Friday, April 13, 2012

Titanic -- As If It Were Yesterday

As I write this, it's 2:54 am EST, April 13th.

I have been thinking a lot about the story of the Titanic and reading up on new information as the 100th anniversary of its sinking approaches. In fact, since it set sail on the 10th from Southampton, I have been wondering what its various passengers were doing, what they were anticipating, thinking about, what they were eating, and how much fun they were having.
Right now, unbeknownst to all, they will be hitting the iceberg in about 22 hours' time, and 1500 of them will be going down with the ship about two hours after that.

The fascination with this story is huge -- an event with all the earmarks of a brilliant tale of triumph, failure, dashed hopes, cowardice, classism, grievous loss -- the kind of grand scale situation that other stories like Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools and Vicki Baum's Grand Hotel touched on.
Titanic, alas, was real, and the wealthy, famous and ordinary alike were individuals with unique futures ahead of them.

I shiver when I contemplate the disaster; in hindsight one always shivers with crawling gooseflesh over catastrophes like this. To know what they couldn't, to wish one could turn back the clock and save them...if only!

One new tiny fact I picked up this week was the ship had a cat named Jenny, and Jenny had a new litter. Jenny and her brood died, too.

I've seen all of the Titanic movies -- A Night To Remember is playing on TCM this week, and most experts say this film rings truest to the way it was. It's a very well done film, worth watching if you haven't ever seen it.

Why is it that some events -- even closer in time to present day -- don't resonate, don't feel so familiar? Perhaps we have spent so much of our lives studying the RMS Titanic; perhaps it's the universality of the events that make us forget how long ago the ship sank.

I dunno. What I do think, however, is that I would have liked to time travel to the Edwardian Period for a little while. There is some quality about this rather ephemeral window -- slightly Victorian, slightly modern, and very short-lived that speaks to me, altho' I can't quite say why.

100 years ago a ship, the largest ever built, set sail for New York and very nearly got there. Now it lies on the floor of the North Atlantic and all eyes are on it.

Oceanographers and marine specialists say the skeletal remains of the Titanic are fast disintegrating. Too amazing and dreadful to contemplate.

When I wonder if the story of the Titanic will fade from history, I come to the conclusion that it will not. There is too much of a romantic fascination shrouding it. Perhaps that's as it should be.


  1. Aww, I hadn't heard of the cat, how sad.
    I never saw the Cameron movie when it first came out - saw it for the first time a couple of years ago when I realised my favourite actor Ioan Gruffudd is in it. He plays the only lieutenant that saved people [g]

    1. Dear Deniz,

      There are all sorts of new details coming to light about the Titanic -- glad you found something redeeming in the Cameron version. (s)

  2. My grandfather was 24 years old when the Titanic sank. I wish I'd asked him about it. He was an admiralty lawyer in NYC and I'm sure he would have had plenty of stories to tell.

    1. Hmm... even though I signed in with my Google account I'm still a great unknown! Marte

    2. Dear Unknown Marte,

      Wow---I wish you had asked him, too!! Ah, well.
      Full steam ahead!