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Book that foresaw Titanic disaster coming to a device near you

By Claire McNeilly

It was the book they were all reading at the time: the tale of a supposedly unsinkable, luxury liner which went down after striking an iceberg in the north Atlantic.

A familiar story - but Futility, by the hitherto unknown New York author Morgan Robertson, was flying off bookshop shelves 14 years before the Belfast-built, New-York bound Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, taking 1,500 souls to a watery grave.

And now, the eerie novel which uncannily foretells the most famous disaster in maritime history, has just been re-issued for modern-day readers - with a new name.

Titanic Foretold, which is now available on Kindle devices, comprises the original version of the book but with comprehensive notes comparing the fictional vessel of the story - the Titan - with what actually happened its near-namesake.

"The similarities between the ship featured in Futility and the Titanic are many and detailed," said English author Stephen Robinson, who conducted the annotation for the new version.

"This work continues to fascinate, over a century after it was written. Morgan Robertson was incredibly insightful, describing the ocean liner in details that correspond closely to the Titanic."

He added: "There are many coincidences to explore, which is what I attempted to do with this annotated version."

In Futility, the liner is described as the largest ship of its day, just like the ill-fated White Star liner launched from the Harland and Wolff shipyard in east Belfast.

The ships were close in size - the Titanic was actually 25 metres longer - and were both capable of speeds exceeding 20 knots.

Chillingly, they both perished in mid-April, the disasters exacerbated by the vessels failing to carry more than the bare legal minimum of lifeboats.

The original author, however, denied he was a clairvoyant.

Instead, he said he was someone who was well versed in maritime technology and, as an experienced seaman himself, was concerned that the ships of that era were getting too big, becoming too fast and a catastrophic collision with an iceberg wasn't far beyond the realms of possibility.

The main plot of Robertson's book - which, at only 69 pages long, is more of a novella - concerns an officer on the Titan who finds God, gets reacquainted with a lost lover and battles alcoholism after the ship sinks.

Shortly after the Titanic disaster of 1912, Futility was renamed 'The Wreck of the Titan' (left) by its publishers, presumably to cash in on the eerie similarities to a real-life catastrophe.

Remarkably, another book by Robertson, Beyond the Spectrum, which was published in 1914, tells of a sneak attack by Japan on the US fleet in Hawaii which led to a war between the two countries - 27 years before the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Robertson died in 1915 aged 53.

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