Remembering the Titanic

Oct. 26, 2009

by Kristen Miller

Though it happened nearly a century ago, it’s not easy to forget such a tragic event like that of the Titanic.

I remember learning a bit about it in school, but it was really brought to life for me in 1997, with the James Cameron film.

At the time, people made fun of the movie because of the love story, but the true purpose of the movie was to give a real-life depiction of the turn of events and what it was like for passengers on the Titanic.

Most recently, I visited the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where the frightful evening of April 14, 1912, was once again brought to life.

The museum recommends visitors of the exhibit first watch Titanica, the Omnitheater film about the 1991 deep sea expedition to the burial grounds of the ship that was claimed to be unsinkable.

The film gives the audience an idea of how dangerous deep sea exploring is and a first-hand look at some of the wreckage.

It also explained what it took to build the largest ship of its time at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

The film also gives a personal account from the last remaining survivor of the Titanic, Eva Hart, who was 7 at the time of the sinking.

When the film is finished, visitors walk through the artifact exhibition where upon arrival, they receive a boarding pass for the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic.

On the boarding pass is information of an actual passenger who was on the ship for its first and final voyage.

At the end of the exhibit is a wall with a list of first-, second-, and third-class passengers (along with crew) and whether they were among the 1,522 who lost their lives, or the 705 who survived the ship’s sinking.

My boarding pass was that of Miss Bridget Delia McDermott, age 28, from Addergoole, Ireland. She was in third class and was traveling to St. Louis, MO to visit her cousins.

Under “passenger fact” on the boarding pass, it reads, “The night before she departed, Bridget gave a few coins to a wanderer. He took the coins and told her she was going on a long journey. ‘There will be a tragedy, but you will be saved,’ the man said.”

I found Bridget under the list of third-class survivors.

I appreciated how personal the exhibit was and the many stories that were told of the Titanic’s passengers, along with some of the items found under the sea.

The exhibit walks visitors through the overall timeline of the Titanic, from when it was built to the rescuing of the survivors by the Carpathia.

That’s when it really became emotional – reading about the women who became widows that cold night on the Atlantic.

Since there were only 20 lifeboats, women and children were the first to board the lifeboats.

The exhibit told of one woman who refused to leave her husband behind, saying, “We built a life together, we will die together.”

The exhibit was brought to life even further with actors portraying members of the crew, like Captain Edward John Smith played by Richard Rousseau.

Rousseau walked around the exhibit, not only playing the part, but giving facts and theories of how – if at all – this event could have been avoided.

With only 30 seconds to make a decision, Rousseau said, the captain ordered to slow down the ship, when, instead, it should have just turned the ship at full speed, possibly avoiding the iceberg all together.

Another tidbit of information the captain shared was the fact that the iceberg had been up-ended (bottom side up) and therefore blended in with the black waters.

Also, if only five compartments were taking water instead of the actual six, the Titanic may have stayed afloat long enough to be rescued by another ship.

It’s wonderful that exhibits like this can keep stories like the Titanic alive for future generations.

Now, even though the last survivor of the Titanic has passed away, the stories of the more than 2,220 people destined to be on that fateful journey will live on.

The Science Museum exhibit goes through Sunday, Jan. 3. Reservations are encouraged.

For more information, visit www.smm.org or call (651) 221-9444.