When the opulent passenger liner RMS Titanic was built in 1912, it was declared by Shipbuilder magazine to be "practically unsinkable."
Unfortunately, the word practically turned out to be key. On the Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, it hit an iceberg and sank in just three hours. Of the 2,229 passengers and crew onboard, only 713 survived.
The ship has been a source of fascination ever since, partly because of the many stories associated with its sinking, but also because of the huge wealth that went down with the ship and remains on the ocean floor to this day. Here are some of the people and cargo that were onboard that fateful day.
The ship carried 1,316 passengers -- 325 in first class, 285 in second class, and 706 in third class -- of which 498 survived. Around two-thirds of first-class passengers survived, compared to around one-quarter of those in third class, mainly because, at some point after the collision, the gates to the third-class quarters were locked, denying those passengers access to lifeboats.
Some of the more famous first-class passengers included millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim and his manservant, who both helped women and children into lifeboats before changing into their best clothes and preparing to "die like gentlemen," which they did. Also in first class was Lady Duff Gordon, a dress designer whose clientele included the British royal family. She and her husband survived, but they were later questioned why their lifeboat had been only half full. They were accused of bribing crew members to not allow more people into the boat.
John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man in the world at the time, was also onboard. He assisted his pregnant wife, Madeleine, onto a lifeboat but was not allowed to board himself because officers were applying the principle of "women and children first." Madeleine survived, but John went down with the ship.
The Titanic had around 900 crew members, of whom 215 survived. These staff included the deck crew (responsible for sailing the ship), the engineering department (who kept the engines running), the victualing department (responsible for passenger comfort), restaurant staff, and musicians. As the ship was sinking, its two bands came together on the deck and played to keep the spirits of the passengers up. None of the band members survived.
Famously, the Titanic had an inadequate number of lifeboats for the number of people it carried. In fact, it had just 20, with a total capacity of 1,178 people -- about half the number onboard. The ship had been designed to hold 32 lifeboats (still not enough for everyone), but the owner, White Star Line, had been concerned that too many boats would spoil its appearance.
With all those people onboard, it's not surprising that the ship contained incredible quantities of food. There were 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, as well as 15,000 pounds of fish, 25,000 pounds of poultry, and 2,500 pounds of sausages (around 40,000 sausages). Among other items, the ship carried 40 tons of potatoes and 1,750 pounds of ice cream -- that's the weight of a full-grown elephant.
Passengers needed something to wash down all that food, so the Titanic carried 15,000 bottles of ale and stout, 1,000 bottles of wine, and 850 bottles of spirits, plus 1,200 bottles of soft drinks and mixers, such as lemonade, tonic water, and orange juice.
Serving all that food and drink required 57,600 items of crockery, 29,000 pieces of glassware, and 44,000 pieces of cutlery. The cutlery alone would have weighed more than 4,000 pounds -- about the weight of four cows!
The restaurants, cafes, kitchens, and bedrooms of the Titanic required so much linen that White Star Line built a large laundry close to the docks at Southampton, so that each time the ship docked, the dirty linen could quickly be unloaded and cleaned for the next voyage. The 200,000 individual items (not including items belonging to passengers) included 18,000 bedsheets, 6,000 tablecloths, 36,000 towels, and 45,000 table napkins.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the wealth of many of its passengers, the Titanic was carrying a number of works of art, all of which were lost when the ship sank. The most spectacular of these was a jeweled copy of The Rubaiyat, a collection of about 1,000 poems by the 11th-century Persian mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyam. The binding of this incredibly luxurious book contained 1,500 precious stones, each set in gold. It had been sold at auction in March 1912 to an American bidder for £405 or around $1,900 -- 15 years worth of wages for a junior crew member on the Titanic.
One important function of the Titanic was to carry transatlantic mail. When the ship sank, there were 3,364 bags of mail and between 700 and 800 parcels onboard, contents unknown. Other cargo claimed as lost included 50 cases of toothpaste, a cask of china headed for Tiffany's, five grand pianos, and 30 cases of golf clubs and tennis rackets for A.G. Spalding. However, contrary to popular myth, the Titanic was not carrying an ancient Egyptian mummy that was believed to have cursed the ship.
10. Passenger Facilities
The sinking of the Titanic also meant the loss of some of the most opulent facilities ever seen on a cruise liner. These included the first-ever onboard heated swimming pool, a Turkish bath, first- and second-class libraries, and a veranda cafe with real palm trees. For communication, the ship had a Marconi wireless radio station to send and receive telegrams and a 50-phone switchboard complete with operator. The Titanic even had its own state-of-the-art infirmary and operating room staffed by two physicians. All of this was lost when the ship sank.
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