Tag Archives: titanic

COMING SOON- THE CHI-TANIC

CI TANIC
Under way- construction on the ‘new’ Titanic replica is well advanced

Like some fantastic, improbable sea monster rising from the depths of a deathless legend, a familiar shape is fast assuming solid form in a Chinese shipyard. A name at once suffused with horror, fascination and sheer, fatal glamour.

Titanic.

Now firmly under way in a part of China’s Sichuan province, construction of the static, full scale replica of the ill fated juggernaut is expected to be completed by 2019. And, unlike the bombast fuelled hype that surrounded Australian business man Clive Palmer’s moribund attempt at recreating the ship, this Titanic is very much in the realms of the here, the now, and the oh-so-real.

While all Palmer managed to achieve was laying down dinner plates in restaurants at a series of very fancy press launches, the actual keel plates of the ‘Floating Ritz’ are rising again, day by day, in China. The latest illustrations show construction cracking on at a rate of knots perhaps unseen since the fateful night of April 14th, 1912, as the original ship surged towards her nemesis.

While the replica Titanic will be the centre attraction of a massive, man made theme park, the owners have been very astute in securing the services of a world renowned team of Titanic experts to give the project both credibility, depth and expertise; something that Clive Palmer singularly failed to do.

The current project cost has been estimated at around £105 million, and will include the recreation of three hundred first class cabins, to be sold as hotel rooms. The original lavish, opulent interiors will reappear, in the exact scale and stance as those of 1912. There is talk that at least one boiler room will be recreated down in the bowels of the hull, and also possibly the engine room.

There will inevitably be those who cry indignation at any attempt to recreate the central component of such a notorious event as the Titanic disaster. But this ship will not be making any attempt to sail. And yet, paradoxically, this land locked colossus will, indeed, take people on a voyage of discovery back into the past.

For, in terms of interest and fascination, the genie has long been out of the bottle in connection with the Titanic and her story. You only have to look at the phenomenal success of the Titanic quarter in her former builder’s yard at Belfast, to realise just what awe, fascination and sheer sense of wonder are carried by those seven, simple letters. Those who decry the Chinese project are entitled to their point of view, but they are very much swimming against the tide of human curiosity.

In truth, the fateful voyage of Titanic has never actually ended. She has always continued to sail in the minds of men, racing heedlessly across the calm, starlit Atlantic towards her chilling rendezvous near midnight. It was- and still is- a story so staggering and implausible that not even the combined talents of Gene Rodenberry, Steven King and Jules Verne could have conjured up anything so fantastic as the real life events of April 14th-15th, 1912.

It seems to me that this actual, physical reincarnation of the Titanic could act as a kind of emotional lightning rod for those who continue to be fascinated by the ship, one that complements the stellar achievements still being rolled out at Titanic Belfast. And yes, I would have preferred to see the replica displayed in state at the place of her birth, but that’s not how the dice has rolled.

So I expect this now rapidly looming replica to arouse awe, appalled horror, and outright admiration in different people, according to their temperaments. But the point is that the original Titanic herself aroused exactly the same sentiments in many, and some of those even long before her eventual, aborted maiden voyage.

I continue to watch this project with fascination, and I know that I am far from alone.

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TITANIC ‘SANK BY MUTANT, HAIRY BREAD ROLL’ THEORY SURFACES

titanic-beken
The Titanic; heading for a doomed appointment with a mutant, hairy bread roll?

In the wake of yet another conga line of conspiracy theories, word reaches me that the ill fated White Star liner Titanic may actually have been sunk by a mutant, hairy bread roll that had been adrift in the Atlantic since 1588. This monster- nicknamed the ‘Beast of Bizerte’- can trace it’s origins back to the time of the Second Crusade.

It was a Gtangan priest who first discovered the recipe for a kind of mutant dough that possessed both incredible strength and buoyancy around the 9th Century BC. This recipe was then rediscovered among a sheath of Thomas Cromwell’s papers and presented by Sir Walter Raleigh to his Queen, Elizabeth I.

The canny Elizabeth created a massive batch of the dough, which was then shaped, hammered and beaten into several thousand lethal cannon balls. In July of 1588, the Spanish Armada of the Duke of Medina Sidona was decimated by a combination of terrible weather and an endless hail of hairy bread rolls.

The tale should have ended there, but in 1943, Nazi rocket scientists somehow discovered the same formula. The third and most terrible of all Hitler’s V-weapons- the V3- was to have been armed with a payload of mutant bread rolls that were intended to devastate New York. Only the Allied ground advance across Europe thwarted these evil designs.

Later, international airlines bought this same formula, and many still use it for their in flight bread rolls to this day, despite a clear ban on such horrors by the UN Security Council. And this is where the Titanic link comes in.

In April 1912, the Titanic left on its first cruise to New York, crammed full of terrified civilians fleeing a Walpurgis Night concert scheduled for Berlin. It is alleged that Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and The Krankies were on the bill that awful evening.

Five days into her maiden voyage, the liner hit a hulking, mutant bread roll just before midnight. The ship’s plating crumpled like rice paper on contact with the waterlogged brute. The rest, as they say, is history.

The airlines, unwilling to admit that one of these monstrous, morally indefensible creations might somehow have slipped out of one of their galleys to drop into the path of the most famous shipwreck in history, simply banded together and used their huge media influence to concoct a story concerning an iceberg. Obviously, these could hardly speak up to defend themselves. Hence the Titanic was on the bottom, and the airlines were off the hook. Very convenient, to be sure.

But there is another, even more sinister take doing the rounds.

What if one of those original feral beasts, hurled from the mouths of Drake’s cannon way back in 1588, had actually survived for centures to float, silent and menacing, on the surface of the Atlantic until that fateful night in 1912? If icebergs can be carried south on the Labrador current, then why not mutant, hairy bread rolls, too?

Did Titanic actually hit one of these? Or is the international airline industry actually guilty of a corrupt cover up on a scale unseen in modern history.

Yes, it all sounds more than a bit daft, fanciful and far fetched. But it’s not the most stupid conspiracy theory to surface this year by a long way….

CAPTAIN SMITH’S DILEMMA; TITANIC IN EXTREMIS

TITANIC SINKING
Death of a dream; the Titanic sagging helplessly into the calm, starlit Atlantic on the night of April 14-15th, 1912

Bearing in mind that today marks the anniversary of the Titanic disaster, I’ve been giving some thought to putting together this post.

It mainly concerns Captain Smith, and his situation once the ship had already hit the iceberg.

This is not a condemnation, nor yet another of those attempts to rationalise the events and omissions that led up to the actual accident itself. It is simply an attempt to put the man in context at the most extreme and momentous point of his life.

By midnight on April 14th/15th, the situation of his command can be summed up as follows:

The Titanic was sinking, without any hope of salvation. At best estimates, she had less than three hours to live. The nearest responsive rescue ship- the Cunard liner Carpathia- was a minimum four hours’ steaming time distant.

In the meantime, he had 2,200 plus passengers and crew on board under his charge, and lifeboats with a maximum capacity of 1,180, assuming every boat was correctly loaded to capacity and lowered safely.

Even then, under those optimum conditions, that left over a thousand people with nowhere to go, other than into a freezing ocean where they would almost certainly expire within minutes.

And Smith- as the sole master, under God, for the duration of the voyage- would ultimately be held to blame for their loss, as he very well knew.

Under those circumstances- the sure and certain knowledge that responsibility for at least a thousand deaths would be laid at your door forever- that would be enough to break any man.

So, for those wondering at Smith’s almost complete lack of involvement in the botched evacuation of his ship, there largely lies the explanation. Captain Smith imploded mentally under the sheer strain, the awful enormity of it all simply overwhelmed his normal rational thought processes.

In terms of the actual evacuation, almost everything was left to a handful of increasingly desperate deck officers, literally working against both time and tide, who were constantly having to improvise in a situation that worsened every minute. And all without any overall sense of direction.

This is why Smith’s initial ‘women and children first’ order was interpreted differently on opposite sides of the ship. Separated by just ninety-four feet, Lightoller and Murdoch each formed his own interpretation of the order.

In that situation, Lightoller- loading the port side boats- allowed ‘women and children only’ into the boats. No men at all.

Slaving away on the starboard side, Murdoch allowed men in the boats if no more women and children were in evident sight.

Smith, of course, never clarified the order either one way or the other. He ruled in favour of neither of his officers. But was he ever asked for a clarification? We’ll never know, of course.

But that fateful lack of co-ordination was largely responsible for the needless loss of at least another four hundred plus lives over the night of April 14th-15th, 1912.

Other than joining the officers for the issuing of firearms at about 1.30 in the morning, exact information on Smith’s whereabouts during those final, desperate hours is scant indeed. As with the luckless Murdoch, there are numerous theories on his final fate, but no really substantive evidence.

I think it extremely unlikely that the emotionally shattered Smith would even have contemplated trying to survive the loss of his command. The sinking of the Titanic also marked the wrecking of his mainly superlative, glittering thirty eight year career. As his great command sagged helplessly into the freezing ocean underneath his feet, Edward John Smith would have known that, too.

No, the evacuation of the Titanic was not a ‘text book’ situation, but there is no such thing as a ‘text book disaster’, either. It is easy to be critical of the individuals involved, and the decisions that they made. Indeed, for the sake of posterity, some rational attempt at analysis is absolutely vital.

But, once the full, ghastly horror of the situation became clear to them, both the captain and his deck officers were placed in an appalling conundrum, one that got more acute with every passing minute. If the sheer scale and horror of what they faced almost overwhelmed then, it is hardly to be wondered at.

Placed in such a horrifying predicament, I sometimes wonder how any of us might have fared. And that is why, today of all days, I retain more than just a little sympathy for that handful of embattled men and their stunned, effectively neutered captain.