I’ve been avoiding this for – well, years. I’ve thought for ages that the whole Titanic thing was overblown nonsense, but this year there’s no way of avoiding it. Hopefully this year will also see the end of it.
What annoys me most is the way in which popular culture has elevated Titanic into something quite unique: as if her construction was a single, one-of, hubristic act of constructing the most unfeasibly large ship they could conceive, complete with all the fatal flaws that any hubristic act has to contain. I’m sure there are many people who not only believe that Titanic was the biggest ship of the time, but that she has never been surpassed in size. Although Titanic was the biggest ship in the world, it was only just. Her sister ship Olympic, the name ship of the class, had a gross tonnage of 45,323 but Titanic had a very slight higher gross tonnage of 46,328. In addition to the Olympic class, there was also Cunard’s Acquitania at a gross tonnage 45,657, and the great German trio – Imperator, Vaterland and Bismarck – the last of which reached a gross tonnage of over 50,000. (All of these came into service between 1911 and the beginning of the WWI.) So Titanic was simply one of a number of ships which were being built to a new larger size in order to meet the commercial demands of the North Atlantic service. Since then, of course, passenger ship sizes have increased greatly – today a ship of Titanic’s tonnage would be regarded as quite small. There are ferries with a greater gross tonnage than Titanic! (more…)