Titanic. Put that into a search engine and you get a lot back. Lots of sites to explore devoted to the subject (shameless plug alert for Titanic News Channel) along with sites that incorporate it in some fashion. Of course the entertainment news sites are full of stuff about the stars of that Cameron movie and what they think today about their roles. The movie is still widely popular and many will likely see the 3-D version. It is a visually stunning movie with perhaps the best recreation of what the ship and people looked like in 1912.
The 100th anniversary of the sinking has spurred many an event around the world, so many it is hard to keep track of. Why does Titanic still grab us long after sank in 1912? Recently while viewing an old National Geographic on India’s historic railway, the narrator noted that images linger long after leaving. And that is possibly at play here. Many who learn about Titanic get an image of a grand ship, of the people who worked on it, of the people who sailed on her from the highest to the lowest, and the image of the grand ship sinking on a cold moonless night taking with her 1,500 souls. Some were well known men and women, others just people working the ship to make money or traveling to a new life in the United States. The images linger.
Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember (and later its sequel The Night Lives On) connected people to what happened in 1912. When it came out in 1955, people rediscovered the story which had lain dormant through two world wars and the Great Depression. It spurred a 1958 movie, A Night To Remember, which became a classic and many consider to be faithful to the actual story. Lord interviewed many Titanic survivors and did considerable research for his book. Both the movie and the book relay images from a time that linger with you. Perhaps it is seeing the Strauss’ deciding to stay aboard or Guggenheim dressed in his Sunday best. Or the people rowing away watching the ship go down. While some survivors reported the ship broke in two, that was discounted at the hearings but verified in 1985 when the wreck was found.
Other images have come into focus as well, such as seeing images of the wreck. The stern section is completely twisted and torn up likely because of trapped air inside as it went down. The front still has the outline of the famous ship but it too shows damage. Many artifacts have been brought up from the debris field, many of which are part of the traveling Titanic Exhibition. People may disagree over whether salvage was right or not, but seeing the artifacts of those who traveled aboard make the story come alive. And the story continues to thrive all over the place such as school kids doing Titanic themed projects or people putting up small displays about Titanic in a retirement home.
The wreck is suffering the ravages of time. Robert Ballard believes submarine excursions to the wreck have caused damage but there is disagreement. Some think that trash dumped by ships nearby is causing more bacteria activity that is eating away at the wreck. One thing is certain: the wreck will not last forever. Some argue the front section could be brought up (Douglas Wooley for instance) and put on display. Many, however, believe that would be an impossible task considering how deeply embedded the ship is in the sand. The images of the wreck remain with us as a haunting reminder of what if. What if this had been done instead of that. There are many things that if had been done differently might have averted the catastrophe and tragedy to come. Sometimes we get a jolt when a ship like Costa Concordia ends up on the rocks reminding all of the perils at sea even in our modern times.
There have been many notable and even worse shipwrecks than Titanic. Yet despite that Titanic lingers in the mind more than those events. The images linger.