Long ago, ancient Greeks told the tale of the titan, Atlas, who once tried to defy Zeus. He failed spectacularly and, for his hubris, was doomed to carry the sky for eternity as punishment. Later, Atlas tried to defy the gods once more by attempting to trick Hercules into taking on his punishment. He was fooled by the intrepid demigod and wound up shouldering the heavens all over. In short, he gambled with the gods and he lost.
It was only fitting that the largest ship of its time, the Olympic-class liner, RMS Titanic, whose name was rich with Classical symbolism, would suffer such a grim ending after spitting in the face of fate. A shipwright once famously said, "God himself couldn't sink this ship!" Unfortunately for the shipwright (and all those aboard), the powers that be (perhaps those atop Mt. Olympus) were ready to call his bluff.
Just like Atlas, Sisyphus, Midas, Arachne, and Icarus all learned, it's really not a good idea to keep trying to tempt fate. Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd, an Australian passenger and cargo shipping company, disagrees. They're currently in the process of building the Titanic II, a near-identical replica of the famous, doomed Olympic-class liner, as their new flagship.
To be entirely fair, the latest iteration will feature some serious 21st-century upgrades: The hull will be welded instead of riveted, a diesel-electric engine will replace the steam engine, and wooden panels will be replaced with a veneer to keep up with modern fire regulations while maintaining an authentic appearance. Oh, and, of course, it'll have the proper amount of lifeboats.
As one of its first voyages, the Titanic II will travel the same waterways as did the RMS Titanic, cruising along a route from Southampton to New York City. The path will still go through an area thick with icebergs, but given that it isn't 1912, they'll have better technology to spot and avoid them. Icebergs will, at most, probably just inspire tourists to take drunken selfies.
Logically speaking, you'd think that if they model it after a ship that sank due to striking an iceberg, they'd have a few safety precautions in place for when they sail directly through an area full of them.
("Sinking of the Titanic," Willy Stower, 1912)
With the threat of icebergs (hopefully) neutralized, there are three main areas in which things could go wrong for the ship.
The first (and most obvious) threat is financial. The project has been the longtime dream of South African businessman, Sarel Gous. He first announced his venture back in 1998, around the time the Academy Award-winning film, Titanic, hit theaters.
Since then, the project has been on and off. There have been reports that the Titanic II would finally set sail in 2001, then again in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and now, finally, in 2022. It's been a repeating cycle: They'll find an investment company willing to foot the bill, that company realizes it's a pipe dream, and then they abandon the project.
Why are investors backing out? Well, since the new Titanic II will sport the same number of passengers as the original vessel, tickets for the maiden voyage will need to be insanely expensive — from around $10K to $1.2 million each — just to dream of making a profit. And, after the initial "cool factor" of being on the Titanic II fades, you're left with the average, cruise-going crowd who won't be able to afford tickets.
You can only do the "I'm flying, Jack!" once before realizing the bow of the ship is friggin' cold.
(National Park Services)
The next threat to second unsinkable will come the moment the ship is first released into the water. The shipyard constructing the Titanic II, the state-owned CSC Jinling, has no drydock. They intend to side launch the 269m-long, 56,000 gross tonnage vessel directly into the Yangtze River.
This will make it the largest side-launched ship in history by an astronomical margin. When side-launching a vessel, extra care is taken to prevent it from capsizing the very moment it touches water. Weights are added to the ship to make its entry as gentle as possible. It's fine for more balanced ships, but the Titanic II is extremely top-heavy.
They're likely addressing this issue behind closed doors, but for the moment, it feels a lot like we're looking at imminent disaster.
The headlines would just write themselves if the Titanic II were to sink immediately upon hitting the water.
Finally, the Titanic could end in disaster (again) during its maiden voyage — but not due to icebergs. The trip recreating the original route from England to the US is actually the second voyage planned for the Titanic II. The maiden voyage will go from Dubai, UAE, to Southampton, UK, sailing directly through the Horn of Africa.
This is a Somali pirate's wildest dream. Thousands of millionaires and billionaires are going to sail right through their backyard. You can bring security alongside the vessel while sailing through the region, but that won't stop pirates from trying to take what's not theirs.
Obviously, it'd be fantastic if the Titanic II actually manages to set sail and prove naysayers wrong. But unless they're keeping a lot of solutions secret, it doesn't seem likely. At the same time, people are genuinely excited for the chance to sail on the Titanic II.
I think most people want to go to enjoy a sense of danger — they may be disappointed when things go well.