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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Did a Mummy's Curse Sink the Titanic?

A couple weeks back, we journeyed to Houston with our daughter, Amy, and her two youngsters to the Museum of Natural Science to visit the Titanic exhibit that began March 16.

Her son, Keegan, is a Titanic fan, absorbed in every detail of the disaster. In fact, when he comes over, he goes straight to the laptop and boots up. He has his own websites on the favorite list, among them shipwrecks, in which the Titanic is one of about half-a-dozen sites.

I won’t say he’ll spend hours watching them for he is a typical seven-year-old with ants in his pants. He will, however, devote a sizeable portion of his visit to the various explanations and theories of the catastrophe as well as model replications of the sinking.

He even had me drill holes in one of his old plastic boats so he could ‘study it when it sinks’. His exact words, honest.

So naturally, when his Mom learned the exhibit was opening, she knew he had to go.

The trip over was uneventful. As we left Beaumont, I realized from the new construction that Gayle and I hadn’t been over there in several years. Traffic hadn’t changed though. Cars everywhere, but Amy got us there with no problems.

Well, almost no problems. After parking, we went to the wrong museum, but then fate took pity on us. On the sidewalk, we ran into a gracious lady named Donna Meadows. When I asked if she knew where the museum was located, she told us to follow her. She worked there.

Keegan was pushing his little sister, Kenli, in the stroller, so he pulled up right along beside Donna. The little guy has never met a stranger, and he jabbered with her about the Titanic for the next three blocks.

We arrived minutes before the exhibit opened.

In the hundred years since the disaster, a haunting mysticism has enveloped the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ vessel, and the exhibit captured that mystical feeling.

To gaze upon the artifacts, China Star place settings, glassware, clothing, luggage, maritime implements, all salvaged from the original vessel, seemed to transport us back into time. There was even a reconstructed stateroom complete with luxurious carpet, large bed, chests, table and chairs.

Naturally, everything was hands off, except for one exhibit, a twelve inch square piece of steel plate from the Titanic in a plastic box.

A hole had been drilled in the plastic sheet above which a note read, “Touch”. Keegan was thrilled—well, I was too. We all were. We poked our fingers through the hole and actually touched a fragment of the Titanic that had been under the cold waters of the North Atlantic for almost a hundred years.

There were several exhibition rooms, two of which were joined with a replica of the ship’s hallway, complete with carpeting, white paneling and doors with shiny brass hardware.

Before we entered the exhibit, I took over stroller duty, and I have to admit little Kenli was as good as you could expect, however when we entered the gift shop at the end of the exhibit, I took special care to steer her away from the shelves. If the little girl had gotten her hands on things, it would have been the Titanic all over.

From there we visited the dinosaurs, the African veldt, bugs, spiders, and then the butterfly center.

Keegan came running up all excited. He wanted to show me something in the African exhibit. I figured a lion or hyena, but I had to chuckle when he pointed out two crawfish chimneys beside a waterhole from which a leopard drank. Yep, crawfish chimneys just like the ones in our front yard from which he had dropped lines in an effort to catch his own crawfish.

Then we headed for the butterflies.

The butterfly center is an all glass hothouse, shaped like an inverted cone and about three stories high. The tropical rain forest environment, replete with appropriate plants as well as waterfalls and ponds, is home to countless butterflies of all types.

By now, the museum was packed. I stood in line for twenty minutes to get us some lunch from the McDonald’s in the museum.

We finished the day off in the planetarium with a show right up Keegan’s alley. In addition to being a Titanic nut, he’s also a star watcher, and this time of year, Venus and Jupiter are putting on a good show. Often you can find him around sunset peering up into the western sky.

There were other exhibits we couldn’t make, but I plan on going back.

Oh, yes. I forgot. The title of this article. Did a mummy’s curse sink the Titanic?

This is a long time myth supposedly originating from a ‘ghost story’ that journalist W.T. Stead told a group of friends about such a mummy. Since Stead went down with the ship, chances are this story was told so often it became one of those legends that became fact.

It was a day well spent even though we drove in a few circles trying to find the right road out of Houston.

As an afterthought, that night I woke up and found myself pondering the number of simple, human mistakes that brought about the demise of the great vessel. Individually, they were harmless, but together, they spelled disaster. To be honest, I could see the sinking of the great vessel as an analogy to the direction our country is heading. I could even title it ‘Did the President Sink America?’

I had a hard time going back to sleep.

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