Frequently Asked Questions about the RMS Titanic

This is the FAQ for the RMS Titanic Mailing List.
This FAQ is credited to:

Here's the FAQ....

Revision History

DD/MM/YY  By                    Details
 1/10/95  Phil Hayward          Revised mailing list usage instructions
                                Unsub,Digest,FTP archives all changed.
 1/10/95  Phil Hayward          Notes about plans to raise HMHS Britannic
 3/ 9/95  Phil Hayward          Revision History title added


  1. The Worlds Largest Man-Made Moving Object
  2. The Lifeboats
  3. The Death Of Captain E.J. Smith
  4. Who Really Owned The Titanic?
  5. The Wireless Operators
  6. The Other Titanic
  7. The Films
  8. Artifacts
  9. Titanic's sister ships
  10. Titanic Organisations Worldwide
  11. Mailing List Archives
  12. How do I use this Mailing List?
  13. Unsubscribing Information
  14. Digests
  15. Mailing List Help

The Worlds Largest Man-Made Moving Object

The Titanic, the largest ship afloat at the time of her maiden voyage was actually one of three sister ships. The Olympic, Titanic, and, the Britannic were very similar in size (approx 882ft long) and accommodations. The Titanic was the middle sister weighing in at 46,328 gross tons, only slightly larger than the Olympic at 45,323 gross tons. The Britannic was the largest of the three,weighing in at 48,158 gross tons. The extra tonnage of the Britannic was due to modifications made in light of the Titanic's disaster. Although surpassed in size in later years by other liners (e.g. Queen Mary 1019ft, Queen Elizabeth 1031ft and the present day Queen Elizabeth II 963ft) for their time, the Olympic class of liners represented the largest vessels ever constructed.

The White Star Line, owners of the Titanic, and also the builders, Harland and Wolff, never publicly stated that the Titanic was unsinkable. They knew much better than that. Rather it was the public and the press who marveled at the many lifesaving devices such as automatic watertight doors and bulkheads. White Star and Harland and Wolff never believed in christening any of their ships and was a main cause of superstition. At the launching one worker was overheard to say "They just builds her and shoves her in!" Over twenty-two tons of tallow and soap was spread one inch thick on the ways to better help the ship slide easily into the water during the launching the Titanic reached a speed of twelve knots during the launch, stopping in about her own length dragging chains to slow her down.

The band is one of the Titanic's most popular subjects. People hailed them as heroes, playing till the waves swallowed them up. I find it very unlikely they played to the very end. The ship assumed a almost perpendicular position as she sank and I tend to think it would be very hard to concentrate on a tune as the walls turned into floors and visa-versa. There is also much confusion on what their last song was. From the lifeboats, a number of different songs were heard. Among them is "Nearer, My God to Thee". Both the American and British survivors recall hearing it. This hymn is ordinarily played to entirely different music on both sides of the Atlantic. Three different tunes in all! I find it very unlikely they played all three versions. Also in the running is the hymn "Autumn" and "Songe d' Automne". It is important to note that there was two separate bands on the Titanic and they had two totally different playing styles. None of the band members survived.

The Band was supplied by the Black talent Agency of Liverpool. They signed on the ship for a shilling a month, but were listed as second class passengers. They were clearly under the Captain's authority, but worked for and were paid by the Black Agency. After the ship floundered, nobody wanted to take responsibility for the lives of the Bandsmen.It seems they weren't covered by anybody's insurance policy. The White Star Line said that the Band worked for the Blacks and therefor covered by them, and the Blacks argued that the Band was listed as passengers and therefor covered as such. One family was even hounded by the Black's for the dead bands man's unpaid uniform bill which amounted to only $3.50 in American money.

The Lifeboats

There is wide belief that the Titanic's lifeboats were repainted and reassigned to other White Star Ships. Why not?, they were almost new, being used only once.

The Death Of Captain E.J. Smith

According to eyewitnesses, Capt. E.J. Smith met his demise in at least three different ways. It is said he walked calmly on to the bridge as it was being covered by the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Another witness saw the Captain raise a pistol to his head and pull the trigger. If this was true, how would you account for another seeing him swimming toward a lifeboat with a baby in his arms.

Also in question was his last words. They might have been " Be British Boys, Be British!" Or they might have been "Every Man for Himself!" Or, after supposedly delivering that baby to a lifeboat, he refused to be brought aboard, saying "Good-Bye Boys, I'm going to follow the ship!"

Who Really Owned The Titanic?

The Titanic, registered as a British mail ship was really owned by the American railroad tycoon, J.P. Morgan. He had most of the controlling interest in the American railroads and was looking to expand his ownership to seize control of the Atlantic shipping trade. He succeeded in acquiring the White Star Line in 1902. White Star had asked the City of New York to enlarge and extend the piers to accommodate their new super liners and were flatly refused. The City stated that the long piers would extent too far into the Hudson river causing a hazard to navigation. They were subtly persuaded by Morgan who all but owned the docks of New York and had the means to choke the City's import and export trade.

J.P. Morgan had his very own private suite and promenade deck on the Titanic. He was supposed to join her for her maiden voyage but canceled passage sparing him the fate of many of the other millionaires.

The Wireless Operators

The wireless operators weren't employed by the White Star Line, but rather by the Marconi Wireless Company. Ship to shore wireless transmissions was in its infancy and was viewed as more of a convenience rather than a means of an integral part of the ships command. The operators were under the Captain's command, but only as far as receiving and transmitting messages of importance of the ship. Their main job was tending to the passengers telegrams while at sea. The ships weather reports and ship to ship telegrams came second as they weren't paying customers.

The Other Titanic

In 1898, a short story was written about how a ship named the "Titan", collided with an iceberg and sank with heavy loss of life. The story was called "Futility", and it closely resembled the Titanic disaster. Both ships were British and sailed in April with a top speed of 24-25 knots. They had the same passenger capacity of 3,000 but sailed with a little over 2,000. Also they were between 800 and 900 feet long and driven with triple propellers. Here's the clincher; both ships sank after being pierced by an iceberg on their starboard side.

The Films

Filmmakers all over the world have made many movies over the years. There were silent movies, docu-dramas, and even Alfred Hitchcock toyed with the idea of a Titanic thriller for a while. The Titanic even showed up in the comedy film, "Ghostbusters II".

Among the most notable was "A Night To Remember", made in 1958. It is about as close to the truth as filmmakers ever got without going overboard. Actual survivors were consulted on the film. Even then, there were some major flaws as showing the ship being christened and making the Californian's officers look like total morons. In the movie, a young girl keeps a couple of small girls amused in a lifeboat with a musical toy pig as the Titanic sinks. This actually happened, and this was the actual toy pig!


The best collection of pre-discovery artifacts are displayed by the Titanic Historical Society in Massachusetts,USA.

Since the wreck was discovered there have been several expeditions to salvage artifacts, some of these will be on display at the National Maritime Museum in London, England from October 4th - 2nd April 1995. Some or all of the collection is scheduled to move to the USA after the London display.

Artifact retrieval is one of the "hot" subjects in the Titanic world at the moment, expect to encounter many points of view!

Titanic's Sister Ships

The Titanic was the second of three large liners intended to work the Southampton-New York "shuttle" service. The sister ships were planned to be near identical.

RMS Olympic

Launched on 20th October 1910 Olympic was the first of the trio of White Star Liners. Under the command of Cptn E.J.Smith (who was later to command the Titanic) she sailed on June 14th 1911 on her Maiden voyage to New York.

The Olympic was recieved well, but on 20th September 1911 she was involved in a collision with cruiser HMS Hawke. After limping back to Belfast she was repaired using components from her sister (Titanic) then under construction.

After the Titanic disaster, Olympic unwent various safety improvments including lifeboats for all abord, and in October 1912 she returned to Belfast again for installation of an inner watertight skin.

On 1st September 1915 the Olympic was requisitioned by the British Government for war service as a troopship. Later she recieved a coat of dazzle paint designed to confuse enemy observers. Perhaps her most famous exploit of the war years was when she struck and sank a German submarine, U103.

After the war she returned to commerical service, and despite her early mishaps, she gained an affectionate following and earned the nickname "Old Reliable".

Her back luck returned on 15th May 1934 when the Olympic collided with the Nantucket lightship with the loss of 7 lives.

Her last voyage ended in Southamption on April 12th 1935, on 13th October 1935 she arrived Palmers Yard on the Tyne for breaking up. Her pitiful remains were finally towed to Inverkeithing on 19th September 1937 for final demolition.

Fittings from the Olympic were sold off at auction, and to this day it is possible to see them. Notable locations include the White Swan Hotel, Alnwick, England and the famous "Honour and Glory Crowning Time" wood carving can be seen in the Southampton Maritime Museum.

Reccomended Reading:

HMHS Britannic

Britannic started life under the cloud of the Titanic disaster, from the start she was expected to be named "Gigantic" but she was built as Britannic, considered by White Star as a lucky name (the White Star Line had three ships named Britannic over the years - HMHS Britannic was the second).

In appearance the Britannic resembled the Titanic, having an enclosed promenade A-Deck, but one large difference was the lifeboat davits which were much more prominent on the Britannic.

Below decks, the Britannic was similar to her sisters, but additional safety features (such as a double skin) were "built in" rather than retrofitted. Although her service speed was not intended to be increased, she was fitted with a more powerful turbine capable of developing 18,000HP compared to the 16,000HP of the Olympic, it was the largest marine turbine in the world.

Launched on 26th February 1914, fitting out was delayed by WW1 and financial/industrial difficulties. On 13th November 1915 the Britannic was requistioned as a hospital ship becoming HMHS (His Majesty's Hospital Ship) Britannic.

Receiving a coat of brilliant white paint, with huge red crosses each lit by 125 lights. On 11th December 1915 she left Belfast and started her short career.

On 8:12am on 21st November 1916 Britannic struck a mine (some still contest it was a torpedo) in the Kea Channel, Aegan sea. Despite her improved safety features, the Britannic began to sink in a creul copycat of her sister's end four years earlier.

Attempts were made to beach the ship on the nearby island of Kea, but it was not to be. Two lifeboats, launched without authority from the port side were sucked into the propellors and smashed to pieces....the occupants didn't stand a chance.

At 9:07 the stern disappeared beneath the ocean....from that moment the Olympic became the last survivor of White Star's dream of a three-ship New York shuttle.

In retrospect, the disaster could have be much much worse. If the Britannic had been on a homebound journey with wounded aboard, the loss of life would have been unthinkable.

In 1976 the famous French explorer Cousteau discovered the wreck lying on her side at a depth of 110 metres and recovered a few small objects.

Considering the shallow water that the Britannic rests in, and the length of time her position has been know it's perhaps ironic that the wreck of the Britannic is safer from would-be salvagers than the Titanic. As a requistioned ship in the service of Crown, the wreck to this day belongs to the British Government.

Recomended Reading:

Titanic Organisations Worldwide

There are several organisations worldwide, here's just a few:-

        Titanic Historical Society,
        P.O. Box 51053,
        Indian Orchard,
        Massachusetts 01151-0053

             Membership $25/year (USA & Canada)
                        $30/year (UK & Europe) - Airmail $15 extra
                        $35/year (Other) - Airmail $15 extra

        British Titanic Society,
        P.O. Box 401,
        Hope Carr Way,
        WN7 3WW

             Membership 7 pounds sterling/year (UK)
                        $16 (in sterling equivalent!)/year (Other)

        Titanic International
        Post Office Box 7007
        Freehold, New Jresey

             Membership $25 annually (US)
                        $30 Canada and Overseas (US dollars only!)

If your organisation is not listed here, please drop a msg to

Mailing List Archives

An archive of previously posted articles is available via anonymous FTP from host "" in directory "/pub/titanic/digests". The digest files have file names of the form "mmmyy.dgx", where mmm and yy are the month and year of the archived digest. The currents month's file name is "current.dgx" and is updated daily. This same host also has several other files that may be of interest to Titanic enthusiast.

The mailing list maintains an anonymous FTP directory of related files. The directory is located at host "". The mailing list files are in directory /pub/titanic. If you would like to contribute files to the archives please put them into directory /pub/jbd/incoming at

How do I use this Mailing List?

Well, if you simply want to read the messages then just sit back and relax! Since you received this message, it's safe to assume that you are on the list and will receive subsequent posts as the days go by.

However, you'll get a lot more out of the list if you contribute and join in with the discussion.

To send a message to everyone on the list you can either reply to a message that came from the mailing list, or if you prefer you can send your message to

Note that whatever you send to the mailing list will always be sent back to you as well as to all the other users, this is normal.

Why not try it now? Send us a short note to introduce assured you'll get some friendly replies.

Unsubscribing Information

When you are ready to leave the mailing list, you should send a message to In the body of the message simply include the one word "unsubscribe".


If you would like to receive the mailing list articles in a daily digest form, you can do this by sending a message to "" and putting the words "subscribe digest" in the body of the message. If you do this, please remember to unsubscribe from the regular Titanic list as described above.

Mailing List Help

If you have any problems using the mailing list, please contact John Davis at

Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan

gene carl feldman ( (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)