Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A “REAL LIFE” NOVEL In 1898, Morgan Robertson published a poorly written novel called Futility. Very few people read it. The story was a thinly veiled warning about luxury oceanliners. Robertson felt that ship companies cared more for money than their passengers’ lives. The ship in Robertson’s story was enormous—by far the largest ever built. Its passengers, about 3,000 of them, were rich and famous. Its maiden voyage took place on a calm April night. Halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, it struck an iceberg—and sank. Many, many lives were lost in the icy water. As an innovative safety feature, Robertson’s fictional ship had 19 watertight compartments. Water in one compartment could not travel to the next. The big ship also had three propellers. Fourteen years after Robertson’s novel was published, a real oceanliner was built. It was the largest ever constructed. In many ways, it was exactly like the ship in the novel. Both were about 800 feet long and weighed between 60 and 70 tons. The real ship was the first to actually have three propellers. Both ships were supplied with only enough lifeboats for a small number of passengers. Why? Like the ship in the novel, the real ship was thought to be “unsinkable.” The real ship set off from England on April 10, 1912. Among her passengers were some of the richest and most famous people in the world. Halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, on a calm night, the ship struck an iceberg—and sank. Some 1,513 lives were lost in the icy waters of the Atlantic. The real ship was the Titanic. The ship in Robertson’s novel was called the Titan. THE MIRACLE GIRL It was July 25, 1956. The Italian luxury liner, Andrea Doria, was headed from Italy to New York. There were several famous people on board that day, including well- known actors. One of her passengers was 14-year-old Linda Morgan. She was not famous—yet. Not long after dinner, Linda went to her cabin and fell asleep. While Linda slept, the Andrea Doria sailed into disaster. People said that the Andrea Doria was the safest ship ever. Its safety features included watertight compartments and fireproof walls that divided the ship into three safety zones. Furthermore, the 16 lifeboats could hold all the ship’s passengers—and more. The Andrea Doria was also famous for its beauty and luxury. It had bars, libraries, gyms, and areas set aside for movies and dancing. The ship was richly decorated technology, including air conditioning. About 11:00 that night, people were dancing in the lounge when the crew noticed another ship approaching. According to the radar screen, it was several miles away. The other ship, a Swedish liner called the Stockholm, had also noticed the Andrea Doria. One of the officers on the Stockholm looked through his binoculars. Oh, no! The Andrea Doria was right in front of them! He yelled for the ship to turn sharply. The captain of the Andrea Doria made a quick turn, too. Then the unthinkable happened. The bow of the Stockholm rammed right into the Andrea Doria! Built for breaking up icebergs, the bow of the Stockholm was strong. It sliced through the side of the Andrea Doria as if it were made of butter. It tore away more than 300 tons of steel, and ripped a 75- foot gash. As water poured in, the Andrea Doria rolled on its side. The lights flickered, then went out. Frightened passengers in evening clothes and pajamas ran through dark passageways. Both ships sent distress signals, and other ships raced to help. The Stockholm’s crew helped rescue many of the Andrea Doria’s passengers. Thanks to so many rescuers, 1,660 passengers and crew of the Andrea Doria survived. At the moment of impact, however, 51 people had died. After the rescue, the crew of the Stockholm checked over their ship for damage. Bernabé Garcia was checking the ship’s bow. It was covered with broken-off pieces of the Andrea Doria. Then suddenly, he heard cries for help. He made his way through the wreckage and saw a smashed bed on top of a mattress. On the bed was Linda Morgan! When Garcia reached her, she asked, “Where am I? What ship is this?” The crew of the Stockholm checked its passenger list. Linda Morgan’s name wasn’t there. It took a while before anyone knew just how she’d ended up on the Stockholm’s bow. But this is what happened: The bow of the Stockholm rammed into the Andrea Doria just below Linda’s bed! Then the Stockholm had pulled back from the Andrea Doria, taking Linda and her bed with it. Hours later, and miles away from the Andrea Doria, she woke up. Linda had some injuries, but she was alive. The man who found her, Bernabé Garcia, visited her in the hospital. He touched her cheek and smiled. “It is a miracle,” he whispered. The newspapers, too, called her the “miracle girl.”


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