In a bid to put itself on the global tourism map, a small municipality in southwest China is building the world’s first full-scale replica of the doomed British luxury liner, the RMS Titanic.
On 30 November officials of the county of Daying in Sichuan province presided over the keel-laying ceremony, kicking off construction of the 269-m-long replica, which will cost a reported $145m to build.
Demand is expected to be high: as far back as 2005, tickets for a one-night stay in economy class went on sale for a starting price of about 3,000 yuan ($435), reports newspaper China Daily.
We spent many years collecting the blueprints from many parts of the world– Su Shaojun, financier
And for hundreds of thousands of yuan, visitors can experience the luxury that rich passengers enjoyed before the purportedly unsinkable steamer hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City in the small hours of 15 April 1912, sending two thirds of its 2,224 passengers and crew to a freezing, watery death.
A completion date has not been revealed but when it is finished the ship will be permanently docked in a reservoir on the Qijiang River, said Hu Mingchao, head of Daying county, reports China Daily.
Builders will follow the Titanic’s original design for the interior and exterior, including the large banquet hall and first-class guesthouse – but finding the original drawings has been a years-long quest.
"After the RMS Titanic sank, nobody saw its complete set of blueprints," said Su Shaojun, chairman of Qixing Energy Investment, which is the replica’s financier.
"Many blueprint fragments found their way into the hands of collectors or remained missing. We spent many years collecting the blueprints from many parts of the world and managed to obtain most of them," Su said, reports China Daily.
According to the newspaper, the design process has been slow because the design firm, GC High-Tech of the US, which was appointed two years ago, has had to consult with the replica’s builder, the nuclear submarine maker Wuchang Shipyard, in Hubei province.
"The shipyard is a builder of nuclear submarines and is technically strong, but building the Titanic replica is so complicated that the US firm has had to consult the shipyard constantly to figure out if it can meet the challenges of turning the design into a full-scale replica," said James Wu, China regional chief representative of America Hollywood Television and Film Media Inc., reported China Daily.
GC High-Tech is reportedly part of America Hollywood Television and Film Media.
The tragedy of the Titanic has captured imaginations for over a hundred years, but interest in the story skyrocketed – especially in China – after director James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
To make his film Cameron ordered a 90%-scale partial replica vessel, but no full-sized replica of the Titanic has ever been built.
Image: RMS Titanic at dock in Southampton, England (Wikimedia Commons)