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Titanic tributes shouldn’t go too far

Published: Monday, April 16, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 00:04

This weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, an important moment in world history. The passing was marked in a number of ways, some of which were more tasteful than others.

For a few, the anniversary came with the startling revelation that the RMS Titanic was an actual ship and not the fictional subject of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster. Several cringe-worthy tweets from today’s woefully ill-informed generation made the news, such as “Nobody told me titanic was real…? How am I just finding this out?!”

On the other side of the Twittersphere, the History Channel “live”-tweeted the sinking of the Titanic, with updates like, “#TITANIC: Frederick Fleet, one of Titanic’s lookouts, calls the ship’s bridge office and reports, ‘Iceberg Right Ahead!’”

Even a century on, questions of taste and decency are still raised over ways the events are memorialized. While Twitter has taught us the importance of ensuring this historic event doesn’t fade from collective memories, some acts of nostalgia seem a bit macabre in light of the more than 1,500 passengers and crew who died in the cold Atlantic waters on that fateful April night.

At least two memorial cruises retraced the ship’s course, stopping for a moment of silence Saturday night at the estimated time and place of the ship’s fateful encounter with an iceberg.

Some passengers wore period costumes and the cooks served up meals painstakingly reconstructed from surviving copies of the ship’s menu, according to BBC News.

A restaurant in Houston recreated the last meal served to first-class passengers aboard the ship. For $1,000 apiece, parties of 12 can enjoy the lavish 10-course meal on plates from the 1900s, according to the Associated Press.

The Titanic’s wreckage, decaying 12,450 feet below the Atlantic’s surface, has become an unlikely tourist destination.

Off and on since 1998, Deep Ocean Expeditions has offered submersible rides down to the Titanic’s remains. In 2001, a couple was married in a small sub that actually landed on the deck of the sunken ship.

Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered the Titanic’s remains in 1985, has always opposed bringing artifacts back from the ship and recently took to “The Colbert Report” and other news outlets to decry the damage tourism has done to the ship.

Others seem to be retrieving artifacts from the depths in the hopes of turning a profit. Titanic memorabilia is quite popular; a ticket from the ship’s maiden voyage recently sold for $56,250 at a New York auction house.

While tourists and explorers should keep their damage to the wreckage minimal, Ballard wants to go too far in the other direction, proposing that the ship’s hull be cleaned and sprayed with protective paint to prevent further corrosion and be guarded by robot sentries. Respect for the tragedy doesn’t warrant creating a bizarre, permanent underwater shrine.

The Titanic has inspired everything from Thomas Hardy’s classic poem “The Convergence of the Twain,” to Cameron’s movie being re-released in 3-D, to a 25-foot inflatable party slide.

The Titanic deserves to be remembered, within reason.

Michael Hardcastle is a senior majoring in creative writing.

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