Saturday, April 14, 2012


It is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic today. 

I don't know why but, I'm so drawn to the stories of the Titanic.  The history of the people on board, the way the classes were treated so different back then, the discovery of the ship and just about anything else having to do with the ship.

I've seen the movie so many times and went again this year on the opening day of Titanic 3D.  I loved it just as much as the first day I saw it, years ago.

In 2009 I was lucky enough to get to go on a cruise that made a stop in Halifax in Nova Scotia.  That is where many of those that died are buried. 

One of the shore excursions was a tour of the graveyard and the Titanic Museum.  I wrote about it back on Sept 11, 2009. 

Since it has been three years since it was posted and it is the anniversary of the sinking, I thought I would re post it for any of you who have not read it.

So, here it is:

Our next stop was one I had been really forward to. It was Halifax in Nova Scotia.

Halifax played a big part in the recovery of the passengers on Titanic when she sunk in 1912.

I felt a bit strange the night before we got here because I couldn't help but wonder if we were traveling right over the area where the Titanic sank that long, dark and cold night.

Halifax sent their boat out knowing they were not going on a rescue mission. They were going on a recovery journey. All the living bodies had already been picked up.

Only the bodies of those who died were still left out at sea.

It was a long and hard process trying to identify all the bodies they found. The time the bodies had spent in the ocean had changed the way the people looked. Plus the suction of the ship going down had torn away many of their clothes.

Since the majority of the bodies were buried in Halifax, they also felt having a museum set up with some of the artifacts they found was a good idea.

My tour in Halifax was all about the Titanic and the people on board the ship that fearful night.

In the museum they have the one and only wood deck chair that was recovered from the Titanic.

I couldn't help but wonder if anyone had held onto this chair in an attempt to survive as it floated in the dark sea.

This is one of the cabinets from a first class room.

It made me think about how I had just unpacked my belongings a few nights before and how excited I was to start my trip. Had the person using this cabinet felt the same way as I did?

Some of the silverware that was recovered is also here.

Again, knowing how most people look forward to the evening dinner on our ship and eating all that great food, made me think about who could have been the last person who used these.

Everyone knows the beautiful staircase that was on the Titanic. If not, they had this picture up so you could see how pretty it was.

I find it strange that on most of the cruises I've been on, they use a back drop of these stairs when they take the pictures on formal night.

The staircase had broken up and parts of it was recovered and is on display.

These little child's shoes gives a reminder that not all woman and children made it on the life boats.
It is not known for sure who the shoes belonged to but they are believed to be from a little boy who is buried in the grave site marked Unknown child.
The coroners report listed body number 4 was a boy about two years old with brown shoes. This was the only baby recovered with brown shoes.
As the bodies were removed from the sea, each body was given a number that coincided with the number of bodies removed. So the first body out of the water was given the number 1. The 10th body removed would be given the number 10 and so on.
These shoes belonged to body number 4.

This was a light from a 2nd class cabin.
I almost gasped when I saw this because I have been looking everywhere for one like it for my bathroom. Then there it was. Only all the money in the world couldn't buy this one.
So, if you should ever find one like this for sale please let me know.
These gloves are believed to have belonged to Charles Hays from Montreal as they were recovered with his body.

Even in death, the bodies were treated differently depending on the Class they traveled in.
First class passengers, were removed from the sea and placed in a wooden casket. The 2nd class passengers were placed in placed in canvas bags. The 3rd class passengers were just placed on ice as they did not have enough canvas bags for them.
There were 306 bodies that were recovered. For unknown reasons 116 of them were buried at sea. They were placed in a canvas bag along with a piece of iron to weight the body down. Their clothes and jewelry were left on the bodies.
The bodies are buried in three Halifax graveyards. The White Star Line bought large plots and paid for one size of gravestones. The inscription on the gravestone included the person's name (if known), the date of the sinking and the number that was assigned to the body.
Larger stones or extra wording had to be provided by the families at an additional cost.
We only went to one of the cemeteries, The Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
There are 121 Titanic victims buried here. The graves are lined up in a way that forms a shape of the bow of the ship. The White Star Line had commissioned to have it done this way.
Between the top of the 1st row and 4th row a gap had been left. Some suggest it is to represent the gash that the iceberg had made in the side of the Titanic. There is no documentation that would support this.
The graveyard is large and as you walk through it you notice what appears to be a normal looking graveyard with head stones of all shapes and sizes.
Since bodies are no longer being buried here it is referred to as a graveyard rather then a cemetery.
That is a fact I never knew. I thought they meant the same thing but they don't.

As we walked up to the Titanic area it clearly become a different site. I can't explain the feeling that came over me as we first walked up to the graves.
I felt the need to have a moment to myself. I was so over come with emotion as I saw name after name and I knew these people were like me, on a cruise and happy. Only they never made it to their destination.
You can see the tour group in this photo. Our guide was giving facts and information but I couldn't even listen to him for a few minutes. I had to let it all sink in.
I did notice that some headstones only had the date and body number. I knew that meant they never did find out who that person was. How sad.

I made my way back to the group and listened to the stories of the people who were buried there.
Most of the people who died were men. That was because woman and children were first on the boats. Most of the jewelry was not recovered because the woman would have either left her items on the ship as she thought they would be back before day light, or because she handed her items to her husband as she felt they would be safer there. Only the men never made it on a life boat.

John Shea was the 11th body recovered. The only known information about his was that he was 39 years old, a 1st Class Saloon Steward. He had dark hair, light moustache and lived in Southampton.

Body number 241 was an unidentified male. Probably a Steward about 20 years old with black hair. He was wearing a Steward's uniform.
At first he was thought to have been one of the passengers as he had a calling card of Mr. Stephen W. Blackwell in his pocket. However, Mr. Blackwell was later verified that the body was not Mr. Blackwell.

This grave really tugged at my heart strings. Alam Paulson was only 29 years old and the mother of four children. They were 3rd class passengers and were heading to New York to meet up with her husband who had gone before them to set up a home.
She was seen on the ship with her children before the ship sunk. She was singing and playing the harmonica to them to keep them calm.
They all went down. At first it was thought that the little boy in the unmarked grave was her son, years after their death the little boy was dug up and DNA testing was done on him. It was found he was not her son.
You can see several little gifts that people who visited the grave had left at her headstone. The gifts are thought to be for her children who were never recovered.

This is the grave site of the unknown child. They dedicated this grave to all the unknown children who died that day.
Again, toys were left behind after visitors had been there.

***  Since I first wrote this post, they have done DNA testing and now know the child that is buried here is Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England who was only 19th months old. 
The shoes that are on display in the photo above were his shoes. 
Mr. J. Bruce Ismay is the man who was the President of White Star Line.
Do you remember his character in the movie the Titanic? He quickly jumped on the last life boat even though many people were still left on board. It was he who had the extra life boats removed before the Titanic first sailed.
Mr. Ismay paid to have Mr. Freeman's headstone larger. Mr. Freeman was the Chief Deck Stewart, age 43. Dark hair, fair moustache, blue suit, light overcoat over his pajamas.
Many people saw Mr. Freeman helping others to safety and willing giving up his life for others.

It is said Mr. Freeman saw Mr. Ismay get on the life boat, leaving so many behind.

Most people believe Mr. Ismay paid for the large headstone out of guilt. However, Mr. Ismay made sure he received credit for paying for the headstone as he had it inscribed at the bottom "Erected by Mr. J. Bruce Ismay to commemorate a long and faithful service.

Some of the families had beautiful sayings inscribed on the headstones.

When the movie Titanic was made the director claimed that the names of the main characters were made up.
However, if you remember Leo DiCaprio played the part of Jack Dawson.
Here you see the grave marked with the name J. Dawson.

Many young girls go to this grave and believe it that of Jack Dawson.
The real name of the Mr. Dawson that is buried here is Joseph Dawson, not Jack.

Most of those on the ship that died were young. This man, George Dean was 19.

We had to leave much to quickly for me. I didn't have a chance to read every name on all the headstones.
As we walked away I looked back I wondered if I would ever be back to learn more about all these people.

Oh, one last thing I forgot to share with you is that even today they are still trying to verify who is in the unmarked graves. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes they do find out who is there.

They then add the name of the person to the headstone. Only it is not on the top. It is listed on the face of the headstone. This way they can keep the look of the top of the headstone as it was at the time of burial.
Some bodies were shipped home. Mostly those in first class as the other classes could not afford to pay to have the bodies sent home. White Star Line would only pay to have the bodies buried in Halifax.
Some people were buried in the Jewish cemetery and some were buried in the Catholic cemetery. Since they didn't know what religion most people were they buried them in Fairview which was non denominational.
The Captain went down with the ship. His body was never recovered.

While the day was one of sadness I am so happy I was able to go on this tour. I learned a lot. I also purchased several books to bring home so I can learn more.

I'm not sure why but the Titanic has always held a special place in my heart. Now more so then ever.


Fio said...

What an interesting post, I really appreciated it. I just happened to have visited National Geographic in Washington DC today, where they have a Titanic exhibit to commemorate the 100 years. They didn't have a single item recovered from the site, so it was interesting to see the pictures on your post. Thanks again!

Kori said...

Hi Joanne. I liked this post a lot because I too have a great interest in the Titanic. My son, who is now 15, since he was about four has loved this ship! It started when I took him to the Queen Mary one day (he loves that ship as well and boy do I feel at home there as often as we've been over the years), and he got a book on each ship while there. His 'library' on this subject is quite large now! :) (I actually found a 1912 copy of the Titanic story for $6 in a thrift store in Laguna Niguel a couple years ago-couldn't believe it! It's an awesome find for his collection...) And boy did we watch that movie all. the. time.! Thanks to him I have more info on these two ships (and many in the White Star Line) in my head than I ever planned to!! We went to the Titanic exhibit at the QM several times while it was there some years ago, and it really took over my emotions. It was so sad to read about people and then get to see part of their tragedy in person. The relics they had on display were haunting and beautiful at the same time. So amazing. I'd love to see it again and go to the gravesite as well...I can't imagine how overwhelming it must have been! Anyway, sorry to get so long-winded, but I really like that you posted about this! :)

Stephanie said...

Wow! what a fascinating post! thanks so much for sharing this. I got goosebumps!!

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Carla said...

What a graceful and thoughtful reminder of a tragedy. I too, am fascinated by the Titanic.

On the 75th anniversary, several friends and I attended a dinner similar to what would have been served in first class. Wow. I can't remember how many courses it was but it was fun and a long evening.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I enjoyed reading this post again, Joanne. If I ever visit Halifax again i want to visit this cemetery. It was such a sad and terrble disaster.