class women and children that died...with room to spare.

Titanic's lifeboats at the White Star pier in New York after being droipped off by Carpathia

Now for the inevitable 'What Ifs' The question has been asked 'Would enough boats for everyone have made that much of a difference, given the same time line and the same number of passengers in the boats' and the sad but interesting fact is that it may not have made that much of a difference.. The first boat wasn't launched until an hour after the collision with the iceberg. Loading and launching each boat was a slow, laborious process...remember they didn't even get to launch the last two collapsibles.
Then again, If Titanic had been equipped with more davits, and more full sized lifeboats the crew wouldn't have had to unstow, set up, and install the collapsibles on the davits. Had sufficient boats been available, they would have already been on the davits, so lets say that the crew may have gotten two...at the most three...more boats away. Also, by the time Titanic went down the boats were being loaded to near capacity if not to capacity so lets say three boats got away with 60 people each on board...180 more passengers saved. This would have still left well over 1300 passengers and crew on board when she went down.
Now, had there been sufficient boats, and had they started loading boats, say 15 minutes after the collision, and had every boat launched been loaded to capacity or close to capacity, they would have gotten at least seven and possibly eight more boats away with anywhere between 420 and five hundred more passengers saved. BUT...and it's a biggie...there would have still been around 600 passengers and crew left on board (Assuming they also got the three extra boats mentioned above away.) The death toll would have been less that half of what it actually was. But it would have still been huge. There just wasn't enough time.

Locked Gates The third class passenger areas were separated from First and Second class by accordion gates (The very kind that have been used in school hallways for decades) to prevent third class passengers from mingling with the first class passengers. Interestingly enough, this was because of a U.S. Immigration Bureau policy, to keep any possible communicable diseases from spreading to passengers in First and Second class, and then to the rest of the country (Preventative health care in 1912 wasn't even close to what it was now...or even to what it was fifty to sixty years ago).
Contrary to popular myth as well as what was portrayed in the movie, the gates were not kept locked after Titanic hit the iceberg to keep Third class passengers away from the boats. They were kept locked due to a near total lack of communication. Some stewards kept gates locked while awaiting further orders while others allowed women and children onto the boat deck. The crew did not make a search of cabins and common areas of any of the three classes, much less Third Class, and to top it off there was often a language barrier. Many of the third class passengers didn't speak English. As a result many Third Class passengers had to fend for themselves and only a quarter of them survived.
The locked gates were shown...very dramatically...when Jack and Rose had to break down a gate to get back up to the boat deck, and again in the deleted scene that showed little Cora's death.. The insinuation in the movie was that the gates were locked solely because the crew didn't want to allow the Third Class passengers access to the boats, but the actual reason was far more complicated than that.

Titanic's Band and Nearer My God To Thee. One of the long held, unshakable stories about Titanic is the band playing Nearer My God To Thee as the ship's bow sank further and further, dragging the ship towards her final plunge.

A period flyer showing Titanic's Band.
First Titanic's band was actually a string ensemble rather than a 'Band', despite the fact that a couple of older movies about the disaster portrayed it as an actual band, complete with a brass section and woodwinds. To get into a bit more detail, the group was actually two entirely separate string ensembles. One was a quintet, under well known, well respected, and popular band leader Wallace Hartly. The second was a trio consisting of violin, cello, and piano. The two groups performed at different times and locations on board Titanic, with Hartley's group getting most of the work. The night of the sinking is likely the only time all eight of them played together. ( After they moved outside to the boat deck, only seven of the eight actually played, as I have a feeling getting a piano out to the boat deck would not have been chief among anyone’s concerns.)
This part James Cameron got right on the money, at least as compared to known facts, and yes, popular myth. Portraying them in a heroic light, playing right to the end was also on the money.

No none can say for sure what happened to the band as the final plunge neared, nor can their conversations or actions be relayed with absolute certainty as all of them went down with the ship. But I have a feeling that the 'Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure playing with you/Nearer My God To Thee' scene was pretty close.
Interestingly it can't even be said for any certainty that 'Nearer My God To Thee' was the last song they played . Others identified the last song played by Titanic's musicians as Songe d' Automne which has some similar passages as Nearer My God To Thee, and the only thing that MOST people agreed on was the fact that the band did play right up to to the very end.
Another myth sometimes heard is that the passengers sang along as Titanic's band played. I have my doubts on that one...I have a feeling that singing was the absolute last thing on anyone's mind as 2:20 AM on April 15th drew close.
So I'll give this one to Mr Cameron. We can't absolutely know what happened, or what song the passengers listened to, so he took the most reported version of the event, and used it brilliantly.

The Californian: One of the most frustrating episodes of the sinking was the fact that a steamer was visible ten or so miles off, and that it didn't respond to Titanic's distress signals. One of the most frustrating elements of the movie was the fact that this was never even mentioned..
To make a long story short, Californian was brought up short by pack ice and her captain, Stanley Lord, decided to stop engines and stop for the night so they could wait until daylight to figure out just how difficult getting around or through the ice would be.

S.S. Californian  Arguably the most controversial element of 4-15-1912
They actually saw Titanic approaching, Californian's wireless operator attempted to advise her that they were stopped in pack ice, and was promptly brushed off by Titanic's wireless operator. Wireless being a new cutting edge technology, passengers were more than eager to take advantage of it to send messages to friends, family and business associates. Titanic's Wireless operator was working a backlog of such messages (remember, he had to do it in Morse Code) when Californian's message blasted into his head phones from only ten or so miles distant, all but making his ear drums meet in the center of his head. No attempt was even made to read the message...Titanic's wireless operator simply pounded out 'SUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP...I'm working Cape Race!!'

Stanley Lord, Captain of S S Californian

 Californian's wireless operator listened to traffic (Again, Morse code...voice wireless was still a ways down the road) until about 11:30, then he shut down his wireless and crashed for the night. Titanic hit the 'burg ten minutes later. Over the next two hours and forty minutes or so, Californian's crew at best misinterpreted, at worst ignored Titanic's distress rockets, even though Lord was advised of them. Two crew members on watch actually discussed the fact that something didn't look just right about her. Then they decided that she appeared to be disappearing beyond the horizon. The next morning Lord found out what actually did happen. Within a couple of days the world found out about Californian's role in the disaster...and a great deal of controversy that continues to this day ensued

 At first I thought James Cameron had missed the boat (Pun intended!) on this one as no mention of Californian was made what so ever. This fact alone turned my brother...who's even more of a history buff than I am...off entirely on the movie. But there are a couple of deleted scenes dealing with the Californian that apparently had to be relegated to the cutting room floor due to time constraints...OK, lets all say it together...so more time and effort could be given to The Jack and Rose story. But his intention was indeed to include The Californian's part in the story in the movie.

The Sinking And The Break-up.   One thing James Cameron got right about Titanic’s sinking…it was not a gentle affair. The last half hour or so of Titanic’s existence was violent, loud, spectacular…but nowhere near as spectacular as the movie portrayed. To give Cameron his due, he based the scene on known facts.
Let’s take a look at the break-up first. In the movie, she tore apart from the top down…the two sections started separating at deck level…and as a added bonus, Cal’s ass-clown man servant was swallowed up in the abyss as the hull sections separated..

Artists rendition of Titanic  breaking apart at the surface as one of the lifeboats pulls away.  New information and studies indicate that she may have actually broken up below the surface and from the bottom up,
Problem is there were a couple of survivors on board Titanic right to the end, and none of them reported seeing the ship break apart, though many passengers reported hearing it. They just didn’t realize what they were hearing. Almost every survivor reported loud roaring, tearing, smashing sounds like the engines and boilers tearing loose from their beds and crashing through the length of the ship. This, in fact, is what was thought to have happened for decades, and is part of the reason Bob Ballard was looking for her boilers as a ‘road sign’ to the location of the wreck when he found Titanic’ back in 1985. While several people thought that she had, in fact, broken in two when she sank, the general consensus was that she left the surface intact. This was, in fact, how her sinking was portrayed in ‘A Night To Remember’ back in ’58. Bob Ballard’s discovery of the wreck…in two widely separated pieces…laid that to rest. The discussion of how she broke up began immediately.
Most recently a documentary on National Geographic, hosted by James Cameron, raised the very real possibility that the break occurred further forward than originally thought…between the 1st and second funnels rather than the third and forth funnels…and that it occurred beneath the surface, which is why no one actually saw her break in two. It’s also theorized that she broke in two at a far shallower angle…as little as 15 degrees…than depicted in the movie. Remember the stern section crashing back down and creating a mini tidal wave as it crushed a few hundred unfortunate computer-generated swimmers to death? Not a single eyewitness report described anything like that happening, and if it had happened it’s a good bet that at least one of the lifeboats would have been swamped. Someone would have certainly remembered it. Rather than the violent crash-down depicted in the movie, almost all of the eye witnesses remember seeing the stern settle back to a nearly even keel for a very short period of time before lifting again, and sinking.

The movie version of the break-up...and I gotta admit, I was REAL happy that Cal's man-servant got his when she broke in two. James Cameron admitted he probably got this wrong in the documentary he hosted...but he was also working with the facts known and assumed at the time. And it was an awesome scene!
Then we have the stern rising until it was perpendicular to the surface…standing perfectly straight up…and poising for a minute or so as passengers slid and tumbled down the deck, and fell to bounce off of propellers and spin into the sea. Then Jack and Rose had time to climb onto the stern rail and ride it down. Another event that likely didn’t happen exactly that way...or even close, truth be known.
  A 70 foot long section of the ship's double bottom, itself broken into two pieces, was found on the ocean east of the wreck. The theory is that when the hull split in two this section of double bottom remained intact, connecting the two hull sections and actually beginning to drag the stern section down. It’s now believed that the stern righted itself to some extent very briefly before rolling over to port and being dragged down. The event wasn’t anywhere near as violent or spectacular as depicted in the movie.                            
Just to muddy the waters a bit more, the possibility, and I’ll even go as far as saying probability of the break-up starting towards the bottom if the hull, has been raised. The eyewitnesses who were still aboard Titanic when she started breaking up reported hearing loud sounds from the depths of the hull. This was likely the hull plates and decks being pulled apart. The keel would have broken first (IMHO) in either case. It actually makes sense. Keel breaks…the the hull plates pull apart. Then the decks and superstructure, leaving the bent but still intact double bottom.
I read a spirited debate about the manner of her sinking, angle she took before and as she went down, and exactly how she broke up over on the Encyclopedia Titanica forums. Ford VS Chevy discussions have never been as divided as the opinions on how Titanic broke in two.

Flashlights Aboard The Titanic. One of the more intense scenes in the movie occurs after Titanic's gone down, as Lowe brings Lifeboat 14 back in to search for survivors. He was using a a powerful flashlight to scan the waters for survivors. One problem. That type of flashlight didn't exist yet. Though tubular flashlights had existed since 1898, and were indeed used by the N.Y.P.D. there was a reason they were originally called 'Flashlights'. Though the 'D' Cell battery was invented in 1896 (By the company that was to become EverReady) neither battery or bulb technology was very advanced back then. The small bulbs were not capable of extended 'on' times, and the battery life was short, so the switches were spring loaded momentary switches that turned the light on when pressed, and off when released allowing brief periods, or flashes, of light. It also appeared that the light carried by Lowe in 'Titanic' had a Halogen bulb...it would be fifty or sixty years before halogen bulbs for flashlights were developed. Oil lanterns were provided for portable lighting on board Titanic, and there was a lamp trimmer included on the crew roster.
Now, Lowe did have a flashlight, but it was given to him by one of the passengers in Lifeboat 14...a surgeon...and was very likely a very small light, nothing even close to the powerful light depicted in the movie,and likely something close to what we refer to today as a penlight.
There was also a cane light, which was a walking cane with an electric light on the upper end, very probably manufactured by Ever-Ready. This was owned by Mrs J. Stewart White. She apparently waved it around quite a bit both on board Titanic and on the lifeboat she ended up aboard, much the the annoyance of the crew.
But flashlights as we know them just didn't exist in 1912. James Cameron's not the only producer to miss this one though... flashlights were also used by the crew in the 1958 movie A Night To Remember, which is still considered by many to be the ultimate Titanic flick.

The Carpathia. The Carpathia was given very little screen time but had it not been for her captain and crew, I wouldn't be writing this because no one would have survived the sinking. Carpathia was 58 miles...about 4 hours steaming time...away from Titanic's position when her wireless operator received the distress call. Her Captain, Arthur Rostrem, became the hero of the night in a big way.

RMS Carpathia.
The shots of Carpathia in the movie were computer-generated, of course, but they were dead on accurate. The shots on board , after the passengers were rescued were likely equally accurate...James Cameron was, and is, a stickler for period accuracy.
With Carpathia having such a huge role in the Titanic story, there's no way I'm going to just say 'Cool, James C got it right' and leave it at that. Carpathia's story was epic in and of itself.
RMS Carpathia was ordered by Cunard...White Star's biggest rival...and her keel was laid in 1901 at Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, she was launched in August 1902, underwent sea trials in 1903 and made her maiden voyage in May of that same year. She was 541 feet long with a beam of 64.5 feet, and displaced 8700 tons...far smaller than Titanic. She was designed to carry second and third class passengers (200 of the former, and about 1700 of the latter) as well as refrigerated food, and like Titanic 12 years later her Third Class accommodations were well above the standard of the day.
She ran the Liverpool to Boston run, and gained a reputation as a reliable, comfortable, and well handled ship, but drew no special attention to herself. Until that night in April, 1912.
On the night of the 14th/early morning of the 15th she was eastbound and actually enroute to the Mediterranean when CQD, Then SOS dit-dahed through the speakers and head sets in her wireless room, and when her wireless operator replied, he got the message
'Come at once. We have struck an iceberg.
Latitude 41.46 North, Longitude 50.14 West.'
He sent a runner to the find the Captain as he remained in the wireless room to keep in touch with the stricken Titanic. The message that Carpathia's captain wanted transmitted to Titanic was brought back to him in minutes, and while the exact words are likely lost to history, they were likely something to the effect of 'Let her know we're about 60 miles away (It was actually 58) and comin' hard'. My bet is that her wireless operator had barely started transmitting the message when he felt her heel over as she came about, and felt the familiar thrumming of her two big triple expansion engines quicken.
Carpathia was captained by Arthur Rostron, who quickly and efficiently turned his liner into a rescue ship...the man grabbed the situation by the balls and quickly owned it.

Arthur Rostron, Captain of R.M.S. Carpathia
 First he rang for flank speed, grabbing all of the off-duty stokers and trimmers and sending them to the boiler rooms so there would be extra hands stoking her boilers. Then he ordered the heat turned off so that the steam usually used to heat the cabins and crew's quarters could be sent to the engines.
Carpathia had a normal cruising speed of between 13 and 14 knots, if you really wrung her out she might touch 17 knots. With-in a quarter hour of receiving Titanic's distress call she had a bone in her teeth, slicing through the North Atlantic at between 19 and 20 knots. (This would be about the equivalent today of a Geo Metro making around 130 miles per hour.  Of course, you'd never actually get a Geo Metro anywhere near 150% of it's normal cruising speed. The Carpathia actually came close to doing just that.)

At the same time he ordered all of her lifeboats swung out on their davits, rigged extra electric lights along her sides, ordered all gangway doors opened as well as preparing rope and pilot ladders to get passengers out of the water, had warm clothing and blankets collected, had hot drinks and soups prepared, set up first aid stations in the dining rooms (The largest spaces on board the ship) and even had her forward cargo cranes rigged to bring the mail and the passengers luggage aboard if that was an option. He also had his crew make ready with their own coffee, likely telling them it was likely to be a long night.
Her passengers pitched in as well, donating warm clothing and blankets and assisting in setting up the first aid stations. Of course, even at 19 or so knots it took them three hours...then they had to work their own way through the ice field and found nothing at the position indicated in the distress signal. They finally spotted a flare from one of the life boats (Boat #2 to be exact). The boat was brought along side at Carpathia's starboard gangway doors, and First Class Passenger Elisabeth Walton Allen was the first passenger to be brought aboard. It would take Carpathia about five hours to get all of the surviving passengers aboard. The last boat to come along side was the overloaded Boat #12 at about 8:30 am. About a half hour later all of the survivors were aboard and being cared for., and Carpathia was bound for New York and a place in History.
Ironically Carpathia was sunk herself six years later, near the end of WWI after being torpedoed by a German U-Boat...but that's a story for another day!
* * * * *
Notes, Links, and other cool stuff: One of the most controversial (At least to 'Leophiles') facts about the movie v/s Real Life is this: The Jack/Rose story probably could not have happened at all...Under normal conditions Third Class passengers were denied any and all access to First and Second class areas. Of course if I had made that statement as the final credits rolled, I wouldn't have made it to the lobby in one piece...I would have probably been mobbed and brutally beaten by dozens of little Leophiles! How DARE the Infidel cast doubt on Jack and Rose!!, lol
One of the reasons that 'Titanic' was such a huge financial success was the fact that millions of tween and teen girls went back and rewatched the movie multiple times...the first time that phenomenon was seen in such dramatic Fashion. Of course it wouldn't be the last...Twilight series anyone?
The Titanic cost about 7.5 Million dollars to build...or about 400 million in today's money. The movie 'Titanic' cost right at 200 million to make, or just about half as much as Titanic cost to build in today's money.

Little Cora Cartmell was a fairly minor character in the movie. Tell that to her fans...Google 'Little Cora Cartmell, or Cora Cartmell. The (Fictional) child has entire blogs devoted to her, as well as fanfiction sites.
Okay, I could go on...and on...and on. Have I forgotten...or over looked...anything?? Oh yeah. I've probably left out as much as I've included. Can you spend hours...heck days on sites dedicated to The Titanic? Yep...without even breaking a sweat. As The Old Fella said, There's LOTS more where that came from. Is there info on the web? Does the oft-invoked wild bear do his business in the woods???
Links: First off, the ultimate Titanic site..the 'If you don't go to any other Titanic site go to this one 'Encyclopedia Titanica' (The name's a take on the legendary 'Encyclopedia Britannica') This site has anything and everything you need to know about Titanic, and includes hundreds of links to get you to even more info:
The site also features an awesome message board:
Encyclopedia Titanica Message Board: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/forum.php
Yet another pretty in-depth Titanic site: http://www.the-titanic.com/Home.aspx
The obligatory Titanic Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Titanic
A different perspective on what happened in those critical last seconds before the collision:

And another theory on The Break-up:
Recently completed sonar map of the entire wreck site:

An in depth study of The Englehart Collapsible Lifeboat, from Titanic Research and Modeling Association:


AND the movie!
Fun little page with some little known movie facts:
Titanic Movie Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TitanicMovie
Great article, with pics, of a 1912 Renault CV restored to the exact specs of the car that wwent down with Titanic: http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?CarID=r143&SaleCode=AZ08
And a couple of other comparison sites:
This one's good, full of facts, and hits a couple of items that I didn't hit:
Another pretty decent if small site:

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