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April 4, 2012

Titanic's sinking began world's fascination with disasters

(Continued)

And with Titanic, the storylines played out instantly thanks to the recent innovation of wireless telegraphy. Even before the Carpathia arrived in New York with survivors, the "story starts to get told in a particular way before there is any substantial information about what happened," said Harvard University professor Steven Biel. "''It's unprecedented how quickly the story goes around the world."

Survivor Lawrence Beesley, in his book "Loss of the SS Titanic" said many press reports made the sinking even more dramatic than it really was.

"I think it is no exaggeration to say that those who read of the disaster quietly at home and pictured to themselves the scene as the Titanic was sinking had more of the sense of horror than those who stood on the deck and watched her go down inch by inch," Beesley concluded in his book. "The fact is that the sense of fear came to the passengers very slowly — a result of the absence of any signs of danger."

Beesley and others talked about how no one at the time thought the Titanic was going to go under. At first, they joked that they had to stop for a fresh coat of paint to be applied to where the iceberg scrapped the hull. After all, the Titanic was "unsinkable," they figured. "The improbability of such a thing ever happening was what staggered humanity," Beesley wrote.

"That phrase 'unsinkable' became notorious," Foster said. The phrase was originally "practically unsinkable" and was from an obscure engineering journal, but after a while it didn't matter. On top of that, someone claims to have heard ship Capt. Edward John Smith say "Even God himself couldn't sink this ship," Foster said.

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