Morgan Robertson's Futility

Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

I have to agree with those statements, re.: the early stage of Titan's career compared with Titanic's story. If memory serves the Titan was supposed to be setting a speed record, presumably the 'Blue Ribband;' whilst Titanic was not capable of that, I am one of those who believes she was trying to beat Olympic's maiden voyage time (as *opposed* to Olympic's record). I also believe that the evidence against Ismay's belief in a Tuesday arrival can be combined with the evidence of his expectation on the voyage for such an occurance; but this is not the thread for discussing that.

Dave wrote: Where on earth did you get a 'Registered Displacement' of 77,780 tons?

My sources were Olympic's May 1911, Titanic's March 1912, and Britannic's December 1915, British Registry Entries respectively, filed by Harold Sanderson and Henry Concannon(sic?). These also mention something about a block co-efficient of 150 tons per inch, if memory serves.

such a displacement would sink her something like 14 feet (at a ballpark calculation) above her marks.

I calculated that 66,000 tons would sink the ship to F-deck; 77,780 tons would bring her down to D-deck. The problem here is that you are taking it too literally. We need a technical expert to help us, but I am reasonably sure that -- from memory -- the term 'registered displacement' is correct. Certainly the figures are.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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In reference to Taner's post above, the supposed Robertson short story about Japanese planes attacking Hawaii is pure myth. I have read the collection of Robertson's stories and can find no mention of a Pearl Harbour-style of attack. I would really like to know how this particular myth started, but I suspect it all comes down to wishful thinking. I would speculate that people simply want to believe in Robertson's prophetic ability.

Robertson's story, "Beyond the Spectrum" is the one oft quoted as the story which contains references to an aerial attack on Hawaii and the use of "sun bombs," which are supposed to be A-bombs. Well, I found neither in the story. In this case, though, the myth obscures what I would consider to be the greatest argument for Robertson's prophetic prowess. The story is about a Japanese submarine that blinds ship's crews by shining a coloured beam of light. When I was flying surveillance patrols over Soviet warships, they would often flash their range-finding lasers across our cockpit windows in an attempt to temporarily blind our pilots. Robertson's story seems to predict this tactic fairly accurately. By the way, Robertson's story ends with the hero capturing the Japanese submarine and using the new weapon to blind the crews of a invasion fleet of Japanese battleships and torpedo-boats headed not for Hawaii, but for San Francisco. The destination makes sense, as S.F. was our Pacific Fleet's home during Robertson's time. FDR would relocate the Fleet to Pearl several decades later, but Robertson shows no sign of having foreseen this, despite claims to the contrary.

Robertson was clearly taken with naval technology. In this thread, speculation was raised about Robertson's ability to project advancing marine technology into the future; in other words, was his "Titan" merely the result of his extrapolation of shipping trends and technologies, or was it prophecy? I think the answer lies in stories like "Beyond the Spectrum," "The Pirates" and "In the Valley of the Shadow." Robertson was very much taken by the concept of submarines, and talked much about their use in a practical sense, at a time when John Holland was submitting his designs for the world's first practical submarine to the U.S. Navy's design competition. Read his stories and you will get the sense that Robertson knew how to build upon current shipbuilding trends.

Thanks to Walter Lord's use of selected portions of "The Wreck of the Titan" in the preface for ANTR, Robertson's "Titan" has become legend. I don't blame Lord one whit for doing so...he wasn't trying to establish history with that excerpt, but rather to grab the reader at the outset with an effective "hook." It's a common and effective practice in the publishing world, and I admire Lord for his selective editing in this instance. But what about Robertson's "Gigantia," described in another story, "The Pirates"?

<font color="#000066">"...the mighty Gigantia...seemed to grow in size visibly as her speed, plus the destroyer's, brought them together. In a few moments Denman made out details -- six parallel rows of deadlights, one above the other, and extending from bow to stern, a length of a thousand feet; three tiers of deck houses, one above the other admidships; a line of twenty boats to a side along the upper deck, and her after rails black with passengers; while as many as six uniformed officers stood on her bridge -- eighty feet above the water line."

Is Robertson talking about the Gigantic, renamed Britannic? Maybe, given this description. I didn't mention, though, that Robertson's "Gigantia" had five funnels and one short mast (selective editing on my part). As importantly, the presence of Robertson's "Gigantia" makes his "Titan" a little less unique, as both appear to be of similar size (Gigantia appears to be a bit larger). So, was Robertson engaged in prophecy, or knowledgeable supposition? I think the latter, but it's up to you to decide. For heaven's sake, though, please read the primary source material for yourself so that you don't perpetuate myth.

Parks
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Of course, given that Robertson had published stories that described the giant liners "Titan" and "Gigantia" by 1898 (publication date on my copy of Robertson's story collection), one must ask the question: Was either Ismay or Pirrie influenced by Robertson's nautical works? Is it possible that Robertson was more of an inspiration than a prophet? Something to mull over, but I suspect that there's no way to find out for certain.

Parks
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
My bet for knowladgable supposition. There's nothing supernatural about it. All it takes is paying attention to what's going on and some vision (Read that to mean...creative thinking) to see where it can go. In that sense, Futility was not some great prophetic work, but a study in the potential for disaster as ships grew far larger then did the technology and experience to control same.

And when you think about it, it didn't take a rocket scientist with a gift for precognition to see where the trends were going. The inadaquacy of lifeboat provisions was hardly a deep dark secret, nor was the risk taking that was routinely chanced to either meet schedules or break records

We do much the same "predicting" today when we take a look at current trends in shipping where minimum standards of safety are treated as the max, crews are ill trained on certain flag of convenience owned vessels, equipment is allowed to break down, structures are allowed to deteriorate and discrepancies are covered up...sometimes with the willing help of inspectors... (Ever hear of the Marine Electric?) and projects become ever more ambitious like those multi-million ton condo ships that have been proposed. It's no great strain on the imagination to see that there is one whopping big disaster looming somewhere in the future, and probably sooner then later.

Remember now, you heard it here first!
 
Mar 3, 1998
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One last thought on the subject....maybe the coincidental use of names derived from Greek mythology by both Robertson and Ismay/Pirrie is not as far-fetched as we might think. Greek mythology was more popular during the Victorian/Edwardian era than it is today, judging by its prevalence in Gilded Age decor, literature, art, etc. When one thought "big" around the turn of the last century, one probably thought of the Olympians, Titans and Giants of Greek mythology. Today, those same names would just conjure up sports talk. :)

So maybe the coincidence with Titan/Gigantia and Titanic/Gigantic was merely the result of common interest and interpretation of a popular subject, taken within the context of a specific historical period.

Parks
 
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Taner Tanriover

Guest
Thank you for correcting me on 'Beyond the Spectrum' and my apologies for passing on what I had read in Pellegrino's 'Her name Titanic'. I suppose he has more reason to be embarrassed as he published this myth in his book as a fact.
Since this other piece of information is from the same book, I am no longer certain of its accuracy but it seems to explain the Titan/Titanic name resemblance to a certain extent: According to an editorial published in the Belfast Morning News on June 1, 1911 "It is difficult to understand why the owners and the builders named this ship Titanic. The Titans were a mythological race who came to believe they'd conquered nature... and their final abiding place was in some limbo beneath the lowest depths of the Tartarus, a sunless abyss below Hades."
Can anybody verify a) the origin of the word b) the publication of this article in 1911?
 
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Beatice Kaiser

Guest
Hi there!
I just read Futility ( here in Germany you call only "Titan"). I think it´s a little bit crazy but i suppose it´s really hard that Robertson wrote it before 1912 and it´s really like the true.
bye, Bea
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John Hemmert

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Oct 16, 2002
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Hi all!

There's a really neat website on Morgan Robertson (Thumbnail biography) at: http://members.tripod.com/~rhazz/frobertson.html

A lot of his works can still be found on eBay for $3-$10 per book. (Except for "Futility", which runs a good deal more.) Most of them are actually a very good read. In my opinion, "Futility" - one of his earlier works - was really one of his more melodramatic and smarmy stories. But his books "Down to the Sea", "The Grain Ship", "Where Angels Fear to Tread", and "Sinful Peck" are great.

Ciao! John.
 
Feb 18, 2003
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Is Morgan Robertson's book good? I wanted to buy it but I wanted some opinions from other titanic fans. Please give me some feedback.
 

John Hemmert

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Oct 16, 2002
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Hi Greg,

I own copies of most of Morgan Robertson's works, and have read them all. (I'm something of a Morgan Robertson fan.)
"Futility - Or The wreck of the Titan" is one of his earlier works, and one of the least readable. His later works are MUCH better written. I'd have to say, that it really only should be bought if you seriously want to study the similarities between "Titanic" and "Titan"...
Mind you, I think Morgan's works are fantastic, but "Futility" is, perhaps, the least interesting work he ever wrote.

Hope that helps!
John.
 
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Beatrice Kaiser

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Hi Greg,
I were you, i woudn´t this book,
maybe you can rend it in a library ( i done it this way).

bye Bea
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Beatrice Kaiser

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Hi Greg
Sorry, i forgot a word.

I wanted to say:
If you have the possibility to rent it, you shouldn´t buy it.

(If i hadn´t found the book in the library, i would have bought it. Because it´s interesting to read it.)

Bea
PS: I just want to say, that the book is okay, but
not the best (like John said). It´s not too bad.
 
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Joshua McCracken

Guest
I recently bought a book called "The Wreck of the Titanic Foretold?" in which Robertson's "Futility" and Stead's "From the Old World to the New" are reprinted. I'd read "Futility" when I was younger and thought that the coincidence was pretty impressive, but after learning more about the Titanic and then reading the book again I think that the differences far outweigh similarities. For one thing, the Titan hit the berg on the port side, rolled up onto it, fell on it's side and then sank. If I remember correctly only thirteen people survived the disaster. The figures seem like they've been touched up in the version that I have (which is the 1912 version), so I think that right there alot of credibility is shot. The author of "The Wreck of the Titanic Foretold?" makes a very good case for coincidence in reference to the Titan, since it was becoming obvious in 1898 that ships would only be getting bigger and bigger. If you must read "Futility" (which, to be honest, I don't reccommend) you should get it in this book, there are some very interesting ideas in it, and Stead's story is definitely worth it!
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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"The Wreck of the Titanic Foretold?" by Martin Gardner is a book I strongly recommend. I'm not lucky enough to have a copy, but I recall that it includes several stories that prefigure the Titanic disaster, together with a look at the whole business of coincidence. The author was for a long time a writer for Scientific American.
 
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THOMAS D DYER

Guest
There are a few differences between the real Titanic and the Titan like:
The Titan had broken all records .
The Titan was returning on her 3rd voyage.
The Titanic was on her 1st voyage.
The ice berg hit Titan on the port side.
The ice berg hit Titanic on the starboard side.
Only 3 people survived the Titan.
705 survived the Titanic.
All the best
Thomas D Dyer
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Boston's Brattle bookshop has a copy of the 1912 British priniting of the Book- for $200.....

Give me the word and ill have them put it on hold...


Tarn Stephanos
 
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THOMAS D DYER

Guest
What i would like is a copy of the 1898 edition and compare it to the 1912 edition, i think a lot of the text in the 1912 edition was changed to make it more like Titanic and to make the Titan sound even more powerful.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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The version Bob mentions is the 1912 edition.

There's actually very little difference between the two. In Chapter 1, Titan originally had 40,000 Hp and displaced 45,000 tons. The book originally ended at the words 'women and whisky'.