A Magnet for Titanic Fans in an Unexpected Graveyard


People have flocked to the small headstone for years, leaving flowers and love notes at what they believe is the final resting place of the man who inspired Leonardo DiCaprio’s doomed character, Jack Dawson, in the 1997 film “Titanic.” And you can see why: The inscription reads “J. Dawson died April 15, 1912.”

Not quite, though. While the grave does belong to a victim of the world’s best-known shipwreck, he was not a handsome artist named Jack who won his passage in a poker game, but an engine-room worker named Joseph who probably had little time for onboard dalliances. The producer of the film denies any connection between the crewman and the fictional heartthrob.

Mr. Dawson is one of 121 people from the Titanic buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, their graves arranged in the shape of a ship’s hull. It is the largest collection of Titanic graves in the world. An additional 29 are buried in two more local cemeteries.

This somber stewardship came about largely by chance: Halifax happened to be the closest major port with good rail connections when the ship sank, 700 nautical miles away in the North Atlantic.

Three ships sent from Halifax to find the Titanic’s dead recovered more than 300 bodies. About 100 were buried at sea, but families who could afford the cost had 59 others transported elsewhere by rail. The rest were buried locally, some of them attended to by a funeral home that is still in business.

Titanic devotees travel to Halifax for the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which holds a large collection of artifacts from the wreck, including a deck chair, a balustrade from the ship’s main staircase, and the leather shoes of a drowned toddler who remained unidentified until 2007.

About 160,000 people visit the museum each year, a figure that reached 220,000 just after the film came out. Fairview Lawn Cemetery became so inundated with tour buses that it barred them from the grounds a few years ago; visitors on foot are still welcome.

Richard MacMichael, a coordinator at the museum, said that 104 years later, people still have intense feelings about the ocean liner and its fate.

“The story is the greatest self-perpetuating phenomenon in human history,” he said. “The Titanic is one of those things that’s never going to leave our consciousness.”


Source: The New York Times

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