It took me over a month to write this post about Titanic The Experience in Buena Park because I was full of mixed emotions walking through the exhibit. Please read on. I want to share my honest experience and also show the magnitude of this tragedy… (in a good way?).
After my tour of Bodies The Exhibition, I hopped on over to Titanic The Experience. Now I’m warning you – you will go from “Wow, the human body is cool!” to “Holy ovaries, Batman, a lot of people died.”
As I walked to the entrance, a British woman dressed in early 20th century garb approached me. She asked if I’d like a tour, and I said sure! (There are storytellers in character who will assist you and walk you through the exhibit.) She introduced herself as Bessie Lavington, and she was a first-class steward onboard the Titanic. (More on this later.)
This exhibit features over 250 artifacts that were recovered by the RMS Titanic, Inc – the only company that is permitted by law to recover objects from the wreck site. The rule is – you do not dig around through the ship and pick up whatever you want. The expedition recovery team ONLY picks up objects that fell off the ship.
We start in the beginning, through the construction of the Titanic. It was known as the “401st” during construction. (It’s bad luck to call a ship its official name before launch.) The ship was so big, it took three slips to build. Rivets were 1-inch thick and 3-inches long. Imagine your 3-inch Louboutins with a 1-inch thickness holding steel pieces of the Titanic together!
Back in the day, only 16 lifeboats were required on the ship to meet regulations. The ship’s builder, Thomas Andrews, wanted 64. He got 20 on the ship – 16 lifeboats and 4 collapsible boats. 1,178 made it to the boats. There were 2,200 passengers and crew. Do the math. At this point of the tour, I’m starting to get angry.
There’s Bessie below with a model of the Titanic. The expedition team brought back a piece of the hull, and you can touch it at the exhibit.
The Titanic was a super bougie ship. It featured 300 first-class cabins, 48 two-bedroom & sitting room suites, and two millionaire suites. Third-class cabins consisted of two sets of bunkbeds and a wash sink between them. There were only two bathrooms in all of steerage (third class). Good god. I can barely live with The Wife in our 1.5 baths. Can you imagine hundreds of people sharing two bathrooms??
As we move further into the tour/ship, we come across the boiler room. It’s at this point where Bessie tells me that the crew down in the boiler room – the firemen, trimmers, stokers – volunteered to stay on the Titanic and keep the electricity going while the ship was sinking and chaos was ensued up top. This is also the point where I’m just feeling all kinds of emotions – despair, sadness, incredulity, admiration, gratefulness.
There are lots of artifacts including this pair of binoculars. Bessie tells me that there was a storage for the crew’s binoculars and other gear. One guy had the key. That guy didn’t make it on the ship. It is presumed that the crew borrowed passengers’ binoculars.
I mention to Bessie that it seemed like this was just a comedy of errors, one right after the other that led up to this massive tragedy. Bessie agrees. She thinks that if even one thing went right in that string of errors, things may have turned out differently. You know what the Titanic needs? A hashtag. #SMH
There were at least two ice warnings as the Titanic made its way through its cruise. 37 seconds of spotting THAT iceberg and the famous “Iceberg right ahead!,” the ship hits it. The water was 28-F degrees. If you want to know how cold an iceberg felt like back in 1912, there is a giant slab of ice you can touch. You get a sense of what the passengers and crew were battling, once on a lifeboat.
There’re a couple more rooms in this exhibit. One room is a film you can watch as if you were a passenger on the lifeboat. The other room shows the wreckage site and what has been recovered and restored. It’s absolutely amazing how much the expedition team has recovered. So much of it was intact. Look at the rows and rows of plates – they fell off the ship that way!
The next room threw me for a loop. It was the last room. It contained all the names of the people on the RMS Titanic. I got choked up. (Who am I?)
This is where I found out whether Bessie survived the Titanic disaster. She lived!
Bessie was such a wonderful host. I think my experience would have been different if I had just walked through the exhibit by myself. With a storyteller guide present, you really get a sense of what it was like to be a passenger or crew member of the Titanic. My emotions were all over the place during the tour. I went from anger to sadness to surprise to curiousity, back to anger and sadness and incredulity and admiration of the heroic efforts of the crew. #HulkSmash
If you’re a history buff, this exhibit will rock your socks off. I’m in awe of the sheer effort the expedition team has gone through to recover and restore so many artifacts. Even if you’ve only watched Titanic the movie, these artifacts and history will impress upon you the sheer breadth of the situation.
Enough about my experience. Head to Buena Park and walk through Titanic The Experience yourself! Tell me what you thought of the exhibit!
For more info on tickets, click here. Both Bodies The Exhibition and Titanic The Experience will be housed in Buena Park through 2014! You have time but don’t say I didn’t warn you if you can’t get tickets. I recommend you spend the day learning and then grabbing some fried chicken at Mrs. Knott’s!
I dare you to leave Titanic The Experience without talking about it with your friends and family.
Thanks to the Titanic The Experience team and the PR team for inviting me to the media preview event back in late July. Special thanks to the woman who played Bessie Lavington, my enthusiastic and very knowledgable tour guide!
Disclosure: I was invited to the media preview event. I drove, I saw, I got all emotional. All opinions are honest and my own. Get your own opinions.