Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reading about RMS Titanic while at sea

In my last post “Reading in the library of MS Queen Victoria,” I ended by saying that this library had a large amount of books on the Titanic. The MS Queen Victoria is a large and comfortable ship and since we had eight days at sea I had plenty of time for reading many books in cozy places on the ship. Below is a picture of Queen Victoria with her grandchildren Prince Arthur and Princess Margaret of Connaught taken in April 1886. This frame was hanging in one of the halls on the ship.

When we were on the Queen Mary 2 in November 2008 I remember that during one of the shows, a singer sang the theme song from the 1997 movie Titanic. She laughed and said that we were in the Caribbean and not close to an iceberg. While on the Queen Victoria, I heard this song again – it could have been the same singer. She also said that we were going to Hawaii and not close to an iceberg. The difference though was that we were in high sea and the sea was rough. They even had to cancel the acrobats’ act because the ship was rolling too much.

Back in our stateroom that night, reading about the Titanic as the Queen Victoria was moving a bit in the heavy sea, up and down, hearing the creaking noises (we were the first cabin in the bow) it made me pause once in a while. I did not take the pictures of all the books I read while on ship but last week I went to our local library and checked out half dozen books on the subject.

The book in the center above is mine. I had bought “Titanic – A Survivor’s Story” by Colonel Archibald Gracie years ago but had not read it. I am almost half-way through it now. I had also purchased a marked down CD called “Titanic” Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage." Here it is below.

Below is a picture of the members of the band who kept on playing till the end (all perished.)

At the gift shop on the Queen Victoria there were postcards for sale. I bought a little packet containing a collection of 32 postcards of original photographs, illustrations and British new reports on the Titanic.

Here is a close up of some of them. Top left is "Commander Edward J. Smith “Be British” the Last Words of the Titanic’s Captain." Next is “The Personal Side of the Titanic Disaster.” Below "left Diagram 1. The First Contact with the Berg" next to "The Luxury of the Titanic."

While reading all these books I noticed that most of the pictures were the same. I found out that they were taken by an Irish Jesuit priest who sailed with the ship from Southampton to Queenstown, Ireland (now called Cobh.) I found his picture in one of the books. Below is Father Browne.

Father Frank Browne was quite an interesting person. His parents had passed away when he was very young but he had an uncle, Uncle Robert, who was the Bishop of Cloyne. Before entering the Order, his uncle gave him a gift: a Grand Tour of Europe and a camera to record his trip. Later he also gave him a first class ticket for a two-day cruise on the Maiden Voyage of the Titanic from Southampton to Queenstown. On the ship Father Bowne met and became friends with a wealthy American family who offered to pay for the remainder of his journey to New York. But when he reached Queenstown there was a note from his clerical superior ordering him to get back to his theological school. Father Browne had taken many pictures before, during, and after disembarking from the Titanic. His and 11-year-old Jack Odell, a schoolboy who also took pictures, are the only photos of the Titanic at sea that survived the shipwreck. Below are some of those pictures. (The pictures below are from the book I read on Father Browne (The Last Days of the Titanic by E.E. O’Donnell.)

An interesting note is that Father Browne had made up a “Titanic Album” with a selected number of his photos. This album had been kept in a safe place. But 42,000 photos taken by Father Browne in his lifetime and including more photos on the Titanic and his time in the war, laid buried and undisturbed in the Jesuit archives in Dublin. They were found in 1985 the same year the Titanic was found in the bottom of the sea. Below are more photos of Father Browne’s journey on the Titanic taken from different books and articles.

At my library last week I checked an interesting old book. It is called “The Wreck of the Titan, or Futility” written in 1898 (written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic) by Morgan Robertson. Even though this novel was written before these large ships were even designed there are some strange coincidences between the story in this book and what happened 14 years later. Like the Titanic the fictional ocean liner Titan sank in April in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. There were not enough lifeboats for the passengers just like on the Titanic (just enough to satisfy the law.) The Titan was 800 ft long and the Titanic 882, the Titan speed was 25 knots and the Titanic 24. The Titanic, considered unsinkable, sank losing more than half of its 2200 passengers. The Titan, considered indestructible, sank losing more than half of its 2500 passengers. Below are the first pages of the book.

Click on collage then click on each picture to see better

On a French Titanic site I read a full page relating premonitions of the Titanic disaster by passengers who did not board the Titanic – there were so many. Some had strong premonitions but still boarded the ship.

Before World War 1 the public had great confidence in the UK and US achievements. They really believed that this ship was unsinkable which is why many of the passengers did not want to board the lifeboats. The Titanic was the largest, grandest and most luxurious ship of her day. It was 882 feet 9 inches long by 92 feet in breadth and 100 feet tall (11 story building.) Her gross tonnage was 46,328 tons. But then I checked and the Queen Mary 2 is 1132 ft long, by 131 ft in breadth and her tonnage is 150,000 tons so our modern cruise ships are much larger.

Titanic painted my Ken Marschall, American, born in 1950

The history of the Titanic is well known but it was interesting to find some new facts. For example there were 13 honeymooning couples on board. I also found out that the reason so many in 3rd class (steerage) perished was because of the very strong class system of the time. The people then believed in rigid class structure – they thought that they would be taken care of, they trusted the higher classes to save them. They also had faith in the “Ship of Dreams.”

Many say that one hundred years ago today, the 15th of April 1912 was the end of the age of innocence. When the rich lived in opulence and the poor knew “their places.”

An Elegant Soirée by Albert Chevallier Tayler, English 1862-1925

I have read more on this tragedy this week on the Web and even on a couple of special issues of the National Geographic and Time Life Magazine. I heard that more than 100 books were published for the Titanic’s hundred anniversary, in English alone, not including books for juveniles.

Many books had beautiful and haunting illustrations. The bottom right hand picture below is of survivors in a lifeboat. I found out that most survivors could not shake the memory of the sinking and quite a few took their lives in the years after the sinking.

My husband seeing me so involved in reading about the Titanic bought me some hundred anniversary items, such as a cup and plate from 2nd class, a special commemorative plate and postcards.

As I was taking pictures of the book that I had been reading there was a show playing on television on the Titanic and the newspaper had an article about the connection of a local family. A hundred years later, the terrible destiny of the Titanic is still in the news. On the left on the collage below is the front page of the New York Time right after the tragedy.

The phenomenal tragedy of the Titanic occurred on April 15, 1912 when 1,523 people went to their death. The myths and fascination about this iconic ship are still haunting our imagination. There is an exhibition in Atlanta to commemorate the centennial of the doomed Titanic. It is called “Titanic – the Artifacts Exhibition.” At first we did not want to go but finally did see it last week. I’ll talk about it in my next post. I’ll end with a picture of the sea I took on the Queen Victoria while reading about the Titanic.


Jessica CE said...

Best news article I have seen so far on the anniversary.

Reader Wil said...

You have done a great job, reading and studying about the Titanic. I didn't read any of the books, because it is so sad. My father was a sailor and I have sailed from The Netherlands to In donesia ( Dutch East Indies) and back twice. So four voyages. I know what a rough sea looks like. It is frightening. I saw part of the movie " Titanic", but found it too terrible. Anyway your post is very impressive. Thanks!

Thérèse said...

Much more informative than everything I happened to read on the facts about the Titanic these last days on this sad anniversary.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

There is so much to read about the Titanic and it's all incredible. I had no idea some people had premonitions of the disaster. That's fascinating. You've done a wonderful job of this post and I thank you.

I'm not certain I would feel comfortable reading about it while out at sea. I think you are brave. It reminds me of the first time we flew to the Bahamas in a small plane and I read a book about the Bermuda Triangle as we flew over it on the flight. I was nervous the entire trip.

Mary said...

This is such an astounding post, you certainly covered the history in depth and have shared amazing photos - great job dear.

I too read some of the Titanic books on the QE a couple of weeks ago - they were pushing them in the bookshop with the anniversary coming up - but it all made me a bit nervous, not that there were any icebergs in southeast Asia! Yes, the singer (ours was Annette Wardell who is a fabulous operatic star from England - a favorite of the Royal Family apparently) sang the same theme song and made the same comment! We had no rough water - only concern was pirate activity which fortunately we didn't have to contend with!

I've been to the Titanic exhibition when it was in Victoria, BC and we were visiting a few years ago with our granddaughter - it was amazing but quite sad and should not be missed.

Thank you for sharing all this info., Father Browne's photos are awesome..................

I'm home for a little while, catching up on the necessary chores such as gardening, Spring cleaning - and loving it all despite the aching back!

Happy Spring days to you dear.
Hugs - Mary

DJan said...

I really enjoyed this wonderful post about the Titanic. I learned some new facts and have a book or two to look at one of these days. You always do such great research for these informative articles, VB. Thank you! :-)

Ginnie said...

To think there was a novel written 14 years earlier that resembled what really happened, Vagabonde, is very eerie, if you ask me. Amazing. I guess our fascination will never end, especially because of the movie...which Astrid and I just watched again not too long ago. It's all very present in my mind...on this 100-year anniversary! Thank you for this incredible tribute to that historic disaster.

Pat said...

Over here in the UK - as you may imagine - we have had a saturation of documentaries, plays and info to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
As you say there was a very marked class system then which meant the steeerage passengers had less chance of survival than the first and second class passengers.
There were many examples of great courage but also of cowardice.
I hope the ones who lost their lives can now rest in peace and they never attempt to retrieve the wreckage.
YOur photographs were very interesting. It was very eerie that when the disaster was happening the sea was deadly calm.

Rosaria Williams said...

You've done a wonderful job in this post to bring us highlights of the Titanic.

Fennie said...

Fabulous blog - especially the speculative diagrams showing the ship and the iceberg. I have a feeling that had the gash really been as big the ship would have sunk almost in minutes - but that's by the by. I have just written a short story on the Titanic in which the ship doesn't actually sink and may not even have hit an iceberg. A sort of parallel universe.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

A fascinating post, my dear. Just when you think there is nothing new to learn about The Titanic---There IS!!
I have never seen those photo's of Father Browne's before. They are quite extrordinary.....(I cannot get over that he took 42,000 pictures in his lifetime?? I mean, that is an incredible!!)
And that was fascinating that a book about a disaster so similar to The Titanic was written 14 years vefore---AND, that the ship was named The Titan....! More than eerie....!
As always, dear Vagabonde, you enlighten us with your thorough and interesting research....!

Anonymous said...

On pourrait écrire de nombreux romans, avec le Titanic en toile de fond.
C'est fascinant!

Jenny Woolf said...

I wouldn't read about the Titanic while at sea. But I heard the interesting interview with a survivor on the radio the other day. recorded long ago of course.
Our neighbour had a medallion which was given to him by a Titanic survivor, I often wonder what happened to it when he died, because he had no relatives and I often hope nobody just gave it to a charity shop without knowing its history.

French Girl in Seattle said...

Dear Vagabonde-- Thank you for stopping by chez French Girl this week ;-) I have truly enjoyed reading your well researched post on the Titanic, not just because this is still such a fascinating story, so many years after the tragedy occurred, but also because my 12-year old has long been enthused with it. Through his young eyes (and the children-friendly books he has located over the years) I have learned a great deal about the beautiful ship. Just last week, I read a very moving story online about the 12 dogs (all belonging to 1st class passengers, of course) who traveled on the ship. Only three survived. I was particularly touched by an anecdote about a woman who had already found a spot on the coveted life boats during the terrible night... only to abandon it so she could be reunited with her Great Dane who was still locked up in the ship's kennel below deck. Her body was recovered a few days later, and she was still clutching her favorite companion. Such tragedy, on all counts, but wonderful, wonderful stories. Well done, V. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Sheila said...

I wonder how many will remember the Titanic in another 100 years. It has certainly captured the public's imagination, and our television news has been filled with stories of people visiting Halifax NS, in order to pay their respects to distant relatives and victims of the disaster, that are buried there.
Excellent post.

Arti said...

Good that you'd great confidence in the captain and the ship you were on while reading all these. Your Titanic posts are so well researched that ... have you ever thought of making a documentary and post it on YouTube? Just a thought. ;) We here in Canada has a close link to the disaster rescue as the Titanic sank off the coast of Atlantic Canada, it was at Newfoundland that they first received the distress signal. There's a Titanic cemetery in Halifax where 121 victims were buried, I think that's the most number in a cemetery in the world. I look forward to more of your interesting accounts. BTW, how sweet of your husband to get you the commemorative items. :)

Ruth said...

You do such an amazing job covering this. I am astonished by the luxury in the photos by Father Brown. I did not realize how extensive the rooms were. The story of the Titan book is just so eerie, and all the premonitions of people about the Titanic. It is truly so strange that the ship touted as unsinkable would "happen" to hit an iceberg and go down this way.

Brilliant research and story-telling, as always!

snowwhite said...

What a great post it is!! Especially I was so surprised to know there had been the book written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic, and some people had strong premonitions!! Maybe it is a coincidence or it is because of a second sight??
I watched two movies about Titanic. The action of the band members was noble and heroic while some people’s behaviors were really ugly. Under the most extreme situation, each shows real nature. On April 15th, TV news mentioned the 100th memorial day of Titanic tragedy.
Thanks a lot for your enormous research and precious pictures. All stories of yours are more and more interesting than novels.
Have a great week.
keiko. .

snowwhite said...

What a great post it is!! Especially I was so surprised to know there had been the book written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic, and some people had strong premonitions!! Maybe it is a coincidence or it is because of a second sight??
I watched two movies about Titanic. The action of the band members was noble and heroic while some people’s behaviors were really ugly. Under the most extreme situation, each shows real nature. On April 15th, TV news mentioned the 100th memorial day of Titanic tragedy.
Thanks a lot for your enormous research and precious pictures. All stories of yours are more and more interesting than novels.
Have a great week.
keiko. .

Pat said...

Fascinating topic, terrific blog post. I just finished reading "Elizabeth II" by Marr.

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful post, Vagabonde. The Titanic story reads like a novel -- so many stories there.

claude said...

Elle est quand même incroyable cette histoire du Titanic ; tellement incroyable qu'elle a inspiré nombres d'auteurs, même moi.
Elle est tant incroyable que 100 cents après on en parle encore.
Bravo pour tes recherche et le travail que tu fais pour nous passionner.

Friko said...

You really are immersing yourself in the story of the Titanic. It is big business in this centenary year, we have had a few TV programmes but they haven't been very successful. Perhaps people have too much to worry about right now to go back to a hundred years old tragedy.

It is a fascinating story all the same.

Down by the sea said...

The pictures and stories you have told about the Titantic are so informative and interesting. I hadn't heard about Father Browne before and his photos.
My great grandmother emigrated to Canada on the Empress of Canada and in my research I discovered that a few years after she had travelled it too had sunk. This was in 1914 2 years after the Titantic taking 1,012 lives. The cat that had lived on the ship refused to go on the last voyage. The Titantic disaster is so well known where as other ships stories are almost unknown.

Pondside said...

Our fascination with the Titanic endures - there are so many layers of stories. I've been reading in the papers about how the disaster affected the people of Halifax, where many of the bodies were buried.
Some years ago we visited the Titanic exhibit at the Royal BC Museum - so interesting.

Madelief said...

Such an interesting post! All that memorabilia. I did not know so much was written on the Titanic! It will take you quite a while before you are through all those books.

Wish you a happy weekend!

Madelief x

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah said...

You have research skills par excellence chère Vagabonde! The Father Brown story is most interesting, but the Titan novel is positively spooky. Thank you so much for uncovering these details for a lazy reader who has mostly avoided all the attention paid to the anniversary of the disaster. When watching the coverage of the event on French news the other day, I couldn't help but think of all the Filipino and Indonesian ferries that have sunk over the years, with major loss of life, and how they do not rate more than a passing reference in our Western news. There isn't the same backstory to those tragedies, of course, but still...
Such an excellent post, as usual.

Miss_Yves said...

Beaucoup d'émissions télévisées ont été consacrées à ce dramatique anniversaire

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