There have been many stories about Titanic after the naval catastrophe happened, and a few before. Some literary fiction published before 1912 bares only a faint resemblance to the real events, while other fictional stories, like Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson, seem to mirror the reality.
In The Sinking of A Modern Liner (1886) written by W.T. Stead, an English journalist, an ocean liner leaves the port of Liverpool heading for New York. But due to a collision it never arrives. Many of the passengers die because there weren’t sufficient lifeboats on the ship, just like in the case of the Titanic. W.T. Stead himself was onboard the Titanic and died in the naval catastrophe, which was so similar to the one described by him.
The White Ghost of Disaster (1912) is a short story written by Thornton Jenkins Hains under the pen name of Mayn Clew Garnett, which was published just before the Titanic was leaving Southampton. This story is about an 800 feet long ocean liner (just like the Titanic) called the Admiral, which sinks in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg at a speed of 22.5 knots (exactly like the Titanic). And again many of the people aboard die, because there weren’t enough lifeboats.
However, no literary account was as unsettling as Morgan Robertson’s Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan (1898) published 14 years before and republished in 1912 after the actual events. Here is a list of the most striking similarities:
– The name: Titan (in Robertson’s novel) is just two letters short of Titanic. And both were described as the largest ship of their day and unsinkable.
– Both were British-owned steel vessels.
– Size: both ships were about 800 feet long, with the Titanic being only ~82 feet longer.
– Date: in both cases the collision happened in mid April.
– The collision: Titan hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic around midnight, Titanic followed the script precisely.
– Speed: Titan hit the iceberg at a speed of 25 knots, while Titanic hit at only 22.5 knots.
– Location: in my view, this is one of the most chilling details, Robertson’s catastrophe takes place at 400 miles from Newfoundland and Titanic, also hit the iceberg at 400 miles from Newfoundland.
– Safety: just like in the other literary accounts, in Futility the lack of lifeboats caused a lot of victims. Actually, Titanic was carrying the minimum amount of lifeboats, but Morgan Robertson was more generous, and his Titan was equipped with 4 more than Titanic.
After the Titanic catastrophe Robertson was considered by many a clairvoyant, but he firmly denied this status, saying that he merely knew what he was writing about. The amount of fictional details which correspond with real events is disturbing, but perhaps even more disturbing are the safety issues foreseen by knowledgeable authors. Sometimes, only after a catastrophe highlights major flaws in safety features, these issues are fixed and similar disasters are avoided. However, at least in this case, more than one fictional catastrophe identified the threat of not having enough lifeboats onboard a ship, no matter how unsinkable experts claim it to be.