When the “unsinkable” 52,000-ton RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and slid to the bottom of the ocean on her maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, you’d think it would be a night to forget, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.
But not a bit of it — the Titanic centennial will be a worldfest of commemorations, re-enactments, auctions and other special events taking place on both sides of the Atlantic, plus a couple of less likely sites around the globe.
Here’s a rundown on where to see the fixtures, fittings and other artefacts which survived, relive the voyage of those who didn’t and buy into the atmosphere of the world’s most advanced steamship of the times, doomed forever to the deep by pride, folly and human error.
In the city where the fated liner was built, £90 million (US$143 million) and three years have been invested to create a “Titanic Experience” on the old Harland and Wolff ship-building yard.
The show — the world’s largest such experience — opened on March 31 with full-scale reconstructions, rides and a bevy of special effects to tell how Titanic was conceived at the dawn of the 20th century prior to sailing out of Belfast on April 2, 1912.
A full-blown Titanic Festival is now in full swing, including a revival of 1997 Tony-award winner “Titanic The Musical,” an MTV gig on the slipway from which the great liner first plunged into the water and a new play based on the emotional testimonies given to the Titanic Inquiry which followed the disaster in 1912.
City elders and thespians will not be the only ones paying tribute; there’s even a fish and chip shop in the city, Mr.J.D’s, with its own stash of Titanic memorabilia.
On April 10, 1912, Titanic sailed from the newly built White Star Dock on her much-hyped maiden voyage, and a slew of events in the south coast port will include guided walks around the 45 graves of victims who were buried in Southampton.
A street theater company, including two actors with ancestors who were Titanic crew, will be staging a play based around their own terrifyingly real experiences on the voyage.
From April 12-15 the British Titanic Society will hold its annual convention in the city, with an open day for the public, and the whole city will be packed with memorabilia and souvenirs for sale.
The French harbor town that was Titanic’s first port of call saw 281 passengers board their final voyage on the evening of April 10.
The stop-over lasted just 90 minutes — long enough to load the ship with Champagne, fine French cheeses and 10,000 bottles of wine to tempt the palates of connoisseurs traveling First Class.
As the ship sailed into the night towards the south coast of Ireland for its final pick-up, nobody could have imagined in all the excitement that the lucky ones would be the 15 cross-Channel passengers who actually disembarked after the short sailing from Southampton.
Cherbourg is planning to capture its own share of the centennial action this April. An exhibition is due to open at the Cité de la Mer maritime leisure park based on loot and info their president managed to gather from a research trip to New York’s Ellis Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia, while Paris designers have been busy reconstructing part of the liner’s interior and hull.
The buildings, streets and piers of this historic port formerly known as Queenstown became Titanic’s last port of call on April 11,1912.
Only 44 of the 123 passengers who embarked here survived, and the town has long had a memorial to the victims, a Titanic heritage center and a walking tour devoted to the town’s history with the liner.
A series of special events is being staged this month to bump up the tourist offering.
5. St. John, Newfoundland, Canada
Not far from this lonely town, Titanic hit an iceberg in the early morning of April 15. The wreck lay undiscovered until 1985, when it acquired a new life as a tourist attraction, and now, for moneybags with shipwreck nostalgia, the highlight of Titanic’s centennial will be the chance to visit its deathbed in the deep by submarine.
There’s an eerie synchronicity about the US$12,498 starting price tag for the two-week trip this summer — almost exactly US$1 for every foot the liner sank beneath the ocean’s surface.
But that only takes you as far as the surface of the site on an expedition ship. Travelers who actually want to dive into the wreck in a Mir submersible will have to come up wth more than US$66,000 for the privilege for getting up close and personal with the propellers, boiler room and shadowy remnants of the hull.
Many of Titanic’s victims were buried in Canada’s premier maritime city, the closest city to the sinking.
A curling rink was set up as a temporary morgue, and while the bodies of some U.S. victims were shipped home for local burial, the 150 that remained were buried mostly in Fairview Lawn non-denominational cemetery. There are also 19 graves in Catholic Mount Olivet and 10 in the Baron de Hirsch Jewish cemetery.
As well as the graveyards, Halifax has some moving mementoes of the tragedy in its Maritime Museum, including the leather shoes of an “unknown child” who was buried there before being identified years later.
The museum is staging a special exhibition on the cable ships that recovered 205 bodies from the wreck. The Bedford Institute of Oceanography in the cty has its own Titanic display.
7. New York, United States
The luckiest people alive in 1912 were the 705 Titanic passengers who lived to see the Manhattan skyline courtesy of RMS Carpathia, the liner which rescued survivors from the lifeboats.
A century later, their descendants may well ponder if it’s part of their heritage going under the hammer in an auction of 5,500 objects recovered from the ship being sold off in New York by Guernsey’s auctioneers and brokers.
Everything from the hairpin of a fleeing passenger to a diamond name bracelet to a chunk of the liner’s hull went under the hammer on April 11 — but this was not a sale for souvenir-hunters.
A court order has stipulated that the whole collection must go as one lot to a collector who will keep it shipshape and allow the public to view it from time to time. The collection has been valued at around US$189 million.
8. Branson, Missouri, United States
The U.S. midwest may be well inland from the Atlantic, but a version of Titanic lives on permanently at Titanic Branson, a two-story museum shaped like the ship itself.
Bizarrely, perhaps, it’s one of a pair — there’s a sister museum at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and between them they claim to have 800 artifacts from the ship, as well as emotional tributes like a memorial wall telling survivors’ stories.
There’s also a full-scale replica of the ship’s Grand Staircase and a first-class suite recreated from architects’ drawings, not to mention an 5.4-meter model of the ship that took two years to build.
Poignantly, upon entry each visitor receives a “boarding pass” bearing the name of an actual passenger or crew member. Even more poignant is the sight of Madeleine Astor’s life-vest at Pigeon Forge — the only one, claims the museum, authenticated as coming from the Titanic.
9. Victoria, Australia
Trust Melbourne, home of the world’s tackiest soap operas, to make a theatrical entertainment out of a tragedy.
It’s been a decade since “Captain” Andrew Singer invested a fortune in recreating the Titanic’s dining rooms, installing special effects and commissioning a theater to recreate the last dinner on the fated ship.
There’s a formal dress code in First Class, fog machines and loud bangs to wash down the casual grub in steerage, and at midnight the entire company abandons ship. Not that this dinner theater is actually afloat — so the management promises you won’t get wet “unless a spillage occurs.”
In nearby Ballarat, there is a much more touching tribute to the victims. The Titanic Memorial Bandstand is dedicated to the musicians who played on, hell-bent on doing what they could to raise morale as the ship went down. All eight members of the orchestra perished.
10. Mystic, Connecticutt, United States
An aquarium may seem an unlikely venue for recreating a human tragedy, but in Mystic the Sea Research Foundation is making a serious attempt at bringing to life the atmosphere and emotions of the fateful night.
A former designer from Disney has browsed the archives of maritime explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the ship in 1985, to create an ambitious interactive exhibition.
The first room focuses on the happy anticipation around the construction, but the mood changes sharply as visitors progress to the next room, dominated by a giant iceberg.
Here, a drop in temperature and warning messages sets the scene for the disaster room, which aims to make passengers feel as if they have descended 13,795 meters to the ocean bed.
- How Did That Start: Titanic (yourfaq.wordpress.com)
- Cruise retraces Titanic’s ill-fated voyage (teddyoshea.wordpress.com)
- 100 years ago the Titanic departed on her maiden voyage (flypinions.wordpress.com)
- UK cruise retraces Titanic’s ill-fated voyag (leggotunglei808.wordpress.com)
- Events Around the World Mark Titanic Centenary (abcnews.go.com)