Sunken memories

Sunken memories

Rediscovery

Sunken memories

Ronald Anil Fernandes relives the tragic voyage aboard Titanic, an experience that has been splendidly recreated by the curators of the ArtScience Museum in Singapore.

The “dream ship” or “the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time” — Titanic, with 2,224 people (including the 907 crew) had set sail from Southampton in England on April 10, 1912. After sailing to Cherbourg in France and later to Queenstown in Ireland to pick up additional passengers, it headed to New York City via Atlantic ocean. “The ship that would never sink” had covered 386 miles on the first day, 519 the second and 546 miles the third. Two more days and the dreamliner would have been in New York — the dream destination of a number of passengers. In fact, the Titanic was very much a ship
engaged in the lucrative business of carrying emigrants to a new life on a new continent and most of the passengers had scraped together every bit of money they had to travel to America aboard the grandest, and supposedly, safest ship ever built.

But, fate had its own design in the form of an iceberg, and exactly two hours and forty minutes after the ship hit the iceberg on April 14, 1912 at 11.40 pm, it sank off the coast of New Foundland, Canada, at 2.20 am on April 15, 1912, claiming the lives of 1,514 passengers beneath the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic, while 710 survived to tell the nightmare to the world. A disproportionate number of men died (1,352 out of 1,514 persons) due to the “women and children first” protocol that was enforced by the ship’s crew.

Titanic was designed by experienced engineers, using some of the most
advanced technologies and extensive safety features of the time. The sinking of a passenger liner on her maiden voyage, the high loss of life and media frenzy over
Titanic’s famous victims, the legends about the sinking, the resulting changes in
maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck have all contributed to the enduring interest in Titanic.

100 years of history

Exactly 100 years after the RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic set off on its maiden and final voyage, ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore presents ‘Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition,’ which takes visitors back in time to experience the legend of the Titanic like never before.

The exhibition features over 275 artefacts recovered from its final resting place, 14 of which have not been exhibited to the world so far, along with realistic re-creations and personal stories, each highlighting a different chapter in the compelling story of the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

This highly interactive display opens by portraying the hope and optimism that personified the dawn of the 20th century, sharing pictures, film footage and quotes from the offices of Harland & Wolff, the Belfast-based shipbuilders who constructed Titanic.

From here, the visitors (passengers!) are then welcomed on board the ship, and are allowed to roam freely through the opulent first class cabins, the verandah cafe and the third class quarters, all of which have been beautifully recreated to allow guests to soak up the atmosphere.

You can even have your photo taken on the ‘Grand Staircase’ (replica of the real Grand Staircase on Titanic) or stroll along the promenade to the gentle hum of the engines. No detail has been spared in creating the atmosphere.

Items from the ship’s construction, vials of perfume from a maker who was travelling to New York to sell his samples (recovered in 2000), porcelain plates and utensils etched with the logo of the elite White Star Line, postage stamps, sheet music, coins, jewellery, personal items and many other authentic objects offer historical insights into the life and times of travellers of that era and the wide socio-economic disparity between the rich and poor.

Travelling back in time

By placing their palms on the ‘Ice Wall’ located at the Iceberg Gallery, visitors can
experience the biting cold that passengers faced on the night of the sinking. The
Museum has also re-created the scene along the sea bed where Titanic rests at the bottom of Atlantic Ocean in the Discovery Gallery. Visitors can walk on a large glass pathway where they can see replicas of artefacts and sand beneath their feet. At the same gallery, there is also a replica of Titanic’s rusty hull, after having been submerged for 100 years. In fact, they can have a first-hand experience of how the hull looked when it was first discovered on the sea bed.

The tale of the Titanic has been told many times over the years in classrooms, on television and in movies (thanks to James Cameron’s Jack and Rose in the 1997 Titanic). But now, for the first time in South East Asia, visitors to Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands can experience the events of that fateful night first hand at ‘Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition,’ till April 29, 2012.

The use of authentic artefacts and extensive room re-creations, combined with the compelling stories of passengers and crew, has made this exhibition one of the most successful exhibitions in the world with more than 25 million tickets sold to date, according to Museum Director Tom Zaller, who spent three weeks aboard a Russian research vessel in 2000, including a 12-hour mini-submarine dive to the floor of the ocean (about 3,800 metres below the North Atlantic), to become one of the only handful of people to have seen the Titanic in her final resting place.

All aboard

Interestingly, as you enter the museum, you will be given a boarding pass, a replica of the original boarding pass given to Titanic passengers, with the passenger’s name, age, class of travel, destination, reason for travelling and the passenger fact. You can also check whether the person survived or not in the deadliest maritime disaster in the Memorial Gallery, where the list of survivors are mentioned.

The boarding pass I received was that of Edward Ryan, aged 24, who boarded at Ballinareen County Tipperary in Ireland and was travelling alone on a third class ticket to New York where his sister lived. He had hoped to find work there. “Edward was very enthusiastic about travelling on Titanic. While on board, he befriended an engineer who let him tour the ship’s engine room,” says the ‘Passenger Fact’.

Quite interestingly, despite travelling on a third class ticket, Edward survived the
disaster!

If you happen to visit Singapore, experience the voyage of a lifetime — right from the moment Titanic set sail, to its final resting place — before it moves away from Singapore. Of course, it is a heartbreaking reminder that this was a very human disaster and not just a Hollywood movie.

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