Live Together in Perfect Harmony
I work in Southampton, a city that's been Europe's premiere cruise port ever since Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage from here. Every few months a new cruise ship is officially named here and sent off on her maiden voyage, normally accompanied by a free firework display. Among the shipping companies that use the port are Carnival (Cunard and P&O) and Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean is a cruise company that loves the publicity of making their ships the largest in the world. They name all their ships Something of the Seas and try to make each ship slightly bigger than the one before, so that on the launch of Latest One of the Seas it is accompanied by lots of publicity stating how it is the biggest ship in the world, being an inch bigger than Previous One of the Seas which was last year's biggest ship in the world, having taken the title from its sister ship One Before That of the Seas the year before that. The ships also normally seem to be named after a fragrance or washing powder product. So you have Quantum Powerball of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and the current one is Harmony of the Seas. I'm hoping the next one will be called Febreze of the Seas, or at least Boaty McBoat Face of the Seas.
So one lunchtime I decided to walk down to Southampton's Mayflower Park, named after a boat that left here to go to America in 1620. From Mayflower Park you always get a good view of the large cruise ship's sterns, which is normally a bit dull but unfortunately the docks are restricted. The alternative is a view behind the railings from Leisure World, but the view's normally quite restricted. Still, from the stern I got a good view of the twin snaking Ultimate Abyss waterslides.
According to the statistics the Harmony of the Seas cost almost £800 million to build, weighs 227,000 tonnes, holds 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew and is 1,187 feet long, which is 165-feet longer than the Eiffel Tower and 330-feet longer than RMS Titanic. It is 210-feet and 18 decks tall. It is also 216-feet wide, which is over twice the length of the Mayflower.
Facilities include numerous pools as well as a waterpark, a separate pool with 'flowrider' wave machines for surfing, and at the back is a 100-foot twin-slide called 'The Ultimate Abyss', which drops riders down ten decks. Yes, even the waterslides are longer than the Mayflower. That's 400 years progress. But if the Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers were travelling on-board today, they could show off their bikini bodies in an 'AquaTheatre', whirlpools and the solarium, while enjoying the sports courts for football, volleyball and basketball, nine-hole golf course, park with 40 trees 20-feet tall and 12,000 other plants in the area called 'Central Park', a zip-wire, climbing walls, an ice-rink, a huge 1,380-seat theatre with its own show as well as numerous restaurants, cafes and Bars (including one with a robot bartender).
It left Southampton on 21st May for a quick press trip to the Netherlands with a few test passengers1 before returning to Southampton in time to embark on its official Maiden Voyage to the Mediterranean on the 29th May.
Still, the Harmony of the Seas leads us onto a ship that would look like a microscopic minnow in comparison, the RMS Titanic. After seeing the Harmony of the Seas I attended my five-year-old daughter's school play on the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It was very cute, although I'm not sure how sweet the sinking of the Titanic is meant to be. Do you know that very famous song, The big ship sailed down the mumble-something-mumble2? The song that's set on either the first day of September, or is it the last day of December?3 It's set around the end of the year somewhen anyway. Well, my daughter's school play involved singing that very song, but fortunately the words were changed to ones that it is actually possible to remember. Verses included,
- The Titanic sailed from Southampton to New York, Southampton to New York, Southampton to New York.
- The captain's name was Edward John Smith, Edward John Smith, Edward John Smith
- The sea was cold there were icebergs all around, icebergs all around, icebergs all around.
- The Titanic sank to the bottom of the sea, the bottom of the sea, the bottom of the sea.
The Titanic hitting the iceberg was recreated with a cardboard Titanic prop being carried across the stage, accompanied by the sound of a shaking tambourine, which was loudly banged when the prop collided with the cardboard iceberg. This, I thought, worked very well, even though the Quilley School in Eastleigh had chosen to go one better by constructing an eighth-scale replica Titanic, using riveting and hot bending techniques.
My daughter played the part of the newspaper, which as is obvious is the pivotal, starring role of the entire production. After all, 1912 was long before the creation of the internet, even before the BBC and so people outside Southampton only learnt about the sinking of the Titanic through reading about it in newspapers.
After a recreation of the sinking of the Titanic, that took place in April 1912, I cannot help but consider events of exactly a century ago, the Battle of Jutland. This, which took place on 31 May – 1 June 1916, was the largest naval battle of the Great War between 151 ships of the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and 99 ships of Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet, resulted in a Pyrrhic victory for the Royal Navy. My great-grandfather was there, as chief stoker on board armoured cruiser HMS Cochrane which was part of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. Fortunately the 2nd Cruiser Squadron stayed at the back, which is very good because of the 14 British ships sunk in the battle, two were Cochrane's sisterships: HMS Black Prince which sank with all hands killed, and HMS Warrior, with the majority surviving4. I cannot help but feel the chances of survival for a stoker, chief or otherwise, on a sinking ship were not high.
In conclusion, then, nothing I can say would compare to the words of the old navy hymn that I ask you to consider;
Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm has bound the restless wave
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in Peril on the sea.
Peril on the Sea presumably going to be Harmony of the Seas' next sistership.