Dwelling On The Deep
When I first heard about the Titanic memorial cruise it seemed morbid, but the more I thought about it, the more things started to feel weird. Two ships, one retracing the original course, the other coming in the opposite direction, meeting at the site of the wreck. Slowly circling the area, a century since the RMS Titanic went under the bitterly cold and lonely Atlantic. The place where one hundred years ago the height of luxury and technology was pulled into the black with 1,512 people aboard by something as cruel and mindless as an iceberg.
And what’s down there? Things that have never seen the light of the sun or the stars, gliding through the crumpled remains. An ecosystem centred around this alien vessel, one that sprang into life and thrived on the sudden bounty drifting down from above. Supposedly there are things down there that have never been seen anywhere else. Of the dead, there are no bodies, not even bones – only some of their possessions remain. Fifteen hundred people, rich holidaymakers, poor immigrants, couples happy and sad; all gone. Sublimated into an oasis of life nearly 4 kilometres below the surface. The ship will be next, though as befits its stature it’ll take longer to vanish. Most of the wood went first; eventually even the iron of the hull, which feeds countless billions of tiny organisms, will have been devoured. Nothing but ghosts and scattered, meaningless artifacts.
Up above they cast wreathes onto the sea and pray, more life from the land thrown to the waves. What are they thinking about? The dead? The survivors? The ship? The colony of stories, symbols and myths that grew up around the Titanic are as tenacious and fertile as the things that live on her broken hull. And maybe as destructive; are we really remembering an awful accident with a monstrous death toll? Or are we thinking about a myth of thwarted hubris, a parable of class division, a romance of doomed lovers, a nostalgic fable about women and children first and the band played on? We use their memories as the raw material for the narratives we wrap our lives in, until there’s nothing of the original left.
It’s a strange world.