What is Titanic II, and will it set sail?

Extravagant plans to build Titanic II, a replica of the original White Star Line ship, are back in circulation.

  • Titanic II has reportedly resumed construction.
  • The project has been resurrected after its failed attempt to begin construction in 2012.
  • If the project leaves the conceptual phase, the new ship is set to follow the same route as the original Titanic as one leg of its voyage.

Construction of Titanic II is reportedly resuming following a years-long financial dispute. The Australian-based company behind the project, Blue Star Line, recently announced that Titanic II's building hasn't just recommenced, but that it also has plans to relocate to Paris, where it will begin recruiting "additional" employees.

"The ship will follow the original journey, carrying passengers from Southampton to New York," said Clive Palmer, the billionaire businessmen behind the project, in an interview with MSN. "She will also circumnavigate the globe, inspiring and enchanting people while attracting unrivaled attention, intrigue and mystery in every port she visits."

The ship is supposed to be an exact replica of the original Titanic, which famously fell to the bottom of the Atlantic amid its maiden voyage. Unlike the original ship, however, Titanic II will have a welded hull, modern navigational technology and a surplus of lifeboats. The estimated costs to resurrect the Olympic-class ship? Roughly $500 million. Since the company intends to replicate the original ship as closely as possible, it's poised to carry more than 3,000 people.

Though there's been press releases sent out by the company, and multiple media outlets have been parroting the words within them, the project's long delay may suggest it's a flop. Nevertheless, let's look into the history of this wayward endeavor. Is it more than hubris mingled with a dreamy, misplaced romancing of a century-old catastrophe?

Is Titanic II actually being built? 

Original Titanic. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

On September 27, 2018 the Blue Star Line company announced on their website that the project would recommence. This is the first anyone had heard of anything in any official capacity from the website — it had not been updated since May of 2014. Blue Star Line has also not been active on any other projects in the interim.

Currently, there is no information on ticket pricing or when they'll be available.

The last time the Titanic II was slated for construction, it had worked out an agreement with state-owned Chinese company: CSC Jinling. If that agreement is still in place then it should be expected to be built in their shipyard in Nanjing China.

Announced on October 22nd 2018, Palmer said that Blue Star Line would be establishing a headquarters in Paris, rather than the United Kingdom, next year in order to avoid any problems with Brexit.

Titanic II's maiden voyage would be a two week excursion from Dubai to the United States. On one leg of this journey, it's planned to retrace the original route the 1912 ship took on its ill-fated journey. After that, Titanic II will go around the world embarking on other routes.

The new sail date is sometime late in 2022 according to Cruise Arabia. That would be around 110 years before the original Titanic foundered. Again, there are also no official sailing dates scheduled either.

Looks like Titanic II will be sailing on hot air

First announced in 2012 and with an original launch date of 2016, Palmer's original impetus for the idea came from a request from Chinese shipbuilders looking to enter into the cruise ship market. Speaking with an Australian magazine that year, he said, "Let's build the Titanic! It will be great, it will show off the competitiveness of Chinese shipbuilders."

Deltamarin, a Finnish ship-design company and CSC Jinling Shipyard together would be the ones tasked with bringing the 1912 ship back to life. Yet, so far the only thing to come out of this endeavour in nearly a decade has been Palmer's designs, a couple of launch parties and a few thousand Titanic-themed dish sets.

In 2014, information leaked to The Australian asserted that no actual construction progress was ever started. The article stated that:

"Dozens of workers at the shipyard said they had been informed of the Titanic II plans, but the project was yet to be given the formal go-ahead. 'That ship was just a proposal. It's never been carried out and the project has never launched,' one worker was quoted as saying.'"

Because of this, and the project's delay, confidence in its completion is sparse. In other Titanic-related news, however, this vision to resurrect the 1912 ship might be realized elsewhere, albeit in a less mobile form.

Landlocked in the Sichuan province, Chinese investors are vying to create a stationary Titanic replica as the centerpiece of the Romandisea Seven Star Resort. This project isn't without its fair share of problems either.

Su Shaojun, CEO of the lead investment group, originally said that the project was poised to be completed by the end of 2017. On-site assembly, however, did not begin until late 2016. The new launch date is projected to be sometime in 2019. In the meantime, the project has encountered financial problems as steel prices have increased. On top of this, the resort hotel complex, as a whole, is behind schedule. All of that said, the project has now been put on hold and there is no word when construction will resume.

Perhaps these misfortunes and assorted hangups should be a warning to these Titanic investors… sometimes it's better to just let sunken ships lie in peace.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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Surprising Science
  • A new theory takes the direct-collapse theory explaining the creation of supermassive black holes around which galaxies turn ones step further.
  • The advance is made possible by a super-powerful computer, ATERUI II.
  • The new theory is the first that accounts for the likely assortment of heavy elements in early-universe gas clouds.

It seems that pretty much every galaxy we see is spinning around a supermassive black hole. When we say "supermassive," we mean BIG: Each is about 100,000 to tens of billions times the mass of our Sun. Serving as the loci around which our galaxies twirl, they're clearly important to maintaining the universal structures we see. It would be nice to know how they form. We have a pretty good idea how normally-huge-but-not-massive black holes form, but as for the supermassive larger versions, not so much. It's a supermassive missing piece of the universe puzzle.

Now, in research published in Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society, astrophysicists at Tohoku University in Japan reveal that they may have solved the riddle, supported by new computer simulations that show how supermassive black holes come to be.

The direct collapse theories

Glowing gas and dark dust within the Large Magellanic Cloud

Image source: ESA/Hubble and NASA

The favored theory about the birth of supermassive black holes up to now has been the "direct-collapse" theory. The theory proposes a solution to a cosmic riddle: Supermassive black holes seem to have been born a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang, not nearly long enough for the standard normal black hole genesis scenario to have played out, and on such a large scale. There are two versions of the direct-collapse theory.

One version proposes that if enough gas comes together in a supermassive gravitationally bound cloud, it can eventually collapse into a black hole, which, thanks the cosmic background-radiation-free nature of the very early universe, could then quickly pull in enough matter to go supermassive in a relatively short period of time.

According to astrophysicist Shantanu Basu of Western University in London, Ontario, this would only have been possible in the first 800 million years or so of the universe. "The black holes are formed over a duration of only about 150 million years and grow rapidly during this time," Basu told Live Science in the summer of 2019. "The ones that form in the early part of the 150-million-year time window can increase their mass by a factor of 10 thousand." Basu was lead author of research published last summer in Astrophysical Journal Letters that presented computer models showing this version of direct-collapse is possible.

Another version of the theory suggests that the giant gas cloud collapses into a supermassive star first, which then collapses into a black hole, which then — presumably again thanks to the state of the early universe — sucks up enough matter to go supermassive quickly.

There's a problem with either direct-collapse theory, however, beyond its relatively narrow time window. Previous models show it working only with pristine gas clouds comprised of hydrogen and helium. Other, heavier elements — carbon and oxygen, for example — break the models, causing the giant gas cloud to break up into smaller gas clouds that eventually form separate stars, end of story. No supermassive black hole, and not even a supermassive star for the second flavor of the direct-collapse theory.

A new model

ATERUI II

Image source: NAOJ

Japan's National Astronomical Observatory has a supercomputer named "ATERUI II" that was commissioned in 2018. The Tohoku University research team, led by postdoctoral fellow Sunmyon Chon, used ATERUI II to run high-resolution, 3D, long-term simulations to verify a new version of the direct-collapse idea that makes sense even with gas clouds containing heavy elements.

Chon and his team propose that, yes, supermassive gas clouds with heavy elements do break up into smaller gas clouds that wind up forming smaller stars. However, they assert that's not the end of the story.

The scientists say that post-explosion, there remains a tremendous inward pull toward the center of the ex-cloud that drags in all those smaller stars, eventually causing them to grow into a single supermassive star, 10,000 times larger than the Sun. This is a star big enough to produce the supermassive black holes we see when it finally collapses in on itself.

"This is the first time that we have shown the formation of such a large black hole precursor in clouds enriched in heavy-elements," says Chon, adding, "We believe that the giant star thus formed will continue to grow and evolve into a giant black hole."

Modeling the behavior of an expanded number of elements within the cloud while faithfully carrying forward those models through the violent breakup of the cloud and its aftermath requires such high computational overhead that only a computer as advanced as ATERUI II could pull off.

Being able to develop a theory that takes into account, for the first time, the likely complexity of early-universe gas clouds makes the Tohoku University idea the most complete, plausible explanation of the universe's mysterious supermassive black holes. Kazuyuki Omukai, also of Tohoku University says, "Our new model is able to explain the origin of more black holes than the previous studies, and this result leads to a unified understanding of the origin of supermassive black holes."

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