Friday, April 17, 2015

A Spooky Titanic Premonition?

The Wreck of the Titan
With the recent anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaching, it seems fitting to briefly explore one of the strangest coincidences in World History. In 1898, Morgan Robertson wrote a novel titled Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. The story tells of an ocean liner, named "Titan," which sinks in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. The novel was published fourteen years before the sinking of The Titanic. The details contained within the pages of the novel are spooky.... read on.

Like any standard novel of the era, the first half of Futility introduces the hero, John Rowland. Rowland is a disgraced former U.S. Navy officer, who is now an alcoholic and has fallen to the lowest levels of society. Dismissed from the Navy, he is working as a deckhand on board the Titan. On a chilly April night the ship hits an iceberg, causing the vessel to capsize and sink somewhat before the halfway point of the novel. 

One Step Beyond screen version
The second half follows Rowland, as he saves the young daughter of a former lover, by jumping onto the iceberg with her. The adventures continue but it is the first half that proves intriguing because of the similarities to the real incident that happened 14 years later.

Although the novel was written before the Titanic was even designed, there are some uncanny similarities between both the fictional and real-life versions. Like the Titanic, the fictional ship sank in April in the North Atlantic, and there were not enough lifeboats for the passengers. Both ships sank as a result of an iceberg. There are also similarities between the size (800 feet long for Titan vs. 882 feet, 9 inches long for the Titanic), speed (25 knots for Titan, 22.5 knots for Titanic) and the lack of sufficient life-saving equipment. Both ships were triple screw (propeller) and both described as "unsinkable."

One Step Beyond episode, "The Night of April 14th"
The Titanic was actually qualified as "unsinkable" before she sank. The Titan was the largest craft afloat and deemed "practically unsinkable" as quoted in Robertson's book. The Titanic carried only 16 lifeboats plus 4 Engelhardt folding lifeboats, less than half the number required for her passenger and crew capacity of 3,000. The Titan carried "as few as the law allowed" which was 24 lifeboats, less than half needed for her 3,000 capacity. When The Titanic sank, more than half of her 2,200 passengers and crew died. When The Titan sank, more than half of her 2,500 passengers and crew died.

The Wreck of the Titan
The spooky coincidence was covered in John Newland's closing commentary in an episode of television's One Step Beyond, "The Night of April 14th," and paid homage in a recent Dr. Who audio drama, The Wreck of the Titan, starring Colin Baker. Looking for something to read this spring? Give this one a try.

1 comment:

MaceMace said...

This story of The Titan was actually also covered twice in the TV series "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction". Once by James Brolin early in the series. He only relayed the tale orally though, instead of having a filmed version. In a later season, they did another version hosted by Jonathon Frakes which was filmed as the stories usually were. I thought it was odd that they used it twice, but I also thought the original oral story instead of filmed was od.

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