A fascinating discussion took place on my list recently concerning whether or not many were still interested in Titanic. Postings have become fewer in recent years but not due to lack of interest but rather disinterest in all the babble about Titanic. Some point to Cameron’s Titanic as when it shifted from a serious study to something akin to entertainment. Then there were the numerous books, documentaries, exhibitions, and even tacky Titanic items put on sale. For many old timers, it simply became too much. They stuck with visiting with other Titanic enthusiasts, going to special events, and doing their own research.
This does not mean interest in Titanic has ended, just shifted into another mode. Perhaps this is the normal way of things. Most of us drawn to Titanic can remember the exact moment when it became important. Perhaps it was watching A Night To Remember, hearing someone talk about it, seeing a documentary, or reading a book. It led us to explore the subject further. In the process we learned lots of interesting things that kept us interested. The Titanic story comes close to the Greek meaning of tragedy. The word is much abused today but simply means that the sad events that occur would have been prevented had things been done differently by the central character. And Titanic, as Walter Lord notes, has so many What-If’s that haunt you.
The Titanic community was split by salvage. Ballard and many others did not believe salvage ought to be done arguing the wreck was a grave. Some survivors, like Eva Hart, agreed with it. The other side to the argument is that Titanic had a story to tell from all the things left on the ocean floor. Heated exchanges occurred and Internet flame wars resulted. Unfounded accusations were made and friendships ruined. Today the issue is less vitriolic but no less passionate. Today many can see the traveling Titanic exhibitions that show to people what life was like on the ship. One cannot help but be moved by seeing artifacts from the ship.
Recently San Francisco had its own anniversary of a catastrophe: the great earthquake of 1906 on April 18. Like Titanic it has it own legion of people who study it. Nearly all those who survived are gone now, the few that remain are over 100 years old. And like Titanic, it had its heroes and villains. The earthquake was far more destructive than was led to believe, and those most hardest hit were those were people who lived in cheap housing in an area (called South of Market) built on landfill. They were like Titanic steerage and paid a terrible price on that day.
Fatigue? Well not really. Just a more mature development of a continuing exploration of Titanic. Sure we like some new books or interesting documentaries, but we have read a lot. Mostly we realize that Titanic has a story to tell. A sad and fascinating one. The latest Titanic thing, whatever that might be, is not going to wow us that much. The upcoming anniversary in 2012 is both a celebration of life and a remembrance of all those who perished on that very cold night in 1912. Anything else is just a distraction.