Historic connections with the ill-fated luxury liner Titanic are spread across Canada. The largest moving object ever built took 1,517 people to their deaths after an iceberg pierced its hull off the coast of Newfoundland at 11:40pm April 14, 1912. It was the ship’s maiden voyage.
I’ve been fascinated for years with this tragedy because it embodies one of my greatest nightmares:drowning in deep, dark, icy water that’s over my head (by about 2 miles).
It was in July 1999 that I took an adventure boat tour from Iceland to Greenland, finishing in Churchill Manitoba. I deliberately faced my fears by holding onto a railing with one hand atop the deck during a violent storm, photographing the wind and waves with my camera in the other. It wasn’t until afterward that I found out the captain had issued orders for no one to go outside.
Days later I was standing on lichen covered rocks overlooking the massive Ilulissat Icefjord on the west coast of Greenland. Only mosquitos interrupted the spectacle.
Curiously, sharp cracks of thunder reverberated through the air although it was a clear sunny day. I soon realized this came from the glacier as it slid imperceptibly seaward to begin its journey into the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic.
The submersion of millenia-old ice would gradually set microbes free to renew the life cycle. It was humbling to be at one of the epicentres of creation for this planet. Sobering as well to realize that the iceberg which sank the Titanic was likely calved at this very spot.
One hundred and fifty Titanic victims are interred in three Halifax cemeteries, with the majority in Fairfax Lawn Cemetery. The city was the closest port to which bodies could be brought for burial. Anticipating increased public interest, the Museum of the Atlantic at the Halifax waterfront has expanded its exhibits of the famous liner.
Further north, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the Queen Anne style Ryan Mansion (an elegant B&B) has a direct parallel with the fabled Titanic. Its staircase was constructed by the same firm that built the grand staircase of the Titanic, and during the same period 1909-11.
Current owners display Titanic memorabilia such as replica First Class Saloon chinaware with 24 karat gold Star Line logo, books and a model of the fabled ship.
Aboard the vessel that fateful night, at the express invitation of White Star Lines Chairman, was millionaire businessman Charles Melville Hays, whose Grand Trunk Railway and fanciful grand hotels gave birth to Canadian tourism in the early 1900’s.
Previously Canadian Pacific and now known as the Fairmont chain, these European chateau-style hotels included the crown jewel of the Château Laurier overlooking the national parliament in Ottawa. Hays was due to attend opening ceremonies upon completing his Atlantic crossing.
I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the Ryan and various Fairmont hotels across Canada whose comforts are a genuine slice of luxury. But when my adventure ship Akademik Ioffe berthed in Churchill, I decided to test myself with the basics.
Alone in the sauna deck pool at night while others celebrated the end of our journey, I placed myself in the middle of the pool so I couldn’t reach the sides. The water had been scooped from frigid Hudson Bay – an elixir of sorts.
Thinking of all who have perished in the North Atlantic, I wanted to see how long I could stay there. Within a few minutes my hands and feet ached. A few minutes more and they went numb. My body seemed to shrink as I began to shake with cold.
It occurred to me that a cramp might prevent me from reaching the side, so I stopped my experiment. That luxury was not available to Titanic passengers and crew.
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Please note: Story and photos copyright © Gary Crallé 2012. Not for commercial reproduction without written consent.
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Gary Crallé is a seriously sociable travel photographer who appreciates wherever he is. With almost 70 countries under his travel belt it’s surprising he hasn’t put on weight. He likes to concentrate on what is good for the body and soul (history & culture, gastronomy, health & leisure) and the spirit within us (geography, self-discovery/adventure). Image-based stories are his passion.
Located: Georgetown Canada
Likes: photography, adventure, gastronomy, history, events, health & leisure