Disturbing the Dead

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Hello readers and welcome back to the Library blog. For those of you who are unaware, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer has just released construction plans for the proposed cruise liner Titanic II. No, I did not mistype that – this man seriously wants to rebuild the Titanic. According to the proposed plans, the Titanic II would be made as close to the original specifications as possible. However, a new deck will be added for lifeboats, the huge steam engines would be replaced by much smaller diesel engines, and the underwater hull would be made slightly more aerodynamic.

The original vessel under construction in Belfast. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

The prospect of a replica Titanic sailing the waves is perhaps both a sentimental and a controversial notion to many people. While it is no doubt touching that the people who perished on the first Titanic could be honored and remembered by the creation of a second one, one must consider the endurance and implications of the Titanic’s legacy. The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic on her maiden voyage is a story that has pervaded the past century, symbolizing the folly of humanity’s hubris in the face of the forces of nature. It is a lesson meant to be so powerful that it bears no repetition: for that reason, every child in America grows up learning its story. By building a second Titanic, are we not throwing away the lessons we learned? Are we not trivializing the importance of the deaths suffered in 1912? Some say that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps the Titanic II will not literally sink, if it is ever made. But remaking that ship will reject the lessons we were supposed to learn, and trivialize the impact made by all those who died.