While floating neck-deep in the bone-chilling water somewhere in the Atlantic, Jack makes Rose promise that no matter what happened, she would survive and live a long and happy life. There are many things that can be said about this perfect Hollywood moment, but the icy water had already sealed both of their fates.
A rescue boat that arrived looking for survivors rouses Rose from her feeble, semi-frozen state. She begs Jack to wake up, but realizes that he has passed away, sacrificing his own life to save Rose.
The entire world is familiar with this heartbreakingly poignant scene just before the end of Titanic. As such an unprecedented blockbuster in film history, the validity of this particular scene has been the center of much debate and scrutiny. People (predominantly Jack’s fans) claim that both Jack and Rose could have fit on the floating piece of a broken door, and that the ending of the movie didn’t have to be quite so painful!
However, is it true? Could Jack have really survived the Titanic disaster by climbing onto the raft after lifting Rose onto it? Did Jack really have to die?
First things first…
Was there enough space on the raft to fit both Jack and Rose?
For twenty years, Titanic-lovers have been a bit enraged over this particular scene and have offered a number of explanations as to how there was enough room for both Rose and Jack to fit on the raft. Movie enthusiasts have also suggested a number of ‘clever’ positions that Jack and Rose could have tried to fit on the raft together. The following picture might give you some idea of what I’m talking about:
There you have it! There was, indeed, enough space for both of them to fit together on the raft.
However, for James Cameron (the director of Titanic), the amount of room available on the raft was never a concern. In fact, time and again, he has maintained that it was not the amount of space available on the raft, but rather its buoyancy.
Buoyancy is the upward force that a fluid (in this case, water) exerts against the weight of an object that’s immersed in it, and it is this natural force that denied Jack from climbing onto it. You might have heard about buoyancy many times in relation to ships and boats, particularly how a small nail sinks in water, but giant ships stay afloat and so on.
In the case of Titanic, Cameron suggested that there wasn’t enough buoyancy offered by the water to the raft to support both of their weights together.
Could Jack have fit on the door?
Cameron is correct in his claim about the raft’s buoyancy; the raft, as it was shown in the movie, couldn’t have taken the combined weight of both Jack and Rose. Still, that doesn’t mean that nothing could have been done to prevent Jack’s unfortunate demise.
Mythbusters, a popular Discovery TV show, presented a solution to this raft and buoyancy problem. In order to make the boat capable of supporting their combined weight, they had to add more upward thrust to the raft. But how would they do that?
Rose’s life-jacket could have been tied under the raft to provide it with some additional buoyancy. The increased buoyant force, as Mythbusters demonstrated in real conditions, would have been enough to support their combined weight and would have kept both of them protected from the icy waters until the rescue boats arrived.
Take a look at the short clip from Mythbusters below:
Turns out, using Rose’s life-jacket, along with some ‘buoyant’ intelligence, could have saved the day for Jack.
When Cameron saw (on Mythbusters) that Jack could actually have saved himself by pulling off this clever physical trick, he wasn’t taken aback. Instead, he quipped, “I think you guys are missing the point here. The script says Jack dies. He has to die. So maybe we screwed up and the board should have been a little tiny bit smaller, but the dude’s going down.”
Sorry, Jack! Turns out it just wasn’t your day.