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>The fiction that came true(Titanic)<

A floating palace sailed from Southampton in 1898 on her maiden voyage. She was the biggest and grandest liner ever built, and rich passengers savoured her luxury as they journeyed to America. But the ship never reached her destination: her hull was ripped open by an iceberg and she sank with heavy loss of life.
That liner existed only on paper, in the imagination of a novelist called Morgan Robertson. The name he gave to his fictional ship was Titan, and the book's title was Futility.
Both the fiction and the futility were to turn into terrifying fact. Fourteen years later a real luxury liner set out on the same maiden voyage. She too was laden with rich passengers. She too rammed an iceberg and sank; and, as in Robertson's novel, the loss of life was fearful because there were not enough lifeboats. It was the night of April 10, 1912. The ship was the RMS Titanic.

In many other ways than the similarity of their names the Titan of Robertson's novel was a near duplicate of the real Titanic. They were roughly the same size, had the same speed and the same carrying capacity of about 3000 people. Both were 'unsinkable'. And both sank in exactly the same spot in the North Atlantic.
But the strange coincidences do not end there. The famous journalist W.T. Stead published, in 1892, a short story which proved to be an uncanny preview of the Titanic disaster. Stead was a Spiritualist: he was also one of the 1513 people who died when the Titanic went down.

Neither Robertson's horrer novel nor Stead's prophetic story served as a warming to Titanic's captain in 1912. But a backward recollection of that appalling tragedy did save another ship in similar circumstances 23 years later.
A young seaman called William Reeves was standing watch in the bow of a tramp steamer, Canada-bound from Tyneside in 1935. It was April - the month of the iceberg disaster, real and fictional - and young Reeves had brooded deeply on them. His watch was due to end at midnight. This, he knew, was the time Titanic had hit the iceberg. Then, as now, the sea had been calm.
These thoughts took shape and swelled into omens in the seaman's mind as he stood his lonely watch. His tired, bloodshot eyes strained ahead for any sign of danger, but there was nothing to be seen; nothing but a horizonless, impenetrable gloom. He was scared to shout an alarm, fearing his shipmates' ridicule. He was scared not to.
Then suddenly he remembered the exact date the Titanic went down - April 10, 1912. The coincidence was terrifying; it was the day he had been born. Reeves's mounting sense of doom flared into panicstricken certainly. He shouted out a danger warning, and the helmsman rang the signal: engines full astern. The ship churned to a halt - just yards from a huge iceberg that towered menacingly out of the blackness of the night.
More deadly icebergs crowded in around the tramp steamer, and it took nine days for Newfoundland icebreakers to smash a way clear.
The name of the little ship that came so near to sharing the Titanic's fate? She was called the Titanian.


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