Did a Book Predict Titanic’s Doom?

Morgan Robertson (date unknown) Public Domain

Now that all the stale news about Titanic II has gone around the globe enough times to make it really old news, another one is getting primed to take its place. The new/old story is about how Titanic’s demise was foretold in the book Futilityby Morgan Robertson. The book was published in 1898 and renamed after the Titanic tragedy as Wreck of the Titan. Many who read the book are struck by the similarities between the fictional Titan and Titanic. Some even go so far as to say Robertson was either clairvoyant or had some other supernatural revelation of what was to happen.

While there are similarities between the fictional Titan and the historical Titanic, there are a lot of things different. Titan was not on its maiden voyage and on its sixth heading back to Britain from New York. There were fewer lifeboats so five hundred could be saved out of the 3,000 passengers aboard. It looked different as well, more like a steam yacht with sails and carried no cargo. The collision was different as well. Titanic impacted with the iceberg on its starboard side causing punctures in the hull. In Robertson’s book, the ship collides with the iceberg head on and rolls up on it. Then it rolled on the side allowing the boilers and engines to pierce through the hull then slipped back into the sea and sank. One could go on but you get the salient point here: that the fictional Titan’s demise was very different from the historical Titanic. Robertson denied he had any supernatural vision and concocted his story using the available data he had on ships of the day.

So when you see news reports that proclaim “book predicted Titanic’s demise 14 years earlier” it is nothing more than puffery by editors trying to fill space (and tv news producers do the same as well). It ought to be noted that Robertson wrote about a surprise Japanese attack on the United States but hardly anyone thinks it predicted the events of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.


  1. Titanic X-Files
  2. Gardiner, Martin ed. THE WRECK OF THE TITANIC FORETOLD? Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY 1998
  3.  Robertson, Morgan THE WRECK OF THE TITAN OR FUTILITY, Bucaneer Books, Cutchogue, New York 1994 [Originally published 1898]

The High Noon Ballad

Do Not Forsake Me is the song made famous in High Noon (1952) starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The song is sung at the opening of the movie and is often instrumentally heard throughout the movie. The movie is not standard western movie fare where you have lots of action leading up to a main gunfight. In this movie, the gunfight occurs near the end. Most of the movie is made up with Gary Cooper’s character trying in vain to find townspeople to help stand with him against Frank Miller and his gang. In the end he must face them alone although his wife does help kill one of the gang. It won many top awards in the 1952 Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Music, Best Film Editing, Best Music in Song). Tex Ritter, who recorded the song for the movie, played it live for the audience at the Academy Awards.

There are two general versions of the song. One is the Tex Ritter version heard in High Noon which references the name Frank Miller in the lyrics. The second and more commonly heard one omits any reference to Frank Miller and the most famous rendition is by Frankie Laine. Here are both versions for your Academy Award Sunday.

Recreating a Lost Masterpiece

La Circassienne au Bain (originally by Merry-Joseph Blondel 1814 and recreated by John Parker 2014) Image: Wikipedia Commons
La Circassienne au Bain (originally by Merry-Joseph Blondel 1814 and recreated by John Parker 2014)
Image: Wikipedia Commons

Merry-Joseph Blondel(1781-1853) was a neoclassical French painter and a prolific artist in his day. Many of his works grace museums in France and elsewhere. One of his works, La Circassienne au Bain, was bought by Mauritz Hokan Bjornstrom-Steffansson and put aboard Titanic to be shipped to the United States. Of course when Titanic sank, Blondel’s masterpiece was lost to a watery grave. Bjornstrom-Steffansson filed a compensation claim of $100,000. Needless to say he never got that amount (White Star settled the legal cases for $664,000) but the large painting was gone and worse few descriptions of it remained.

Cue Titanic enthusiast John Parker who decided to track down what it looked like and recreated it. He managed to find the necessary information and make the portrait, which is now up for auction for £2,000 to £3,000.

Before embarking on the project he went around Europe seeking out examples of Blondel’s work. “I couldn’t find any photographs of the painting that went down with the Titanic– but I found an engraving that was done in 1819,” says John. “It was only five years later so it was bound to be a fairly accurate representation.”

Source: Replica of TITANIC lost masterpiece to be auctioned in Plymouth (The Herald, 18 Feb 2016)


Keeping Titanic II Alive (Part II)

Titanic at Cobh Harbor, 11 April 1912 Public Domain (Cobh Heritage Centre, Cobh, Ireland)
Titanic at Cobh Harbor, 11 April 1912
Public Domain (Cobh Heritage Centre, Cobh, Ireland)

It is interesting what has happened since my original post on the subject. The reprinted stale news The Independent ran spread through the media. Newspapers, the major news networks, and a lot of blogs ran the story as if it were big news. It proves a theory about mass media today: they pretty much feed off each other and few bother to check the facts. It was amusing to read some of the write-ups. You could see that the editors/writers tried to find something different for their take on the story. At the end it was the same stale news from 2015.

This blog got a lot of hits thanks to jalopnik.com whose more skeptical approach to the story puts the more experienced mass media to shame. MoneyTalksNews has a similar skepticism about the Titanic II project. Krystal Steinmetz zeroes in on the key points and notes that the pictures zapping around the Internet are not the real ship but renderings from several years ago. She also adds (in addition to no construction going on at present) the following:

Plans for the ship could also be capsized by an investigation of Palmer. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission is investigating Palmer and the collapse of his company, Queensland Nickel. Palmer could face criminal charges over alleged use of aliases in company dealings and moving money from his failed business into his self-titled political party. The company owes creditors roughly $100 million.

As it stands now the only viable Titanic replica being built is the one being built by the Chinese themselves-for a theme park far away from the coast. This full replica will be permanently docked there (on water), have rooms for people to stay in, and is the infamous one since it will include a sinking simulator as well. So if you desiring to see a full Titanic replica, that is the only one that is actually being built.

Today is President George Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day)

 George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)
George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart
Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

Although today is referred to as “President’s Day” it is not a federal holiday by that name. It is officially designated as Washington’s Birthday under federal law. There was a movement to combine both Washington and Lincoln’s birthday (since they occur days apart) or honor the office of president. That never came to be. Instead in 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was past and came into force in 1971. That shifted most federal holidays to a Monday if it fell during the week. Washington’s Birthday name was not changed and so under federal law it is still Washington’s Birthday. However many states issue their own proclamations celebrating not only Washington but Lincoln and others from their own state. Advertisers have caught on as well. So today many call it President’s Day but who it commemorates beyond George Washington is up to the state governors.

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
President George Washington,Farewell Address, 19 September 1799.

St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is used by many to show their affection or love for someone they care about. It has spawned an industry for greeting card makers, candies, and of course flowers. However there is a real religious component as many Christian denominations celebrate it as feast day, commemoration, or optional for the local diocese (such as the Catholic Church). Valentine was the name of many Christian martyrs in the early Church resulting in them all being remembered for their acts of sacrifice for the faith. Some denominations, such as Eastern Orthodox Church, celebrate a particular St. Valentine on two different days.

Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland Photo: Blackfish (Wikimedia Commons)
Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland
Photo: Blackfish (Wikimedia Commons)

The association with romantic love could be linked to an ancient Roman festival has been made but there is no evidence of any link. Most seem to believe the link began with Chaucer’s Parlemont of Foules where he indicates birds choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day although 14 Feb might not be the day Chaucer was referring to. Other poems made the association of love and St. Valentine’s Day in the medieval period and English Renaissance. For those who needed love verses but lacked the ability to compose them, publishers starting offering them. Then putting them on paper and sending them became possible. Paper valentines became very popular in 19th century England resulting in their industrial production. They became popular in the United States as well. With such cards being popular, you needed other things to accompany a card. Roses and chocolates became popular, likely due to skillful marketing to associate them with the day. And so Valentine’s Day became a very major day for greeting card companies, chocolate makers, and sellers of flowers (roses being the most popular flower for the day).

Of course we ought to remember that it is based upon Valentine, who became a saint after he was martyred in Rome in 269 and buried on Flaminian Way. He is the patron saint of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages.

Today is President Lincoln’s Birthday

Photo: Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id# cph.3a53289)
Photo: Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id# cph.3a53289)

President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, National Cemetery,19 Nov 1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

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.


Keeping Titanic II Alive

Newsroom of the New York Times,September 1942 Public Domain(U.S.Library of Congress, digital id#cph.3c12969)
Newsroom of the New York Times,September 1942
Public Domain(U.S.Library of Congress, digital id#cph.3c12969)

Sometimes newspapers that need to fill space look to an old story. Back on 1 Sep 2015 the Belfast Telegraph ran the following story:

Titanic II set to sail in 2018, says Aussie billionaire

The news report by Claire McNeilly indicated the new revised launch date was 2018 and that its maiden voyage had changed. Originally that was to be from Southampton to New York but now would be from China to Dubai. Blue Star Line said it was working with Dubai investors not to invest in the ship but in opportunities that will arise from Titanic II. Since that news report there has no news about the project. As far as anyone can tell, no contract to build has been signed and nor has any shipyard begun construction.

So imagine my surprise when going through the various Titanic related news stories to find this one from The Independent:

Titanic II: Fully functioning replica of original ship to set sail in 2018(Independent,9 Feb 2016)

Except for the name of the writer, Matt Payton, the article is virtually identical to Belfast Telegraph one in September 2015, which is linked to in the story. One might think though this was a new story when in fact this is stale news. At least it filled up an empty space in the newspaper. And Blue Star is no doubt happy with the free publicity. People in the cruise ship trade though are doubtful it will ever be built. And it is matched by the quietness of the shipping yard in China where it is supposed to be built.

Titanic Tidbits For Superbowl Sunday

©National Football League
©National Football League

It is Superbowl Sunday here in the United States. It has become a mini-holiday of sorts. For football fans, it is the ultimate game between two rivals. Whether you go to the game or watch it at home, it means cheering on your favorite team (if you have one). And it has become a major food day as well. There are many foods to celebrate the game from nachos to pizza. Pizza is the number one food according to both surveys and sales. All the major national pizza chains look to Superbowl Sunday as the biggest pizza day of the year. It is also the Chinese Lunar New Year so at my house this year, the game will have delicious Chinese food from a local restaurant.

Now to Titanic….

*Not that anyone really cares (or do they?)but the entertainment media has been aflutter with Kate Winslet saying that Jack did not need to die. If they do a remake, perhaps he will live that time or perhaps both will die. Or resurrected as flesh eating ghouls for the cinematic horror Zombies From The Cold Sea!

*A cardboard boat race to teach the lessons of buoyancy ended with the  famously named Titanic suffering a similar watery fate. Duck tape and cardboard are a tough challenge to be waterproof though Mythbusters proved the viability of a duck tape boat.

*A political candidate recently spoofed Titanic on Saturday Night Live. Once again Titanic being used as a political prop.

*A Spanish broadcaster apparently confused British Prime Minister David Cameron with famous movie producer James Cameron. Oops! Next time try doing an Internet search first.

Happy Sunday everyone.

SS United States May Sail Again

SS United States at sea, 1950s. Photo: Public Domain (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)
SS United States at sea, 1950s.
Photo: Public Domain (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

The SS United States, once a majestic ocean liner larger than Titanic and decaying away in Philadelphia for two decades, might have a new lease on life. Crystal Cruises, a luxury travel company, has announced plans to overhaul the ship providing it passes a nine month feasibility study. The estimated cost of the overhaul is $700 million. The gutted and rusty ship is owned by a conservation group, SS United States Conservancy, that made the deal with Crystal Cruises.

The ship was launched in 1951 and constructed entirely in the United States. It was the fastest ocean liner of her day and won the Blue Riband for its crossing speed. It remained in service till 1969 when transatlantic ocean travel had dwindled. After that it fell into different hands. Its fittings and furniture were auctioned off and many plans advanced for its use never materialized. The SS United States Conservancy bought the ship in 2011 hoping to restore it for use in a waterfront exhibition. However the costs associated with that along with ongoing docking fees made this difficult and plans were made to scrap the ship if funding was not found. The contract with Crystal Cruises requires them to pay the docking fees for nine months during the feasibility study.

Source: Historic Ship Larger Than Titanic Could Sail Again(4NewYork,5 Feb 2016)