April 15, 2012: Titanic, a century later

(relaunched trailer)

at this exact day last week, i didn’t study for  the National Exams (like how i’m supposed to). now that the the exams will take place about a couple of hours from now, i don’t regret it one bit.

no, i chose not to study because the Titanic was featured on National Geographic. and today, exactly a century back: 15th April 1912, the Titanic sank. so i figure i’d write a post (a very long word-vomit post–you’ve been warned) about it. when i saw the advertisement of the show i knew i’d give up studying just to watch the 3 hour long documentary. through nature’s own way of deciding one’s fate, i was born to be curious about everything, a science student, a history enthusiast and a romance devotee. so screw studying.

if you can imagine the documentary to be a scientifically infused historical masterpiece, then you’re seeing it the way i saw it. and it was amazing, the whole thing was amazing. i learnt a few bunch of neat information that i didn’t know beforehand. Titanic had a nearly identical twin-sister ship called the Olympic. i squinted on the pictures of both ships and only then did i realize that their only significant difference was on their A-Deck promenade. otherwise i swear they’re almost identical–probably some differences in the interior and the weight of the ships and whatnot but the sister ships were definitely built side by side from the same plans (which were drawn by hand to it’s very detail), and were in turn the largest moving objects ever made by the hand of man. contrary to the fate of its sister, the Olympic sailed for about 20 years. (later on, the last of the sister ship was launched. she’s called Britannic a.k.athe forgotten sister)

the documentary that i watched featured James Cameron (director of the 1997 movie adaptation of Titanic) as the in-residence scientist and it really is, in my opinion, just a rundown of one of the most amazing archaeological forensic activity ever conducted. there are dozens of ten dollar physics terms scrunched up in the documentary, and a lot of nautical terms too, but you sort of get a hang of it when you’re already too immersed in the whole thing to bother about the words that you don’t really understand 😛 i cannot help but sigh inwardly at the tragedy, despite knowing that it happened exactly a century ago. the Titanic had 16 airtight compartments and it was ‘virtually’ an unsinkable ship. if only the first four compartments or two of any of those compartments are filled to the brim with water, even then the ship wouldn’t have sunk. but as fate would have it, the iceberg ripped apart five airtight compartments and the ship inevitably sank. upon a distress calling from its sister, Olympic and another ship Carpathia immediately underwent a rescue mission. but it was too late.

looking at the wreck, even through the TV screen… it was indescribable. it was beautiful, yet it was very sad. you know how people like to romanticize on how the greatest ship to be ever built by man sank down gracefully to the pits of undisturbed darkness? yea, well, it didn’t sink that way. it might as well land on its behind in a rather ungraceful fashion. i guess combined hydraulic pressure and the increasing weight of the water body as the sinking ship gained depth ruined it’s once majestic structure. add to the fact that as the stern sank vertically in a circular motion, the longitudinal force that affects the ship did not help it to keep its former glory. but the interior of the ship may have been better preserved than its exterior in the years that it has been abandoned to rot. the interior didn’t undergo some normal decaying, which made me confused a while there when watching the documentary, but then they explained that bacteria are actually eating the surface area of the interior, creating these structure similar to stalactites which are just eerie and beautiful. i saw through my TV screen coffee cups and shot glasses nestled on fine debris, some old shoes and satchels, perfume bottles, chandeliers, decaying steel elevator doors, mossy planks… even the detonators that were used to signify an emergency case were caught on tape.

(Titanic wreck, nestled upright)

(even her sister Britannic sank sideways)

even for today’s scale, the Titanic is still a wonder. seeing the sinking scene played over and over and over again, you kinda get the message that the sinking part is one of the most historical scene in the tragedy of the Titanic. i didn’t give it much thought before, but imagine this: if you row a boat and you fell of it, the only way the boat could sink if it doesn’t have holes on it to begin with is if it’s rolled to the side. and i realized that through the news of countless of Indonesian ships sinking in Indonesian waters, they all sink sideways, and never in the way that the Titanic sank. which was brilliant, if you want to see the bright side of it. if the Titanic had sunk sideways, i bet less than 700 passengers would be able to go on the lifeboats and wait for the ship Carpathia to come and rescue them.

on a more legend-historical note, the titanic was said to have a ‘Guarantee Crew’, a group of 8 crew that knew the ship more than anyone else. the group consisted of an electrician, engineer, the chief designer, fastest-developing apprentices and the head of the Guarantee Crew: Thomas Andrews. you just cannot associate the Titanic without associating this man. he was the nephew of the sole owner of Harland and Wolff, one of the ship-building companies that made Titanic live. he was a great man, but due to first-class passenger demands of having a wider and bigger-spaced deck, and also the thought that the ship is ‘virtually’ unsinkable, he was the one who determined the quantity of available lifeboats loaded to the Titanic, and the number of lifeboats available could only save less than half of the people on board. bottom line: the crew were ill-prepared for such a fatal emergency. rumors had it that the engineer and the electrician stayed in the lower decks of the engineering room trying to maintain the ship so that a lot more could be rescued–this was probably why the Titanic sank as she had. Thomas Andrews himself was seen giving life jackets to passengers, telling them to calmly board the lifeboat. however, he himself did not heed his own advice. he was last seen smoking a cigar, admiring a painting on one of the promenade rooms, while also admiring the ship that was his masterpiece. the ship that sunk in her maiden voyage. none of the Guarantee Crews survived. they sank with the ship.

as a 100 year commemoration of its maiden voyage, the 1997 Titanic movie adaptation was again released, this time on 3D, and as a side note: i just can’t help but think that the documentary is a part of its rather unique marketing strategy. because James Cameron was in it, so there must be something to do with the movie. he’s changing a part of the movie for the 3D ‘relaunch’ if i’m not mistaken. he said he’s going to make the ‘sinking’ part more realistic so as opposed to the ship already visibly vertical above water when it sank, it’s going to only tilt in a 23 degree angle (they actually have to agree on such a thing) before it fully sank. he is trying to make the movie look as realistic as possible (and he appeared to be greatly flustered that he didn’t get it quite right at the first place 😀 ) so i have to give him credit on that.

i really have to say though… James Cameron is… one heck of a guy. he was sometimes a bit ridiculous while talking to these naval experts and whatnot due to his film-making imaginations, and i can’t blame him for that, but it’s flabberghasting to know that a man who didn’t even go to college could rise to the standard of talking about hydraulic pressure and momentum and moments of forces like they’re nothing. and his demonstration with the banana?… genius. he’s a genius. when he first made the movie i bet he’s thinking: this ship + Romeo and Juliet = BAM! Box Office record holder. and he was right.

personally though, i just wished that the wreck will remain untouched. i mean it’s great that they’re doing this all sorts of research and everything just to uncover the ‘real’ truth of it, but then let’s just stop. because if the old lady is continuously stripped off of her jewels, she will soon be laid bare, with no more mysteries to hideand that site literally is the grave of the 1500 something people that died of hypothermia and sudden cardiac arrests seconds before they could reach the lifeboats. think of it as a last honor to the victims that didn’t know their lives would be ending so soon then.

and that is my last word on the subject.



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