The enduring appeal of the Titanic
A mere four days into the RMS Titanic‘s maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City in April of 1912, the famed “unsinkable” ship hit an iceberg and proved that description wrong. The luxury cruise liner was the largest of its kind, full of grandeur and technology considered sophisticated for its time. But despite all of its bells and whistles, 1,500 passengers and crew members lost their lives when the Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland. (Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the ship.)
“People are fascinated by the Titanic today for the same reasons they’ve always been,” says Don Lynch, official historian for the Titanic Historical Society. “The largest ocean liner in the world, on its maiden voyage, supposedly unsinkable, loaded with some of the most famous names of the day, hits an iceberg all on its own, and then sinks so slowly there is a lot of time for drama and heroism to be acted out. If it was written as fiction, no one would believe it could have actually happened.”
Among the who’s who of passengers on board were Benjamin Guggenheim, heir to his famous family’s mining fortune; Margaret Tobin Brown (better known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown), who was the wife of another mining magnate; and Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, a real estate tycoon, and his wife Madeleine. Astor went down with the ship but Madeleine survived.
While James Cameron’s blockbuster feature film Titanic enchanted audiences with a fictional love story set aboard the ship, Lynch feels that most people are more interested in why it sank, rather than what life was like on board. (Discover how a lost artifact from the Titanic was found in an attic decades later!)
With that being said, we know the Titanic hit an iceberg, but experts continue to debate why it collided with the floating mass. According to Time, one theory is that it made a wrong turn, putting the Titanic in the path of the iceberg. Another is that Jack Phillips, the ship’s senior radio operator, failed to pass along a final clear warning about the impending iceberg. Some also consider the idea that the ship was constructed using some lower-quality materials that were more easily damaged when the collision occurred.
Today there is certainly no lack of information available to history buffs who are interested in getting a closer look into the epic tragedy. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition has several locations, including Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. The Titanic Historical Society boasts a small museum in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts; and Branson, Missouri is home to its own Titanic Museum.
History buffs will also love learning about the 16 strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.