Sunday, April 15, 2012

Remembering the Titanic

Today, April 15, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great ship, the Titanic.  There are many books in the library on the Titanic, both fictional and non-fiction.  Here are 10 amazing facts about the Titanic that I gleaned from reading "882 1/2 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic" by Hugh Brewster and Laurie Coulter.  Why 882 1/2 you ask?  Because the Titanic was 882 1/2 feet long!

1.  How much grease did it take to help get the massive ship into the water when it was launched?  
It took 22 TONS of tallow, soap, and train oil to grease the sloping wooden platforms to enable the Titanic to slide into the sea.  Over 100,000 people turned out to watch!

2.  Is it true the fourth funnel was a fake?
Yes, the Titanic, and it's sister ship the Olympic, only needed three funnels, but Lord Pirrie (White Star Line company Chairman, who controlled the Titanic's overall design) thought a fourth funnel would make the ships look grander.

3.  What was the most exotic object in the Titanic's cargo?
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a book of ancient sayings.  The illustrated copy in the Titanic's hold was adorned with 1,050 precious stones, each set in gold.  It had recently been sold for $2,025 at a London auction, and was being sent to it's new owner, Gabriel Wells, a New York book dealer.

4.  Is it true there were teenage crew members?
Yes.  Some were 14-15 years old.  They worked as bellboys carrying luggage, and running errands and delivering telegrams.  Also, 23 women worked on the Titanic as stewardesses, cashiers, a masseuse, and a chaperon.

5.  Where there any pets aboard the Titanic?
Yes, at least nine dogs were passengers, including a Pomeranian, a Pekingese, a chow chow, an Airedale terrier, and a champion French bulldog.

6.  Did any passengers get off the ship in Ireland before she sailed across the Atlantic?
Yes, seven, including Francis M. Browne, a 32 year old teacher who later became a Jesuit priest.  His photographs of the voyage as far as Queenstown are among the few surviving from the Titanic.  The Titanic's voyage started in Southampton, England, then stopped at Cherbourg, France, then Queenstown, Ireland before heading to New York.

7.  What was the grandest room on the Titanic?
The first class lounge was decorated to look like a room from the palace of Versailles.  The Grand Staircase was also beautiful, featuring a wrought iron and glass dome and gilt stair railings.  There was also a cooling room in the Turkish bath that was decorated to look like a room in a sultan's palace with richly colored tiles, gilded beams, and bronze lights.

8.  Could the classes mix on the ship?
No.  Second-class passengers had to stay in second-class areas,  and third-class passengers were restricted to third-class areas and the poop deck.  So much for the famous romance of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater in the Titanic movie!

9.  Did any passengers refuse to enter the lifeboats?  
Yes, most notably, Ida Straus, wife of the owner of Macy's Department Store.  She was about to board lifeboat number 8, but then refused to leave her husband.  According to witnesses she turned to him and said,  "We have been living together for many years.  Where you go, I go".  Both perished.  There was also a 16 year old boy, Alfred Rush, who pulled back from boarding the boat with his mother saying "No.  I'm staying here with the men."  He died later that night.

10.  How is the disaster remembered today?
Every year on April 15th, members of the United States Coast Guard International Ice Patrol drop a wreath provided by the Titanic Historical Society at the approximate spot where the Titanic went down. Although it has been 100 years, the loss of life of 1,517 people, (including 685 crew, 536 third class, 166 second class, and 130 first class passengers), and the sheer magnitude of the ship and the dramatic disaster, the Titanic remains alive today in books, films, and memory.

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