Titanic - A mystical place that was real but now only exists in our imagination, in movies and books. This year is the 100th anniversary of her sinking (in case you haven’t noticed the hoopla surrounding the upcoming 3D re- release of Cameron’s “Titanic” or the miniseries Jason Fellowes of Downton Abbey has coming up soon.)
The ship is a paradox because she did exist for a brief span, and was beautiful, inhabited by the rich, the powerful and the famous, as well as more anonymous, ordinary citizens... not to mention the crew! Technically speaking the ship still exists, as a wreck below two miles of the Atlantic Ocean, but only a few people with special equipment will ever see her hulk with their own eyes.
Growing up, I heard many stories about the Titanic because my grandfather said he had a distant relative who survived. According to my grandfather, she was a Second Class passenger who got off in one of the lifeboats and saved a steerage baby that was handed to her at the last second, keeping the child warm though the long night in a lifeboat. Luckily the baby’s mother also survived and they were reunited on the rescue ship Carpathia. Over 1500 other passengers and crew were not so lucky, had no happy ending.
Before the ship so tragically sank, it was the most modern, luxurious liner available. If you’ve seen James Cameron’s Titanic, you probably feel you came close to standing on its decks! His recreation of the physical appointments of the ship in both cgi and on real sets was meticulous. Cameron has been quoted as saying that the Titanic sinking “was like a great novel that really happened.”
The Grand Staircases for First Class are perhaps the number one symbol in people’s minds of Titanic’s grandeur. Here’s what Wikipedia says:
Considered to be two of the most luxurious appointments on the ship, the two Grand Staircases were designed to be used only by first-class passengers. The fore Grand Staircase descended five levels down from the Boat Deck to the D Deck in the famous appearance and continues down to F-Deck as an ordinary stairway. The staircase featured large glass domes that allowed natural light to enter the space during the daytime, oak panelling and detailed carvings, paintings, bronze cherubs (which served as lamp supports on the middle railings), candelabra, and other details. The Fore staircase featured a clock surrounded by an intricate oak carving depicting "Honour and Glory crowning Time", while the Aft staircase featured a far less ornate clock.
I freely admit I cry at the ending every time I watch Cameron’s version of Titanic, where Rose goes back to the ship in her mind (or is it the afterlife?), the wreck slowly transforming to the actual ship in all her original glory, and the lost passengers and crew waiting for her, clustered around the Grand Staircase….and she’s reunited with Jack.
Certainly the story has been told and retold many times, in many ways, including my own science fiction take on the events, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, where I’ve re-imagined the events, set in the far future among the stars. (Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble at a special 99 cent price).
What would you have done, if you’d been standing on that cold deck in the middle of the night, April 14th, 1912, watching the distress rockets overhead, debating whether to get into a tiny lifeboat? I’ve often wondered what I would do….