Myth 3) The Titanic was described as “unsinkable” before it sank
We have several people to thank for the perpetuation on this myth. The first is James Cameron, director of the Oscar-winning, record-breaking, box office sensation “Titanic” (1997). He puts the words into the mouth of the film’s two male antagonistsâthe fictional Caledon Hockley, Rose’s callous fiancÃ©eâand the historical J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of White Star Line and the man who disguised himself as a woman to escape the sinking ship.
Then we have theologians, preachers, and moralizers from both sides of the Atlantic, who in the weeks and months following the disaster tried to rationalize it as an act of God or Nature, punishing man for his technological arrogance. For them, Titanic‘s sinking was made all the more poignantâand their message made all the more powerfulâby the idea that the ship’s builders had described their creation as unsinkable; Man’s unfaltering belief in his creation offering a fitting tale of hubris.
Finally, we have the writers. Whether for newspapers, novellas, orâparticularly popular at the timeâfor poetry, writers drew upon the unsinkable idea much in the same way as theologians and moralizers did, but to add drama to their own narratives rather than to an overarching Christian one. For those with some grounding in the classics, the parallel was too good to pass up, especially given the nomenclatural similarities between Titanic and Titan Prometheus, who also overreached himself by stealing fire from the Olympian gods.
In reality, the Titanic was never described as “unsinkable” until after it sank. The closest it came was when it was described as “practically unsinkable”, first in a June 1911 edition of the “Irish News” and “Belfast Morning News” and again in an edition of the Shipbuilder Magazine the same year. The ship’s builders, the White Star Line, had also released publicity claiming it was “designed to be unsinkable.” However to call the largest floating mass of steel ever built by man infallibly unsinkable would have been a step too far, even for the industrially enlightened, admittedly arrogant, Edwardians.