Prayers and silence mark Titanic centenary

Last Updated: Sunday, April 15, 2012 - 13:36

Aboard MS Balmoral: Cruise ship passengers and crew said prayers Sunday at the spot in the North Atlantic where the Titanic sank 100 years ago with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

Passengers lined the decks of MS Balmoral, which has been retracing the route of the doomed voyage. After a moment of silence, three floral wreaths were cast onto the waves as the ship`s whistle sounded in the dark.

Another cruise ship, Journey, which has traveled from New York, also held a service at the site of the disaster, 400 miles (640 kilometers) off the coast of Newfoundland.

The Titanic, the world`s largest and most luxurious ocean liner, was traveling from England to New York when it struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. It sank less than three hours later, with the loss of more than 1,500 of the 2,208 passengers and crew.

A century on, events around the globe are marking a tragedy that retains its grip on the world`s imagination.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the Titanic was built, a new memorial featuring the names of all victims of the disaster was being unveiled Sunday at a ceremony attended by local dignitaries, relatives of the dead and explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985.

On Saturday, thousands attended a memorial concert in Belfast featuring performances by Bryan Ferry and soul singer Joss Stone, as well as 100 drummers beating out a new percussion work, "Titanic Drums."

At St. Anne`s Cathedral in the city, a performance of composer Philip Hammond`s "The Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic" was followed by a torch-lit procession to the Titanic Memorial in the grounds of city hall.

The requiem — performed by male choristers dressed as ship`s crew and female performers in black — also included words by Belfast novelist Glenn Patterson, who imagined the victims reflecting on all they had missed in the last 100 years.

"We passed instead into myth, launched a library full of books, enough film to cross the Atlantic three times over, more conspiracy theories than Kennedy, 97 million web pages, a tourist industry, a requiem or two," Patterson said. "We will live longer than every one of you."

Remembrance ceremonies also were being held in the ship`s departure port of Southampton, southern England — home to hundreds of Titanic crew who perished — and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where more than 100 victims of the tragedy are buried.

The most famous maritime disaster in history was being marked even in places without direct links to it.

Venues in Las Vegas, San Diego, Houston and Singapore are hosting Titanic exhibitions that include artifacts recovered from the site of the wreck. Among the items: bottles of perfume, porcelain dishes, and a 17-foot piece of hull.

The centenary of the disaster has been marked with a global outpouring of commemoration and commerce. Events have ranged from the opening of a glossy new tourist attraction telling the ship`s story in Belfast to a 3-D re-release of James Cameron`s 1997 romantic weepie "Titanic," which awakened a new generation`s interest in the disaster.

Helen Edwards, one of 1,309 passengers on memorial cruise aboard the liner Balmoral who have spent the past week steeped in the Titanic`s history and symbolism, said the story`s continuing appeal was due to its strong mixture of romance and tragedy, history and fate.

"(There are) all the factors that came together for the ship to be right there, then, to hit that iceberg. All the stories of the passengers who ended up on the ship," said Edwards, a 62-year-old retiree from Silver Spring, Maryland. "It`s just a microcosm of social history, personal histories, nautical histories.

"Romance is an appropriate word right up until the time of the tragedy — the band playing, the clothes. And then there`s the tragedy."

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012 - 13:36

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