Titanic Research: Historical Fiction
Titanic Research Project 2013
For the second year we have used the Titanic as the topic for our research project. Each year three options are available to my advance students:
Option 1: Traditional research paper
Option 2: PowerPoint and three paragraph paper to accompany the PowerPoint
Option 3: Short story.
The short story option is always popular. This option requires students to take their research and use it to create a short piece of historical fiction, which incorporates their facts about the Titanic seamlessly into the storyline. Here is one of the stories created this year:
The Water is ColdPrologue
The water is cold. Nathaniel woke with a start, The thought still hanging on his head. He wasn't dead, that was for sure.
Where am I?
He observed the room closely. He was sitting up on a hospital-grade bed. Connected to his hand was a long tube that went into a bag of fluid hanging from a slim stand. The only other item in the room was a chair facing his bed. Nathan found no doors or windows. He tried to remember how he got here. Something about a boat. a big boat. 175 feet tall and 882 feet long kind of big boat. He still couldn’t quite get it..... A man walked in, interrupting Nathans thoughts. Nathan didn’t see where he came in. The man sat in the only chair in the room. A long black cloak and hood hid all of his features. Nathan saw droplets of water all over the man’s cloak and assumed it had been raining.
"Raining hard is it?" Nathan asked. The man shook his head. This confused Nathan because the man was obviously drenched head to foot in water. The man began to speak in a familiar voice that was both hard and soft.
"Tell me what happened," The man stated. Nathan didn’t know what he was talking about. Common sense told Nathan he was supposed to know something, and that the man hadn’t realized he had amnesia. Nathan for some reason felt it was best the man didn’t know what Nathan didn’t know.
"Where should I start?" Nathan said with an air of intelligence. He had no idea what he expected, but the man surprised him by throwing a newspaper on his bed. It was soaking wet. The headlines read "Titanic sinks, Massive loss of lives." The man showed his face for the first time.
"Start at the beginning," the man chuckled. Nathan gasped, horrified. It all came back to him like a speeding bullet.
"You shouldn’t be alive, " Nathan stuttered flatly. "I saw you-"
"Neither should you," the man interrupted flatly. Nathan wet his lips.
"Alright," he started, "From the Beginning."
April 10, 1912
"Let's go Nathan!" Richard yelled cheerfully. Poor 12 year old Nathan was running as fast as he could, but couldn’t possibly keep up with his 38 year old dad and his long feet.
"I'm trying I'm trying." Nathan shouted. Richard suddenly stopped and faced his son.
"Quick!" he yelled," Tell me what you can about the beautiful RMS Titanic!"
"Okay!" Nathan said, catching his breath, "The RMS Titanic, or Royal Mail Ship Titanic, captained my Mr. Smith, is 175 feet tall, 882 feet long, and has four funnels, but one of them is a phony little fake for show." Right Father?" Richard nodded so Nathan continued eagerly. "Twenty-nine boilers, 16 watertight compartments and a-"
"Right son," Richard interrupted," Don’t overload that little brain of yours."
"Ewwwww," Nathan joked, “I don’t want my brain over-bloated!" They both laughed at the horrible joke. Nathan and Richard were on their way to board the Titanic where Richard would be working as an engineer, repairing any damages and running frequent system checks to keep the Titanic going and lively. "The best engineer in the world," as Nathan calls him. Nathan and Richard would be staying in the crews quarters. They weren’t first class of course, but they would do for an engineer and his only son. Nathan watched the docking area. There was a long wooden plank leading to the Titanic from the mainland. There were boxes and crates everywhere covering the docks. Nathan tripped over a smaller one. His foot twisted but he ignored it and got up. Slightly embarrassed, Nathaniel ran to catch up to his father who had gotten ahead. He was wheezing when he got there. Asthma!
"Look at it son!" Richard cheered, "The glory that is the Titanic!" Nathan was amazed. Richard had seen it many of times but Nathan never had. Even though he knew how big it was the size still amazed him. It must have cost a fortune. He was honored just to look at it. Even more, he was riding it! What time must have gone into-
"Ooof, Nathan exclaimed.
"Watch were you’re going young lad!" Someone yelled. Nathan looked up. he was at the top of the plank. Must have been so busy thinking, I didn’t realize I had boarded! Then he realized who he ran into. It was Thomas Andrews himself! Nathan turned red. He just ran straight into the designer of the Titanic. Nathan immediately started apologizing.
"sorry sir," He started, "really I am. I must have been daydreaming."
"It’s alright," Thomas answered, " I myself tripped over a small crate down there. If you’ll excuse me, I have a stroll to attend to." With that, he walked off. Nathan was surprised. Thomas had tripped just like he had. He saw his father walking toward stern, where the crew quarters where held. Richard addressed Nathan as he approached.
"where did you run of to?" He asked.
"I met Thomas Andrews!" Nathan answered excitedly.
"Looked to me like you ran him over."
"I might have."
"You’re going to spend five days on this boat with him. Best not to make ole' Thommy angry.
"Nobody calls him that, Father."
By that time they were in their room. Nathan used his skill in observation. It was quite small having a single bed and only a few items, but it will do for a small amount of time. After all, it was the most luxurious ship in the world. Nathan and Richard put all their belongings, a few suitcases and a backpack, on the floor. It wasn’t going anywhere, it’s not like the ship was going to sink or anything. Nothing could make Nathan frown today. After traveling on the most luxurious boat in the world Nathan would stay with his rich uncle in New York who owns a company selling shoes for pets. Nothing could possibly take the smile of Nathans face. Nathan was almost finished observing the room when he saw some exposed rivets from the Titanic. His quarters were at the edge of the boat. Nathan immediately knew something was wrong. He had a way with these things. He could tell you how a machine works just by listening to it. Nathan punched the rivet. It didn’t sound right. It sounded.... Substandard. The smile faded from his face.
April 10, 1912
Nathan stared at the man he had crashed into. Not a man really, he looked more around fifteen. He had a blazing head of fiery hair, pale skin, and a stewards outfit. Nathan had been daydreaming again. More like a daymare. Nathan had observed the lifeboats. Too few. Much too few. Only half the passengers could survive if each were filled to the brim. Not that the Titanic was going to sink any day soon. Nathan knew his dad wouldn’t let that happen. Richard had long gone below decks for system checks and last minute adjustments. he wouldn’t be up until dinner. Most passengers had already boarded, hence the reason a steward would be about.
"Sorry sir," the Steward mumbled. His voice was both hard and soft.
"No problem. completely my fault Mr...," Nathan asked.
"Just call me Steward sir," Steward stated.
"That hardly seems fit. what is your name?"
"Steward, young master. I really must be back at work."
"You don’t have work," Nathan said pointedly.
"Excuse me?!?" Steward barked.
"You are a stowaway. probably too, young to join so you snuck on and grabbed a uniform."
"You walk like your scared, you were too jumpy when I hit you, you don’t carry yourself like a steward should, your language is ghastly nobody would talk to a passenger like that, and you Steward, are no steward," Nathan listed intelligently "Why else would you refuse your name? Don’t worry your secret is safe with me. Maybe we can be friends hmm? I know everything on this ship and will quickly get bored." Steward was stunned. How could someone figure all that out from a glance? Then Steward smiled. He liked this kid.
"Okay young master, you win," Steward said a little too cheerfully, "If you know this ship inside and out, can you help me get assigned to someone? If the White Star Line finds I have no passenger, they may throw me in the brig!" Nathan smiled. He hoped the young Steward hadn’t realized Nathan wasn’t actually a passenger.
"You can be assigned to me. I am a passenger after all," Nathan said.
"Good. anything you like then?" Steward asked. So, Nathan thought, the young Steward doesn’t know.
"Food in an hour please."
"enough for two."
Nathan watched as 'Steward' departed. That should keep him busy while Nathan finishes his stroll. He'd been walking for almost an hour, spending a time on each deck, starting at his quarters and up, then going back down. He had been counting lifeboats when he hit Steward. there were only twenty. Fourteen wood, four collapsible, and two cutters. Too few. Much to few He had made his way to F Deck now. Crewmen and passengers bustled about. Almost nothing could be heard over the hustle and rustle of everyone. luckily Nathan had a way of hearing things. He heard what he was listening for. Then again. and one more time, this one louder than the rest. Nathan nodded and headed in that direction. He opened a door and found the room of his desire. The kennels. Nine dogs in total, Nathan counted. The dogs did not bark at him. They didn’t growl, or whine. They just sat in their kennels and watched expectantly. Nathan had a way with dogs. Not cats though, never cats. Nathan would to the kennels often.
April 10, 1912
Steward resisted the urge to report for lunch. He couldn’t. If the officers asked his name and found he wasn’t actually a Steward, then that was it. The brig for him. Steward kept moving toward the dining area. every passenger was supposed to report there to eat. There were multiple ones for each class of passenger though, so which one? Steward had debated it for a long while. Eventually he came to a conclusion. Only a first class passenger could make such a request as to dine outside the dining room and get away with it. Whoever Nathan was, he must be rich. Not some son of an engineer or something. Steward walked across the dining room to the kitchen. He then requested enough for two. The cooks looked at him like he was a lunatic.
"Ye don’t come in and ask for food lad," One of the Cooks said.
"First class requested it sir, despite my protests," Steward said, putting on a good act. He needed to seem like an innocent Steward doing his duties.
"Who asked such an absurd thing from ye?" Interrogated the Cook.
"I... I don’t know sir. He didn’t say. He was very commanding though, and I think he can get me thrown in the brig if I don’t return with food," Steward pleaded. That wasn’t far from the truth either.
"Alright I can sympathize."
Steward walked away, food in a tray. Altogether his first day had gone well. Steward froze outside the dining room. Where was he supposed to meet? Oops.
Chapter 3 1/2
April 10, 1912
Nathaniel and Steward.
Steward looked at Nathan dumbfounded. Nathan looked at Steward smiling. Nathan had just said that the food for two was for Nathan and the Steward. Since when did a first class passenger care? Nathan hadn’t actually gotten it for Steward of course, but when his dad had to work overtime, Nathan had changed his plans. So there they sat, in comfy chairs on the second class view area, watching the waves until Steward had to leave. At least my secret is safe, Steward thought. At least I have someone to talk to, Nathan thought.
April 11, 1912
Nathaniel and Steward
Nathan was proud of his father. What is she thinking? What does she know? Nathan looked at the woman who just insulted his father. She wore a pink bonnet, a pink skirt, a pink... everything! Nathan couldn’t tell whether she was second or first class. He couldn’t even remember what deck he was on. "Just a dirty little tinkerer's boy, hmmm?" I'll show you a tinkerer. Nathan looked at the others sitting in chairs facing him. they were all sitting in one of their gathering rooms. Two men who looked well beyond their prime, and three women. All but one of them laughing at his father. Steward backed away. I wonder what his dad does that makes such money. Certainly can’t be a simple engineer if he’s first-class. but first-class was an assumption. Who is he? Nathan walked straight up to the men and took their matching shiny gold watches, face full of anger. Ignoring the men’s protests, he began to take them apart. "Someone call an officer!" and "What the bloody blazes is he doing!?!" were shouted. Steward even tried to stop Nathan. Nathan didn’t hear though. He was a strange little boy, but even more strange was his ability with mechanics. Once he started, it was like the rest of the world didn’t exist. Nathan started rearranging the gears and cogs. That goes there, this belongs here, wind that up and....
"There!" He shouted. He put his newly recycled contraption on the deck and let it go. Steward couldn’t believe his eyes! There in front of him was a small golden creature instead of a watch! it was the size of all three watches, had multiple mechanical parts showing and moved. The watch hands had been turned into four legs, and every tick of a second moved a single leg a small amount so that every minute was a step. and every hour was sixty. The Titanic was so steady, the contraption didn’t waver on its light legs. The men looked amazed.
"Would ye look at that!"
"What about my watch?"
The eldest of the men, and the one who didn’t laugh, looked up at the three ladies.
"Just a tinkerer's boy eh?" He said in a voice that was both hard and soft, "You three should be ashamed. The young lad's a genius!"
"Thank you sir," Nathan said. The women sulked away, ashamed of themselves.
"Do ye mind if I keep ye contraption?" The eldest man asked.
"It is made from your items sir. I can put it back if you like."
"A masterpiece like this should be kept like this!"
"Thank you. I must be going then."
"See you, lad. Name's John."
Nathan turned and started to walk away. The other man spoke up.
"What about MY watch?"
"Ye don’t get yer watch!"
Steward couldn’t help but laugh as he followed Nathan out of the room.
A thought hit him. I don’t even know this young boy's name! A young boy shoved pass Steward, running hard. He was in a steward uniform.
"Who do you think you are?!" Steward called.
"I'm Alfie, sir!" the boy shouted.
Steward grumbled and caught up to Nathan.
"I must ask. What IS your name?" Steward asked.
"Just call me passenger," Nathan responded slyly.
April 14, 1912
Yesterday had been a blur. He visited the dogs again, talked with the old man about his father, saw his father again, but the most fast-paced part was when he gave three first- class meals to the steerage. Steerage sure knows how to party. All three meals could allow everybody something to eat. He even got John to join. for an elderly first class snob, he could sure party. The weirdest thing about that day though, was the fact that he can’t remember. Nathaniel has extremely sharp senses and observation skills, but when he tries to look back at the party, all he observes is blur. He even found Steward collapsed in steerage a time later. Nathan ached. He tried one more time to look back. He hadn’t any drinks, that was for sure. Nobody ate anything but the meal, so the exhaustion must have been from dancing so much so fast. He remembered someone dancing faster than Nathan had ever seen. Something about a Paddy. He wished his dad could have been there. DAD! The boilers! Why haven’t I visited before? Nathan took off running.
Nathan shoved through crowds, shouted over bustling groups, and dodged hurrying communities. The smell of carbon dioxide filled his lungs, and heat burned his eyes. How do these people LIVE? Richard saw his son before his son saw him.
"What are you doing down here?!" He yelled angrily over the boilers.
"I was just... I wanted to see you!" Nathan shouted back.
"At five in the evening?"
"Long story." Nathan coughed. The heat stung his eyes even more. Nathan coughed and wheezed and coughed. He couldn’t stop. Why couldn’t he stop coughing? He heard someone yell to get him above decks. Next thing he knew, the sun was bearing down on him. Someone said "Asthma". Oh yeah! I have Asthma. That’s why. The world faded.
April 14, 1912
Nathaniel woke in the medical room of the Titanic. He was on a medical-grade bed. Where was Richard? He saw a note on the wall in front of him. Richard had reluctantly gone back to work already. The med bay wasn’t bad. everything was white. The only piece of furniture in the room was a single chair facing his bed. Nathan realized he wasn’t the only breathing one in the room.
"Hello Steward," Nathan said hoarsely.
"You breath kind of funny."
" you gave us quite a scare. Why would you go and do a stupid thing like that?"
"I can’t remember."
"Your dad wanted to stay. He was forced out."
"Figured as much."
Nathan smelled the air. Too much water. Nathan started to get up and put the door. The first thing he did was get above deck, Steward trailing behind. Fog was everywhere. Nathaniel solemnly put a hand down on the deck. The Titanic’s engines were vibrating more. They were going faster.
"The fog is rolling in Steward. Yet we are still increasing in speed. Smith is a seasoned captain. He should know better."
"Even I know that. Let me tell you, I really aren’t that smart. Even I know we shouldn’t be speeding."
Nathan looked ahead, using his keen observation skills.
"Get near a lifeboat and stay near it."
At 11:00PM It hit. The bell sounded, "Iceberg straight ahead!" was called, and it hit. The entire boat shook. Most people paid it no mind, but Nathan was not most people.
"Steward, do your duty. Get everyone up. Save them."
Steward was already gone. Nathan knew there was a problem. That kind of hit would have been mainly below decks... Father! Nathan ran as fast as he could. He ran and he ran. He was trying to get to the boilers when he realized something. He didn’t know where he was. Nathan panicked, coughing and wheezing. Black spots danced in front of his eyes. People bustled about. Steerage knew what was going on, and tried to get away. Someone shoved Nathan to the ground. The world started fading again. Just like last time. The Titanic really is messed up! It’s not even in focus! Something sharp hit him in the leg and Nathan was forced to sit up. He found himself looking at the face of Steward. Somehow, people weren’t kicking and trampling him.
"Two Asthma attacks in one day!" Steward said, a sharp needle in his hand, "You’re going to set a new record!"
"That’s what I'm going for."
"Don’t. I need you alive."
Steward dismissed the question. Nathan started speed walking to his father. Walking, not Running. Steward knew Nathan shouldn’t be up so fast, but what could he do? This kid was determined to get to his father. Steward watched as Nathan opened a door and charged through. Nathan was still gasping when he found his father. Water was all over the floor. Multiple people were scooping out water. This was the sixth watertight compartment. That meant five boiler rooms were swamped. If water was all the way over here, how big was the hit? Nathan looked at the closed compartment door. His father was trying to get the watertight compartment to be watertight. Apparently there was a hole at the top so water could spill over. Andrews! I thought you had sense! Nathan's dad was using a blowtorch-who knows where he found that-to connect a ramp to the opening. This would cause the water to spill back down, giving everyone more time. Nathan roared over the rushing water.
Richard looked at his son bewildered. "Son! Run to the Lifeboats! Children first!"
"Is it that bad?"
"Yes it is! We don’t even have time to talk. Get above deck now!"
"No! I won’t lea-"
"Yes you will!" Richard roared, "I love you son, but I was never meant to survive this trip. Go to your uncle and stay with him. Take your Steward friend with you. Your uncle will understand, “Richard said this softly. He turned to the Steward. "You take him out of here and to the lifeboats. You get him to survive, and its luxury for you. Go. This will only buy you a minute at most."
Steward acted fast. He clamped his hand over Nathans mouth and pulled Nathan out of the room. Nathan didn’t even get to say goodbye.
Nathan tried as hard as he could to free himself from Stewards grasp, but he was to weak. Stewards strength was almost superhuman. Someone was running by fast. Nathan knew what to do. He turned so that Steward was hit straight on by a mountain of a man. His bodyguard said something about a "Gilhooley" Steward was knocked of his feet. Nathan took off, hoping he didn’t have a third attack. Nathan took this time to think. Take the size speed and trajectory, plus the amount of time, with my father's help, we have..... around an hour.
Nathan looked at the dogs he just freed from their cages. They were all running above deck. Nathan hoped they would survive. He liked those dogs. Nathan followed the dogs and went above deck to complete chaos. People were racing around, trying to get a spot in the lifeboats. Somewhere in the midst, music was playing; calming music. Steward joined Nathan. A lifeboat was open, but Nathan wasn’t ready just yet. There was still more he could do. There were still children to save. Nathan turned heel and walked back down to Steerage.
Nathan had just found another group of Steerage women and children. Somebody had ordered them to stay down here. Selfish people wanted a spot on the boats. This was the fourth group he had escorted. Steward was escorting others as well. They knew that everyone they saved was one less spot for them, but they didn’t care. It was like a maze getting back up. every time they came back down, more spots were flooded. It was taking longer and longer to get back top deck. The last escort took almost ten minutes. One of the mothers he was escorting said something in a foreign language. Nathan just said everything was okay and kept moving. Nathan knew nothing was okay whatsoever, but that didn’t need to be said.
That was it. The last lifeboat was being lowered. No room was left. Nathan hoped Steward had gotten away safely, because he knew he wasn’t going to. He looked around. All the men knew it too. Nathan saw a group of well-dressed men calmly playing cards. The band played on. Nathan looked at the rising water. He knew it wasn’t long now. See you soon dad. Then the lifeboat stopped lowering. Someone was getting out.
"You are married and have families," a woman said, "I'm not it doesn’t matter about me."
The woman looked at Nathan and gave him a wink. Next thing he knew he was lifted over the side and thrown into the lifeboat. He looked at the woman gratifyingly. She smiled calmly at him. Then a not so calm man jumped in.
"You idiot," Someone roared, "YOU’LL TIP US OVER!" The man didn’t listen. He decided to jump in the lifeboat itself. He landed right near Nathan. Nathan was launched out of the boat. The water started putting him into shock instantly. The water is cold.
Nathan woke up shivering. Men and women were all around him. They were yelling something. Father! Nathan's head rolled to the side. He was on a boat obviously Father! Hi looked at one of the tied up lifeboats. The lifeboat read "Carpathia".
Father I’m cold!
It's wonderful how warm you can get when you’re cold.....
Steward looked up at Nathan sitting stunned on his bed. Nathan had just finished telling everything he could remember, with Steward adding parts.
"So I told you my story," Nathan said finally, "Now tell me yours. How did you survive, and days later still be drenched in water?"
Steward told him. Nathan’s jaw dropped.
April 14, 1917
Nathan walked alone. He always walked alone this day. The anniversary of the hit. Nathan’s uncle was rich. He owned an estate. In the estate was a large garden and in the center of that garden was a grave. The grave he always visited. Nathan knelt in front of the Tombstone.
The Best Engineer in the world.
There was an item for every year. The first was a wrench. Richard’s favorite wrench. The second was the wedding ring with which Richard had proposed to his wife, Emelia. The third was the machine Nathan had made out of a watch on the Titanic. The watch had stopped the exact minute Richard died. The fourth was the last picture ever taken of Richard and Nathan happy together. Nathan put down the fifth item. It was a letter; an acceptance letter. Nathan was following in his father's footsteps. Nathan shed a single tear. Just as the woman had done to save his life, Nathan calmly got up and walked away. At eighteen, he had a job to do. The Olympic was waiting.
Written by C.F.
Let us know what you think of "The Water is Cold." We will pass on your comments to the author!
NOTE: Students read all three of Gordon Korman's books in his Titanic series in class.
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