A theme park in China's landlocked Sichuan province is getting an unusual and expensive attraction. A local energy firm plans to spend 1 billion yuan — or $165 million — on a replica of the Titanic.
China's Seven Star Energy Investment Group announced at a news conference Sunday that it intends to build a full-size replica of the doomed ocean liner. The replica will be permanently moored in the Qi River, and will feature a museum and a simulation of the ship's disastrous 1912 sinking, which killed 1,500 people. (Via NTDTV, British Pathé)
Chinese interest in the disaster has been high ever since James Cameron's "Titanic" smashed box office records when it debuted there in 1998. (Via Paramount Pictures / "Titanic")
Seven Star's chief executive Su Shaojun told reporters he planned to commemorate the tragedy by simulating the experience of being trapped aboard the doomed ship.
"It will capsize and water will come in. We will let people experience water coming in using sound and light effects, and LED light effects. ... They will think, 'The water will drown me. I must escape for my life.'" (Via Al Jazeera)
Sounds like fun. Shaojun also said China needs a memorial to the Titanic disaster, to "[spread] the spirit of the Titanic. The universal love and sense of responsibility shown during the Titanic shipwreck represent the spiritual richness of human civilization." (Via NTD)
But already the project is drawing criticism and accusations of bad taste. A writer for Gizmodo quips:
"Yes, because nothing better embodies love and responsibility than the overwhelming sense of self-preservation. And it's not like charging people to vicariously experience one of history's worst maritime disasters is in any way disrespectful to the 1,500 people that lost their lives, right?"
But the project does have its defenders, including actor Bernard Hill, who played the Titanic's Captain Edward Smith in Cameron's film. Seven Star flew him in to take part in its press conference, though Hill says he wasn't paid anything additional. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Dianne Krauss, The New York Times)
The actor has dismissed the idea the Titanic replica might be disrespectful, saying "It's been approached in a very delicate and a very sensitive way and they're very aware of the extent of the disaster in 1912. I don't think it will belittle that disaster." (Via Daily Mirror)
Sichuan's theme park attraction will be the second Titanic replica constructed in China. Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is already financing the construction of a functioning replica, which will recreate the original ship's doomed journey — hopefully with a better outcome this time. (Via The Wall Street Journal)
Both Palmer's replica and Seven Star's theme park are scheduled to be completed by 2016.