A Cat Named Molly Brown

Governors Island in New York recently had a visitor wash up on its molly brown catshores, a calico cat. Her fur was matted and had seaweed on it. A weekend of storms had preceded her arrival leading many to speculate the feline had been swept into the harbor and then either swam or floated ashore on a piece of debris. It caused a sensation and a name had to be given to this cat (whose owners have not been found). So after a contest where names were submitted—where such names as Mary Ann, Ginger, Salty and Buttermilk were considered—the name that won out was Molly Brown.

That’s right. She is named after the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” of Titanic fame. Well you have to admire the selection. From all reports the cat is doing quite well having the island mostly to her itself for the moment. It opens up to tourists on 27 May. No doubt many will ask about the feline Molly Brown, who likely will become a permanent fixture on the island.

Source: DNAinfo, The Stray Cat Was Named After “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,”13 May 2011

Titanic Piece Up For Auction-Or Not?

Heritage Auction Gallery in Dallas, Texas is auctioning items from the Charles Pelligrino collection that includes an actual piece of Titanic. According to the press release:

“This section, however, was part of the “crackage” of the great boat, which sheared away from the vessel as it broke in half, and was recovered from the ocean floor some distance from the wreck. A semicircular depression in one corner of the piece is evidence of the force with which the ship cracked, sufficient to pop a rivet completely away from the hull. It has become essentially fossilized after the bio-absorption.”

On my discussion list I speculated that RMS Titanic Inc. (part of Premiere Exhibitions) likely would be upset and go to court. One of the list participants contacted Premiere and was told discussions were going on, and that the auction house would be making a correction.

So far nothing has been released just yet but the obvious question is how Pellegrino acquired this piece. We know Titanic split in two and that there is a debris field between them. Most (but not all) artifacts come from the debris field. Some artifacts were brought up before RMS Titanic Inc (RMSTI) filed for salvage rights (some by RMSTI and the French brought some up as well). So it is possible this piece came up before any salvage rights were awarded.

The press release is rather vague about where it was found. It implies it was found away from the debris field which might put it outside of RMSTI’s control. And we do not know who certified it as part of Titanic. It will be interesting to watch how this story unfolds.


Titanic Cliche of the Day

Today’s cliché comes from blog at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Just a week after the anniversary of the nation’s greatest oil disaster, Congress is set to vote on legislation to open up virtually all federal waters to drilling, while cutting governmental oversight and safety measures at the same time. That’s sort of like telling the designer of the Titanic to forget about the icebergs and just build more ships. Full speed ahead!”

I am not sure it quite works. Titanic was designed to take damage if one, two, or even three of her forward compartments were damaged from a ship collision. Hitting icebergs were rare (usually head on). Titanic was damaged when the iceberg scraped along the starboard side causing lots of ruptures along the way. Hardly the scenario ever envisioned by ship designers. As for the designer, Thomas Andrews, he perished when Titanic sank.

Source:
Natural Resources Defense Council (blog), Stop the Dangerous Bills For More Drilling, 3 May 2011

Titanic Cliches of the Day

Once again time to see how Titanic gets used and abused as a cliché.

1. “A new development – company board chairman Jorma Ollila today said he will leave his post by 2012 – may lead you to wonder if the company isn’t merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Along with his announcement, Ollila said he would not “throw in the towel” at the Nokia before then.”
-Tracey E. Schelmetic on techzone360.com about Nokia chairman Ollila departing next year.

2. “On Friday April 29, 2011, as riots raged across the country, local television stations in Uganda were twiddling their thumbs. Like the band on the Titanic that played on as the ship sank, the TV stations were showing music videos, repeats of Mexican soaps, or feeds of the Royal Wedding in London.”
-Daniel Kalinaki writing in Daily Monitor about riots in Uganda and the failure of its television media to cover it.

Sources:
1. techzone360.com, Nokia Chairman of the Board Ollila Departing Next Year, 3 May 2011

2. Daily Monitor, You must worry when your TV shows soaps but no riots, 3 May 2011

Not Quite Tacky-Large Ice Cubes For Drinks

A trend of putting a very large ice cube in drinks sparked an article in Globe and Mail . According to the article, bartenders in upscale places are putting large ice cubes in old fashioned glasses to keep drinks from being watery. The ice cubes measure about 5 centimeters long which makes them big than the traditional small ice cubes. Big enough, the author notes, to sink the Titanic!

Well not really of course but it does raise some questions. Do large ice cubes melt slower than the smaller? Of course one ought to be skeptical of the claim that using collosal size cubes means drinks are less watery. In recent years most bars have gotten pretty good at cutting costs. Unless you order scotch neat, chances are most mixed drinks have ice in them to cut down on the amount of alcohol they put in each drink. Now crafty bartenders and owners know people have caught on, so they are bringing out the colossal cube. They say it makes your drink less watery. And because of its size, you do not notice it melting much.

The writer of the piece did have someone do an experiment on it. And it looks like the larger cubes shed less water than the smaller ones which seems to mean you get a stiffer drink. However the Mythbusters rule needs to be used here. I am not convinced (and neither is the one who did the tests) this is proven yet. There are many factors that need to be explored. And those clever guys on Mythbusters are just the guys to find out the truth. They have already tried out a few alcohol myths so this one ought to be pretty easy to do. My hunch is this: In some cases, you get less water melting from the larger cubes owing to a number of factors but only in a limited way. In most drinks it probably is the same as the smaller ones.

But at least no one is calling these colossal cubes Titanic. 🙂

Titanic Unknown Child Conclusively Identified

In 2004 genetic testing on the remains of a child thought to be Gösta Leonard Pålsson resulted in the child’s identity as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy. Doubts lingered as two young Titanic victims were very close, Panula and Sidney Goodwin. But it was a pair of leather shoes that led researchers to question the identification. According to news article at msnbc.com, the story of the shoes is quite fascinating:

The shoes had been saved by Clarence Northover, a Halifax police sergeant in 1912, who helped guard the bodies and belongings of the Titanic victims, according to the museum’s website. A letter from Northover’s grandson, Earle, recounts how the victim’s clothing had been burned to stop souvenir hunters. Clarence Northover couldn’t bring himself to burn the little shoes, and when no relatives claimed them, he put the shoes in his desk drawer at the police station. In 2002, Earle Northover donated them to the museum. These shoes were too large for a 13-month-old to wear.

So with more through testing and the assistance of the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, it was determined with a 98% certainty the child is in fact Sidney Goodwin. Goodwin’s parents and five siblings all perished when Titanic went down.

Sunday Mercury: Author Says Captain Smith Could Do Nothing To Avoid Sinking

According to Ben Golby in the Sunday Mercury, a new book by Tim Maltin dispels many myths and reveals new truths about Titanic. Some myths dismissed include the infamous mummy or conspiracy theories that argue Captain Smith was drunk. On item written by Golby drew my attention:

“But Tim’s research shows the Captain – who famously went down with the ship – could do nothing to avoid the sinking which made headlines across the world.”

Really? That is not the impression one gets from reading the testimony of both inquiries into the catastrophe. It was avoidable. There was nothing predestined about Titanic going down that night. Complacency was a major factor in what happened. No one seriously considered Titanic could suffer a catastrophic event that would sink her. Lifeboats for all was considered a foolish notion by nearly every ship line as unnecessary, cumbersome and expensive. No lifeboat drills were done on Titanic so the crew was unfamiliar on how to properly lower them (which was done all by hand). Nor was it commonly known that each lifeboat had been tested by Harland & Wolff to hold 65 fully grown men. This was never mentioned to Captain Smith because Harland & Wolff assumed Smith and his officers knew this. Also a factor is that neither the officers or crew really knew the ship.

And it gets worse when you add Titanic was traveling fast through an ice field in the dark of night. No one paid close attention to those ice warnings. Had they done so, they would have known they were in the middle of a large ice field. They ought to have slowed down or stopped for the night. Smith thought it was not a problem and went off to his stateroom. Meanwhile the lookouts had no binoculars to see a looming shape ahead until it was nearly upon them. And Murdoch’s maneuver likely would have worked on a smaller ship but not on Titanic.

Smith was considered one of the most respected sea captains of his day. But the new class of ships handled very differently and Smith had reasons to be concerned after his experience on Olympic. To argue though that nothing could have been done to avoid the sinking is totally wrong. There are many things, large and small, that could have averted the catastrophe. It was neither predestined nor fate that Titanic would sink that night. Which is why its sinking is tragic.

New book: On Board RMS Titanic-Memories of the Maiden Voyage

George  Behe has written another book on Titanic that has gotten a positive review in The Titanic Commutator. According to the reviewer:

On Board RMS Titanic—Memories of the Maiden Voyage is George’s latest effort and probably his most significant work to date on the subject of Titanic. In the pages of this lengthy book will be found a literal wealth of information in the form of first-person accounts about the ship and its voyage. Over the span of nearly forty years, Behe has traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad to find these rare and forgotten accounts, often poring over reels of neglected microfilm to discover an account that may not have been read since the date of its publication.”

The reviewer further notes that Behe does not paraphrase any of the accounts of passengers or crew revealing a lot of stories to a wide audience. In short, this book is a must to read and worthy addition to any Titanic library.

Where to buy: The book is self-published and available at Lulu.com. $35 plus shipping. Also check out other titles by Behe while there.

Source (review): Titanic Historical Society, The Titanic Commutator, Vol 36, No 194, 2011, Book Notes.

Titanic Fatigue?

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.

Titanic, historic ship, and general history news.