Titanic was released in 1997 and has gone on to make over $2 billion dollars, making it the second-grossing film of all time. As in, there’s only one movie that’s made more money than Titanic. That one movie? Avatar, which happens to be yet another James Cameron movie.

 

Considering Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time for over a decade until Avatar came around in 2009, how much of history did the James Cameron and his crew have to sacrifice to turn it into a lovable story?

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Transcript

Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

The movie opens in 1996, which was the present-day when the film was made. Bill Paxton’s character, Brock Lovett, is on a research vessel searching the wreck of the RMS Titanic. They’re looking for a necklace called the Heart of the Ocean. As they search the wreckage of the Titanic searching for the necklace, his team comes across the drawing of a young woman dated April 14th, 1912—the day the Titanic sank. 

Since the movie’s release, many people believed the Heart of the Ocean necklace to be real. The truth is, though, the necklace is fictional. But the backdrop the movie gives for the Heart of the Ocean necklace sounds like it could be real.  

After Bill Paxton’s version of Brock Lovett, who is a fictitious character, brings an elderly Rose DeWitt Bukater, who’s played by Gloria Stuart in the film, to his research ship to show her the drawing, Brock explains the story of the diamond. 

According to the movie, the massive blue diamond set in the necklace was owned by the French King Louis XVI and it was called the Blue Diamond of the Crown at the time. Brock goes on to explain the diamond disappeared in 1792, the same time King Louis XVI was beheaded. After this, according to Brock’s explanation in the film, the diamond was cut down to the heart-shape we see in the movie and it earned the name, the Heart of the Ocean. He also mentions that it’d be worth more than the Hope Diamond. 

As convincing as this sounds, the story of the Blue Diamond of the Crown and the Heart of the Ocean is not true. 

What is true, though, is that King Louis XVI was beheaded. It was during the French Revolution, which lasted a decade from 1789 to 1799. But it didn’t happen in 1792, but rather on January 21st, 1793. That’s when King Louis XVI became the only French monarch to be executed, bringing an end to over a thousand years of French monarchy. 

Perhaps one of the reasons why the story of the Blue Diamond of the Crown, the Heart of the Ocean, or whatever name you call it, sounds familiar is because it closely resembles the story of another diamond Brock mentions, the Hope Diamond. Also a massive blue diamond, the real Hope Diamond at one point belong to a French monarch.  

It was over a hundred years before King Louis XVI, but it was a king with the same name. King Louis XIV bought the massive stone, then known as the Tavernier Blue after the French merchant who was the original owner. The diamond stayed with the French monarchy for almost a hundred years until, in 1791—not 1792 as the movie says—it was stolen. Then, just like the movie indicates, the Tavernier Blue diamond was cut.  

The largest portion of this newly-cut stone was what became the Hope Diamond. Although it’s round, not heart-shaped like in the film. 

So while the history between these two fabulous gems are very similar, perhaps the biggest difference is when it comes to their association with the Titanic. In the movie, the heart-shaped diamond was on the ship. In truth, the Hope Diamond was never on the Titanic.

We know this because in 1912 when the Titanic sailed, the diamond belonged to an American socialite named Evelyn McLean. She purchased the diamond in 1911 for $180,000, which is roughly $4.3 million in 2017’s money. Evelyn wasn’t on the Titanic, and she passed the diamond onto her children when she passed away in 1947. 

Oh, and the current worth of the diamond? About $250 million. 

Back in the movie, after this introduction about the necklace, an elderly Rose begins to cry as she looks at the modern-day images of the Titanic’s final resting place at the bottom of the ocean. And that’s how a teary-eyed Rose begins to tell her story that transports us back to 1912 on board the Titanic

More specifically, to the southern coast of England at the Southampton port where the Titanic is getting ready for its maiden voyage. Here is where we’re introduced to a 17-year-old Rose, played by Kate Winslet, and her fiancé, Cal Hockley, who’s played by Billy Zane. As they arrive, Cal casually boasts that the Titanic is an unsinkable ship. 

While history obviously shows that the Titanic was, indeed, a sinkable ship, this claim was based in truth. We don’t really know where it first started, but many historians believe it was marketing that simply grew to be fact in the minds of many people.  

One of the earliest mentions of this was in 1910, when the company that was building the Titanic, White Star Line, published a brochure explaining the Titanic and its sister ship, the Olympic, were both designed to be unsinkable. To quote from the brochure: 

 

…and as far as it is possible to do so, these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable.

 

This sort of marketing speak wasn’t unique to the Titanic by any means. Other massive ships at the time, such as the Lusitania made by White Star’s major competitor, Cunard, also had similar claims in its marketing. Always, though, there were qualifications such as the one for the Titanic and Olympic: “as far as it is possible to do so.” 

Oh, and if the name Lusitania sounds familiar you’ve probably heard of its sinking. It was sunk by a German submarine in 1915. All 1,198 people on board perished, and as a result of this event, the United States entered World War I. 

But that’s another story for another day. 

In the movie, after Cal, Rose and Rose’s mother, Ruth, who’s played by Frances Fisher, enter the Titanic we cut to a poker game in a nearby bar. Here is where we meet Jack Dawson, who’s played by Leonardo DiCaprio. In the poker game, Jack wins two tickets on the Titanic for himself and his friend, Fabrizio, who’s played by Danny Nucci. 

This didn’t happen. How do we know it didn’t happen? Well, Fabrizio isn’t a real person. Jack Dawson isn’t a real person. Rose DeWitt Bukater isn’t a real person, nor was her fiancé Cal Hockley. In fact, most of the characters in the main storyline for the film Titanic are made up.  

Just like the correlation between the story of the Heart of the Ocean diamond on the necklace in the film and the real Hope Diamond, the filmmakers did something very similar with the characters in the movie. There’s a number of facts that are true in the film, like the whole event happening, and things like people believing the Titanic was unsinkable. 

But the love story between Jack and Rose was all made up for the movie. 

Despite not being real people, one of the truths that the film builds the story on is the idea that there were very different types of passengers on board the Titanic. We see this when we see the stark difference between the accommodations for Jack and Fabrizio compared to the luxurious suite for Rose. 

While the people may have been made up for the film, the accommodations are fairly accurate to what it must have been like. 

There were three classes of passengers on board the Titanic. The first class passengers on the Titanic were made up of the incredibly rich. To get a first class ticket in 1912, you had to pay anywhere from £30 to £870. That’s between $3,400 and $98,000 in today’s U.S. dollars.

The reason for such a wide range is because you had a choice of accommodations. If you were a single passenger, all you needed was a single room. The higher prices were for an entire suite, like what we see the fictitious Cal and Rose have in the movie. You’d also get a private deck overlooking the ocean. 

Second class passengers didn’t get these choices, but they still traveled comfortably. A second class ticket on board the Titanic cost about £17 in 1912, or about $1,900 today. 

Still not cheap, but considering the Titanic’s maiden voyage was supposed to be a seven day trip from Southampton to New York City, that breaks down to about $270 a day. That’s not too bad, considering it’s both transportation and what amounts to a hotel room. 

Finally, there were the third class passengers. That’s what Jack and his friend were in the film. A third class ticket in 1912 cost about £7, or about $785 today. For a third class children’s ticket, that was only £3, or about $335 today. 

That doesn’t seem like much, and today it may not be. But the inflation alone doesn’t tell the whole story. In 1912, the dividing line between working class and middle class was an income of about £160 per year. That would be an $18,000 salary in the U.S. today. 

Like today, salaries varied quite a bit. But considering in 1912, the 10% of the British population owned 90% of the wealth, with the top 1% owning about 70% of that, it’s not too far-fetched to assume the lower end of middle class is a fairly average salary for someone who might be interested in traveling on the Titanic

For the sake of this example, that’d mean the second class ticket that didn’t sound so bad at $1,900, or $270 a day for the week-long trip across the ocean, all of a sudden sounds a lot more expensive when we find out that’s just over 10% of an entire year’s salary. 

What this means is something we have found to be true for most of the passengers of the Titanic, and something that’s fairly accurately depicted in the movie. With the exception of the super-rich, for whom the cost was negligible, the cost was nothing to laugh at for most of the people in second and third class rooms.  

It wasn’t a cruise or a vacation. It was transportation with a purpose. For many, it was the promise of a better life in the United States. In the movie, that’s exactly what it was for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jack Dawson. So although he was fictional, James Cameron, who not only directed the film but also wrote it, did a good job of capturing the essence of what it must’ve been like for these very different purposes for being on board the ship. 

In the movie, as Rose is unpacking in her luxurious suite, some of the things she unpacks are paintings by Pablo Picasso. Billy Zane’s character, Cal, says Picasso will never amount to anything. 

We already know these characters aren’t real, so obviously they didn’t have any Picasso paintings on the Titanic. Pablo Picasso, who was born in 1881, was actively painting in 1912. So coupled with the immense riches of many of the Titanic’s passengers, and the fact that Picasso was active at the time, it’s certainly possible that there could have been some Picasso paintings on board. 

But there’s also no proof there were any of Picasso’s paintings on the Titanic. In fact, after the movie was released, James Cameron and the other movie producers got in trouble for using the image that we see Rose unpack. 

According to the New York Times, James Cameron applied for permission to use one of Picasso’s paintings, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, in the movie. He was denied permission, which means he broke copyright law when we see Kate Winslet’s character holding the painting in the movie. As it turns out, James Cameron ended up settling out of court when he agreed to pay a fee for using it. Something he had to do again when the 3D version of Titanic was released in 2012. 

We know for a fact that the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon painting, which Picasso painted in 1907, did not sink with the Titanic because it’s currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  

Oh, and it’s also massive! 243.9 cm by 233.7 cm, or about 8 feet by 8 feet. Not nearly the same size as the painting we see in the movie. 

After unpacking in the movie, there’s a mention of a woman named Margaret “Molly” Brown boarding the Titanic at Cherbourg. In the movie, Molly Brown is played by Kathy Bates. We also see, even if it is for a brief moment, another ship alongside the Titanic

These little details are worth pointing out because they’re the reason why the story of the Titanic seem so realistic. Because, even though the overarching storyline is made up for the film, these little details are accurate.

 

That boat was named the SS Nomadic, and was built by the Titanic’s owners, the White Star Line, specifically to ferry passengers to and from both the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympic. 

The reason they needed the Nomadic was because both the Titanic and the Olympic were too big to dock at the harbor in Cherbourg, France. Cherbourg is across the English Channel, due south of Southampton. 

At noon on April 10th, 1912, the Titanic left Southampton. That evening, at 6:30 PM, the Titanic anchored outside Cherbourg to pick up more passengers. There were 274 people who boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, with the last of them settling into the Titanic by about 8:00 PM. 

One of those passengers was indeed a woman named Margaret Brown. She was an American socialite who was on her way back home. Although as the elderly Rose’s voiceover is telling the story, she incorrectly says Margaret was called “Molly.”  

In truth, Margaret’s friends called her Maggie. It wasn’t until well after her death in 1932 that the nickname “Molly” began to be associated with her. Mostly because of a 1960 Broadway musical was written called The Unsinkable Molly Brown

After picking up passengers in Cherbourg, the movie also is correct when it mentions steaming off the coast of Ireland and out into the open ocean.  

At about 8:10 PM on April 10th, the Titanic raised its anchor. And left Cherbourg headed for Queenstown, Ireland. Well, that’s what it was called in 1912, at least. It was named this after an 1849 visit to the small coastal town from Queen Victoria. Then, in 1920, Queenstown was renamed back to its original name—Cobh. That’s its name today. 

While they traveled the 500 miles, that’s about 800 kilometers, from Cherbourg to Queenstown, the Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith ran a number of maneuverability tests. Unlike Jack and Rose, Captain Smith was really the name of the Titanic’s captain. In the movie he’s played by Bernard Hill. 

The Titanic arrived at Queenstown late that same night, and enjoyed a calm night anchored a couple miles off the Irish coast. 

As the sun began to rise on April 11th, passengers and mail began to board the ship. Remember this was 1912, so the opportunity to take letters across the ocean wasn’t something that happened every day. Here in Ireland, the Titanic added 1,385 bags of mail to be delivered in the United States.  

According to historical documents, we also know that 113 third class and seven second class passengers boarded here. There were also seven passengers who disembarked in Ireland. In all, this brought the total number of people on board the Titanic to 2,227. 

Or at least, that’s what most historians agree on. Unfortunately there are some discrepancies in the passenger and crew lists that have survived, so we don’t know the exact number. 

At 1:30 PM, with all of the new passengers and luggage on board, the Titanic was ready. Captain Smith ordered the anchor raised and they headed for New York City, over 3,000 miles to the west. That’s over 4,800 kilometers. 

After going all ahead full, in the movie, one of the ship’s crew informs Bernard Hill’s version of Captain Smith that they’re traveling at 21 knots. That’s about 39 kilometers per hour, or 24 miles per hour.  

Her maximum speed was 24 knots, or 44 kilometers per hour and 27 miles per hour, but as best as we can tell from the documentation that’s survived we know she was at steam around 21 or 22 knots for most of the trip. 

Even the dolphins swimming could’ve happened. I’m talking about the ones we see when Jack points them out to Fabrizio just before Jack’s iconic stance with arms outstretched as he yells he’s the king of the world with the two friends are looking out over the bow of the ship.  

Atlantic dolphins can swim at about 25 miles per hour, or 40 kilometers an hour, which is about 22 knots. Again, these little details are fairly accurate to the traveling speed of the Titanic, and really help sell the accuracy of the movie overall. 

Speaking of the movie, after this is when Jack sees Rose for the first time. Of course, all of this is made up. In fact, much of what we see next is fictional.  

That’s because really up until now the filmmakers have been setting the backdrop for the story line. In doing so, as we’ve learned, they’ve added an incredible amount of factual details.  

Even down to when Billy Zane’s fictional character, Cal, orders the lamb at dinner. We do know lamb was one of the meals on the Titanic’s voyage, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a dinner menu for April 11th. There’s some you can find for the 10th, 12th, 14th, but not the 11th. So if you have one, please let me know[1]—I’d love to see it! 

Of the menus that did survive, we’ve been able to piece together what it must’ve been like eating on the Titanic. At an auction in 2012, 100 years after the Titanic’s voyage, a menu dated April 10th, 1912 sold at auction for $70,000.  

That would’ve been the dinner while the Titanic was on its way to Queenstown, Ireland. 

Listed on the menu were quite a range of foods for the first class passengers, lamb being among them. To get a sense for the luxuries on the ship, let’s walk through the meal.  

It’d start with hors d’oeuvres, of course, as everyone arrived. Remember the meals were a chance for the first class passengers to socialize. That’s the primary activity on board the Titanic, so it was certainly an event that’d take many hours. 

After hors d’oeuvres and mingling, you’d have your choice between two soups. One was a consommé rejane, which is a clear soup typically with a beef or chicken stock base. Or you could have créme reine margot. Like the name implies, this was a much thicker, cream-based soup. 

Then there was the second course. This offered turbot fish with homard sauce, which is a lobster-flavored sauce. Or perhaps you’d prefer whitebait, a small fish, each about the size of a sardine.  

Or perhaps you wanted both. As someone in first class aboard the Titanic, you were free to order any or all of the items on the menu. 

If you’re getting the sense that the food on board the Titanic was immaculate, you’re right. 

The third course continued this extravagance. The two items for the third course on April 10th, 1912 were either mutton cutlets and green peas or Supreme of Chicken à la Stanley. 

Although in the movie Cal ordered lamb with mint sauce, not mutton. But mutton, of course, being lamb means we’d have to be pretty nit-picky about the authenticity to complain about that. And besides, there was a menu from April 14th, the Titanic’s final day, that survived and lamb with mint sauce was on that menu. 

The other dish, Supreme Chicken à la Stanley, was a creamy chicken dish. The term “supreme” being a French term to mean the chicken was both boneless and skinless chicken breast. 

Then there was the fourth course. This included sirloin of beef with château potatoes, roast duckling and apple sauce or fillet of veal and braised ham. 

The fifth course was much lighter, cauliflower and spinach. 

The sixth course brought boiled rice, bovin and boiled new potatoes. Interestingly, they used bovin without the “e”, which is the French word for cow, and is the feminine version of the masculine bovine with an “e”.

Anyway, to finish up the menu, after the sixth course came, of course, the seventh. This was plover on toast and cress with a salad. Plover is a bird and cress is an English herb. 

Finally, as the meal starts to wind down there were only a couple more courses. The eighth course offered pudding Sans Souci, Charlotte Colville and Granvilles. 

Sans Souci is a French term that simply means “no worries”. Charlotte Colville was a gelatin dessert and Granvilles a type of cracker. Finally, the meal came to a close with the ninth course, French ice cream. 

Whew! 

That was just the dinner menu for April 10th. We won’t go into the menus for the other days, but each day offered similar menus for the wealthy in first class for the Titanic. And I certainly apologize if I got any of the details incorrect on these. As you might imagine, while some of the menus did survive from the Titanic, like many menus today they don’t tell you how they’re prepared.  

If you want to learn more about the delicious foods they had on the Titanic, I would highly recommend getting the book by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley called Last Dinner On the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner[2].  

Rick and Dana did tons of research into the meals on the Titanic and turned their research into a cookbook so you can make the meals they had on the Titanic at home.

Getting back to the movie, we’re on the evening of April 11th. After the scare with Rose’s near-suicide attempt, the evening ends with Cal showing Rose the Heart of the Ocean diamond. We already learned this isn’t true, but it sure does make for a fascinating story, doesn’t it? 

The next scene in the movie is the next day. So while the movie doesn’t put a date on this, that makes it Friday, April 12th. While the storyline between the fictitious Jack and Rose continue, again the backdrop is pretty accurate. 

In the movie, Bruce Ismay, who’s played by Jonathan Hyde, is chatting with Bernard Hill’s Captain Smith, who mentions they’re making excellent time. This little detail is true. 

April 12th, 1912 for the Titanic was just like April 11th in that it was a calm day with clear weather and nothing really happening. By the end of April 12th, the Titanic covered 386 miles, or 620 kilometers. 

Another point here is about the character of Bruce Ismay. Like Captain Smith, Joseph Bruce Ismay was a real person. And like the movie indicates, he worked for White Star Line. He was their managing director, in fact, and would go on to become the highest ranking White Star employee to survive the Titanic. 

Later on, Rose invites Jack to dinner. Since Jack is poor, he doesn’t have anything to wear so this is where Molly Brown comes to the rescue. She offers him formal wear, exclaiming that he’s about the same size as her son.

There’s a shred of truth in this, that being that Margaret Brown did indeed have a son. His name was Larry Brown, and he was born in 1887, so in April of 1912 he would’ve been about 24 years old.  

Could Leonardo DiCaprio’s character have fit into a 24 year old’s suit? Well, seeing as Jack Dawson is fictional, I suppose the answer is “yes.”
After having dinner in the first class cabin, Rose heads down to the third class cabin to party with the poor folks. Here there’s merrymaking of all sorts. Happy music, drinking and dancing. 

This sort of thing certainly could have happened on the Titanic. Unlike the first class passengers, the third class passengers didn’t have much to pass the time.  

There was a general room that they could gather in, but they weren’t allowed upstairs with the first class passengers. So they had to entertain themselves. As we learned earlier, many of the third class passengers were people who were going to America to make a new life for themselves. As a result, there was a lot of reason for celebration on the trip. 

The scene with music, dancing and happiness all around gives a pretty good indication of what after-dinner parties must’ve been like for third class passengers. Much less class and sophistication than first class, but plenty of fun to go around. 

After this party scene, the movie cuts to the next day.  

Now as you’ve noticed, up until this point I’ve counted each day. One of the reasons for that was to bring up something interesting in the movie’s timeline here. According to my day-by-day calculations, the day/night cycles would make this the third day on the ship after leaving Ireland. 

I’ve gone back numerous times and compared with the movie to make sure I’m not missing any scenes, but let’s take a quick moment to go recap this to make sure I’m not missing anything. 

We can start our recap when the elderly Rose’s voiceover mentions leaving Ireland. We know from history that the ship left Queenstown, Ireland at about 1:30 PM on Thursday, April 11th. Since that’s mid-day and the film doesn’t show any night-time scenes, it’s safe to assume that evening was when Rose almost jumped off the back of the ship.

 The next day-time scene is when Jack shows Rose his drawings. Friday, April 12th. The sun is starting to set as Molly Brown offers Jack clothes to wear to dinner, so it’s safe to assume here that the dinner with Jack, Rose, Cal and the rest of the first class passengers takes place on that same evening. 

I’m also assuming that when Jack hands Rose the note about the party in third class it’s not about a future day. That would mean the third class party and dancing takes place on Friday night, April 12th.  

Which would mean the next morning is Saturday, April 13th. 

However, as we can see in the movie, the first class passengers are attending a church service on the day after the party in the third class cabin. We know from the real Titanic’s log that this event took place on Sunday, April 14th at 10:30 AM. 

The tricky part here is that the movie doesn’t indicate the days, so there’s no way to know how much time is passing from scene to scene. Especially since most of the events are either made up around the fictitious characters and storyline or they’re recurring events that happen every day, like eating a meal. It’s very possible that it skipped from one day to the next day and we never saw the evening.  

For example, maybe when they left Ireland, the movie skipped from April 11th to April 12th in the next scene. That’d mean everything would move forward a day. Rose’s attempted suicide was on the evening of April 12th. Jack and Rose attend dinner and then the third class party take place on April 13th. 

That’d line up the timeline with the movie and the real events, so that’s very likely to be the case. But my hope in mentioning it here is simply so you can see the oddity in the timeline of the film.  

Regardless, we can reorient ourselves with the timeline of the movie and the actual events on Sunday, April 14th at 10:30 AM. This is when the unique event, the first class church service, takes place. 

Shortly after this, in the movie, one of the crewmembers gives Captain Smith an ice warning from the Noordam. He then offers reassurance for Rose and her mother, who are right there as the warning is given. Captain Smith says it’s quite normal for this time of year. 

And that’s true. At 11:40 AM, the Dutch passenger liner called the Noordam issued a warning of ice in the area. But that wasn’t the first ice warning the Titanic received. Late the evening before, Saturday the 13th, they received other ice warnings. Or there was the ice warning just a couple hours before the Noordam’s warning. That was from the Caronia, a passenger ship owned by the Cunard Line, which issued an ice field warning at 9:00 AM on the 14th. 

Although we know from history this sort of warning probably should’ve been paid more heed by the Titanic’s crew, in context it’s easy to see why it wasn’t that big of a deal for Captain Smith.  

Like the movie indicates, it was quite normal for that time of year. Ice was common to find on the Atlantic in the chilly month of April, so ships of the time were always on the look-out for ice. When they saw some, they’d let anyone in their broadcasting distance know the coordinates of the ice.  

Between Saturday and Sunday, the Titanic had gone another 546 miles, or 879 kilometers. 

After this mention of ice in the movie, Rose is walking along the ship with the ship’s architect, Thomas Andrews, when she asks about the lifeboats. According to the movie there’s only enough lifeboats for about half of the passengers. 

Thomas Andrews, the architect who was in charge of the plans for the Titanic, was really on board the ship for her maiden voyage. In the movie, Thomas is played by Victor Garber. 

Also true is the mention about the number of lifeboats when compared to passengers. There were 20 lifeboats on the Titanic. Although they weren’t all the same size, the average lifeboat could hold about 60 people, meaning the 20 lifeboats could hold 1,178 people.  

Although, as we learned earlier, there is some discrepancy about the exact number of passengers and crew, the number was somewhere around 2,220 or so. Give or take ten people. Still way more people than there were lifeboats. 

And the Titanic wasn’t even at capacity. According to the White Star Line, the maximum capacity for the Titanic was 3,327 people. But then again, the lifeboats weren’t at maximum capacity, either.  

There were enough lifeboat supports, also called davits, to carry 64 lifeboats on the Titanic. But for reasons we’ll never fully understand, only 20 were installed for the maiden voyage. Most historians think the primary reason was because the Titanic’s designers thought filling it up with lifeboats would make the deck way too cluttered. 

That point is one that Victor Garber’s version of Thomas Andrews shares with Rose. 

That evening, Rose and Jack share the wonderfully romantic moment on the bow of the ship that’s come to be the defining moment in the movie. As Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On plays in the background, an instrumental version at least, Jack holds Rose and they kiss for the first time. 

You already know by now this is all made up, since the characters are fictional. But after this moment in the movie, we fade back to the elderly Rose as she explains that was the last time the Titanic ever saw daylight. 

That is true. 

The movie doesn’t make mention of any more ice warnings after the one from the Noordam, but there were many more after that.  

Jumping back in the timeline a bit, before Jack and Rose’s sunset kiss on the bow of the ship would have happened if they were real people, earlier that day, at 1:42 PM on April 14th, the Titanic got a warning of “large quantities of field ice” about 250 miles, 400 kilometers, ahead of the ship. Captain Smith gave the message to Bruce Ismay, who stored it safely in his pocket. 

Three minutes later, the Amerika, that’s a German passenger ship so Amerika is with a “k”, sent out a “large iceberg” warning. It was a message that never made its way to the bridge. 

Back in the movie, the evening of April 14th is when Jack paints Rose, wearing nothing but the Heart of the Ocean necklace. We don’t know the timing of this other than to know it took place in the evening.  

Thanks to historians and scientists who have studied the real events extensively, we know quite a bit about what actually happened that evening. 

So while Jack and Rose were enjoying a calm sketching session with a piano version of My Heart Will Go On playing, things weren’t so calm elsewhere on the ship. Between 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM on the evening of April 14th, 1912, the air temperature dropped by ten degrees to 33° F. 

At 5:50 PM Captain Smith ordered the Titanic’s course be changed to take a more southern route. No one knows why, but most historians assume it was to avoid ice. 

After Jack draws Rose, the movie cuts to the bridge where Captain Smith tells Mr. Lightoller, who’s played by Jonny Phillips, to maintain speed and heading as he heads off to the dinner party. 

That means this must’ve after 6:00 PM, because on the real Titanic, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who you can probably guess was a real person, relieved Chief Officer Wilde at 6:00 PM on April 14th. Chief Officer Wilde is played by Mark Lindsay Chapman in the movie. 

Soon after this, Jack and Rose run off as they’re chased by Spicer Lovejoy, who’s played by David Warner. Like Jack and Rose, Spicer Lovejoy is a fictional character made up for the film. 

After Jack and Rose made their escape from Spicer by making the back seat of a car rather steamy, the movie cuts to the crow’s nest where two men are on the lookout for ice bergs. 

There’s a brief scene where you see Lightoller turn over the bridge as he says he’s off to make his rounds. 

In the movie, it’s Jack and Rose who distract the men in the crow’s nest. After laughing about the two lovers, the crewmen turn back to see an iceberg—straight ahead! 

Frantically, they call the bridge and relay the news. 

This is where the timeline in the movie derails from what really happened. In the movie, it seems like it happens pretty quickly after Lightoller took over on the bridge. 

That’s not the case. 

At 7:15 PM, one of the crewmen, First Officer Murdoch, who’s played by Ewan Stewart in the film, ordered one of the forward hatches closed. The glow from inside the hatch was making it difficult for the crow’s nest to look out for ice. So it wasn’t Jack and Rose distracting the men, just light. 

But it wasn’t right after this distraction that the iceberg was spotted, like the movie implies.  

Fifteen minutes after the forward hatch was ordered closed, the Titanic received three more iceberg warnings from a nearby ship, a British cargo ship called the Californian. According to the coordinates given, the ice was about 50 miles, or 80 kilometers, ahead of the Titanic

For the next hour nothing was spotted. Remember they’re traveling at about 22 knots, or about 25 miles and 40 kilometers per hour. So the sequence of events was sped up for the movie. 

At 8:55 PM, Captain Smith left the dinner party and returned to the bridge. This is when he has the conversation we saw earlier in the movie where they’re talking about the calm and clear weather conditions. In the movie, Bernard Hill’s version of Captain Smith jokes with Lightoller about it being as calm as a mill pond. 

This conversation took place, although the exact wording used was most likely different. Captain Smith stayed on the bridge for about half an hour. Then, at 9:20 PM, satisfied that everything was under control, he decided to go to bed. He left the order that he be woken up, “if it becomes at all doubtful…” 

Ten minutes later, Lightoller sent a message to the men in the crow’s nest asking them to be extra careful looking for icebergs until the morning. 

At 9:40 PM, a man named Stanley Adams on board a liner named Mesaba sent another ice warning to the Titanic. It read: 

 

To Titanic

In Lat. 42 N. to 41.25 Lond 49 W to Long

– 50.30 W saw much heavy pack ice and

great number large icebergs also

field ice. Weather good, clear 

 

At this point, Harold Bride, who’s played by Craig Kelly in the movie, had already gone to bed. He was one of two telegram operators on the Titanic. The other, Jack Phillips, who’s played by Gregory Cooke, was the only one working when the message from the Mesaba came.

 

As a quick side note, when I’m saying telegram operators it’s not really the telegram we’re used to. More accurately, they were referred to as wireless operators. That, too, is a bit confusing since it’s nothing like the wireless communications we have now. So it was very similar to a telegram sent with Morse code, but it was sent wirelessly. Sort of like a radio signal. 

The Mesaba’s message was ignored. Most historians think it’s because Jack Phillips, as the only man working the telegram at the time, was bogged down with messages the passengers wanted sent to their loved ones back home. 

At 10:00 PM, there was another shift change. First Officer Murdoch relieved Lightoller on the bridge, and the men in the crow’s nest were also relieved. At this point, the weather is freezing—32° F—and although it’s very dark, the sky is cloudless and clear. 

Almost an hour later, at 10:55 PM, the Californian sent another message to the Titanic. They were about 10 or 20 miles ahead of the Titanic, and were in the middle of an ice field. Converting to kilometers, that’s somewhere between 16 and 32 kilometers. Captain Stanley Lord, who was the captain of the Californian, decided to stop the engines and wait until morning when they could see the icebergs much easier. 

Captain Lord ordered Cyril Evans, the 20 year old wireless operator on the Californian to reach out to the only other ship they thought might be in the area, and let them know about the ice. At about 11:00 PM, this message was sent to the Titanic:

 

Say, old man, we are stopped and surrounded by ice.

 

Ten minutes later, an apparently frustrated Jack Phillips replied to the Californian:

 

Keep out! Shut up, shut up! I am busy, I am working Cape Race.

 

What Jack Phillips was referring to here was Cape Race, Newfoundland. That’s on the eastern tip of Canada, stretching far into the Atlantic. It was the nearest transmitter, and as a result was where Jack Phillips was sending the personal messages from the passengers on board the Titanic to be routed on to their final destination. 

For about half an hour, Cyril Evans listened to the Titanic’s wireless traffic in anticipation of another response. When it was filled with personal messages and nothing of interest, he decided to call it a day. At this point the time was 11:30 PM, so while we don’t know exactly when Cyril started his day it’s probably safe to assume it was the end of a long day, no doubt.  

There was no way he could’ve known what this decision meant. He was the only wireless operator on the Californian, meaning when Cyril left his station to go to bed, no one would be there to hear any incoming messages. 

As Cyril was bedding down for the night, a few miles away aboard the Titanic, the two lookouts in the crow’s nest made a note of a slight haze. The movie correctly captures the two lookouts. One was Frederick Fleet, who’s played by Scott Anderson, and the other was Reginald Lee, played by Martin East in the film. 

Now is when we can sync back up with the movie timeline. Because at 11:30 PM, ten minutes after Cyril Evans left his post on the Californian, all hell broke loose on the Titanic

In the movie we see what this sort of chaos must’ve been like. One of the two lookouts, Frederick, called down to the bridge frantically as Reginald rang the warning bell three times to indicate a collision warning. Iceberg! Right ahead!

It was a massive berg, towering about 60 feet above the water. At that moment, it was only 500 yards dead ahead of the Titanic

The bridge sprang to life. It was Sixth Officer Moody, who’s played by Edward Fletcher in the film, who received the call from the crow’s nest. He wasted no time in relaying the warning to the man in charge: First Officer Murdoch. 

Instantly, Murdoch’s ordered a number of moves to try to miss the iceberg. 

“Hard-a-starboard!”

 Then, “All engines stop!” and “Full astern!”

 

Here again, the details in the movie are startlingly accurate. Or, at least, we have to assume that’s what it must’ve been like to see an iceberg some 60 feet tall right in front of your ship. The look on the crew’s faces as they wait and hope their evasive maneuvers were enough to steer the Titanic out of harm’s way must’ve seemed like an eternity. 

If you’re not familiar with the nautical terminology, imagine for a moment you’re on the bridge. In the movie, we see from the bridge’s perspective that the Titanic starts to turn to the left, meaning the iceberg was on the right side of the ship. 

The right side is the starboard side of the ship, so why would First Officer Murdoch order hard-a-starboard? Well, some historians who have wondered that exact same thing say there was confusion and this was just a gut reaction. After he realized the mistake is when he ordered all engines full reverse. 

Except the Titanic couldn’t steer in reverse. Like all screw and rudder ships, it could only back up in a straight line. So trying to veer the ship around by steering in reverse wouldn’t work. 

There have been countless scientists and historians who have surmised what the thought process might have been for First Officer Murdoch, and results of the actions taken on board the Titanic. It’s really quite fascinating, and can offer a lot more insight into what may or may not have happened. 

You see, despite all of the theories and the science—that doesn’t change what happened. And because we simply don’t know what it was actually like on board the Titanic that fateful night, the only thing we can do is guess at the “what if”. 

What we do know is what happened. After a flurry of commands, the ship finally started to veer to port as a result of First Officer Murdoch’s orders. 

After a moment, as the movie shows, on board the real Titanic, after the helmsman frantically spun the wheel as far as it’d go there was a few seconds delay before the ship began to react. 

The Titanic had been traveling at about 20.5 knots, or about 23 miles per hour, and there was no way it could turn on a dime. That’s 37 kilometers per hour, by the way. Without wasting any time, and surely knowing this, First Officer Murdoch then flipped the lever to close the watertight doors on the ship below the waterline. 

It wasn’t enough.  

There was a crash. Just like the movie shows, the iceberg hit the starboard side of the Titanic, tearing a hole beneath the waterline.  

In the movie, there’s a shudder that rips its way through the Titanic. We see shots of multiple people around the ship as they notice the rumbling, almost like an earthquake. 

While it obviously would’ve been noticed by some, most of the passengers on board didn’t even notice the impact.  

It took 37 seconds from the moment the lookouts in the crow’s nest saw the iceberg to when it hit. After that, the Titanic drifted on and the iceberg disappeared into the night. 

In the movie, it doesn’t take long for Bernard Hill’s version of Captain Smith to come to the bridge. He orders the ship to stop as they survey the damage. After seeing a few of the passengers on the ship start questioning why they’ve stopped, Jack and Rose overhear the Captain talking to Thomas Andrews. A crewmember starts relaying the damage information, saying the mail room is underwater. 

This is sped up from the actual timeline. 

After the impact at about 11:40 PM, the water started to rise on board the ship. By 11:50 PM, the boiler rooms, which were only about five feet above the keel, or the bottom of the ship, were flooded with about eight feet of water.  

As the clock struck midnight on April 15th, 1912, the mail room, which was 24 feet above the keel of the ship, was taking on enough water that the mail bags started to float. 

However, we’re being extremely nitpicky with the timeline here. Let’s just say the movie is pretty accurate.

In the movie, with the emergency underway, the plotline with Jack and Rose continues. Of course, this is all made up for the movie. But as that’s happening, just like the movie shows just before Jack is framed for stealing the Heart of the Ocean necklace, Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews were busy assessing the damages. 

In the movie, back on the bridge, Thomas Andrews has some bad news. He says the Titanic has five compartments flooding. She can stay afloat with four compartments breached, but not five. He says it is a mathematical certainty that the Titanic will sink. 

This is very true. 

After the iceberg hit, the real Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews surveyed the damage. It didn’t take long for Thomas to determine that the ship was doomed. The reason it didn’t take that long was because of simple math.  

The Titanic was equipped with a total of sixteen watertight compartments. However, all of these watertight compartments were below the waterline, with the idea that they’d keep the ship afloat even if they flooded. 

However, if more than four compartments got flooded, the ship would start to dip, causing the water to flow into the bulkheads that were not watertight. Then it was only a matter of time before another compartment flooded. And another. And another.  

Then, as Thomas Andrews knew, it was a mathematical certainty that the Titanic would sink. It was only a matter of time.  

In the movie, Thomas tells Captain Smith they have an hour—or two at most. This, too, is pretty accurate. The real Thomas Andrews told Captain Smith they had about one to two and a half hours to stay afloat. 

The look on Bernard Hill’s portrayal of Captain Smith tells it all when he hears the news. The Titanic will sink. Can you imagine what must go through your mind?  

Knowing it is only a matter of time before the only thing keeping you from the cold, Atlantic Ocean slips beneath the water. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like. 

Soon after this, in the movie, Captain Smith goes into the wireless operator’s room and orders him to issue a C.Q.D. 

This is true and happened around 12:00 AM midnight. As the mail room was flooding, Captain Smith ordered a C.Q.D. distress call. Now, again for those of us who aren’t nautical experts, C.Q.D. comes from the French term “sécu”. Basically, it means “General Call”. The “D” at the end stands for “Distress”.  

So a C.Q.D. is a general distress call. Meaning, basically, anyone who is nearby—help! 

The man we see issuing this call in the movie is actor Gregory Cooke’s portrayal of Jack Phillips. The other operator in the room with him in the film is Harold Bride.  

Back in the movie, Rose runs into Thomas Andrews and asks him to be honest with her. What’s going on? 

He replies, telling her something no one wanted to hear. The ship will sink. He urges her to get to a lifeboat as quickly as she can. Then he tells her something even worse. Do you remember what I told you about the boats? 

If you remember, earlier in the movie Thomas told Rose there were only enough lifeboats for about half of the passengers. As we learned earlier, this is also true. Although not George Clooney’s tragic story at sea, the true story of the Titanic was certainly a perfect storm of disasters. 

At 12:05 AM, the squash court, which was 32 feet above the keel, started to fill up with water. I’m not speaking of a relative to pumpkins, but squash the game. Similar to racquetball. Elsewhere on the ship, the crew started to uncover and prepare the lifeboats. 

In the movie, there’s a mention of the Carpathia. According to the film, they’ve heard the Titanic’s distress call and can be there. In four hours. 

This is true, although the Carpathia wasn’t the only ship who heard and responded to the Titanic’s distress calls. As you might imagine, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride in the wireless room were constantly sending out the distress calls. 

After issuing a C.Q.D., Harold joked with Jack that he should also use a new distress call—S.O.S., saying it might be the last time he gets to use the new call. So they did, alternating between C.Q.D. and S.O.S. 

While it wasn’t all at once, there were seven other ships who heard the distress signal and started to head toward the Titanic. Organized by distance, there was the Mount Temple at about 49 miles or 79 kilometers away, the Carpathia at 58 miles or 93 kilometers, the Birma at 70 miles or 113 kilometers, the Frankfort at 153 miles or 246 kilometers, the Virgninian at 170 miles or 273 kilometers, the Baltic at 253 miles or 407 kilometers and even the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic was about 500 miles, or 800 kilometers, away and started to respond to the distress calls. 

Unfortunately, they were all just too far away to get there in time. 

Back in the movie, Rose makes a heroic effort to save a handcuffed Jack down toward the bottom of the ship. As water is rising, she rushes to find help. The lights flicker on and off. 

This whole storyline is made up, as we’ve said time and time again, but as Kathy Bates’ version of Molly Brown watches the sinking ship, a flare is shot into the sky. 

That happened.  

While many of the ships who heard the distress call were too far away, the one that could’ve gotten there the quickest was the Californian. It was only about 10 miles, or about 16 kilometers, away. Remember earlier when we learned about Cyril Evans who went off to bed at 11:30 PM? 

Well, when the crew on the Titanic set off flares, several crew members on the Californian saw them. But they didn’t know what the ship was they were seeing, and it was too far off to know it was sinking.  

All they saw were rockets being shot into the air, and for all they knew it was a celebration of some sort. Since Cyril was asleep, they tried to contact the ship using a Morse code lamp. That was basically a lamp they flicked on and off to pass messages visually. 

There was never a response, probably because the crew on the Titanic was busy with their own efforts on the lifeboats and didn’t see it. 

After the fact, crew of the Californian would say it seemed like the ship they saw shoot off the rockets was getting further away. Or was it that they just saw the lights growing dimmer as the Titanic sank beneath the chilly waters? 

The way the movie depicts the passengers getting into the lifeboats is pretty accurate, too. At 12:20 AM, five minutes after the band started playing some rather lively tunes to try to keep up spirits, the crew started loading passengers into the lifeboats. Women and children first.  

This is right around the same time the Carpathia responded to the distress call and started heading full steam toward the Titanic. But they were almost 60 miles (96 kilometers) away, and the other ships we mentioned a moment before hadn’t heard the call yet. 

Back in the movie, Victor Garber’s version of Thomas Andrews gets upset at Second Officer Lightoller for not filling up the lifeboats all the way. There was only 12 people in that boat? It could hold 70! 

Although we don’t know the specific numbers or, really, if it was even brought up this way, the point the movie makes here is true. Many of the lifeboats were sent off of the Titanic long before they were filled. 

At 12:45 AM, the very first lifeboat off the ship was on the starboard side, the number seven lifeboat. It had a capacity of 65 people, and carried in it only 28 when it left the Titanic. 

Although Billy Zane’s character, Cal Hockley, is fictional, we can only imagine that his attempts to board a lifeboat by bribing the crew was something many must’ve tried to do. Remember, many on board the Titanic were well-off, and probably quite used to using money to get their way. 

As the ship slowly slipped further beneath the water, the situation grew more and more desperate by the second. 

We don’t know exactly what it was like. But we can imagine. The scenes with children being torn from their parents. The assurances that they’d only be apart for a little while. That’s exactly the sort of thing Leonardo DiCaprio’s character says to Kate Winslet’s Rose to convince her to get onto a lifeboat.  

We’ll see each other again soon. This is but a brief separation. 

Only to know…you’ll never see them again. 

In the movie, Rose jumps from the lifeboat to reunite with Jack. As romantic as this is, it also means they’re both on board the sinking Titanic. Their situation isn’t getting any better. 

On board the real Titanic, at 12:55 AM, the first lifeboat left the port side of the ship. This is actually the one that carried Margaret Brown. With a capacity of 65, again, only 28 are on her boat. Another lifeboat on the starboard side is lowered at the same time. There’s 41 on this one—24 empty seats. 

Five minutes later, another lifeboat leaves the starboard side. 32 people on board, including 11 of the Titanic’s crew. 33 empty seats.

 

It took ten minutes to get another lifeboat ready to lower. This one was a smaller boat; it could only hold 40 people. There were 12 people on it. Seven of those were Titanic’s crew. 

Back in the movie, with water rushing from all sides, Jack and Rose try to find their way out. They go left—the wrong way. Go right, that’s the wrong way, too. 

We can only imagine what it must’ve been like for those trapped below decks. We just don’t know what it was like because, well, we don’t have any records from those who were trapped. 

On deck, the movie shows Jonathan Hyde’s character, White Star Line’s President Bruce Ismay, getting on one of the lifeboats. Then, as the scene starts to get more chaotic, Ewan Stewart’s version of First Officer Murdoch commits suicide by shooting himself.  

According to the movie, this is after he threatens the terrified passengers as they try to rush the lifeboats. In a moment of panic, he shoots into the crowd, killing one of the passengers. Then, realizing what he’s done, he salutes actor Mark Lindsay Chapman’s version of Chief Officer Wilde and then turns the gun on himself. 

This is…well, we don’t really know if it’s true or not. What happened to First Officer Murdoch is a mystery that has never been resolved. 

What we do know is that at 2:00 AM, First Officer Murdoch launched a lifeboat with Bruce Ismay on board. Then there were shots fired. Fifteen minutes later, Murdoch disappeared. He was never seen again. 

It’s understandable to assume things might have gone down the way they did in the movie. And maybe they did. But these weren’t the first shots fired, and they certainly weren’t the last.  

According to witness accounts, there were over 40 suicides on the Titanic and almost 70 other shooting incidents. Needless to say, it was pure chaos as some people tried to do whatever they could to live while others simply gave up. 

In the movie, as Jack and Rose try to escape they come across Thomas Andrews again. He’s staring off into nothing…or is that a painting he’s looking at? He seems distraught. Resolute in his fate. Rose hugs him and they say their final goodbyes. 

While Rose wasn’t real, the real Thomas Andrews did go down with the Titanic. One of the ship’s stewards, a man named John Stewart, claimed to have been the last one to see Thomas alive. At 2:10 AM, Thomas was doing exactly what he was in the movie: staring at a painting above a fireplace in the first-class smoking room. Next to him lay an unused lifejacket. That’s the one he gave to Rose in the movie. 

As you might imagine, there tends to be some controversy around what happened to others on the ship. We only have witness reports, and with all of the chaos it’s hard to know what really happened. It’s hard to know who to believe. 

For example, Bernard Hill’s version of Captain Smith goes into the ship’s bridge and closing the door as the water swirls around him. 

On the real Titanic, the wireless operator Harold Bride, who survived, claimed he saw Captain Smith dive from the bridge. Others say Captain Smith let himself sink into the water after hearing of First Officer Murdoch’s demise. 

But the movie seems to go with the version told by another of the survivors, a man name Robert Williams Daniel. Robert was interviewed by the New York Herald on April 19th, 1912. In the interview, Robert claimed to have watched Captain Smith drown.

According to Robert:

 I saw Captain Smith on the bridge. My eyes seemingly clung to him. The deck from which I had lept was immersed. The water had risen slowly, and was now to the floor of the bridge. Then it was to Captain Smith’s waist. I saw him no more. He died a hero.

 

The movie also shows four musicians playing music throughout the chaotic ordeal. There’s two violinists and two cellists. They keep playing. Calming passengers with music as their own fate is sealed. 

This, sadly, is also true. Although there weren’t four musicians. In truth there were eight of them. They were Theodore Brailey, a pianist, three cellists named Percy Taylor, John Woodward and Roger Bricoux. There was one bassist named John Clarke and three violinists, John Hume, Georges Krins and Wallace Harley. Wallace was also the bandmaster. 

Together, these eight men continued to play even as chaos grew around them. One of the passengers who survived recounted their heroism and said:

Many brave things were done that night. But none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower into the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.

 

Back in the movie, the back end, or stern, of the Titanic starts to raise in the air as the bow continues to sink. Chaos is everywhere as people try to do whatever they can to survive.  

As you can probably guess, even though there were no Jack and Rose to hang onto the railing on the stern of the ship, the portrayal of how the Titanic sank is pretty accurate. 

Just before sealing his own fate, Captain Smith relieved Jack Phillips and Harold Bride from their duties as wireless operators at 2:10 AM. This is just before he went back to the bridge. Despite this, Jack continued to send messages in desperation with the final message from the Titanic was sent at 2:17 AM. 

One minute later, there was a huge roar in the still night air. A single blink of the lights, and then they went out. This time, for good. Just like the movie shows, the Titanic had broken in half, and the bow half made its way to the bottom of the Atlantic. 

For two minutes, the stern section of the Titanic righted itself as it settled back into the water. But it, too, was doomed. Slowly, it began to fill with water. As it did, the front part sank and the back raised high into the air. Then, slowly, it sank. 

In the movie, after the ship goes down, Rose surfaces to a lot of survivors who are all trying to stay above water. Finally, Jack and Rose meet and they find a piece of debris to hold onto. Jack says the lifeboats will come back for them now.  

But, according to the movie, those on the lifeboats refuse to go back out of fear the survivors will swamp the boat. Not everyone is that callous, though, and we see one lifeboat come back for survivors. 

Unfortunately, the movie is pretty accurate in this. Many of the passengers and crew in the lifeboats who had made it off the of the Titanic didn’t want to return to find survivors in the water. Only two of the lifeboats returned to the area to look for survivors. And of the survivors they managed to pick up, many of those died from the cold waters. 

As for the rest? They were afraid there would be too many survivors and they’d swamp the lifeboats, causing them to sink as well. 

So, instead, those who had managed to escape the Titanic on a lifeboat stayed just far enough away that they were too far for those in the frigid water to swim to them. They had to have heard the cries for help. The screams of desperation that slowly began to quiet as more and more of those who had survived the sinking of the Titanic started to sink themselves. 

As Jack and Rose say their final goodbye, many people have wondered why Jack didn’t just get onto the wood with Rose. Here I’ll point out if you haven’t seen the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters episode where they figure out the science behind whether or not Jack and Rose really could’ve fit onto this piece of wood, I’d highly recommend it. I won’t add any spoilers here, but you should certainly check it out[3]

For our purposes comparing it to history, we know for a fact Jack couldn’t have gotten onto the wood after the real Titanic sank because, well, neither Jack nor Rose were real.  

As one of the lifeboats comes, Rose tries to rouse Jack. But it’s too late. She kisses him goodbye as he slips beneath the water. 

Although they’re fictional characters, the mere fact that Jack was in the water would’ve been enough to finish Jack off pretty quickly. Historians estimate the water was about 28 degrees Fahrenheit on the night of April 15th, 1912. That means a human would be able to survive for about two or three minutes. 

And that’s where the story ends in the movie. The next scene cuts back to an elderly Rose who explains that 1,500 people perished with the Titanic and although there were 20 boats nearby, only one came back. 

Well, we already learned that two boats came back, but again that’s being pretty nitpicky. Most of the lifeboats didn’t come back. And the number of people who perished? Unfortunately, that’s pretty accurate as well.  

Of the 2,227 people on board the Titanic, over half perished when the she sank into the depths. Of course, these are just estimates. As we learned earlier, there aren’t exact numbers. Some say 1,522 people perished. Some say 1,512.

 At 3:30 AM, almost a full hour after the Titanic sank, the Carpathia sighted the first lifeboats. Although her normal speed was topped out at 14.5 knots. That converts to about 16.5 miles or 26.8 kilometers per hour, the crew on the Carpathia were pushing the ship as fast as she could go.  

They raced to the Titanic at 17.5 knots. That converts to 20 miles or 32 kilometers per hour. Still not very fast, but way faster than the ship should’ve gone. They were doing their best to help the survivors of the Titanic. At 4:10 AM, the first lifeboat was picked up by the Carpathia.  

For the next four hours, the Carpathia scoured the wreckage looking for survivors. At 8:30 AM, the Californian came alongside the Carpathia to help search for survivors. Second Officer Charles Lightoller was the very last survivor to be rescued. 

Twenty minutes later, and with no more survivors to be found, the Carpathia started to head to New York. As they left, Bruce Ismay sent a wire to the White Star Line offices in New York. It read:  

Deeply regret to advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision with iceberg, resulting in serious loss of life. Full particulars later.

 

On April 18th, 1912 at 9:00 PM, the Carpathia arrived in New York City to a throng of 10,000 people waiting to see the survivors.

 

As the movie comes to a close, one of Bill Paxton’s crewmembers tells Gloria Stuart’s elderly Rose character that there never was a record of Jack Dawson.  

To which Rose replies that there wouldn’t be one, implying because he won the ticket it wouldn’t be in his name. She goes on to explain that despite there not being a record of him, there was a man named Jack Dawson on board the Titanic.

This, of course, isn’t real. There was no real Jack Dawson as that was a character made up for the movie. After James Cameron finished the screenplay for the film, he found out about a young man named Joseph who coincidentally had many similarities to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character. 

Like the fictional Jack, Joseph was in the working class. Although he didn’t win a ticket on the Titanic like Leo’s character did. Joseph was a coal trimmer on the ship. When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Joseph was off-duty and found himself in a similar situation to Jack in the film. 

As he made his way to the deck, he managed to survive by avoiding falling debris and the sinking stern of the ship. Sadly, the way Joseph perished was eerily similar to Jack’s death. Although he didn’t have the hand of a loved one to hang onto like Jack did as hypothermia took hold. 

He didn’t live long enough to be rescued. The only way we know about Joseph is from an identity card that was on his body when it was recovered from the wreckage.

 

The name on the card?  J. Dawson.

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