By Olympia HATZILAMBROU
Olympia Hatzilambrou is a 10-year-old student at Montrose Christian Montessori School. With her mother, she made the trek across the Atlantic following the path the Titanic would have taken had it not sunk.
As a student, I love to learn about history every day, but I’ve never been a part of making history before. I had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by being on the Titanic 100th Anniversary Memorial Cruise.
My love of the Titanic started with a fun project in the first grade assigned by my wonderful teacher Mrs. Haddadin. I’m a student at Montrose Christian Montessori School and, as Montessori encourages, this project led to more studying of incredible sunken ships, like the Britannic and Lusitania.
In 2009, my parents signed me up for this Titanic Anniversary Cruise (it was quickly sold out that year). It was set up by Englishman Miles Morgan, and recreated on the ship the MS Balmoral on Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.
We followed Titanic’s route, departing Southampton on Sunday, April 8. We passed Cherbourg, France, though we didn’t stop there like the Titanic did. Then we visited Cobh (which used to be called Queenstown), Ireland; made a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (where many Titanic victims are buried); and finally sailed into New York on April 19.
The highlight was a stopover at the Titanic wreck site where we had a memorial service at 1 a.m. on April 15. It was very moving, and being in the cold, dark Atlantic made the Titanic story very real. I cried.
We also honored Chelsea Pier 54, where the Titanic would’ve docked, with a three-whistle salute and moment of silence. Many of the passengers on our cruise were descendants of Titanic passengers and reaching New York helped to put closure for their families. Our local Titanic descendant is the lovely Jill Kirby (originally from Southampton but now living in Duarte, Calif). Her great-uncle, Alfred White, was a Titanic engine room crew survivor – he survived only because he was sent up to see what had happened after the crash and he wasn’t able to go back down to the engine room. No other engine room crew survived.
A journey across the Atlantic is pretty long and rough, especially for a kid, but there were so many fun things to do and interesting facts to learn everyday. There were Edwardian formal nights, but some people dressed that way daily. There were Titanic meal choices, too – one of my Titanic meals included rice soup with root vegetables, served in third class.
And there were morning and afternoon lectures conducted by the world’s Titanic experts and descendants Senan Molony, Alan Hustak, Jack Eaton, Charles Haas, Philip Littlejohn and more.
One fact that stands out for me is what a difference 15 seconds could make: If Frederick Fleet, the lookout, had seen the iceberg 15 seconds earlier, the Titanic would’ve missed the iceberg. If he had seen it 15 seconds later, they would have had a head-on collision, but the Titanic would have survived (like the SS Arizona had). Instead, the iceberg ripped open five compartments on the starboard side of the ship that led to its sinking. Interestingly, like James Cameron’s movie, there was a real-life love story between first-class Canadian passenger Quigg Baxter and burlesque dancer Bertha Mamie. And for our local community, there was an Armenian-Canadian Titanic survivor, Neshan Krekorian.
Last but not least, the cruise had people from all around the world, with about 30 nationalities represented. Apart from all the Titanic things, I made friends with girls about my age (there weren’t many kids onboard) Hannah Young from Hayling Island, England, and Mikaila Van wyk from Maryborough, Australia. I hope they’ll stay my friends for life.