- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

BRANSON, Mo.

Amid shows and attractions dedicated to Dolly Parton, Roy Rogers and Yakov Smirnoff lies a tribute to one of the most talked-about disasters in the history of mankind. The Titanic Museum, billed as the world’s largest museum attraction, enables visitors to relive the fateful journey aboard a half-scale version of the massive ship through interactive and multimedia displays and memorabilia.

Television producer and Titanic expert John Joslyn, one of the museum’s founders, took time to talk about the myths of the ship, some of the museum’s displays and the technological challenges involved in bringing the massive exhibit to life.

What sank the Titanic? The simple answer is that it hit an iceberg, but other things contributed to its sinking. The rivets may have shorn off when the boat scraped along the iceberg, and the low-grade iron that was used would have become brittle in the very cold water. Another big design flaw was that the walls between the watertight compartments did not reach the ceiling, so as the compartments filled, the water rushed over into the next compartment and the next.

The folks in the bridge could not see the iceberg until they were on top of it. We like to think of it as a large white, glowing object, but it could not be seen until it was too late to change the ship’s direction. It has to be remembered that this was a brand-new design in shipbuilding, and the ship was operating with three propellers. The crew, being inexperienced, shut down the center propeller, thinking it would help turn the ship, but instead, what that did was shut down the propulsion pushing against the rudder and, though it was not realized until later, ships needed that center propulsion to steer.

The museum building looks as though the Titanic is getting ready to sail across Route 76. To rebuild the front of the ship took a lot of work and people — architects, designers, fabricators and an artistic facade group that sculpted the side of the ship. It is brilliant how they did it.

Discuss some of the interactive elements in the museum. We are trying to entertain people and have the experience become very real. There is an exhibit that allows users to see the power of the water pressure, or the immense cold of water that is kept chilled to 28 degrees, the temperature of the water when the Titanic sank. There are three deck reproductions that show in real terms what the deck of the ship was like when it was at 12-, 30- and 45-degree slopes, the latter being the angle at which the ship began to break up and sink in earnest.

A very emotional exhibit is the full-scale replica of Lifeboat No. 6. Sitting on one of the narrow benches, visitors can listen to a series of voices from the past describing the terror of that night.

What are some of the treasures you have in the museum? We control four of the nine remaining life jackets, including Madeleine Astor’s life jacket, which is the only one that can be traced back to a specific individual. She gave it to the doctor on board the Carpathia that tended to her. I also love Molly Brown’s talisman and the Steadman bear — these are personal items.

One of my favorite places in the museum is the grand staircase, which is an exact reproduction of the Titanic with the exception of the [Americans With Disabilities Act] railing. A favorite question cast members ask of visitors is what is so important about the room, and people will answer the grand chandelier, the dome, but the answer is the linoleum on the floor. It was a new product in 1912 and considered to be much better than carpet.

Visit the Titanic museum’s Web site (www.titanicbranson. com/) for more information.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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