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In February 1912, prior to the maiden voyage of the Titanic, one Toronto newspaper had two advertisements side by side – one for the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic, and right next to it was for the Cunard’s RMS Carpathia. The Carpathia was the ship that ended up rescuing more than 700 survivors from the Titanic’s wreckage.

Although it may seem an odd choice for a blog featuring items related to Canadian history and culture, the Titanic does indeed hold a spot in the nation’s history. Ben MacLeod, of Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island, knew as much, and spent about 2000 hours over 3 years and used over 125000 LEGO pieces to put together this monstrous model of the ill-fated vessel. The final piece spans just shy of 3 meters in length, half a meter in width, and three quarters of a meter tall, with a remarkable level of intricacy and detail including engine rooms, turbines, dining halls, and guest cabins.

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There are several Canadian connections to this most famous of shipwrecks. Following the disaster that occurred late at night on April 14th, a wireless message was sent out seeking aide. This message was received by the nearby RMS Carpathia, which arrived a few hours later on the morning of April 15th, to find that the Titanic had submerged. The Carpathia managed to rescue some 700 of the 2200 total passengers.

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However, there was some confusion received on the wireless to the mainland that morning on the 15th, with initial thought being that all was well with the Titanic, and that it was being towed to port. It was only a few hours later that the White Star Line sent out clarifications stating that the Titanic had sank, and it began to search for more ships to try to rescue survivors, or simply to reclaim bodies.

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The closest major port was Halifax, and the CS Mackay-Bennett, which at the time was commissioned to repair the underwater wireless cable between Canada and France, was redirected and set sail on April 17th. With ice patches and thick fog, it took four days for the Mackay-Bennett and her crew to arrive. Knowing that there was no chance of finding additional survivors, the ship was prepared with embalming equipment, coffins, and ice for preserving bodies. Over 300 bodies were discovered, but ports required all bodies returned from sea to be embalmed. The ship did not have enough embalming supplies for all, so priority was given to the first class passengers, with over 100 bodies of third class passengers buried at sea. Over the next month, three more ships were sent from Halifax to try to find more bodies, but only another 22 bodies were found between the three of them.

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The Fairview Cemetery in Halifax is now home to 121 bodies of passengers and crewmen who were not repatriated to their hometowns for burial, with another 29 buried in other cemeteries across Nova Scotia. The Fairview Cemetery is the largest single burial site of victims from the Titanic, tragically, with nearly one third of the graves remaining unmarked. Further, many artifacts and records related to the Titanic can be found in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which has one of the world’s finest collection of artifacts from the vessel, including a near perfectly preserved deckchair.

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Many years later, Canadian filmmaker James Cameron (born in Kapuskasing, Ontario), took an interest in the Titanic, and scripted, directed, and produced the popular 1997 film named after the ship. As part of the research for the project, Cameron orchestrated several expeditions to the Titanic’s resting site at the bottom of the Atlantic, and continued to do so for years to come, with the Canadian filmmaker crafting several documentaries. All in all, James Cameron is widely responsible for the modern resurgence of interest in the lost ship.

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Ben MacLeod’s LEGO model of the Titanic will be on display at Wax World of the Stars at Mariner’s Cove Boardwalk in Prince Edward Island until Sept. 24. Ben has also provided a video for additional views of the model.

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One thought on “The Unsinkable Ship

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