At precisely 2:20am on April 15th, a church bell is rung in the small County Mayo parish of Addergoole on the west coast of Ireland. For the past ten years, locals have gathered in the churchyard to remember the night that changed their small parish forever. 2:20am was the exact time that RMS Titanic, the largest, most technologically advanced steamship in the world sank after colliding with an iceberg. The Titanic took just two hours and forty minutes to sink. More than 1,500 lives were lost while 705 passengers managed to survive. The Addergoole parish was home to 14 passengers on the ill-fated ship and 11 perished that night in the icy mid-Atlantic. Now a century later, ancestors of the lost villagers and neighbors will commemorate the "Addergoole 14" in a series of poignant new events.
Around the world, the sinking of the Titanic has morphed into a profitable industry and the disastrous ship is as popular a topic as Jesus and the Civil War. The world's largest tourist attraction dedicated to the doomed liner opened its doors in Belfast this past weekend, and folks are advised to get advance tickets. The Titanic Belfast Museum is situated in the old Harland and Wolff shipyard where the famous ship was built. Replicas of the ship are touring around the world, museums are presenting special interactive exhibits and restaurants will serve "Titanic Dinners."
On this centennial anniversary, media makers are also hoping that that the public stays fascinated by a story that remains deeply eerie, theatrical and tragic. Over 200 novels have been published to date, countless television programs created, and several news presentations will debut this month expected to make millions for the creators. Here are a few of the specials.
Titanic director, James Cameron planned the release of the 3D version of his 1997 blockbuster film to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Cameron's epic 1997 film Titanic won 11 Oscars and grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide. The potential of the 3D version to be a mega hit is favorable. Meanwhile, the National Geographic Channel joined the director for the ultimate forensic investigation into the shipwreck in Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron special. Cameron, who has made more than 30 dives to explore the Titanic, brings together a team of engineers, naval architects, and historians to try and solve the questions of why and how an "unsinkable" ship sank.
My former employer, PBS, will commemorate the anniversary of the Titanic disaster with several new programs premiering this month. Each program provides a different perspective on the disaster -- from historical drama to science to personal stories of the effect of the tragedy on the descendants. Saving the Titanic, from Tile Films in Dublin, is a historical drama that tells the untold story of the bravery of the ship's engineers, stokers and firemen in the face of impending death. Based on eyewitness accounts, the program follows the engineering crew who fought courageously to keep the power systems running so people could escape.
The Titanic With Len Goodman (of Dancing with the Stars fame) examines the impact of the sinking on the thousands of affected families. Later in April, Nova presents the premiere of Why Ships Sink which investigates the safety of cruise ships. Twenty million passengers embark on cruises each year, vacationing in deluxe "floating cities." The programs asked the question, "Are we really safe at sea -- or are we on the brink of a 21st-century Titanic?"
Meanwhile back in Addergoole, at 2:20am on April 15th, the parish bells will toll 11 times for the 11 souls lost at sea that night 100 years ago. The annual Titanic Mass will be followed by the official opening of the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park. A highlight of the commemorations is sure to be the unveiling of two colorful stained glass windows for St Patrick's Church on the theme of emigration. A friend and Addergoole Titanic Committee member, Brian Nolan recently wrote on Facebook, "It is all coming together for the Addergoole Titanic Week... for us it's all about the passengers and the people, the ship was merely the vehicle." A week of festivities to remember the people on board is listed on their website at www.addergoole-titanic.com. Many events will unfold this month, some well-meaning, many looking to cash in on a disaster. One thing is certain -- the story of the Titanic and her passengers is eternal and timeless.