The RMS Titanic was a British transatlantic liner that sank in 1912, causing approximately 1,500 deaths. At the time of her maiden voyage, she was the largest ship to have ever sailed the seas. Construction started in March 1909 in the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland 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 set sail for New York, hit an iceberg on the fourth day, and sank in less than three hours. Its fate has inspired at least 36 movies, including a Nazi propaganda film, a classic Hollywood disaster drama, a giant Box Office Bomb about raising the wreckage that became a major Creator Killer and Franchise Killer, two cartoonified versions in which Everyone Lives (with a sequel for one of them), James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic, and at least two porn parodies.
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 Deutschland* , two liners of unprecedented size, speed (with Kaiser running at a then-unheard-of speed of 22.35 knotsnote , and Deutschland traveling even faster) and luxury. In response, the Cunard Line, which had always placed speed and reliability as paramount for their ships, produced the 787 and 790-foot long Lusitania* and Mauretania in 1907. These liners had 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 were the largest liners in the world both in physical size and massnote , 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 put 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, with 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; their 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 went for hundreds of thousands of American dollars in 2017 money, with private baths for more first class cabins than any other ship afloatnote . As the popular ships of the day had four funnels, a fake funnel was added on at the back; this 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; fifteen bulkheads that went two decks above the waterline (any two of which could flood with bulkheads above the floodwater to spare that divided the ship into sixteen watertight compartments); 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 "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.
It was in this environment that the middle child, Titanic, rose to 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 some of the wealthiest aristocrats, by title or by position, on both sides of the Atlantic. John Jacob Astor IV, heir to the Astor Railroad fortune and his barely 19-year old bride Madeleine were returning home from their extended honeymoon.note Also on board were the Strauses, Isidor and Ida, co-owners of the world-famous Macy's Department Store in New York, Denver socialite Margaret "Molly" Brown and Archibald Butt, a friend and advisor to President William Howard Taft, 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, Harland & Wolff's head designer Thomas Andrews, and nine luckynote builders from Harland & Wolff known as the "Guarantee Group" traveling to observe the general performance of the new ship.
And at the helm, was Captain Edward John 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. While the majority of the crew were hired at Southampton in the days prior to the voyage, which was a common practice at the time, Smith's officers were a handpicked collection of White Star's best.
Titanic's maiden voyage almost ended in disaster just as it was starting. As the ship was leaving Southampton, its powerful suction pulled a nearby vessel, the SS City of New York, from its moorings and into Titanic's path. Captain Smith quickly ordered Titanic's port propeller into reverse, and the resulting wash pushed the New York away from Titanic, giving several tugs time to usher it safely away. The near collision still delayed the start of Titanic's journey by an hour. When the maiden voyage finally got underway, the first three days were calm and without incident.
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 nearby ship Californian tried to warn them of an 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 15 miles of the Titanic would not hear of the disaster until morning.
On Sunday, April 14th, at 11:40 PM ship's time, the majority of passengers and Captain Smith had gone to bed. 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 stop on the engines. Murdoch then ordered the turn reversed and engines stopped, bringing the bow back towards the iceberg. While seemingly counterintuitive, this order, known as "porting around," was the standard collision-avoidance maneuver for the time, reducing the ship's speed while swinging the stern away from the hazard - as an analogy, picture driving a car and having to slow down and change lanes to avoid a hazard in your current path; simply turning away could mean presenting the ship's entire side to be ripped open as her existing momentum would stretch the turning radius out to be farther than that of the ordered turn.
It has been speculated by some that had Murdoch simply left the engines alone, Titanic could have either missed the iceberg entirely, or collided with greatly reduced damage. This is disputed, and porting around was the standard collision-avoidance action for a reason (not to mention that Murdoch would have gone down in history as the guy who rammed an iceberg with a cruise ship, which isn't good for one's reputation). 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. The first sign to the passengers that something was amiss came minutes later, when the engines were suddenly stopped. 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 any 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 those next two hours, the crew rushed to launch the lifeboats 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, the Cunard Line's RMS Carpathia, instantly rushed to Titanic's aid,note but was four hours away. The lifeboat launchings were extremely chaotic and disorganized. Titanic had never had a lifeboat drill and only had enough boats to accommodate barely half those on board. Captain Smith, upon realizing the scope of the emergency, gave vague orders and became so disconnected that he didn't bother to find out if they 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 often lowered only 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. The last boats were launched less than ten minutes before the ship went under. 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 capsizing, 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 legislation 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 15mi2 area. The bow is mostly intact and still resembles a ship, whereas the stern is a jumbled mess of decking and hull plating.note 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 eventually 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; and on one of the dives with the Russian Mir, a sub accidentally damaged a deckhouse with its propeller). Some equate the salvaging with Grave Robbing, and that the ship should be left to (no pun intended) 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.
- 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. She was reluctant to star in the film and perceived it as exploitation of the tragedy and her ordeal, but was coerced into it by her manager. Contemporary critics noted that the actress looked strained and on edge throughout the film. Gibson was so traumatized by the sinking and her subsequent appearance in Saved from the Titanic that she retired from show business after the movie.
- In Night and Ice: (1912): Originally titled In Nacht und Eis, an early example of a "mockumentary," reenacting 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 F.W. Murnau Foundation.
- Atlantic (1929): A very early talkie and one of the first sound British films. The film is a very loose adaptation of the sinking, based on a contemporary play titled The Berg. Due to a threatening letter from White Star Line, the original studio that released the film changed the ship's name (and subsequently the film's title) to a fictional "SS Atlantic."note The film, while a bit primitive and sloppily made on a low budget, can be seen as a very early prototype of the Disaster Movie sub-genre, establishing various tropes and clichés that would be imitated by subsequent films in the decades to follow. Like many talkies of the time, this film was shot in three separate languages; English, German, and French, each version utilizing a different cast of actors. This was common before dubbing came to popularity as a more cost-effective way to release sound films internationally.
- Titanic: A 1943 drama film 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. Taking cues from the earlier 1929 version, this film further established and cemented many conventions and tropes 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 a British Lord that is plotting a hostile takeover of White Star Line and Ismay pushes Capt. Smith to go faster than necessary as a publicity stunt for the company in an attempt to raise White Star stock prices to fight off the takeover. The ship's sole German crew member, the righteous and incorruptible (and entirely fictional) First Officer Petersen tries in vain to prevent the inevitable disaster. The special effects, using a model 6 meters long, were good enough to be reused in A Night to Remember however.
- 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 remarkably well, and even today is considered one of the most accurate portrayals of the sinking put to film. The largest error is that this film shows Titanic sinking whole, which was the prevailing theory until the actual wreck was discovered in 1985.
- "The Sinking of the Titanic": (1975) A experimental-classical musical piece composed by Gavin Bryers, which takes the legend of the Titanic's band playing until the very end and imagines the band's final performance reverberating throughout the waters of the Atlantic as the ship goes under.
- 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 '70s 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 one of the most notorious financial and critical flops of the 1970's/1980's, sunk producer Lew Grade, the director of the movie, and ITC Entertainment, and led to an embargo from Cussler regarding his novels until Sahara, which had an even worse reaction from him. This is the final film about the Titanic made and released before the wreck was discovered.
- "Titanic": This 1983 Chick Tract is set aboard the famous ship, and concerns a man named Chester who wants to get rich and is hostile towards efforts to convert him to Christianity.
- Titanica: (1992) An IMAX documentary by Stephen Low and originally narrated by Leonard Nimoy, this was also the second ever IMAX exclusive film, done when the format was in complete infancy. This film features how the deep-dives to the Titanic work, and also features interviews from survivors Frank Goldsmith and Eva Hart. This is also the first of several films featuring the Titanic to also feature the research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, which is one of the primary vessels dealing with the Titanic wreck and would be featured again in both of James Cameron's Titanic films: the 1997 smash, and Disney's Ghosts of the Abyss.
- Titanic: (1996) Another "they just didn't care" version (this time a TV miniseries) which features historical inaccuracies in nearly every scene, removing several figures from the sinking, and have completely out-of-left-field scenes such as Tim Curry raping someone. Noteworthy for being the first production to show the Titanic splitting in two before the sinking.
- Titanic: Adventure Out of Time: (1996) A video game (yes, Titanic has even inspired a video game) about a British agent who had a failed mission aboard the ship. After he's killed in the London Blitz, he's somehow sent back in time to the night of the sinking and given a chance to complete his mission, with the possibility of changing history. Notable for its graphics capturing every detail of the ship, to the point that several documentaries of the late 90s used the game to depict the sinking.
- Titanic: (1997), James Cameron's multi-billion blockbuster that launched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into super stardom. Unlike other films, which generally use an existing ocean liner for the set, Cameron worked to literally build the ship itself and get every possible detail right, from the layout of the boat deck to the patterns on the fine china. Currently rivals A Night to Remember as the most accurate depiction of the sinking, as it includes the ship visibly breaking in two. The second of at least 3 films about the Titanic to use the research/submersible vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh; like Titanica, deep dives are shown in detail at the very beginning of the movie, and the main character retells her story on board the Keldysh.
- 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. Also ripped off a bunch of Disney Animated Canon films in the character designs.
- 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. All three movies earned scathing reviews from The Nostalgia Critic, with Youtube personality AniMat giving The Legend of the Titanic his "Seal of Garbage".
- And from SNL's TV Funhouse, Titey, the purported Disney version.
- Ghosts Of The Abyss: (2003) A follow-up by James Cameron on the Titanic (this one was done by Disney rather than Paramount or Fox), once again operating from the Keldysh, which was his base of operations for Titanic 1997 regarding dives (and was featured in the film) and had previously been the base of operations for Titanica 5 years earlier. This one also had a dive on September 11th, which got woven into the film.
- 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 and unnecessary "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.
- Saving the Titanic deviates from the usual Titanic formula by dramatizing the efforts of the engineering and boiler room crews on board as the ship sank.
- SOS: The Titanic Inquiry is a 2012 BBC TV movie which is a bit of a variant as it is a dramatization of the British Board of Trade inquiry of the disaster in which the crew of the Californian were grilled about their actions that night.
- Titanic: Honor and Glory: An upcoming video game currently in development. An Oxford graduate is accused of a crime he didn't commit and follows the perp aboard the first ship out of Southampton, the Titanic. When it starts sinking, he only has less than three hours to solve the case and clear his name. Besides the story arc, the game is also intended to serve as a learning tool. The creators have been conducting exhaustive research into the sinking, even creating a real-time video of the sinking using the game's engine. Their YouTube channel is an absolute gold mine of information about the ship, the sinking, and the history around the same in the form of both informational videos and podcasts.
- The aptly titled Voyage of Despair revolves around four robbers attempting to steal a strange artifact. This wouldn't be anything that interesting... if it weren't for the fact that this is a Call of Duty: Zombies map. Needless to say, the cause of the sinking is very much different.
- The Titanic is what set off the plot of Downton Abbey: Lord Robert's two closest heirs were on board and died in the sinking, leaving the next possible heir to his title and estates (and more importantly, his wife's money) a distant cousin who works as a solicitor.
- The Doctor Who Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" takes place on board a replica of the ship, which was built by an alien race to experience "primitive cultures." The Doctor lampshades the inherent Tempting Fate - "Did anyone tell you what it was famous for?" Naturally, it meets with disaster, though it's closer to The Poseidon Adventure than the actual disaster or any of the works based on it.
- Chapters 35 and 36 of Gardens of Time revolve around the Titanic.
- Ghostbusters II: Played for Laughs when a ghostly version of the ship arrives in New York in 1989, and ghosts start disembarking. "It's some dock supervisor down at Pier 34 on the Hudson. The guy's going nuts." "What's the problem?" "He says the Titanic just arrived." Made even funnier by the dock supervisor being played by Cheech Marin. *shrug* "Better late than never!"
- The heroine of the Danielle Steel novel No Greater Love takes charge of her younger siblings after surviving the disaster but losing her parents and fiance.
- The Visual Novel Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is set on the restored Britannic (though it's identified by its original name "Gigantic"). Actually, while a backstory event takes place on the actual restored Britannic, the events of the game take place in a replica built in a building in the desert of Nevada. References to the Titanic's sinking as well as the Britannic's own are prevalent, including correctly identifying the Carpathia's role.
- From Time to Time, sequel to Time and Again, has the protagonist aboard the Titanic to try to prevent the collision. Another time agent's actions cause it.
- In Millennium (written in 1983, two years before the wreck was found), co-protagonist Louise says the wreckage was never found because the whole ship was brought forward in time.
- Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: During their first clash ten years before the events of the show, Dr. Maelstrom's end goal was to float and steal the sunken ship, while Carmen (an ACME agent at the time) worked frantically to catch up to and stop him before he succeeded. The wreck was mentioned to have been found by Dr. Ballard the day after Maelstrom's arrest.
- Lady Marjorie of Upstairs Downstairs is revealed to have perished in the disaster.
- Supernatural: In "My Heart Will Go On", Balthazar (off-screen) travels back in time and prevents the Titanic from sinking, creating an alternate timeline where the Earth's population is bigger because the people who would have died didn't and had descendants, plus other differences like Céline Dion never became famous and is nothing but a destitute lounge singer because the 1997 film was never made. Balthazar claims he did it because he hated the 1997 movie and Celine Dion, which may be true, but the real reason was that Castiel wanted to increase Earth's population so that there would eventually be more souls to bolster Heaven in its war against Hell. Atropos forces them to go back and ensure the Titanic sinks, restoring the timeline.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: Umimi Habera (Brooke Walker) has a monster card called Supercolossal, Unsinkable Superliner - Elegant Titanic (Unsinkable Titanica). Despite its name and appearance, it doesn't get destroyed.
- Time Bandits: Kevin and the titular bandits briefly visit the ship right before it hits the iceberg. This is Played for Laughs, as Randall asks for champagne with plenty of ice.
- One chapter of Jigsaw puts you on board, right at the crucial moment.
- The 1.5 Mod for Empire Earth II lets you build the Titanic from the Modern Age onwards. It's the biggest unit in the game and has a carrying capacity of 500 (the last transport can carry less than 30), but has no defenses. And instead of voicelines, it plays snippets of "My Heart Will Go On".
- Just a Pilgrim: Set in a world where the oceans have dried up due to the sun expanding sooner than predicted (as in, several billion years ahead of schedule), the pilgrim and the refugees he's accompanying come across the wreck of the Titanic and use it as an improvised fortress against wasteland raiders.
- Jour J: One story sees the Titanic saved because a young boy was looking through his telescope and spotted the iceberg in time. The boy would later become a journalist who exposed Al Capone meeting with criminals (preventing Prohibition). World War II is prevented when the Titanic still sinks sometime in the 30s, taking two men named Einstein and Hitler with it. The journalist ends up as President but uses ever more extremist means to preserve his utopia, and when he voluntarily euthanizes himself at age 100 on a space station, the Earth is on the brink of a medical disaster due to the population being unable to resist antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- In Cavalcade, Robert and Jane Marryot's son Edward honeymoons on the Titanic, and doesn't survive. It's the first major tragedy for the family in the film, the second being World War I.
- The Time Tunnel The first episode has them travel back in time using the titular time tunnel to the Titanic. The last episode also has them go to the Titanic at the very end after they just did their latest adventure so it would lead to summer reruns.
- The ship makes an anachronistic appearance in Holmes & Watson, where it is the site of an attempted assassination of Queen Victoria, who died eleven years before the Titanic set sail.
- 13 Is Unlucky: Lifeboat 13 was pushed backwards by Titanic's condenser discharge before they could unhook the falls. Meanwhile, lifeboat 15 started down the falls... 13 was nearly crushed before they managed to escape from under 15.
- Action Survivor:
- Violet Jessop. Not only did she survive this sinking, she survived a collision aboard the Olympic and the sinking of the Britannic. In fact, there were a number of crewmembers who survived all three incidents, although Violet is the most famous. Crewmember John Priest reportedly survived at least 5 shipwrecks in his lifetime.
- Frederick Barret, who was Leading Fireman in Boiler Room 6. Not only was he able to get out before the room flooded, but he made it to Lifeboat 13 and helped cut the falls before it was crushed by Lifeboat 15.
- Age-Gap Romance: John and Madeleine Astor, 48 and 19 respectively. The reason they were in Europe in the first place was to attempt to wait out the media frenzy that resulted from Astor's divorce and their age difference, but they decided to go back when Madeleine got pregnant.
- Apocalyptic Log: The increasingly frantic wireless messages that were sent by Jack Phillips.
- 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.
- The Artifact: Titanic and other White Star ships were registered out of Liverpool, home to the line's main offices, but actually sailed out of Southampton, which proved a better departure point due to its closer proximity to London and ease of access with French ports.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: The American inquiry featured a notorious one from Senator William Alden Smith, who asked Fifth Officer Harold Lowe what was in an iceberg. Lowe's answer? "Ice, I suppose, sir." Possibly an aversion, as Smith's follow-up questions asked whether foreign materials such as rocks could have been mixed in with the ice and inflicted further damage.
- 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, but their quick thinking and incredible risk-taking prevented even more lives being lost to hypothermia.
- Big Damn Reunion: The Becker family. As the family waited to board a lifeboat, 12-year-old Ruth ran back to their cabin to get blankets. By the time she got back, the boat was already being lowered. Ruth then got in the next boat to be lowered, the aforementioned Lifeboat 13, and was reunited with her family on Carpathia.
- Bigger Is Better: The ship is often claimed to have been the largest ship in the world. In truth, Titanic was a mere three inches longer than her sister ship Olympic. However, a last minute decision to add sliding windows on the forward half of the A Deck promenade, along with other cosmetic improvements, meant that Titanic was heavier by about a thousand tons, thus allowing her to claim the title of largest ship.
- Blasphemous Boast: When boarding the ship, passenger Edith Russell 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.
- Bystander Syndrome: Stanley Lord, the captain of the SS Californian, is currently the maritime poster boy for this trope. The Californian was 10-20 miles away from the disaster (it was stopped because of the same icefield that sunk the Titanic), able to see the distress rockets (but not hear the distress signals, since their one wireless operator was off shift at the time) and was probably the nearest ship to Titanic when she sank. However, the crew failed to interpret the rockets they saw as distress signals and, moreover, when they did try to contact the ship they could see (via morse lamp), it did not respond and appeared to steam away. Thus the Californian remained inactive the entire night. The ship that eventually rescued the survivors was the Carpathia, which was some 58 miles away at the time of the wreck. The U.S. Senate inquiry called out Lord's inaction as "reprehensible". He was after all, on a ship in the vicinity of the RMS Titanic the night it sank. The inquiry didn't question his failure to respond to the Titanic's pleas with all the miscommunication going on, it did however criticize his failure to respond to someone's call for help. He was dismissed later that year.note
- The Captain: Three civilian sea captains who would go down in history in three very different ways:
- Edward Smith of the Titanic. A well-accredited old school sea captain, often given at least some of the blame for the Titanic's accident, fairly or unfairly. He died in the sinking.
- Stanley Lord of the Californian, currently the maritime poster boy for Bystander Syndrome, is often blamed for not coming to the Titanic's aid.note In any case, as this article points out, it is doubtful that the Californian could have made much difference due to the limited time and manpower available and the difficulties of rescues at sea.
- Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, acclaimed as a hero because he immediately ordered full steam ahead (and then some) the instant he got word about Titanic, with only the sheer distance between the ships preventing him from saving hundreds more lives.
- Captain Crash: First Edward Smith was captain of the RMS Olympic when it nearly destroyed a tugboat that was guiding it into dock. Later on, it collided with a British warship. Then Olympic lost a propeller blade and she returned to her builder for emergency repairs. Then he was captain of a ship called the RMS Titanic.
- In fairness to Smith, all of those incidents were relatively minor and involved no loss of life. Olympic was under compulsory pilotage in the Solent when the collision with the Hawke happened, and the pilot was officially blamed for it. A number of eyewitnesses actually felt the Hawke was at fault.
- 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 that ship). So it's not like White Star and H&W were being arrogant about safety.
- Cyril Evans, 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 tenuous connection with the shore station, and moreover had just had his eardrums nearly blown out by the comparative volume of Evans' message) shortly before the accident. He then ended his watch and turned in for the night. Unfortunately, Californian had only one radio operator...
- Because of the reputation the Titanic had as a very safe ship, it took a while for it to sink in that the ship had actually gone down with horrible casualties. There's a story floating around that one passenger on the Carpathia, inquiring about the crew's sudden activity, was told that the Titanic was sinking and they were going to help her. He went back to his cabin and told his family to be ready to evacuate, because he thought it was more likely that his own ship was on fire than that the Titanic was going down.
- A number of survivors, such as Jack Thayer, reported that Titanic broke in half before it sank, but were disbelieved. They were vindicated by Robert Ballard's dives to discover the wreck in 1985.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: Sadly, despite their extraordinary heroics on the night, the brave little Carpathia was simply too far away to make it there before Titanic went under. Fortunately, that hour she shaved off her arrival time undoubtedly saved only God knows how many lives from hypothermia, so it wasn't all for nothing.
- 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 an adult's hand◊, formed as the rivets snapped and buckled hull plates separated, were all that were needed to lay Titanic low. This theory was actually presented at the inquiries by Harland & Wolff's best naval architects. They noted that reports of the flooding were different in each compartment, meaning each one likely suffered its own unique damage and that the actual damage could be very small. However, the press ignored that and went with the myth of the 300ft gash.
- Cool Car: The 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville belonging to William Carter, who had purchased the vehicle in Europe and was having it shipped back to New York. The Carters all survived the sinking, but the car, if it has survived a century underwater, is more likely than not The Alleged Car now.
- Creator Killer:
- Played painfully straight with Thomas Andrews.
- Bruce Ismay was one of the men who boarded a lifeboat and survived the sinking. The reputation he earned for not going down with the ship claimed his long career with White Star within a year, and he lived the rest of his life a recluse.
- The surviving officers, Charles Lightoller, Herbert Pitman, Joseph Boxhall and Harold Lowe, all found that their careers stalled as a result of their association with the Titanic. None of them ever received a major command.
- Averted, surprisingly, by the White Star Line. Despite the hit it took with the loss of the Titanic (financial and reputation), White Star remained a successful and profitable business throughout the 1920s. They still had the old reliable Olympic and, as part of Germany's war reparations, in 1920 they were given the largest passenger ship in the world, the Hamburg-America line's Bismarck (renamed Majestic by White Star), as recompense for the loss of the third Olympic-class sister Britannic, which had been used as a hospital ship in the First World War and sunk after striking an underwater mine in 1916. What really finished off White Star was the tightening of US immigration laws, depriving the company of its main source of income, and subsequently the Great Depression, leading to its merger with Cunard (which was also struggling for the same reasons) in 1934. What exists of White Star now is part of the Carnival Cruise Corporation, who are the current owners of Cunard (along with Costa Cruises, who would be involved in another historic maritime disaster with the Concordia in 2012, only a few months before the centenary of Titanic.)
- Stanley Lord, the captain of the Californian, was fired with prejudice from his line that August after he did not respond to the Titanic's sinking.note Neither he nor any of his crew were ever criminally charged for ignoring the rockets and wireless telegraphsnote , but the mess still turned him into a hated man. He joined a different company and worked there until 1927, but his career and reputation were forever stained. Probably a case of Historical Villain Upgrade and a great irony that a captain who prudently stopped his ship for the night after encountering heavy ice and delivered his crew and cargo safely to port should end up being vilified.
- Averted with the actual builders of the ship, Harland & Wolff, who continued to build ocean liners for decades until the jet airplane made it considerably easier to get around the globe. They were also a major shipbuilder for the Royal Navy, including HMS Belfast, which served as a command ship during the D-Day landings and now is a museum ship in London. H&W are still in operation in the 21st century, today focusing on building off-shore wind farms.
- Dated History:
- For many years, it was widely believed that Titanic sank intact. The discovery of the wreck in two main pieces almost half a mile apart proved beyond any doubt that the ship broke apart during the sinking.
- A popular myth was that the iceberg ripped a 300ft gash in the ship's hull. Despite Harland & Wolff's best naval architects discrediting this, as each compartment had a separate pattern of flooding, it remained a leading explanation. It was finally disproven in the 90s when sonar scans were able to accurately determine the damage.
- For decades, Titanic was assumed to have foundered at or near its last transmitted distress position. The wreck was actually discovered some 13 miles away, which is why it had been so difficult to locate.
- Death of a Child: The tragic story of little Sidney Leslie Goodwin, Aged 19 months.
- Dirty Coward: If you were a man, and you survived, then chances were you'd face this accusation. Bruce Ismay never lived it down, and after leaving the White Star Line the year after the sinking, spent the rest of his life as a recluse. One major exception was the ship's baker, Charles Joughin, mostly due to the awesome way he survived.
- Disaster Dominoes: Let's count the contributing factors to the wreck:
- Pre-voyage hype. Titanic was the largest ship afloat, the jewel of the White Star Line fleet, and one of the safest ships of the time. There was a lot of pressure to make her maiden voyage as spectacular and smooth as possible, which led to...
- Skipped safety features. While the Titanic was difficult to sink, White Star Line placed all their eggs in one basket, as it were. Early plans for Titanic to be equipped with 64 lifeboats were rejected in favour of providing extra comforts to passengers, and because the outdated maritime safety laws in 1912 only required them to have 16. Titanic also never had a proper lifeboat drill (one was scheduled for the day of the disaster, but it was cancelled because it was too cold). Needless to say, the Britannic would account for both of these lapses and these changes would be retrofitted onto the Olympic.
- Routes at the time did not take into account the unusually warm weather that season, which caused Arctic icefields to drift very far south. Icefields were also...
- Not considered a large threat. The Titanic's wireless operators received several warnings about the icefield they were going to be sailing into, but ignored them, even the one from the Californian, stopped 10 miles away due to the same icefield. The operators were employees of Marconi Wireless, and were instructed to prioritize passenger messages over weather reports. Phillips' angry retort (to be fair, the message had nearly blown his eardrums) was the last message the Californian would hear until morning, because they didn't have a replacement when their wireless operator went to sleep.
- The night was moonless and very dark and cold, the sea was flat calm and the lookout didn't have his binoculars. Really, it's a miracle that the iceberg was spotted in time not to crash head on, but it wasn't enough.
- Distress Call:
- One of the first major disasters in which radio played a key role, and also one of the earliest to use the newly established SOS distress signal as well.
- Additionally the ship fired a number of distress rockets. Unfortunately, as you will see below, ambiguity and deadly poor communication standards were rampant when it came to these:
- One account holds that Californian captain Lord apparently was of the opinion that the rockets/flares were company-specific signals that carried no connotations of distress.
- Another possible explanation for Lord ignoring the flares is that they were white, not red. The flares were supposed to be changed to red for emergencies. Luxury liners would often fire the rockets during parties, a practice which was stopped after this incident to avoid confusion.
- Finally, at least two other ships in the vicinity fired rockets that night, neither of which was in distress: the Carpathia (to let those aboard Titanic know that help was en route), and also the Almerian, which was attempting to signal a ship in the distance. For rockets to be a signal of distress, they were required to be fired at "regular intervals". It is also unclear how many rockets Lord was informed about by his crew before the ship firing them (in their view) steamed away.
- Disguised in Drag: 3rd class passenger Edward Ryan confessed to having disguised himself as a woman to bypass the "women and children first" rule and board a lifeboat.
- 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: Thomas Andrews gave the ship another 90 minutes when he saw the damage done. The ship actually lasted about two hours from the time Andrews gave his report.
- 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."
- Explosive Overclocking: That Carpathia avoided a catastrophic boiler explosion was a miracle. She was traveling at 2 knots (2.31 mph) faster than her rated maximum speed, which she had not even sailed at since her sea trials a decade earlier. In an apocryphal story, an engineer when asked by one of his mates by how much they were pushing the boilers, responded by putting his hat over the steam gauge to obscure the dangerous boiler overpressure. (The damage proved to linger long after the rescue, and may have contributed to Carpathia being unable to outrun the U-Boat that sank it during the First World War.
- Face Death with Dignity: The Titanic offered a wealth of examples:
- The unseen engineers who fought with might and main to save their ship and had they not been undone from the beginning by the sheer extent of the damage may have succeeded. They bought two and a half hours of electrical and light service for the sinking ship and over an hour of life beyond Andrews' initial estimate for her crew and passengers. Only sixty of a complement of 375 engineers, stokers, trimmers, greasers, and other assorted engineers made it out alive.
- Fr. Thomas Byles, a Catholic priest who surrendered a station in a lifeboat early on and went to free many from the complicated warrens of the third-class berthing spaces. He was reported as last seen leading a group of terrified, presumably third-class passengers in praying the rosary, hearing confessions and giving absolution among those trapped on the stern. His body was never recovered or, if recovered, never identified.
- There are many stories of fathers leaving their wives and children in the boats, and stepping back so that others may have a seat.
- Benjamin Guggenheim, during the sinking, refused to put on a life vest, telling his steward "we have dressed in our best and are prepared to go down as gentlemen." However, as this was early in the sinking, before most people knew the seriousness of the situation, some have questioned whether he was being serious or just being witty and stubborn.
- John Jacob Astor helped his pregnant young wife into a lifeboat, but was denied entry himself. He simply stood back, lit a cigarette and waved goodbye.
- The Strauses: Ida was granted a seat in a lifeboat, but the officer in charge initially refused Isidor entry. This prompted Ida to give her seat up to remain with her husband. The officer relented and said that nobody would really object "an elderly gentleman" like Isidor taking a seat in the lifeboat, but he insisted that he would not leave the ship before the other men. Isidor tried to convince Ida to get back on the lifeboat, but she only responded, "We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go." They both perished in the sinking.
- A notorious subversion is J. Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, who climbed aboard the very last lifeboat and survived. He was pilloried for his actions which were seen as an act of supreme cowardice (though he got in the lifeboat after he had helped with the loading and lowering of several others and only when he was sure that no women were in the vicinity) and he was never welcome in polite society again.
- Senior Marconi Operator Jack Phillips stayed at his post and continued to key out his distress call even as the fading power made the radio inoperable. The (equally heroic but somewhat more fortunate) junior operator Harold Bride had this to say about him:
The water was pretty close up to the boat deck. There was a great scramble aft and how poor Phillips worked through it I'll never know. I learned to love him that night, I suddenly felt for him a great reverence. To see him there, sticking to his work while everyone else was raging about, I'll never live to forget the work Phillips did in those last 15 minutes.
- The ship's musicians played music to calm the passengers as the life boats were loaded and didn't stop until they had died. One eyewitness account said:
Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.
- Failed a Spot Check: Two quartermasters called the bridge to report that they had sighted lifeboats departing the ship. They weren't informed of the emergency.
- Going Down with the Ship: Plenty of examples.
- Captain Smith. There's some speculation to how he died according to different survivor testimonies but the most common retelling in popular lore has him in the ship's wheelhouse until the bridge flooded and drowned. The majority of witnesses who were actually in a position to see what happened to him, though, said that he was last seen diving into the sea after yelling into a megaphone "Every Man for Himself" as the water became coming onto the top deck. Some also reported that he arrived at the overturned lifeboat Collapsible B but, not having the strength to climb on, he gave up and swam away after wishing luck to the men onboard
- Thomas Andrews, the ship's designer, also stayed aboard as Titanic sank. The most popular legend says that he was last seen in the First Class smoking room, in the midst of a Heroic BSoD; however, the steward who originated that legend, John Stewart, left the ship well over half an hour before Titanic finally sank. Contemporaneous evidence indicates that Andrews continued assisting with the evacuation until the very end.
- Averted by J. Bruce Ismay, who escaped the sinking and became the object of scorn and derision as a result. Whether Ismay was really a Dirty Coward who saved his own neck as other more deserving people drowned, or whether he was just in a fortunate position that he took full advantage of to reduce the body count by one is a call that's pretty much up to each individual, but the fact that he survived when his captain did not made him an easy target. William Randolph Hearst, a man Ismay had a long standing feud with, had a field day raking his reputation through the muck, and Ben Hecht wrote an utterly scathing poem on the topic of Ismay's survival; see the Quotes page for the full text.
- Most of the prominent members of the ship's other departments also died that day, including the Chief Steward, the Chief Engineer, the Purser, the Senior Wireless Operator, all but three of the Stoking Foremen, and even the owner of the onboard restaurant.
- Famously, Wallace Hartley and the band played one last tune right as the boat deck started to go under. Like many things about Titanic, there is some dispute about the final song played by the band. Radioman Harold Bride remembered the gentle tune "Autumn", written by Archie Joyce, "England's waltz king", as the last song. However, others thought it was the similar-sounding hymn "Nearer My God To Thee".
- Good Shepherd: Thomas Byles, a Catholic priest who chose to stay aboard the Titanic so he could minister to those unable to escape the doomed ship.
- Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: The sinking resulted in two public inquiries, a US senator-chaired American one and a British Board of Trade one. As it turned out, they proved rather complementary with the US one focusing on what happened while the UK one focused on why.
- Heroic BSoD:
- Captain Edward John Smith, beloved "Millionaire's Captain" of the White Star Line, 40 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. 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.
- Bruce Ismay in the aftermath of the sinking. On the Carpathia, he remained confined to his cabin and was reportedly sedated by the ship's doctor.
- Captain Edward John Smith, beloved "Millionaire's Captain" of the White Star Line, 40 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.
- 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 (by running it over, no less), and at the outbreak of the war helped rescue the sailors of the mined HMS Audacious. She was also one of the ships that rushed to help Titanic during the sinking, but was way too far away, still over 100 miles away by the time Carpathia finished rescuing all the survivors. Her captain then offered to lighten the overcrowded Carpathia's load by taking in the survivors, but was "heatedly turned down" by captain Rostron. There was the difficulty in transferring passengers between ships, of course, but Rostron had another major difficulty in mind: from anywhere but close, Olympic was a spitting image of Titanic, and the survivors of the latter's sinking would likely panic at the sight of what they thought was a ghost of the ship they just saw die.
- Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who had a colorful career outside of Titanic. During World War I, a ship he was in command of successfully rammed and sunk a German U-Boat, earning him the Distinguished Service Cross. And in the Second World War, Lightoller's private motorboat was one of the "little ships" which participated in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Army which was trapped at Dunkirk. Lightoller personally piloted the vessel across the English Channel and back, and brought home 130 British soldiers.
- Heroic RRoD: One of the reputed fates of Chief Officer Wilde. Wilde's body was never recorded, but one of the survivors reported that he perished of hypothermia after having made it to the partially-swamped Collapsible B.
- 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.
- In a lesser way, the band. They kept playing as long as they could in order to keep the passengers calm and entertained as the worst was happening. There was also nothing else they could do.
- All five of the ship's postal workers tried to save the enormous quantities of mail before they were forced to abandon it when the rapid flooding made the task futile. None of them survived the disaster.
- Thomas Andrews did what he could to help with the evacuation. Initially, the last reported sighting of him was at 1:40 AM in the first class smoking room, waiting for the ship to go down, but new evidence suggested that he was on the boat deck after 2:00 AM, throwing deck chairs into the ocean for survivors to use as flotation devices, and continued assisting until the very end.
- Isidor and Ida Straus, who had easily secured lifeboat positions on account of their age, refused to leave for the same reason, not wanting to take an opportunity denied to younger people.
- Hope Spot:
- When the ship finally started to turn, for a moment, it looked like they would clear the iceberg.
- When the stern broke off and became level with the waterline, those who could see it thought it would remain afloat long enough for help to arrive. There were several reported cries of "It's a miracle! The men are saved!"
- The flooding of Boiler Room 5 was, for a while, contained to the point that the stokers and firemen were able to pump all the water out. Alas, unfortunately the coal bunker wall (as the damage stretched through the coal bunkers fore and aft of the bulkhead separating Boiler Rooms 5 and 6) was not designed to contain the might of the Atlantic, and thus collapsed from the weight of the water on the other side, and sealed the ship's fate. This wouldn't have been able to save the ship anyway though, what with there being five other compartments flooding.
- William Murdoch as well. Titanic was to be his first ship to be Chief Officer of, after years floundering at the First Officer position. Then, at the last minute, Captain Smith requests Henry Tingle Wilde, his Chief Officer from Olympic and earlier commands, to be shuffled onto Titanic. The phrase "gut punch" comes to mind.
- 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.
- Ignored Aesop:
- Averted. After the disaster, there were two enquiries about what happened (one British and one American), and maritime rules were hastily amended to remove the flaws that made the Titanic such a disaster. Henceforth all passenger ships had to carry enough lifeboats for everyone aboard (The Titanic famously didn'tnote ) and all had to have wireless manned 24 hours a day (The Titanic itself did, but the two closest ships, the Californian and the Carpathia, didn't, which is part of the reason why the Californian didn't come to the rescue and the Carpathia only narrowly missed following suit). The status of rockets was clarified so that they would only signify distress (The ambiguity was part of the reason Captain Lord of the Californian didn't think the matter was as urgent as it actually was). And a North Atlantic ice patrol was created to track icebergs in the region and alert ships of their whereabouts.
- Last of Her Kind: Millvina Dean was the last survivor to pass away, having been two months old at the time of the sinking. Lillian Asplund, the third-to-last survivor, was the last survivor to actually have memories of the sinking as she was five years old at the 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, not to mention good old-fashioned fabrication. Several newspapers simply started making stories up when the scant information that existed in the period between the sinking and Carpathia's arrival in New York dried up, one paper printed "eyewitness accounts" that claimed passengers saw the iceberg an hour before the collision, that the ship almost capsized from the force of the collision, that the boilers exploded, flinging screaming passengers into the sea, etc etc... While most of the more outrageous stories were quickly debunked, some stories that have no real basis in fact no doubt survive to this day and are accepted as true because there isn't anybody left to assert otherwise:
- Walter Lord encountered this while writing A Night to Remember. He interviewed survivors who remembered Titanic having a tennis court, a golf course and even a herd of dairy cows.note Others claimed it was twice the size of Olympicnote and that the so-called mystery ship nearby was so close that people could be seen moving on the deck.note
- Lifesaving Misfortune:
- There are stories of potential steerage passengers who lost their tickets, thereby saving them. One man who was hired as a stoker had his workbook stolen; whoever took it more than likely perished. In addition, a number of wealthy individuals had booked passage on the ship but cancelled for whatever reason. This included chocolatier Milton Hershey and Alfred Vanderbilt. Sadly, Vanderbilt would later book passage on another doomed liner: RMS Lusitania. He did not survive.
- It is often said that J.P. Morgan, the banker and financier who controlled International Mercantile Marine, White Star's ultimate parent company, also planned to be on board but made a late cancellation due to ill health. However, this is probably an urban myth.note
- As one article quipped, "there were more people that survived by missing the boat than were on the ship!"
- 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 (Zeus, Hera, Hades, that group).
- Titanic after the preceding generation, the Titans (Cronos, Rheia, Iapetos, them), the children of Gaia and Ouranos, thus leading to a spooky 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 twofold — 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.
- Britannic's name was used again for a modern diesel-powered vessel. She was the penultimate ship built new for the White Star Line before their merger with Cunard, the final one being her younger sister the MV Georgic.
- Britannic was intially going to have a name from Greek mythology as well: Gigantic, named after the "Giants" who battled against the Olympians. This was changed after the Titanic sinking out of a desire to avoid Tempting Fate.
- 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 completed five voyages to Greece and back as a hospital ship in WWI before struck a mine in 1916 and sinking itself, having never carried a single paying customer.
- Missed Him by That Much:
- As Titanic was leaving Southampton, its powerful suction pulled a nearby vessel, the SS City of New York, from its moorings and towards the bigger ship. A collision was narrowly averted when Captain Smith ordered Titanic's port propeller into reverse; the resulting wash pushed the New York away from Titanic, allowing several tugs to maneuver the New York out of harm's away. Strangely, despite the drama and clearly ominous nature of the incident, it is usually omitted from dramatizations of the disaster.
- After being rudely told off by Jack Phillips, the Californian's wireless operator, Cyril Evans, continued working for a little while longer before finally shutting down the wireless system, less than an hour before Titanic's first distress signal went out.
- Narrowly averted by Harold Cottam, the wireless operator on the Carpathia. He was just about to shut down for the night and go to bed when he heard Titanic's distress call.
- Noisy Shut-Up: Desperate for news over what had befallen the crew of their sister ship, Olympic kept trying to hail Titanic, only for the closer smaller ships to all communicate at once and cause signal jamming where no one could understand each other. Olympic's operators had to repeatedly tell everyone else to stop transmitting and restore order.
- No OSHA Compliance: Several problems the Titanic had, most notably the lack of enough lifeboats for all the passengers (and never having lifeboat drills), make it look like this to modern eyes. In fact, Titanic was compliant with all applicable maritime safety laws; as pointed out elsewhere, the disaster is what prompted the overhaul to begin with. These laws were last updated in 1894 and had failed to keep pace with the large increase in the size of passenger ships since then.note The rules did not stipulate that there should be enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone aboard, but only that any ship weighing more than 10,000 tonnes (Titanic weighed 46,000 tonnes) was required to carry sixteen lifeboats with a total capacity of 9,625 cubic feet (enough for about 900 people). Titanic had all that, plus an extra 4 collapsible lifeboats, making it safer than it was supposed to be- just not safe enough.
- The Perfectionist: Thomas Andrews was described as this. He spent much of the voyage making notes on various cosmetic changes he felt were needed, on top of his duties as leader of The Guarantee Group, a gang of six H&W yard workers to take the maiden voyage to find and correct any unforeseen faults in the ship.
- The Pete Best: David Blair, a White Star Line officer who was originally planned to be Second Officer on the maiden voyage with Murdoch and Lightoller as the Chief Officer and First Officer respectively. But Captain Smith wanted Henry Wilde as his Chief Officer which bumped Murdoch and Lightoller down a rank and reassigned Blair out of the voyage. (The Junior Officers kept their positions.) This last-minute change might have saved Blair's life but also resulted in the infamous "forgot to leave the keys to the lookout's binoculars" incident.
- Poor Communication Kills: Or poor wireless protocol, in this case.
- Ships were not required to have round-the-clock wireless, and while Titanic, being a large luxury liner, did, the Californian and the Carpathia did not, and it was sheer luck that Carpathia didn't miss the Titanic's distress signal (the Californian infamously did miss the signal because their only wireless guy had gone to bed just before the Titanic's accident).
- The Titanic's radio operators were employees of Marconi Wireless, not White Star Line, and their orders were to prioritize passenger messages, not weather reports. Therefore the messages about the unusual amount of ice down south were passed over for too long.
- The Californian did, in fact, inform Titanic of the ice field that she had stopped for- but the message from 10 miles away was so loud that it nearly blew out Phillips' eardrums (he was listening for the much fainter signals from Cape Race on the shore). Phillips told the Californian's operator off and disregarded the message. That was the last time they would communicate, as the operator's shift ended immediately afterward.
- The Radio Dies First: Narrowly averted. The wireless had broken down the day before the sinking. Phillips and Bride's orders from Marconi were to use the weaker backup set until they returned to port, but they took it upon themselves to fix it. If they had followed their instructions, it's unlikely they would have gotten the distress call out. During the sinking itself, the wireless kept working until almost the last minute.
- Ramming Always Works: Many have suggested that had Officer Murdoch just kept going straight, the ship would have survived. While certain ships had survived head-on collisions with icebergs in the past the Titanic's unprecedented size made it a different beast, and as such ramming the berg could have produced even more disastrous results for the vessel. The reasons for why this Defied Trope is also an Averted Trope are thus:
- 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 30 mph. Violent, but a reasonable chance for survival with something resembling a car afterward. Now, imagine a fully loaded 18-wheeler hitting that same support at 60 mph. 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.
- 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 males 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.
- Lastly, many shipbuilding experts and engineers say that the Titanic would have had so much momentum from her size and speed that the inertial forces caused by an instantaneous stop from a head-on collision could have ripped the engines of the Titanic completely free of their bases, causing them to probably tear completely through the hull. The resultant damage (several large holes open to the sea, each the size of a school bus) would have caused the Titanic to go down in seconds with probably all hands being lost. Anyone who escaped the boat would have either drowned or died of hypothermia in minutes. To say nothing of the scaldings produced by steam pipes rupturing.
- Even if it had worked exactly as proposed, the Titanic would be severely damaged and unlikely to make it to port, to say nothing of the crew members who bunked near the bow. Any sailor worth his command would want to avoid that scenario.
- There is a persistent myth that Captain Smith planned on retiring after the Titanic returned to England. Most depictions of the sinking include this claim, but there's little evidence to substantiate it. Some comments were made that Smith was going to retain command of Titanic and then retire after Britannic launched in 1915.
- A variation with Wallace Hartley, the bandleader. He had recently proposed to his fiancée, and although he was hesitant to leave her so soon, he signed on for entertaining on Titanic in the hope that it would provide potential contacts for future work.
- Silence, You Fool!: The German steamer SS Frankfurt, despite being the first to answer Titanic's calls for help was 'slow on the uptake' about the liner's current dire situation, and kept contributing to the signal jamming. They either wouldn't respond, or chime in when trying to contact other ships. Eventually, Jack Phillips the wireless operator aboard Titanic told Frankfurt's operator he was a fool, to shut up, and just standby if they weren't going to assist.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Madeline Astor was pregnant when her husband, John Jacob Astor IV went down with the ship. Their son, John Jacob Astor VI, would be known as the "Titanic Baby".
- Square-Cube Law: Titanic and giant liners were built in part to exploit a variant of this concept. The bigger a ship is, the less proportional area has to be dedicated to things like machinery and coal spaces. A liner with double the displacement of another vessel could hold several times as many passengers and was typically several times more profitable. This is also why she didn't have enough lifeboats (if / when she had more boats than required). Laws of the time required lifeboats based on the tonnage of the ship rather than passenger capacity, and those laws were made using calculations on much smaller and less efficient ships.
- 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.
- Thomas Andrews, the head designer, remarked to a friend that Titanic was "as nearly perfect as human brains can make her." He said this on April 14th, only a few hours before the sinking.
- 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 (16 mph), and her engines were already 10 years old and due for an overhaul... but she was coaxed up to 17.5 knots (20.1 mph) 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.
- Adding to the awesome, one of the engineers put his hat over the gauge showing the steam pressure when it was pointed out how much they were pushing it. If they couldn't see how dangerously high above maximum safe level the pressure was, they didn't have to worry about it.
- So the story goes, Carpathia and her crew were moving with such feverish intensity, that the passengers began to believe that the ship must be on fire and dashing towards hell.
- A more mundane explanation for Carpathia's remarkable speed is that Titanic was actually 13 miles east of her distress position (something only discovered when the wreck was located in 1985) and hence somewhat nearer Carpathia than everyone thought. Rostron was not expecting to see the first lifeboat when he did, and just assumed they had covered the 58 miles in that time.
- 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.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Senior wireless operator Jack Phillips. At the time, all wireless operators were employees of the Marconi Company and not members of their ship's crew. Because of this, their responsibility was to send passengers' messages, with "weather reports" being a secondary concern. The day of the sinking, Phillips, overworked due to a backlog, failed to pass a number of crucial ice warnings to the bridge and told the operator on Californian to shut up as they were blocking his tenuous connection with the mainland. Because of this, Titanic was unaware of the true extent of the ice field they were about to steam into.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: William Murdoch. In his immediate family, his own father, two uncles, his grandfather and four great-uncles were captains, and here Will was, nearly forty, and he had hit a glass ceiling at First Officer. This is all speculation, but he may have felt pressured, in reality or not, to gain his own command.
- Murdoch was originally picked to serve as Chief Officer, which is the actual executive officer. However, Captain Smith decided at the last minute to bring on Henry Wilde, his Chief Officer aboard Olympic, for the position, which caused Murdoch and Lightoller to be demoted in position. Averted somewhat in that Murdoch and Lightoller's demotion was intended to be for the maiden voyage only; however, Murdoch died during the sinking (becoming an iconic Scottish hero in the process) and Lightoller's career was permanently stopped at Second Officer for having survived the night.
- You Are Too Late: Though among the heroes of the night, the Carpathia under Captain Rostron's arrived too late to save 1500 of those aboard Titanic.