And the Ship Went Down

 

First of all, sorry for disappearing, but mid-terms kind of got the best of me the last few weeks. I still have three more tests to go (Econ, Law and History), but I should be able to manage with the blog at the same time. I’ve also been looking at all the paperwork I need to do for next year (#excited), but have yet to start actually filling it in.

In spite of having so much stuff (although I can think of many other names to call it) to do, last Friday I kind of winged it and, instead of doing anything productive, went with a couple of friends to a exhibition about the Titanic that has been travelling around Europe.

It is by now common knowledge that the Titanic sunk at midnight on th 14th of April, 1912, taking with it the lives of almost 1500 people, after sustaining damage from an iceberg in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Over a hundred years later, this exhibition combines recreations of the parts of the ship, as well as objects belonging to the passengers and crew that were on the ship that fatidic night.

So there I was, with my audio guide. I entered the exhibition through the recreation of a gangway and a door in the side of a ship and walked through a corridor that imitated that of a ship. I pressed play. The first tracks were about the construction of the Titanic and its sister ships, Olympic and Gigantic, the last of which would later be renamed as Britannic. I listened on as it spoke of the minds behind the ships, and learned (go figure) that the building where the idea of the Titanic was conceived now houses the Spanish embassy in the UK. I might visit it next year, I think.

When going to an exhibition about the Titanic, one doesn’t expect it to be cheerful, obviously. But one doesn’t expect to spend the whole hour and a half that the exhibition lasts with a knot in their throat, that just gets bigger and bigger. Yet that is exactly what happened.

After the history of the ship, we went on to learn about its structure. There were life size reproductions of the different types of cabin, and bits and pieces, such as cutlery or a deck chair that was used on the ship. And then, when that part was over, the stories began. There were pictures of various passengers of the ship, from first, second and third class. The audio guide would tell you which picture to look at and then tell the story of the person or people in it. The stories often mentioned certain belongings, and these belongings, the actual real thing, were set in display cabinets. There was a ring from a woman who died of hypothermia, the small boots of a girl who managed to survive, and the beautiful pendant that inspired the story aroud which the 1997 Titanic movie revolves. It turns out that it was based on a true story, in which Kate Phillips and her married employer, the one who gave her the necklace, were sailing to America to start a new life together. Alas, Henry, the employer, did not know how to swim, so the chance was ripped from their hands. Kate did survive, and so did with her the necklace, which Henry put around her neck just before they were separated.

Another story that is often told about the sinking of the Titanic is the one in which ‘the band kept playing while the ship sunk’. Many might not believe it, but the story is actually true: The musicians of the RMS Titanic all perished when the ship sank in 1912. They never left the post and kept playing ‘Nearer, my God, to thee’ through all the chaos, intending to calm the passengers, for as long as they possibly could. They all went down with the ship and were all recognized for their heroism. Only three of their eight bodies were found.

This part of the exhibition ended with a big block of ice. By touching it, one could feel the cold that the passengers of the Titanic had to endure that fateful night. After that, the only room left had nothing but lists on the wall with the names and ages of the deceased. I must admit that this made the lump in my throat, which had been growing with each passenger’s story, finally become too big, and a few tears slipped out.

It was undoubtedly a very emotional experience, but I’m glad I went. The exposition was really exquisitely organized, and I am happy to not have missed it. It is hard to convey through words written on a screen the feelings I went through there, and even harder to convey the ones that the passengers of the Titanic must have gone through. Therefore, I encourage you to go check out the exhibition if it comes to your city. I can assure you that it was well worth the 10 euros I paid to enter.

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-B

 

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