With Titanic sinking in the early hours of 15 April 1912, boatswain Albert Nichols has to muster his men and make ready the lifeboats. Around 1am, it’s claimed, he was given a dangerous mission that, if successful, would save many more lives. But mystery swirls around what happened in the next 80 minutes. Click here for sources.

The last known photo of Titanic.

Actress Dorothy Gibson, who survived the sinking and who starred in the first Titanic movie, released 29 days after the sinking. She escaped in Lifeboat 7, which Albert was supposed to man. But he was elsewhere, readying other lifeboats.

The Titanic’s band did keep playing, though there’s debate over what they played at the end. None would survive.

Albert supervised the loading and launching of several Titanic lifeboats.

One of the most famous headlines in history, though only 705 people actually survived and the death toll was about 1500.

Charles Lightoller, Second Officer of Titanic. Much of what we know about Albert’s fate came from his testimony. But he admitted that he lied to protect himself and the White Star Line.

Albert Nichols was born in 1864 on remote Lord Howe Island. After a public scandal that saw him pitted against his parents, Albert fled to Sydney before working his way to London as a seaman. There he established a successful career with the White Star Line, working as a boatswain first on the company’s luxury liner Adriatic and then on the even-bigger Olympic. In April 1912 he transferred to Titanic, the greatest ship ever built and was aboard for the liner’s sea trials, for the trip from Belfast to Southampton and for the maiden voyage. His life story is told for the first time in this two-part episode — and, despite this being a true Titanic tale, you simply won’t believe the ending.

Albert “Big Neck” Nichols, Lord Howe Island native, unsung Titanic hero.

Mary Nichols – Albert’s tyrannical mother.

Thomas Nichols – Albert’s hard-drinking father.

Lord Howe Island, Albert’s birthplace, as it looks today.

Thomas Nichols was the captain of the whaling barque Aladdin, depicted left in this colonial painting, Offshore Whaling With Aladdin And Jane, by William Duke.

Albert’s home, The Pines, which is now award-winning resort Pinetrees Lodge.

George Nichols, Albert’s brother, who helped him escape Lord Howe Island.

Albert’s 1909 letter to his uncle William, written on Adriatic letterhead, now displayed at Pinetrees Lodge.