Saturday, August 25, 2012

One Month of the Titanic

On this, the last day of my month of blogging about the Titanic every day, I want to share with you the story of these shoes.
These tiny shoes (the scale is centimeters) are believed to belong to The Unknown Child, a very young boy whose body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett crew in 1912.

This is what the records say about the Unknown Child:

NO. 4. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 2. - HAIR, FAIR. CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; Brown Petticoat; flannel garment; pink woollen singlet; brown shoes and stockings. 

No relatives came to claim the shoes--or identify the body.  Possibly, close relatives had all perished in the wreck.

Most of the clothing and other items recovered by the Mackay-Bennett crew were burned to stop souvenir hunters. But the Halifax police sergeant who helped guard over the belongings could not bring himself to burn the tiny shoes.  He put them in his desk drawer.  Eventually, they were given to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

 The child's remains were eventually mis-identified, and then re-identified . . . a touching ceremony was held at the graveside:

 A cousin read the names of about 50 children who had also perished when the Titanic went down and a bell was rung for each, she said. 
A soft, drizzling rain began to fall as the first name was read, and stopped when the list was finished, she recalled. Ultimately, the family left the headstone and the grave as it was.  
"The tombstone of the unknown child represents all of the children who perished on the Titanic, and we left it that way," she said. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

More Titanic numbers . . and weird Titanic fun

Click here to see this cool infographic up close

And about this, I don't know what to say . . .

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My good friends GBS and ACD argue about the Titanic

George Bernard Shaw
Arthur Conan Doyle
You didn't know they were my friends, did you?

I am an English major, with Higher Degrees in English, too.  And I studied 19th c. British Lit. So of course they are my dear friends.

Anyway, they were arguing about the Titanic through a series of letters to the editor in the Daily News and Leader in May 1912. I'm guessing it was a London Newspaper, because that's where these two gentlemen lived at the time.

I'm not sure who put up the lovely webpage with the full text of both men's letters and some good background information, but you can find it here.

Basically, they were arguing about the way the Titanic disaster was being portrayed and "read" by the public.  This was right after the American investigation was over and the British one was just about over. People were hearing stories of not enough lifeboats, "women and children first" except for the many children in 3rd class, and the captain's death.

Mr. Shaw started it, with his letter that scolds the English public about their "romantic" read on the Titanic.
Why is it that the effect of a sensational catastrophe on a modern nation is to cast it into transports, not of weeping, not of prayer, not of sympathy with the bereaved nor congratulation of the rescued, not of poetic expression of the soul purified by pity and terror, but of a wild defiance of inexorable Fate and undeniable Fact by an explosion of outrageous romantic lying?  
The romanticism Shaw deplores is the idea that men should be heroes, officers should be calm, and everyone should "face death without a tremor."

What's wrong with all this romanticism?  Well, this is what Shaw says:
I ask, what is the use of all this ghastly, blasphemous, inhuman, braggartly lying?  Here is a calamity which might well make the proudest man humble, and the wildest joker serious.  It makes us vainglorious, insolent and mendacious.  
Arthur Conan Doyle disagreed with Shaw, and he wrote a letter to the editor in answer.  Here's the main gist of his letter:

As to the general accusation that the occasion has been used for the glorification of British qualities, we should indeed be a lost people if we did not honor courage and discipline when we see it in its highest form. 
In other words: romanticize away!  This event deserves to be glorified!  Why?
That our sympathies extend beyond ourselves is shown by the fact that the conduct of the American male millionaires has been warmly eulogized as any single feature in the whole wonderful epic.   

Um . . . "whole wonderful epic"?

Doyle seemed to already be planning the movie!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heart of the Ocean or Heart of Darkness?

It is with a certain bitterness that one must admit to oneself that the late S.S. Titanic had a "good press." 
So says Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness, and former sailor in the British Merchant Marine.  He wrote an essay called "Some Reflections on the Loss of the Titanic," published in the English Review in June 1912.

OK, he got the name of the ship wrong--it's actually (as you probably know) the RMS Titanic (Royal Mail Ship).  But he had much to criticize in the way the Titanic disaster was reported and understood by people of his generation.  This is indeed a very bitter essay.

The "good press" about the Titanic was the mass of stories and praise for the way people acted when the ship sank, putting "women and children first," being "British," and showing a stiff upper lip.

But that's not the heart of his criticism. The essay is rather dense, full of long, thick sentences and thundering accusations. Conrad's main argument, is that no one--no one--should have believed the ship unsinkable.
I ask myself whether the Marine Department of the Board of Trade did really believe, when they decided to shelve the report on equipment for a time, that a ship of 45,000 tons, that any ship, could be made practically indestructible by means of watertight bulkheads? It seems incredible to anybody who had ever reflected upon the properties of material, such as wood or steel. 
He also is dead-set against "floating hotels" like Titanic, where waiters outnumbered true seamen (like himself.)  He compares the Titanic's sinking with the sinking of a smaller ship where there were no passengers lost.  But that ship was different:
She was a ship commanded, manned, equipped--not a sort of marine Ritz, proclaimed unsinkable and sent adrift with its casual population upon the sea, without enough boats, without enough seamen (but with a Parisian café and four hundred of poor devils of waiters) to meet dangers which, let the engineers say what they like, lurk always amongst the waves; sent with a blind trust in mere material, light-heartedly, to a most miserable, most fatuous disaster.
(Wow, that's all one sentence!)

Because of the hubris involved in creating and sailing these big ships, the deaths from the disaster should not be considered "heroic" in any way, Conrad writes.  They should be considered victims.
I, who am not a sentimentalist, think it would have been finer if the band of the Titanic had been quietly saved, instead of being drowned while playing–whatever tune they were playing, the poor devils. I would rather they had been saved to support their families than to see their families supported by the magnificent generosity of the subscribers. There is nothing more heroic in being drowned very much against your will, than in dying of colic caused by the imperfect salmon in the tin you bought from your grocer.
And that’s the truth. The unsentimental truth stripped of the romantic garment the Press has wrapped around this most unnecessary disaster.  
Strong words.

For Conrad, the Titanic's sinking was just one more bit of evidence of a Heart of Darkness--not the one in Africa, but the one in the hearts of the people that created, sold tickets for, and managed the Titanic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Inaccurate Reporting--on the Titanic circa 1912

I first saw a reproduction of this now-famous headline back when I saw the Titanic exhibit at Brucemore here in Cedar Rapids.

Ah, if only it had been true.

But it wasn't.  This was only one of the erroneous news stories from April of 1912.  There are more, aggregated by the Library of Virginia's webpage, such as this headline from London:
and, much later:

Hard to read this bad image, but it states that, among other things, Captain Smith committed suicide, a claim that was never substantiated.

The news gets it wrong?  Oh tell me it's not true!

Funny how while I'm researching this post, the little headlines at the edges of the websites ("Most Read Stories") try to get me to click on links to stories about Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria, writers who did not get it right.  They, like the 1912 story writers, above, left behind the "Values of Journalism" that I teach in my feature-writing classes--Truth, Context, Fairness, and Accuracy--in order to write the damn story.


I can relate to the pressure to get the damn story written.  And I've had to cut corners that I didn't want to cut at times because of pushy editors or a looming deadline.  Inserting misleading information or plagiarized stuff into stories wasn't the problem, thank goodness.  My problem was not re-checking and triangulating and observing and researching as much as I wanted to.

I guess it happens.  But it doesn't have to.

Instead of wringing hands and beating brows over the erroneous stories, we writers should instead be inspired by the story of how the New York Times covered this event.  Roy Peter Clark at the the Poynter Institute's website has an article that tells the story of how NYTimes editor Carr Vattel Van Anda handled the reporting on the Titanic disaster.  In a word (OK, a phrase), it was all about shoeleather reporting, talking to strangers, checking and rechecking facts, and a quiet, subdued writing style that avoided purple prose.

That Poynter story of the Times's coverage is one of the best Titanic stories out there.  And you can read the original articles and see lots of other Times Titanic stuff at the NYT Titanic page.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Titanic editorial cartoons from 1912

Cartoons and humor aren't always funny, like those jokes I shared before.  

I found a trove of editorial cartoons about the Titanic's sinking that were published in 1912, and I'll share a few here.

These two below, from the webpages from a Library of Virginia exhibit this year, are memorials, expressing a country's sadness over the tragedy and loss.

Other cartoons from the days and weeks after the wreck were more pointedly critical.  These are from a collection on the Super I.T.C.H. Archive. (That's International Team of Comics Historians.)  If you go to the site, you can enlarge the cartoons and read them.  

Instead of blaming the ship's company for providing too few lifeboats or speeding through ice fields, this British cartoon below skewers Senator Alden Smith for his less-than-competent investigation of the wreck in the U.S.

This one, from the Cincinnati Post, and posted (with other 1912 cartoons) by the Hemlington Nautical Society, is an illustration of what the Titanic's wreck brought to the ship industry.  

My question:  if there had been enough boats, would there have been enough time to fill them?  The last boats were launched near 2 a.m., and the ship sank at 2:20 a.m.  "More Life Saving Boats" was just one of many problems that caused tragic loss of life.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why AM I writing about the Titanic every day?

According to Blogger, I've written 25 posts for this blog.

When I started it, I pledged to write about the Titanic every day for a month.  So that's 6 more posts, including this one.

I started this blog and made that pledge as a kind of writing discipline--to see if I could write every day for an audience (albeit a small one--several of my posts, um, more than several, have had exactly 0 views).  I wanted to see how that would go, how it would affect my writing.

I also like studying something in this way--to hold it up and look at it from this way and that.  What kinds of movies were made, what do people collect, what can I learn about the event itself.

As 19th century novelist Anthony Trollope said:

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” 


This is the man who wrote The Warden and Barchester Towers and The Small House at Allington. He knows about what comes of small daily tasks.

He wrote those lovely Barchester books (six of them, well worth reading and rereading!) while being employed by the Post Office.  Probably he just had a little time each day to write, and that's how he wrote the novels.
A plaque on the building where Trollope worked for the Post office. His "day job" didn't keep him from writing.

Blogs seem to be a great way to encourage the small daily task of writing--whether it's about TaeKwonDo, or about the Titanic, knowing you just need to spend a half-hour a day writing is liberating.  Then when you're doing your postal work--whether it's actual postal work, or being with little children, or working in an office, or writing mercenary stories for the local newspaper--one part of your brain can be coming up with some sentences for the next post.

What shall I say about those interesting Titanic editorial cartoons from 1912?

P.S.  I did miss one day.  I will still do 31 days of writing. :-)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What goes down well with ice? The Titanic!

Did you know there are Titanic jokes out there?  Of course there are.

Besides the one that's the title of this post, there are others.  Some are even slightly funny:

What do you get if you cross the Atlantic Ocean with the Titanic? About halfway!

Passenger: How far are we from land? 
Captain: Two miles... 
Passenger: which direction? 
Captain: Down

I like these New Yorker-esque Titanic cartoons  :-)

There are lots of visual jokes about the movie.  Her's a poster with one of the less, ahem, racy jokes.

Of course, the Titanic theme--full steam ahead into the icebergs with rich unbelieving folks ahead--is used in LOTS of (usually visual) jokes and cartoons.

But, warning . . . !

Comedian Tim Heidecker responded to the news about Bob Dylan's upcoming Titanic song by writing a Bob Dylan-esque song of his own. . . I thought it would be LOL funny, but it's actually a pretty decent knock-off--sounds amazingly like Dylan.  I wonder if Dylan's will be as . . . Dylan-ish!

Have a listen here--this is the "short" version.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bob Dylan and the Titanic--or is it the Carpenters?

The Titanic--it's everywhere!

Today, I stumbled up on a news story that says Bob Dylan is going to include a 14-minute song about the Titanic in his next album, Tempest.  In fact, it's the title track!  The song will be some sort of narrative--kind of "creative nonfiction," as it will also include references to Leonardo DiCaprio.

The album comes out September 11.  I can't wait to hear the song.

Apparently, Dylan had been listening to the old folk song that I remember singing at camp:

Oh, they built the ship Titanic, to sail the ocean blue,
And they thought they had a ship that the water would never leak through.
But the Lord's almighty hand knew the ship would never stand
It was sad when that great ship went down.

Oh it was sad
Oh it was sad
It was sad when that great ship went down to the bottom of the-
Husbands and wives, little bitty children lost their lives
It was sad when the great ship went down.


Sorry for the earworm, everyone.

I got sidetracked when reading it because the first article I read said he had been listening to "older folk songs, including The Carpenter’s 'Titanic.' "

Wait, what?  Did the Carpenters sing about the Titanic?  Would Bob Dylan like such a song?

I went wildly Googling about, not finding anything and getting infected with all manner of Carpenters earworms.  

Finally, I drilled back to the original interview at Rolling Stone.  It said this:

Numerous folk and gospel songs gave accounts of the event, including the Carter Family's "The Titanic," which Dylan drew from. 

Carters, not Carpenters.

 Here's the correct story, on the Rolling Stone's website.  And here is the Carter Family singing the Titanic song.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Titanic survivors after the shipwreck

What happened to the people who survived the Titanic shipwreck?  How did the rest of their lives turn out?  I was very curious, and I'm not the only one.

I read a couple books about "after the Titanic."

Remember that noise that Jack Thayer heard--the heart-wrenching sound of thousands of people screaming, moaning, and crying for help after the ship sank?  Seems like all the survivors heard that sound and were haunted by it.

That's one theme that ties together the stories of the people profiled in this book. Andrew Wilson--biographer of Harold Robbins, among others--shares the stories of Titanic people from all walks of life:  Madeline Astor, Jack Thayer, Frank Goldsmith, Bruce Ismay, and ordinary crew members and people in steerage.

I enjoyed reading about the passenger who, with her husband, moved to Idaho after surviving the shipwreck, and rarely talked to her family about the Titanic.  But when her three boys grew up, though, she made special bags for them out of the coat she wore on the ship.

It was also cool to read about the lawyer, who, after being one of the men who was allowed in the boats, dedicated his life to getting compensation for the other passengers and victims' families.  And I loved the story of Michel Navratil--the one-time "Titanic orphan" (with his brother).  He was able to pay his last respects to his father (lost in the shipwreck) many years later when he traveled to the shipwreck site.

Other stories were not so rosy--Bruce Ismay's dogged life after being blamed for the accident (mostly by the American public, not so much the British), Madeline Astor and her unhappy love life, and Jack Thayer, the 17-year-old survivor, who took his own life after his son was shot down over the Pacific during WWII.

Like Shadow of the Titanic, this book looks at what happened to people after the Titanic, but this one explores the ways ordinary people viewed the survivors and victims. It focuses on how they were remembered by the rest of us.

Some were looked upon as heros--the shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, who went down with the ship; Jack Phillips, who kept sending Marconi messages as the ship sank (he did not survive); and bandmaster Wallace Hartley, who kept playing music as the ship sank (he was also lost).  This book shares the ways that these Titanic "heros" were celebrated, and has pictures of monuments and stories of myths that grew around these men.

Other Titanic people were thought of as "villains."  Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line, who slipped onto a lifeboat; and Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, who gave money to lifeboat crew--was he bribing them not to go back and pick up survivors?

Some of the more interesting tales were of those who were "mixed."  Was Captain Smith a stalwart hero, who went down with the ship, or a bungling captain?  Was First Officer Murdoch the bribe-accepting, gun-shooting, suicidal person that the 1997 movie portrays?  (Movie executives personally apologized to Murdoch's nephew in Murdoch's hometown of Dalbeattie for this portrayal.  They also donated money to a Murdoch scholarship!)

I would say that Barczewski's book, like my blog, is looking at how the Titanic is "read" by people--and she takes a very thorough historical approach.  It's a well-researched and interesting book.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jack Thayer, survivor

I can picture this young man on the sinking ship. He stands there, separated from his parents by the chaos and the crowd, talking to another young man, Milton Long, and watching a star though the davits of the ship to judge how quickly the ship is sinking.

He's dressed in warm tweeds and three vests and an overcoat--probably the same kind of thing he'd wear at his private high school on cold days. He begins to realize that he may not survive this day, and he is saddened that he may never see his parents or friends again.

All around him, people are running, screaming, jumping.  The boat is making horrible groaning and crashing noises as it sinks.

It's dark; dark and icy cold.

Finally, Jack and his companion decide they need to jump off of the boat. Milton sits down on the edge and asks if Jack is coming too.  "I'll join you in a minute," he says.  Milton slides down the side of the boat and disappears.

Jack, a strong swimmer, takes off his overcoat and jumps out, far away from the suction of the ship going down. The icy water washes over him, he's tossed and spun around in the chaotic sea. With a crash, the second funnel falls very close to him, and he's underwater again.

As he reaches out in the water, his hand grabs onto the edge of one of the lifeboats, Collapsible B, which is floating upside down on the water.  Another man pulls him on top of the overturned craft, and they balance precariously.

They face the sinking ship.The stern tilts higher and higher in the water; people cling in groups "like bees," only to fall into the water.  Buffetted by the waves, the stern spins slowly in the water and then slowly, with loud groans and crashes, sinks into the sea.

It's then that the sound begins:  the awful cries of the people in the water--moans, screams, cries for help.  Jack balances on the upturned boat with the other wet and freezing men, and eventually hears the noise diminish, then stop.

Thayer and the other men on the overturned boat--the ones that did not freeze to death that night--were rescued by the Carpathia.  Thayer was reunited with his mother there.

He was 17, the same age as my older son, Robbie.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bringing back titanic Artifacts

The book Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner, that I talked about in a previous post, is--like the Bob Ballard video, about a group going down to the Titanic site.

But this group, now called "RMS Titanic, Inc." brings back stuff:  Coal and pottery and a suitcase and playing cards and letters and a jacket, brushes and toiletries:  hundreds of "artifacts."

Quite different from Bob Ballard, who "takes nothing but photos."

The Titanic: Legacy book includes this intriguing passage about Ballard:

Although in his 1985 congressional testimony, Ballard had clearly supported artifact recovery, stating that "I think it would behoove us to move expeditiously to preserve those things that can be recovered," he later radically changed his position, asserting that the Titanic site should be left forever undisturbed as a memorial.

Here's an article about the controversy.  It outlines the differing views of Titanic site exploration.

Should people bring stuff back from what's now called the Titanic Archaeological Site?  Or should it be a Titanic Memorial Site?

For me, the pages of artifacts at the back of the Titanic: Legacy book are at once banal and creepy.  Shoe brushes, jewelry boxes, a ceramic cold cream jar.  They are things I can see in any antique shop or town historical society. Having been on the Titanic doesn't make them more special.

But they do create content for museums or exhibits.  As the book says (trying to explain away the need to disturb what could be a memorial site), they provide
a physical connection with one of the most compelling tragedies of all time and keeping the memory and legacy of the Titanic and her lost passengers and crew members alive.

And in the case of lumps of coal, they become gifts that people can buy in Titanic Gift Shops.  Apparently the sale of these goes to support the RMS Titanic organization's work.

What I crave Titanic-wise is not so much artifacts, but pictures, photos, and stories of those who were on the ship.  But maybe that's not enough for everyone.  That's why the wreck won't remain a memorial site, and is now "the Titanic Archaeological Site."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bob Ballard finds the Titanic

In a recent post, I wrote about the Titanic Memorial Cruise.  I noticed that in the bios of the people who were doing lectures on the cruise (Titanic experts--true Titaniacs), many of them said that they had been to the site of the wreck and "had made the 2 1/2 mile dive" down to see it.

That surprised me. I would think that making a deep sea dive like that, in one of those weird submersibles, would be something only for highly-trained oceanographers, or Navy personnel.

But here were these Titaniac, probably mostly "independent scholars," going down to see the wreck.  Is it a vacation industry?

To find out more, I've been reading a bit about the exploration of the Titanic wreck site.

The first person to go down--in fact, the person to FIND the Titanic wreck site was Bob Ballard.

This dude, who I think was a Titaniac from his childhood, became an oceanographer. In 1985, he located the wreck at the bottom of the sea by scanning the seabed back and forth, back and forth.  They called it "mowing the lawn"--you can see it on the right, below

You wouldn't think a huge ship like that would be so hard to find.  But the ocean is big.  Really big.  I mean you might think it's far from here to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts compared to the ocean.

Anyway, I watched a National Geographic DVD about Ballard's finding it, called "Secrets of the Titanic."

There were a few things that stuck with me from watching the 1-hour show, filmed in 1986.  ("That's a really 80's computer, Mom," said Eli.)
  • Footage of the researchers finding the Titanic.  They'd spent days not finding anything.  Then suddenly--they saw a boiler down there.  Raucous celebration!  Jumping up and down!  And just as suddenly--the ship's room got completely silent. 
  • Ballard said he couldn't talk to anyone about it for months.  But maybe he was keeping a secret!
  • Ballard eventually went back to look up close with a submersible--in 1986. He said it was hard to imagine the whole ship as it was pitch black down there, and they could only see what their spotlight shone on.
  • When he finished looking at the wreck site, he left behind a placard memorializing the site.  He brought nothing back from it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Titanic photo essay

I found a book called Titanic: Legacy of the World's greatest ocean liner.  It has a "Discover Channel" logo on the front.  The pictures at the beginning of the book make a cool photo essay.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Titanic tears, a play

Setting:  A coffeehouse in a hip, up-and-coming neighborhood of a small city.  It's Wednesday afternoon, and the coffeehouse is fairly full of people eating, drinking, and chatting.  At one table sits a group of women with knitting needles, yarn, and coffee.  They're talking about, what else, the Titanic.

C:  I love the Titanic movie.  It's a disaster movie, which I love, and it's about the Titanic!  There are a couple of scenes I just have to watch over and over because they're so sad.  First, the band.

K:  The way they come back together as the ship is sinking!

All:  Oh!  Yes!

C:  . . . and the older couple, holding one another . . .

J:  . . . in the bed!

All:  Oooh!  So sad!

C:  . . . and the mother with her two children, telling them about the land they're going to--as the ship is sinking.

All:  O-h-h-h!  So sad!

There are teary eyes and sniffles all around, and everyone takes a sip of coffee.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Titanic Gift Shop

I have to go back to Titanic Branson for a bit.  Because I want to talk about the Titanic Gift Shop phenomenon.

Of course the Branson Titanic Museum has a gift shop.  Of course it does.  I'm guessing that one exits through it.

But this is odd:  if one cannot get to Branson, one can order Titanic gifts online from the Museum's website.  There's a huge selection--books, dolls, t-shirts, and the gift I want, this Trinket Box Titanic Ship
It's only $7.99.  Plus shipping.  I think it would look nice on my desk.

I could also buy a huggable Titanic Plush Ship
but really, I could probably crochet one.

Besides silly stuff like that, the museum also offers the ubiquitous Titanic china, lots of "Star of the Ocean"-themed jewelry (based on the ugly necklace in the 1997 movie), and coal.

Yes, I said coal.

"Actual coal from the Titanic" seems to be a big collectible.  There was a lump of coal in a glass box at the History Center exhibit here in Cedar Rapids.  I wondered what it was at the time.

Lest you think that Titanic gift items are just for silly Tourist Traps, I would like to point out that the Encyclopedia Titanica also has a "store."

While it does not have a Titanic Plush Ship, it does have a Titanic charm for your charm bracelet.

Mostly, it has books and models.  The models range from one of those Revell build-it-yourself plastic models, the kind that has frustrated every male person I know for $8.60, to a grand $99.99 model--also build-it-yourself.

The books listed are linked through  And there are a TON.  A book search at Amazon using the word Titanic yielded 4,056 results.

Neither Branson Titanic or Encyclopedia Titanica sold this Desktop Titanic, available at Barnes and

"For when you get that sinking feeling," says the ad copy.  Definitely more ironic than the Trinket Box Titanic Ship.  I think it's funny, but a bit too ironic for me!

But why do I want a Titanic gift anyway? I don't want a souvenir of the day I went to the museum, because I wasn't there.  I can understand my desire to read or even own a Titanic book--it might share some information I want, or tell the story in a new way.  But a Trinket Box Titanic Ship?  It's not that pretty.

But it does remind me of the Titanic. 

Maybe Gifts--models, china, Christmas ornaments--are a kind of memorial to the event, a way of reminding ourselves about the Titanic--or the thoughts or feelings we have when we think about the Titanic.  Is that something we want to be reminded of?  Or need to be reminded of?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chivalry at sea

It's been a busy week.  At 9:30, I finally got home and sat down with the paper to relax, knowing that I wanted to post on this blog, but feeling too tired to write!

But lo and behold!  Right there in the Science Times (my favorite NYT feature section) was an interesting article about the unwritten law of the sea, "women and children first."  Apparently, except for the Titanic, on sinking ships it's "every man for himself."

In fact, on most of the shipwrecks studied, the highest survival rate was among the crew!

One section was particularly damning for British ships:

Some have suggested that chivalry at sea is a defining characteristic of the British, and that behavior on British ships is guided by this tradition. But even counting the Titanic and the Lusitania, the survival rate for women on the eight British ships in the study was significantly lower than on ships flying other flags, and women died more often than men whether or not the “women and children first” order was given.
“The study suggests there isn’t a particular British tradition of women and children first,” said Lucy Delap, a lecturer in British history at Cambridge, who was not involved in the study. “No, actually women are less likely to survive on British ships, apart from the Titanic.”
(emphasis added)

Yikes. So the Brits are, generally, less likely to look after the weaker and smaller in case of danger . . .

You may know these statistics, but I'll share them anyway:  on the Titanic, 70% of women and 20% of men survived.

And that ship above?  It's the Lusitania (also a British ship) that was torpedoed and sank in 1915, and where the survival rate for women and men was approximately equal.

I wonder if there will be a big centenary for the Lusitania . . .