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Sunday Times STLive By Reuters and the Daily Telegraph, 2012-03-25

Tragedy still fascinates 100 years later

AS THE 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic nears, the public's interest in the tragedy has still not diminished.

On April 10 1912, the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage, travelling from Southampton, England, to New York in the US.

It was nicknamed the "Millionaires' Special". The ship was fittingly captained by Edward J Smith, who was known as the "millionaires' captain" because of his popularity with wealthy passengers.

When 1517 lives were lost on April 15, three hours after the ship struck an iceberg, real-life tales of love and heroism spawned a legend and fascination that shows no sign of abating.

Titanic: The Tragedy that Shook the World, a book by the editors of LIFE at Time Home Entertainment, includes photos and stories of the ship and many of those characters that have kept the public enthralled since the sinking.

"Some of the richest people in the world board in France, some of the poorest people in the world board in Ireland and a mix survive," said Robert Sullivan, managing editor of LIFE Books. "It turns out to be an extraordinary variety of stories."

The book begins with the construction of the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic as one of three sister ships built by the White Star line to usher in a new era of opulent sea travel.

There are no photographs of the Titanic's final moments. But included in the book are remarkable images taken by an Irish cleric, Father Frank Browne, who boarded the boat in Southampton, travelled to Cherbourg and then disembarked in Queenstown, the ship's final departure point before it headed across the icy Atlantic.

They offer perhaps the only public glimpse into life aboard the Titanic.

The book also details the ill-fated and random rendezvous with the iceberg, the attempts to get help using the then state-of-the-art radio and, ultimately, the horror as hundreds of passengers realised there were too few lifeboats and that, in allowing women and children first, many men would die.

Among them were Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macy's department store, and his wife of 40 years, Ida, who decided they should die together.

"What do you do in the moment of truth?" said Sullivan. "These stories, you can't make them up."

The book concludes with photographs from various expeditions taken after the wreck was discovered 73 years later in 3797m of water.

"Its durability is to do with how true much of it is," said Sullivan. "It will be remembered not for 100 years, but for 200 years."