“Undersea tourists and souvenir hunters are hastening the decay of the Titanic, says U.S. explorer Bob Ballard, who discovered the world’s most famous shipwreck nearly 20 years ago.”
this article made me remember something. once when i was 11, our entire fourth-grade class was herded into the a/v room to watch a video. this was something we did all the time, so we knew how to file into the a/v room and sit cross-legged in rows on the floor, each one of us appropriately hunched over so as to maximize our chances for scoliosis and other spinal problems later in life.
nobody ever sat up straight.
the video they showed that time was national geographic’s “secrets of the titanic.” the video started out with robert ballard’s initial discovery of the location of the titanic, and then it showed how he explored the wreckage. ballard went down to the wreckage in a small submarine named alvin. from alvin he dispatched this tiny remote-controlled thingy called jason, which he used to navigate and photograph the parts of titanic that were too small for a human to fit.
in the video jason showed us photographs of doorknobs and broken glasses on the ocean floor. he showed us splintered banisters and chandeliers, steamer trunks and abandoned shoes. i was riveted.
at the time, my dad had a subscription to national geographic. when i got home from school that day, i went to the cabinet under the bedroom bookshelf where he kept the old issues. he kept them in cardboard boxes, organized by date. i spent that afternoon paging through every single issue of national geographic he had, looking for articles about the titanic. i found two major articles, both of which, sadly enough, gave me the same information the video had.
i wanted more, but there was nowhere to look at the time. it turned out, too, that while i was caught up in ballard’s enthusiasm and elation, and was fascinated by the images of decades-old personal effects lodged forever underneath the atlantic ocean, that was as far as it went. i had no interest in being an oceanographer. i didn’t want to do the math.
in retrospect, what i think interested me most was the romantic death–the idea that these people died in such a memorable and historic way. even now i think about those thousands of victims, not dying in a nursing home in a quiet, morphine-addled haze, but rather holding their breath and kicking the freezing current as long as they could fighting and fighting it until they gasped and their shoes sunk to the bottom.
yeah, that’s how i want to go.