Useful Notes: RMS Titanic

You know how it ends.

It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event that not only made the world rub its eyes and awake, but woke it with a start. To my mind, the world of today awoke April 15th, 1912.
Jack Thayer, Titanic survivor

The RMS Titanic was a transatlantic liner that sank in 1912, causing approximately 1,500 deaths. At the time of her maiden (first) voyage, she was the largest ship to have ever sailed the seas. Construction started in 1909 in the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, and was completed a few months before the big trip—enough time for rumors to spread about the luxurious White Star Liner being "unsinkable". Then, said ship sets sail for New York, hits an iceberg on the fourth day, and sinks in less than three hours. Its fate has inspired at least 36 movies, including a Nazi propaganda film, two cartoonified versions in which Everyone Lives, and James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic.

Throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, millions of emigrants wanted to go to America to start a new life, and the mail services in Europe needed a swift and reliable means of transporting hundreds of thousands of letters and packages across the Atlantic. Various ship lines in Great Britain, the United States and eventually Germany would answer the call with large, steam-driven ships, but the most famous of these lines, Great Britain's Cunard and White Star, would be the big dogs, constantly competing against each other for emigrant passenger tickets (the real bread and butter of the trade, rather than first-class passengers) and the profitable license to carry the mail to and from Britain. Hence the initials RMS on ships that held that license — Royal Mail Steamer.

But in the late 1890s, the Norddeutscher Lloyd and Hamburg America Lines threatened to encroach into Cunard and White Star's competition with the launch and maiden voyages of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Deuschland, two liners of unprecedented size, speed (with Kaiser running at a then-unheard-of speed of 22.35 knots (Just over 41km/h or almost 26mph), and Deuschland traveling even faster) and luxury. In response, the Cunard Line (that had always placed speed and reliability as paramount for their ships) produced the 787 and 790-foot long Lusitania and Mauretania in 1907, with top speeds of over 24 knots, thanks to their four turbine engines (the first class of ocean liners to be exclusively turbine-driven, after the comparative experiment with Cunard's liners Carmania and Caronia over the cost-effectiveness of the turbine in 1905) and the largest liners in the world both in physical size and mass (the empty shell of the Lusitania at launch outweighed the fully outfitted Kaiser by 2,000 gross tons), as well as among the first to have elevators (or "lifts" as the British know them) for passengers.

White Star, seeing the threat Cunard's new "Greyhounds of the Atlantic" presented to the company, quickly drafted a response. As opposed to Cunard, White Star prided itself on comfort and luxury rather than pure speed (as that tended to come at the cost of passenger capacity, and resulted in a tendency to vibrate uncomfortably). Part of this was granting modest luxuries to third-class, which included linens, silverware, waiters who brought their food, and free postcards on their menus, so that they could praise White Star to their friends and relatives back home. As such, they sought to build two, possibly three, liners that were at least ninety feet longer than the Lusitania and Mauretania, and by far more luxurious than both together.

The answer was the Olympic-Class of ship: 52,000 ton, 882-foot long superliners with the capacity for 3,000 passengers and crew, three lifts in first-class and one for second-class, and two reciprocating high-pressure engines for the two "wing" propellers, and a low-pressure turbine for the smaller, central propeller, increasing cost-effectiveness in steam economy by reusing steam wasted by the reciprocating engines. For luxury, the ships boasted promenade decks for each class, whose cabins for third and second class were just as good as second and first-class cabins on other ships, and the first-class rooms were just as splendid as any suite at the best hotels in the world, with the most expensive suite of cabins (yes, suite of cabins) went for hundreds of thousands of American dollars in 2012 money, with private baths for more first and even second-class cabins than any other ship afloat (even as late as the 1930s most ships still required most passengers to share bathing facilities like in a college dorm). As the popular ships of the day had four funnels, a fake was added on the back, which also doubled as a large ventilator for the engineering spaces, reducing the number of ventilator cowls on deck, producing a clean outline, whereas the Mauretania and Lusitania's deckhouse roofs, with their multitude of cowls, looked cluttered in comparison.

Safety was also considered in the design: a double-bottomed hull to contain flooding in the event of running aground; sixteen bulkheads that went two decks above the waterline (any two of which could flood with bulkheads above the floodwater to spare); in the event of a collision, or in the impractical probability of the first four compartments flooding the ship would still float, acting as its own lifeboat until help could arrive; and above all, in the event of the worst, the ships boasted a new davit design that could hold up to 68 lifeboats, but for various reasons (cosmetics, impracticality, cost, etc.) the number was reduced to 20, which was still four boats beyond the legally required 16 for ships 10,000 tons and over in the British Board of Trade regulations.

Impractical being the operative word. Certainly, unpredictable things might happen, but as a major passenger tragedy had not befallen any White Star ship in some forty years, there was little reason for anyone in the shipping industry to be overly concerned beyond academics.

And so it became known in the shipbuilding world that the Olympic-Class were "practically unsinkable", and the press at large censored out the "practical" part and simply deemed them "Unsinkable," and the public bought it and ran with it. After all, in an age where men were flying, and one person communicating with someone else on the other side of the world in real time, and horses were losing buyers to the horseless carriage, the idea of a ship that could not be sunk was hardly unimaginable.

And so the first ship, RMS Olympic, set sail in 1911, and the response was so successful that White Star ordered a third ship, Britannic (the urban myth that she was to be named "Gigantic" and renamed after the disaster is just that, Gigantic was a meme bandied about by the workers at Harland and Wolf as a hopeful potential name for all new ships).

It was in this environment that the middle child, Titanic, rose to the prominence. On her maiden voyage, starting at Southampton, England and Cherbourg, France on April 10th before going off to Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, she was loaded with not only hundreds of emmigrants from both the Continent and the British Isles, but the wealthiest aristocrats, by title or by position, on both sides of the Atlantic. These included big names such as John Jacob Astor IV, heir to the Astor Railroad fortune and his barely 19-year old bride Madeleine returning home from their extended honeymoon (and to wait out the scandal involving JJ's divorce and marriage to a younger woman... and to ensure that their unborn child was born on American soil). As well as the Strauses, Isidor and Ida, co-owners of the world-famous Macy's Department Store in New York, along with scores of other members of the 1912 rich and famous. White Star was also represented on board, with managing director J. Bruce Ismay and Harland & Wolff's head designer Thomas Andrews traveling to observe the general performance of the new ship.

And at the helm, was Captain E.J. Smith, "The Millionaire's Captain," and White Star's favorite officer, who took out every new ship of the line on her maiden voyage for the past decade and a half. At the age of 63, Smith planned to retire. If not after this voyage on Titanic, then certainly after Britannic's in the spring of 1915.

But the winter of 1911-12 was unusually warm, and the threat of icebergs breaking off from the glaciers of Greenland and northeast Canada was more dire than usual, with a thicker density of icebergs and pack ice farther south than usual. Titanic's wireless operators received a number of ice warnings, but due to the nature of their employ, only sent a few to the bridge. On the day of the disaster, the operators were trying to clear a large backlog of messages that had accumulated as their equipment had broken down the day before. This made Senior Wireless Operator Jack Phillips a bit irritable, and when a nearby ship called the Californian tried to warn them of a ice field right in their path, Phillips told him to shut up, as the Californian was so close they were interfering with Titanic's signal to the mainland (the Titanic also had much more sensitive radio equipment than the Californian; the message nearly blew out Phillips' ear drums). The operator on the Californian then turned in for the night and shut down his equipment, and thus the one ship within fifteen miles of the Titanic would not hear of the disaster until morning.

On Sunday, April 14th, at 11:40 PM ship's time, it was a new moon and the sea as smooth as glass, highly unusual for the typically swell-filled North Atlantic. These circumstances made the prospect of finding icebergs almost impossible, without the light of the moon or the whitewash of waves breaking at the waterline of the iceberg. Normally, the lookouts would be equipped with binoculars, but a last-minute change to the command structure resulted in the binoculars being misplaced at Southampton. So it's a testament to Frederick Fleet's eyes and dedication that he saw the iceberg when he did (really more of a black mass where starlight wasn't), his co-watchman Reginald Lee ringing the bell as Fleet telephoned the bridge.

The officer on duty on the bridge, First Officer Murdoch, saw the iceberg too, and ordered "Hard to Starboard" (technically to Port, or a Left Turn, but Titanic used tiller commands and so the directions were reversed), and ordered all of the engines full astern.

However, in the heat of the moment, Murdoch forgot a vital factor in Titanic's turning ability: The turbine could not go in reverse, so in a full-astern order it, and the center propeller directly in front of the rudder, simply stopped, and with the two wing propellers turning in reverse, the water flow over the rudder was greatly reduced, rendering the rudder practically useless. It has been speculated that had Murdoch ordered only the port engine reversed, or simply left the engines alone, Titanic could have either missed the iceberg entirely, or collided with greatly reduced damage. But what was done was done, and less than forty seconds later, Titanic hit the iceberg.

Most of the passengers never noticed the collision, or felt little more than a slight rumbling bump. Thomas Andrews, the designer, never even knew of the accident until Captain Smith ordered him to go down below to examine the damage. After midnight, Andrews returned with the news, and it wasn't good. Six compartments had been breached: the forward peak, all three cargo holds, and boiler rooms 5 and 6. Titanic could float with up to two compartments, or the four foremost compartments, flooding. Any more, and the ship would sink. The engineers were able to fix Boiler Room 5's two or so feet of damage and began pumping, but for every gallon the engineers pumped out, Titanic took on 15 more. Andrews informed the captain that Titanic would sink in less than two hours.

Over the next two hours the crew rushed to launch the boats while Senior Wireless Operator Jack Phillips worked frantically to get the word out, right up to the very end. The closest ship to respond to the distress call, Carpathia, was four hours away. The launching of lifeboats was extremely chaotic and disorganized. Titanic had never had a lifeboat drill and only had enough boats to accomodate less than half those on board. Captain Smith, upon realizing the scope of the emergency, gave vague orders and became so disconnected he didn't bother to find out if his orders were being carried out. His command of "Women and children first" was interpreted by Murdoch to mean "Women and children first, let men in if there's room," while Second Officer Lightoller took it to mean "Women and children only." Neither officer was informed of the rated capacity of the lifeboats, and erred on the side of caution. Furthermore, the ship did not appear to be in immediate danger, which made passengers reluctant to leave it on a small rowing boat in the middle of the night. All of which meant that boats built for 65 were lowered half-full.note  Due to the chaotic nature of the evacuation, and the limited time in which they were launched, it has been speculated that even had there been enough lifeboats for all on board, only a small additional number would have been saved.

At 2:20 AM local time, Titanic broke apart and slipped beneath the waves, and the some-odd 1,500 men, women, and children left behind died of hypothermia in the 28°F (-2°C) water within half an hour. Only one lifeboat went back to look for survivors, and only found six. This is another point of contention about the disaster, but it's usually agreed that many desperate swimmers trying to climb into the lifeboats could have resulted in them flipping over, dooming even more survivors. With little to do but wait, the survivors were picked up by RMS Carpathia at dawn. Within hours, news of the disaster started to spread to newspapers across the globe. However, it would not be until the Carpathia's arrival in New York three days later that the true scope of the sinking was clear.

After the disaster, new legislations was passed on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that such a tragedy couldn't happen again, and the Titanic became another piece of pop culture until 1985, when a joint French and American team found the wreckage, and the following year the Woods-Hole Oceanographic Institute sent a team, lead by discoverer Dr. Robert "Bob" Ballard to dive and photograph the wreck.

Today the wreck lies in two big chunks, with smaller chunks consisting of the middle section over a fifteen-square mile area. The wreck itself is being consumed by iron-eating bacteria, and assuming that those don't finish her off, recent sonar scans show that dunes that dwarf the ship are slowly being blown her way by the currents, ensuring that the whole site will be buried.

There is much controversy concerning the near-constant dives on the wreck and the issue of salvaging artifacts from the site, and the damage the efforts do to the wreckage (the team that retrieved the ship's bell destroyed the crow's nest while doing so, which until then had been virtually whole and intact. On one of the dives with the Russian Mir, subs damaged a deckhouse on accident with its propeller). Some equate the salvaging with grave robbing, and that the ship should be left to rust in peace. Others claim that such comparisons are invalidated by the treatment of similar legendary disaster sites such as Pompeii, and that it is important to document the wreck site as clearly and thoroughly as possible while the ship still exists.

Current international legislation prohibits tampering with the wreck of the ship itself, but the debris field containing thousands of artifacts ranging from pots and pans to shoes to tableware to dolls to wreckage is more or less free rein for the Salvor-in-Possession Titanic, Inc. (now Premier Exhibitions) to collect items from, which can be seen in museums and traveling exhibitions the world over.

    Works Set aboard RMS Titanic 

Too many to list here, but there a few noteworthy works:
  • Saved from the Titanic (1912): The film was made shortly after the disaster. It starred actress and model Dorothy Gibson, who actually was on the ship and wore the clothes she wore on the ship when making the movie. The prints were destroyed in a fire in 1914 and the film is lost; Gibson was so traumatized by the sinking that she retired from show business after the movie.
  • In Night and Ice: (1912): Originally titled In Nacht Un Eis, an early example of a "mockumentary," reenacting the the ship's crossing, iceberg collision, and sinking aboard the German luxury liner Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria, along with some laughable by today's standards model footage shot in the Baltic Sea. Unlike the Dorothy Gibson film made a few months prior, this film survives. A copy was rediscovered in 1998 and preserved by the German Film Archives.
  • Titanic: A 1943 melodrama made in Nazi Germany as an anti-British propaganda piece. However, the film was promptly censored and withdrawn after scenes of disaster and panic turned out to be a hot bed for Unfortunate Implications and it was banned in Germany by Joseph Goebbels. The film established many conventions and clichés that were followed up by future Titanic films, like interweaving a fictional love story amongst real historical events and portraying J. Bruce Ismay as the villain. It also takes some weird liberties with the facts for the sake of propaganda—in this film Titanic is the fastest ship in the world, John Jacob Astor is plotting a hostile takeover of White Star Line and Ismay pushes Capt. Smith to go faster than necessary in an attempt to raise White Star stock prices to fight off the takeover. (Making the heroic ship's officer a fictional German doesn't help.)
  • Titanic: "They Just Didn't Care" would be a good way to describe this 1953 Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck movie, which concerns itself more with a fictional custody battle between two catty first class passengers than the actual ship and the subsequent disaster.
  • A Night to Remember: (1958) A docu-novel and later film that has aged fairly enough, and even today is considered one of the more accurate portrayals of the sinking in film (Pre-1985 that is).
  • SOS Titanic: (1979) a British/American co-production miniseries using the same docudrama template as A Night to Remember, but covering the ship's entire voyage. Its historical authenticity is marred by lousy special effects, recycled stock footage from the 1958 film and some wildly inaccurate filming locations, which consisted mostly of the very art-deco liner RMS Queen Mary and a couple of luxury hotels in England. The fact that many actors are wildly miscast and look distinctly like they're from The Seventies doesn't help the matters either. The film was aired on American television in its entire 144 minute length (excluding commercials) and was released theatrically in Europe as a 100 minute feature.
  • Raise the Titanic!: (1980) Based on the Clive Cussler novel of the same name. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, a team led by Dirk Pitt sets out to find and raise the ship, believing a rare mineral to be on board. The film was a financial and critical flop.
  • Titanic: (1996) Another "They Just Didn't Care" version (this time a TV miniseries) which manages to ruin history and have completely out-of-left-field scenes such as Tim Curry raping someone.
  • Titanic: (1997), James Cameron's multi-billion blockbuster that launched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into super stardom.
  • Titanic: The Legend Goes On: One of the cartoonified versions, featuring a gender-flipped version of the 1997 film's romance, recycled animation, and a rapping dog. Seriously.
  • The Legend of the Titanic: Another cartoonified version, featuring another ripoff romance, singing mice, a giant octopus who saves the ship, and everyone lives. And it has a sequel, In Search of the Titanic. You can't make this stuff up.
  • Titanic: A 2012 miniseries by Julian Fellows to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking. It's essentially "Downton Abbey at Sea." Aired in four parts, the series pretty much rehashes all the other fictional accounts of the Titanic disaster, filled with fictional characters, melodramatic intrigue, painful historical inaccuracies, and shallow caricature portrayals of actual historical persons onboard. It is also noted for a bizarre "Rashomon" style narrative.
  • Titanic: Blood and Steel: A 2012 12-part TV series also made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking, which focuses on Titanic's construction at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. Filled with Foreshadowing as to Titanic's eventual fate, the series follows metallurgist Dr. Mark Muir as he helps build the Titanic in the face of White Star's (unsubstantiated accusations of)cost-cutting measures, Belfast's class, political and religious divides, and his own past with the city.

Tropes as Applied to the Real Life Event

  • Anyone Can Die: If you were a third-class male, you had a 2-in-3 chance of winding up as a corpse by morning. In first-class, one child died, none in second-class, and as for third... Best not think about it. And as for the engineers... well, there is a reason why there's a memorial specifically for them.
  • Arc Number: Ships are given a specific number in the order of which they are built at a specific yard, and parts for certain ships are stamped with that number to differentiate them from the same or similar parts for other ships. The Olympic was 400, the Titanic was 401, and the Britannic was 433. The 401 stamp is still clearly visible on one of the propeller blades on the stern. This is vitally important evidence in discrediting the Conspiracy Theories that the Titanic was really the Olympic, scuttled as part of an insurance scam after the latter's accident with the HMS Hawke the previous year.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The RMS Carpathia. The captain and crew pushed their ship's engines to the limit to reach the last known coordinates. Subverted in that they still couldn't get there fast enough to save everyone.
  • Blasphemous Boast: According to legend (i.e. take it with a grain of sea salt), a passenger asked a deckhand if Titanic really was 'unsinkable.' The deckhand proudly claimed that "God Himself cannot sink this ship." Let's hope that deckhand didn't have money riding on that claim.
    • According to most researchers, the characterization of the Titanic as "unsinkable" didn't start until after it had sunk, when the media started playing it up because it made the sinking even more sensational. The phrase was actually "practically unsinkable", as in "no disaster that we could think of could sink this ship". Titanic just had the bad luck to sideswipe an iceberg, which was a possibility that nobody had thought of yet.
      • More specifically, Titanic was divided into multiple watertight compartments, and was designed to float with one (or even several) flooded, and most accidents wouldn't flood many compartments (the Olympic, which had the same compartments as the Titanic, once survived a head-on collision with a navy vessel). The iceberg ripped small holes into six of the Titanic's compartments, at which point it became a Foregone Conclusion that she was going down.
  • Bystander Syndrome: At the time of the sinking, the wireless operators were not part of the crew, but employees of the Marconi Wireless Company, and thus the main priority of Jack Phillips and Harold Bride was sending and receiving telegrams for the passengers, not concerning themselves with "weather reports." Also, this meant that 24/7 service was not a requirement, as not all ship companies could afford to have two or more operators on every single one of their ships. This changed real quick after the disaster, especially in light of the fact that the Californian was stopped due to ice not even 10 miles away, and never knew what was happening until the next morning because... their only wireless guy was asleep. Carpathia, the ship that eventually came to the rescue (too late), also had only one wireless operator, and narrowly avoided missing out on Titanic's distress signals because the operator decided to inform the Titanic of a routine piece of information literally as he was getting ready to go to bed.
  • Cassandra Truth: One of the problems commonly pointed out is that the bulkheads weren't sealed at the top. A visiting Russian engineer allegedly pointed the problem in 1909 but was ignored.
    • Of course, watertight decks have their own problems in an emergency situation, such as what is known as the "Free-Surface Effect," where the water sloshes around and pools on one side or the other. If the water gathers in the lower decks this isn't an issue, as the center of gravity is better at staying where it needs to be. But if the water is higher up, the center of gravity shifts, and the ship capsizes. This actually happened to the Normandie when a fire broke out, and the firefighters weren't able to hose off the ship evenly. And as the Olympic-Class wasn't being built for wartime use conversion like Cunard's Lusitania and Mauritania, they didn't need to adhere to the Admiralty's standards for warships, which include watertight decks as well as longitudinal (lengthwise) bulkheads (in fact, those bulkheads did nothing but make Lusitania's sinking worse by collecting water on one side, rather than letting it evenly flood the interior). Then there's the fact that watertight decks require hatches so that passengers and crew would be able to move about the ship, hatches that could easily be forgotten about during an emergency, such as when the HMS Audacious struck a mine in 1914 (leading to the loss of the ship). So it's not like White Star and H&W were being arrogant about safety.
    • The radio operator of the infamous SS Californian tried to warn the Titanic crew about the ice that forced his ship to lay adrift for the night, only to be rudely interrupted by Philips (who was busy working the tenous connection with the shore station) shortly before the accident. He then ended his watch and turned in for the night. Unfortunately, Californian had only one radio operator...
  • Cherry Tapping: The iceberg damage. For decades the accepted wisdom was that only a massive can-opener type gash 300 feet long could have done Titanic in, even after the wreck was discovered and the hull outside boiler rooms 5 and 6 showed a slit formed by buckled plates. It wouldn't be until 1996 that, with the use of sonar, it was confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that six tiny slits as wide as your finger, formed as the rivets snapped and buckled hull plates separated, were all that were needed to lay Titanic low.
  • Distress Call: One of the first major disasters in which radio played a key role. Additionally the ship fired a number of distress rockets.
  • End Of An Era: The sinking is viewed as the moment the Edwardian Era died: the faith in man's engineering achievements making wonders. Also foreshadows the coming of World War I during which the masses were killed over the seeming arrogance of the upper classes.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Played straight and averted. Thomas Andrews gave the ship another hour when he saw the damage done, but the ship lasted an additional hour and ten minutes beyond when he assumed she would sink.
  • Exact Words: The aforementioned British Board of Trade Regulations concerning lifeboats and ship sizes. It was only after the disaster that they were changed to the much more inclusive "enough lifeboats for all aboard."
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • There are many stories of fathers leaving their wives and children in the boats, and stepping back so that others may have a seat.
    • And there is the famed story of Benjamin Guggenheim and his valet, the former of whom famously told a steward: "We are dressed in our best, and are prepared to go down as gentlemen."
    • And who could forget the brave Wallace Heartly and Titanic 's band? The men who played cheerful music throughout the sinking to help maintain calm, and at the end played a simple hymnnote  as an instrumental prayer for those in the boats, and the ones left behind.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Until Dr. Robert Ballard discovered the wreck in the 1980's, no one wanted to believe the many survivors who claimed that Titanic broke in two before sinking, ignoring the fourteen or so survivors who testified such in favor of a handful of officers and first-class passengers who claimed that she didn't.
  • For Want of a Nail: Had there not been some unusual weather in the Arctic, the ice would not be that far south. Had a few things gone differently while Titanic was still near land, her maiden voyage might have been delayed or cancelled. Had Titanic listened to the Californian and slowed down for ice (or stopped), she might have been able to dodge the berg. Had Californian had more than one wireless operator (or a less tired one), she would have heard the distress signals and come to help. Had there been more importance placed on lifeboats and the getting into them in the event of an emergency (Titanic had never had a proper lifeboat drill), so many more could have been saved. There are so many of these in Titanic's story that it approaches the level of a full-blown Greek Tragedy.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Given the multiple factors that played into the disaster, the tragedy may be one of the first modern examples of a system accident.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The four seniormost officers — Captain E.J. Smith (phlegmatic), Chief Officer Henry Wilde (choleric), First Officer William Murdoch (sanguine), and Second Officer Charles Lightoller (melancholic).
  • God Never Said That: No official source from either Harland and Wolf or the White Star Line ever called Titanic or her sisters "unsinkable." When talking about the safety features of the ship, it was stated that all the usual expected causes for accidents at sea (or more accurately, near a port and thus NOT at full speed) had been considered and countered with structural features to take them into account:
    • Grounding: The double-bottom hull will keep the water out of the main hull.
    • Hitting something: The first four compartments can flood and the ship would not be in danger, when usually the worst damage would be the first two compartments flooding.
    • Being hit BY something: Worst case scenario was being hit right at a bulkhead, resulting in two compartments flooding. Titanic and her sisters could take such a hit and still have watertight bulkhead space above the waterline. Three in ridiculously favorable conditions. This actually happened to Olympic when she got rammed by HMS Hawke at the junction of 2 compartments. Both flooded, but the ship remained stable and was able to limp back to Harland and Wolf under her own power. This was seen as a validation of the watertight compartment system at the time.
    • What happened was a shipbuilder's trade magazine listed these features and wrote "Practically Unsinkable." The press got word of that and gleefully 'forgot' about the "practically" part and just said "Unsinkable."
  • Going Down with the Ship: Captain Smith. There's some speculation to how he died according to different survivor testimonies but most believed they last saw him in the ship's wheelhouse and stayed there until the bridge flooded and drowned.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Over 1,500 people are in the freezing cold water, and are dying. Think about it.
  • Heroic BSOD: Captain Edward John Smith, beloved "Millionaire's Captain" of the White Star Line, forty years experience at sea. After the order was given to launch the lifeboats, he was reported to have been detached and in a haze, leaving his officers to carry out the evacuation.
    • While he had 40 years experience, he never encountered a serious emergency in his career, and, moreover, much of his career was reportedly spent on sailing ships, with only infrequent steamship voyages. He described his own experience of life at sea as "uneventful" in an interview, and the worst event he was ever involved in before Titanic was the collision between Olympic and HMS Hawke a few months earlier. Faced with the prospect of a very real disaster unfolding on his watch (and his own impending death), he simply shut down. Just because you've been at sea a long time doesn't really mean you're experienced.
  • Hero of Another Story: RMS Olympic: Known as "Old Reliable". She served White Star until the merger with Cunard in 1934, covering millions of miles over 257 voyages, served as a troop transport in WWI, was the only merchant ship to ever sink a U-Boat in 1917 (in a collision, no less), and at the outbreak of the war helped rescue the sailors of the mined HMS Audacious. But she wasn't Titanic so who gives a damn?
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The engineers stayed below decks, struggling to maintain power vital for the electric lights, the pumps working against the flood, and most importantly the Marconi Wireless, right up to the very end, and by then there was no hope to escape.
  • Hufflepuff House: Second-class passengers, of which Titanic was carrying 272 are almost entirely ignored in most depictions of the disaster, seemingly lacking the glamour of the first-class and romanticism of the third. In fact third-class males were twice as likely to survive as second-class males. A partial exception are the members of Titanic's orchestra who were technically listed as second-class passengers rather than members of the crew.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted, as shown by the tragic story of little Sidney Leslie Goodwin, Aged 19 months.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Sadly, no amount of Heroic Resolve on Captain Rostron's part could get the Carpathia on the scene in time.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: On account of the very confused nature of the tragedy itself and the media storm that occurred afterwards, there's a lot of myths and disputed facts surrounding the sinking, and nobody agrees on exactly what happened. Titanic had it all- conflicting witnesses, later embellishments, people not seeing the whole picture, and just plain mistakes.
  • Meaningful Name: The first two ships of the Olympic Class were named after generations of gods from Classical Mythology
    • Olympic was named after the Olympians (Zues, Hera, Hades, that group).
    • Titanic after their parents, the Titans (Chronos, Gaia, them), thus leading to a spooky Contrived Coincidence in that the Titans were imprisoned in the deepest, darkest depths of Tartarus for all eternity and Titanic... Sank into the deepest, darkest depths of the Atlantic Ocean for all eternity...
    • Britannic was two fold — Firstly after Britannia, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Britain,and after... Britannic, one of White Star's first and most beloved liners. Dead Guy Junior as applied to ships one could say.
      • There is an urban legend that Britannic was originally to be named Gigantic after the Giants, the other group of children of the Olympians, and that the name was quickly changed after the loss of Titanic for fears it was Too Soon to have such an arrogant-sounding name. There are a few records in H&W listing Hull 433 as "Gigantic," however, the name was a common name popular amongst the workers of the yard for a name for a White Star liner.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Inverted: Titanic is the most [in]famous ship in all of history, while the First Child Olympic is reduced to a glorified footnote (in spite of her 23-year service record and war hero status in sinking a U-Boat and saving the crew of the ''HMS Audacious''), and the Baby Britannic, while talked about, is not mentioned nearly as much as Titanic, despite having struck a mine in 1916 while serving as a hospital ship in WWI, having never carried a single paying customer.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The death toll was just over one thousand, five hundred men, women, and children. Even though there are whole towns on both sides of the Atlantic that are smaller than that, it's hard to picture that many dead bodies bobbing in the sea, until you read up on some of the victims, especially the more unknown individuals.
  • Mis-blamed: A lot of Titanic survivors reported seeing the lights of another ship that passed at distance without giving help. This mysterious ship was usualy understood to be the much maligned SS Californian, until in The Sixties one Hendrik Naess, the former master (though he was a First Mate at the time) of a Norwegian whaler Samson made a Deathbed Confession that it might've been his ship. Samson was illegally hunting seals off the American shores at the time, and reportedly mistook the lights and signal rockets of the sinking Titanic as belonging to the US or Canadian Coast Guard cutter and moved to avoid them. The 1885-built 525-ton schooner lacked radio and the crew learned of the tragedy only after calling to the next port, after which they decided to stay mute about the event. Some people, though, don't buy into that, pointing to the fact that from her log Samson couldn't have been at the accident location on that night.
  • Ramming Always Works: Many have suggested that had Officer Murdoch just kept going straight, the ship would have survived. These people are, pardon the colloquialism, pants-on-head retarded and should not be listened to for a multitude of reasons. The reasons for why this Defied Trope is also an Averted Trope are thus:
    • One: the ships that have been cited as having survived a head-on collision with an iceberg were all either much smaller in mass than Titanic, moving much slower than Titanic, or some combination of the two. As a thought experiment, imagine a minivan hitting a reinforced cement bridge support at thirty miles an hour. Violent, but a reasonable chance for survival with something resembling a car afterward. Now, imagine a fully loaded 18-wheeler hitting the same support at sixty miles an hour. Not a pretty sight, is it? Furthermore, they don't take into account that modern ships are welded together, whereas Titanic was held together by rivets. Had Titanic hit the iceberg as suggested, the whole ship would have folded like an accordion, opening the seams of the plates from stem to stern, resulting in the ship sinking in minutes, rather than hours.
    • Two: The front end of the bow was not a battering ram loaded with nothing more than cargo that would regrettably be destroyed but covered by insurance. The bunks for the firemen for the boilers were in there, loaded up with the hundreds of men off-shift and asleep, in addition to the single male and married couples of third-class being berthed in the front end. Even if by some miracle Titanic survived, William Murdoch would have been tried for mass manslaughter and seen as the most incompetent sailor ever put in charge of a ship for all time.
    • Besides the fact that any competent sailor would act to prevent his vessel colliding with an obstacle, advocates of the head-on collision theory overlook that due to Murdoch's manoeuvre the Titanic came very close to evading the iceberg altogether.
  • Retirony: Captain Smith planned on retiring after the Titanic returned to England.
  • Survivor Guilt: A number of survivors would later regret not even trying to go back and save some of the victims in the water. Doing so would have been suicide mind you, what with 1,000+ people trying to get into boats with only a couple hundred total seats vacant, but that's psychology for you.
  • Tempting Fate: On the maiden voyage of the RMS Adriatic, one of the Big Four (White Star's major Ocean Liner project before the Olympic-Class) in 1907, Captain Smith gave this quote to the press concerning ship safety:
    "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that..."
    • Describing a large floating piece of metal as 'unsinkable' practically defines this trope. Although the makers themselves never actually made the claim directly (the phrase they used was 'virtually unsinkable', which is still this to a degree), newspapers of the day were fond of trumpeting the line that 'God himself could not sink this ship'. God, it turned out, likes a challenge.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: Lifeboat thirteen was pushed backwards by Titanic's condenser discharge before they could unhook the falls. Meanwhile, lifeboat 15 started down the falls... Thirteen was nearly crushed before they managed to escape from under fifteen.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: Courtesy of how steam engines run. When Captain Rostron of the Carpathia learned that the Titanic was in trouble, he immediately ordered all available power diverted to the propellers. Chief Engineer Johnston accomplished this by shutting off steam, hot water, and electricity to non-essential portions of the ship. Every available fireman began shoveling coal into the boiler furnaces as if their own lives depended on it, and all the steam pressure safety valves were closed off. Carpathia's fastest rated speed was 14 knots, and her engines were already 10 years old and due for an overhaul... but she was coaxed up to 17.5 knots that fateful night, shaving nearly an hour off her mad dash to the sinking Titanic. The engines of the Carpathia would never achieve that speed again over the course of her life.
  • Together in Death: Isidor Straus, one of the early owners of Macy's Department Store, and his wife Ida. She was offered a seat in a boat, but refused to leave her husband. When Isidor was offered a place, as "no one would object to an older gentleman having a place," he declined, not desiring an opportunity not given to every other man. Subverted in that only Isidor's body was recovered and identified.
  • Underwater Ruins: Titanic herself, but especially the bow section. ROVs have been sent into the deepest parts of the ship and have found chandeliers still hanging from the ceiling, used drinking glasses still on their shelves, windows in the reception room completely whole, and tile from the Turkish bath (think sauna) still in place and retaining their vibrant colors.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: For the Passenger Trade for emergencies: With the advent of wireless, and the fact that most incidents happen close to shore, it was common wisdom that other ships would be near enough to provide assistance, and that the lifeboats would be used to ferry passengers and crew from one ship to the other before the final plunge. And if it was out at sea, the North Atlantic was, and is, among the busiest shipping routes in the world, so it was inconceivable for there to be no one nearby. Shipbuilders just needed to make sure the ship could float long enough for help to arrive. In fact, just three years previous this system worked out flawlessly with the ''RMS Republic'', which managed to linger for almost forty hours. What they didn't count on was what happened that night with the damage that occurred (see God Never Said That), and the fact that the nearest ship's radio was turned off for the night at the time of the disaster.
  • Vindicated by History: For years lots of miniseries, books, films and even alleged experts claimed that Titanic was a heavily flawed ship in every respect from design to materials. However, thorough research and new discoveries of the missing middle wreckage proves otherwise:
  • You Can't Fight Fate: This comes up in fiction but while the sinking of the Titanic specifically may have been avoidable, considering the nature of the Atlantic passenger business in 1912, a disaster of the same scale, if not worse, wasn't. It was simply a question of Which ship, When, Where, and How many people were going to die. Had things gone different, audiences might have seen the struggles of Jack and Rose to survive the sinking of the RMS Queen Mary, or RMS Britannic.