Morgan Robertson's Futility

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Justin Taite

Guest
In case anyone of you are wondering, Futility, is a book written by an English writer Morgan Robertson. Its about an imaginary account of a collision between a large trans-Atlantic oceanliner and an iceberg on her maiden voyage to New York. He called his ship the Titan. Now look at these.

The Titan:

Displacement: 70,000 tons
Length: 800 ft.
Propellers: triple screw
Capacity: 3,000 people
Described as: "unsinkable"

The Titanic:

Displacement: 66,000 tons
Length: 882.5 ft.
Propellers: triple screw
Capacity: 3,000 people
Described as: "unsinkable"

Kind of strange, don't you think? Especially when the book was written 14 years before the disaster. When Robertson wrote Futility, there were no ships anywhere near the size of Titanic in use, or being built.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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I think the same thing can be said for the designers of the Lusitania, among others. I'm not one to confuse extrapolation, imagination or even wishful thinking for prophecy.

With the recent terrorist attacks, I've heard people talk about how prophetic the book, "Black Sunday" has turned out to be. Haven't seen a blimp attack yet, though.

I wish people who keep proclaiming how eerie the similarities are between Robertson's Titan and the real Titanic are would continue the comparison to encompass the entire book. The disconnects outweigh the similarities by a large margin. Somehow, though, the disconnects are rarely discussed. Nobody likes the image of the liner driving so far up onto the iceberg that the propellors clear the water, then falling over onto its side, crushing lifeboats and then sliding off the berg into the water. Or the penknife fight on the iceberg with a polar bear. Or the accidental ramming of another ship and the ensuing cover-up. Etc., etc.

Authors extrapolate current technology into the future all the time in science fiction. I wonder if any of our second-rate literature today will be admired someday as uncanny prophecy?

But hey, if you want to believe the myth, that's your call. It's a harmless myth with little real repercussion, unlike the one I'm studying now (the pretenders to the Romanov dynasty).

Parks
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Titanic's actual displacement at a full load navigation draft of 34 feet 7 inches was 52,310 long tons. Not even close to the figure of the hypothetical Titan.

Can somebody refresh my memory as to where this 66,000 ton figure keeps coming from?

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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Mike, you are pretty right on that. I've seen a 1912 White Star poster that gives 66,000 tons displacement. Somebody did as Paul suggested. People often copy stuff from 1912 because they think it's authentic but it ain't necessarily so. A certain author fairly recently spelled the name Frankfurt incorrectly throughout his book because he'd seen it spelled incorrectly in the 1912 papers. I keep coming across a chap called Boxall and the brave Captain Rostrom.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I keep running across that 66,000 ton figure in some of the books that crop up. I just got my copy of Lee W. Merideth's 1912 Titanic Facts, and he repeats the same mistake.

Overall, the book isn't that bad, but I wish some of these chaps would double check this stuff.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Mark Taylor

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Mar 18, 2005
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In reading over material on this subject (incorporated in the X-Files section of the Titanic faq at titanicnewschannel.c om), it is not so strange nor implausible the author could have described a ship similar (but different than Titanic). Discussion on large ships had been made in the press of the day. So that is likely where he got his inspiration.

Also people should bear in mind that Robertson's disaster, while similar in some respects, was very different from what happened to Titanic. Some however have tried to connect his book to a psychic forewarning. I attribute it more to imaginative writing than to any supernatural explanation. :)
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Interesting - a March 1912 letter from one of the officers when he was transferred to the Titanic gives a figure of 45,270 tons! Can't think off the top of my head where he got that from.
 
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Mikael Jonsson

Guest
I think Futility was written after 1912. Time has changed it to 1898. Has anyone here read it?
 
May 5, 2001
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Mikael,
I read it and didn't like it and was sad that I spent the money that I did to buy it because while the beginning was somewhat okay, the survival on the iceberg became a bit tedius for me to keep up with.

'Futility' was written 14 years before The Titanic sank.

Regards,
Bill
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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'Futility' was written in 1898 and revised in 1912 to make 'Titan' more like 'Titanic'. A small change was made to the end of the book also. The recent re-print seems to combine elements of both versions.
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Does anyone know if the 1898 version was issued in hardcover book form, or serial publication form?

I have seen a yellow covered hardback version- what year was that from?

I have a black colored 1912 version, and have often seen the more common red 'autograph series' edition, also from 1912.

Could anyone poste regarding the different covers and publications this book experienced?

peace

Tarn Stephanos
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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According to Simon Hewitt, who edited the modern re-print. 'Futility' was published as a book in 1898 by M F Mansfield. Hewitt found an original at the University of Virginia. He noted that the book was very fragile and assumed that few copies have survived.

The 1912 version first appeared in McClure's Magazine and Metropolitan Magazine of New York but Hewitt doesn't say if it was in serial form. It may well have been, as it would take up quite a bit of space in a magazine.
 
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Stephen Stanger

Guest
Just to cement Mikael's point as well as to back up Parks as well, don't you think that there would have been a lot more controversy about the subtle similarities between Titanic and Futility if the latter really was written way before?
I mean, these are issues with way too many "things in common" to be purely coincidence. How come the majority who just know of Titanic as a ship that hit an iceberg, haven't spoken aloud to preach some sort of ESP one Robertson's issue?
To find out about the book and the suppposed connection it has, one has to dig pretty deep, past the point of the majority's interest.
I think if it was as published before then it would be astounding as the whole Titanic sinking anyway.
 
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Taner Tanriover

Guest
I think it's worthwhile mentioning that another book of Robertson's (published in the collection Beyond the Spectrum) spoke of a worldwide war started by Japanese planes attacking Hawaii. These similarities between fact and fiction, as astounding as they may be, only hint at the human mind's ability to see into the future but conclusively prove nothing. By this same token it may be possible to find references to the events of september 11 in works of fiction written before that date. Or the prophetic nature of Jules Verne's work amongst others, illustrates the possibility that the human brain is an instrument with which to probe into and perhaps manipulate the possibilities that lie ahead.
My hope is that a meaningful pattern will eventually emerge from the relationship between fact and fiction and help us understand once and for all how and why neither the writing of Futility nor the lives lost with the Titanic were futile coincidences.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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This is an interesting thread, which I have only just seen because of prolonged absence from this area of the forum. I would like to emphasize some of the points raised in this discussion. From other forums recently people have jumped in to condemn my apparent 'criticism' of points raised with personal attacks, when I disagreed with opinions -- knowing the mature posters of ET, I hope that will not happen here, and can I assure you that I don't mean any criticism of anyone here, just to voice some of my own thoughts and opinions.

Firstly, whilst I recognise the many differences between Titan and Titanic, I do accept that there *was* a striking similarity between the two ships technically. However, the cruicial question is whether or not a knowledgeable shipping man could reasonably have predicted that such sized ships would be around in the future? Much of the similarities could be explained if we considered that a shipping merchant might well have predicted future developments in transatlantic steamships. Nonetheless, I still think that the two ships bear a grand resemblence, for steamship developement as it was was rapid from 1900-1914. It would be grand for further research to establish whether or not many knowledgables in 1900 expected transatlantic developments to take the course that they did -- in terms of the massive leap to liners displacing 50,000 tons.

On the issue of displacement, with Titan logged as being '70,000 tons' -- this has been compared to Titanic's *false* displacement figure of 66,000 tons, not her *actual* displacement of 52,310 tons at load draft. Yet what of Titanic's *registered displacement*? That was 77,780 tons, as was Olympic's (Britannic's being even higher). If we are comparing, or debunking, such figures, we need to clarify which displacement the novella was speaking of -- and how could we do that?

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Well, as early as 1902 Lord Pirrie was campaigning for a dry dock that would take ships of Titanic's size. I don't see why Robertson could not be just as imaginative, especially as he only had to think of the ships, not build them.

Where on earth did you get a 'Registered Displacement' of 77,780 tons? Apart from the fact that I've never heard of such a term, such a displacement would sink her something like 14 feet (at a ballpark calculation) above her marks.
 
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Taner Tanriover

Guest
The remarkable prediction (or resemblance rather) is not so much the size of the ship but its loss through collision with an iceberg in early stages of her career.
 
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Taner Tanriover

Guest
Perhaps the reason Robertson didn't sink Titan on her maiden voyage (even if the idea occurred to him) was to add plausibility to his story.