Just weeks after the 100th anniversary of the loss of the Titanic, a billionaire Australian mining magnate, Clive Palmer, has announced plans to build a scale-sized replica of the ill-fated ship, which hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. Palmer says the new ship, Titanic II, "will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic," but safer. What will the new version of the Titanic be like... and will anybody dare book a passage on it? Here, a brief guide:
Will Palmer's ship be exactly like the Titanic?
In many respects, yes. Palmer has hired a research team to make sure the new ship looks and feels as much like the Titanic as possible. The replica will have the same dimensions as the 886-foot, 40,000-ton original ship, making it small by today's standards. It will also have 840 luxury cabins designed like those of the Titanic's era. The new ship will even have four funnels on top, just like the coal-powered Titanic.
How will Titanic II be different?
For one thing, the smokestacks will be purely decorative; the new ship will be diesel-powered, so it won't need them. The dummy funnels won't be wasted space, though. They'll house an internet cafe, restaurant, and theater. In the spot where the coal boilers were on the original ship, Titanic II will have space for an exhibition on the Australian territory of Queensland, where Palmer has tourism investments. The ship will also have changes in the bow and hull to make it more fuel efficient and maneuverable, and, Palmer says, it will have "state-of-the-art 21st-century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems."
So it'll be safe?
Yes... although, remember, the original Titanic was thought to be unsinkable, until it hit an iceberg and went down in the icy North Atlantic, killing some 1,500 passengers and crew. The new ship "is going to be designed so it won't sink," with all of the modern technology available to prevent a disaster, Palmer says. "Of course," he tells the Sydney Morning Herald, "it will sink if you put a hole in it."
When will it set sail?
Palmer says construction will start late next year. He has signed a preliminary deal to have Titanic II, and three other cruise liners, built in China. (The deal isn't yet a firm order, but merely a "memorandum of understanding.") Palmer hasn't said how much building the ship will cost, but if all goes as planned, the ship will set sail on its maiden voyage in 2016, carrying 1,680 passengers from England to New York, on a route similar to that of the original Titanic.
Will people really want to board a new Titanic?
That remains to be seen. Palmer realizes that some people won't want to set foot on a ship meant to conjure up memories of one of the deadliest peacetime maritime tragedies in history. "Of course, if you are superstitious," Palmer says. "you never know what could happen." Also, cruise aficionados might find Titanic II a bit cramped, as it will offer less than half the space per passenger as the luxurious Queen Mary 2. Still, Titanic nostalgia is still going strong, so there will be plenty of morbid curiosity about this "zombie-like" resurrection of the ill-fated ship, says Maura Judkis at The Washington Post. "Here's hoping the second time around, the Titanic's journey will be smooth sailing."