SUNDAY, APRIL 15: There’s just something about it.
Headlines worldwide have called it alluring, chilling and enthralling—all at once. The fascinating story that is the RMS Titanic is back on front pages today as the world marks the 100th anniversary of the demise of the “unsinkable” ship. Two cruise ships plan to share the memorial spot of Titanic early this morning, as thousands of passengers bowed their heads during a Christian ceremony. From Australia to India to New York, museums, movie theaters, maritime centers and concert halls host shows and exhibits in honor of Titanic’s fateful journey. (CNN says it all in one of its blogs, “Yes, the ship sinks, but we can’t get enough of Titanic story.”)
When Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, she was the largest moving object ever made by human hands. The world’s elite shared a ship with thousands of poor immigrants (a dramatic contrast that inspired James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster phenomenon), for a total of 2,224 passengers. The British passenger liner was operated by the White Star Line; built as the 401st hull by the Harland and Wolff shipyard. (Read more at Wikipedia.) Despite the most advanced safety features, Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, on her maiden voyage, and she sank less than three hours later. When the ship was swallowed by the frigid Atlantic Ocean, at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, more than 1,000 passengers were still aboard; there were only enough lifeboats for 1,178 people.
Life onboard Titanic may have meant luxury for some in 1912, but as the New York Times points out, most cruisers today would be far from impressed. Cruise ships today boast 2-story waterslides, multiple swimming pools, elaborate stage shows, top-deck rock climbing, glittering shops and a wide array of spa services; Titanic’s passengers played cards, read in specialized reading-and-writing rooms and at the library, and puffed in a smoking room. Aside from church services, there was little that a group of passengers could do together on the 1912 liner. Socializing and promenading along the decks were primary means of entertainment for most Victorian-era passengers, and the two Titanic memorial cruises that set sail this year will mimic the slower-paced lifestyle known in the early 20th century. (Attention to detail doesn’t come cheap, though: prices for the Titanic replica cruises vary, per person, between $4,500 and $9,500. The Belfast Telegraph has photos and details.)
After Titanic’s fateful end, major improvements were made in maritime safety regulations. Requests came flooding in from both Britain and the United States, and in 1914, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was established. The organization continues to oversee maritime safety to this day.