I hear that a memorial cruise has left from Southampton to follow the course taken by RMS Titanic on her doomed maiden voyage. It’s 100 years since she sank and Britain seems to be in the grip of a morbid Titanic fever. Last night on BBC 2 they had a ludicrous show entitled Titanic: A Commemoration in Music and Film. I watched a bit of it and it seemed to consist of John Humphrys pontificating on the people who died interspersed with a lot of singing. A sort of Titanic themed Royal Variety Performance.
I tweeted on the absurdity of our culture being so desperate for meaning that we are forced to squeeze the emotions out of ancient disasters. Perhaps next year we’ll have a song and dance version of The Katyn Massacre?
However, as cynical as I am, I was very moved by a radio program on BBC World Service on Saturday night entitled Titanic – In Her Own Words. The program was based on transcripts of the morse code messages sent to and from the Titanic as she sank. A narrator explained that a hundreds years ago morse code was used in a similar fashion to the way we use Twitter today. Messages were transmitted by one station but could be heard by many. The messages were short and sharp and jargon was frequently used to save time. The morse code operators developed a sort of slang where they ironically referred to each other as “old man” in the manner of the English aristocracy and this term was frequently abbreviated to OM.
The program presented an excellent demonstration of the dedication of the radio operator as he stuck with his task to the bitter end notably trying to contact the SS California which lay much nearer than the other ships responding to her distress calls.
Worth a listen!