Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Titanic Artifact Exhibit

      On April 10, 1912, the luxurious ship, Titanic, set sail from Southampton, England enroute to New York City. Carrying over 1,300 passengers and a crew numbering just over 900, the “unsinkable” ship was the largest vessel afloat.
      Its 159 furnaces burned 600 tons of coal and produced 100 tons of ash each day in order to achieve a top speed of 23 knots.
      Some of the most prominent people of the day were traveling in first class; the passenger list included names such as Astor, Guggenheim, Strauss and of course Margaret “Molly” Brown (better known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown because of her efforts in aiding other passengers as the ship sank.) In today’s dollars, passenger rates ran from $900 in steerage to about $100,000 in some first class cabins.
      The first hint of trouble came at 1:45 pm on April 14, when the ship Amerika warned that there were icebergs ahead. In spite of that the Titanic continued at full speed. At 11:40 pm on the moonless night, the crow’s nest reported “iceberg, right ahead.” While the ship missed the iceberg above the waterline, beneath the surface five of her watertight compartments were sprung open. She sank at 2:20 am on April 15. Of the 2,200 people on board, just over 700, less than one third, were saved.
      The wreckage was discovered on September 1, 1985, at a depth of 2.5 miles. Salvage operations have recovered over 6,000 artifacts.
      We attended the exhibit of some of these artifacts in Harrisburg. They ranged from tiny to huge. For example, who would expect that after all those years at the bottom of the sea, such small things as a paper wrapper for a razor blade, a partly filled champagne bottle, or a perfume salesman’s tiny samples, still with a scent, would be recovered. Also found were hundreds of dishes, cooking utensils, personal items, even currency.
      At the other end of the scale was a huge porthole cover which required help from a crew member to open. Replicas of both a first class cabin and a steerage cabin were also on display.
      But what really brought out the emotions was the display of messages and accounts of the tragedy by the survivors: husbands’ farewells while putting their wives and children into lifeboats, eyewitness reports by crew members – all the personal stories that illustrated the humanity of the passengers. These were real people with real lives, many of them going to the new world hoping for a better life.
      It is a display of pathos, heroism and bravery which should not be missed.
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      Early man found himself in a world buzzing with activity. Wild animals attacked, violent storms uprooted trees and made streams and rivers overflow, and countless other dangers and unknowns threatened him. But man’s powerful new tool, language, soon supplied a vast array of concepts which he could use to cope with the surrounding world.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

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