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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Early this morning, in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, a cruise ship floated over the spot where the Titanic, the unsinkable ship, broke apart and plunged to the bottom of the sea. The ship was there to mark the moment 100 years ago today that the luxury liner sank on its maiden voyage, killing more than 1,500 people.

The disaster shocked and outraged people around the world. And even today, the story of the Titanic and its passengers - some very privileged, many very ordinary - still has a powerful grip on the imagination.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MOVIE, "TITANIC")

MARTIN: Think of all the books and movies about the tragedy even the phrases that have become part of everyday conversations: women and children first.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MOVIE, "TITANIC")

JONNY PHILLIPS: (as Second Officer Lightoller) For the time being I shall require only women and children.

MARTIN: And the band played on.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MOVIE, "TITANIC")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right boys, like the captain said, nice and cheery so there's no panic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "WEDDING DANCE")

MARTIN: And this phrase, to describe any hopeless endeavor: rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Today, the tragedy is being remembered around the world: in Belfast, where the ship was built; in Southampton, where the ship departed on its trans-Atlantic voyage; and in Nova Scotia, where some of the victims are buried.

It is also being remembered at sea and that is where we've reached Lester Reingold. He's a freelance writer with a longstanding interest in the Titanic, and he joins us from the Azamara Journey, a cruise ship that traveled to the very spot where the ship sank.

Lester Reingold, welcome to the program.

LESTER REINGOLD: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: So, if you could, set the scene for us. Tell us how you and your fellow passengers are marking this occasion.

REINGOLD: The objective of this trip was to be at the site where the ship sank exactly a hundred years to the moment. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 P.M. So at 11:35 on board the ship, the captain came on the public address and invoked the memory of the Titanic and those who were on board. And then exactly at 11:40, the ship's horn sounded. And then, following that, throughout the ship was two minutes of silence. And an announcer then read the name of every person, both passenger and crew, who were lost on the Titanic.

One thing that struck me as they were going through that reading of the names, was when they got the third class you could hear large groups of the same names. Because these were whole families of immigrants who were headed for the United States and those whole families were wiped out.

MARTIN: Oh, my.

REINGOLD: So, right at approaching the time of the actual sinking, we are all on the top deck of the ship. The time change to 2:20, which was the time of the sinking. And then our horns sounded, and that was at 2:20. Immediately after that, a string ensemble played the song that is most associated with the sinking of the Titanic. And that is the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee."

MARTIN: And I understand that some of your fellow passengers are in character? Are people actually walking around in period dress?

REINGOLD: They are, indeed. There are some who did it sort of as improvisation. They got out their tuxedos and then they bought a bowler hat, and that was their nod to the Edwardian era. But in contrast, there are a number of other passengers who are really devoted to all things Edwardian. There is one couple in particular who had 10 suitcases. Each day, they are outfitted in a completely different, impeccably accurate outfit. And much of their outfits are not just representative of the period, but are actually antique clothing from the period.

MARTIN: Wow. So, after all this time, Lester, what do you think makes the Titanic so compelling, even a century after its demise, that it would draw these type of people, yourself, to this kind of event?

REINGOLD: Many people talk about the convergence of so many factors that makes this for the highest of dramas - the fact that it was a maiden voyage, the fact that the elite of society were traveling that day. There are some who point to lessons of overconfidence in the face of nature.

One thing that I've learned is, frankly, how little I know or how much I still have to learn about the Titanic. The story of the Titanic is one that some people have devoted their lives to, and I'm constantly amazed at how much they have learned and how much they have mastered.

MARTIN: Lester Reingold is a freelance writer and a Titanic enthusiast. He joined us from aboard the Azamara Journey. That's a cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Lester Reingold, it goes without saying that we wish you a very safe rest of your trip.

REINGOLD: I appreciate that. It's very good to talk to you.

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