Investigating and Experiencing the Titanic in Its Centennial Year
April 20, 2012 | Permalink
Historian Steven Biel claims that the three subjects that have historically been discussed most in print are the Civil War, Jesus and the Titanic. While the Titanic gets considerably less coverage than the Messiah and somewhat less coverage than the war to save the Union, that changes around the time of key anniversaries of its sinking. Since RMS Titanic went down, on April 15, 1912, the fifth day of her maiden voyage, we are currently at the most important anniversary of the disaster in recent memory—the 100th.
Why do we care so much about the Titanic?
Why exactly, out of all the great ship disasters—the Lusitania, the Maine, etc.—are we so fascinated with the Titanic? In an article called “Unsinkable” in the April 16, 2012, issue of The New Yorker, Daniel Mendelsohn speculates that the reason we find the Titanic’s story so compelling is that it has similarities to classical tragedy and mythology. The mythological resonance is not hard to see: The massive Titanic (was 882’ & 9” long—almost the length of 8 blue whales) was named for the Titans, Greek deities of awesome size who preceded the more famous Olympians—at whose hands they met grisly ends.
The classical tragic reference is not quite as glaring—though it’s easy enough to see: Like the hero of a Greek tragedy’s disastrous downfall (Oedipus’ fall comes to mind), the Titanic’s disaster was due to a series of entirely avoidable missteps. If only the Titanic had not sped through iceberg-infested waters, and if only the Californian—a ship that was stopped for the night only ten miles from where the Titanic foundered—had not inexplicably ignored the Titanic’s distress flares, tragedy would have been averted. But it was not averted. The Titanic never reached the United States, where it was heading when it sank 1,000 miles off the coast of Boston. That fact, though, has not kept museums dedicated to the intriguing disaster from being opened in the US, and it surely won’t stop an intrigued Road Warrior from visiting one.
Experiencing the Beauty and the Sadness First Hand
Titanic the Experience, located in Orlando, Florida, not far from Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios, features actors in historical garb playing notable passengers and crew members (including Molly Brown and Captain Smith). These actors regale you with tales from the voyage while walking around full-size recreations of notable spaces on the ship—such as the Grand Staircase, which will be recognizable to most visitors because of its significance in James Cameron’s epic 1997 film Titanic. It is not all make believe at Titanic the Experience, though. The exhibition has an actual piece of the great ship’s hull on display along with over 400 items recovered from the wreck.
A Scarily Real Titanic Experience
The Titanic Museum Attraction, which has locations in both Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Branson, Missouri, is owned by John Joslyn, who co-led, in 1987, two years after the wreck of the Titanic was discovered, an exploration and artifact retrieval mission to the site of the sunken ship. Both Titanic Museum Attractions offer interactive self-guided tours. Many key locations of the ship are faithfully recreated, such as the captain’s bridge and the boiler room. Visitors can steer a replica of the wheel that failed to dodge the iceberg and bang out distress calls on the same model of telegraph that failed to get help to the foundering Titanic in time. The height of interaction is when you are done with your tour, you learn, in the Memorial Room, whether the passenger represented by the mock Titanic boarding pass you are given upon entering the museum lives or dies.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Investigating and Experiencing the Titanic in Its Centennial Year: