I didn't think it would be possible, but last week finally slaked my thirst for all things Titanic.
It was a gigantic media effort, especially on the History Channel and National Geographic Channel over the past week, culminating in a wall-to-wall marathon on Sunday.
If you didn't catch the inside baseball in the last sentence, "Gigantic" was the original name planned for the third ship of the Olympic class of ships, of which the Titanic was second. It was eventually named Britannic, since names implying big were no longer chic when you just lost the biggest ship in the world to an iceberg.
The Great War meant Britannic was converted to a hospital ship. Remarkably, it sunk in Greek waters in almost exactly the same manner as Titanic, striking a mine in almost the same spot as the famous iceberg, and going down in the same manner. Having no patients yet, most, but not all, of the crew made it to safety. Thirty people died on that one.
But you wouldn't know that from last week's coverage. Nearly every piece went out of its way to forget that it was the Olympic, built before Titanic, that originally set the record for White Star Line as the biggest ship in the world. Titanic was ever so marginally larger, as in fractions of a per cent.
National Geographic has been eating out on Titanic ever since Dr. Robert Ballard found it in 1985. I distinctly remember that edition of the yellow-bordered mag, despite being only 10 when it came out. I can visualize almost every photo in it. But all the coverage I saw last week conveniently forgot one thing: finding the Titanic was a cover story for the U.S. Navy. Ballard's initial mission was to investigate the wreck of the U.S.S. Scorpion, a nuclear submarine that sank in October 1967.
I can't count how many times those on screen described it as the worst maritime disaster ever, which is patently false. There might be some Spanish ghosts in the English channel that have something to say about that, after their armada was sunk, or some Mongol invaders who never made it to Japan in 1281. The loss of Wilhelm Gustloff during the Second World War by a Soviet Navy submarine, with an estimated loss of about 9,500 people in January 1945 remains the greatest maritime disaster ever, if you believe Wikipedia.
Some of the coverage was a little surreal. Director and National Geographic "explorer-in-residence" James Cameron brought together a blue ribbon panel to discuss the ship going down in his two-hour long "last word" on the subject. But most of the special focused on how the ship fell apart on the way down, as if that really made a difference to anyone. But it was interesting to hear Cameron talk about how they got some things wrong in his movie, even if it was actually mostly very small, technical items.
I did appreciate the British production Rebuilding the Titanic, in which a team, using 100-year-old methods, did everything from reconstructing parts of the first-class smoking room to forging an anchor. That was a rare case of something new.
I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but the Nazi Titanic is recorded on my PVR. It was a film commissioned by no less than Joseph Goebbels during the height of the Second World War, as a tale of the downfall of British society. It didn't go well for the director, though, who, after a spat with the deeply Nazi screenwriter and a few accusations of decorated soldiers being more interested in bedding actresses than filming, found himself hung by the Gestapo for treason. That was news to me, thanks to the National Post.
So now that the big anniversary is over, and we have probably learned absolutely all there is to learn about Titanic, maybe the world can give it a rest. That's strange coming from someone so passionate about it that he wrote a column last year about seeing a chunk of its hull in Las Vegas. But 100 years on, I think it's time Titanic rested in peace.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinc...@sasktel.net