Photographers' Blog

A night to remember

By Chris Helgren

The weather was calm, the stars and crescent moon shone and the water lapped gently against the hull as three wreaths were tossed into the sea above the Titanic wreck, 100 years after she went down.

It seemed every one of the MS Balmoral’s 1300 guests, dressed against the cool night air, was crammed onto its terraced decks aft, craning for a view of the event. And at 2:20 when the wreaths went in, all was silent. As Philip Littlejohn, the Titanic historian later noted, these details mimicked what would have been happening during the disaster itself – a black night, no light bar that of the doomed liner, and when she went under, silence.

Taking it all in was Belfast writer Susie Millar, who wept at the handrails over the stern, watching as the wreaths floated into the blackness out of sight. She told me, “I thought of people in the lifeboats as Titanic sank, who didn’t know whether they would be rescued or not. It all happened (the memorial) in real time and I thought that people wouldn’t have had time to say all their goodbyes, it happened so fast. It was a night I’ll never forget”.


Concert pianist Ronan Magill of London said that it hit home when they read out the names of the victims on the Balmoral’s intercom. “All you can do is stare at the sea and imagine”, he said. “I thought of the foreigners and how their bewilderment would have been magnified by all the activity going on around them as the ship sank”. Adam England, of Huntington Beach, California said, “We stayed up until dawn and saw what the Carpathia (rescuing ship) and the lifeboats would have seen as the rescue operation was underway”.  Wine merchant Rick Noble of Austin, Texas, whose grandmother’s first cousin Dan Marvin disappeared when he went to fetch a warm coat for his newlywed wife Mary from their cabin, told me that the Titanic had always been a part of the family’s history. “Since my grandmother passed away in 1976 it was a type of closure”, he said.

By the late morning, life had returned to normal –for a cruise ship. Under a warm sun, as we continued on to Halifax, my fellow passengers were making good use of the outdoor hot tubs and sun beds.

Rocking and Rolling on the Titanic Memorial Cruise

By Chris Helgren

In what resembles a Trekkie convention gone through a time portal, hundreds of passengers on the Titanic Memorial Cruise, retracing the Titanic’s voyage from Southampton 100 years later, now divide their time between promenading in the latest fashions of 100 years ago and debating the true color of Titanic’s funnels. Yellow, but what kind of yellow? Model maker Kenneth Mascarenhas and painter James Allen Flood don’t see eye to eye on the subject, and it’s suggested that fellow passenger Commodore Warwick should adjudicate the issue. After all, he saw the Titanic wreck in a submersible. However, Mascarenhas fails to take into account that the ship is now rusted through and covered with Oceanic mud, its funnels probably covered in barnacles.

Actually, there are plenty of things to do on board the MS Balmoral. I missed the “fluid retention and swollen ankles seminar” on Monday, but there’s been a parade of Titanic experts on show to fill us in on everything one would want to know (except the color of funnels). Sadly, due to the inclement weather, shuffleboard has been cancelled the last two days. As has a dance show, due to health and safety concerns. Many of my fellow passengers have been sighted hunched over, unable to promenade, green with seasickness.

The big drama yesterday was the helicopter evacuation of a BBC cameraman. Tour operator Miles Morgan said that the ship would swing back 20 nautical miles towards Ireland, within range of an Irish Coast Guard chopper. The ailing man was whisked upwards in a sling and we returned on our course, hopefully not late for our anniversary date. Captain Robert Bamberg assured everyone that would be the case if we continued at a speed of 15 knots.

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