It’s been three years since the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the most famous ship in the world. Having written my novel about it, COLD APRIL, in 2010 and Camel Press having published it a year later, I wrote a series of blog posts about the many interesting things I learned in my research, which never found their way into the book.
The first was an incredible coincidence. In 1898, fourteen years before Titanic made its maiden voyage, a book was published by Morgan Robertson which seemingly predicted the disaster. It was titled “FUTILITY, or The Wreck of the Titan.”
Robertson named his imaginary ship Titan long before the White Star Line named the second of its three massive ships Titanic. But the similarities between the fictional and the real don’t end there. In FUTILITY, the Titan was the largest ship ever built and deemed “unsinkable.” Around midnight on an April night, while sailing between England and New York, it struck an iceberg on its starboard side and, due to insufficient lifeboats, took most of its passengers down with it. Sound familiar? There’s more.
In both cases the ships were made of steel, had three propellers and two masts, and could accommodate 3000 passengers. Many other details were close, if not identical. The Titan was 800 feet long, the Titanic 882. The Titan’s horsepower was 40,000, the Titanic’s 46,000. Titan had nineteen watertight compartments, the Titanic sixteen. Titan carried twenty-four lifeboats, Titanic twenty. There were 3000 people on board the Titan, 2228 on the Titanic. Titan’s speed on impact with the iceberg was twenty-five knots, Titanic’s twenty-two and a half. However, whereas in the 1898 novel, a mere thirteen people survived, 705 survived Titanic.
I’ve read FUTILITY, and the plot is nothing like any other novel about the Titanic or any film about it. Aside from that, it’s not well written and no doubt sank quickly after publication (pun intended), rendering it all but forgotten by April, 1912.
Who would believe a story in which (1) the largest and strongest ship ever built, (2) deemed unsinkable, (3) on its maiden voyage, (4) carrying some of the world’s wealthiest people, (5) would strike an iceberg and sink in less than three hours?
There are six blog posts in this series. Be sure to read next week’s episode.