When I was 16, my first vacation to Europe surprised me. But at the end of the trip for a long time to stay with me rather than the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace or canals of Venice, but ordinary aspects of life: the locals take for granted the things: road marking and the color of the logo, posters, a local snack food in the shop window, and the place of the sound and the smell of the most important.
In the early hours of the morning of April 15, 1912 the immense body of the Titanic, rent in two, plummeted to its grave on the ocean floor. More than 1,300 souls were lost that night.
Fresh varnish, paint, and newly sawn wood were the initial smells that greeted a passenger aboard the ship. In those days paint was still made with lead and contained high amounts of linseed oil. There would have been the smell of smoke from the coal driven engines and on that fateful night, the wonderful smells of roasting duck, lamb, and beef, all of which were on the first class menu.
That same year, the famous French perfume house Guerlain had just released L’Heure Bleue (the bluish hour): “velvety soft and romantic, it is a fragrance of bluish dusk and anticipation of night, before the first stars appear in the sky.” It was expensive and in high demand and would have certainly been smelled by a lot of women on the first class deck. The fragrance can still be bought today and there is no denying that it still has a quality that brings to mind that fateful night.
But at 11pm on April 14th, 1912 another smell began to appear: a mineral odor with a metallic edge. It was the smell of an iceberg. Just as ice in your freezer picks up the various odors of other foods stored there, icebergs will take on the scent of their surroundings. Interaction from sea dwelling animals contribute to this, as well as the chemical composition of the water from which the iceberg is formed. Recognizing the faintly metallic smell of ice may not have saved the ship, but it might have increased the total number of survivors. Pictured is the iceberg believed to have been the one that Titanic hit; traces of the ship’s paint are visible on it.