*I was riding the bus home to my Los Angeles apartment in 1985 when I read the news that the shipwrecked Titanic had been located. The news piqued my interest as I had often wondered how it must have been for some 1500 lost souls who had gone down with the ship.
As a child, I first became aware of the disaster when it was dramatized in the 1953 film Titanic starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck. All the plots and sub-plots came to a head after the ship hit the iceberg, and due to a shortage of lifeboats, it was decided that all women and children would depart leaving the men behind. It moved me to tears as the doomed crew and passengers sang to the orchestra’s last performance – the hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee” – while the ship made its final groanings and began to disintegrate into the freezing depths of the North Atlantic Sea.
The fate of the “unsinkable” Titanic – as it was billed – was sealed by a comedy of errors when it launched, “be it so.” An overconfident crew, indicative of the fact that no one insisted on the required amount of lifeboats; insistence of a stakeholder to break speed records on the maiden voyage; half-hearted responses to warning reports of icebergs; sailors in the crow’s nest had no binoculars; and recent reports that there was a major fire in one of the coal bunkers that reportedly was known before launch and could not be extinguished; were all factored in after years of investigation. Risky decision-making set the scene for a massive watery grave.
Fast-forward to 2023, this past week, when the Titan submersible reportedly imploded as it descended to extreme water pressure levels. The five adventurous souls inside the cylinder-shaped vessel were lost. They were attempting again to view the Titanic wreck site. Leading up to the Titan’s launch, employees of the manufacturer and others in the industry had grave concerns about the safety of such a venture: The CEO of the manufacturer who manned Titan’s last voyage knew the risks of descending 2.5 miles beneath the surface, yet after several such excursions, the vessel reportedly was not properly maintained and inspected; the CEO hailed the lighter carbon fiber used to seal the vessel as innovation while others in the industry relied on more expensive titanium models (notice the word “titan” in titanium). In other words, details are revealing that the CEO and his team may have cut corners just as did the crew of the Titanic.
In Greek mythology, the root word titan refers to a race of powerful deities known as the Titans. The adjective titanic describes anything extremely large or strong – the Titanic was extremely large; the Titan was designed to be extremely strong. Both appear to have failed from human pride and negligence.
Another factor to consider is that the Titan – while exploring the Titanic – was invading a sacred burial site; the watery graves of those 1500 souls who perished in 1912. Were they going too far? Perhaps it should have sufficed that the Titanic was located, photos taken, and a few artifacts recovered. No one would be as invasive at the U.S.S. Arizona’s final resting place which is considered a “war grave.” Let’s now let the souls of the Titanic rest in peace.
Knowing now the spot where both the Titanic and the Titan rest, maybe we can now honor those lost souls just as attorney/composer Horatio Spafford did as he was notified on the sea of the spot where he lost four daughters when the ship Ville Du Havre sank. He wrote in part:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Larry Buford is a contributing writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon). Email: [email protected]
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