Photos of Titanic at the ocean’s bottom

Unprecedented photographs of the 100 year old wreck of Titanic, resting on the floor of the Atlantic ocean under 12,400 feet of water, have been published by National Geographic, and reproduced in the Daily Mail. The images are not all easy to decipher. For example, I thought this photo was showing the entire length of the ship, but then the article reminded me that when the ship began to sink, lifting the stern high into the air, the stern broke off from the bow and sank separately.


Speaking of the Titanic disaster, I have come only recently to appreciate the wonderful memorial to Isidore and Ida Straus in Straus Park, formed of the triangle where Broadway meets West End Avenue at West 106th Street in Manhattan. The below photograph of the bronze sculpture of Memory, the centerpiece of the park, barely suggests the sculpture’s beauty, its originality of form, and its musing, meditative quality—typical of American memorial statues of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—which expresses, in a poetic, non-doctrinal way, a reality beyond death.


Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives
And in their death they were not divided

II Samuel 1:23

That biblical quote is on a wall behind the sculpture.

A poster in the park gives the full story:

This monument by sculptor Augustus Lukeman (1872—1935) and architect Evarts Tracy commemorates Isidor (1845—1912) and Ida (1849—1912) Straus, who died aboard the R.M.S. Titanic. The memorial fountain was dedicated on April 15, 1915.

Isidor Straus was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1845. The Straus family immigrated to America in 1854 and settled in Georgia. After the Civil War, they relocated to New York where Lazarus Straus began L. Straus & Sons with his sons, Isidor and Nathan. By 1888, the brothers had advanced from operating a crockery concession at R.H. Macy & Co. to owning the company. In 1902, they opened the world’s largest department store, Macy’s at Herald Square. They also became partners in Abraham & Straus in 1893 (in operation until 1995 when Federated Department Stores discontinued the name). In 1871, Isidor married Ida Blun, who was from Worms, Germany. In addition to raising their six children, Ida joined her husband as a philanthropist with a special concern for health, education, and other public services.

The Strauses were aboard the Titanic on April 15, 1912, when it sank on its maiden voyage from England to America. The ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank three hours later. More than 1,500 passengers and crew died in the disaster. The biblical quotation above is inscribed on the rear exedra of the Straus Monument, paying tribute to Ida’s decision to remain aboard with her husband rather than save herself by boarding a lifeboat with the women and children.

In 1912, the City named this park after the Strauses, who had lived in a frame house at 27-47 Broadway, near 105th Street. Public subscriptions of $20,000 were raised to commission this monument. The work consists of a granite curved exedra, a central bronze reclining female figure of Memory (for which the celebrated model Audrey Munson posed), and a reflecting pool. The monument was dedicated three years to the day after the Titanic sank. Augustus Lukeman also sculpted the World War I Memorial statuary in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

From 1995 to 1997 Straus Park was renovated and expanded to the west, by the addition of 15 feet of the bed of West End Avenue. Improvements in the $800,000 capital project included the addition of benches, lighting, shrubs, fencing, and paving. As part of this extensive renovation, the monument was restored and the reflecting pool transformed into a flowerbed. The Straus family established a maintenance endowment for the monument. The Friends of Straus Park, a project of the West 106th Street Block Association, was formed to promote security, cleanliness, and programming in the park to preserve its important position in the neighborhood.

Wikipedia’s article on the park, where I found the photograph, says that “Straus Park is mentioned in Andre Aciman’s novel Eight White Nights.” Interesting coincidence. In the eighties I used to have coffee occasionally with Andre Aciman at a French pastry shop two blocks below Straus Park on the west side of Broadway, where the restaurant Toast is now located.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 21, 2012 07:18 PM | Send

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