100 Years After: RMS Titanic Memorial Cruise

100 Years After: RMS Titanic Memorial Cruise

A Two-Ship Memorial Cruise marked the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of RMS Titanic

Just over a century ago, in the spring of 1912, the world’s greatest ocean liner met with a tragic end that has entranced our imagination ever since.

Descendents of the people who drowned or survived the Titanic sinking, historians and history buffs, film-goers and latter-day Romantics alike, never cease to be enthralled by the dramatic story of Man against Nature.

It’s a story in which the best of human invention was lost to a silent, ominous, deadly iceberg on a dark night in the North Atlantic, marking the end of the western world’s Golden Age and leading to significant changes in how ocean-going passenger vessel were built and operated.

Our fascination with this piece of marine history is never ending. That is why, 100 years after the sinking of the great steamship, hundreds of passengers aboard two modern cruise ships undertook a unique Titanic memorial cruise, following the intended route of the 1912 ocean liner.

Map of the Titanic’s intended route. Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Remembering the RMS Titanic Disaster

On April 10, 1912, RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, UK, carrying some 2200 people – 1309 passengers, and almost 900 crew and other employees of the line. The Belfast-designed and built ship called in at the port of Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, on April 11, 1912, then steamed out across the Atlantic. At the time, she was a triumphant symbol of the power of human ingenuity and engineering…

RMS Titanic size (length) compared to famous buildings (height) Source: Titanic comparison by Public Domain Review, on Flickr

… but the “unsinkable” ocean liner was no match for Mother Nature.

Late on the night of April 14, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg and the icy monolith gashed a great hole in her side below the waterline. Water rushed in, the bow went under, and in the wee hours of April 15, 1912, the great ship sank beneath the surface of the cold dark North Atlantic.

The rescue ship Carpathia was able to bring only 711 survivors to New York. Of the 328 bodies recovered from the ocean – most of them picked up by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett out of Halifax, Nova Scotia – more than one-third had to be buried at sea, with 56 of those victims still unidentified.

Many of the 1500 who died in the Titanic disaster were never found.

Secrets of the Titanic

If you’re interested in learning more about the famous ship and its ill-fated maiden voyage, and the modern-day sequel, three-quarters of a century later, when the wreckage was found- here’s a must-see documentary film I enjoyed immensely.

A beautifully produced National Geographic documentary DVD on the “floating palace” with a focus on Dr. Robert Ballard‘s painstaking search for the wreckage, Secrets of the Titanic is an enthralling blend of history and science  – with moving footage of the debris field far under the surface of the deep dark cold Atlantic ocean.

The documentary is a collection of specials on the quest to find the sunken ship – and 100 minutes of sheer fascination for any history buff. It leads us from the Irish shipyard where Titanic was built, incorporating a rich collection of vintage photographs and film footage, to details of the modern-day quest to find and explore the wreckage of the great ship. (The technology they used was astonishing for the mid-1980s!)

The bonus feature, “Last Hours of the Titanic,” is an in-depth interview with BDr. allard in which he tells of his challenges in the mission to find the remains of the wrecked ship and re-creates through animation his theory of what actually happened on that fateful night in April 1912.

Titanic's B_59 stateroom

Titanic’s B 59 stateroom by Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for the shipbuilders, Harland & Wolff Ltd. Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

One Century Later

On the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, two elegant modern cruise ships set sail on a memorial cruise and commemorative voyage – one ship sailing from Southampton, UK, and the other from New York – to meet in the lonely North Atlantic. Commemorative services in honour of the disaster’s victims were held at the site of the final resting place of RMS Titanic:

  • On Saturday, April 14, 2012, beginning at 11:40 pm, the first memorial service marked 100 years exactly since the great ship hit the iceberg.
  • The second service, at 2:20 am, Sunday, April 15, marked the time at which the pride of the White Star Line went finally beneath the waves.

Each of the memorial cruise ships’ itineraries included a stop in at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to visit the graves of hundreds lost in the 1912 disaster.

Memorial Cruise from Southampton, UK

On the 100th Anniversary, MS Balmoral retraced the route taken by RMS Titanic

On Sunday, April 8, 2012, the chartered cruise ship MS Balmoral set sail (with much Edwardian-costumed fanfare) from Southampton, bearing some 1,300 passengers from 28 different countries on a memorial voyage to follow the route of RMS Titanic.

Despite bad weather on the first leg of its trip, crossing the Irish Sea, MS Balmoral, the largest cruise ship in the Fred.Olsen fleet, called in at Cobh, Ireland safely the following day – just as RMS Titanic had done a century before,when the port was called Queenstown – then headed out to sea.

Shortly before 3:30pm on April 10, 2012, the Irish Coast Guard received a call from Balmoral. A cameraman on board the vessel had suffered a suspected heart attack, and the ship was forced to turn around and go back about 20 nautical miles to get within helicopter range for medical evacuation. The vessel then resumed the memorial voyage.

Video: BBC News Coverage of Launch of 100th Anniversary Cruise

In this video, BBC News covers the departure of MS Balmoral on the cruise to retrace the route followed, exactly a century before, by RMS Titanic on her first and last voyage.

Memorial Cruise from New York, USA

The Azamara Journey cruise took a reverse route, set to meet MS Balmoral at the site of the Titanic sinking

Azamara Journey left New York on April 10, 2012 – exactly 100 years after the ill-fated RMS Titanic left Southampton, UK, on her maiden voyage – bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where many of the victims are buried at Fairview Lawn cemetery and two other cemeteries in the city.

Titanic grave site - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Titanic grave site – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Source: Dennis Jarvis, [CC BY-SA 2.0], on Flickr

After an overnight stay in the Canadian port city, Azamara Journey put out to sea once more, towards its April 14, 2012 rendezvous with MS Balmoral at the site of the Titanic sinking, for a formal memorial service.

The cruise ship and her 694 passengers then returned to New York City.

Video: Azamara Journey’s Departure From NYC

This video of Azamara Journey making her way down the Hudson River toward the Atlantic on the 100th Anniversary cruise was shot by YouTube user TheCastlePoet from the vantage point of Pier A in Hoboken, New Jersey, on April 10, 2012, at about 5:30 pm.

To be frank, I’m just a bit superstitious about deliberately retracing the exact route of such an unlucky ship as Titanic, but my logical brain knows that’s all a bunch of fanciful nonsense… still, perhaps it would be easier on the nerves to do the reverse route out of New York, what do you think?

Would you like to have sailed on the Titanic memorial cruise – same route, same dates as the Titanic?

 

Author

likes to make and do and think and explore and share what is discovered. She is also incurably curious. If you are, too, you can find her posting as Flycatcher…r…r on Twitter and Google Plus.

2 comments

  • It is amazing that this story continues to fascinate people more than 100 years later. Several years ago there was a Titanic exhibit at our local museum. It was very interesting and am glad to have seen it.

    Reply
    • I’d love to have seen that exhibit, Joanne! As a history buff, I’m totally enthralled by past events of course, but in the case of Titanic there is the added interest that it happened so close to where I grew up, and I have a few childhood memories of visiting the Halifax graveyard where the Titanic victims are buried.

      Reply

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