Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ships in New Orleans

Last Saturday, 21 April, 2012, we landed at the New Orleans airport around noon.  After checking into the hotel we went to lunch then walked in the French Quarter.  I saw a French sailor, in his uniform, with the distinctive red pom-pom on his round cap.  I did a double take – how could a French sailor be in New Orleans in uniform? There had to be a French ship close by.  Then as we walked down the street we saw a multitude of navy men and women.  As we came by the levée along the Mississippi the steamboat Natchez sailed by.  As we watched it we saw some military ships in the distance.  

As we kept walking we came close to a large sign indicating that this was New Orleans (NOLA) Navy Week.  I had not been aware of it.  My picture below shows part of a Navy ship and the sign confirms that the French Frigate Germinal was by the dock ahead.  

 (click on collage to enlarge)
From April 17 through 23rd, 2012, New Orleans was the inaugural city for the three-year celebration commemorating the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner.   There were military vessels and tall ships carrying 3,000 sailors.  The ships could be visited but it was almost 5 o’clock and too late for us to visit them.  The French sailors I had seen came with the French Frigate Germinal (F735.)  Her usual mission is monitoring traffic in the Northern Sea and responding to ecological emergencies.  It certainly was strange for me to see all these French sailors in New Orleans.

 (photos courtesy Consulate General of France in New Orleans)

Moored close by were the guided-missile frigate USS De Wert (FFG45) as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1); guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57); U.S. Coast Guard Tall Ship Eagle; HMS Montrose of the United Kingdom and HMCS St. John’s from Canada, along with the tall ships Dewaruci from Indonesia and BAE Guayas from Ecuador (a sail training ship.)  Quite a flotilla!  As someone who loves ships – this was eye candy.

(photos courtesy US Navy and Reuters)

 I understand that the 3-year commemoration of the War of 1812 will conclude in New Orleans in January 2015, on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.  I frankly don’t know that much about this war as we did not study it when I was in school in France.  From what I understand it was mostly a war of expansion for the United States.  They were attempting to obtain Canadian and Amerindian lands.  Amerindians or First Nations as they are called in Canada helped keep Canada British.  Chief Tecumseh’s warriors fought along with the British regulars and Canadian volunteers and played a great role in defeating the Americans. 

Meeting of British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh (Chief of the Shawnee) in 1812  by C. W. Jefferys (Canadian 1859-1951)

Unfortunately Tecumseh was killed in 1813 and the British did not include an autonomous Indian state when a peace treaty was signed in 1815.  The Americans acquired a significant amount of Creek Indian land.  Later, American Andrew Jackson cunningly negotiated 11 treaties with five tribes – the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Seminoles and Creeks.  They slowly abandoned their lands too– which is what the American land speculators were hoping.  So in a way the Amerindians – First Nations – were the big losers in this war.   Andrew Jackson is considered a hero because he led a victorious battle against the British at Palmette Plantation, south of New Orleans in January 1815.  Sadly, both parties did not know that the peace treaty had already been signed in Belgium two weeks earlier…. communications were slow then and they had tragic consequences.

 Battle of New Orleans by Edward Percy Moran, American 1862-1935   

 Canada will also celebrate this War of 1812.  I read online on a Canadian bicentennial celebration government document:  “The war has played an important role in the creation of Canada’s military…It took the joint efforts of the English and French fighters and indigenous Canada, with British military forces to succeed in defeating the U.S. invasion…”   Below is a postal stamp commemorating Major General Isaac Brock on a Guernsey stamp issued in 1996. 

 During the few days that we were in New Orleans as we walked by the Mississippi we saw many cargo ships as well as the picturesque steamboat Natchez going out on the river.

 A ferry crosses the river every 15 minutes between New Orleans and Algiers.  We did cross the river on this ferry later on (will be in a future post.)

Another ship we saw often as we walked by the Mississippi was the paddle wheeler Creole Queen.   She is an authentic paddle wheeler powered by a 24 foot diameter paddle wheel.  

The Creole Queen is equipped with a diesel-electric system instead of steam engine.  Steamships, riverboats, paddle wheelers – all of these were used for centuries for transportation across, up and down rivers and even across the sea.   Below is the PS Waverly, the last sea going paddle steamer, from Scotland. (photo courtesy Wikipedia.)

 Going down the Mississippi River in these bygone days must have been fascinating.  Most of these days have disappeared but we can still get a glimpse of them by going on a river cruise aboard one of these steamers.   That will be for the next post…

Dixie Bayou Navigation from a sketch by Mrs. Theodore R. Davis (courtesy Harper’s Weekly, April 1863.)


Note:  Blogger has been updated.  I noticed that my font changes with paragraphs.  If anyone knows how to keep my font consistent, please let me know.  Thanks.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Titanic Artifact Exhibition in Atlanta

Last week in my post “Reading about RMS Titanic while at sea” I showed books and pictures on the Titanic. I had heard that there was an exhibition of Titanic artifacts in Atlanta but we had not planned to attend. After reading more about it on their site which said “There is no more poignant way to experience Titanic 100 years later than through the authentic artifacts that have been recovered from the wreck site…“ we decided to go after all. Thursday 12 April was sunny and a lovely day so we drove to the new part of Atlanta where the exhibition is located. We had never been there. It is called “Atlantic Station.”

The exhibition was on the second floor where I could see the area below. Atlantic Station is on the northwestern edge of Midtown Atlanta. This used to be the site of the Atlantic Steel mill. Urban planners in the mid-90s designed a 138 acres (558,000 m2) mixed-use neighborhood which opened in 2005. It includes townhouses, condos, restaurants, major shopping like well-known retailers and IKEA, a theater, office buildings, public transportation and the Premier Exhibition Center. It is within walking distance of Georgia Tech. It was around 11:30 am and not many people were going into the exhibit. You can see my reflection below taking a picture of the poster.

Our tickets were a facsimile of an actual White Star Line Boarding Pass for the Titanic. On the reverse was the name of a passenger, the class, reason for traveling. There was a large board at the end of the exhibit where we could cross-check to see if we had survived the trip or not. My husband’s boarding pass was for Mr. Kurt Arnold Gottfrid Bryhl , 25, of Skara, Sweden, in 2nd class. Sailing from Southampton he was going to Rockford, Illinois accompanied by his sister and her fiancé. The second class in the Titanic was equivalent to the first class in other ocean liners.

My boarding pass was for Mrs. Victor de Satode Pemasco y Castellana, 17, from Madrid, Spain, in first class. Sailing from Cherbourg, France, she had been on an adventurous honeymoon with her extremely wealthy husband Victor. While staying in Paris, they decided to extend the magic with a transatlantic voyage on Titanic. Victor’s mother had warned the couple against taking a trip by sea, saying it was back luck. The price for her first class ticket was $2,500 then or $57,200 in today’s money, although she could have been in the most luxurious suite which was $4,500 then or $103,000 in today’s money. A third class ticket was $40 then or $900 in today’s money. (I just checked and a May 2012 transatlantic crossing on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is $702 (inside stateroom) on a discounted site.)

My husband and I used the audio guides. Everything was well explained and there were loads of information. Pictures were not allowed inside the exhibition but I found some on their site online. RMS Titanic, Inc. owners of the exhibition listed what we would see:

• 212 artifacts recovered from Titanic's wreck site
• 100 of which have never been seen before
• Discover untold stories of Titanic's passengers and crew- unveiled for the first time anywhere
• Learn of Georgia's connections to that fateful night
• Experience historically accurate room recreations
• View the latest video from the wreck site and understand how Titanic rests today.

(photo courtesy RMS Titanic, Inc.)

I took copious notes. I found out that the Titanic had been built in Ireland but that J. Pierpont Morgan had used some of his enormous wealth to create a trust and then had gained ownership of the White Star Line – so in fact the ship was American. Ten thousand men worked almost three years to construct the ship hull and internal structure. The men worked 6 days a week in 9 hours a day shift. The ship was launched on 31st May, 1911 with a crowd of 100,000 watching. Below is my postcard which is a replica of a launch ticket.

Then it was the turn of 3,000 carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. to toil to complete the ship. Below is another postcard which says “The new White Star Liner “Titanic” 45,000 tons nearing completion; docked in the largest graving dock in the world. Belfast, February 1912.

On Wednesday 10 April, 1912 the Titanic left Southampton, England. The Titanic used 14,000 gallons of drinking water every 24 hours. To serve the 65,000 meals a day many provisions had been taken, such as 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 11,000 pounds of fresh fish, 25,000 pounds of fresh poultry and game, 7,500 pounds of bacon and ham, 40,000 fresh eggs, 16,000 lemons, 2,200 pounds of coffee, 800 pounds of tea, 6,000 pounds of fresh butter and so on and on. To serve all this there were 57,000 pieces of crockery – plates, cups and dishes, 29,000 pieces of glassware, etc. Some were recovered and were inside glass cases. Below is a case of 1st class china and silver (courtesy RMS Titanic, Inc.)

We watched some videos of life aboard ship and walked in front of a re-creation of an ornate first-class cabin.

Inside other glass cases I saw a racing form dated July 1911 from the Australian Waterloo Cup, and it could still be read. There was a gold necklace with 3 gold nuggets attached. I saw a medicine vial from France with crystals still in the bottle, silver handkerchiefs and a chignon pin. Below is a make-up jar with make-up still inside.

There were many story boards giving information on the backgrounds of the passengers, crew, officers and engineers. Mr. Jacques Futrelle, pictured below by Father Browne, was from Georgia. He had started the sports section in the Atlanta Journal and was the author of a series of short stories featuring the logical detective known as the “Thinking Machine.” He was offered a lifeboat seat which he turned down but urged his wife to get aboard. Unfortunately, he perished.

Another former Georgian was Isidor Straus. His family had emigrated from Germany in 1854 then went to live in the small town of Talbotton in Georgia where he grew up. Later he was to become co-owner of Macy’s department store. He was coming back from an extended stay in Europe with his wife Ida. He also declined a seat in a lifeboat. His wife refused to leave him. Eyewitnesses reported her saying to her husband “As we have lived, so will we die together. Isidor, my place is with you.” They were last seen seating on the deck. Their picture is below.

We continued our visit and saw the massive steel door of the D-Deck, part of a candelabra, a rusted port hole and compass, water stained money, a sink, a wall telephone from Alfred Graham and Co., and more.

In a dark room, quite warm, was the replica of the boiler room. Reddish-orange lights came out of the boilers and pictures of the firemen who died while shoveling coal to keep the electricity running in the ship were on the wall. There were 159 furnaces on the ship which consumed up to 825 tons of coal per day.

The distance required to stop the Titanic was about half a mile so it could not have stopped in time to avoid the iceberg. The ship hit the iceberg off Newfoundland’s Grand Banks 30 seconds or so after its sighting. It was a moonless night (icebergs can usually be seen by their reflection in the moonlight) and the sea was calm, so there were no waves around the icebergs either. The ship hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm, lights went out at 2:18 am and the stern disappeared in the water at 2:20 am. I watched a National Geographic Special last week on an expedition taken this year to see if the ship had weak points or had not been designed properly. The results were that the ship was very strong which is why it lasted as long as it did – other ships with that kind of damage would have sunk in minutes. Below is a picture of “Le Petit Journal” a French newspaper in its April 1912 edition: “La perte du plus grand paquebot du monde.” (The loss of the largest ship in the world.)

For its time the R.M.S. Titanic was the most luxurious and largest passenger ship in the world.  The Titanic led the way in technical innovation and exclusive accomodations.  The public believed that this ship was unsinkable.  I have heard though that a fire started in a three-story high fuel store kept burning up to three weeks and could not be extinguished.  It was too large to control and it reached close to 1000 C.  This fire was in the area of the ship where it was later struck by the iceberg.  The ship steel hull could have been weakened by this enormous fire and have contributed to its demise.

The Titanic disappeared 2.5 miles beneath the ocean surface. Once hitting the water even if the passengers could swim they could only survive about 20 minutes in the 28 degree F (-2 C) temperature of the water. So most of them did not drown but died from hypothermia. The wreck of the Titanic was discovered on September 1, 1985 by a joint U.S./French expedition directed by Dr. Robert Ballard and Jean Louis Michel. It was located 453 miles southeast of the Newfoundland coastline. (The discovery of the Titanic stemmed from a secret US Navy investigation of two wrecked nuclear submarines the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.) There were many pictures and a video explaining this underwater expedition. Below is a picture from the Sea Bed Gallery at the exhibition.

These are pictures from the National Geographic expedition. The top left picture is the bathroom of Captain Smith.

(Photos courtesy Premier Exhibitions, Inc. and National Geographic Society.)

After spending decades under water at a pressure of 6,000 pounds per square inch the wreck is also being eaten by microbes forming icicle-shaped “rusticles” as can be seen pictured below (courtesy Wikipedia.)

There is no known preservation technique right now to conserve the ship which is slowly being consumed by these eating microbes. Oceanographers suspect that within 40 to 90 years the wreck will implode and collapse. Since the Titanic cannot be brought back, oceanographers say that they can still bring back artifacts to keep the memory alive and to serve as a memorial for all the people lost in this great tragedy. I think that it is fine to bring back some items from the ship but I feel uneasy about disturbing the many personal items of those who lost their lives – this is their final resting place. This is a grave. On April 15, every year, the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol, which was created in direct response to the Titanic disaster, places a wreath over the Titanic’s final resting place.

Titanic leaving Southampton by E. E. Walker, English contemporary

We looked at the list of passengers on a billboard in the final exhibition room. It showed that Mr. Bryhl from Sweden, on my husband’s Boarding Pass, did not survive. Mrs. Victor de Satode Pemasco y Castellana from Spain, on my Boarding Pass, was saved but her husband Victor was not.

Before leaving the exhibit we stopped at the souvenir shop. They had quite an assortment of items for sale.

My husband bought a special 100 anniversary edition book and I bought a tea cup modeled from 3rd class and a pin.

We did enjoy this exhibit. The sinking of the Titanic is such a tragic historical event that seeing all these artifacts and the haunting details of this doomed voyage made us understand better this heartbreaking disaster. I’ll end by quoting parts of the poem written by Father Francis Browne shortly after the Titanic sank.

In Memoriam

A Ship rode forth on the Noonday tide,
Rode forth to the open sea,
And the high sun shone on the good ship’s side,
And all seem gladness, and hope and pride
For a gallant sight was she.

(from Father Browne pictures)

For the crew was strong, and the captain brave,
And never a fear had they,
Never a thought for the turbulent wave,
Never a dread of a watery grave,
Nor dreams of a fateful day.

The Ship that rode on noonday tide,
Rode forth to the open sea,
But gone are the gladness, and hope and pride,
For the Northern Ocean’s depth could hide,
A mightier power than she.

– Father Francis M. H.. Browne, Irish 1880-1960
French and Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Passing PickieTitanic passing Bangor, Ireland on sea trials April 2, 1912 painted by Deborah Wenlock, British, contemporary


Note: Blogger Break - Post pre-programmed.

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.

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