Stories shouldn’t sink with sunken ships

Lisa Goudy
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Pascale Saint-Amand, project manager with the Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Pere, stands in front of the Empress of Ireland travelling exhibit at the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum on Sunday.

I’ve always had a fascination with sunken ships.

I really can’t explain why, but for whatever reasons the stories, photos and other information regarding sunken ships holds a particular allure for me. So of course I was genuinely interested to learn more about the Empress of Ireland at the travelling exhibit that was at the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum last weekend.

Of course sunken ships isn’t for everyone. Neither is history. But as Pascale Saint-Amand, project manager with the Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Per who was available to answer questions at the exhibit, pointed out you never know what old documents, artifacts and lists might come in handy. If you find something you should contact a museum to discuss it further.

Sharing stories from the past are important and they are intriguing to many people, as well as play a role in remembering our past to help shape our future. That’s why it’s imperative we keep telling our stories and, in the case of the news media, telling other people’s stories.

I’m thrilled to say I’ve shared what I believe to be a great story about the R.M.S. Titanic. Before I explain I should provide some background with the sunken ship fascination that began at an early age.

What first captured my attention into the area was the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 15, 1912. Ever since my childhood I was captivated by the tragedy. I wanted to know everything I could about the ship.

I’d be lying if I said the movie Titanic didn’t help propel my interest because it definitely did. I also collected books designed for my age group back in elementary school and as I grew older I collected more advanced books, including one about all of the famous sunken ships from the era. Naturally the Empress of Ireland was among them.

My interest grew the more I learned. It was only fitting that in January 2012, which was the year of the Titanic’s sinking centennial, I had to come up with an in-depth story idea for my journalism school’s annual magazine, The Crow.

At that time there was a Regina exhibit on the Titanic at the Saskatchewan Science Centre. I also found a Regina scientist named Dr. D. Roy Cullimore who studied the Titanic extensively, specifically regarding bacteria growth on the ship.

He’s been down to the shipwreck five times and is good friends with filmmaker James Cameron. So I spoke with him at length, saw and photographed actual rusticles from the ship and experiments in his lab.

A rusticle, he told me, is a rust-coloured object consisting of the words ‘rust’ and ‘icicle.’ Rusticles are bacteria that get nutrients from iron and are growing on the shipwreck that Cullimore estimated wouldn’t deteriorate for another 200 years.

My magazine feature piece, Unsinkable Science, came out in fall 2012. It was a perfect fit for me because I was so invested and interested in the story and guess what? I still am.

I encourage people to share their stories with someone. Of course this isn’t limited to sunken ships. It could be anything related to history. There will always be someone to listen to our stories as long as we continue to share them.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy

Organizations: R.M.S. Titanic, Moose Jaw Western Development Museum, Saskatchewan Science Centre

Geographic location: Ireland

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