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Titanic 101st Anniversary Subdued

The 101st anniversary of Titanic sinking has come and gone. Unlike last year which had major events, this year was more subdued. That does not mean people did not hold memorials, watch Titanic movies, or visit a Titanic exhibit. It was just quiet. Perhaps I missed it, but none of the U.S. broadcast networks had any Titanic show. Probably it was explored on the network morning shows and that was it.

Checking the news, there was not much going on. Some notices of Titanic themed meals, a mention of Henry Aldridge auctioning off Titanic memorabilia. There were some interesting stories that passed my way. One was an update to a story about Millvina Dean. I reported a few days ago Bluestar bus line was going to name a bus for her. The BBC reports this has now happened. According to BBC:

A bus like this was named for Millvina Dean.

Some will wonder the wisdom of naming a bus but I do not think it a bad idea. I suspect from everything I read of Millvina, she would not mind at all.

Wilfred Deable Seward is probably a name few are familiar with unless you scan the list of Titanic surviving crew members. Seward was chief pantry steward for second class passengers and was in his bunk reading when Titanic hit the iceberg. Though at first told there was no problem, the 25 year old helped get passengers into lifeboat number three, and helped row it away from Titanic. His description of what he heard that night resembles what others said they heard.

“As she went down I heard terrible screams, like people yelling wildly at a football match. Then there was nothing but silence.”

He continued working on ocean liners, including the Queen Mary. He retired in 1954 and resided in Ballymoney, where his daughter resided.  He passed away in 1963, age 77 and was buried in the local cemetery in an unmarked grave. Many people were aware of his Titanic connection and last year it spurred a call to erect a proper memorial at his grave. And a local undertaker decided to do this. So on 12 April of this year, a service was held at his resting place with a great niece in attendance. Not forgotten anymore. Amen.

1. Bus Named After Titanic Survivor(14 April 2013, BBC News)
2. Titanic: Grave Of Crew Member Who Survived Disaster Marked(15 April 2013,BBC News)

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Friday Titanic News


1. This is Surrey Today has an article detailing locals who survived or died on Titanic. One Jack George Phillipsof the more noted was Jack Phillips, who was chief wireless officer aboard Titanic. Both he and Harold Bride were the ones who sent the now famous SOS signal to all ships in the area.

Source:  TITANIC: Remembering Those Who Sailed On The Fateful Voyage(12 April 2013, This is Surreytoday)

2. Belfast will remember those who perished aboard Titanic (which included 28 from Belfast) with a midday ceremony. The Lord Mayor and the president of the Belfast Titanic Society will lay wreaths at Titanic Memorial on City Hall grounds. Six men whose names were not known at the time the memorial was built will be honored as well.

Source: Belfast To Mark Titanic 101 Anniversary(11 April 2013, 4ni.co.uk)

3. A number Titanic Artifacts are at Titanic Experience in Cobh, Ireland. Items such as a blue leather suitcase bought at Harrod’s and the personal property of Lilly Odell are permanent. The exhibition includes photographs and items on loan to the collection.

Source: Historic Titanic Artifacts Returned To Cobh For Anniversary(11 April 2013, thejournal.ie )*

4. The Southampton SeaCity museum, which opened in 2012, is doing well reports Daily Echo. Critics had feared once Titanic centenary had faded that visitors would melt away. The project, called a white elephant by many locally, cost £15m. 143,000 visitors have passed through its doors since exceeding its target by 20,000. To keep people coming back, the museum plans to host other major national exhibitions.

Source: Southampton’s SeaCity Museum Celebrates Year Of Success After Titanic Centenary(11 April 2013, Daily Echo)

*Links for Republic of Ireland newspaper are not provided due to policy of requiring fees for links.

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Millvina Dean To Have Bus Named For Her

A bus similar to this will be named Milvina Dean's honor
A bus similar to this will be named in Millvina Dean’s honor

There are many ways to remember people. Some are with statues, memorial plaques in parks or historical sites, music and books. Naming public transportation after people though is different but not unheard of. For instance, Caltrain (the regional commuter rail on San Francisco peninsula) names its engines after cities and politicians. Millvina Dean, the last Titanic survivor who passed away in 2009, will have a Uni-Link double decker bus run by Bluestar (no connection to Clive Palmer’s company building Titanic II) named for her.

According to Daily Echo, a ceremony will take place this Sunday with her nephew, Ron Dean, and sixty members of the British Titanic Society. A commemorative  plaque will be unveiled at the ceremony. Then they will take the bus to a memorial garden named in her memory in Southampton to lay a wreath. Randi Newman, secretary of the British Titanic Society says it was a nice gesture on the part of Bluestar. Apparently she had been invited to unveil a bus in her honor but sadly passed away before that could happen.

Source: Bus Tribute To Last Titanic Survivor(10 April 2013, Daily Echo)

Info about Bluestar can be found here. Wikipedia has an entry here.

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Titanic Captain’s Turn: His Letter To Daughter To Be Auctioned Off

Photo Wikipedia
Photo Wikipedia

Wallace Hartley wrote a letter to his mother but Captain Edward J. Smith wrote one to his daughter, Helen, in 1909. The letter was written when he was captain of the SS. Celtic. The letter reveals a softer side of a man known for his tough discipline. One line in particular is touching:

My dear Daughter, I could not catch a little bunny to send you in my letter so send you a card by this little bird. I hope Mother and you and Gladys are well. I shall soon be home. Your loving Daddy.’

The letter will be auctioned of on 20 April by Henry Aldridge & Son. The letter is expected to fetch £10,000 ($15,000).

Source: Titanic Captain’s Loving Note To Eight-Year-Old Daughter Set To Go Up For Auction(9 April 2013, Daily Mail)

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Hartley Letter To Be Auctioned Off

A letter written by Wallace Hartley to his mother aboard Titanic will soon be auctioned off reports This is Wiltshire. The handwritten letter was referenced by his mother in a 27 April 1912 interview with a local paper. The letter, in part says:

Just a line to say we have got away all right. It’s been a bit of a rush but I am just getting Wallace Hartleya little settled. This is a fine ship and there ought to be plenty of money on her. “I’ve missed coming home very much and it would have been nice to have seen you all if only for an hour or two, but I couldn’t imagine it. We have a fine band and the boys seem very nice.

Auctioneer Henry Aldridge & Son will auction the letter on 20 April. The expected sale value is between £50,000 to £60,000.

Source: Message From Band Leader On Board Titanic Goes Up For Sale(8 April 2013, This Is Wiltshire)

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Sunday Titanic News

1. It is a sad thing when a grand ship of old is left to slowly rot. Sarah Hoyle writes a piece about the old steamship United States slowly decaying at a pier in Philadelphia. It costs $80,000 a month for maintenance, insurance and security. The SS United States Conservancy has a website where the public can donate to help preserve this grand ship.

SS United States
SS United States

Source: Sending Out An SOS For ‘America’s Flagship’(7 April 2013,CNN)

2. Yvonne Hume, whose great uncle John Hume perished when the ship sank in 1912, wants to become on of the first passengers of Titanic II. John Hume was a violinist who played with Wallace Hartley as the ship was sinking and considered a hero in his hometown of Dumfries, Scotland. She believes she can complete her great uncles voyage by sailing on the new ship. She has written a letter to Clive Palmer to request a place on Titanic II.

Source: Titanic Tribute To Tragic Dumfries Musician(7 April 2013, Scotsman)

3. The Titanic museum in Colne, Wallace Hartley’s hometown, might be moving in the near future reports the Lancashire Telegraph. The museum needs more room then at the present location at Old Grammar School. Hopefully they will get the needed funds to relocate and keep going.

Source: Titanic Museum In Colne Could Relocate To Samlesbury(6 April 2013, Lancashire Telegraph)

4. Robert Parr, according to the Times & Star, has created a painting of both Olympic and Titanic sailing together. It may be the only painting that does this. Parr presented the painting to Cliff Ismay, who is related to Bruce Ismay. The painting will be on display at the Maryport Maritime Museum  next weekend.

Source: Launch Planned In Maryport For Titanic Painting(5 Aprl 2013, Times & Star)

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Update on Hartley Violin


The BBC has an interesting update on the Hartley Violin claim. To recap: Henry Aldridge Wallace Hartley's Violin& Son claims a violin has been authenticated as belonging to Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley and was on his body when recovered. It was given to his fiancee where it remained until she died. It was then donated to the Salvation Army with its Titanic connection mentioned. Then it was given to the mother of the current owner (unidentified at this point) who contacted the auctioneer to have it authenticated (which took seven years).

Skepticism was quick in coming. Karen Kamuda of Titanic Historical Society has questioned the authenticity pointing out no such violin is listed in the official inventory of items found.  Tracey Beare of Belfast Titanic Society thinks the violin is Hartley’s but not the one used on Titanic. Titanic author Daniel Butler went further and accuses the auctioneer of fraud and got violin experts to render an opinion. You can read the blog entry about that here.

Aldridge refutes all of those claims and says there are explanations for each of them.

1. Inventory Issue: Violin Not Listed In Official Papers of Items Found On Body
Aldridge: “Larger items of luggage were frequently not recorded but small effects like watches were.” (BBC, 5 April 2013)

I have no idea whether this is correct or not, but one would have to go back through the documents to determine how they did handle luggage. What Aldridge is referring to are those things found on the body, i.e watches, notes, rings and other personal effects. Such things,when found,would be returned to relatives or loved ones.

The problem is Aldridge claims the violin was inside a leather bag strapped to Hartley’s body which floated upright on a cork and linen lifejacket for ten days. If that is true, then they could not have missed the bag and its contents. It would have been opened and inspected, and noted somewhere. Finding a bag strapped to a dead man’s body and not opening to inspect and inventory? That is rather hard to believe. One possibility is that the bag was found floating but not to a body but possibly on something else (a deck chair perhaps) or just by itself. Then it might be brought back and left for the authorities to examine. If this is true, it might explain why no official record of it exists with his body. It was not found on him but perhaps is buried in paperwork. So when Maria Robinson identified it in Nova Scotia, they gave it to her and hence why no official record exists.

Of course the other possibility is that no violin was found at all and thus the one at issue, while owned by Hartley, was not on Titanic.

2. Salt Water Issue
The claim: A violin immersed in salt water gets heavily damaged and comes apart.
Aldridge: The violin was inside a nearly waterproof leather bag strapped to Hartley’s body which floated upright for ten days. (BBC, 5 April 2013)

Assuming it was in a leather bag that floated upright on Hartley’s lifejacket, there are some things to be considered. Even in a bag, it would not entirely protect it from the cold temperatures nor moisture. We have to assume during that time waves passed over the body and presumably the leather case strapped to the body. At some point, the body would be submerged temporarily. The water stain on the violin could have come from this.

There is a way to test this though is Mythbusters style. You set up a tank to simulate the wave action of the North Atlantic and have the same salinity (salt) level in it. Also make sure the water matches the colder temperatures for that time of year. They you set up floating dummy with a leather sack and a violin inside (preferably one donated for the cause) along with detection gear to monitor for temperature and moisture level inside the sack. And run for ten days to and see what happens. And then also run another challenge of a violin afloat with a leather container for the same amount of time.  My guess is the one inside the leather bag might be less damaged than the one without.

The BBC article does have violin dealer Andrew Hooker (formerly of Sotheby’s) saying that violins have survived seawater immersions in the past. He says that an 18 century Stradivari violin was swept out to sea one day in 1952 and was swept back in the next with no problems being able to be played. Note what is left out. He does not say where that happened (for fact checking) because it may not have been swept out to the deep sea but was lodged nearby on a rock and then swept back in on the next tide. To say it was not damaged is probably not accurate. Hooker does say something interesting to the BBC:

“Mr Hooker examined the Hartley violin in person and says it has been restored since surviving the Titanic disaster.”

Note that key word restored in that sentence.  According to The Telegraph article on 14 Mar 2013, the violin has two long cracks on its body opened up by moisture damage. And later we have a letter to the current owner’s mother as to why the Salvation Army music teacher decided to give it away. “….I found it virtually unplayable, doubtless due to its eventful life.” So it begs the question as to what Mr. Hooker means it was restored.

Perhaps though, even if made playable again, it never sounded good. That would bolster the assertion by one of Butler’s experts that the metal plaque effects the tone and quality of the violin. If so that would support the theory this violin was not one used for public performances.

3. Second Violin Issue
Claim: The violin, while owned by Hartley, was of a lower grade than most performers were used. Likely a gift since the metal inscription would inhibit its tone and overall quality when played.
Aldridge:” Mr Aldridge says that Hartley was a “cafe violinist” not a concert-grade musician, and did not have spare money for extra violins. (BBC, 5 April 2013)

Aldridge does have a point here. Concert grade violins are not cheap but most performers save up to buy the high quality equipment. It sounds better and if treated right, will last a very long time.  But if he was smart, and I bet he was, he had a backup. One that in a pinch he could pull out and use. It would be old, perhaps not as good, but would get the job done until he got back his primary (which would be in the shop being repaired). He may have brought it aboard Titanic that voyage and that is what we found. We may never know for sure whether he had two violins or not aboard Titanic. I wonder though if any violins were found in the debris field and recovered. They did find some musical instruments. Perhaps if he did have a second it is there and he kept the one most dear nearest to his heart.

I think we have to at least consider the possibility he had a primary and a backup. And if the metal inscription did effect tonal quality, he may not have used for public performances even if he was a “café violinist.”

Wrapping Things Up
One proof submitted is a diary entry by Maria Robinson dated 19 Jul 1912. It apparently is the transcript of a telegram sent to the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia in which she states: “I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiance’s violin.” The actual telegram has not been found so, at this point, it cannot be ascertained it was sent. It would seem to confirm a violin was returned to her. If that is true, it certainly supports the theory the violin was found but not why it was not recorded. If it was in luggage (the leather bag) found floating, that might explain it. However the silence on the Nova Scotia end is odd. If it was found on his body, it would be noted. If it was found in a leather bag brought ashore, and then identified by Maria Robinson, there would be an entry somewhere. A further check of records might have to be done and perhaps looking into ancillary records that might contain that nugget.

I think it is wise to have a second pair of eyes, independent of Aldridge, go over all the findings and double-check everything. And it also is wise not to underestimate fakery. There have been great fakes in the past that have gotten by experts on the first examination. Aldridge, despite what some might want to believe, would never be part of this. The damage to his reputation and his business would not be worth it. However there are others out there who have no problems creating historical fakes using clever means. Getting an old violin from that period and using all the right things might very well create a fake Hartley violin that would pass muster. After all, if one can make seemingly historical inscriptions on ancient tombs to make them look real, then mocking up an old violin is not so difficult.

Source: ‘Titanic Violin’ Sparks Heated Debate(5 April 2013, BBC)

Carnival Curse Or Just Something To Write About?

Carnival Triumph
Wikimedia Commons (Scott L.)

Years ago while on tour of a naval vessel a question was asked about whether it was rougher at sea or when docked in port. The officer cocked his head slightly and responded it was worse in port. He explained tides going in and out shift the ship and cause it to move unpredictably at times. Having been aboard craft when tides change, I learned exactly what he meant. And something like that happened to the Carnival Triumph.

While moored and undergoing repairs in Mobile, Alabama, it became adrift when near hurricane force winds and stormy waters snapped its moorings. Off it went downriver until it a cargo ship where it incurred more damage. This was the same ship that weeks ago was stranded to a major power failure requiring it be towed back. The horror stories were pretty ghastly and Carnival has refunded their money back plus some free trips in the future.

There were 600 crew members and 200 contractors aboard when it went adrift but they are okay. A guard shack was toppled into the water with two men inside. One has been rescued and the other has not been found and now presumed dead. Now the work order will be altered with fixing a 20-foot gash in the stern with two levels of broken rail. Also the power lines connected to Triumph were broken with possible damage to that system. So it means more work for the repair team.

Now some out there, either jokingly or somewhat seriously, speak of a Carnival curse. The cruise line has certainly had its share of problems from illnesses, ship handling problems, and one very serious incident where the captain got to close to rocks causing the ship to founder resulting in passenger deaths (Costa Concordia). Some of these, like with the Costa Concordia, are rare. Most ship captains are a pretty serious lot who prefer to not to take great risks that will endanger the ship or passengers. However it is a fact that things are going to go wrong. Someone comes on with an virus that has not yet done anything more than a sniffle but later spreads like an epidemic in the close quarters of a ship. Or it could be bacteria that gets into the air filtration system spreading an airborne virus. Unexpected high seas might tumble a ship around causing damage to property and people. A fire in the engineering area, perhaps electrical, knocks out the power for the entire ship. All of those things have happened to cruise ships.

There are a lot cruise ships out there, actually thousands that traverse the oceans, seas, and rivers of our planet. And most of the time, nothing eventful happens except the usual gripes and complaints that arise when you have lots of people aboard a ship. Yet when something does, we act like this is something that never happens. As if they can never happen. This is something out of whack. Complaints arise from politicians (of course), that something must be done as if this has not happened before. Even with the most sophisticated safety and shipbuilding techniques, a ship is hostage to nature and when things go bad like when an engine is knocked out of commission. It is not like the old days where you could hoist a sail and hope for the wind. You cannot do that with most cruise ships and it probably would do little good owing to its massive size.

Curses are convenient in that they answer why things happen badly. The legendary big daddy of all, the one about King Tut, is that many involved in its finding died. Yet that is not true. Some notable deaths did occur but nothing to suggest a curse was reaching out and killing everyone responsible. Howard Carter lived a long life as did others. And the curse was invented by the press and encouraged, it is believed, by Carter to keep people away. Yet people want to believe in it and connect all kinds of bad things when the mummy was on tour around the United States. Titanic has its mummy curse as well but that is also fiction. No mummy was aboard Titanic. Some people argued any president of the U.S. who was elected in a year ending in a zero, would die in office by assassination. Yet while some presidents were killed (Lincoln, McKinley, Kennedy), Reagan was not ending that notion.

What happened to Carnival is nothing mystical or supernatural. It all has a rational explanation. Each incident has it own explanation but when we string them all together some want to believe a hand is at work. What kind of hand? Fate or supernatural or just plain bad timing, I take the bad timing.


Titanic Authors Week At Titanic Pigeon Forge

Titanic Pigeon Forge Museum
Doug Coldwell

It is Titanic authors week at Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The 7  day booksigning event will allow museum visitors to meet authors, have photos taken with them, and purchase books. The event is being held in the parking lot from 10am-5pm each day. It is free to attend and purchase of books will give a discount on museum admittance. The youngest author is Luke Copas, age 11, who wrote Facts For Kids About The Titanic.

Other noted authors to be present are Daniel Allen Butler, Bruce M. Caplan, Kristen Iversen, Tammy S. Knox, Yvonne Lehman, June Hall McCash,  Lee W. Merideth, Ken Rossignol, Julie Hedgepeth Williams,and Allan Wolf.

1.Titanic Hosts Authors’ Week In Pigeon Forge(2 April 2013,Local8now)

2.Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge(website)

Titanic News For April Fools Day

April Fool or Trick or Treat? You decide!

1. Clive Palmer, the same billionaire behind Titanic II, wants to create his own Jurassic Palmer Colossal CrocodilePark but will use robot dinosaurs. According to Daily Mail, he has ordered more than a hundred mechanical dinosaurs from China (could that be aging party members?) to install at his Palmer Coolum Resort. The resort already has a life size T-Rex and a Deinosuchus (the large ancestor of modern day crocodiles) is set to arrive by end of May. Palmer apparently applied to local authorities to turn part of the golf course into a dinosaur park. The robot dinosaurs will be displayed in woodlands and will be animatronic. As people walk by, they will sway their tails, heave chests and blink. No word on sounds but a roar now and then would probably liven things up. Of course they would to be careful not to do that while people are playing golf. Having a dinosaur roar while setting up your shot would be hazard on its own!

Source: Australian Billionaire Reveals Plans For Real Life Jurassic Park Filled With Robot Dinosaurs(1 April 2013,Daily Mail)

2. A remake of James Cameron’s Titanic is being planned, by the famous director has announced. A remake will likely star Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in the lead roles. Palmer hopes the remake will top the original and with the two Twilight stars at the top, ought to draw lots of people in to see the movies.

Source: Titanic Reboot Destined To Sink(1 April 2013, Washington Square News)