This past May, I returned to Just Buffalo Writing Center to teach her 2nd workshop! This time, I discussed something that has morbidly fascinated me for most of my life – The RMS Titanic.
To start off the workshop, the students discussed their own odd fascinations. One person collects dead leaves, another loved collects people’s weaknesses. After everyone had their turn, it finally became time for me to delve into my fascination, and explore the tale that is the Titanic.
The RMS Titanic was considered to be the most luxurious ship of its time. Although the class system was still heavily prevalent, even the 3rd class accommodations were considered top notch. The 1st class had everything – from fabulous food, to a pool, to Turkish baths. It was named The Ship
Of Dreams for that reason, and also because of the promise of a new life for many individuals in 3rd class looking for the American Dream. How unfortunate that many of them were not given the opportunity to pursue it.
There are so many factors when it comes to the sinking of this fine vessel that it is as though the ship was tied to this destiny. Ignoring all ice warnings, Captain Smith went through the Atlantic at high speeds, thinking his many years of experience would help him see any icebergs before it was too late. The night of the sinking was a new moon and the water was calm, making it exceedingly difficult to see breaks in the water that would reveal the base of any iceberg. By the time one was seen, all they could do was swerve – a move that rendered the bulkhead system, which had given the ship its unsinkable reputation, useless and therefore making the sinking of the ship inevitable.
Captain Smith’s instructions for filling the lifeboats were interpreted quite differently on each side of the ship, leading many passengers to be turned away and the boats to be not filled to capacity. And there was already only enough lifeboats for half of the people onboard. Many of the ships nearby had either stopped operations for the night or mistook the ship for a steamboat vessel due to the effects of a cold water mirage. By the time the RMS Carpathia arrived to save the passengers, Titanic had already gone under and only the 703 in the lifeboats remained alive.
For many years after, the ship’s final resting place was a mystery. That is, until Robert Ballard’s discovery in the summer of 1985. He spent the entire following summer exploring the ship, marveling over how the crew’s nest still stood tall and discovering where the stern portion of Titanic had landed. Ballard has always believed that the ship is a gravesite, feeling that nothing there should be removed and has even left a memorial plaque on the end of the stern in honor of the many who met their fate there. He has spent a lot of time instead figuring out non-invasive technological ways to have Titanic be brought into classrooms. He has been the author of multiple Titanic books, and is highly respected in the oceanographic community.
After telling this riveting tale and answering a few questions, I left it up to the students to create some writing in response to the Titanic. I had brought a number of books from my Titanic collection, put on the Titanic soundtrack as the background music, and even presented a CGI video of Titanic sinking in real time. I suggested writing content such as poetry, diary entries, plays, or telling the life of any passenger. This resulted in some lovely pieces, and an intense discussion over whether it was really Titanic that sank that night. The 3 images below are just a few samples of the marvelous pieces created that day.
Thanks so much for reading! Feel free to leave a like and a comment down below on what you think.
Check out https://www.justbuffalo.org/ for more information on their other workshops, events, and other services.