Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ship of Dreams

It was one hundred years ago today, at 11:40 pm, that the infamous Titanic struck an iceberg.  This ship and its sinking has always been a fascination for me.

April 20th (the date featured in the ad on the left above) was the day the ship
was scheduled to leave New York to return to England.
Photo courtesy Hilton Archives/Getty Images.
Canada has always had a special connection to this tragedy, quite apart from the fact that the director of the eponymous movie, James Cameron, was born here - many people and ships from Halifax, Nova Scotia were involved in the recovery of the victims' bodies at the time and 121 of those are buried in a cemetery there.  There is a museum there, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which has a permanent Titanic exhibit, which is said to house the largest collection of wooden artifacts from the ship, including a deck chair.  I visited both these locations about 10 years ago and found them to be both very interesting and very moving.  Especially so is the grave of the unknown child, a 19 month old boy whose remains were not identified until 2007.  You can read more about that here.

I've learned some interesting things this week in reading some of the articles and stories that have been written as part of the anniversary.  Did you know that director James Cameron drew all those sketches that were shown in the movie as the artist's portfolio of the character Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio)? I didn't know that before now.
Photo courtesy of

I also read that Canada's biggest maritime ship disaster in Canadian waters was the sinking of the Canadian RMS Empress of Ireland, which sank in the St. Lawrence River after being struck by a Norweigan ship called the SS Storstad on 29 May 1914. 1,012 people perished in that sinking, as compared to 1,514 passengers and crew who died when the Titanic sunk. Apparently there were 465 survivors.  Many thanks to Tartan Gargoyle for posting that information online.  Strangely enough, I have never heard of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland before now.

About 710 people survived the sinking of the Titanic.  None of them are alive today, the last one died in 2009 at the age of 97.  She was just 2 months old when the ship went down.

A Swiss artist by the name of Gerry Hoffstetter projected images of the ship on an actual iceberg in Greenland yesterday as part of the memorial events, you can read about it and see one of those pictures here.  Rather a clever idea, although somewhat ironic and irreverent at the same time, IMHO (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Last but not least, check out this link for some rare photos of the Titanic, where I also learned that there are some unfortunate souls posting on Twitter that they didn't realize that the Titanic was a real ship and not just a movie.  How sad is that?  (Then again, I hadn't heard of the Empress of Ireland, so perhaps I shouldn't be too critical.)

When I went to camp as a child, I learned the song "Oh, they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue.  And they thought they had a ship that the water wouldn't go through. But the Good Lord raised his hand, said that ship will never land. Oh it was sad when the great ship went down."  Do you know that one? I hadn't thought of it in 35 years or so but one of my Facebook friends shared the lyrics earlier this week and I haven't been able to get it out of my head ever since!

I've been watching the movie slowly over the past few days. a little bit at a time to match each day of the original voyage, as my own little memorial.  I'm up to the part where they have just struck the iceberg, going to watch the rest tonight.  Sure, it's just a Hollywood recreation but it certainly was a pretty awesome creation from a technical point of view and it does have real footage of the underwater wreck.  Just one of many fitting tributes that remain to preserve the memory of this famous ship and those who perished in the sea a century ago.

1 comment:

Lori Wostl said...

Both my g-kids have been fascinated by the Titanic story for years! Since they are 10 and 12 that is saying something. The first book my g-son ever checked out of the library was about the Titanic at 5 years old. Since they are at my house a lot, I know a lot more about the ship now than even my grandmother, who remembered the sinking well. Thanks for the memorial.