This year, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s eastern-most province will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic with a series of exhibitions, concerts, film showings, re-creations, music events, theatrical performances, lectures and special tours with Titanic experts.
During its inaugural voyage from Southampton to New York on the night of April 14, 1912, the “unsinkable” luxury liner struck an iceberg 409 nautical miles south of Newfoundland. In less than three hours, the pride of the White Star Line sank taking more than 1,500 passengers to a watery grave. Located on the eastern edge of North America, the province is closest to the point where the ship went down and where the immediate search and rescue efforts began.
Newfoundland’s Cape Race Marconi station was the first to receive the ship’s distress signal. In fact, Walter Gray, who manned the station, knew the Titanic’s radio operator, Jack Phillips. And it was from Cape Race that the unfolding story of the ship’s disaster and the rescue efforts was passed on to the world.
The Titanic year kicks off in March 2012 with the launch of a virtual exhibit, “The Titanic Resource Guide” at The Rooms, St. John’s top cultural complex housing a museum, an art gallery with 7,000 works and historic archives. The exhibit will feature a variety of records in digitized format documenting Newfoundland’s response to the news of the sinking of the ship. Available for viewing are: photographs; copies of communications between then Prime Minister Morris of Newfoundland and the Office of Governor Williams about the response to the disaster; excerpts from the Journal of the Legislative Council; newspaper articles; and telegrams from the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada. The museum will also present “RMS Titanic: Relics of Disaster,” which tells the story of the ship’s construction and its ill-fated voyage through artifacts, photographs and documents including distress messages received from Cape Race, items recovered at sea and a scale model of the ship lying on the ocean floor. www.therooms.ca
From April 6 through April 14, a “Receiving Titanic” program will feature a series of events:
North American premiere of James Cameron’s “Titanic 3D” – A red carpet event on April 6 and 7 at Empire Theatres Studio 12 in St. John’s will include a Titanic-themed reception and a silent auction of Titanic-related items.
Day tours to Cape Race – Departing from the Delta Hotel in St. John’s daily from April 7 to April 12, the excursion will begin at Signal Hill National Historic site and end at Cape Race where the Titanic’s signal was received.
Titanic Week of Culture and Music – Inspired by the Irish immigrants and musicians that perished on the ship, the pubs and restaurants along St. John’s George Street will host Songwriter Circles showcasing Newfoundland and Labrador’s Irish heritage in music and song (April 11 to 13).
The main “Receiving Titanic” event will take place on April 14 in Cape Race and will include:
Guided tours of Cape Race and the Edge of Avalon Interpretation Centre – Visitors will learn about the region’s history and meet some of its renowned storytellers.
The Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre – A replica of the original Marconi Marine Radio Station from 1904 will mark its grand opening. Named for the Myrick family who lived and worked here from 1874 until the 1960s, serving as light keepers and wireless operators, the building will display Titanic artifacts and information as well as exhibits showing the history of early telegraphy and wireless radio in Newfoundland. A little known fact: It was 14-year-old Jimmy Myrick who received the Titanic’s distress signal. www.edgeofavalon.ca/myrick.html
Moment of Silence – Religious leaders and participants will gather at the Holy Redeemer Church in Trepassey and will reflect on the tragic events of April 14, 1912.
Evening dinner and reception – Participants will dine on the same local dishes as the lighthouse keepers and residents did in 1912. Local musicians will play and vignettes of Titanic-related events from around the world will be televised.
Titanic Lecture – Fred MacLaren who has dove to the Titanic’s wreck will share his research and experiences.
Newfoundland’s Music – Some of Newfoundland’s finest musicians will play including Jim Payne, Pearl Coombs and Ron Hynes who will debut the song he has written about Cape Race and the Titanic.
Ø Wireless Re-enactment – David Myrick, Jimmy’s descendant, will re-enact the Titanic’s distress signal from Cape Race. Transmitting messages with other wireless operators stationed on ships above the Titanic site, Myrick will transmit this through a satellite feed to participants in Trepassey.
On April 15, a virtual ship’s bridge will open to visitors at the Centre for Marine Simulation in St. John’s. This Arts and Culture Centre production with actors playing the roles of the ship’s officers will recreate ice and ocean conditions on the night of the Titanic tragedy. Running through the summer, the simulator offers a very realistic experience with its six different three-dimensional movements plus wrap-around visuals and sound. Visitors will even feel the “ship” shudder as it scrapes the ice. The simulator can accommodate small groups of about 20, www.mi.mun.ca/cms. Tickets will be on sale at the web site of the Arts and Culture Centre, www.artsandculturecentre.com
In addition to the exhibit at The Rooms, the Johnson Geo Centre has a Titanic exhibit designed by Larry Daley. Real-life artifacts, stories and discoveries from recent explorations of the ship’s underwater resting place present the story behind the Titanic. www.geocentre.ca/
Besides the commemorative activities and events, there will be iceberg-viewing excursions, and tastings of Iceberg vodka, beer made from icebergs and even iceberg water for teetotalers, besides all of the outdoor activities and nature experiences always available to visitors to the province.
Wildland Tours is offering a six-day, five-night “Titanic Centennial Commemoration” package from April 11 to 16, 2012. The package includes accommodations at the Delta St. John’s; five breakfasts; two lunches; experienced local hosts; admission to various sites and museums and participation in the Cape Race commemoration with evening meal; ground and boat transportation, and airport transfers for $2,738 per person, double occupancy, not including taxes. www.wildlands.com/vacation/titanic-centennial-commemoration-1912-2012
St. John’s: A Good Base for a Titanic Experience
A good home base for exploring Newfoundland’s Titanic connections is St. John’s, a handsome city that expanded from its colorful waterfront. The capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s is the oldest city in North America with Victorian architecture, heritage shops and a lively arts scene. Visitors can meander down quaint side streets lined with brightly-colored 19th-century row houses. Rising up over the harbour, Signal Hill offers great views and is crowned by Cabot Tower. Dating from 1897, this castle was built for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival in the new world. Marconi had established a station at Cape Race in 1904, just a few years after he received the first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission on Signal Hill in St. John’s. Not far from downtown, visitors can see whales and icebergs drifting off the coast and thousands of seabirds nesting. www.stjohns.ca
Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership
This project has been made possible thru funding provided by the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership (ACTP). ACTP is a nine member pan-Atlantic partnership comprised of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the four Atlantic Canada Tourism industry Associations and the four Provincial Departments responsible for tourism for New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. For further information, contact your travel provider or go to www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca (1-800-561-0123), www.novascotia.com (1-800-565-0000), www.newfoundlandlabrador.com (1-800-563-NFLD) and for Prince Edward Island, go to www.tourismpei.com (1-800-463-4PEI).
For further information about the Titanic commemoration and Newfoundland and Labrador, go to www.newfoundlandlabrador.com and www.receivingtitanic.com.