1. The old story that a man dressed as a woman to secure a place in a lifeboat is a myth. Actually, the man, Osgood J. Wemple, who had made a fortune recycling used dental floss, was a cross-dresser. Tipsily dancing to a phonograph record in his stateroom, he was clad in a blonde wig and floor-length gown when the call came to abandon ship. With no time to change, he rushed on deck in drag and was directed to a lifeboat by able seaman Frank Harbridge, who fell in love at first sight and proposed to Wemple after they were both taken aboard the RMS Carpathia.
2. From an engineering standpoint, the Titanic was not really a ship at all but a gigantic, seagoing zeppelin.
3. There was a horse aboard the Titanic. Baron Ignatz von Gluckbogen, a wealthy playboy and stable owner, brought Fleet Strudel, his finest racehorse, and exercised the thoroughbred daily in a custom-built paddock on C deck. When informed the ship was sinking, the Baron declared he would go down with his horse. But Fleet Strudel panicked when the water reached his fetlocks, threw his hapless owner and was last seen swimming toward the Belmont Park racetrack.
4. Of the 143,619 books written about the Titanic since 1912, perhaps the most fascinating from a literary point of view is Howard Kepler’s “How I Survived the Titanic Disaster By Being Born 22 Years After It Sank.” The book is written entirely in Morse code.
5. Approximately 30 minutes after being launched, the No. 13 lifeboat struck a very small iceberg—more like a large ice cube, really--and sank. But no passengers were lost because nobody would get into a lifeboat numbered 13.
6. A U.S. Senate hearing held after the disaster revealed that the iceberg that caused the fatal gash in the Titanic’s hull had dangerous design flaws, lacked modern safety features and should never have been allowed to go to sea.
7. Titanic’s superb master chef, Michel Louvain, steadfastly remained at his station, preparing snacks of pate and truffled pheasant so that first-class passengers would not have to drown on an empty stomach. When urged to save himself by his sous-chef, he replied, “Le fois gras, c’est moi,” Perhaps because the remark made little sense, it seldom has been repeated over the years.
8. As its bow filled with water and the Titanic began to list forward, second-class steward Reg Fenster was ordered to rearrange the deck chairs in order to stop the ship from sinking. New engineering studies show that he came heartbreakingly close to succeeding.
9. There were only six toilets on the Titanic. In those days, most passengers and crew members still observed the age-old maritime tradition of going over the side.
10. Upon realizing the great vessel was doomed, its designer, Thomas Andrews, clapped his forehead and exclaimed, “Oh my God, I knew should have used the new iceberg-resistant steel, but no, I had to save a few pennies.”
11. It’s getting harder and harder to find little-known facts about the Titanic. Years ago, I was able to easily compile hundreds of little-known Titanic facts on each anniversary of its sinking. Now, though I promised 25, I could barely come up with 11 because today everyone knows reams of Titanic trivia. Thanks a lot, James Cameron, you Titanic-hogging interloper jackal. I don’t even believe you went near a submersible. That so-called underwater documentary of yours was all special effects and fake wreckage.