My Transatlantic Obsession

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I became interested in the Titanic while doing a book report in fourth grade. I went to the library and found several book including a large hard cover volume titled Titanic: An Illustrated History. It was the largest and most interesting book I found, full of images and beautiful paintings of the ship’s construction, appointments, lifestyle, sinking, aftermath, and discovery. I didn’t read the entire book but I wrote the book report and traced over some of the paintings to include with it.

Since then I’ve kept an interest. I picked up a Titanic box when I was still in high school, which included replica maps, deck plans, and a small booklet of information. I purchased my own copy of Illustrated History many years ago, along with a couple of other books. I saw Titanic with my father, marveling at James Cameron’s amazing recreation of the ship while trying not to be embarrassed watching Kate Winslet’s nude scene (I was 12 or 13 at the time).

I’ve picked up a book here or there and a few models along the way, but my interest really picked up “steam” again when I was out in L.A. in 2015. I learned that I was barely 40 minutes away from the Queen Mary, a 1935-era ocean liner converted to a hotel and open to the public. I visited twice and was fully enveloped in its presence. Walking the decks, climbing the stairs, visiting the public rooms, touching the furniture, transported me to a time long past. The Queen Mary is an amazing ship in itself, but it also gave me an idea of what being on the Titanic would have been like. I don’t really know why I’m so interested in that feeling, but I am, and the Queen Mary made it very real.

I had a lot of time to spare on the west coast and spent it revisiting the Titanic’s story and learning about the Queen Mary’s. I purchased a three-foot model of the Titanic from a nearby hobby shop in Redmond but didn’t build it for fear of it breaking on the flight home. I soon broadened my interest to other transatlantic ocean liners of the early twentieth century including the Titanic’s sisters Olympic and Britannic; Cunard liners such as the Lusitania, Queen Mary, and Queen Mary 2;  the French liner Normandie; and the US Lines liner the SS United States.

I purchased books that covered all of my new interests and shipped them to New Hampshire to read on my flights back to L.A and Seattle. They were often large hard-cover volumes that were awkward to read on a cramped plane and were so heavy that I had to take them out of my checked baggage to get under the weight limit. When I returned home from my L.A. / Seattle excursion in 2016 I took a week off and created my own transatlantic liner out of Legos, which the boys call the Lego Titanic. It took me a few days to build the outer shell (and at least an entire day to sort pieces by color) but I never competed the interior.

That brings me to the present. After a couple of years of satisfaction my interest perked up again recently. I can’t remember what did it but I started looking for books again after coming across one on Amazon. I ended up buying a few used copies, including Lost Liners by Robert Ballard, which covers famous wrecks including the Titanic, her sister the Britannic, the Lusitania, the Normandie, and the Andrea Dora, all illustrated by Ken Marschall, the most famous historical painter of the Titanic.

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I also discovered an amazing game called Titanic: Honor and Glory. It’s been in development for over seven years by a group of Titanic enthusiasts who want to recreate the entire ship down to the very last detail. They work closely with seasoned Titanic historians in order to get every detail correct. The game is still under heavy development but will include a storyline mode that lets you experience the sinking as well as an exploration mode that will let you access every part of the ship, including the crew spaces. Every cabin, every closet, every corner of every deck. Every. Single. Part. Meticulously, accurately recreated.

They have released a demo that lets you walk around many of the First Class public spaces as well as a couple of cabins and it is extremely impressive. All of the areas are so incredibly detailed that it feels as if you are actually on the ship. They are passionate historians and provide frequent updates on game progress as well as historical information on YouTube. I eagerly made a $50 donation, which includes a copy of the game when it is done. There are still years of work left on it but I don’t care; I’ll wait, I’ll take what they have, I’ll even pay for it again. It’s that good!

I’ve been watching so many videos and reading so many books lately that the boys have become interested in the Titanic and other steam ships. I used to joke that I’d make them watch Titanic when they wanted to watch TV and they’d scream “No, that’s boring!” Now they actually asked to watch it. I skipped some of the less-appropriate parts, but they were absolutely mesmerized by the sinking and how it happened.

They have been constantly flipping through the books I’ve left out, asking which ship is which and how it sank. They’ve drawn pictures and even played with toys that “ran into icebergs” or “hit other ships”. They have even helped me start working on the Lego Titanic again, building furniture, rooms, and putting people on it. Adam made a great couch and bed while Zach made a lifeboat, captain, and even added some of his own “designs” to the exterior. It’s been really fun to hear them explain the different parts of the ship and what happened to it in their own ways.

My twentieth century steamship interest is alive and well again and now the whole family is involved. Let’s see if I can’t fill our house with books now…

 

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