Ninety-nine years ago yesterday Titanic struck an iceberg just before midnight on April 14, 1912. When it sank a short time later, at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, it claimed the lives of over 1,500 people.
Last September we took a 10-day Canada/New England cruise. We started in New York and ended in Quebec City. One of the things that struck me was that, of the nine ports we visited, all but a couple of them at some point referenced a connection to Titanic.
Here’s some of the more interesting connections I noted.
ONE OF NEW YORK’S BIGGEST TITANIC CONNECTIONS
The first time I heard about a Titanic connection during our trip was while we were exploring our embarkation port, New York City. We took a Hop On Hop Off tour and one of the guides mentioned Isidor and Ida Straus, of Macy’s fame.
James Cameron’s Titanic is one of my all-time favorite movies. I perked up when the guide asked if we’d seen the movie (yes! only about 400 times!) and remembered the scene of the elderly couple clinging to each other in bed with water swirling around them while the ship went down.
Supposedly that was the depiction of Isidor and Ida Straus. (Which is a shame because the tale of how she refused to leave her husband, who refused to board a lifeboat when there were still women and children on board, is much more romantic.)
There were other wealthy, and not so wealthy, New Yorkers (or soon-to-be New Yorkers) who also died on Titanic, but the story of Ida Straus was one I’d heard before and was one that resonated with me. Seeing the original Macy’s and hearing her tale again really left its mark.
NEWPORT AND BAR HARBOR’S TITANIC CONNECTIONS
One of Newport, Rhode Island’s wealthiest and most dashing citizens was Colonel John Jacob Astor. Before we visited Newport, I hadn’t realized he’d hailed from there. His young bride, Madeleine, survived him the night Titanic sank, but he didn’t make it.
In Bar Harbor, Maine we took a tour of Acadia National Park. That’s when we heard the story of a man who’d built a home for his fiance called Seven Seas on High Sea. (I think. If I’m interpreting my notes correctly.) Unfortunately, she died on Titanic. The home is now owned by a lab that operates on the island.
Another interesting Titanic-Bar Harbor connection involved John Jacob Astor’s wife, Madeleine. She remarried there in 1916. But she also has one more connection with one of the port’s we visited. Actually, the one we started out from, New York City. When she died in 1940 she was buried in NYC’s Trinity Church.
HALIFAX: WHERE THE SOULS OF TITANIC WERE LAID TO REST
Two ships from Halifax responded to the Titanic disaster. Of the 328 bodies that were recovered, 150 of them were buried in Halifax. Fairview Lawn Cemetery interred the largest number, 121. Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery interred 19, and Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery interred 10.
Fairview Lawn Cemetery is one of Halifax’s popular attractions. We didn’t venture to see it, but it was easily accessible on our own or included with some of the tours offered by the ship. (We opted to check out the Citadel that day instead.)
But we spoke to other passengers who said the rows of plain granite headstones all inscribed with the same date, April 15, 1912, was haunting. (If it’s anything like some of the Civil War cemeteries with so many graves of those who died on the same day, I bet it was. They always make me so sad.)
QUEBEC CITY’S TITANIC CONNECTION
When we took the Ghost Tour of Quebec our guide stopped along the river not far from where our ship was docked and told us about a Titanic-like disaster that happened along the St. Lawrence River.
The Empress of Ireland was an ocean liner that departed in thick fog early on the morning of May 29, 1914. It was struck shortly after departure by the Norwegian ship SS Storstad. 1,073 people died. There were only 465 survivors. It’s Canada’s deadliest maritime disaster.
On board were Laurence and Mabel Irving. Laurence was an English dramatist and novelist. His wife, Mabel, was nervous to sail, especially after Titanic. She couldn’t swim, so it’s understandable she’d be apprehensive. But her husband convinced her all would be well. After all, another Titanic couldn’t happen, right?
When the Empress was struck, Laurence had found something to cling to and might have survived. However, he’d been separated from Mabel, and, knowing she couldn’t swim, jumped back in the river to find her. Their bodies were never recovered.
It wasn’t a direct connection to Titanic, but I loved the story and did find it interesting that, yet again, Titanic was being mentioned.
Even though it’s been nearly 100 years since it happened, people still remember Titanic and the legacy it left.
Encyclopedia Titanica – I think this is the premier site regarding Titanic. There is an absolute wealth of info here, from passenger lists and ship layouts to articles and community forums. Marvelous resource!
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit – This is worth traveling to. I had the chance to see it when it was in Denver. It was magnificent.
PERMANENT TITANIC EXHIBITS
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit travels from museum to museum, venue to venue. However, there are a couple of permanent exhibits.