Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan

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Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan is an 1898 novella written by Morgan Robertson. The story features the ocean liner Titan, which sinks in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. The Titan and its sinking have been noted to be very similar to the real-life passenger ship RMS Titanic, which sank fourteen years later. Following the wreck the novel was reissued with some changes, particularly in the ship's gross tonnage, to make it closer to the Titanic.[1]



The first half of Futility introduces the hero, John Rowland. Rowland is a disgraced former US Navy officer, who is now an alcoholic and has fallen to the lowest levels of society. Dismissed from the Navy, he is working as a deckhand on the Titan. On an April night the ship hits the iceberg, capsizing and sinking somewhat before the halfway point of the novel. The second half follows Rowland, as he saves the young daughter of a former lover by jumping onto the iceberg with her. After a number of adventures, in which he fights a polar bear (suffering permanent physical disability due to wounds sustained in the fight) and finds a lifeboat washed up on the iceberg, he is eventually rescued by a passing ship, overcomes his addiction and, over several years, works his way up to a lucrative Government job restoring his former income and position in society. In the closing lines of the story he receives a message from his former lover, pleading for him to visit her and her daughter.

Similarities to the Titanic

Although the novel was written before the Olympic-class Titanic was even designed, there are some remarkable similarities between both the fictional and real-life versions. Like the Titanic, the fictional ship sank in April in the North Atlantic, and there were not enough lifeboats for the passengers. There are also similarities between the size (800 ft long for Titan versus 882 ft 9 in long for the Titanic[2]), speed (25 knots for Titan, 22.5 knots for Titanic[3]) and life-saving equipment.

Beyond the name, the similarities between the Titanic and the fictional Titan include:[4]

Popular culture

See also


  1. ^ The Titanic -Futility
  2. ^ McCluskie, Tom (1998). Anatomy of the Titanic. PRC. p. 22. ISBN 1-85648-482-3.
  3. ^ McCluskie, Anatomy of the Titanic, p. 23 Titanics top speed was 21 knots, with a flank speed of 23.5 knots
  4. ^ http://books.google.ca/books/about/Futility_Or_The_Wreck_Of_The_Titan.html?id=P3nJfY9Xk3oC
  5. ^ Butler, Daniel Allen (1998). Unsinkable: The Full Story of RMS Titanic. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-1814-1.
  6. ^ McCluskie, Anatomy of the Titanic, p. 120
  7. ^ Mowbray, Jay Henry (1912). Sinking of the Titanic. Harrisburg, PA: The Minter Company. OCLC 9176732
  8. ^ http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9201023846486393680# Discussion of the book begins at 23:52 in the video
  9. ^ The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Volume 1. Titan Books. ISBN 978-1-84023-302-5.

External links