2016-04-20 / Features

Surprising Titanic Facts

By Judy Close

This month marks 104 years since the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from England to the U.S., a tragedy that shocked the world and inspired decades of searches for its wreckage, several blockbuster movies and endless tales about the passengers who lost their lives on April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 people, nearly two-thirds of the ship’s passengers and crew, died in the early morning hours of that fateful day when the luxury ocean liner was ripped apart by an iceberg. Historians say the epic collision heard around the globe could have been avoided. While there was no one on board who lived in Queens, a search of newspaper and historic Titanic survivor archives turned up two men with definite ties to our borough:
Frans Olof Carlsson, 33, from Berga, Sweden lived in New York City and had just obtained his captain’s papers in New York. In April 1912, he was first mate on the liner St. Louis, but because of a coal strike the ship was stuck in Southampton. The company gave him a first-class ticket back to New York on the Titanic.  Carlsson died in the sinking and his body was never recovered. Land that he owned in Elmhurst went to his heirs.
Marshall Drew was a resident of Westerly, RI, and survived sinking of the Titanic at age 8 to become a teacher of fine arts at Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood for 36 years.
Born in Greenport, LI, in 1904, Drew traveled as a boy to Cornwall, England, with his aunt and uncle to visit relatives. They returned on the Titanic as second-class passengers. Drew and his Aunt, Lulu Drew, loaded onto a lifeboat while Lulu said a tearful goodbye to her husband, James, who died in the shipwreck.  He and his Aunt were among about 700 survivors. Drew was quoted as saying he was saved “because of who he was” and that “third-class passengers perished because of who they were,” referring to how first- and second-class passengers were invited to board lifeboats, while third-class passengers watched behind locked gates. (The price of the most expensive first-class ticket to New York was about $4,350, or nearly $70,000 today. The cheapest 3rd class ticket cost as much as 3-4 weeks’ wages for a skilled labourer.) He made it a goal of his life to work with underprivileged children.  He is buried in Rhode Island.  
Here are some other little-known facts about the ship they said couldn’t sink:
• The ship’s celebrated, state-of-the-art design also was its biggest flaw. The 15 watertight bulkheads that were said to make it “unsinkable” were not really sealed.
• The wireless operator aboard the Titanic ignored six iceberg warnings the ship received the day of its collision. Supposedly, he was preoccupied with transmitting passenger messages instead.
• The iceberg that sank the Titanic has been floating around the North Atlantic for about 3,000 years.
• Nearly 330 bodies were pulled from the Atlantic as teams set out to recover victims for burial. But 119 of them were too damaged to take back to shore and were “buried” at sea.
• Around 3,000 workers labored for over two years to build the Titanic, the largest passenger steamship ever conceived at the time it was completed in 1911.
• The ship cost $7.5 million to build, the equivalent of around $176 million today.
• While the Titanic’s first-class travelers had the luxury of private bathrooms, third-class passengers had just two bathtubs for all 700 of them.
• The temperature of the ocean water around the sinking ship was about 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Once in the frigid water, Titanic passengers had an average of 15 to 45 minutes left to live. Most died of hypothermia, when the very low temperature of the body causes internal organs to fail.
• It took the ship about two hours and 40 minutes to sink after it hit the iceberg.
• The bow of the ship pierced 60 feet into the sea bed.
• The debris field left by the ship was an area of approximately 5 by 3 miles.
• It took 73 years to locate the Titanic’s wreckage, a 1985 expedition discovered the wreck 13.2 miles from the ship’s last known location. The remains of the Titanic still lie 12,000 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic.
During the centennial anniversary in 2012, it was announced that plans were underway to build Titanic II, complete with 1912 interiors, yet updated to meet current fire and safety standards (lifeboats for all). The crew would even sport the 1912 costumes, and third-class passengers would be put through a symbolic “de-lousing” upon reaching New York from Southampton (in the spirit of such actual 1912 plans). Even the route would duplicate the doomed ship’s maiden voyage, which was to have taken place this year. However, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, the ambitious project’s planner, announced the undertaking has been delayed until 2018, and the vessel’s maiden voyage would now be from Jiangsu, China, to Dubai, U.A.E.

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