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Since its doomed maiden voyage in 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic has remained a fixture of public consciousness and popular culture.

The most famous film about it is 1997’s Titanic, but was it more fiction than fact?
Unfortunately, information as to what really happened during the sinking of the Titanic is much like the iceberg that sealed its fate. Approximately only 10 per cent of an iceberg is visible, while the other 90 per cent is underwater. Similarly, only a small percentage of what happened to the Titanic is known, while the rest is unconfirmed theories and complete mystery.
With a running time of over three hours, 90 percent of Titanic focuses on the fictional love story of Jack (Leonardo Di Caprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) with plenty of distractions (including, ahem, Billy Zane as Rose’s fiancé). Director James Cameron’s version of events favours spectacle over specifics, relying more on heart than history.
Matter of facts
Let’s consider what is known about the sinking of the Titanic in order to know what Cameron got right. Following its sinking, several investigations took place, which involved interviewing witnesses and survivors and consulting maritime experts. Not to mention, the countless investigations, books, and research conducted in the hundred-plus years since.
On April 10, 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic departed from Southampton, England, en route across the North Atlantic to New York. It had taken over three years to build, and upon its completion it was considered to be the most luxurious and fastest ship, a marvel of industry.
Its eclectic group of passengers included millionaires, teachers, emigrants, silent movie stars, and industrialists. The ship was a feat to be sure, but it had one deadly flaw. As Cameron depicts in Titanic, the ship was not equipped with enough lifeboats. There were only 16 on board and four “collapsibles,” which only accommodated 1,178 people on a ship with the capacity for 3,300.
Surprisingly, the boats on the Titanic actually surpassed the amount required by the British Board of Trade. It was the largest passenger steamship ever built, but could not ensure the safety of the passengers.
At around 11:30pm on April 14th, the Titanic hit an iceberg, which caused a 300-foot gash on the side of the ship underwater. Based on witness accounts, the moments leading up to and during this collision are well-documented, and Cameron does an accurate job in depicting them.
The night the ship hit the iceberg, the waters were relatively calm, with temperatures near freezing, and it was a clear and moonless sky, conditions which made it difficult to spot the ice. Though the wireless operator received reports of ice from other ships, sailing conditions were seemingly good, so these warnings were ignored.
While the ship was going at the full speed of 22½ knots, a lookout saw an iceberg ahead. As the movie shows, the lookout rang a warning bell, called the bridge, and exclaimed: “Iceberg, right ahead.” The ship was steered away, but it was coming in too quickly to avoid the iceberg completely. The Titanic grazed it, causing pieces of ice to break off and fall onto the ship’s deck, as seen in the film.

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