Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Day One Titanic sets sail


Today one hundred years ago RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage. The story of the ill-fated liner is probably the most well-known story of any ship in the world. One hundred years later we are still listening to the tales of the people who sailed, worked and died when she sank. Descendents relate the outcome of their unfortunate ancestors. Some stories are emotional, others heart-warming and many tragic. But why are we so fascinated by this single ship?

I have to admit I, too, have held a long interest in Titanic's fate. Not because I could claim any connection with any of the two thousand plus souls who embarked upon the White Star's largest and finest ship. No, I have no such claim. My interest began as an impressionable child. I was taken to the cinema to see, A Night to Remember. A black and white film made in the late 1950s. I certainly didn't see the movie on first release; it must have been several years later in the 1960s before I got to a viewing but the story stuck with me. Several years afterwards I found Walter Lord's book of the same title sitting on a library shelf, borrowed the volume, and I was hooked.

As the years passed, I read whatever I could find about the ship including Archibald Gracie's accounts, Titanic: A Survivor's Story and The Truth About the Titanic - I also added Lawrence Beesley's book The loss of the S.S. Titanic. From those early days, I read any book with Titanic in its title and always marvelled at the differences in the accounts. Hence it is easy to see how the many myths arose about the ship, witness accounts rarely tell exactly the same story. We would be suspicious if they did. But I would challenge any reader not to ask themselves, what if? What would I have done if I had been aboard?

The most significant period of Titanic interest came with the discovery of her wreck by Bob Ballard in 1985. Technology had advanced and with the help of a state-of-the-art submersible some of Titanic's secrets were revealed. The photographs and film footage shot by Ballard's team was sensational. After 73 years the world gasped at the sight of the giantess lying upright and majestically at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Over the years, the ship has been used in many films, books, both fact and fiction, and, of course, James Cameron's box-office blockbuster Titanic kindled the interest of youth with the love story of fictional characters Jack and Rose. Fired by the media, the liner's fame grows until today exactly one hundred years after she left Southampton we have a plethora of Titanic related material: television serial, documentaries, passenger accounts, concerts, exhibitions, memorials erected around the world, commercially produced memorabilia and novels.

Who can explain it, who can tell us why? I shall be giving my take on those two questions – Day Two Titanic on her way to Queenstown on this blog tomorrow.

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