February 28, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Asunder

By |2023-07-17T17:52:54+02:00June 27th, 2023|Area 51|
The cost of adventuring?
P

ush tourism toward danger-seeking and it overflows into a voyeurism covered appropriately by a certain saying involving a cat killed by its own over-eager curiosity. If you wish to “tour” a war zone — this to put your otherwise bored billions to work – that same war zone may choose to ignore your mere peeking and swallow you whole. Thrill-seeking has always been, and will always be, risky business, whether the risk is engendered by that much more heroin or a craving to see the remains of a sunken ship.

I spent several intense youthful years studying the mysteries and perplexities contained all aspects of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, a luminous passenger liner seemingly destined by the fates (and by hubris) to strike an iceberg and sink while racing toward New York on its 1912 maiden voyage. The vessel ignored all known caution and the result was a resting place more than two miles beneath the surface of Atlantic.

At the time of my obsession, I hoped in no uncertain terms that the wreck would never be found. If it was, I thought, that graveyard would be toyed with, as no one and nothing stops a curious cat, especially a wealthy one.  My rest-in-peace wish came to an end some forty years ago, and the quiet darkness of the dead below combed over by those few scavengers who could make it to the vessels’ sunless resting place.

The death of the five will no doubt be followed by kindred losses, when putative moon rockets are shot from earthly cannons, as always for a buck.

The first descents, in sturdy robotic crafts, were followed — in the spirit of space and war-zone tourism — with pay-per-view offerings. Since the liner sank in international waters, these deep-dive attempts — like some internet sales — were gawked at but not monitored. The spirit was in fact similar to the turn of the 20th-century love affair with the “tycoon” possibilities offered by cash.  Big bucks will buy you adventures no sane soul (let alone an engineer familiar with water pressure) would dare offer.

This preamble is the foremost reason I cannot grieve the loss of five wealthy souls, including the creator of the venture, as a result of diving too deep in a submarine of dubious merit. Go deeper and risk turns to folly, unless the science of your dive has been studied meticulously, which in this case it was not. And the would-be grave-visitors paid the price, a just one since digging up corpses, no matter that water long ago pulped them, is an ignominious bit of rich fun.

The death of the five will no doubt be followed by kindred losses, when putative moon rockets are shot from earthly cannons, as always for a buck. That NASA’s perilous moon mission succeeded astounded even some engineers, who despite years of preparation and checks knew full well even a small mishap could doom the troika of astronauts.

Alas, though, they made it look easy, and then — in an age bereft of adventure — the wish to duplicate that feat, under water, in rockets, near killing fields, has, well, skyrocketed.

Less than an hour before the Titanic struck the berg that would humble its unsinkable billing, one of the liner’s wireless operators received the exact location of the lethal lance of ice. Busy sending chit-chat Marconi messages scripted by wealthy passengers to their friends in New York, where the liner was scheduled to dock, he angrily wired the sender not to interfere with his channel. He was too busy with First Class requests, the ones that had to be carried out, ice be damned.

The five tourist interlopers, had they known about this message, and the grave “do not tread on me” emanations, might have thought twice before tempting fate. They might have worried about implosion the way some Titanic officers worried quietly about zooming through ice floes at breakneck speed.

Instead, unsinkability was the word, now yet again swept literally asunder.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris in 1953 and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.