Halifax and The Titanic

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On April 15, 1912, the most famous ocean liner in the word sank at the will of an iceberg and the arrogance of shipbuilders.  Many Canadian ports were involved in the rescue and recovery operation.  Halifax had the sad task of being a victim identification centre and explains why three Halifax cemeteries hold graves from this tragedy.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (located at 1675 Lower Water Street Halifax) has a permanent exhibit, which was updated with new artefacts including a mortuary bag and a carved table leg.  Many Titanic artefacts have been spread all over Atlantic Canada – and the world – and have gradually been coming to museums or going to auction.  The museum’s exhibit features wooden Titanic artefacts including one of the only Titanic deck chairs known to exist.  (This makes one of my stock project management jokes ‘this is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic‘ seem grimmer than I ever intended.)

It was a long time ago when my wife and I visited Halifax, but the graveyard we visited was being spiffed up due to the resurgence of interest in the Titanic courtesy of James Cameron’s film of the same name.  (I guess finding the location of the wreck in 1985 wasn’t a glamorous as the movie release in 1997.)

When I read recently that the sole living survivor of the Titanic, Millvina Dean, was selling her last memorabilia to pay for nursing home fees, I felt that the story of the Titanic was soon to take a grim turn.  Ms Dean was 9 weeks old when she boarded the ship and to say the event – despite no memories of it – shaped her life is an understatement.  To paraphrase the BBC article, she should have become an American citizen and lived a regular life, but due to the Titanic‘s convention circuit, she’s seen parts of the world not readily available to her.  The full article can be found here:  news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7960933.stm

Although I did not take a picture of it, I did see the J. Dawson headstone and wondered if James Cameron used it as inspiration for the fictional Jack Dawson.  According to a bit of web surfing, it seems this is a coincidence.  If you remember the story of the movie, Jack Dawson won his ticket for the voyage in a card game and his name would never have been on the passenger manifest.

I do recall an eerie feeling looking at the gravestones (my own pictures are attached) because when a story like the Titanic has been told and retold so many times, it becomes less real.  One look at these gravestones changes your mind.

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