Arguably the most famous shipwreck in history, the Titanic continues to fascinate those of all ages 107 years later. It is an event that can make us grow cold when we think about what those people went through that night. The spellbinding stories of the passengers of the ill-fated liner could fill volumes.
The tragedy of the Titanic has proven to be just as horrific, as shocking, and as mysterious today as it was the night it sank. Even though it seems like we’ve learned everything there is to know about that awful night, we still make discoveries about it that can chill us to the very bone. Here are ten chilling and eerie facts about the Titanic tragedy.
In 2004, a photograph was taken of a pair of shoes lying on the ocean floor at the wreckage site. On the 100th anniversary of the Titanic‘s sinking, the photo was released to the public. The shoes were so close together that they probably were once on a victim, and the body has since disintegrated.
Filmmaker James Cameron has visited the wreckage site various times and says that no human remains have ever been found, and they will not be found because bones will dissolve relatively quickly at this depth. The only things left of the passengers who did not survive are the clothes they were wearing and their belongings, mainly their shoes. Shoes found closely together more than likely are where a victim’s body came to rest.
When a research team led by Robert Ballard finally discovered the wreck in 1985, this was, of course, the first time anyone had seen the Titanic since the sinking. It actually ended a 73-year-old argument over whether or not the ship had split in two. The ship was discovered in two pieces, confirming accounts that had been disregarded at the time of reporting of the disaster.
Until the discovery of the wreckage, it was believed that the ship had sunk in one piece. It was actually printed in the American inquiry as being fully intact when it sank. In order to protect the White Star Line’s reputation, Second Officer Lightoller had said that it sank “absolutely intact.” Despite this, however, various passengers insisted they heard explosions and that the ship broke in half. They did not necessarily see how the ship sank, but they swore it broke in two.
In 1898, author Morgan Robertson wrote The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility. The plot was all too familiar. Robertson had written about a ship, the Titan, going on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic that struck an iceberg and sank. The liner did not have enough lifeboats, and it was described as being “unsinkable,” seeing as it was the biggest ship of its day. Um, this is all too familiar . . . and the story was written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic.
Many wondered if Robertson was a prescient writer, but others said he just knew what he was talking about since he wrote mainly about maritime affairs. Perhaps he saw ocean liners becoming bigger and bigger and wondered about the dangers of this, including icebergs. Robertson was approached and asked if he was clairvoyant after the sinking of the Titanic. “No,” he replied, “I know what I’m writing about, that’s all.”
According to those who explored the wreckage, one of the eeriest aspects is seeing objects that would have definitely been touched by human hands and have stayed in the same place their owner left them. First-class passenger Henry Harper left his bowler hat in his closet next to his coats the night the Titanic sank. What is slightly unsettling, however, is that the bowler hat never left the closet in the sinking but sits surrounded by the ruins of Harper’s cabin, exactly where he left it.
Another stateroom holds a water glass and a glass decanter sitting on a washstand. The water glass still sits in its place in its holder. If it was empty, it would have floated out of the holder and been lost somewhere. But it stays in the same spot, meaning that the patron in that stateroom had taken a drink and left it half-full, and it is still there today.
In 2007, 95 years after the sinking, an ordinary key was put up for auction, which doesn’t seem that interesting. What does makes it interesting, however, is that this key was thought to open the crow’s nest locker which contained the binoculars, equipment which could have potentially saved the Titanic from disaster. Binoculars were vital in detecting threats for liners in the day. The owner of the key, Second Officer David Blair, was removed from the crew right before the Titanic set sail, and due to the haste of the change, he forgot to hand the key to his replacement, Charles Lightoller.
Since the crow’s nest lookouts did not have glasses, they had to use their eyes to watch for any threats. It has been argued that if they’d had binoculars, they could have seen the iceberg sooner. Unfortunately, the key may never be able to unlock the full mystery of the binoculars and the Titanic.
Dorothy Gibson, a popular actress at the time, acted in a movie about the sinking of the Titanic less than a month after the ocean liner sank. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, Dorothy Gibson was actually passenger on the Titanic and experienced the terrible night. Gibson did not want to appear in Saved From the Titanic at first, due to the horrible experience being ridiculously recent. However, her producers hounded her to do the movie, convinced that it would do really well due to its captivating story. It was completed in a week, despite Gibson having multiple breakdowns during filming, bursting into tears during shooting.
Once the film was released, it was not received well. Many critics were appalled that a studio would make a movie about one of the worst maritime tragedies in history one month after it happened. On top of that, everyone found the fact that Gibson had actually been on Titanic and went through with filming unbelievable.
The famous story of the musicians playing as the ship went down is one that grabs the heartstrings. The leader of the eight musicians, Wallace Hartley, played a violin, trying to help the passengers stay calm as the ship sank. In the ship’s final moments, he led the band in playing the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.” Hartley went down with the ship that night. His body was recovered two weeks later, with his violin strapped to him.
The violin was an engagement gift for Hartley from his fiancee. Engraved on the violin are the words, “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.” The violin was found in an attic by a woman’s son in 2006. It was in a case marked “W.H.H.” The violin had been passed from house to house during the years. In March 2013, it was announced that it was Wallace Hartley’s violin that he played when the Titanic went down. The violin’s journey began when Hartley’s body was recovered with his violin all those years ago. The violin was then returned to his grieving fiancee, who never married.
An ocean liner, the SMS Prinz Adalbert, had set sail on April 15, 1912. The Sun was up, and the chief steward of the liner noticed something rather odd on a nearby iceberg. It had a huge red streak on it, like a ship’s hull had screamed up against it, and the steward took a photograph of it. At the time, the sinking of the Titanic was still unknown to the crew of the Prinz Adalbert.
The steward wrote on a note with the photograph: “On the day after the sinking of the Titanic, the steamer Prinz Adalbert passed the iceberg shown in this photograph. The Titanic disaster was not yet known by us. On one side red paint was plainly visible, which has the appearance of having been made by the scraping of a vessel on the iceberg.”
One of the 13 couples that were on their honeymoon on the Titanic consisted of 37-year-old Mr. John Chapman and his new bride, Lizzie, 29, who were on their way to a new life in the US just after getting married. When the lifeboats were being loaded, Lizzie was placed in Lifeboat 4 but then heard that her husband was not allowed in the boat with her. She stated, “I won’t go either,” and exited the lifeboat to stand next to her husband.
The couple both drowned a short time later after they and others got plunged into the sea. Mr. Chapman’s pocket watch stopped right at the moment they fell into the cold Atlantic: 1:45 AM on April 15, 1912. The watch was recovered along with John’s body, but unfortunately, Lizzie’s body was never found.
On April 14, the day the Titanic struck the iceberg, an emergency lifeboat drill had, ironically, been scheduled. Due to reasons unknown, the drill was cancelled by Captain Smith.
If the drill had gone through, many more lives could have been saved. The passengers would have been more likely to have followed proper protocol and procedure in loading the lifeboats.
I am a massive history buff who currently lives in North Carolina with my wonderful fiancé. My passion for reading and writing drives me, and I love to learn new things! I hope to someday write full time!