By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
When the RMS Titanic slipped its lines and departed Southampton, England on its maiden voyage on April 10th, 1912, no one knew that she would never return.
On the evening of April 14th, the ship was navigating an area of the North Atlantic known for icebergs, when one appeared in the Titanic’s path. Due to the ships speed and decreased visibility that fateful night, the mighty liner was unable to navigate around the obstruction in time, striking the iceberg on the ship’s starboard (right) bow, causing fatal damage. Water began entering the ship, and her waterproof compartments would not save her.
By the early morning hours, the bow was low in the water, and the lifeboats were being launched. Unfortunately, there were lifeboats for only a fraction of the over 2,200 passengers and crew aboard, and even those being launched were nowhere near to full capacity.
When rescue ships finally arrived, 1,500 passengers were dead or dying, and the Titanic sat 3,700 metres below the ocean surface, broken in two. Her exact location would not be discovered for 74 years, when she was discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard.
Over 109 years later, the Titanic disaster is still remembered around the world, and this year the residents of Castor’s long term care facility were treated to an immersive celebration of the storied vessel, hosted by therapy assistant Jenessa Dunkle, and a few of her colleagues.
“The residents said they had never seen the (Titanic) movie before,” said Dunkle.
“I (said) we’re having a full-scale Titanic event – movie, education, and a tea on the Titanic, (taking) pretty much the whole week.”
With the help of colleagues, Dunkle started the week by presenting the 1997 film Titanic, directed by James Cameron, to the residents.
During the rest of the week, Dunkle took the residents through a virtual tour of ship, presented some documentaries featuring film of the actual ship and a variety of interviews with survivors of the tragedy.
On April 15th, the 109th anniversary of the tragedy, Dunkle and the other staff hosted a shipboard tea.
The dining room of the long-term care was converted into the deck of the Titanic, tea was served on fine china, and violin music was playing.
Dunkle and the rest of the recreation department dressed up in period garb, as did the residents. The bow of the ship was recreated using pylons, allowing the residents who dared to recreate the famous scene from the movie where the main characters posed at the bow of the ship, and a blowing fan completed the effect.
“They really liked it,” said Dunkle.
“They were really shocked when they came around the corner into the dining room and saw that it had been transformed into the ship.”
Dunkle said she got the idea because of a long-standing interest in the story of the ill-fated ship.
“I’ve always been interested in the Titanic,” said Dunkle. “I have interests or passions; they sometimes inspire the activities.”
Dunkle said she tries to do various activities throughout the year, themed for the season.
“When I think about activities, I want to do an activity that will stimulate many senses,” said Dunkle.
“That’s how I decide if an activity is going to be therapeutic or not.”
Other activities Dunkle has hosted for the residents include a recent theme park carnival day which included a virtual roller coaster – the roller coaster was projected onto a wall – and a variety of carnival games or seniors Olympics where the residents were split into teams and had to compete against each other.
Plans are already in the works for more activities in the facility, including an upcoming ‘Western Day’ sometime this summer.