By Supriya Tiwari
LONDON: A hundred years after it sank about 375 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, and a decade after it was immortalized for the cinema-loving public by James Cameron in a Hollywood blockbuster featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, cities in various parts of the world are planning to celebrate what was at that time the world’s largest liner afloat.
RMS Titanic, built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, and owned by White Star Line, had 2,224 people on board, a majority of whom perished in the disaster that occurred on April 14, 1912. The New York-bound Titanic set sail four days earlier from Southampton.
Of the people who perished, majority were poor emigrants from Southampton who were hoping to escape their lives back home and make a new life in New York. About 5 in 6 members of the ship’s crew were from Southampton.
Many European and U.S. cities that lost their loved ones to the Titanic are now commemorating the tragedy by holding events to mark the ship’s sinking, complete with centenary cruises, re-telling of stories of survivors and re-living of the events aboard.
For instance, the five-night-long “Titanic mini cruise” travelled earlier this month from Southampton to Liverpool, where it was registered, and finally to Belfast where it was built.
Interestingly, the cruise ship Balmoral, which is operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, is going to follow the original route of the Titanic, with the intention to stop over the point on the sea where the Titanic sank and now rests. It would be for those curious enough to not find the stopping over macabre to undertake such a cruise. This proposed cruise will undertake the journey that Titanic could not complete.
There already are many museums dedicated to the Titanic. In Belfast, there is a “Titanic Belfast” visitor attraction that is located on the site where the Titanic was actually built. It opened to the public on March 31, 2012.
An exhibition called TITANICa is also on in Ulster at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
Museums in England have more substantial displays, such as the original builders’ model of the sea which is on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. The National Maritime museum also has a Titanic-related collection.
The city of Southampton, which lost 559 residents to the sinking of the Titanic, opened the SeaCity Museum on April 10, the date when RMS Titanic left the port of Southampton to undertake its tragic voyage a hundred years ago. The museum shows 2000 years of marine history and maritime links.
Museums in the United States have a variety of items on show. The Titanic Heritage Society has an exhibition on in Massachusetts, which displays, among other items, the original lifejacket worn by John Jacob Astor, which he subsequently took off and gave to his wife. He perished in the disaster. The original blueprints of the ship and its original wireless messages are also on display.
Many museums attempt to re-create the ship’s atmosphere for their visitors. The Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri, is located within a specially created replica of the ship, which has some memorabilia and artifacts. A museum in Tennessee goes so far as to recreate the cold of the ocean and the heat of the boiler rooms, and the Grand Staircase of the ship.
The Titanic Experience in Orlando, Florida, concentrates on the first class suite, the Grand Staircase, and a part of the Promenade Deck. The tours of the various parts are provided by actors in period costumes.
A more genuine experience is perhaps the 22-ton slab of the ship’s hull, which is on display at a permanent Titanic exhibition at Luxor Las Vegas.
In fact, the year-long commemoration started last year, with Belfast’s docklands marking the ship’s rolling down into the water by firing a single flare on May 31, 2011, at exactly 12:13pm. The assembled boats in the area sounded their horns and the crowd applauded for exactly 62 seconds, based on the time it took the ship to originally roll down the slipway 100 years ago.
Television and film industries have also been commemorating one of the most stories shipwrecks in history.
The BBC programme the Songs of Praise was fashioned as a Titanic memorial last month. Among the hymns that were sung was a selection of maritime hymns and the final song was “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” which is reportedly the song played by the band on board as the ship was sinking.
Titanic, the blockbuster directed by Cameron featuring DiCaprio from 1997, was re-released in 3D on April 4, 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the ship’s completion.
The Oscar-winning author of Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes, has written a four-part TV programme on the Titanic, which has been broadcast in an upstairs-downstairs storyline typical of his writing style. Unlike the film, Titanic, Fellowes concentrates on the drama within, rather than focusing on any shots of the ship actually sinking. The series was produced by ITV1 and shown on the same channel to mixed reviews.
The Lyric Theatre in Belfast is performing “White Star of the North” and a street theatre event is being performed in Liverpool called “Sea Odyssey.”
At Upstairs at the Gate house, a stage play called “Iceberg-Right Ahead!” is currently on till April 22, 2012.
The commemorations being undertaken at various cities which have connections with the Titanic are to mark the world’s greatest luxury liner that tragically could not complete its maiden voyage, and, when it sank in the Atlantic, to caution against the frailty of man against nature.
The commemoration also marks the lives of those who went down with the ship as if to say that they are gone but not forgotten. It is fitting that — although it cannot be confirmed whether indeed it was the tune being played at the time the Titanic went down — “Nearer, my Lord, to Thee” is featured in most of these events, thus reminding us of the preciousness of human life, irrespective of which class they travelled in on the Titanic. (Global India Newswire)