The Titan and The Titanic

Hey, Readers. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the story of the RMS Titanic. I vividly remember when Dr. Robert Ballard and his crew found the wreckage in 1985. One of the first videos my husband and I purchased was a National Geographic documentary of Ballard’s crew locating the ship.

Since then, I’ve read books including Titanic Voices – 63 Survivors Tell Their Extraordinary Stories by Hannah Holman, and The Truth About the Titanic written by Col. Archibald Gracie, one of the survivors. More recently I read Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember. It was while reading Lord’s book that I came upon what’s sure to be called a strange coincidence.

Morgan Robertson was a struggling author in the late nineteenth century. In 1898, he penned and published a novel originally titled Futility. The story was about a disgraced former US Navy officer named John Rowland. Now an alcoholic, Rowland works as a deckhand on an ocean liner called the Titan. On a cold April night, the ship hits an iceberg and sinks. Most of the passengers die.

The RMS Titanic (Public domain)

Sound familiar? Fourteen years later, on April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank in the Atlantic. Of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board, only 705 survived.

There are some eerie similarities between Robertson’s fictional ship and the real one.

  • The real ship was named the Titanic; Robertson called his ship the Titan.
  • The Titanic was 66,000 tons displacement; the Titan was 70,000 tons.
  • The Titanic was 882.5 feet long; the Titan was 800 feet.
  • Both ships could travel 24-25 knots.
  • Both could carry around 3,000 passengers but both had lifeboats for only a handful of those passengers. It didn’t seem to matter because both were deemed unsinkable.
  • Both ships were British owned, both hit the iceberg on their starboard bow around midnight, and both sank 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland.

There are a few differences. The fictional ship had only thirteen survivors as opposed to the Titanic’s 705. (At least one source states there were 706.) The Titan capsized before sinking, and the Titanic split into two pieces.

The original cover of Futility, published in 1898. (Public domain.)

After the sinking in 1912, many believed Robertson was clairvoyant and foresaw the actual event. Scholars attribute the similarities to the author’s extensive knowledge of shipbuilding and maritime trends. I personally see too many similarities to fully believe the latter explanation. Even the cover photo reminds me of the real ship. What say you?