Carl H. Larsen, long-time San Diego journalist and freelance writer, is a resident expert on the Titanic disaster. He has visited many of the sites tied to the fatefully sunken ship. He is teaching a course starting in April on the disaster, The Unending Voyage of the Titanic, to explore the Titanic story from the ship’s creation, through its sinking, its discovery on the ocean floor—and its continuing hold upon us today. One class meeting includes a guided tour of the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Titanic exhibition, where enrolled students will get into the exhibit at a substantial discount. Other class meetings will feature guest speakers such as UC San Diego literature professor Steven Cox, and Barbara Chronowski, a San Diego actress who worked on the Cameron movie in Baja California for six months, has since become another Titanic “rivet counter,” giving talks about working on the film, the ship, and the expected roles of “first class” women during the Edwardian period.
Both in pursuit of his passion and to prepare for the anniversary, Larsen has been wading through the 90-plus new books due to publish in conjunction during the anniversary of the shipwreck.
“The books come in all varieties,” he notes, “from an examination of gay passengers and crew aboard the ship to a new Sherlock Holmes mystery set aboard the Titanic and which involves a submarine.”
First, the class will discuss a pictorial summary of the Titanic story by the editors of Life magazine. Larsen notes, “With Titanic, you usually see the same photos over and over, but the Life editors have scoured photo archives and have found some gems I hadn’t come across, including an overview of the extravagant funeral procession held for John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthy American who died in the disaster.”
Next, John Maxtone-Graham, the dean of authors who write about ocean liners, has detailed the use of the Titanic’s Marconi “wireless” system to summon rescue ships.
And, finally, historian Hugh Brewster takes a deeper look at the careers and lives of many of the first-class passengers, including one who was a well-known artist leading the committee evaluating designs for the Lincoln Memorial.
Larsen recently attended a San Diego preview of the James Cameron film “Titanic,” being re-released in early April, this time in 3D. “It’s much more vivid,” he said. “Especially Gloria Stuart, the actress who portrays Old Rose. And, the post-sinking scene of hundreds flailing in the 31-degree ocean brings home the enormity of what happened.”
Take some time to discover the many ties San Diego has to the Titanic’s tale, hear special details and tidbits about the hands-on history from those who know the tale, stem to stern, and discuss how this epic disaster has come to be “one of the great mythic events of the 20th century,” often recreated in literature, music, film and theater.
Carl Larsen, MS in Journalism from Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, is a freelance travel writer. A longtime San Diego journalist and a former section editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune, he currently writes for Creators Syndicate. His most recent excursions have included travels to the UK and N. Ireland on the Titanic Trail. He is teaching The Unending Voyage of the Titanic, starting Wednesday, April 4, 2012.