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Titanic’s 100 Years: Then & Now

April 10th, 2012

Titanic. By Unknown via Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Even though the Titanic has been sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for a century now … a lot has happened. And we’re still as fascinated by it as ever.

Technology has improved, allowing us to learn more about exactly how the Titanic sank and where it came to rest.  For nearly 3/4 of the time it’s been down there, it wasn’t found. Now, it’s not only been visited lots of times by experts and even tourists (super expensive), but the most complete photos of it have been recently pieced together . We also now know that Titanic is spread out over a huge thousand-acre area of the ocean floor , according to National Geographic.

Over 5,000 items have been brought up, including a 17-ton piece of the ship. That’s not new, the artifacts are on display in  various cities . What is new is that they’re being auctioned right now in New York .

There are some rules. All 5,000+  items must be sold together and stay together. And there needs to be some sort of ability for the public to see it on display because it has become a part of our culture and history. It’s not the first auction, but it’s the biggest one, and is aimed at protecting the pieces.

The topic of Titanic artifacts is actually somewhat controversial.

A retrieved watch from an unknown passenger, that had stopped at the approximate time that the ship went down on that fateful night on April 15 1912 at 02:20 a.m.By Digiblue from UK via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Robert Ballard , who co-discovered the wreck in 1985, argues strongly that the wreck should have been left the way it was, out of respect and as a memorial to those who died. Reports say he actually could have claimed Titanic for himself by removing the first piece. He is concerned that too few rules govern the site and describes the Titanic wreckage as a “deep sea museum with the doors wide open.” And no lock. He says, there have been things taken without permission, damage has been done, and there’s garbage littering the site.

Titanic is much more than the wreck and its items. It’s also the stories of the more than 1,500 people who lost their lives … and the over 700 saved. We still don’t know the exact numbers for sure.

Our last living link to Titanic died three years ago. Millvina Dean was 97 years old and the last known living survivor.

Millvina Dean, right, with her older brother. Wikimedia Commons

She was also youngest known passenger onboard at 2 months old.  Toward the end of her life, she had to sell some of her mementos from Titanic to help pay her medical costs. The stars and director of the 1997 Hollywood version of Titanic (still the most successful movie of all time with 11-Oscar awards), kindly stepped in to pay her medical bills. Titanic was just re-released in 3-D for the anniversary.

While all the survivors have passed away, for others the journey has just begun. Literally.  A cruise ship called the MS Balmoral set sail a few days ago to re-trace the Titanic’s route for the 100th anniversary. They’re also eating some of the same menu items and listening to the same music from the original journey. Some think it’s a bit strange but it’s important and meaningful to others, including those whose relatives were on Titanic.

In either case, thankfully, there are enough life boats onboard for everyone this time. Many of the safety rules we have today for ships are because of the lessons we learned from Titanic.

This time we can expect a happy ending.


Need a bit of a Titanic Re-Cap? Resources below too.

The Titanic sank 100 years ago, on April 15, 1912.

At the time, it was the largest moving vessel in water. It was about the length of three football fields. Its 3 propellers alone weighed over 90 tons.

By Yzmo via Wikimedia Commons

It was also the most luxurious boat ever made at the time.

When it sank on its very first voyage and over 1,500 lives were lost. It was the biggest maritime (water) disasters of its time.

Titanic’s makers claimed it was unsinkable. But it hit an iceberg on its very first voyage causing it to sink on the 4th day of its 5-6 day trip.

The iceberg Titanic may have hit. Photo by Stephan Rehorek via Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The ship was on its way from Southhampton, England to New York. It stopped in Cerbourg, France and Queensboro, Ireland to pick up passengers before crossing the ocean.

The ship was designed with 16 separate water tight compartments so that if there was a leak, the compartment would seal up and contain the water that came in rather than spreading throughout the ship. It could handle up to five compartments leaking. The collision with the iceberg punctured six. This happened at 11:40 pm, April 14.

From then, it took about 3 hours for the boat to sink. It finally fully submerged at 2:20 am.

But a few other things went wrong as well that made the Titanic’s sinking and the lives lost even more tragic.

There weren’t enough lifeboats on board — only 20 — which was only enough for about half the people.

Some passengers were given priority over others which made it hard to load the life boats efficiently.

As the Titanic was sinking on a moonless night, the crew radioed the nearest ship, the Californian, just an hour away, to come help. But it was the middle of the night and the radio operator had reportedly gone to bed and never got the message. The Carpathia, which was four hours away, came to rescue those who managed to stay alive in the frigid waters. Many floating in the water died of hypothermia — their bodies got too cold.

Titanic rests 2 1/2 miles (1,970 feet) down on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Titanic wreck. Courtesy of NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

 A few great Titanic resources:

The Official RMS Titanic website

National Geographic  (There are incredible links to interactive time lines, maps, cool facts, etc).

Titanic: Disaster at Sea (100th anniversary edition) by Martin Jenkins and Brian Sanders, Candlewick Press, 2012

Titanic: The Story Lives On! (Penguin Young Readers) by Laura Driscoll, 2012

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