A century after the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic, the ship continues to sail through pop culture.
Interest in the sunken luxury liner remains high. Astronomers at Texas State University-San Marcos recently made headlines when they floated a theory that the moon caused the tragedy. (They postulated the moon raised tides and created more icebergs, due to the close approach to Earth.)
James Cameron's Oscar-winning 1997 film "Titanic" the No. 2 moneymaker in U.S. film history was re-released this week, this time in 3-D. There are a slew of TV documentaries retelling, investigating and ruminating over the disaster.
In the Northern Ireland city of Belfast, officials recently opened a $160 million "visitor experience" on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was built. The site includes a marine exploration center linked to the work of Robert Ballard, who discovered the shipwreck in 1985.
Not only is the Titanic the centerpiece of the current edition of National Geographic magazine, but the National Geographic Channel is airing two new documentaries "Save the Titanic with Bob Ballard" and "Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron" which will be seen in 38 languages in 165 countries.
And on Sunday, April 15, ABC is airing a BBC-produced four-hour miniseries, also titled "Titanic." "I was always very fascinated by the story of the Titanic, drawn to it," says Oscar- and Emmy-winning writer Julian Fellowes.
As a matter of fact, when contacted about the miniseries, he had just started writing "Downton Abbey," which opened with the heir to the British estate going down on the Titanic.
Why is it, exactly, that the Titanic continues to enthrall so many people a century after it sank? "For me, it wasn't the ship," Ballard said. "It was the story of the people."
Of the approximately 2,200 people on board, about 1,500 perished. And their stories from John Jacob Astor IV and Margaret "The Unsinkable Molly" Brown to the poor immigrants in third class continue to fascinate.
Originally, Ballard's interest in the wreck was clinical. But that changed "when I went down there and it spoke to me," he said. "It was like going to Gettysburg, where my family fought on both sides of that battle. It was very emotional for me."
Fellowes said his visit to the set of "Titanic" also invoked his emotions.
"You have this constant reminder that this happened," he said. "This was real. There really were men and women running around the decks, as our extras are, and a hell of a lot of them are going to die. That just can't fail to move you. There's something about disasters that happen to ordinary people who have done nothing to deserve it."
And the wreck's remaining artifacts also seem particularly haunting, Fellowes recalled after visiting a Titanic exhibit. "You see those postcards, those dolls and those bedroom slippers, and you just think, 'Oh, God.' "
Ballard saw those artifacts under 12,415 feet of water in the North Atlantic, and "It blew me away," he said. "It was the evidence of human remains and the shoes. Matching pairs of shoes sitting there on the bottom where the body landed.
"You had mothers' shoes next to daughters' shoes. Wow. That's their tombstone. You don't pick up those shoes."
Titanic on TV
Titanic's Final Mystery • Author and historian Tim Maltin claims to have uncovered evidence that the crew was deceived by a mirage that led to the ship's sinking. (Airs Friday, April 6, 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 7, 4 p.m.; Saturday, April 8, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, April 11, 7 a.m.; Friday, April 13, 4 p.m.; Sunday, April 15, at 9 a.m., 6 and 9 p.m., Smithsonian Channel).
Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron • Cameron and the world's leading Titanic experts gather to solve the mystery of how and why the ship sank. (Airs Sunday, April 8, 6 and 9 p.m.; Monday, April 9, 6 and 9 p.m.; Sunday, April 15, 2 p.m.; Monday, April 16, 2 p.m., National Geographic Channel).
Saving the Titanic with Bob Ballard • The man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic fights to protect it from treasure hunters and tourists.(Airs Monday, April 9, 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 15, 4 p.m.; Monday, April 16, 4 p.m., National Geographic Channel).
The Titanic With Len Goodman • Goodman, best known as a judge on "Dancing With the Stars," was a welder at shipbuilder Harland and Woolf. He tells the story of men who built the Titanic and then died on it. (Airs Tuesday, April 10, 7 p.m.; Thursday, April 12, 2 a.m.; Sunday, April 15, 3 p.m., PBS/Channel 7).
Saving the Titanic • The untold story of how the Titanic's engineers, stokers and firemen fought to save the ship despite impending death.(Airs Tuesday, April 10, 8 p.m. and midnight; Thursday, April 12, 3 a.m., PBS/Channel 7).
Titanic • This BBC-produced four-hour miniseries (three hours Saturday, one hour Sunday) written by the man behind "Downton Abbey" mixes fact and fiction in historical drama. (Airs Saturday, April 14, 7 p.m.; Sunday, April 15, 8 p.m., ABC/Channel 4).
A Night to Remember •This 1958 film was the standard before the 1997 Oscar-winner. (Airs Saturday, April 14, 8 p.m., TCM).
Rebuilding Titanic • This five-hour documentary series recounts the construction of the ship. (Airs Sunday, April 15, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., National Geographic Channel).
Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved • Another documentary promising definitive answers which seems unlikely. (Airs Sunday, April 15, 9 p.m., History).