Giganticus Atlanticus Titanicus 1844, Arctic

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History books tell us that in the eighteenth century the Giganticus Titanicus Atlanticus was commonly  used to accompany ships through any ice and had been used for centuries before in the same manner but it had the curious and unexplained habit of breaking any ice into perfectly square chunks which whilst was very ingenious it still presented a problem to any passing ships. No pictures existed of what the Giganticus Titanicus Atlanticus looked like, although it’s description of ‘as bigge as a hundred ships and stronger than 10,000 men, crowned with four hornes which do spout flamee’ left a lot to be desired. It was this tantalising description from a battered 18th century Greek book ‘The Punishment of Tantalus’ that first attracted Charles to discover more.

Charles found his Titanicus by consulting with the ‘Ice King’, Frederic Tudor (1783-1864), Frederic was the founder of the Tudor Ice Company, who in 1844 had struggled for years to cut and ship ice world wide and was now struggling and laden with debts. Frederic had never seen a Titanicus but offered to accompany Charles on a twelve months search to one of the most remote and difficult Arctic regions, the Northwest Passage, hoping that it’s discovery would help his failing ice shipping business in some way. Connecting both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans the Northwest Passage was sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route any explorer who found a way through the Arctic pack ice would certainly go down in history.

They set out from Oslo in June but the expedition did not go well, first the sloop they chose had to be reinforced at great expense and secondly the first six months went by without any progress, the pack ice was unusually difficult to break through south of King William island and on occasions they had to exit the stranded ship to light small fires on the ice to break free. In the seventh month as rations and available items to burn were running dangerously low they crashed into a large area of pack ice rupturing the sturdy rudder effectively disabling the sloop for good.

There was no choice, rations were low the only choice left was to leave the stricken ship and ski the 400 miles to the city of Eagle, Alaska, a decision not to be taken lightly. The night before they decided to abandon the ship was spent preparing when just before midnight a shout from above deck. ‘Ship ahoy!’

Rushing top side the looked into the gloom and saw a glow on the horizon, surely not another boat this far out they thought. Slowly from a small speck came the most gigantic and majestic creature they had ever seen. Even though it was many miles away its size was phenomenal, dwarfing any man made structure on earth it looked as big as a mountain, the glow was coming from four blow holes resembling modern funnels or chimneys. Occasionally they would erupt showering the skies behind the creature with a display akin to fireworks, the whole display was topped off by the munching sound generated as it broke the ice with its massive jaws and square cut teeth. The Giganticus Titanicus Atlanticus had been found.

The book Charles had read about the creature suggested that it was possible to use this gentle beast to tow a ship; others had tried as he remembered, all that was required was a sturdy rope attached to any available fin.

Quickly before the Titanicus passed they tied one end of the biggest and strongest rope they had to the anchor chain, Charles ran across the pack ice with the loose end until it was stretched out in front of the Tatanicus. As it passed the rope caught on it’s tail fin and Charles ran back to the sloop to tie the end securely to the second anchor chain creating a big loop that slowly pulled taught.

The sloop groaned and strained as it was first pulled around lurching and straining whilst ragged cheers from the crew could be heard. Being towed behind the Titanicus had its advantages, first the ice was cleared in a neat path and secondly every hour you were treated to a spectacular square ice shower that launched itself overhead to land miles away with a splash. Fascinating.

Frederic Tudor sat on deck making furious notes, here was a creature that not only collected ice but also cut it into neat cubes ready for transport, a problem that had already limited Frederic’s company. Currently they harnessed horses to a metal blade to cut ice, this ice plough made mass production a reality and allowed Tudor to more than triple his production but the Titanicus was beyond his wildest dreams, if he could harness all the pre cut ice effectively he would make his fortune.

The boat was eventually pulled through the Northwest Passage and the ship was cut loose as they passed close to Herschel Island, an island in the Beaufort Sea, effectively completing the Northwest Passage many years before the ‘official’ navigation by Roald Amundsen in 1903–1906.

After the event Frederic went immediately back to New York, charted a number of ships and made a return visit to the Titanicus location with an aim to bring back a regular supply of pre cut ice cubes as he called them. He became a specialist at tracking the creature and his business went from strength to strength especially now his ships could dock in Maine and a new railroad system was able to effectively move his ice at speed across America.  His profits over the coming years allowed him to pay off his debts and allowed him to live a comfortable existence.

Charles however wrote up his adventures and filed it with the Royal Geographical Society, his painting of the Giganticus Titanicus Atlanticus featured in an exhibition of exploration during 1867 funded by National Line, a Liverpool company specialising in shipping and eventually became a permanent fixture in the boardroom at the same company.

In January 1868, National Line saved a bankrupt competitors company called White Star Line, it was purchased for the house flag, trade name, and goodwill for just £1,000 with the intention of operating large ships on the North Atlantic service. Looking for a way to revitalise the ailing company a new look was required. It was customary for shipping lines to have a common theme for it’s names so taking inspiration from his favourite painting the new White Star Line was to have all it’s ships names ending in –ic. They also adopted a new identifiable look taken directly from their boardroom painting  inspiration, namely buff coloured funnels with black tops giving its ships a unique distinguishing feature.

By the 1900’s though White Star Line had major competitors, none more so than Cunard, a rival that was starting to produce faster and larger ships, White Stars response was astounding, they announced the addition of Olympic class liners, built for luxury rather than speed these gigantic vessels would tower amongst their competitors, none more so than the gigantic Atlantic bound ship the ill fated Titanic…