February 4, 2006

Titanic Aborad the Queen Mary

Titanic Aborad the Queen Mary
by: Zachary Gale 
The most technologically advanced ship of its time, the RMS Titanic was described to be “practically unsinkable by “The Shipbuilder Magazine” in 1911. At 882.9 feet long, the Titanic was not only the largest ship of the early 20th century, but also the largest moving object built by man before 1912.

With a double-bottom hull and a system of 16 water-tight compartments supporting the ship, even if four compartments were compromised, the Titanic was also purported to be the safest ship ever built. It took two years to build and 10 months to decorate, but on April 14, 1912, only two hours and 40 minutes for the 46,328-ton, 2,440-passenger ship to sink two-and-a-half miles below the Atlantic Ocean.

“There was no moon, and I have never seen the stars shine brighter; they appeared to stand out of the sky, sparkling like diamonds. … It was the kind of night that made one feel glad to be alive,” said Jack Thayer, 1st-class passenger.

More than 270 recovered artifacts from the legendary sinking of the Titanic have been collected and are on display at the Queen Mary’s “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition,” which welcomes passengers until Sept. 4.

Aboard the Queen Mary, a ship eclipsing the Titanic in length by more than 100 feet, the exhibition has the singular and intriguing appeal of boarding one historic passenger ship and simultaneously experiencing the tragic fate of another.

Before entering the exhibit and escaping the 21st century, a 1:48-scale model of the Titanic reveals the insides of the ship and encourages a glimpse into the dramatically different accommodation levels among first-, second- and third- class rooms.

Placed just a turn of a head away from the full-size third-class room replica was a bedroom from a first-class luxury suite. Although the basic first-class room, offered at $43,860 today, was comprised of four or more rooms, the quick life-size comparison of the luxurious private bedroom with the shared plain box of a third-class room proved fascinating and made immediately clear why the top-of-the-line first-class suite, with a private bathroom, running water and a private promenade, was offered at $78,950. The juxtaposition of the two rooms is one of the highlights of the exhibit, which lasts one to two hours, depending on how absorbed one becomes in the history and the meticulously prepared displays.

Most of us remember James Cameron’s stark portrayal of a third-class room in the most recent movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Indeed, “Titanic” the movie and the exhibit both picture a nearly identical room, the latter featuring a full-scale replica.

Compared to other passenger ships of the time, the noisy and cramped (think two-thirds the size of a two-person dorm room with four people) rooms were actually as good if not better than the second-class accommodations on other ships of that era. Similarly, according to the exhibit, the Titanic second-class rooms rivaled the first-class accommodations of most contemporary liners. Even third-class passengers paid dearly for their spartan rooms, which, at $620 today, were often shared with other strangers.

By comparison, a modern flight on British Airways from Southampton, England to New York, N.Y. (the same route taken by the Titanic) in economy class costs about $2,500 and a seat in first-class sets one back a fraction of a first-class suite on the Titanic, at just $7,500 today. With the average American man in 1912 making $4,000 a year, passengers paid greatly for their place on the moving piece of history.

According to The Shipbuilder Magazine, “Everything [was] done in regards to the furniture and fittings to make the first-class accommodations more than equal to that provided in the finest hotel on shore.”

The core attraction of this exhibit lies in the close personal connection one feels with the passengers of the Titanic. With the multitude of paraphernalia and everyday items displayed, the exhibit excels at drawing the guest into the lives of Titanic passengers and into the world of 1912.

After the wreckage of the Titanic was located in 1985, extensive recovery and conservation efforts began to save everything from soup spoons, olive pits, tattered clothing, travel souvenirs, fine jewelry and much more. Amazingly, even a sealed bottle of champagne was recovered and is on display in the exhibit.

Besides the display of everyday items, firsthand accounts from those onboard the ship provide an excellent mix of content and conciseness, furthering the connection between guest and Titanic passenger. Guests are also given a boarding pass with the name of an actual passenger of the Titanic. Following the end of the exhibit, guests can find out whether the person on the boarding pass survived or went down with the ship.

Once a guest learns about the lives and thankless jobs of those who worked to power the ship, an icicle emerges and he or she can read quotes from those who chose to remain aboard the Titanic as it sunk and view a computerized video showing how exactly the ship sunk after it hit an iceberg.

Fascinating, detailed information and quotes are scattered throughout the exhibit, providing reason enough for those interested in history to come visit the Titanic aboard the Queen Mary. Even some of those who ordinarily stay away from museums may enjoy this historical exhibit.

Old myths are debunked, obscure stories substantiated and the legend of the Titanic elaborated with this Queen Mary hosted historical exhibit.

Until guests rise from the Titanic back into 2006 and remember the $26.95 total cost ($16.95 adult admission and $10 parking), cost of gas and time it took to drive to the Queen Mary, they will be fully satisfied and entertained both by the exhibit’s thoroughness and knowledgeable staff. But then reality sets in, as well as the knowledge that you just spent more than an hour and over $30 including gas to visit the two ships. A student discount of some kind would probably attract more students from UC Irvine and other schools in the area.

“I will not be parted from my husband. As we have lived so will we die. Together.” – Mrs. Ida Straus, first-class passenger.

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