Monday, August 22, 2011


In 1898, fourteen years before the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank, a book was published by Morgan Robertson, which seemingly predicted the disaster. The book was “FUTILITY, Or the Wreck of the Titan.”

Yes, Robertson named his imaginary ship the Titan, long before the British shipping company, White Star Line, named its second of three enormous ships Titanic. But the similarities between the fictional and the real don’t end there. The Titan was the largest ship ever built at the time 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. In addition, many 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 19 watertight compartments, the Titanic 16. Titan carried 24 lifeboats, Titanic 20. There were 3000 people on board the Titan, 2228 on the Titanic. Titan’s speed at impact with the iceberg was 25 knots, the Titanic’s 22.5 knots. However, whereas in the novel a mere 13 people survived, 705 survived Titanic.

I’ve read FUTILITY, and the plot of Robertson’s book is nothing like any of the other novels about the Titanic that I’ve read or James Cameron’s film. 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, when Titanic began its rendezvous with an iceberg and the leap into history.

Inasmuch as next year, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking, interest is mounting all over the world. At least two cruises to its gravesite are planned and even more books have been written about the possibly most famous ship ever launched. Robertson’s book was published in 1898 but I doubt it could be today. 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?

In 1894 my grandfather, John Ashworth, emigrated to the U.S. via the New York, the ship which almost collided with Titanic in Southhampton in 1912, so I’ve had a lifelong interest in the ship. I wrote my novel COLD APRIL in 2008 and it was published in December of 2010. My extensive research led me to FUTILITY, along with many other facts that didn’t find their way into my book. This is the first of several Blog posts in which I’ll share them.


  1. What an amazing story! I guess life can imitate art--even bad art! The fact the fictional ship was called "Titan" is seriously spooky.

    Your book sounds like a fascinating read. So sorry your book tour fell through, but blog touring is a lot easier on the nerves than traveling is these days.

  2. I love your Book, Phyllis. Shows a lot of research. I'm not a romance fan, but I am a Titanic fan and have recently published a Titanic novel of my own called Dangerous Affairs. Check it out in most formats at,, or at

    Lots of luck with your writing and sales. Gardner Brooks (


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