So there was a lot of hubub last week regarding the Titanic and how many people were just now, with the 100th anniversary on April 14th, discovering that is was an actual, historical event.  Apparently this got everyone’s dander up, and there was a mass condemnation of those who professed ignorance, as well as a general bemoaning of ‘kids these days’.

Total honesty, I was in that category too.  When I read one article with the actual Twitter tweets on people shocked to realize that the Titanic was real, I too stopped in my tracks and questioned the intelligence or lack thereof of these individuals at a high volume with language colorful enough to make a sailor blush.  If you do a Google search on this topic, ‘Twitter+Titanic+real’, you will find half a dozen articles doing the exact same thing.  Some from legit news sources, some from folks like me.

But once I calmed down and started thinking like a rational human being again, I thought to myself, how likely is it that people would really be innocently rather than ignorantly unaware that such an event took place?

The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast Ireland from 1908-1912.  It launched on it’s first and only voyage on April 10th 1912, and sank two days later on April 14th after hitting an iceberg.  Of the 2,228 passengers and crew members on board her at the time, 1,514 died. 714 people survived.

The Titanic is one of the deadliest marine disasters to occur during peacetime, so it’s not surprising that it feels like everyone in the world should know about it.  I grew up knowing about the Titanic, it’s a part of my family history.  I’m only second generation Canadian.  My grandmother was born just outside of Belfast Ireland, I have cousins and uncles who have and still work for the company that built the great ship (White Star Lines went through several mergers, and the company is known as Carnival Corporation & PLC today), and my great-great-great grandfather worked on the actual building of Titanic.  So for me it’s a part of my genealogy, but it wouldn’t be the same for a lot of folks, and I decided to sit down and figure out exactly how likely someone would/wouldn’t be to know that the Titanic was real.

First let’s look at the demographics of these people.  It’s conceivably more likely for someone who lives in Canada to know about the Titanic disaster than someone who lives in Iraq, considering the Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland.  Narrow that down further, and it’s more likely for someone who lives along the coastline to know about it versus someone who lives in the middle of the prairies.  It’s also more likely for someone living along the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean where the Titanic went down to know about it versus someone who lives on the coast of the Pacific ocean.

Take it even further: bet you dime a dozen every school child in the Maritime provinces know about the Titanic, considering the proximity to the disaster, and that 200 of the dead recovered are buried in Halifax.  So right there that narrows things down a bit in terms of who should and should not know.  And that’s something else we can look at: education.  I was born in Mississauga Ontario, but grew up in Hamilton.  In eigth grade, I had to do a unit on the Titanic, so I learned about it in school as well.  Fast forward almost twenty years, I’m living again in Mississauga, my oldest sister is in eigth grade in the Mississauga school system, but she doesn’t have to do a unit on the Titanic.

Next, how old are these people?  I’m twenty eight years old, so I’ve had time to broaden my interests and horizons, to the point where I may have randomly come across something like this, versus a thirteen year old who’s only concerned with the newest gidgit and what her friends are wearing.  And no, I’m not going to go all ‘old lady’ and start yelling about those damned kids to get off my lawn, I’m just stating a fact.  Kids of any generation are going to be more interested in what is happening with the world around them right here, right now, and pertaining to their interests rather than something that happened long before they were born, is completely outside their realm of interest, and happened who-know-how-many-miles away.  Taking that into consideration, is it any wonder that they’re surprised that a movie (which, by the way they’ve been drilled since day one that movies aren’t real) has some basis in fact?  Especially when there’s no ‘based on the true story’ that most of those kinds of movies have now?

Never mind individual interests like history, sea faring, disaster buffs, and so on and so forth.

So when you think about it like that, if you live in the Maritime Provinces/Northern Ireland (where the Titanic sank/was built respectively) it’s highly doubtful the Titanic will come as a surprise.  If you live in Canada/Ireland, you’re probably going to know about it.  If you live in the States/England, you might have heard it in passing, especially if you live round about New York (where the Titanic was supposed to land) or along the east coast in general.  But the further you get from the North/Atlantic coastline, the less likely you are to hear about something like the Titanic disaster, and really who can blame anyone?  It’s not like a maritime disaster has any bearing on living in the desert/mountains/prairies of the rest of the world, so why would anyone be interested in it?

I’m not using this as an excuse for ignorance, but rather an explanation.  Instead of getting your knickers in a twist and wondering how on earth could this have happened, here you go.  I think disasters like this, that rank in the top 10 lists, should be included in history books around the world.  When something causes the loss of over a thousand lives, it’s something that deserves to be noticed.  And those people deserve to be remembered.

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