Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who gave all to serve this country. At national cemeteries and smaller ones around the country, flags and flowers have been placed to remember them. We also remind ourselves that freedom is not easily granted, often requires great sacrifice. President Lincoln made note of this in his famous 1863 Gettysburg Address:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
As most of you are aware, Premier Exhibitions filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 which allows it to reorganize. On Friday it was announced that the Premier Exhibitions Equity Committee had entered into an agreement that “will include the sale all of the Debtors’ assets, including the entire Titanic Artifacts Collection either as assets of the estate or through the sale of RMS Titanic Inc., the company that holds the Titanic Artifacts. The remaining Debtors and their assets likewise would be sold.”
What it means is this: the company can be sold either whole or in parts depending upon the buyers interests. And the Titanic artifacts can be sold either as part of the sale of the whole company or through selling RMS Titanic Inc. The snag that has caused no sale on those artifacts under the salvage award is that they cannot be sold in lots or individually but as the one collection. And the price is simply too high. Under the present circumstances, the price might be lowered and also the possibility the bankruptcy judge might order it sold in lots in order to be sold. Before any of this can move forward, the judge has to agree to a disclosure statement.
Long ago when RMS Titanic Inc was made part of Premier (after some of the original founders of the company were removed and replaced) many thought it would lead to a better valued company. One wonders what really happened here. Titanic became very big after the movie and the centennial of the sinking. Belfast Titanic has done very well and makes money. Either the company was mismanaged and got way over their head or totally miscalculated how to monetize the assets (their exhibitions) to make a profit. Instead of Chapter 11, this is more like Chapter 13 now. The company’s assets are going to be sold in whole or in part to others now. The ghost of George Tulloch is laughing at those that brought this about.
Due to being busy on other projects, some important events in history were missed recently. On 6 May 1937 the German passenger airship Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed while trying to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst near Lakehurst, NJ. Of the 97 passengers and crew, 35 perished and one worker was killed on the ground.
Airships were a popular and comfortable way to fly back then. They were comfortable and often afforded their passengers the ability to see things that passengers of airplanes would not often see. The Germans had perfected the use of airships while the United States suffered humiliating crashes that confounded designers. The German Zeppelins used hydrogen for many years without any major incident until what happened at Lakehurst, NJ in 1937
The event was caught on newsreel and on radio. Herbert Morrision’s radio coverage is classic and you can listen to at History.com. You can also listen to this one on YouTube which points out that Morrison’s voice was much higher than normal due to the tape recording speed (he was known for his deep voice). His actual audio report sounds different when you hear it as it ought to have been. A British Pathe newsreel of the disaster be viewed here.
While sabotage was suspected, neither the American or German inquiries concluded that was the cause. The American report concludes:
The cause of the accident was the ignition of a mixture of free hydrogen and air. Based upon the evidence, a leak at or in the vicinity of cell 4 and 5 caused a combustible mixture of hydrogen and air to form in the upper stern part of the ship in considerable quantity; the first appearance of an open flame was on the top of the ship and a relatively short distance forward of the upper vertical fin. The theory that a brush discharge ignited such mixture appears most probable.
The many theories that continue to persist are:
Mythbusters examined the incendiary paint hypothesis and concluded it did not cause the catastrophe. You can view that here. Many believe the most likely reason for the explosion is that a tiny tear in the fabric or an exposed piece of metal was the entry point for static electricity to ignite the hydrogen. Hydrogen would never be used again for airships after this.
Airships faded from use though the famous Goodyear blimps over sports and other events are used to film the events below. And with the desire to conserve our environment these days, helium filled airships may yet return as a means of travel.
Readers of this blog are well aware the Chinese are building a Titanic replica of their own for a theme park. It will be a full size replica and will operate not only as a tourist attraction but a hotel as well. They had planned a “Sinking Simulator” that would demonstrate what it was like on that fateful night. It did not sit well with a lot of people, especially those who had a familial connection to those who perished. The Chinese at first were steadfast in saying there was nothing wrong with such simulation. Now it appears the idea was shelved due to the outcry. According to The Christian Post, the idea was shelved was in January. Author Bruce Beveridge, who heads up design team, is quoted as saying “It was shelved back in January when they hired me as design supervisor. I told them, ‘Do not do this, it’s in bad taste.”
It is a wise decision. There are many ways to demonstrate what happened that night without some tacky sinking simulator akin to a game. And with modern technology these days, you probably will do it through virtual reality glasses in the near future.
Sorry to not post in a while. It was due to both work and the tax season. Now for the news.
1. Titanic stewardess’ fur coat fetches £150,000 at auction (Independent, 23 April 2017)
Fur coats used to be a stylish thing to wear but these days they are despised. Back in 1912 though, they were an important status symbol.In this case it was neither style nor class but the need to keep warm. Mabel Bennett, a first-class stewardess aboard Titanic, threw it on to keep herself warm. She kept it one while on Carpathia and for the rest of her life. After her death, it was sold to Henry Aldridge and Son who loaned it to a museum in the U.S. It was auctioned off on Saturday far above the estimated price of £50,000-£80,000 and sold for a staggering £150,000 ($191,767USD). The buyers name was not announced but surely one of the highest prices paid for a collectible mink coat.
2. Lost Titanic letter expected to fetch big money at auction (New York Post, 20 April 2017) A “Wish You Were Here” letter written aboard the Titanic could fetch thousands of dollars at auction this weekend. Four days before the ship sank, Swiss banker Alfons Simonius-Blumer penned the missive to his wife and daughter — in which he expressed regret they were not aboard the ship.Simonius-Blumer was sailing to New York on business with a colleague, Max Staehelin, but without his wife, Alice, and their daughter, Ella. He wrote the letter the morning of April 11, 1912, while the supposed unsinkable pride of the White Star Line steamed between Cherbourg in France and Queenstown, Ireland, its last stop before the fateful Atlantic crossing. Simonius-Blumer also described visiting the ship’s gym, enjoying the Turkish baths and lighting up in the smoking room. As a first-class passenger, he was able to get on a lifeboat after the Titanic struck an iceberg late at night on April 14 and was rescued by the RMS Carpathia the following morning.
The letter was also auctioned off on Saturday at Henry Aldridge for £32,500 ($41,543USD)
3. Titanic relatives mark 105th anniversary in Belfast (BBC, 14 April 2017) The event was organised by the great-grandson of the man who was at the helm when the ship struck an iceberg. Simon Medhurst, a long-time collector of Titanic memorabilia, said he only found out that he was related to Robert Hichens, one of the ship’s quartermasters, after meeting his birth father in 2012. “It was a complete turnaround for my life, really, from collecting to suddenly being somebody who is connected to the Titanic,” he said. Simon explained that Friday’s event had taken two years to organise. “I wasn’t sure if it would just be our family that turned up, but actually it’s been phenomenal to see relatives and enthusiasts. People just love the story of the Titanic. “I think the importance of this type of gathering is in that it is easy to forget that there were those who lost their lives.”
4. Full-size Titanic replica built in China (Jakarta Post,19 April 2017)
The project was first announced in 2014 and will cost an estimated 1 billion yuan (US$145.4 million). The model will measure out at 269-meters long and 28-meters wide, complete with a ballroom, theater, swimming pool, first-class cabins, and even Wi-Fi, according to Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group deputy general manager Wang Weiling as reported by AFP. The design of the ship is based on the original British passenger liner, and both British and American designers and technicians will assist in the project. And just in case visitors have worries of a second sinking, the boat will be permanently docked on a reservoir in a rural area of Sichuan province, according to Xinhua. No word from Clive Palmer about whether his Titanic replica will ever get funded.
In April 1912 the unthinkable happened: Titanic sank taking over 1500 lives to the cold North Atlantic. People were stunned. With the headline Titanic Sunk blazing across newspapers around the globe, it made people wonder what had happened to a ship that defined an age of progress. For those with family, either passengers or crew, it was even more dire. Did my husband live? What happened to that family down the road that decided to go to America for a new life?
In the aftermath two investigations would seek to answer the question of what happened. A short concise statement is that Titanic collided with an iceberg that punctured the hull in many places causing water to enter the forward compartments causing her to founder and sink. Yet the investigations showed all kinds of things that were not right: out of date government regulations about lifeboats, the lack of manning wireless communications during all ship watches, the inattention given to numerous ice warnings, the lack of binoculars for the lookouts and much more. Captain Rostron of Carpathia would be labeled a hero for racing to the scene and retrieving the survivors. Captain Lord of California would come under criticism for his indifference to rockets being seen and failing to investigate.
The world of 1912 was a world on a precipice. Ominous clouds were already gathering over Europe. Titanic represented perhaps the pinnacle of the dying Edwardian age. It had everything that a person of means wanted: a comfortable way to cross the Atlantic in style. Down below was the other side, immigrants desperate to leave home and find a new life in the United States. And sadly many of those third class (or steerage as they were called)would perish. Titanic sinking left a mark on many that something was wrong and would be confirmed when war broke out in 1914. And that war would cut a wide swath in the upper classes that would have lasting effects.
The lessons of Titanic are many. The most important of all is to never become complacent nor think you are so clever as to be divine. It is a lesson that is sometimes forgotten resulting in tragedies like the Challenger explosion. Sometimes Greek mythology delivers warnings about complacency. Icarus forgot his wings were made of wax when he flew up to the sun resulting in his death. And saying Titanic was practically unsinkable comes pretty darn close as well.
Some years ago enterprising chaps started charging people to see Titanic. No, not an exhibition or replica but diving two miles down to the bottom of the North Atlantic to see the wreck. This is no simple task considering it takes three hours down and back in a specially pressurized submersible with few comforts. It stopped for a while but now appears to be back according to various news sources. Blue Marble Private of London, UK is offering a diving expedition in 2018. The eight day journey begins in Newfoundland, Canada and paying customers will become client specialists to participate with the expedition team in the dive. And according to Blue Marble, the price is what it would cost to travel first class in Titanic today (with inflation): a whopping $105,129. It is claimed that is fully booked for the first voyage in 2018.
They are not alone. An Everett, Washington company called OceanGate Expeditions is planning a similar thing and its cost is remarkably the same: $105,129 which makes it look like they may be a US version of Blue Marble. Then there is a company called Blue Fish that is also going to offer dives as well but at a lesser price of $59,680. So it seems a voyage to the bottom of the sea has become popular again for those with a lot of disposable income. Hopefully they will not run into the variety of monsters that Irwin Allen’s show became famous for.
The Feast of St. Patrick is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, the U.S.Episcopal Church, as a commemoration by the Evangelical Lutherans, and venerated in Orthodox Church. It is a public holiday in Ireland. The shamrock was used by St.Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity. In Ireland it is celebrated by families getting together for a meal. If the day falls on a Friday during Lent, observant Catholics receive dispensation to eat meat. If the feast day falls during Holy Week (and it does occasionally), the feast day is moved to avoid conflicting with the Holy Week calendar. A more recent occurrence are public festivals in Ireland and use of the day to promote Irish culture.
Here is an old tune from the Emerald Isle, known as The Minstrel Boy. The full lyrics can be found here.The tune was quite popular (and still is) and the opening is often heard more than the full song:
The minstrel boy to the war is gone, In the ranks of death you’ll find him; His father’s sword he has girded on, And his wild harp slung behind him; “Land of Song!” said the warrior bard, “Though all the world betrays thee, One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard, One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
The first is a wonderful rendition using Irish traditional musical instruments. And the second is from a more modern source (and set in the future) from Star Trek:The Next Generation episode The Wounded where the song has an important role. Chief O’Brien uses the tune to remind his old captain of his duty and what he has done.
Today is 15 March and on the old Roman calendar was a day of religious observance to the Roman god Jupiter and other lesser deities. But it is most famous as the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Roman Senate. 60 conspirators were involved but the leaders were Brutus and Cassius. Caesar was forewarned of his death by a seer according to Plutarch. And in his famous work Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has the soothsayer say “beware the ides of March” which Caesar ignores and if course he ends up stabbed to death uttering the famous line before death:
Et tu Brute!
The assassination was a turning point for Rome. It brought about a civil war and ended the Roman Republic. Octavian (later Augustus) would become emperor and the Roman Empire would come to dominate the entire Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, and parts of Europe and Britain. In Julius Caesar Mark Antony gives perhaps the most remembered funeral oration ever done. Most people recall the famous opening line:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar.
The oration is masterful in that it cleverly turns the people against Brutus and Cassius by showing they were ambitious and not Caesar. By the end the plebeians call them traitors and murderers.
In real life, it was much the same. Antony played them by seemingly supporting amnesty but turning people against them both. Brutus was forced to leave and ended up on Crete, Cassius went east to gather support amongst the governors and to amass an army. Antony and Octavian would clash militarily causing divisions in Rome. This allowed the forces of Brutus and Cassius to march on Rome. However Octavian made peace with Antony upon this news so both forces joined to stop Brutus and Cassius. They met at Philippi on 3 Oct 42 BC. The first battle resulted in Brutus defeating Octavian but Antony defeating Cassius. Not knowing that Brutus had defeated Octavian, Cassius took his own life. At the second battle of Philippi on 23 October, Brutus was defeated and forced to flee into the hills where he committed suicide. Antony treated his body with great respect by having it wrapped his most expensive purple mantle. His body was cremated and remains sent to his mother.