|In Conversation with Millvina
In 2004 I was very privileged to spend some time in conversation with Millvina in her home in a lane named after her just outside Southampton. We talked about many things, briefly on her involvement with Titanic, her story has been told many times before in books and documentaries. But what I had come to see her for was to find out the Millvina behind Titanic.
When not attending Titanic events, speaking to the media or entertaining her many friends from all over the world, she told me she loves to attend her garden, although since her hip replacement her gardening activities have been restricted to buying plants and getting a man in. We touched on the subject of music, which she enjoys listening to immensely, not too high brow she loves Palm Court rather than Classical.
Her favourite music is the Wurlitzer organ and she adores opera. While on a visit to the Southampton Maritime museum, the opera singer Paula Swornay who was also visiting, heard of Millvina’s presence and her love of opera and offered to sing for her there and then, much to her delight sang one of Millvina’s favourite Arias ‘My tiny hand is frozen’ from La Boheme.
I was surprised to learn that because of her love of clocks, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was on her listening list.She enjoys watching Television but says there is too much sex and violence on these days she prefers to watch Coronation Street and we talked about the virtues of the latest plot lines. David Attenborough’s Nature programs, are also on her must see list and football is one of her favourite spectator sports.
Millvina gave up smoking 20 years ago, although she freely admits to not inhaling. She has a passion for fast cars and Slow Gin which she makes herself, a lovely drop I can bear witness to and should be enjoyed in winter in front of an open log fire.
I asked her what was the thing she enjoyed most about being Titanic’s youngest survivor, “Meeting lots of interesting people and visiting places I wouldn’t normally be able to.” she replied.
Then it was time to leave, Millvina had a hospital appointment and I had to head back to the Midlands. It had been a pleasure, I could have listened all day, to Millvina Dean ~ The baby rescued from the sea.
British Titanic Society Convention
In April 2004 the Convention was held as usual at the Hilton in Southampton.
Big attraction of the weekend was the final appearance of Peter Davis-Garner’s superb scale model of Titanic. Measuring nineteen feet in length it is one of the largest models in the world.
Now residing in all its splendour in the Ship of Dreams Exhibition in Florida.
Special guests, Charles Haas and John Eaton came over from the US to give their lectures, bringing us up to date with the current situation regarding the wreck site.
I had the pleasure of a one to one with Jack Eaton who told me amongst other things that he and Charles were assisting with the Catalog for the forthcoming Auction in New York of three private collections.
The auction was held in June and amongst many items in Gary Robinson’s fine collection under the hammer, was a Calendar issued to travel agent in 1912 to advertise the Olympic and Titanic. This calendar came from James Scott and Co. in Queenstown, Ireland, which was an agency that sold many 3rd-class steerage tickets.
This item was thought to be the only one of its kind from 1912 to have survived as most were disposed of after the Titanic disaster. (or is it?)
It looks very much like one I have dated 1912.
The highlight of the Friday Auction by Henry Aldridge & Son was a R.M.S. Titanic 1st Class Dinner Menu, dated April 2nd 1912 from the Harold Lowe collection. And was bought by a private British collector for a world record price.
In July BTS members took part in the Queen Mary Odyssey in Long Beach, a special report courtesy of David Lawrence. And in September Steve Rigby resigned his position as Joint Secretary to pursue commercial interests which would have conflicted with BTS.
Robert Ballard returns to Titanic
May 26 saw Dr Robert Ballard, lead an expedition to the Titanic wreck site for the first time since 1986 on board the Ronald Brown, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel. The expedition arrived at the wreck site of R.M.S. Titanic in early June.
Tuesday 8 June at 2.00 am the National Geographic Channel broadcast live a one hour special “Return to Titanic” it included the first live underwater telecast from the wreck of the Titanic.
Ballard and his 32 member team consisting of engineers, scientists, video and satellite experts, members of the JASON Foundation Education, the National Geographical Society and a film crew from the Geographical Channel set about inspecting the wreck to measure the significant deterioration since 1985 and tried to determine how and why this has happened.
Their other remit was to identify strategies for preserving and protecting the site for future generations to come.
Images of the wreck were transmitted to scientists worldwide were they compared the new images with previous expeditions.
The United Kingdom recently signed up to an international agreement to protect the Titanic as a memorial to those who lost their lives when the Titanic sank in 1912.
The Expedition Partnership
The “Return to Titanic” expedition was made possible as a result of a partnership between The National Geographic Society, MAIFE, the JASON Foundation for Education, NOAA Office of Exploration, the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and the National Geographic Channel.
These partners all played their part, they transported the expedition, provided vital expertise needed to explore the wreck and document the expedition’s progress.
On site the JASON Foundation and the MAIFE Immersion Project allowed local communities to interact with the expedition and preview the filming of this extraordinary documentary. The URI Narragansett Bay featured Live Broadcasts from Titanic!
A unique collection of underwater vehicles dedicated to marine archaeology surveying used on the expedition was especially developed under the direction of Dr. Ballard by the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (MAIFE). The three robots, were named Argus, Little Hercules and Hercules.
ARGUS ~ was the “tow sled” that hangs on a cable connected to the ship to Manoeuvre the Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs).
LITTLE HERCULES ~ is the (ROV) that gathered underwater video and artefacts from the Titanic. Although an unmanned vehicle, its cameras allowed the pilot aboard the RV to visit the wreck as though he was there.
HERCULES ~ was the other ROV that was anchored to the ocean floor.
Using an underwater manipulator arm, Hercules excavated and transmitted images back from the wreck site.
Site Preservation and Protection
The Titanic has deteriorated since its discovery to the point where it is necessary to study why and how that deterioration has occurred.
As a result of the “Return to Titanic” expedition the team’s mission will be to identify strategies to preserve and protect the wreck site for future generations.
Images of the wreck were transmitted to scientists around the world.
The scientists were able to compare the new images from the “Return to Titanic” Expedition with images from previous expeditions.
The study will help determine the level of deterioration over the past 19 years since discovery.
Dr Ballard’s Observations
Three yellowish smudges were probably left behind by submersibles landing on the deck.
Weakened by corrosion, the mast has further collapsed and splayed open like split bamboo.
Visible in the 1987 mosaic, the crow’s nest has now disappeared, probably having fallen into a hatch.
Visitors have placed on the bridge near the telemotor that once held the ship’s wheel.
Like much of the ship, this davit, from which lifeboat number two was launched, is decaying with rust.
OFFICERS’ QUARTERS ~
The bulkhead that was standing in 1987 has fallen down, exposing the compartment.
FISHING DIP NET ~
Was this small net, found on the deck near the expansion joint, used by looters to scoop up artefacts.
MARCONI ROOM ~
The deck above this room, from which distress calls were radioed, is full of holes, likely from sub landings.
GRAND STAIRCASE ~
Another favourite spot for submersibles to land , the deck near the first class staircase appears to be collapsing.
The roof of the gym, where passengers exercised on rowing equipment, has disintegrated.
“For a long time I’d resisted the urge to return to Titanic. My discovery of her in 1985 had changed my life, and not all for the better. But I’m grateful I got the chance to see her once more. The deep sea remains the largest museum on Earth with many treasures yet to be found, and Titanic is still a grand old lady, even if grave robbers have made off with some of her jewels. I’m certain the database we collected during our expedition ~ the most comprehensive mapping effort to date ~ will aid future preservation studies. And I accept the fact now that , as long as she needs protection, Titanic will always be a part of my life.” Robert Ballard
Queen Mary Odyssey TITANIC FILM STUDIO TOUR
Behind the Scenes
In July, members of the British Titanic Society, in conjunction with our Irish friends in the ITHS set of to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Organised by Irish tour operator David O'Leary this promised to be a trip of a lifetime.
Unfortunately I was not able to be there so the following report is courtesy of BTS member David Lawrence.
This epic trip began in Long Beach, California on the legendary Queen Mary and included behind the scenes tours, also Don Lynch lectures on the recent Ghosts of the Abyss film (in which he was involved).
After five days on the Queen Mary we went to Mexico for the main highlight - a tour of the Titanic set in Baja, Mexico. The studio was built for James Cameron’s epic Oscar winning film in a staggering one hundred days, a feat in itself.
They built the largest water tanks in the world so that they could sink the Titanic in them.
Cameron’s crew built a Titanic one hundred feet shorter than the real ship. Interior sets were here, the grand staircase and three decks were built and destroyed.
Don told us how he walked down the staircase and through corridors and state rooms before the flooding started. These are now huge empty spaces and were used for the films, Master & Commander, Pearl Harbour etc.
The studios are on the Mexican coast, just off the main road, you go through the main gate and on your left are the studio signs.
Below this is a replica Pearl Harbour battle ship gun from the Arizona and in the distance a replica galleon from Master & Commander.
On going through the entrance there is the actual car that Jack and Rose made love in.
Walking on you come to the main street of 1020’s style buildings and at the end of it is the Titanic exhibition.
Inside is a model wreck of the Titanic used by Cameron on all the dives and in the opening shots of the film, this is the most detailed model of the wreck to date.
In this room there are other props from the film, including the safe and model submersibles MIR-1 and 2.
The next section holds the state rooms, but no grand staircase, this , like the real one was destroyed in the sinking scenes.
You are then taken down the corridor where real rats run across in front of you (rats were common on great liners).
The next stage is the massive boilers, made of plastic but very realistic, even the coal is fake.
RMS Titanic, Inc. Recovery Expedition
Under the leadership of Company President Arnie Geller, RMS Titanic, Inc. conducted its seventh research and recovery mission to Titanic’s wreck site. Expedition 2004 left Halifax, Nova Scotia on August 25, 2004 onboard the vessel Mariner Sea.
The goals of this expedition were to recover artifacts for exhibition, identify objects for future recovery, inspect the wreck site for alleged harm caused by previous visitors, and, if necessary, to establish guidelines for future visitations.
Once positioned over the site, a memorial service was held at which Arnie Geller promised that the mission would be conducted with reverence and respect for the tragedy that had taken place on the location in 1912.
The mission utilized a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) rather than the manned submersibles used on previous expeditions.
The ROV, provided by Phoenix International, Inc., was equipped with cameras, lighting systems, and two manipulator arms that allowed for the team to engage in round-the-clock underwater operations and to watch those operations in real time from the surface.
Members of the RMS Titanic, Inc. team, which included the Titanic artifact collections manager Stacey Savatsky, the archivist and registrar Becky King, a collections technician Don Angel, the exhibition designer Mark Lach, and the exhibition manager Allison Worrall, monitored the operations and directed the choice of artifacts retrieved from a specifically equipped facility on the stern deck of the Mariner Sea.
Working in concert with RMS Titanic, Inc. were a marine manager, the Phoenix International ROV specialists and navigators, Ken Varana, an underwater archeologist from the Center for Maritime and Underwater Resource Management (CMURM), and Patty Miller, a senior conservator from Conservation Solutions.
A representative from the museum community, an historian, and two members from the Company’s Board of Directors were onboard as observers.
The expedition discovered a completely new debris field which contained amongst many other artefacts, a 30 metre pie shaped piece of the ship weighing 90 tonnes that broke off from the middle of the Titanic said Arnie Geller, president of RMS Titanic Inc.
They hope to raise the massive hull section and have targeted it for a future salvage project. While the decked section once would have housed first, second and third class passengers, Geller said he and his crew had never found human remains. Geller added that water pressure at the wreckage site was more than 41,300 kilopascals, so it was unlikely that any human remains would be left.
The newly discovered debris field included objects associated with life onboard the ship, as well as several decks, levels and portholes of the hull.
It paints a picture of decadence that stands in sharp contrast to the silt-covered wreckage of the hull. Expedition 2004, which led to the hull's discovery, allowed the salvagers for the first time to rely exclusively on a deep ocean remotely operated vehicle with robotic arms.
Geller said the vehicle needed at least two workers to operate it: one to control the overall robot and another to control its arms. The vehicle enabled the team to find delicate objects within the debris field, such as an intact champagne bottle and a Cantrell & Cochrane soft drink bottle from Ireland. These objects and many others came out of the ship's first class á la carte restaurant, which was modeled on a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Paris.
"We found an absolutely spectacular wall sconce, gilded in gold, that includes three French light fixtures," said Geller. "It provides an elegant representation of what diners would have seen as they descended the grand staircase."A variety of artifacts were recovered during the expedition, each rescue documented as to time and location by video, still photographs, and written notations.
Perhaps the most exciting artifacts rescued were two never-before seen: a gilded wall sconce from the À la Carte Restaurant and the frame of a tile from the Turkish Bath. The tile still retains, and finally documents, the vibrant blue color used in the decor of the Bath.
An electric milk scalder that was very high tech for its time and would have been used at the restaurant's buffet also was found during this latest expedition. A crystal decanter, parts of beds and possible leather luggage fragments.
The expedition returned to Halifax on September 8, 2004 with its mission accomplished.
Titanic The Musical Comes to the UK
Story and Book by Peter Stone ~ Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston.
Titanic The Musical fresh from its UK premier in York, steamed into the Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage for a limited season in August.
The show, which has been a hit since opening on Broadway in 1997, with five prestigious Tony awards, including Best Musical was a sell out smash hit in Stevenage, and was a credit to the team at the Gordon Craig Theatre.
With stunning sets, a superb script, Maury Yeston's unforgettable words and music plus excellent performances from the very strong cast, both amateur and professional led by Jim Welsman (Captain Smith) made for a spell-binding production.
The Titanic tragedy, well documented is well known, Peter Stone's book, is very tastefully portrayed, and was enhanced in this production by the ambitious use of extracts from 'The Lost Film of the Titanic' (Courtesy of Kingfisher Productions) which set the scene in the opening sequence.
Directed by Paul Laidlaw, with musical direction by Chris Keen, scenery designed and built by Dave Benson, costumes by Wayne Martin and Marco Borgna, wigs and wardrobe David Furnell and lighting design by Bob Bustance, with the Gordon
Craig Theatre marketing team led by Emma Smith, this production would give the West End a run for its money.
(speaking of the West End)?
Titanic's Youngest Survivor. At 92 years young this was a first for Millvina as she has never before seen a Titanic production, be it film or theatre. She only attended Act One, which she thoroughly enjoyed, as the second act would have been too upsetting for her.
After a VIP lunch and flowers presented by Ben Mason, (Jack Thayer ~ 9-year-old boy) she spent the rest of her visit meeting the many well-wishers who had traveled from all parts of the country to meet her.
Philip Littlejohn, grandson of survivor Alexander Littlejohn, 1st Class Steward, also paid a surprise visit to see the production. Philip was the first descendent of a survivor to take a dive to the wreck of Titanic in 2001.
After the performance he signed copies of his book, "Titanic Waiting for Orders", the story of his grandfathers experiences. I witnessed audiences arriving for each performance, most expected to see a musical version of James Cameron's film. All left the theatre completely amazed by what they had seen and heard, the musical numbers still fresh in their minds.
While audiences enjoyed a pre performance drink, they were treated to the 'Titanic A Date to Remember' Exhibition, costumes worn by Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio plus a life jacket and other film props were on display. Plus an impressive array of original White Star Line items. With a time line extract from the forthcoming book, 'Titanic A Date to Remember' out in December.
The Sunday Express awarded the Gordon Craig Theatre their ultimate accolade with ***** five stars, congratulations.
And finally people journeyed from all over the country to see the production including representatives from theatres and Production Company's interested in staging the Musical. Several expressed a wish to put the show on in their area in 2005 and 2006.
“R.M.S. TITANIC C.Q.D Auction
September 28 saw the second auction for 2004 by Henry Aldridge & Son of Titanic, White Star and Ocean Liner Memorabilia.
In the April auction in April we had seen postcards sold for thousands, an R.M.S. Titanic 3rd Class Stewards Badge sold for £31,000 and the star of the auction a Menu found in a box of odd items in boot sale in Scotland went for a staggering £51,000.
Lot 202. In the September Auction,“R.M.S. Titanic CQD”rare Gaumont 35mm Nitrate film. The April 1912 Newsreel showing survivors landing in New York, “Carpathia” dockside and press reaction with subtitles also footage of Mackay Bennett leaving on her recovery mission.
The film was purchased by the vendor’s father (a Gaumont cinema projectionist from his employers in 1912 for 2/6d) (12 ½ new pence) .
This film and another short film “Love Story” (Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers) were discovered in a garden shed whilst clearing his late father’s effects.
The film in very good condition had its original container and there was a video copy included. The item fetched £4500.
Also amongst many fine items sold was Lot 218. “R.M.S. Titanic”: from the Hickman Archive. Unused letter and cover on “Titanic” stationery sent by the brothers from Queenstown inside another letter as a souvenir.This fine item was bought by BTS Member Paul Bedford.
Lot 246. Part of the Austin Partner Collection, 1st Class Titanic passenger.
Half Hunter Pocket Watch.
Lot 247.18ct Gold Collar Stud was worn by Austin on the night of the 14th April, and was sent back to the family with the rest of his Personal possessions. He is buried at St Mary’s Church, Long Ditton.
Postscript 7 Days That Shocked The World
Whether it was the sheer arrogance of the 1900's, the futility of the 1st World War, the ambitions of Hitler or the absolute hatred of the West by Al Quaeda, all of these together and with the collective time involved could not achieve the devastation inflicted on the world in just a few minutes by Mother Nature on Boxing Day 2004.
Not even the phrase ‘In TITANIC Proportions’ used so often to describe the size of an incident, loss of life or devastation involved was not big enough.
Now the world’s correspondents have a new word in their scripts to take its place.
If this word is used in the future to describe the size of a tragedy, then let us hope that its use was greatly over played. At the end of 2004 the death toll was nearing 150,000 and rising by the day, by the time this is read who knows what the death toll will be.
It is said that the Titanic tragedy contained stories of romance and bravery, many of which have been well documented, there was nothing romantic about 26/12.
Personal accounts will emerge and there will be many more stories of bravery, heartache and heroism to come out of this terrible tragedy, with many thousands of newspaper column inches dedicated to why, how and how can we stop it happening again. Maybe there will be books written, films made and dramatisations on television.
The pattern repeated all too often in these situations and maybe TITANIC will out of respect take a back seat for a few years while the world is focused on 26/12.
And in 2012 TITANIC will be back to commemorate its 100th Anniversary.
Whether you were affected by the events of 1912, the World Wars or 9/11 you can’t help but be moved by the events of 26/12 /2004 otherwise known as:- TSUNAMI
Please consider joining our friendly and informed community as an Associate Member. You will have a unique opportunity to get involved in our 2012 Anniversary Commemorative Events & your support will really help us achieve our goals.
To learn more about our unique commemorative Titanic First Day Covers
For more information on how YOU can get involved click here The Titanic Heritage Trust