In the Wreckage of the Titanic

How many shipwrecks lie at the bottom of the great oceans? According to World Atlas, there are millions of shipwrecks on the ocean floor, and we only know of a small fraction of them, with an even smaller portion explored. As an example, the site describes the losses during the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War: about 3,500 merchant vessels, 783 submarines, and 175 warships.

It’s strange to think about but in many ways, our oceans are more of a mystery to us than outer space.

Titanic route. X marks the spot where the ship sank


But one particular wreckage captures our imagination. Lying 12,500 feet below the ocean’s surface (2.37 miles), is the beautiful Titanic ocean liner, that sank so disastrously on its maiden voyage across the ocean.

I recently came across some claimant forms for the Titanic in the National Archives. This is the paperwork Titanic survivors filed to be recompensed for their property that went down with the ship. Have you ever wondered what is lying down there, on the ocean floor?

Photo credit: Digiblue from UK.


This pocket watch once was. No one knows who it belonged to, but it stopped at 2:28, probably just a few moments after its owner went into the water.

Note: All documentation pictured here is courtesy of the National Archives, photographs of Titanic passengers are from Encyclopedia Titanica.

Baggage Claim Coupon from the Titanic

Baggage Claim Coupon from the Titanic


I’m guessing Elina Honkanen’s claim was typical for a survivor of the Titanic. Miss Honkanen was a third class passenger, and I could not find a picture of her.

$310 was a lot of money (with inflation the equivalent in 2021 would be $8,724.84) but most people who could afford to sail on the Titanic, even in third class, had a little money.

Claim of Elina Honkanen, per National Archives


Next up, we have Robert Williams Daniel, who was a little more well-to-do than Elina. Mr. Daniel was a first class passenger, and the great great grandson of Edward Randolph first Attorney General of the United States.

Mr. Daniel seemed to be carrying a lot of money: he had money in his pocket, money held in safekeeping with the ship’s purser, and some very expensive clothing, shoes, and a French bull dog, all of which added up to $4,583 (2021 equivalent: $128,987).  

Robert Williams Daniel

Claim of Robert W. Daniel, per National Archives


Next is second-class passenger, Emilio Ilario Giuseppe Portaluppi. Portaluppi had immigrated from Italy to New Hampshire some years earlier, but at the age of 30, he returned to his homeland for a visit. On his way back to New Hampshire, the tragedy struck. Mr. Portaluppi evidently made a dive for one of the last lifeboats, missed, and swam for over two hours before being picked up by another lifeboat.

Emilio Ilario Giuseppe Portaluppi

Claim of Emilio Portaluppi, per the National Archives


One of the more glamorous figures on board the Titanic was Léontine Pauline Aubart. Per Encyclopedia Titanica, Mme. Léontine Pauline Aubart (known as “Ninette”), 24, was born in Paris on 20 May 1887. She was a singer, living in Paris.

She boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg with her maid Emma Sägesser. She occupied cabin B-35 and was the mistress of the very handsome Benjamin Guggenheim (father of Peggy Guggenheim!), who died in the wreck. Mme. Aubart and Emma Sägesser were rescued, probably in lifeboat 9.

It’s hard to approximate how much wealth Mme. Aubart had with her. She estimated it to be 61,000 francs, and her lingerie alone to be worth 6,000 francs.

What that would amount to today is difficult to say. $61,000 dollars would be worth over $1.8 million in 2021, with lingerie accounting for $168,000.

Take a look at what her luggage contained!

Mme. Léontine Pauline Aubart

Benjamin Guggenheim, the lover of Mme. Aubert

Claim of Leontine Pauline Aubert, per the National Archives