In the early hours of this morning (about 5:20 am GMT), we were precisely one hundred years out from the moment when the RMS Titanic slipped once and for all beneath the waves of the North Atlantic. She took with her some 1,514 passengers and crew, a little more than two-thirds the total number of souls aboard. None of the survivors lived to see this anniversary. (The last passed away in 2009.)
Though she wouldn’t be rediscovered until 1985, the Titanic lived on fairly vividly, here and there, since the first word of the tragedy reached the world. The resurgence of interest in her story comes in waves, of course: following the release of the book and film A Night to Remember in the 1950s; the amazing images from the wreck in the 1980s; the release of James Cameron’s period epic Titanic (re-released in 3D to coincide with the anniversary), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, in 1997.
I think the night the Titanic sank must have been the end of the world as anyone knew it. She was the last gasp of human audacity and ostentation, of unbridled luxury for its own sake. The end of a world in which the only way anyone could imagine the two sides of the Atlantic would be linked was by such an engineering marvel. A scant two years later the Great War would begin, and for the rest of the century human ingenuity on any sort of large scale would be defined by conflict.