April 20, 2012
This past April 15th was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, on April 15th, 1912. For the past 100 years, this tragic story has captivated the public. It’s been studied, discussed and portrayed in many articles, books and movies.
There are several Titanic museums in the world. One is located in Belfast, at the former shipyard of Harland and Wolff, where the vessel was constructed. There are several in the U.S. My family and I recently visited a Titanic museum in Branson, Missouri. It was a state-of-the-art museum where a visitor could learn much about the ill-fated Titanic.
The RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Titanic was, at the time, the world’s largest ship. The vessel, belonging to the White Star line, had been constructed in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Titanic was on her maiden voyage, from Southampton, England to New York City. But the ship never arrived to her destination, colliding with an iceberg and sinking in the North Atlantic. There were 1517 passengers and crewmembers who perished, while 710 survived, being rescued by Carpathia, of the rival Cunard line.
The story has been so captivating, on various levels. One is the technical accomplishment of the ship’s construction, its size and luxury.
Then there was the passenger list. On board were wealthy members of the British and American upper classes. The richest man on board was American John Jacob Astor IV, with his wife Madeleine. Other wealthy Americans included Benjamin Guggenheim and the owner of New York’s famous Macy’s story, Isidor Strauss, and his wife Ida. All of these passengers died with the exception of Madeleine Astor. Other famous Americans on board were author Jacque Futrelle, who perished, and actress Dorothy Gibson, who survived.
There are various stories of heroism and sacrifice on Titanic. For example, all the engineers perished, working to the end, and famously, the band continued to play as the ship went down.
The biggest national contingent among the passengers was that of the British, with 327 passengers, followed by the U.S., with 306. There were 120 Irish, 113 Swedes, 81 Syrians, 59 Finns, and 49 Austro-Hungarians. Other nationalities included Uruguayans (3 passengers, all of whom died), Spaniards (7 passengers, 1 of whom died) and one Japanese, who survived.
There was one Mexican traveling on Titanic, a a Mexican congressman by the name of Manuel Uruchurtu, who had been in France.
When Titanic was sinking, Uruchurtu was offered a place in a lifeboat and took a seat. An English lady named Elizabeth Ramell Nye, from Second Class, asked to be allowed on the lifeboat. The ship’s officers wouldn’t allow it. However, Uruchurtu got up and gave the lady his seat.
After voluntarily giving up his place on the lifeboat, Uruchurtu perished along with many others. Uruchurtu’s sacrifice was part of the testimony before the U.S. Senate, when that body took up the subject. Titanic survivors testified before the Senate, and three of them related the story of Uruchurtu.
Nor did Elizabeth Ramell Nye , the woman he saved, forget. Twelve years after Titanic’s sinking, she visited Uruchurtu’s family in Mexico. The only person in the town she could find who spoke English was a schoolteacher, so she explained the purpose of her visit to the schoolteacher.
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In 1997, James Cameron’s blockbuster movie about Titanic was released. The movie was filmed in a specially-constructed water tank in Rosarito, Mexico. The Titanic replica used in the movie was a great technical accomplishment. The acting and the plot in the movie, on the other hand, was not on the same level. There were errors and distortions, with certain agendas being promoted by the filmmaker. It’s been said that the best actor in the movie was the Titanic replica (not the human actors).
The Cameron movie, for one thing, was not too sympathetic to Christianity. At one point in the film, the protagonist ridicules a Catholic priest who is reciting the 23rd Psalm.
Something I learned at the Branson museum which obviously wasn’t included in the movie was that there were seven clergymen (Protestant and Catholic) on the Titanic when it sunk. Of those seven, six perished, some having given up their lifeboat seats for others. That didn’t fit the movie’s agenda though, did it?
A century after its sinking, the story of Titanic continues to fascinate.
� 2012 Allan Wall - All Rights Reserved
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Allan Wall recently returned to the U.S. after residing many years in Mexico.