Titanic to sail again

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer

Clive Palmer, an Australian mining and tourism billionaire, is planning to build a replica of the doomed liner, RMS Titanic.

The replica will be built by a Chinese shipyard for Palmer’s Blue Star Shipping Line. It will be powered by diesel rather than coal but will otherwise follow design plans approved by a historical research team and, like its predecessor, will have 840 rooms and nine decks.

However it will incorporate state-of-the-art engineering and navigational features plus a few differences below the water line such as a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency and an enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for improved maneuverability.

Construction will start at the end of next year. Palmer says the replica will be every bit as luxurious as the original. She is expected to make her maiden voyage from England to North America, the old Titanic route, late in 2016.

The original vessel, the largest luxury ship in its time, struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. It went down on 15 April 1912, leaving more than 1,500 people dead. The ship had been vaunted as “unsinkable.”

The original ill-fated RMS Titanic

The original ill-fated RMS Titanic

Asked if Titanic 11 will be unsinkable, Palmer said “It is going to be designed so it won’t sink, but, of course, if you are superstitious, you never know what could happen.”

A Titanic historian at Australia’s National Maritime Museum, Inger Sheil, said the connection with the original would not put people off sailing on her.

“Curiously, in spite of the name, I think there will be quite a few people who will wish to travel on it because of the Titanic connection.

When the James Cameron movie came out in 1997 there was an upswing in interest in cruising among the general public because of the Titanic movie. What I’d be interested in is the longevity of that interest. Would it sustain itself after that initial curiosity and novelty factor has worn off?,” said Sheil.

The new Titanic will add to Palmer’s tourism portfolio which includes golf and spa resorts in the Australian state of Queensland.

Some commentators believe building the replica is in poor taste given that 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives on the original Titanic. But Palmer says already some 45,000 people have expressed an interest in traveling on Titanic II.”

An artist's impression of the titanic sinking

An artist’s impression of the titanic sinking

My hometown is Southampton in southern England from where the original Titanic left on her ill-fated voyage in 1912. Most of the crew who perished came from Southampton. I grew up with many reminders of the Titanic. My verdict? I think it’s a terrific idea and one day I’d love to sail on the new Titanic.

‘Worst art restoration of all time’

Despite good intentions, an elderly woman has ruined a fresco of Jesus in a northeastern village in Spain in what has been described as probably the worst art restoration project of all time.

The woman, 81 year-old Cecilia Giménez, has claimed responsibility for painting over a century-old devotional fresco titled Ecce Homo(Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez in Santuario del Misericordia, a Catholic church in Borja.

But the pensioner’s less-than-artistic restoration left Jesus, who was wearing a crown of thorns and gazing sorrowfully towards heaven, looking more like a pale monkey with a half beard. The BBC described the end result as looking like “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic”.

The restoration has been described as a botched repair where the intricate brush strokes of Martinez were replaced with a haphazard splattering of the old lady’s paint. Years of carefully calculated depth of expression was simply washed out by copious amounts of red and brown paint.

But Gimenez says she hasn’t finished yet. “We have always repaired everything ourselves here. The priest knew about it. Of course he did,” she told Spanish television.

Authorities at first suspected vandalism before Ms Gimenez stepped forward to claim responsibility.

The new version has become a national joke, reminiscent of fictional film character Mr. Bean’s comic attempt to restore Whistler’s Mother after he sneezes on it and mistakenly wipes off the face.

Three versions of Elías García Martínez's 'Ecce Homo", (l-r) the original, the deteriorated version and how it looked after the botched restoration

Three versions of Elías García Martínez’s ‘Ecce Homo”, (l-r) the original, the deteriorated version and how it looked after the botched restoration

Juan María Ojeda, The councilman of Culture Borja said it would be very difficult to recover the painting. However, a team of art restoration experts will evaluate the damage shortly to see if the work can be restored to its original state.

In the meantime, the Gimenez ‘hairy monkey’ painting has become a popular tourist attraction.

A buried treasure in Burma

In the summer of 1940 the fate of Britain hung in the balance as the German air force, the Luftwaffe, began its attacks against Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).

The German aim was to win complete control of the air over the south of England in order that Hitler and his grizzly gang could invade the country. They knew this was essential if an invasion was to be successful.

Over the next four months, in what became known as the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe tried to defeat the RAF not only by provoking air combat with its pilots, but also by destroying the British air fields, radar stations and the factories which made the British aircraft.

Hitler ordered that all factories supplying the RAF should be destroyed, particularly the units building Spitfires, the famous British single-seat aircraft that did so much to help win the war.

If the RAF had no new aircraft, German victory would be assured. Throughout this time, Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Aircraft Production, worked tirelessly to make sure the factories produced enough machines to respond to the German attacks.

Those employed in these factories also worked tirelessly and uncomplainingly. People such as my mother, Ellen Harland,  who worked at the Supermarine Spitfire factory in Southampton, on the south coast of England, were unsung heroes of the Battle of Britain, who in their own way helped to stop the Nazi occupation.

Women played a vital part in Britain’s success in World War II. Class barriers were lowered. Even Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, worked as a driver and mechanic. Interestingly, she is the last surviving head of state who served in uniform during WWII

As men left their factory jobs to go and fight, women stepped in to produce the heavy machinery needed for the war and at home to keep the country running. Women quickly picked up and excelled at historically male-dominated trades such as welding, riveting and engine repair.

Women were essential for the production and supply of goods to troops fighting abroad. Their efforts during wartime refuted the misconception that women are incapable of manual and technical laboring.

My mother joined the Supermarine Spitfire factory in Southampton at the age of 20. Her job was to inspect the wings as each new aircraft was assembled.

The plane’s elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters. Speed was seen as essential to carry out the mission of home defense
against enemy bombers.

The first raid on the Supermarine factory came on 23 August 1940. It missed, but over the next month, more raids were mounted until, on 26 September 1940, the factory was wrecked.

Many aircraft production workers were killed or injured. Fortunately, my mother survived; though she did see friends and colleagues perish in the raids.

Although Spitfire production was stopped for a short time, by moving the work to a number of smaller units, it wasn’t long before this iconic aircraft was once again rolling off the production line.

All-in-all, some 20,351 Spitfires of all versions had been produced when production ceased in 1948.

My mother has many fond memories of the Spitfire so imagine her surprise when she read recently that 20 of these classic aircraft had been discovered in Burma (Myanmar) having  been buried during  the war to prevent the Japanese getting their hands on them.

It’s quite possible my mother, with her gauges in hand, inspected the wings of these aircraft.

The planes were shipped in 1945 from England to Burma: waxed, wrapped in greased paper and tarred to protect against the elements.

My mother is now a sprightly 91. She’s in good health, lives alone and is independent. She says she can’t wait to see the ‘new’ spitfires take to the air for the first time.

The memories will come flooding back she says, but it will be a wonderful sight.

During the Battle of Britain, the young pilots in their Spitfires, who daily risked their lives, were the glamor boys. But there were many thousands of other patriotic Britons, such as my mother, who played an important role in keeping Britain safe.

(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/June/21)

Youngest member for Garden Club

The Negros Occidental Garden Club has welcomed its youngest member to the fold.

Club president Peps Remitio inducted seven year-old Lorien Ysobel Gamboa at its monthly meeting held recently at the Pavillon Hotel.

Garden Cub president Peps Remitio inducts seven year-old Lorien Ysobel Gamboa. Looking on is club membership committee chair Daphne Javelosa

Garden Cub president Peps Remitio inducts seven year-old Lorien Ysobel Gamboa. Looking on is club membership committee chair Daphne Javelosa

According to grandmother Ruska Gamboa, who is also a club member, Lorien loves flowers and gardening, especially growing plants. She is the daughter of ABS-CBN presenter Ryan Gamboa and spouse Carmela.

“It was Lorien’s idea that she join the club and she’s very excited about it. The club has often talked about attracting younger members, well, this is an excellent start”, said grandmother Ruska.

This year the Garden Club celebrates its 50th anniversary. It aims to promote, encourage, foster and cultivate interest in garden floriculture and community beautification as well as support local charities.

Negros Occidental Garden Club August birthday celebrators at the club's recent monthly meeting at the Pavillon Hotel (l-r) Baby Gonzaga, Edith Robillo, Olivia Fos.

Negros Occidental Garden Club August birthday celebrators at the club’s recent monthly meeting at the Pavillon Hotel (l-r) Baby Gonzaga, Edith Robillo, Olivia Fos.

Marapara donates a wheelchair and water pumps

Life became a little easier for 43 year-old stroke victim Ana Mercedes Violangco from Brgy. Bata on Wednesday when the Rotary Club of Bacolod Marapara presented her with a wheelchair at a special  ceremony at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club.

(l-r) Club members James Dinsay, Boy Cuenca, club president Mike Bantug, Purok Pinetree president Nelly Conde, immediate past club president Rico Cajili, Anna Mercedes Violangco, Purok Marapara president Corazon Sertibivas, past club president Max Javelona, Nancy Asquerae, Aurora Violangco

(l-r) Club members James Dinsay, Boy Cuenca, club president Mike Bantug, Purok Pinetree
president Nelly Conde, immediate past club president Rico Cajili, Anna Mercedes Violangco, Purok Marapara president Corazon Sertibivas, past club president Max Javelona, Nancy Asquerae, Aurora Violangco

Vilangco’s mother, Aurora, said the wheelchair would completely change the life of her daughter who has been unable to walk since the stroke. “She’ll now be able to get out and about instead of just staying at home. We are most grateful to Marapara Rotary for this gift. It’s a godsend,” she said.

At he same ceremony, the club presented four Jetmatic water pumps for use by Puroks Marapara and Pinetree in Bgry. Bata. This will be he first time for these communities to have their own water pumps.

Said club president Mike Bantug “We are delighted to have the opportunity to assist the less fortunate members of our society in this way. We are pleased the wheelchair and the pumps will make such a big difference to the lives of these local people.”

Wednesday’s donations were part of the club’s many annual community activities which also include medical missions for indigent patients who might not otherwise have the chance of seeing a doctor.