ABOARD MS BALMORAL - In the birthplace of the Titanic, residents will gather for a choral requiem. In the North Atlantic, above the ship’s final resting place, passengers will pray as a band strikes up a hymn and three floral wreaths are cast onto the waves.
A century after the great ship went down with the loss of an estimated 1,500 lives, events around the globe are marking a tragedy that retains a grip on the world’s imagination - an icon of Edwardian luxury that became, in a few dark hours 100 years ago, an enduring emblem of tragedy.
Helen Edwards, one of 1,309 passengers on memorial cruise aboard the liner Balmoral who have spent the past week steeped in the Titanic’s history and symbolism, said Saturday that the story’s continuing appeal was due to its strong mixture of romance and tragedy, history and fate.
“[There are] all the factors that came together for the ship to be right there, then, to hit that iceberg. All the stories of the passengers who ended up on the ship,’’ said Edwards, a 62-year-old retiree from Silver Spring, Maryland. “It’s just a microcosm of social history, personal histories, nautical histories.
“Romance is an appropriate word right up until the time of the tragedy - the band playing, the clothes. And then there’s the tragedy.’’
The world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner, Titanic was traveling from England to New York, carrying everyone from plutocrats to penniless emigrants, when it struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. It sank less than three hours later, with the loss of more than 1,500 of the estimated 2,208 passengers and crew.
Aboard the Balmoral, a cruise ship taking history buffs and descendants of Titanic victims on the route of the doomed voyage, passengers and crew will hold two memorial services at the site of the disaster, 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland - one marking the time when the ship hit the iceberg, the other the moment it sank below the waves.
Passengers aboard the cruise, which left Southampton, England, on April 8, have enjoyed lectures on Titanic history as well as the usual cruise ship recreations of bridge and shuffleboard. Many have dressed in period costume for elaborate balls and a formal dinner recreating the last meal served aboard the ship.
In Belfast, where Titanic was built - the pride of the Harland & Wolff shipyard - thousands were expected to attend a choral requiem at the Anglican St. Anne’s Cathedral or a nationally televised concert at the city’s Waterfront Hall on Saturday.