Tragic Icon: RMS Titanic

Obviously this one was going to come up at one time or another. You all know about her. The legend. The story. The rumours, myths and Hollywood-fuelled public interest.

There is a perfectly legitimate reason behind it all: The RMS Titanic and everything about her story is a truly human tale. Therefore we relate. The equivalent of a Greek Tragedy. The 9/11 of 1912 - at least in terms of dramatic scale and lasting impact. Unless if you've lived in the wilderness and never entered modern civilization, you'll know about the story of this tragic icon of passenger shipping. It enters our lives at one point or another. Everything from the construction of this colossus to the bitter, frigid end of her one and only voyage fascinates each incoming generation. Many people simply can't quite believe that such a story unfolded, even in this age. 

I won't go on about what happened. Obviously we all know. And it was horrid. To me, this vessel is the one that "hooked" me into learning more about the golden age of ocean liner travel. Born in 1992, I grew up right in the middle of a sea of intrigue about the old girl. The James Cameron movie, discoveries during continued dives, and also the publications released on the subject were readily available to me. Good God, those books. Everything from Ghost Liners to Titanic: An Illustrated History found its way into my home, and there was never a single regret about it. In my youth I ate, slept and breathed RMS Titanic; it was an integral part of my life. Yet even to this day, I can't quite pinpoint what it is that fascinates me about her. It's almost like a chemistry of sorts. Perhaps the thought that a self-contained "city" at sea what was drew me in. Think about it - Turkish Baths, luxurious accommodations, shimmering chandeliers, gilded lounges and majestic public spaces all riveted tightly together in a skin of imposing black metal, slicing through the great oceans of the world. 

The abandoned drawing room of Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. The RMS Titanic was designed here, the room once serving as an airy, light-filled sanctuary for a team of talented draftsmen.

The abandoned drawing room of Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. The RMS Titanic was designed here, the room once serving as an airy, light-filled sanctuary for a team of talented draftsmen.

Then, of course, there is the overall design of the vessel's interiors. The grand staircase, its ornate woodworking and gilded accents sweeping in twin spiralled edges down several decks, never losing the ability to leave one dumbstruck. The majestic First-Class dining room, where anybody who was anybody ate amongst a sea of twinkling glasses and sumptuous delicacies. The many lounges and public spaces throughout the RMS Titanic were something to truly behold. To think, spaces such as these were able to travel around the world and provide all the amenities of home to those onboard. Having visited artifact exhibitions and been inches from the lingering souls of RMS Titanic and her passengers, I can safely say that part of this story will always live on. It can be difficult to describe, but once you see the remains of long-ceased existences and creations, you connect to them. You feel them. I'll never forget happening upon a pouch of perfume samples, tiny and delicate yet capable of surviving crushing pressure and years of resting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The glass display they were resting in at the exhibit I was visiting had several small holes drilled through it.

So what did I do?

I leaned against the glass and inhaled the potent aroma of a long-dead age.

I closed my eyes. The tears couldn't be helped; I was simply overcome by this vivid, fruity scent that had followed the dead to the bottom of the Atlantic and found a way back to the surface after a century. Those kinds of experiences do not come often. Through the shattered china and shoes that remained tightly tied where ankles used to be, a reminder of the life that existed pierced through the tragedy and death. This is what we should remember about RMS Titanic. People lived and died upon her, but their stories still deserve to be told. The essence of that great jet-black liner will always live on, and not just because of what has been salvaged from the deep (a sensitive subject for many). Our admiration and sheer love of this tragic icon will keep it alive. So do yourself a favour; discover the essence of this ship and those aboard. Watch the documentaries online, read books from the library, and view the stunning masterwork of artists such as Ken Marschall (who I am indebted to for being such a huge inspiration). Don't just think of it as "the big ship that sank." Think of it as a pivotal, powerful chapter of maritime history. Because it is.

Photo Credit (In order): kynd_draw (Flickr CC), craigfinlay (Flickr CC).