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Monday, April 9, 2012

Titanicabilia swells this month

The book/History Press
The centennial of the tragedy occurs April 14-15, 2012, 100 years from the date when the ship hit an iceberg just before midnight on April 14, 1912 and sank less than three hours later on April 15 taking 1,496 lives* with it.

Related books, films, special presentations, street theatre, lectures, a memorial cruise, an original stage play, a concert, and an original stage play are scheduled.

National Geographic has an exhibit, and Amazon has listed at least 17 Titanic books and three children's books which have been published in the last year alone. At Tysons Corner on Saturday at Barnes and Noble, four Titanic films were prominently displayed with only one or two copies of each remaining on the racks.

One of the new books at Amazon is Report into the Loss of the SS Titanic: A Centennial Reappraisal, a compilation by 11 Titanic scholars who examined all the evidence gathered by the 1912 American and British inquiries, and later, and who applied modern-day knowledge, science, and engineering to produce an academic treatise complete with a chronology, illustrations, photographs, diagrams, references, and investigation for every shred of information known.

One of the authors, Samuel Halpern, a Titanic expert, systems engineer and technologist, presented a talk on the book recently at National Archives where about 150 turned out at lunchtime to hear more about the wreck since no one can ever get enough information. (Tourist children were only able to sit still for a few minutes before rushing out to examine merchandise at Archives's gift shop, but the adult Titanicologists remained transfixed.)

Mr. Halpern presented facts and figures: 2,208 were on the boat, and 1,496 died.* Of first and second class passengers, just 6.4 percent of the women and children died, but 53 percent of the women and children in third class went down with the ship.
Titanic expert Samuel Halpern at National Archives/Patricia Lesllie

A few of the refutations uncovered by the researchers: Visibility on April 14, a moonless night, was "assumed" to be two miles, but it was only a half mile. About 60 percent of the capacity of the lifeboats, designed to carry 1,176 passengers or just over half the passengers, was utilized. Lifeboat drills were never conducted, leading to that requirement since.

Once the iceberg was sighted, a warning of 37 seconds was reported, however, later studies reveal the warning was actually between 50 and 55 seconds before the collision.

During the first 45 minutes after the wreck, about 13.5 tons of water poured in the 12-foot-square hole carved by the iceberg, eventually leading to the ship's division in two parts and its sinking due to instability. The initial report of the ship's location was 13 miles from the actual site. The book supplies the evidence to back up claims cited, Mr. Halpern said.

For Titanic devotees, there are a few societies to consider joining: the Titanic Historical Society, Titanic International Society, British Titanic Society, Canadian Titanic Society, Irish Titanic Historical Society, Shannon Ulster Titanic Society, Belfast Titanic Society, Scandinavian Titanic Society, and a new word:  Titanicology.

*The number of passengers, fatalities, and survivors which are listed in Report into the Loss of the SS Titanic differ slightly from Wikipedia's count.

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