8 Titanic Myths Shattered


Cheering crowds gathered at Southampton Docks to witness the maiden voyage of the world’s largest ship, RMS Titanic.

The luxury liner was said to be ‘invincible’, but less than a week after setting sail, the ship struck an iceberg and was submerged in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The maritime tragedy made it the most famous ship of all time and many myths have resurfaced about what really happened on that fateful night of April 15, 1912.

Swedish historian Claes-Göran Wetterholm, the curator of a new immersive Titanic exhibit in London, told The Sun: “The Hollywood film ‘Titanic’, directed by James Cameron, is the best film ever made about what never happened.

“There are so many things I disagree with and when I met Cameron at the premiere I told him this. But the movie is the theme is fantastic and perfectly captures the ship’s atmosphere.

“I have spent many years researching what really happened that night and have spoken to survivors and family members of survivors to help uncover the true story.”

Here, Claes debunks common myths surrounding the ship’s final hours…

James Cameron’s adaptation of the 1912 tragedy took many liberties and embellished what happened in the final hours of the ship.
©20thCentFox/courtesy Everett C

Women and children first? Not enough …

Due to the social norms of 1912, the accepted story was that the men backed off and let the women and children get into the lifeboats first.

In reality, many men and male crews threw themselves in the lifeboats before the women and children.

In fact, the difference between the saved men and women is only 10 people.

Captain Smith was not seen in the water – but he may have had a breakdown

At the time, there were reports that Captain Smith had been seen in the water, suggesting he had tried to save himself.

Edward John Smith (1850 - 1912), captain of the White Star liner 'Olympic', 9 June 1911.
Rumors circulated that Captain Smith was seen swimming in the water, but his body was never found.
Getty Images

But his body was never found.

I doubt this happened as he was not actively involved in rescuing the lifeboat, he was supervising it.

Evidence suggests he had a nervous breakdown and was unable to cope with the tragic situation that was unfolding and returned to the deck and went down with the ship.

The crew wasn’t drunk

There is no evidence that the crew was drunk and that this caused the accident.

Rumors began circulating among the public in 1912 when a magazine wrote that Captain Smith was not sober at the time of the collision.

However, he had attended a dinner party hosted for him by first-class passengers George and Eleanor Widener and their son Harry.

Ms Widener later said Captain Smith had not touched a drop of alcohol, just water, so he was sober at the time of the crash.

Surviving men did not admit to jumping into lifeboats

A few men jumped overboard and survived, but the majority of male survivors jumped straight into the lifeboats.

It was impossible to admit it in 1912 because you would be considered a coward and become a social pariah.

Titanic wreck.
The majority of male survivors jumped straight into lifeboats rather than into the freezing waters.
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Mystery on the last song of the group

At the beginning of the 20th century, people were still deeply religious and wanted to believe that the last song played as the ship plunged into the icy ocean was a hymn.

Because of this, people believe the band performed ‘Nearer My God, To Thee’, a 19th century hymn published in ‘Hymns and Anthems’ – a tome used in South Place Chapel, Finsbury, London.

But if you start scratching below the surface, you get too many questions.

I think the last song the brave musicians played was “Songe d’Automne”.

Reconstruction of the grand staircase and its glass dome, to the original scale.
A reconstruction of the main staircases and the glass dome of the Titanic in their original scale.
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The copilot did not commit suicide like in a movie

In the Hollywood blockbuster, there’s a scene where First Officer William Murdoch shoots a passenger and then turns the gun on himself.

But these are just rumors and hearsay.

He was deeply occupied in freeing the last boat when a sudden thrust swept him away with the boat.

Murdoch disappeared and probably drowned, but 12 people on the boat survived.

A scene of the sinking of the Titanic from the film.
A scene from the blockbuster “Titanic” shows the sinking ship.
©20thCentFox/courtesy Everett C

A greater proportion of third-class males survived than second-class males

Interestingly, a higher proportion of men traveling third class survived compared to those traveling second.

The majority of second-class men were British and considered gentlemen.

They weren’t trying to save themselves, they were trying to save women and children.

Lots of Swedish and Finnish men traveling third class jumped into the lifeboats.

Only 8% of second-class men survived, compared to 13% of third-class men.

I find it striking that so few second class men survived despite having access to the deck of the boat, where they could easily have entered a starboard lifeboat.

A reproduction of a 3rd class cabin from the Titanic presented at the exhibition "Titanic."
A reproduction of a third class cabin seen at the “Titanic” exhibition.
AFP via Getty Images

The real story behind the film’s Jack and Rose

Titanic historian and expert Claes-Göran Wetterholm says:

“At our exhibit, we have the real diamond necklace worn by Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, in the film.

“It belongs to Kate Philips, who was just 19 when she boarded the ship.

“Her lover, Henry Morley, was a 47-year-old wealthy man who was married.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from the film.
The relationship between Jack and Rose, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, was inspired by a real-life couple fleeing Britain to settle in America together.
©20thCentFox/courtesy Everett C

The couple were fleeing Britain under an assumed name to start a new life together in America.

Tragically he perished that night, but Kate survived and the baby she conceived at sea was born nine months later.

Cameron based Rose and Jack’s love story in the film on them.

the "Titanic" Necklace.
The real diamond necklace worn by Kate Winslet’s character Rose in the film is on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
STR New

We also have a third class menu from the night the boat sank and shoes and blanket worn by 4 year old survivor Luise Kink.

She kept them locked away and they were not discovered until after her death in August 1992.

It’s a fascinating exhibit that takes you back to that night and helps you really understand what happened on that fateful night.

This story originally appeared on The sun and has been reproduced here with permission.

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