The Titanic’s tragic sinking between April 14 and 15, 1912, is probably the most famous maritime disaster in history. It’s generated a huge number of books, movies, and TV shows — and even more myths, fabrications, and outright lies. So how easy is it to disentangle fact from fiction? Did a brave dog really save some of its passengers? Were third-class travelers actually locked in their quarters? Was the ship truly cursed by an Egyptian mummy aboard? We're here to answer all these questions and more.
1. The ship’s canine hero
The Titanic’s first officer Lieutenant William Murdoch was at the liner’s helm when it crashed into an iceberg in April 1912. But joining him on board was his Newfoundland dog Rigel. Murdoch lost his life, but the pup survived. The brave dog swam in the icy North Atlantic waters for three hours alongside lifeboat number four. When the rescue ship Carpathia was about to run over this lifeboat, the ship’s crew was alerted by Rigel’s loud bark — saving the Titanic passengers.
The truth behind the legend
Sadly, this great story is completely unfounded. There’s no evidence that Murdoch owned such an animal. And the man who supposedly told this tale to the press was a Carpathia crewman called Jonas Briggs. Yet there was nobody by that name serving aboard the vessel! Not only that: no one aboard either the lifeboat or the Carpathia came forward to confirm this amazing tale. So, this is a Titanic yarn we can confidently mark down as “fake.”
2. The ‘unsinkable’ ship
It’s become a firmly rooted belief that the White Star Line — the Titanic’s owner — had publicly announced that the liner was “unsinkable.” But researchers have been unable to find any instance when a company representative actually used that word to describe the new vessel. It seems that the word was only bandied about after the ship sank.
The unsinkable truth
Professor Richard Howells of England’s King’s College London told the BBC in 2012 that he believed this was the probably biggest Titanic myth of all. That’s a bold claim — considering the huge number of tall tales that have swirled around the ship’s sinking over the years! Howells added, “It is not true that everyone thought this. It’s a retrospective myth, and it makes a better story.”