RMS Titanic, Part 1


With the 25th anniversary release of James Cameron’s Titanic movie this year, and new haunting images of her hull in its final stages of decomposition, I was spurred to finally get something substantial written about this maritime tragedy that unfolded in my own backyard. I’ll admit that the “Put your hands on me Jack” scene of Kate Winslet (Rose) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack), fogging up the windows of the Coupe de Ville, still gives me goosebumps. But no movie can match the real life shiver-down-my-spine experience I got last spring when I paid a visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Fairlawn Cemetery.

Just so I could really capture what it might have been like on a luxury steamship, I booked passage on my very first cruise-ship last December. This post is a culmination of all those experiences. I use a little poetic licence to shake things up. This is a two-part post, starting with the museum. I hope you enjoy it.

I took all theses photos, of photos and artifacts, from inside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.


With plenty of time, I peer into display cases, then shuffle over to read the plaques beside them. It is all here: navy, steam ships, lighthouses, fishing boats, Theodore tugboat. Captains to privateers, sailors to mutineers. It is a fine collection of Atlantic Maritime history, all under one roof – two roofs actually. Part of this building was once the home of the Wm Robertson & Sons Chandlery. The Mercantile building was one of the few that survived the Halifax Explosion in 1917. More on that in another post. Today my focus is on all things related to the Titanic and the exhibits are slowly leading me there

Up stairs I arrive at the Cunard exhibit. There are several builder model-ships. I read the names of each, skimming over the information of those I don’t recognize. When I come to RMS Mauretania I stop. Why? because she is considered a masterpiece, built by the Cunard Company, founded by Halifax-born Sir Samuel Cunard. The Mauretania-the largest ship at the time- setting a world speed record for the fastest westbound trans-Atlantic crossing. She held that title for 20 years. The success of the Mauretania and her sister ship, Lusitania, inspired The White Star Line company to build their own sister ships; RMS Olympic, and RMS Titanic.

I enter the shipwreck treasures section, weaving through the displays, and then the large Titanic sign is in front of me and I get a little giddy. I walk into it as if I know nothing of what happened. All I can think is how I would feel if I had a ticket and I was about to board this brand new luxury ocean-class ship?

The White Star line was a prominent British shipping company and its captain, EJ Smith, was an experienced and popular navigator. I would have been so excited leading up to the voyage, telling my relatives and friends about my upcoming adventure. “Yes, I’m very excited, we sail on April 10th.” With a morning embarkment time between 09:30 am and 11:30 am, I would have found lodging close by and stayed the night of April 9th in a hotel in Southampton, UK.

Arriving at The White Star’s dock, pier 44, early on the 10th, to check in with over 1800 other people, I would have reluctantly handed over my suitcases to a porter, “Are you sure it will be in my cabin?” It was a typical spring day in Southampton, overcast and a chilly 9 Celsius, 48 F. It would be even colder once we left the harbour and entered the north Atlantic. I would need a coat for the bon voyage party. I don’t think I would have had any fear about something going wrong, This was standard passage across the Atlantic.

Photo of the Titanic being built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast Ireland. It States “Modern steamships had become the most advanced and complex machines ever built.” Entrance to Titanic Exhibit, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic- Halifax, Nova Scotia. Canada

I image there would have been some sort of brochure with picture of the opulent staircase and all the luxuries available at each level of accommodations but nothing would have compared to stepping in from the promenade and seeing it for the first time.

The Grand stair case of the Titanic. A Photo of a photo at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

First Class accommodation were mostly on decks B and C and forward on A D and E I would have cast my eyes upward to these decks but entrance to them would have required a special way of being identified as First-Class, Maybe the colour of your boarding pass or a wrist band. Did first class go up a private gang plank? It couldn’t just be because you were wearing a fedora and a tailored outfit. Who knows?. I wouldn’t have wasted a moment thinking about the few privileged on board, when I had my own jubilation to enjoy..

Besides, a first-class single-ticket was $138 and the family price was $1193. Knowing that I am tighter than two coats of paint, I highly doubt I would have purchased a first-class ticket in 1912; I am not of old money or a wealthy entrepreneur, but my grandfather was a doctor in 1912 so there is a good chance I would have paid for a second-class crossing which was $63 for a single. The family rate was $190. In the photo below, it says Dr. Albert Pain was a young doctor from Hamilton, Ontario and he was at the top of his class at the University of Toronto medical school. He had been studying in Europe and wanted to sail home as a doctor on a tramp steamer but agreed to accompany a family friend aboard the Titanic. That family friend could have been me.

My mom’s family left Europe in late 19th century, so it would have been well over a decade since they had emigrated but I might have been invited to join my relatives in their newly established home in the Americas. My budget would have been tight, a single third-class ticket would have set me back a small fortune of $36 – it would have taken me months if not years to save. A family would need to shell out $104. If I am immigrating to America or Canada, I will have a lot in common with passengers in third-class. I will share my stories my hopes and dreams.. I may very well befriend Alma Palsson. The sign above says she and her four children, were on board in third class, her intentions were to meet up with her sister, who had immigrated the year before, in Chicago.

Third class, A peek in a port hold at a bunk, with a sink its a tight space. Sorry for the reflection of myself.

By noon the Titanic was away, and the staff’s business of pleasing clients would have been on-going. Delivery of food and drinks, lighting cigars and dealing cards. I would have gone to my cabin and unpacked my toothbrush and hair comb. Then I would have taken a walk around and tried to figure out what side of the ship my cabin was on and how I could get from it, to where I will be dining. Having accomplished a quick orientation, I would have given into a sense of relief. My only job now would be to mingle and get myself to dinner. “Excuse me dear, can I have a sparkling wine please?” Holding my flute of bubbly, staring over the railing, as the ship cut a line through the sea I would have thought “This is great.” I would have left the job of getting the Titanic across the Atlantic and into New York City, to the people in the wheelhouse.

Diner time. There is no map of the ship that I can see in the museum, to tell you where my dinning room is, but there are class menus. I’m still uncertain if I am experiencing second or third class. The dinner menus might be the deciding factor. A little back story- When I was growing up we ate a lot of mashed potatoes. The only exception was when the potatoes were newly harvested, then we ate boiled potatoes with the skins on, because my dad said, ” The potatoes are too wet to mash.” I’d rather eat them raw with a dash of salt, than eat a boiled potato. So perusing down the menus, I see jacketed potatoes on the third class offering, I instantly gag a little. ” That is it, I’m upgrading, I’m officially second class. However that menu doesn’t have a lot more options if you don’t eat meat. “Pureed turnip are you kidding me?’ I will just have the wine jelly thank you so much”

And so the next four days would go; wake up, groom, dress, eat breakfast, walk the promenade, find a lounge chair and read my book with a dry martini, then Id take a nap, and get up in time for afternoon tea. I would chat with some acquaintances, befriend the staff at bar, maybe play solitare or join a game of gin rummy, until it was time to dress for dinner. Upon arriving in the grand foyer, I’d be greeted by a hostess and be asked if I wanted a cocktail .”Oh yes please!” I’d find a comfy wing-back chair and listen to the musicians belt out Come Josephine in my Flying Machine. My toes would tap the floor and I would think of a song to request while I would sip my aperitif till my dinner timing. Dinner would be less about the rice and wine jelly, and more about meeting people. I’d tell a few stories, listen as others regaled us with their tales and we’d laugh or share in their embarrassment whatever the story should be. When I felt it was a gracious time to depart, I’d place my fork and knife on my plate, dab at my mouth with my napkin, regretfully looking at my empty wine glass, I’d quietly, stand, smoothing out the line of my underskirt, before putting on my best smile and sweeping it along the table saying, “It was lovely dining with you all.” If I met anyone not too contrary to myself, I might single them out and say, “Will I see you at the jazz club this evening?” Implying that I will be there. This is how I see my Titanic trip going anyway.

Based on that itinerary, I would say at the time the Titanic struck the iceberg, 11:40 pm on April 14th, Id either have been knocked off-balance on the dance floor, while perfecting my foxtrot, or staggering around my cabin washing up for bed. Either way, the jolt would have been sobering, I would have said, “What was that?” Hauled up the skirt of my dress and made a beeline for the outer deck. This chick is not a very good swimmer.

The plaque above gives a time-line based on Eastern standard time, which was an hour and thirty minutes behind ship time. The original call code was CQD a general distress call to all ships, but next message adopted the new standard SOS. These are the messages received at Cape Race Newfoundland, Marconi station 400 Nautical miles away

10:35 PM. at 12:05 Titanic time, CQD.” Have struck Iceberg”

10:40 Eastern timer 12;10 Titanic time SOS. “We require immediate assistance”

10;55 pm 12:25 Titanic time “Have struck Iceberg and sinking”

11:36 pm 1:06 am Titanic time “We are putting women off in boats”

11:55 pm 1:25 pm Titanic time “continue calling for help, weather is calm and clear”

Walter Gray, Jack Godwin and Robert Hunston are manning the Marconi station at Cape Race when the telegraph messages come in. Jack Godwin is quoted as saying “My god Gray, the Titanic has struck a berg.” The unsinkable Titanic was sinking.

If I am being escorted by Dr Allan Pain, I wouldn’t know where he is. It would be very confusing on the deck, for the staff as well as the passengers. People would be draped in coats, wrapped in bed sheets. Being alone and petit has its advantages, a few steps at a time, I’d be making my way forward through the crowd towards a life boat. I’d have made some good connections these last few days, dancing, telling stories, making people laugh. Being liked would help me move ahead. I’d be scared of getting called out and shuffled back but determined to get in one of the early life boats. Once I was in the mosh pit of those pushing forward to be in next boats, I would reach my hand out to one of the ship stewards to help me enter. I wouldn’t give him a choice but to take my hand. I would say, “Thank you so much sir for your assistance,” and in my imagination he smiles and I take a seat. There would be no standing on ceremony for me, I’d be out of there.

April 15th.

12:27 a.m. 1:57 a.m. Titanic time signals were blurred and ended abruptly.

2.05 a.m. first message from New York asking for details

By 4:00am The Carpathian had taken on board 705 people from life boats. I would have been rescued maybe given a hot tea and warm bath on the Carpathian and transferred to New York, my make-believe rescue ensuring I have the best story in the world to tell for the rest of my life. Not so for everyone else.

Unfortunately, Halifax became one large mortuary. Whether it was the lighting or the shift in topic, a somber mood is cast over the displays now. I find out that The White Star Line hired The cable ship MacKay-Bennett to lead the body recovery operation. Setting out from Halifax on April 17th, the crew brought aboard 306 deceased. Their clothing and possessions were documented to help with identification. 116, all third-class, were buried at sea. The MacKay-Bennett and her crew returned to Halifax on April 30th with the remains of 190 others. I look briefly at the model-ship on display thinking it is just another replica that fit in the space. I am just about to walk away when something catches my eye. The miniature canvas body-bags on deck represent the dead from 2nd class, and the stack of coffins, those of the first class. A true-life replica depicting what the crew had to deal with.

The feature image of this post is a deck chair that was found by the crew of the cable ship Minia. It was presented to Rev. H Cunningham to show appreciation for the memorials and on-board services. The reverend’s grandson donated it to the museum. It is made of mahogany and was recaned to its original style using a fragment recovered at sea. It also has a five point star carved into its wood-the White Star Line’s identifiable symbol.

I stand looking into the glass casing wishing I could touch it. I’m feeling a little empty, like I need just a bit more. First thing tomorrow I am headed to Fairlawn cemetery. Please join me as I take a walk around the gravesites of those that perish on the RMS Titanic. Part Two .

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

1675 Lower Water Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 1S3

Admission Prices

 Nov 1 – April 30 May 1 – Oct 31
65 +
6 – 17
5 and under
Youth under 17
+ 2 adults

​Contact us at 902-424-7491 for more information.

For Opening times and dates I have provided the link below.


No money gifts or discounts were received for this post it is my own story


If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, you can make a contribution to ensure the continuation of this blog. Thank you



32 thoughts on “RMS Titanic, Part 1

Add yours

  1. About ten years ago we had a Titanic exhibition in NYC. When you entered they gave you a name of a passenger and at the end you found out if they lived or died. It was an interesting way to do it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I went with my husband and daughter and we were different levels…a crew member a first class and a steerage. It was cool to see how the different people were treated…men vs women etc. my daughter gained a lot from the experience

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It was a good experience. I love getting in someone’s shoes so to speak. We have a tenement museum here, and for a small place they really make it impactful in that way.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Very cool. Have you showed it on your blog?
      In Sprinhill Nova Scotia, we have a miners museum and they give you a hat flashlight and badge number of one of the miners. At end of the tour you find out if he lived or died in mining disaster

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating post. I liked the way you imagined yourself on the Titanic. I, too, was thinking how expensive—for the times—the fare was. Yes, some families had to save a long time to book passage. Anyway, if ever I’m in Halifax…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you approve. it’s a tough topic to write about, plus it’s been done so much by experts all over the world. I had to a make it my own but in honor of the true pasengers. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Eilene. Yes only a small fraction of the people where recovered. It puts a knot in my chest trying think how terrifying that night was. I guess this is why we remain fascinated by it. And take Time to remember

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it has a two sided effect, glamour and excitement, fear and darkness. When I sat down to write my version it didn’tcome easy. I had to ask myself why are you writing it? And what gives me credentials to write it? I was afraid I wouldn’t get it right. Historical tragedies are a delicate topic to mess with, and I usually write first person. I decided it was the best if I just stuck to what I do best and hope it is well received. Thank you Buddy.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to LA Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start a Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: