Our guests often express surprise that Titanic Museum Attraction is landlocked, rising from the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, TN. As I drive toward our ship, as we refer to it, I can look down the Parkway and see the Great Smokey Mountains, like a pack of humpback whales upon the horizon.
And there, near Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Theater and Wonder Works, is the representation of our ship, the Titanic, surprising many who have never traveled to this mountain area. As we tell our guests, though, our Attraction is not nearly the size of the actual Titanic. It is half-of-half the actual size of the great ship, just enough to lure delighted attention as they drive by. And our ship only has only two funnels, rather than Titanic’s four. But our ship entices as the long lines of vehicles drive by, many of them headed down toward Dollywood and from there into Gatlinburg.
And yes, we are landlocked, surrounded by mountains, but the Great Smokey Mountains National Park is one of the most rapidly growing areas in America, and our owners, Mary Kellogg and John Joslyn, are wise to have placed the museum here. So many people from everywhere glide into this region, as though their vehicles are vessels. Though cars are designed to travel by land and glide upon rubber tires, they are nevertheless not unlike the ship platforms we have designed to ride upon the sea. And these land ships we maneuver across our asphalt highways, which are pathways not unlike the channels ships ply in the ocean, sailing.
As the human species, we create clever crafts, whether these be watercraft or the auto-mobiles that were once the stuff of Jules Verne and science fiction, but which now fill the lanes and asphalt pathways we have rolled out across the planet, always moving like the corpuscles that jiggle and careen through the arteries within us. We have even begun to refer to these asphalt pathways as arteries. This main artery here, we say, connects with that one over there. We have blood vessels within us, and we name our ships vessels, wondrous crafts which ply the sea lanes, which we often think of as arteries in the ocean.
In 1912, the Titanic represented science fiction. The world sensed that the twentieth century was going to be explosive with Science and Technology. The Titanic was the representation, the reality of an exhilarating understanding that we as a species were beginning at last to travel in amazing ways, either across the ocean or—as with the auto-mobiles—to trundle across paths we even then had begun to smooth across our planet, our Earth.
On April 14, 1912, a Sunday morning, many of the Titanic passengers gathered in groups in various parts of the ship to sing hymns and to reflect upon how we all need, as Fr. Thomas Byles pointed out in his sermon, a spiritual lifeboat. Of course, neither he nor any of the crew, and not even Captain Edward John Smith himself, suspected for a moment that this great ship, said to be unsinkable, would ever run afoul of anything that could sink her, be it iceberg, reef, squall, or anything the wondrous ship might encounter upon the tumultuous sea.
No, for them the Titanic was a monument to our human drive to always push toward the new frontiers as we linger here, always preparing to leap ahead with the delicate spring of a deer or the pounce of a lion. It is the one thing that defines us, this craving for adventure, the mesmerizing unknown which entices just beyond our outstretched fingertips.
Today, the Titanic is a monument to this craving. It is, I believe, a good metaphor for who we are and what we are striving to become. In every generation, there is our drive to leap yet a bit further into the mesmerizing possibilities, the lure of our future.