Morgan Robertson, born 1861, died 1915. He was an American author who would be forgotten today if not for his novella “Futility.” It is about an unsinkable ocean liner named Titan that on its maiden voyage hits an iceberg and sinks killing nearly everyone onboard. Sounds like what happened to the Titanic don’t you think. But Robertson published the story in 1898, 14 years before the Titanic sank.
Beyond the similarity in the name of the ship, that both were considered unsinkable, and both sunk by an iceberg, there are more similarities. Neither the Titanic, with 20 lifeboats, including the four folding boats, nor the Titan with 24 lifeboats, could accommodate half the passengers on ship. The Titanic’s reported speed at impact with the iceberg was 22 1/2 knots; the Titan 24 knots. Both sinking’s occurred in April and both hit an iceberg 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland.
Of course not everything is the same. Titan’s length of 800 feet short of Titanic’s 882 feet, the number of airtight compartments and bulkheads are different, and the Titan departs from New York, instead of being the destination. But if you were a time traveler and wrote everything you knew precisely you would be considered a witch and burned at the stake. In fact, Robertson was thought to have seen into the future, but he said he based his story on his intimate familiarity with the sea, ships, and trends, having spent 11 years in maritime service.
The title “Futility” does recall the aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking, when public discussion centered around how ‘futile’ to think man could conquer nature, or anything, that there are forces beyond our reach, always keeping our collective egos in check.
But that is not all of the story. If this were the only ‘seeing into the future,’ it could be dismissed as coincidence, or as Robertson claimed, simply a matter of putting things together based on his knowledge. His 1914 short story “Beyond the Spectrum” is about a sneak attack by the Japanese on America, attacking ships going to Hawaii and the Philippines. Of course if Robertson died in 1915 he could not have known about Pearl Harbor. But perhaps he did not die, perhaps he traveled forward in time. Perhaps he is among us now.
I bought the Kindle edition with two short stories included, including Beyond the Spectrum. It is rather fun to read a story from 1898, especially the Titan’s first incidence with another ship.
If you are interested in reading Futility, Amazon links are here
If you want to read about Robertson and the book on Wikipedia it is here
And my website is here.
My Amazon page is here