This is a special edition of my blog in memory of the enduring legacy of the Titanic and, in particular, why it continues to make news today 100 years after it sank. In essence it’s a partial answer to what is news.
Why does the Titanic live on in popular memory, while hundreds of other shipwrecks and disasters do not? The Titanic was not the worst shipwreck in history, the Wilhelm Gustloff was. It was torpedoed by a Russian sub off the coast of what is now Poland on January 30, 1945 with the loss of about 9,500 people. Nor was the Titanic the first ship to hit an iceberg and go down.
What makes the Titanic so special and why we continue to remember it today are a combination of things: its name – Titanic, the way it sank – bow first on an even keel, not enough life boats, filled with rich and prominent passengers, being labelled unsinkable by the popular press, striking an iceberg, being on its maiden voyage, being in the well-travelled North Atlantic, sinking in calm weather, a ship nearby that failed to come to the rescue and the length of time it took to sink leaving time for hundreds of mini-dramas to be carried out.
Every transportation disaster since then has been compared to the Titanic, like the recent wreck of the Costa Concordia and the space shuttle Columbia disaster. The finding of the wreck in 1985, Walter Lord’s book A Night To Remember and the movie Titanic has only added to the interest and to mystique.
No doubt in another 100 years we’ll still be talking about the Titanic.