It will look like the Titanic in every way except one - it won't be at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Speaking at a news conference in New York this week, Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer announced his plan to launch a full scale copy of the ill fated Titanic and sail her across the Atlantic. To do so would be a tribute to those who built the original ship in Belfast he said.
'We will complete the journey. We will sail into New York on the ship they designed,' Palmer said aboard the Intrepid aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum in the city.
According to The Guardian, Palmer refused to be drawn on whether his new boat would be 'unsinkable' the fateful and entirely inaccurate term that the backers of the original Titanic famously used.
'Anything will sink if you put a hole in it,' Palmer admitted, adding that due to global warming the risks of icebergs has diminished considerably. 'There are not so many icebergs in the North Atlantic these days,' he said.
Markku Kanerva, the main designer of the new ship, struck a more cautious note. 'I can assure you, from the safety point of view, it will be absolutely the most safe cruise ship in the world when it is launched,' he said.
Titanic II, as they are calling it, is an almost exact to scale copy of the original ship, which sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. That means its famous silhouette will be all but indistinguishable from the original ship, complete with the four rear-slanted funnels.
Titanic II is scheduled to launch in 2016 and will follow almost the same route from Europe to America. Before it's even launched the maiden voyage has caught the imagination of tens of thousands. Already 40,000 applications have been submitted to be part of an attempt to rewrite the past with a happier ending.
Journalists in New York were shown a dramatic video presentation of the Titanic II, which featured guests aboard the doppelgänger ship dressed in high Edwardian splendor (Palmer said that guests aboard the new ship would have the option of wearing period costume).
Attentive to the sensitivities of the offspring of Titanic survivors, Palmer invited a descendant of a Titanic survivor to endorse the project.
Helen Benziger is a granddaughter of Molly Brown, a socialite who became famous for persuading a lifeboat to turn around and search for survivors. She heartily backed the new venture. 'Bringing this ship back? I don’t know the words,' she said. 'It is a chance to go back in time.'
Titanic II will reportedly have a crew of 900 looking after some 2,435 passengers. Just like the original Titanic the new craft will boast a Turkish Baths, a smoking room, a grand staircase and a gymnasium.
It is even split into three different classes, from steerage to first class. Palmer said the guests would be segregated by class just like on the original Titanic, though he claimed he wanted to make the journey in steerage himself because – referencing James Cameron's disaster movie Titanic – that was where the fun people would be travelling. 'I will be in third class. I will enjoy it,' he claimed.
Unlike the original, Titanic II will also reportedly feature a modern hospital, a helicopter landing pad, full air-conditioning and access to high-speed internet. Also, unlike the first ship, it has more than enough lifeboats and evacuation equipment for all passengers and crew should the unthinkable happen and history repeat itself.
In another major departure the Titanic II is being built, not in the Belfast shipyards but in the Jinling shipyard in China.
Meanwhile Palmer said that there was huge demand for tickets on the Titanic II's maiden voyage. More than a dozen eager customers have offered to pay up to a million dollars to snag a first class cabin, Palmer said.
Palmer was reluctant to reveal the details of the cost of building the ship, but he admitted he has sunk part of his own fortune into it.
'I’ve got enough money to pay for it,' he said when asked if he needed to borrow to raise funds. 'Cost is not what it is all about.'
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