Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Wreck of the Titan or, Futility - by Morgan Robertson

Free US/UK Kindle Classic published
years before the Titanic sank and
predicting its fate!

Long winter nights lend themselves to contemplation.  Sometimes that contemplation is of inexplicable coincidence.  How is it, for example, that a book could be written about an unsinkable ship, the Titan, which hit an iceberg and sank with insufficient lifeboats?  Easy you say, there have been thousands of riffs on the sinking of the Titanic!  Yes, but only one was written years before the sinking . . .
The Wreck of the Titan or, Futility by American author Morgan Robertson was a short novel written 14 years before the Titanic sank. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  

 It was originally titled Futility and was published in 1898.  It was republished after the Titanic sinking with this updated title, but the only change was to bring the Titan's tonnage in line with the Titanic.  The other similarities to the Titanic, right down to the watertight compartments, were in the original edition. 
I often owe a debt to Wikipedia.  After you read the book, see their compilation of these coincidences.  SPOILER ALERT, you have to page past a plot summary on Wikipedia to read about the many similarities between the Titan's fate and the Titanic's sad ending.
And while I am giving Wikipedia credit, see also the fascinating article on the author, Morgan Robertson, who was a sailor who saw how a ship called "unsinkable" could be overcome by an ice berg.  It is not unthinkable that a passenger on the Titanic might have brought this book aboard. 
Perhaps a foreboding overtook them and they set this book aside . . .

From the bridge, engine-room, and a dozen places on her deck the ninety-two doors of nineteen water-tight compartments could be closed in half a minute by turning a lever. These doors would also close automatically in the presence of water. With nine compartments flooded the ship would still float, and as no known accident of the sea could possibly fill this many, the steamship Titan was considered practically unsinkable.

Shivers . . .

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