You may (or may not) know that today s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. You probably do know that I’m a bit of a Titaniac. I’ve decided I will attend the movie, mostly because being alone in the city means I don’t have to worry about not doing something with other people. I was going to try to get to Titanic the Musical, but the theatre where it’s being performed is a 2+ hour ride away and it would cost me $60 to rent a car.
I am still a bit ambivalent about my fascination with the wreck. I suppose one of the reasons it was so widely covered and interesting in its own day is that it was a luxury liner. There are and were dozens of ships that disappeared for various reasons in that same year, but none gave us the thrilling story that the big passenger liner did.
I can point to my own fascination as a child with the wreck. Early on, I imagined myself destined for a life as a marine biologist, mostly because I liked sharks. This led me to an interest in all things marine, including Robert Ballard, the hero of undersea exploration and the man who found the Titanic wreck. I don’t remember when I got it, but a well-illustrated book about the discovery of the Titanic was one of my most-read books as a child. I remember bringing the book along to my Grandmother’s on the Christmas holiday one year and reading the entire book while I was in bed, getting ready to go to sleep. Among the things that stand out from that book:
- I remember a particular infographic showing the progress the sonar and video sleds made as they weaved back and forth over the potential wreck site. It was during the last week of searching that they found the wreck. A couple more days and they would have packed it in.
- I remember a sidebar in the Titanic history section explaining the curious case of the Californian, the ship that was scapegoated in the trial so that White Star and the British shipping board wouldn’t look as bad. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out A Night to Remember, which was written before the wreck was found, and essentially blames the cranky, sleepy captain of the Californian for the deaths of the people who went into the water.
- Another sidebar profiled the radiomen, who stayed in their positions until all hope was lost. One survived.
I’m becoming more and more interested in shaping my next academic project to be a book about the big ship. Ideally, I would time this to be completed before my next sabbatical, so that I could begin a new project at that time. This means I have a lot to do (not the least of which is to finish my current project. Eep!).