Quiet Desperation

Documentarians are manic about Titanic


The Titanic is a sunken scab that keeps getting picked on.

There’s a new Titanic documentary. There will be a new one next year and the year after that and the year after that.

I wish they would let her rest in peace, like Ethel Merman.

New technologies explain how they continue to make new documentaries. Explaining why is different.

In the first place, there has to be an audience. I guess there is. Apparently there’s still enough of a mystery about it, and everyone loves a mystery.

One of the newer documentaries showed the ocean emptied like a bathtub, leaving the Titanic’s carcass easier to see like the desert bones of a goat.

I wish I had millions to throw away at a sunken ocean liner.

It was foggy. The captain refused to slow down. There were icebergs. The invincible Titanic sunk. There were reasonable and conclusive explanations.

Weren’t there? Apparently not.

One documentary was titled “The Titanic’s Final Mystery.” If only it were.

What more can we learn?

Tons, apparently.

The scenes I like best are the ones in the control rooms when men and women sit around pensively while very expensive deep water diving subs and cameras plunge into the darkness to see what really happened to this unsinkable ship that sank.

Look: Those bolts weren’t fastened properly.

Look: The speedometer wasn’t working.

Look: Someone forgot to turn on the iceberg detector.

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic on the Titanic? About halfway.

What kind of lettuce did they serve on the Titanic. Iceberg.

Of the estimated 2,224 passengers on board, more than 1,500 died. One who survived, Molly Brown, and her wealthy husband James, moved from Leadville into a $30,000 mansion on Pennsylvania Street in Denver.

It’s now a museum.

An abysmal movie, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” starring Debbie Reynolds, was released in 1964.

It’s a musical, if that helps.

Another documentary? Oh, why not? Men, and women, with money have to spend it on something. It might as well be on a sunken ship instead of college scholarships.

If only the Titanic could talk and put an end to all of this.

I think it would say two words, “Slow down.”

Other ships in the area sat for the night. But Captain Smith was intent.

He said, “Nothing can catch her, nothing can touch my 409.”

Trouble is, the ship’s iceberg scanning technology consisted of two young men without binoculars.

One, Frederick Fleet, 25, survived. He died at the age of 77 (cause of death: suicide by hanging).

Fleet testified, “We could have seen it a bit sooner” if they had been issued binoculars.

Incomprehensible, isn’t it?

The largest ship afloat relied on two lookouts keeping their eyes peeled.

The Titanic was almost the length of three football fields.

Binoculars, good ones, are $19.99. In 1912? Half that.

Sometimes it takes a disaster for improvements to be made. Improvements in ocean crossing liner safety measures were instituted.

If only Smitty had said, “Slow down. Let’s wait until morning, men.”

If Fleet had been issued binoculars.

If either or both had happened, the Titanic might be sitting pretty in Long Beach near the Queen Mary, open for tourists, serving high tea.

If, if, if.

Captain Smith’s last words: “Where’s all this water coming from?”

Now, let that last joke sink in.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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