By: Dr. Michael Martin, Special to the Voice
As a person who loves history (having once majored in it), I often find myself wondering what it might have been like to live in another time. Sometimes those thoughts are quickly dismissed because I am quite sure I would have never been an aristocrat. I would have probably been the person working sunrise to sunset as an indentured servant on some land baron’s estate eking out an existence. That being said, along with being a history major, I have a serious case of “wanderlust.” I love to travel. There was a trip, a cruise, one I seriously considered trying to swing, but my day job got in the way. I wanted to be a passenger of the ship that was re-enacting the journey of the Titanic this past week.
Exactly one century after the fateful trip, the MS Balmoral departed Southampton, England with 1,309 passengers, some wearing period costumes (It is interesting to me that I have found different numbers regarding the number of passengers). According to Knowles’ “Titanic Reenactment Sets Sail on Exact Route a Century Later,” those shelling out the $9,000 price for a ticket will be treated to the same meals as those on the original ship, using similar silverware and listening to the same music that the passengers in 1912 might have heard. The 21st century version of the trip will take exactly the same path and stop at the place the Titanic sunk to have a memorial service. Some passengers aboard the Balmoral are relatives of the ill-fated Titanic passengers and will be dropping wreaths into the cold North Atlantic at that sacred place.
What if you did not plan ahead or did not have the money for such a trip? There are a number of other options to ponder the shipwreck that has captivated us for a century. According to Seth Borenstein’s “Titanic 100th Anniversary and Our Fascination with Disasters,” some argue that the disaster, which was the largest peacetime maritime catastrophe of all time, began our seeming obsession with disasters. Perhaps it was the first version of today’s 24/7 desire for news. When the Titanic set sail, the globe had recently developed a wireless ability and such an unthinkable calamity of the unsinkable ship, unfortunately, generated the use of this communicative tool. But why do we still seem enthralled with a shipwreck? Perhaps it is that "[t]the story is ageless, like all great stories," said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Borenstein says, "The elements in this case of triumph, tragedy, and hubris, of bravery and cowardice, all wrapped up in one brief moment. That speaks to people.”
Museum exhibits from Dublin to New York City and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to Chicago, Illinois provide opportunities to peruse and analyze the story that most know today because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Kate Winslett’s modern-day Romeo and Juliet story. Rob Gillies says in “Titanic: Visiting the Grave of the Real J. Dawson in Halifax,” among the gravestones in the cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia is a marker simply inscribed “J. Dawson” with a deceased date of Apr. 15,1912 and the number “227.” While the grave has no relationship to DiCaprio’s character, it has been a “magnet for bouquets and weeping girls,” says Gillies. More than 150 victims, including some of the most famous, were taken to Halifax, and many are buried in the cemeteries in the town. While many of the victims were unnamed as recently as 2007, DNA testing determined the identity of one of the many children to lose their lives, according to Gillies. If you are still interested in this amazing story of human tragedy, the amount of information for inquiring minds has never been more available than now as we commemorate this event.
If you cannot find enough money to visit a museum or do not have enough time to search the internet for handy facts, perhaps as a study-break you might consider seeing the movie re-edited in 3D. Recently, I read in an article that over 750,000 hours were spent in the digitization of James Cameron’s masterpiece. While the 1997 version of the movie won 11 Oscars (it was nominated for 14), according to movie critic, Owen Gleiberman, “[t]o watch "Titanic" again is to do nothing less than enter a movie and come out the other side, with one's spirit feeling just a little bit larger.” The movie is still playing in Bloomsburg, Selinsgrove and Hazelton. Enjoy!