Sree's Stories

TAKING IN THE SITES / By SREENATH SREENIVASAN

The Easy Way to Discover Titanic

Monday, January 12, 1998
Pg. D6

The continuing interest in the story of the Titanic, the unsinkable
ship that sank, has obviously been heightened by the current hit movie and
Broadway musical. But well before these adaptations came along, the World
Wide Web offered a rich resource of Titanic lore and facts.

"If the movie mania shows the breadth of interest in Titanic, the Web
shows the depth of interest in it," said Steven Biel, author of "Down With
the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster." By unleashing
the creative energies of fans, he said, the Web has "both enlarged and
tightened the community of Titanic buffs around the world." Thanks to the
Web, the most obsessive fans, who are known as "rivet counters," no longer
need to wait for annual conventions.

For moviegoers for whom three-plus hours were not enough to satiate
interest in the director James Cameron's retelling of this story, the
official movie site is a logical stop. In the world of movie sites, it is
of epic proportions, going beyond just the trailer and cast biographies.
The site uses some multimedia features to good effect, including a
virtual-reality tour of the movie-set ship and the actual ship on the
ocean floor.

While finding useful sites is not as difficult as with some other
topics, search results can yield everything from Panic on the Titanic (a
Swiss rock band) to Australia's Titanic Ice beer ("goes down well").
Meanwhile, Titanic.com itself belongs to a video game developer.

A good place to start a Web tour of Titanic sites is Britannica Online,
the cyberversion of Encyclopedia Britannica. Through photographs and other
exhibits, the site provides an easy-to-understand introduction to the
story, starting at the ship's construction site in Ireland. There is also
a set of extensive links to other sites and titles for suggested reading.
Though the site charges for access, the Titanic section is free.

The 1955 book, "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord, tops any suggested
readings about the Titanic. A site called "Walter Lord -- the Man Who
Remembered" is dedicated to the author of historical books including
1986's "The Night Lives On," another Titanic book.

Judging from the sites that Titanic fans have created, the interest in
the ship borders on obsession -- and sometimes goes well beyond it. While
many of these sites are labors of love that give vent to years of
obsessive reading and collecting, others simply duplicate information and
copyrighted material found elsewhere.

Among compelling fan sites is one run by Nic Wilson of Australia. It
not only has exhaustive data about the Titanic and its passengers, but
also features its sister ships, Olympic and Britannic. Mr. Wilson is
trying to raise capital for a new ship of the Titanic's size to sail on
the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated maiden voyage. Its name: Gigantic
(which would have been the name of a planned fourth sister ship).

Another fan site, run by a software programmer, Mitch Kite, is called
the Unsinkable R.M.S. Titanic and offers everything from trivia (number of
elevators -- four, with three in first class and one in second class) to a
detailed article by NASA astronomers about the sky conditions that fateful
night.

One of the most fascinating sites is the Virginia Newspaper Project's
careful study of the news accounts surrounding the sinking of the ship on
the night of April 14, 1912. Using newspaper articles and editorial
cartoons from the era, the site delves into various aspects of the
tragedy. There is even a section on inaccuracies in the initial coverage,
including this headline in The Daily Mail of London on April 16: "Titanic
Sunk. No Lives Lost."

Articles about many of the 1,500 people who died on board are well
represented on the Web. One of the survivors, a millionaire's wife named
Margaret Tobin Brown, who came to be known as Unsinkable Molly Brown, is
featured on several sites. The definitive site is mollybrown.com,
sponsored by the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver.

Robert Ballard, the deep-sea explorer who discovered the wreckage of
the Titanic in the North Atlantic in 1985, has a site that should interest
students looking to learn more about exploring. Dr. Ballard's Jason
Foundation site offers information about his future ocean expeditions.


One of the oldest groups dedicated to the ship, the Titanic Historical
Society, has a simple site that provides information about the Titanic
Museum in Indian Orchard, Mass. The small museum is run by Edward Kamuda
from the back of his Henry's Jewelry Store.

Dozens of sites offer all manner of Titanic merchandise and memorabilia
for sale. The best known, perhaps, is coal from the wrecked ship offered
by RMS Titanic Inc.

A recurring theme is empathy for the human toll of the disaster. A
final word from Nic Wilson's site: "Every April 14th, my friend Bruce (a
fellow Titanic enthusiast) and I sit quietly alone from 11:30, with a
drink, and around 2:20 A.M. on the 15th, we tip our hats and go to bed
listening to the quiet of the early morning."

Chart: "WHERE TO GO"