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he crash of the RMS Titanic was one of the most significant events of the 20th century. The scale of the event and its connection to the development of technology would go on to have a lasting impact on the global community. The technology which allowed the Titanic to float even while weighing more than 46,000 tons was still relatively new, and thus a big goal of the Titanic’s maiden voyage was to inspire confidence in this new development in technology.

Foreseeing the circumstances which led to the sinking of the Titanic was impossible. Many specific factors had to align for the liner to crash into the iceberg, which spelled its demise. As a result, making a claim that someone had predicted these events even before the Titanic was even conceptualized might carry a bit of doubt. I seek to dispel those doubts by looking at the novella The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility written by Morgan Robertson in 1898, fourteen years before the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

A look into the future?

The RMS Titanic being built. Source: Wikipedia Commons

The plot of Morgan Robertson’s The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility outlines the maiden voyage of a British liner, the SS Titan, which in the book is deemed to be unsinkable and thus did not carry a sufficient number of lifeboats for all of its passengers. During its maiden voyage in April, SS Titan hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and as a result of the lack of lifeboats on board, led to the death of most of its passengers.

Robertson’s novella draws many similarities between the fictional SS Titan and the RMS Titanic. The book mentions the ship’s perceived “unsinkable” attribute that many assigned to it due to the advanced technology used to construct it, an attribute shared by the RMS Titanic. It is also predicted that because of this perceived attribute, less-than-usual safety precautions were taken when equipping the ship with safety equipment, mainly manifesting through the lack of lifeboats.

The exact month, as well as the location of the crash, is even predicted with both the fictional SS Titan and RMS Titanic sinking during their maiden voyage in April in the North Atlantic as a result of an iceberg. Even the size is mentioned and is quite similar to the fictional SS Titan, measuring 244m, whereas the RMS Titanic measured 269m.

Clairvoyance or coincidence?

Morgan Robertson. Source: Wikipedia Commons

It is undeniable that the similarities between Robertson’s fictional SS Titan and the real RMS Titanic are uncanny. But does this closeness come about as a result of coincidence or because of Robertson’s ability to look into the future?

Some argue that Robertson’s story was constructed with the help of his knowledge of maritime trends due to his time working as a cabin boy on merchant ships between 1866 to 1899, a factor often overlooked when people analyze this story.

This gave him valuable insight into how the maritime industry was moving forward and thus would make making such a prediction much easier as he would have an easier time outlining how the industry was going to move forward and thus could more accurately envision how a liner would look in fourteen years.

Even after the sinking of the Titanic, after which Robertson was called clairvoyant, he denied having previous knowledge of the crash, explaining that his story came about through his imagination rather than any foresight into future events.

No time travelers

In such cases, it is easy to place the causes of such events on outlandish explanations such as “Robertson was a time traveler” or “the sinking of the Titanic was a government conspiracy.” To such statements, I would respond with the fact that even a broken clock is right twice a day. By this, I mean that in a world where anyone can produce media, such as short stories as in this case, it is statistically impossible for such cases to NEVER occur.

One could as easily predict a future event now, and however unlikely that event is to happen, there is still a chance for it to occur, and thus if it does occur, the person who made the unlikely prediction would be made out as someone with clairvoyance or a time traveler just because he made an improbable prediction which became true.

Remember when reading about such events to take all outlandish conclusions with a pinch of salt. Most ‘weird’ events can statistically be explained. Rather than automatically assuming that “foul play” was involved, make sure to look deeper into a story, so you understand the nuances of the situation which led to the events you read about.

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