The sinking of the Titanic is arguably one of the most famous shipwrecks in history. While there are other ships that have sunken and been discovered since then, the Titanic holds a special place not only in history, but in pop culture. The movie Titanic publicized one of the most tragic and avoidable disasters in recent history and ensured that there are plenty who are still fascinated with the shipwreck and anything that comes out of it to this day.
A Supersized Piece of History
A recent auction sale of Titanic memorabilia offers an even deeper look into what things were like on the Titanic prior to its sinking. The Titanic was a British passenger liner that was the largest built ship at the time, and had a capacity of over 2000 passengers when fully loaded.
Titanic was built along several other supersized ships at the time, a pinnacle of engineering that hadn’t been attempted before. The sheer size of these ships made their completion a stunning accomplishment all on their own, though the ultimate history of the Titanic in particular is tragic.
A Tragic Example of Hubris
The Titanic was highly regarded by both its engineers and its crew, so much so that it’s believed that Captain Edward John Smith even claimed that “God himself couldn’t sink this boat.” The hubris of the ship’s creators and crew are, in part, what led to the tragic loss of life aboard the Titanic.
The biggest hurdle that led to the massive loss of life when the Titanic sank was the lack of preparation for disaster. Those who designed the ship and organized the trip were so sure that nothing could possibly be a problem that they didn’t adequately prepare for any sort of contingencies or eventualities.
The Lack of Lifeboats Sealed Their Fate
The Titanic was equipped with 16 lifeboat davits, which were capable of lowering three lifeboats each, for a total of 48 total lifeboats that the ship had capacity for. Despite this, there were only 20 lifeboats aboard the Titanic, four of which were collapsible and hard to launch when the Titanic eventually began to sink.
The lack of escape boats is what led to the tragic loss of life when the Titanic hit the iceberg. While there were hours between the initial strike and the eventual sinking of the ship, the passengers panicked and the crew were ill-equipped to deal with the pandemonium. Many passengers didn’t make it aboard a lifeboat, and hundreds of people died due to the tragic oversight.
A Luxury Trip, Despite the Ultimate Outcome
The ultimate tragedy of the Titanic doesn’t change the fact that from the get-go, it was painted as the ultimate luxury trip. First-class tickets for the Titanic cost $150 per seat, which is the equivalent of approximately $4000 in contemporary money. There were 324 people who purchased a ticket to sail first class on the ship, and they were treated with the finest accommodations.
A menu from the Titanic that recently sold at auction emphasizes this heightened luxury of the trip. The menu, dated April 11, 1912, was recently discovered in the collection of Len Stephenson, a community historian based out of Nova Scotia. Many Titanic artifacts came out of the nearby Halifax dive site, which is likely how he came to discover it.
The Menu Paints a Fascinating Picture
The menu itself paints a clear picture of what the passenger treatment was like aboard the luxury ship. There were different menus for the different classes of tickets, of course, but meals served aboard the Titanic were the height of luxury and opulence.
First-class passengers of the Titanic dined on a menu of such things as foie gras, lamb, oysters, and French ice cream. A different menu dated April 14 reveals they also had the option of things like salmon, anchovies, mutton chops, and several different kinds of cheeses available to them.
An Unusual Discovery
New discoveries of artifacts like the April 11 menu are rare. It’s been more than a century since the Titanic sank, and decades since the wreck itself was discovered. Many of the relics that could be saved from the ship have already been salvaged, but this menu was discovered in a private collection, making it a unique find.
Indeed, new discoveries like this menu are so rare to be practically nonexistent. The few menus that have survived and were able to be retrieved from the shipwreck are all accounted for, and even the owner of the auction house that sold the menu recognized the fact that it’s very likely one of a kind.
A Pretty Penny for History
The menu went up for auction and ultimately fetched a sale price of $100,000 to a private collector. This sale was not without controversy, though. The rarity of the find as well as its historic significance means that there are some who believe it should not have been offered for private sale at all.
Harry Bennet, a professor of maritime history at the University of Plymouth, even stated in an interview that artifacts like the ones that were auctioned away would be better off suited in a museum, rather than in private hands. The menu was auctioned off with a blanket used by a survivor of the sinking, and a pocket watch that was once owned by a Russian immigrant who ultimately died in the tragedy.
Dinner Time Conversation
Despite the controversy surrounding the ultimate sale of the items, the menu and the other artifacts are still an incredible find. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about the tragedy of the Titanic, even vaguely, and discoveries like this one only make the reality of history that much more significant.
Though the ship wrecked and sank more than one hundred years ago, it still fascinates history buffs and casual observers alike. The menu of the Titanic offers a glimpse of what the trip was like for the ultimately doomed passengers, and allows for a deeper look into a piece of maritime history.