On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic left Southampton in the U.K. for New York, its maiden voyage. It was big news: the Titanic was the largest ship in the world, stretching nearly 900 feet long and equipped with a pool, gym, and a Turkish bath among other amenities. Rich industrialists and low-income immigrants alike set sail…but most of them didn’t make it.
On April 14 at 11:40 p.m., Titanic an into an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. The massive ocean liner sank incredibly quickly — two hours and 40 minutes later, it had completely submerged. Only about 700 passengers and crew members survived and the fictional and more than 1,500 died…all because there weren’t enough lifeboats. Here are some other heartbreaking and tragic facts about the most famous maritime disaster in history.
9. An author saw the whole thing coming.
In 1898, author Morgan Robertson published a novella called The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility. Stop us if you’ve heard this one — it’s about a ginormous cruise ship (called theTitan!) that smashes into an iceberg while sailing through the North Atlantic Ocean and sinks. Hundreds die due to the severe lack of lifeboats. In other words, Robertson predicted almost every major detail about the Titanic’s demise.
8. A full moon might be to blame.
No, not because the ship’s crew was staffed by werewolves who turned from man to beast on the night in question. According to Texas State University-San Marcos astronomy professor Donald Olson (via National Geographic) says that there were an abnormally large number of icebergs in the ocean that year, due in part to a “supermoon.” That’s when the moon is full during the time when it’s closest to the Earth. That, in turn, led to strong tides that moved icebergs southward, and right into the Titanic’s course.
7. Or maybe it was all an optical illusion.
The atmosphere that fateful night in 1912 was so weird-looking that it made it harder for the crew to notice icebergs. Weather conditions led to super refraction or an extreme bending of light…making stuff like giant icebergs hard to see. Sadly, it also made it harder for other ships in the area to spot the Titanic both before, during, and after its tragic sinking.
6. They were supposed to do a lifeboat drill that day.
But for reasons unrecorded and thus unknown to history, this drill that would have gotten passengers and crew on the same page about what to do in the event of an emergency was canceled. Sheesh.
5. “And the band played on.” Really.
That common phrase comes from the Titanic. Legend has it that one of the ship’s string quartets continued to do their job as they went down with the ship, offering sweet and beautiful music as a counterpart to the unspeakable tragedy unfolding before them. It’s such a noble and romantic way to die that it simply has to be an urban legend…except that it’s not. One of Titanic’s two house bands played for two hours…until the ship sank and they all died.