It's been over a hundred years since the 'unsinkable' ocean liner Titanic disappeared under the waves of the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. Thousands of books and articles have been written about the disaster, the ship, its crew and passengers. None can hold a candle to the bizarre account of two ships, one real and the other fictional, which follow identical paths to destruction.
Our story begins seventeen years before the Titanic disaster with the publication of a fictional book entitled "The Wreck of the Titan." It was written by Morgan Andrew Robertson, a retired American merchant navy officer. He was born in 1861 and died in 1915, two years before the Titanic sank. Robertson found a second career as a professional writer and authored a number of short stories and novels.
The moment you examine some of his work, you realize that Morgan Robertson was anything but a conventional author. He had an amazing gift for predicting things to come. In 1905 "The Submarine Destroyer" was published. It described a submarine which used a device known as a 'periscope' to peek at the surface from underwater. It that time a primitive version of Robertson's fictional device was being developed and in limited use by the U.S. Navy, but it wasn't called a periscope.
Even more amazing was the 1914 publication of a volume of short stories by Robertson that contained a tale entitled "Beyond The Spectrum." That short story was about a future war between the USA and the Empire of Japan. The fact that a war might be coming between those two nations was no spectacular prediction in and of itself because speculation about such a conflict was a popular topic in those days.
What was amazing is the fact that Robertson's story is about how the Japanese manage to outwit and deceive American military planners by launching several sneak attacks on U.S. ships headed towards the Philippines and Hawaii, instead of declaring outright war on the USA. Another carefully planned surprise attack on San Francisco by an invasion fleet from Japan is thwarted by one of the story's characters who managed to stop it using some kind of special weapon from a captured Japanese vessel.
Another story or novella entitled "Futility" or "The Wreck of the Titan" was included as a re-print in the 1914 volume. This is where things get downright creepy. Robertson's fictional Titan was a massive British ocean liner measuring eight hundred feet long and described as unsinkable. The Titanic was a British ship that was eight hundred and eight-two feet long and also described as unsinkable. That's just the beginning of a long list of things that both vessels had in common.
Both ships had three screw propellers and sailed on their maiden voyage from Southampton headed towards New York, the Titan with twenty-five hundred passengers and the Titanic with twenty-two hundred on board. Neither ship carried enough lifeboats for all their passengers. Titan traveled at a speed of 25 knots, while Titanic moved through the water at 21 knots. Both liners hit an iceberg on the starboard side in the North Atlantic Ocean during April about four hundred miles away from Newfoundland and sank bow first with the loss of life being twenty-five hundred people on Titan and twenty-two hundred on Titanic.
It's important to understand that the Titanic had not yet been designed when "Futility" was first published in 1898. While some of the similarities between the two ships might be chalked up to coincidence, it is inconceivable that both vessels could have so many things in common. I guess we have to file this mystery under 'unsolved' where I am sure it will remain for as long as people still talk about the Titanic.
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