Tag Archives: Joola sinking

Titanic Musings

Titanic Musings
2 Oct 2012

Autumn is here and Halloween four weeks way. After a cool summer, a heatwave is hitting San Francisco Bay Area. It usually warms up this time of year with temps in the 70’s and 80’s inland. When one of those nasty hot air bubbles decides to sit over us though, we roast as our air conditioning (fog) is turned off. Beaches become places where people can actually sunbathe and it is hot enough for the pinecones to open up.

Coming back from summer, Titanic continues to create news. Exhibitions are always opening or closing, some new discovery is being revealed, and of course politicians continue using the Titanic Cliche with abandon to score political points. Here are several recent headlines from the news site:

  • Titanic Exhibition Docks In Shreveport
  • ‘Titanic’ Steers Big Year At The Henry Ford
  • 10 Years Later, Little Justice In Africa’s Titanic
  • Inflatable Titanic Slide Causing Controversy
  • Titanic Survivor’s Descendants Reunite In North Dakota
  • Titanic Captain Failed Navigation Test
  • Titanic Belfast Hits The Half Million Mark For Visitors

That headline about Captain Smith failing a navigation test is very interesting. If you have read sea novels, like C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books, life aboard ships in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was hard work and came with harsh punishments. The Royal Navy had well run ships but they had a system to train officers and rate noncommissioned. Merchant ships were a different story and stories of drunken sailors running them had a ring of truth to them. Water stored in wooden casks went off with nasty green stuff in it so alcohol was the preferred liquid refreshment. The Royal Navy had daily rum rations with lime (to prevent scurvy) but stories of merchant ships with drunken sailors and officers compelled a system be created to make professional officers and seamen. Hence the requirement for Masters and Mates certificates that began in 1850 in Britain. You had to sit for examinations in order to get those certificates so many had to sober up. The system is still in place today (with updates for our modern times) but the goal is the same: that merchant ships be led by officers who are professionals and mates who also understand how to make the ship run. Ancestry.com has put up a compilation of records from 1850-1927. Compiled in partnership with the British National Maritime Museum, it gives glimpse into how these things were done. And it turns out that the future Titanic captain, Edward James Smith, failed his first examination due to lack of navigation skills. Just some of the nuggets of information to be found.

Kids love slides (and least I have observed this fact often) but the Titanic slide shown here always generates controversy. Many argue it belittles what happened to all those who perished. And that point is valid. Symbols are important things and convey messages. Titanic went down and people died, which is not something to make fun of. And the slide, in its own way, trivializes what happened and reduces all to a slide for kids entertainment. The other side of the argument is that the kids enjoy the slide and it is no big deal. Now I disagree with that point of view but understand it. Some do not want to attach any connection to the real tragedy. And that is a shame. They ought to. Once we disconnect from appreciating such tragedies, it is all too easy to make light of things like the Holocaust, the excesses of Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot, and wear shirts that glorify a killer like Che Guevara.

Many in Senegal do not want to forget what happened on 26 September 2002 on the ferry Joola. The ferry was dangerously overcrowded in rough seas when it sank. The official death toll is 1,863, higher than Titanic although many claim they figure is closer to 2,000.The captain died and the government closed the book in 2003 with compensation to survivors and families. Yet as Radio Netherlands reports there is a lot of bitterness over how quickly the government investigation ended. They want a new investigation as to how the ferry was overcrowded in the first place and allowed to leave. Some maritime regulations were tightened in the end but many think the government covered up the guilty parties. Sounds familiar to anyone who has studied Titanic and the investigations that were done.

Sometimes Titanic comes up in courts of law but not in ways expected. An Irish court was recently asked to decide who got a 16ft replica. Carmel McGrath claimed she paid costs of building the replica that a Zoltan Panka removed from her home without permission. She wanted it returned fearing he would sell it. Panka disputes her claims but the court ordered him to disclose the replica’s location to McGrath’s lawyers and that it be inspected. Panka, who lived with McGrath since 2009, claims half ownership and spent many  hours working on it. He was kicked after she suspected he was seeing another woman. A recent update indicates both parties settled out of court.

Of course being in Halloween season, ghostly things about Titanic are reported. I am certain a news story will appear soon about “strange” things going on around a Titanic exhibit. Strange sounds, odors, perhaps a glimpse of someone who looks, well, dated. And of course there is the Mummy. Yes, Titanic has a mummy curse. As I say often to people on my discussion list, Marvin the Martian is more likely to have caused the sinking. Only that rascally rabbit got in the way.