Tuesday, January 17, 2017
My Account  | Login
Nashua-BoireFieldAirport;42.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/skc.png;2017-01-17 13:55:09
  • The front page of the April 16, 1912 Nashua Telegraph announces the news everyone feared
  • Courtesy photo

    The Russian MIR submersible that Dave Christensen and two other divers rode to the bottom of the Atlantic to view Titanic wreckage in 2005.
  • Courtesy photo

    Dave Christensen talks with other divers as they settled into the capsule that took them to the floor of the North Atlantic, and the Titanic wreckage, in 2005.
  • Courtesy photo

    Floodlights illuminate the bow of Titanic as Dave Christensen and his crew approach the wreckage during a 2005 dive.
  • The Nashua Telegraph of April 20, 1912, carried the story of Milford school teacher Emilio Portalupi, who was returning from Italy on the Titanic. He later sued White Star Lines for $17,500 for the loss of personal property.

  • The Nashua Telegraph of April 20, 1912, carried the story of Milford school teacher Emilio Portalupi, who was returning from Italy on the Titanic. He later sued White Star Lines for $17,500 for the loss of personal property.
  • Authorities, citing too much confusion, barred the public from Titanic investigation proceedings.
  • Courtesy photo

    Amherst native Dave Christensen, center, with the other two crew members who took a Russian MIR capsule to the wreck of the Titanic in 2005
  • Courtesy photo

    The Russian MIR submersible that Dave Christensen and two other divers rode to the bottom of the Atlantic to view Titanic wreckage in 2005.
Saturday, April 14, 2012

Centennial reignites Titanic interest

If the technology that allows humans to float safely through the RMS Titanic’s massive underwater burial site with big cameras had been available a century ago, it’s quite possible the only centennial we’d be observing this month would be the birth of that lyric little bandbox in Boston’s Fens.

It was one of those “perfect storm” scenarios, most historians and scientists seem to agree, that set the stage for one of humanity’s most significant seafaring disasters, a drawn-out, 160-minute tragedy that couldn’t happen – but did.

“Unsinkable,” they called her, an ocean liner at once luxurious and impenetrable, a state-of-the-art vanguard of precise workmanship whose maiden voyage would be celebrated from Southampton to New York and beyond, and take its place among the “great firsts” of the 20th century.

History tells us a mere 30 seconds separated lookout Frederick Fleet’s first warning shriek – “Iceberg right ahead!” – and the hulking liner’s initial contact with the pointy, rock-solid object that seemed to rise out of nowhere. The ocean was so still that nobody, not even Fleet, could hear waves lapping at the iceberg before it was too late.

It was 11:40 p.m. By 2:20 a.m., the first chapter of “A Night to Remember” had been written.

Nary an angle has gone unexplored, be it on paper, TV, the big screen, or the myriad books and DVDs since the Titanic met its fate over three excruciating hours 100 years ago tonight. It’s a tragic, but decidedly fascinating, anniversary that’s prompted centennial observances from the Northeast to the Canadian Maritimes to England, from whence the White Star Line’s newest flagship departed to great fanfare at noon April 11.

One of the more elaborate local doings is Imelda Murphy’s theme dinner party Saturday, an ambitious undertaking where 60 passengers – not guests – will experience full Titanic immersion at her Berkeley Street home. Murphy’s “passengers” may have been created equal, but tonight, they’ll be relegated, as were the people they’ll portray, to one of three social classes – first class, second class and “steerage,” a gentler euphemism for third class.

And they’d better have done their homework. “I told everyone to look up a name of one (Titanic) passenger, so they can talk about who they were, and what happened to them,” Murphy said, issuing a fair warning: “Nobody’s going to be talking about the Red Sox.”

Over the years, Titanic has inspired a number of local folks in different ways. Nashua author Paul Quinn penned “Titanic at Two A.M.,” a compilation of drawings, photos, paintings and narratives published in 1997. The book was a milestone in a lifelong fascination that went from sketching the Titanic on elementary school chalkboards to frequently watching, then reading, Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” and “Maiden Voyage” by G. J. Marcus.

Driven by a desire to understand what happened that fateful night, Quinn became a Titanic student, depicting, among other subjects, the doomed liner’s interior in a series of oil paintings. That led to the idea for the book, he said.

In 1998, the former Country Gourmet restaurant in Merrimack threw a “Last Dinner of the Titanic” party, complete with patrons in period dress, “boarding passes” with seating assignments and, of course, elegant, historically correct platters of oysters a la Russe and canapes a l’Admiral.

The event, which coincided with Titanic’s 86th anniversary, was no doubt inspired by the recently released James Cameron box office blockbuster, a dramatization that put the fateful night back on everyone’s radar. Dave Christensen, a former Amherst resident and Milford High graduate lucky enough to visit the watery graveyard during a 2005 exploration dive, credited the film’s historical accuracy. “You take out the love story, and it’s a very accurate depiction,” he said. “Cameron’s a movie director, but he’s also a big Titanic buff. What you’re seeing (in the movie) is probably as close a representation you’ll ever see.”

As for Murphy, meanwhile, centennial anniversaries like this are a once-in-a-lifetime chance that beg an all-out observance. For starters, she and the Titanic both hail from Ireland – Murphy was born in Dublin, while the Titanic was built in Belfast. Murphy occasionally vacationed in the seaport of Cobh (pronounced “cove”), which was called “Queenstown” when the Titanic made its final docking before chugging off into the North Atlantic.

After setting out from Southampton, the Titanic docked briefly at Cherbourg, France, before circling Ireland to make its final stop.

At Cobh, Murphy said, 113 passengers boarded the Titanic. Perhaps more dramatically, seven people disembarked, among them a young man who declined a rich American family’s offer to pay his way to New York. His uncle, Murphy said, told him he had to stay home and complete his studies for the priesthood. From the pier, Murphy said, the man snapped what’s believed to be the last photo of an intact Titanic as it departed.

Cobh looks today a lot like it did that April afternoon when history visited, Murphy said. Mariners use the same pier where Titanic docked, and even the building that housed the White Star Line office remains.

Saturday, each of Murphy’s “passengers” will be dressed according to his or her social standing, but the majority will get a bit of a reprieve when it comes to dinner – Murphy is cooking from the first-class menu. “At first, I wanted to do what was on each class menu,” she said, but her daughter talked her out of it. “She said, ‘Are you nuts? Do you know how much food that is? First class alone is 16 courses,’” Murphy said with a laugh.

Passengers also will get to peruse 100-year-old newspapers, the Boston Daily Globe and New York American among them. Prints and other memorabilia will dress up the walls and tables. Those in steerage will be treated to live Irish music, quite an amenity for the lowest class. And visitors can’t miss Murphy’s house – there will be four “lifeboats” on her front lawn.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.