It Was Like Titanic

Last summer the P&O cruise ship Pacific Sun was caught in a vicious storm off New Zealand. 77 people were injured as the ship headed home through 20-foot swells and winds around 50-knots. Now a report about to be issued reveals what passengers experienced during that harrowing time. According to the New Zealand Herald, the report states it was “pure good fortune” that passengers and crew were not more seriously injured or killed.

Apparently many furnishings were not secured, such as casino gaming machines, tables, a grand piano and heavy office equipment such as photocopiers. As the ship tossed about in the storm, they became mobile causing some passengers to remark to officials later that it was like what they saw in the Titanic movie. Now that is pretty scary when you think about it. (Years ago I worked in a building in downtown San Francisco when the 1989 earthquake hit. The building was designed to sway with the earth movement. Upstairs in another office a copy machine was pitched across the room right into the wall. I consider myself fortunate since I was in our copy area at the time and  luckily those machines did not move at all.)

In perhaps a great understatement, the report states “It says procedures for securing furnishings following an earlier accident – in which another cruise ship’s equipment injured people – were not “sufficiently robust.” Injuries to passengers were broken bones, cuts, and bruises. Seven were seriously hurt and one passenger had part of a finger amputated. As a result of the ship rolling so badly, the two spa pools were emptied of water creating more hazards. Muster stations were damaged resulting in passengers being sent back to their cabins.

But it gets worse, according to the newspaper, as to why the ship was not prepared to handle this kind of situation.

1. The captain was in a hurry to get back to Auckland in time for the next cruise. By failing to heave-to earlier he put the ship in the ship in the worst sea conditions. This was not deliberate but inadvertent.

2. The bridge crew was unable to see or monitor the swells when it was dark.

3. Two of the four muster stations were rendered useless because of the damage and mess caused by unsecured furnishings. This is significant since these muster stations are where passengers are to go to in an emergency.

4. The stabilizers used to keep rocking at a minimum were inoperative. One was worn out and the other useless at slow speeds the ship was traveling at.

5. Crew had lifejackets but apparently the signal for passengers to put them on was never given. Apparently this is a normal operating procedure (giving the alert first to the crew then usually followed, if needed, to the passengers).

Most of the injuries came by falls, and unsecured furnishings toppling on to people. “Had Pacific Sun’s furnishings and fittings been sufficiently secured so as to resist moving when she heeled, the number of injuries would have been greatly reduced,” the Marine Accident Investigation Branch report says. According to the Herald, P&O states that the heavy objects have now been secured and that the experience provided a “valuable insight” for the company. Night vision goggles are now being deployed (or have been deployed) so that bridge crews will be able to see outside at night. And of course better maintenance was suggested by the report which, of course, P&O says it will do.

Now to be fair this was an unusual situation. It is not every day cruise ships sail into such intense storms. What surprises me is how unsecured the furnishings were. I know that major cruise ships have stabilizers to prevent the ship from rocking too much but all it takes is very severe weather to turn them into dangerous projectiles. Yet it would seem common sense to secure them to minimize harm to the ship, passengers, and crew. Hopefully lessons have been learned from this incident. It must have been scary though to see tables, chairs, gaming machines or other things suddenly move across the floor (or in some cases likely tossed considering how big the swells were). No wonder some passengers later said later they thought at the time they might not make it out alive.

Alternative History: What if Titanic Sinking Was A Conspiracy?

AuthorHouse sent out a press release on 22 June announcing the publication of  “A Cold Night in the Atlantic” by Kevin Wright Carney. Serial numbers that do not match Titanic and a stash of gold found in the wreck lead to the discovery that conventional history got it all wrong. Due to accidents and serious questions about Captain Smith, the RMS Olympic is not considered seaworthy. So in 1912 the White Star Line decided to switch the ships. Titanic became Olympic and Olympic became Titanic. And it was decided to sink the ship to collect insurance. Alas it all falls apart when the plot is uncovered and the sinking occurs prematurely thanks to an iceberg.

“A truly unique and thrilling novel, “A Cold Night in the Atlantic” cleverly breathes new life into a piece of American history,” says the press release. That will come as a surprise to Robin Gardiner and Dan Van Der Vat who wrote the non-fiction book “The Titanic Conspiracy;Cover-Ups and Mysteries of the World’s Most Famous Sea Disaster (1995, Carol Publishing). Their book examines the motivations of the people involved to switch the ships and argues that something nefarious did occur. The book was and still is dismissed by most Titanic historians as nothing more than tabloid fodder.

It seems to finally have found its home in a fictional novel, which is probably where it ought to be. Gardiner and Van der Vat will likely be reading the book as well kicking themselves for not doing the same thing–or sue Carney alleging he used their “facts” to make his book more legitimate. Down the road I can see a miniseries on a cable network (probably Sci Fi Sy Fy).

Titanic Adventure Slide

Titanic Adventure Slide
Titanic Adventure Slide

Every summer I read news stories about the Titanic Adventure Slide. Recently I saw this at a little league event and the kids really liked it. The picture really does not do it justice as to how big it really is. It was one of the most popular attractions at the event. There are two models for rent. The small one is 27”H X 16’W X 38” L. The other is 33’H X 21’W X 51”L. But both are 33’ tall making them impressive to look at. If you live like one of those housewives in New Jersey and have a large open area, you can buy them but be prepared to shell out some serious dough. The 27’ Model costs $10, 458 and the 33’ one is $12, 988.

Titanic Adventure Slide
http://www.partyusa.com/titanic.htm

Inflatable USA
http://www.hullaballoosales.com/catalog/product_info.php/cPath/49/products_id/219

Congresswoman Compares U.S. To Titanic

One feature I have thought about adding to my news site was citing examples of Titanic cliches. They have become so common and overwrought as to become satires on the person saying them without it being intentional on their part. I had thought about starting a weekly column over at my news site but I think this lends more to blog. Let the Titanic Cliches begin and today we start with, naturally, a politician from Minnesota. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann(R) while speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives said the following:

Last weekend my family sat down and we were watching the commercial movie “Titanic.” And as I was listening to Dr. Burgess from Texas talk about the debt and the burgeoning debt load that the United States takes, once the ice gash came in the side of the Titanic, which we all remember was called the “unsinkable Titanic,” we think of the United States. Nothing can possibly sink the United States. We will always be a superpower. But one thing that has kept us a superpower has been freedom, free market economists. We are in the process of watching the deconstruction of free market economists before our very eyes, something we have never seen. But as the ice ripped that hole in the Titanic, water started being taken on, and the engineer came out and brought the blueprint of the Titanic. Water came into the first chamber, spilled over to the second, spilled over to the third, and by the time it filled up so many chambers, it was over. It was impossible to resurrect that ship.

At least she did try to make it work and much better than saying (as some often do) that what is going on is like rearranging the deck chairs on Titanic.

Bachmann Likens U.S. To Titanic, Decries ‘Gangster Government’ She’s Part Of
Minnesota Independent, 10 June 09
http://minnesotaindependent.com/36631/bachmann-titanic-gm-gangster-klobuchar-walser

RMS Titanic Sails Again

6' Titanic Reproduction For Sale At Hammacher
6' Titanic Reproduction For Sale At Hammacher

You have to give the folks over at the Hammacher catalog credit. Each year they try to find very pricey toys for those with disposable income and no concern for our troubled economy. And this is no cheap toy but a six foot, 1:150 scale model of the famous ship with three propellers powered by three 550-watt electric motors. According to the description, the model has been “Painstakingly reproduced at 1:150 scale and involving over 400 man-hours in its assembly, the model is constructed from over 300 individually handcrafted pieces, including sculpted cedar strips that overlay the molded fiberglass hull, white maple planks (stained to replicate the color of the originals) for the decking, and mahogany for various superstructures.” It comes with two rechargable batteries that allow for three hours of cruising power and allowing the model to cruise at 5 mph on calm water. Remote requires eight AA batteries (not included!–you would think for the money they could toss them in for free).

It will cost you $2,500 and requires freight delivery.  Iceberg not included. 🙂

The Authentic 6 Foot Remote Controlled RMS Titanic.
http://www.hammacher.com/publish/11459.asp?promo=new_items

Beware Fake Titanic Envelopes

The recent issue of The Titanic Commutator (Titanic Historical Society, Vol 33, Number 186) reports of a recent attempt to sell a fake Titanic envelope. The envelope was put up for sale online at the UK eBay site with an asking price of £750. The letter appeared to have sent from RMS Titanic to a Mrs J Woods, Altringham, Manchester. But according to Paul Louden-Brown it is a very clever fake.

The stamp used on the envelope appears at first glance to look legitimate but a closer examination reveals it is likely a stamp issued between 1934 and 1936. The King George stamp of 1912 looks similar to 1934-1936 but there are important differences. There was no solid color behind the King’s head in 1912 but rather lines. Also the 1934-1936 stamp turns out to be a rare stamp used for only two years. Brown also notes the paper used is typical of the waxed paper used after World War I rather than what was in use in 1912. Also the handwriting style Brown notes is more typical of the years after World War I. Other things such as the postmark being too large and the lettering too thin point to it being a fake. And it is not difficult to fake franking marks by using a heavy object.

The lesson here is simple: be very careful in buying Titanic memorabilia. Buy only from reputable sources that have authenticated the items as being genuine. And never ever buy such memorabilia sight unseen over the Internet.

A Night To Remember-Worth Getting The DVD

In the Titanic FAQ posted on this site, I noted that several years ago the movie A Night To Remember had been put on a computer disc and viewable through the dvd player on your computer. But I was not sure that it had been converted to a full movie dvd. As it turns out, it is available as  part of the Criterion Collection. The dvd is well worth getting for several reasons. First, the digital transfer is excellent with clear images and sound. Second, the this dvd like the computer version has the audio commentary by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall. That alone is worth the price in my book. They give a running commentary on every scene putting it all in context for those new to Titanic and those who have been avid enthusiasts for years. Finally there is a  documentary called “The Making of A Night To Remember” which has some rare behind the scenes footage.

I have seen a lot of Titanic movies over the years and I still come back to this one as the best. I know many out there like Cameron’s Titanic, which is a fine movie in its own right. But it is a fictional story set in a historical context while A Night To Remember is based upon Walter Lord’s book of the same name. Remember to get the Criterion Collection and not just some poor quality copy that is floating out there. I got mine at Amazon but I imagine other places sell it as well.

Commentary on Titanic news and other related items.

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