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Fascinating Titanic facts – 4

* An 1898 Novel Draws Eerie Parallels With The Titanic Disaster

14 years before the Titanic set sail on her doomed maiden voyage, author Morgan Robertson released a novel named Futility that bares a lot of similarities to the events of the Titanic’s sinking. The book tells the fictional story of an ‘unsinkable’ passenger liner that sinks after hitting an iceberg in the north atlantic and the similarities to Titanic don’t stop there. Both the ship in the book and the Titanic hit the iceberg on their starboard side and both were traveling at between 22 and 25 knots.

Both the Titanic and the fictional ship sank on a night in April and both sank roughly 400 miles from America. Neither ship had enough lifeboats on board and both sinking resulted in the deaths of over half of the people on board. The story is made all the spookier by the name of the ship in Robertson’s novel, the ship was called the Titan.

* There Was A Ship Stationed Within Sight Of The Titanic That Did Not Respond To Her Distress Calls

At the enquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, surviving crew members testified that they had sighted the lights of another ship about six miles from where Titanic was in distress. The ship would later be identified as the SS Californian, who had stopped for the night due to the dangers of icebergs in the vicinity. Fatally, the Californian had also turned off its wireless radio and its captain had gone to bed.

The crew of the Californian admitted to seeing the lights of a ship in the distance but stated that they did not realise that she was in distress until they turned their radio back on the following morning and learned of Titanic’s sinking.

Titanic wreck

Titanic wreck

During the sinking, the Titanic fired rockets in a desperate bid to attract the other ship’s attention. The standard distress signal of 1912 was to fire rockets at one minute intervals, however, in the panic of the moment Titanic was firing its rockets erratically and at irregular intervals which led the Californian to conclude the ship they could see in the distance had just stopped for the night to have a party.

By 2.30 the Californian’s crew noted that the lights of the other ship had disappeared and assumed that it had continued on its way. Had the Californian responded to the Titanic’s distress signals, it could have reached the Titanic in time to have saved a considerable amount more, if not all of the lives lost that night.

* Titanic’s Second Officer Would Go On To Aid With The Dunkirk Evacuation

Charles Herbert Lightoller was the Titanic’s second officer and remained on the ship helping passengers to escape until the final moments of the sinking. Lightoller survived by swimming to an overturned lifeboat that had floated off the ship as it sank. Lightoller took charge of the upside down boat and helped survivors to climb aboard and distribute their weight evenly to keep the boat from sinking. Lightoller helped to keep the boat, and the moral of the thirty people who clung to it, afloat for four hours until rescue finally came.

Lightoller remained loyal to the White Star Line and defended them at the enquiry into the ship’s sinking. Unfortunately, his association with the Titanic killed his career and he was forced to retire from working aboard ships. He took up a number of other jobs which included inn keeper and chicken farmer but did not give up on the sea and continued to sail on his own yacht, the Sundowner. In 1940, Lightoller would become involved in another major historical event when he used his yacht to join the flotilla that sailed to rescue soldiers during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Fascinating Titanic facts – 3

* The First Movie About The Sinking Was Released 29 Days After the Titanic Sank

The Titanic disaster has captured the imagination of many film makers for decades spawning films such as Roy Ward Baker’s A Night To Remember and James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic and the first film to document and dramatise the events of the sinking was released a mere 29 days after the ship had sunk.

Saved From The Titanic starred a young actress, Dorothy Gibson, who had actually been on board the Titanic and survived the disaster. The film sees Gibson playing herself and telling fictionalised versions of her parents and fiancé about her ordeal on the ship. Real life footage of ice bergs and of Titanic’s nearly identical sister ship, Olypmic, were used in the film and Gibson added to the authenticity of the film by wearing the same dress she had worn on the night of the sinking.

Sadly, the psychological strain of the sinking and re-living it for the film really took its toll on Gibson and she suffered a mental breakdown not long after the film’s release.

* Only Three Of Titanic’s Four Funnels Were Real

The Titanic’s mighty engines were powered by large coal-burning furnaces and these furnaces produced smoke and excess steam that needed to be safely ventilated away from the ship. This was achieved through the use of funnels or Smokestacks and the Titanic’s design, with four funnels towering above its decks, is one that is instantly recognisable around the globe. However, only three of its four funnels actually worked with the forth being added for aesthetic purposes.

Titanic 2

Titanic 2

When building the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic, The White Star Line wanted to break its rival Cunard’s record for the largest passenger liners afloat. Cunard held that title with its ships Lusitania and Mauritania, both of which had four funnels. When designing the Titanic, White Star knew they could have no less funnels than their rivals for fears that the ships would not look as big or that potential passengers may think that less funnels meant less speed.

* After Titanic, The White Star Line Built A Bigger Version, Which Also Sank

After the tragedy of the Titanic’s sinking, The White Star Line reviewed the design of the planned third Olympic-Class liner, the Britannic. The ship was now to include the addition of a double hull and the raising of the ship’s watertight bulkheads, from E deck all the way up to B deck. The Britannic also had added lifeboat capacity and a far superior method of launching them in the form of new motorised davits. The Britannic would carry lifeboats with enough space for 3,600 people, more than the maximum capacity of crew and passengers that the ship could accommodate.

The Britannic was launched in February 1914 and following the outbreak of the first world war later that year, she entered service as a hospital ship to serve the eastern Mediterranean. Britannic was repainted white with a green stripe and large red crosses to identify her as a hospital ship and not a war ship. On her 6th mission to rescue injured troupes, Britannic hit a mine off the coast of the Greek Island of Kea and sank in 55 minutes, under half the time it took the Titanic to sink, with a loss of 30 lives.

Interestingly, Violet Jessop, a lady working as a nurse aboard the Britannic, was also on the Titanic when it sank and survived both disasters.