Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Hubris of Titanic Strikes Again

We have heard this story before. The five souls lost in a technological breakdown of our most sophisticated effort to explore the seafloor and gaze at the Titanic. Titanic was a perfect example of hubris gone bad. A maiden voyage of an unsinkable ship steaming into an icefield full speed with the thought that electric sliding doors would save everyone by sealing off the sea in the bulkheads. It was the cutting edge technology of its time much like our Space Shuttle. And yet, she strikes an iceberg and five compartments are ripped open and sealed her fate. Titanic quickly became the posterchild for tempting fate by declaring science had conquered risk. We thought we had learned our lesson with more lifeboats and taking heed of wireless ice warnings. But maybe not. After 1985 discovery of Titanic we decided we could tempt fate again and descend almost three miles to the floor of the ocean to look at the last time hubris killed almost 1600 people. But we were secure that our technology would allow us to go where people were not meant to and we could offer that not only to explorers and scientist but for the people who could afford a 250,000 price tag. The very rich onnce again would ride the waves much like in 1912 and for an enormous amount of money descend to that wreck of the Gilded Age. But we found once again our assumption that we had conqured the hostile seas was flawed. Five people bitterly proved that there are some places humans have no business the bottom of the Atlantic to stare at another example of human folly. And the very same shock has now descended as people contemplate how the very richest among us the very brightest could have placed themselves in harms way. Maybe the lesson of Titanic has not been learned. That we will never conquer our enviorment. That there are some places where human gall and hubris will not mitigate the risks. Yes we have a come a long way but so had the people in 1912. A wireless set that could send out a signal 2000 miles. A ship with electric bulkhead doors that could seal up on the flick of a swtich. Just the size of Titanic prohibited the idea of her sinking. But she did sink in less than three hours after hitting the iceberg and she settled to the ocean floor. She should have been a monnument to the idea of tempting fate to declaring all battles won with the planet and human supremacy allowing us to go wherever we want. But of course we ignored the biggest lesson of Titanic. Never assume anything.

Books by William Hazelgrove