(this article originally appeared in "Reflections" the onboard newspaper for Crystal Symphony in 1998 - David Perry)
Has any ship ever received more publicity almost 90 years after its launch?
And now, as I read in Piraeus (a report undoubtedly sending archivists scurrying in newsrooms and James Cameron's accountants in banks), Titanic is being rebuilt.
Of course, rebuilt is not entirely correct. What a joint Swiss and American venture are proposing is a new Titanic - as close to the original (only) as possible.
"Impossible." "Brilliant." "You're kidding." and "They'll make a mint," were heard about decks as I spread the news. Titanic - the only ship more famous than Noah's Ark.
I am here, I feel quite sure, because of that tragic beauty. Curled up with my mother at the age of six, I sat transfixed - popcorn forgotten - as Clifton Webb redeemed himself on the liner's sloping decks, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Wagner safely away in the boats. At last count, I believe I have seen that film Titanic over 20 times. Ditto for the classic A Night To Remember the adult book I ever read.
From that White Star liner was born a fascination with all things nautical -- a natural predilection my father always thought, as Commodore Oliver Hazard and his brother Captain Matthew Perry are (supposed) ancestors of mine.
How could such a lad, albeit an aging one, resist the opportunity to edit the newspaper aboard an ocean liner? I could not, and here I am. In recent months, the subject of my childhood fascination has become -- to my sometimes chagrin -- popular.
Though I loved the new movie (with the exception of the scene in which Officer Murdoch shoots himself, not true), I am somewhat disquieted by the Hollywood take on the greatest maritime tragedy of all time. So great was the effect of Titanic 's sinking, that historians actually acknowledge it as the end of the Edwardian era. No one seemed quite certain of anything after that. And, of course, with the start of the Great War, nothing was.
Much more than a ship -- a very beautiful ship, to my mind only exceeded by Normandie and Aquitania -- Titanic is a legend, a myth, a parable, a ripping good yarn.
And now, she will be a ship again.
I was not surprised to hear that the American partner in all of this is based in Las Vegas (no aspersions meant to the shore-side home of our Captain), but, you get my drift.
America is a country where without benefit of the pyramids we built a glass one in the desert, topping it with the largest laser in the world, pointed heavenward like a Babylonian torch.
Hubris seems much to be at work again.
And if anyone doubts the potential for yet more ink (my own contributions admitted) being sunk into this tale, the new Titanic will sail from Southampton on April 10, 2002: 90 years to the day its "sister" crossed into history, exactly four years from today. Dichotomous feelings on ice, I know where I will be that day...