Sinking feelings

Honeybuns and I went to see the Titanic exhibition in Boathall 1 by Galärvarvet (The Galley Wharf). It was somewhat pricey at 120 SEK, but waving my Friends of the Vasa card at least gave me a discount. We were equipped with rather bulky items that turned out to be mil-spec MP3 players with the guide voice track to the exhibition. Then we were photographed on a simulated gangway before we entered the exhibition itself.

The voice track pretty much locked one to a particular, pretty high pace of going through the exhibits, which in the case they were, for example, written documents, couldn't be read while listening to the guide. With time I figured out how to pause the track and use the chapter skip buttons to adjust the timing, but that required conscious effort and some training. The voice track also had background music, which I quickly realised came from the famous film. As I haven't seen the film, I asked myself whether the exposition in fact followed the run of the film, but there were no overt references to it elsewhere. But the stated meaning of the exhbition was to remind us of the people behind the legend, who'd once lived, loved and worked.

Accordingly, each exhibit was typically a huge photograph of a person who had been on the Titanic with a case next to it, often showing personal items belonging to that person, postcards, diaries, watches, but also samples of cutlery, china, etc from Olympic, the sister ship of Titanic.

The final room listed the names of all who had perished and I noted an impressive proportion of not only Swedes, but also Finns, among the third-class passengers—emigrants to America. In an appropriately solemn mood we exited, passing the desk selling photographs of us boarding the exhbition and the souvenir shop with extremely expensive Titanic souvenirs. On the way home we thought about shipping disasters—while that of the Titanic may be the most famous, certainly it's not the worst? Wikipedia to the rescue (and several hours of reading)!

As I had remembered, Wilhelm Gustloff was the sinking with the greatest loss of life, but now I found that the latest estimates suggested around 9400 dead. What I had not known was that Wilhelm Gustloff was part of a huge rescue operation, perhaps a thousand ships moving over a million Germans from East Prussia to Germany and Denmark from under the Soviet army. Several of these ships were sunk, including the Goya with another 6000 dead.

In peacetime the worst accident is the Doña Paz sinking by the Philippines with perhaps 4000 dead, and the Kiangya, lost by the Chinese coast with around 3000 dead.

Closer to home, Estonia didn't have as many victims, but a much higher proportion of the passengers died than on the Titanic, due to the ship capsizing within minutes, trapping the passengers in their cabins.

I've always thought that a major advantage of air travel is that you die instantly if there is an accident.

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