You’ve been transported back in time to the unsinkable luxury cruise ship, the Titanic. But you know how things really turn out for this ocean liner. And as you hear screaming in the hallway, you realize that your knowledge from the future is about to become the difference between life and death. The ship starts sinking, time is running out, and there’s nowhere to run.
The Royal Mail Ship, or RMS Titanic, was a luxury steamship built between 1909 and 1911. It was the largest movable artificial object in the world at the time, billed as “unsinkable.” It carried 2,240 people from Europe to New York on its only voyage.
But in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg, and it sank in the frigid water of the North Atlantic Ocean. Over 1,500 people died, and only 705 people survived. This continues to be one of the most famous maritime tragedies in history.
Should you jump off or wait for the ship to sink? How long could you survive in the water? Is it true that being drunk might help you survive?
Many things went wrong on that tragic night. As chaos and fear took over, bad decisions and selfish actions made escaping even harder. The 16 lifeboats could only carry less than 1,200 people. And nearly every lifeboat would be launched without being filled. Some lifeboats only had a handful of passengers.
Here’s what you could have done to survive.
Step 1: Bring Lots of Money
Paying for a more expensive cabin would help, since the first-class passengers were rescued first. They were also more likely to be higher up in the ship. And your chance of surviving would be greater if you were a woman or a child, since 97% of the female first-class passengers were rescued. Only 32% of their male counterparts were saved.
Step 2. Layer up
Wear as much clothing as possible. Both the water and air were cold. Whether you were on a lifeboat or in the water, wearing more clothes would help you live longer. Wool repels water and creates insulating air pockets. Wearing a lifejacket would be very helpful. But without one, you could stuff your shirt with empty containers to help you float.
Step 3: Have a Drink
Charles Joughin, the chief baker of the Titanic, survived the sinking. He calmly stayed on the ship until the last second, floated with his lifebelt for two hours, then found an overturned lifeboat and then paddled around until he was rescued. His secret? He had more than a few drinks before and after the ship began sinking. While we do not encourage you to get drunk in an emergency, it is essential to have courage. Don’t let panic keep you from seeing a solution that’s right in front of you.
Step 4. Don’t jump
If there’s no room on the lifeboats, try to get to the highest point and wait for the ship to sink. The idea that you will be sucked underwater with it has been tested and disproved. The Titanic’s lifeboat deck was 17.6 m (58 ft) above the water, and even a 6 m (20ft) jump is enough to compress your spine and break bones.
Step 5. Get out of the water
In cold water, it takes 15 to 60 minutes for your core temperature to drop below 28°C (82.4°F) and stop your heart. When you hit the cold water, it causes an inhalation reflex. So, try to breathe out and counter that. After a minute of hyperventilating, you’ll have 10 more minutes before your limbs become too cold to move. Climb onto the deck chairs you threw off earlier. Or get on some floating debris, anything that gets you out of the water.
Step 6: Work Together
Stay with a group of people, and keep each other awake while you wait to be rescued. And if you can, share your pieces of floating debris. Don’t be like Rose. This tragedy could have been avoided if there were more lifeboats on the ship, and a clear evacuation plan had been executed. Instead, it was chaotic. So, if you’re ever in this situation, follow the protocol and don’t panic. Stay focused, be positive, and wait for rescuers to arrive.
- “Titanic”. 2021. HISTORY.
- “‘There was no great shock or anything’: How a baker survived the Titanic disaster by getting really drunk”. Tristin Hopper. 2021. nationalpost.com.
- “12 famous people who died on the Titanic — and 11 who survived”. Aine, Caine. 2021. Business Insider.
- “100 unsinkable facts about the Titanic” Jackie Loohauis-Bennett. 2021. jsonline.com.
- “The thought experiment: How could you survive the Titanic disaster, if there was no room in the lifeboats?”. BBC Science Focus Magazine.