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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Titanic: Truly ‘A night to remember’- Mariella Anna Reporting...

Although small in comparison to modern cruise ships, in 1912 Titanic stood alone in terms of sheer scale, opulence and luxury. Titanic evokes an age of excess, of unimaginable luxury, quality and obvious displays of wealth and status. It was the  ‘Belle Epoque’ which was to last up until  up until the first world war,  before in Europe at least, class and privilege were fragmented and changed  forever.  In the last moments of the Titanic the division of wealth, and position on the social scale was acutely illustrated by the fact that only 25% of third class passengers survived.

In 1912 the most expensive first-class suite on the Titanic cost $4,350 the staggering equivalent of $75,000 today- remembering tickets were only and rather ironically sold one way.  In comparison, those travelling on a third class ticket were also subjected to a level of luxury they probably had never experienced before, certainly they would have had to invest a lifetime of savings for the crossing, in the hopes of a new life in America.  

Having arrived at the Titanic exhibit prior to boarding the ship itself, I was struck by the attention to detail given to create the exhibition centre with its various Titanic artifacts, pictures of the ship during construction and explanatory notes, sculpted china and even a first class menu giving a glimpse of life on board.  A scale mode of the ship in a glass display case gave no clue as to what actually awaited us once we’d boarded.

Those passengers waiting to embark were appropriately dressed in a wide variety of  Edwardian finery, and it was clear some considerable thought had been given to recreating the very authentic looking period costumes and all adding to the very Edwardian atmosphere ‘The Grove’ had taken such care to create for us.

We eagerly boarded the ship, though perhaps we would not have boarded quite as eagerly had we known what fate had in store for us. We were greeted by Captain Smith (Umberto Giano of Grove Estates) and his crew, prior to being handed a boarding pass containing the name of a real passenger and informed that we would later discover ‘our fates’.

Ill-fated couple aboard the Titanic

My ticket informed me I was Mary Mack, age 57 and a second class passenger. Whilst I had rather hoped to travel first class,  I consoled myself that at least I wasn’t in  ‘steerage’ and had a ‘reasonable’ chance of surviving.

Captain Smith and WK Ganesvoort

Nothing had quite prepared us for the sheer scale of the build - it in fact took up an entire sim just to give you an idea. The detail was incredible and a testament to the building skills of Ns5 Xorbun its creator.  Part mesh, you can get an idea of  the sheer scale and detail by checking out this YouTube video.

It was clear that we were in for a very special evening as we took our seats on the upper deck.  Music was provided by Samm Qendra  -who rather fittingly is known as SL’s Celine Dion, the haunting refrains all the more poignant for the setting where the music drifted beneath the April stars.  I remembered, the story of how Titanic's musicians reportedly played till the very last moment and how their wives were subsequently billed for the cost of their uniforms by the White Star Line after. None survived to reveal what tune was played as the Titanic was sinking a debate which long continued amongst the survivors.

My companion and I took the opportunity to take a romantic picture ‘flying off the Titanic prow’ with my arms outstretched and his arms firmly around my waist (I wasn’t sure if he was getting ready to push me off or keep me from falling - I hoped it was the latter.)  Ominously an iceberg loomed in the distance, but unaware of our soon to be unfolded fates and aware of the people queuing behind us to capture the same shot,  we set off to find the iconic clock staircase, synonymous with several scenes in the film by now and by James Cameron's haunting pictures of the ship as it is currently.

A good example of how time and the ocean have ravished the ship can be found at the following location where current images including the clock staircase are superimposed onto what was once its former grandeur.

I started to get quite fond of Mary as I wandered around the ship, finding the lifeboats,  I rather hoped she’d managed to get on board one as we made our way up to the Crows nest and wheelhouse and other points of interest.

Back on the upper deck, I tentatively slid past the Paperboy (played by Emery Milneaux-Giano) who was holding a stack of newspapers declaring that the Titanic had sunk and also running the Titanic quiz.  I later asked him how he felt about the event of which he, Umberto, and the Grove Estates ‘crew’ can be so justifiably proud.

“I've been super passionate about Titanic and its history for quite some time now, so getting the chance to plan the anniversary event at The Grove was an incredible experience. I felt Titanic's stories should be told throughout the event. I learned a lot while planning A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and I'm walking away, feeling closer and more connected to Titanic and its passengers.”

I too felt that sense of connection as I looked at Titanic's passenger list and found that poor Mary was not after all one of the fortunate survivors. For a moment I wondered how it must have been that icy April night, drowning in the freezing sea amongst 1500 other people. Was there a sense of isolation or unity? did the drowning finally make all men equal? The screams of the drowning passengers was not a thing the survivors ever forgot, equally neither was the total silence that followed after as she finally came to rest on the bottom of the sea.

As I looked at my ticket, I came to appreciate that what Emery and Umberto had given us was indeed truly ‘a night to remember’.

There have been many poems on the Titanic but for me one of the most evocative is Thomas Hardy’s "Convergence of the Twain" written in 1915. It is well worth reading as its rawness stems from people that were actually lived through the event and whose lives were touched by it. It is a fitting if not tribute then perhaps an epitaph) and I urge you to read it. Here's the link.


  1. Mariella Anna, thanks for the amazing article about A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. I enjoyed reading it.

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