Category Archives: Journal Entries

Character’s Corner: Time Travel Journal Entry of Sam Altair, 16 June 1906

When Casey and I decided to keep journals of our experiences in 1906, we had no real plans to try and change our history. We always knew it was a possibility–two people who have moved backwards through time, and are living in the past, will cause changes that affect the future. Just being alive will cause that, no matter how careful we try to be.

But now something has happened, and we are considering:  should we try to deliberately change an event?

In our original history, on 14 April 1912, the RMS Titanic, at the time considered the greatest ship in the world, was on her maiden voyage toNew York City.  Around midnight, she struck an iceberg in the middle of theNorth Atlantic and sank in about 2½ hours. Over fifteen hundred people died, including Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer and builder.

Casey has just met Thomas Andrews.

She didn’t know who he was until I told her. She’d come home a couple of days ago, excited about an errand job she’d picked up that would pay her several shillings. This was good news, we needed the money, but she was also blubbering on about the “seriously hot” fellow who hired her. I ignored most of this; Casey is young and I’m sure she’s lonely. I don’t begrudge her any fantasies.

But when she came in yesterday, she said the fellow had offered her a temporary job at Harland & Wolff Shipyard. Then she told me his name. We had quite a discussion about it, since she had seen that movie about Titanic in 1997. She was only eleven years old at the time, but she remembered Thomas Andrews. She wants to warn him.

I’m tempted.

Thomas Andrews was one of my childhood heroes. The Belfast school system is enamored of him in the future, and in seventh grade we had an entire week-long session on the Titanic and the shipyard. I was intrigued by him and did a lot of research on my own. It’s true what they say: no one ever said a bad thing about him. He was a true gentleman, and certainly Casey’s brief experience bears this out.

There is so much we don’t know about time travel. Are we truly in our own history, with our actions affecting the future we were born into? Or are we in an alternate universe created when we traveled to the past? Some of the same events have occurred: the San Francisco earthquake is one example. We had no way of changing that, of course. It’s a different thing from the Titanic sinking. The Titanic disaster was (is? will be?) the result of myriad human decisions and haphazard actions that put the ship in the path of a large iceberg. There are so many things we could warn Andrews about, so many details he might change to prevent the collision. Or if he can’t do that, then perhaps build the ship with better safety designs. I’m convinced it needs to stay afloat longer. Even if they had more lifeboats, they would need the time to get everyone on them.

We have to be careful who we tell about us. It may be melodramatic, but Casey is right when she says that telling the wrong person might result in our becoming prisoners and pawns of governments or militaries. Whatever is right or wrong about changing history, we both want to remain free. We want a chance to live our lives as well as we can.

Of all the Titanic characters, Tom Andrews is the only one I would really trust with knowledge of time travelers. Lord Pirrie or Bruce Ismay may be better placed to make changes to the ship or sailing schedule, but I don’t quite trust them. Either of them might want to use our future knowledge for personal gain, or might feel it’s in their best interest to turn us over to the government.

What about Captain Smith? Of all people, he’s in the best position to prevent the collision. Simply stop the ship for the night and wait for daylight to navigate the ice field. But I know almost nothing about the man’s character. No, of all of them, Tom Andrews is both the safest and best-placed choice. It may be serendipity that he is the one we have met.

So briefly, here is what happens (happened?) on 14 April 1912:  the ship was sailing at not-quite full speed, it was a dark night and the sea was completely calm. Captain Smith had several warnings about ice, but ignored them. The collision caused gashes along the starboard side for about three hundred feet.

We know some of Andrews’ actions that night, how he sounded the ship and warned the captain that she would sink in about one-and-a-half hours, at most. She lived an hour longer than that. We know that Andrews spent the time helping. He helped the crew with the lifeboats, he helped load people into boats, he encouraged the use of life belts, he distributed blankets. Eyewitnesses place Andrews everywhere that night: the engine room, the decks, throwing chairs and doors to the people in the water, the smoking room.

The smoking room is the most famous anecdote. A steward sees him standing at the real fireplace, staring at the painting on the wall. One sees him there, amid the wood and mother-of-pearl, as the ship tilts downward, eyes on the painting, but thoughts–where? We only have conjecture. Like others, I feel he was thinking of his family–wife, daughter, parents, siblings. He loved his life, the people in it. Did he feel responsible? Did he think of times he gave in to the economic or political demands of others, and failed to insist on important safeguards? They considered the Titanic the safest ship in the world, but did he know they could have improved her? Certainly, he had asked for more lifeboats. Had he asked for a double hull or higher bulkheads? Are these things I can help him with?

I think about him on the deck, concerned about the people in the water. They had life belts on, but the water was so cold, they would die in minutes. They say he loved his ships, but he tore the Titanic apart bit by bit, to give those people whatever aid he could.

Some think he died there in the smoking room. Others say a wave washed him off the deck and into the ocean. We do know he did not have his life belt on. They never found his body.

Casey is right. We have to warn him.

 

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Character’s Corner: Time Travel Journal Entry, Thomas Andrews 24 January 1912

Malcolm Paddick informed me that they are still waiting for parts needed to install the lifts on 401 (editor’s note – 401 was Harland & Wolff’s production number for Titanic – they seldom called the ships by name). This is cutting the schedule close. I need them to begin lift installation this week. If I remember right, we had the same issue with 400, and that’s twice too many times. I’m going to look for another vendor to provide for future ships.

When Malcolm brought this up, I had the strangest thought, one I’m rather ashamed of, the more I think about it. I thought, “why didn’t Sam warn me about these things?” Of course, even on the surface, such a thought is ridiculous. Sam could not possibly know the minutiae of this business. Even I don’t know everything that goes on around here, and I log more time than anyone.

I don’t truly expect Sam to know everything. I think it’s just my frustration that brings these thoughts. But I’m uncomfortably reminded of the time I lashed out at him, back when young Kelly died.  I was unfair to Sam then, and – well, all has been said before, and we have gone past it. It’s just…

I keep looking over my shoulder, both literally, and metaphorically. The closer we get to 14 April, the more I question every step I take, every decision I make. Is this what I did before? If I decide this, instead of that, will history change?

In my more humble moments, I realize that my little decisions here at the yard probably make no difference in the larger scheme of things. For instance, the firm is committed to finishing 401, and turning her over to White Star, by 1 April. That was a company decision, and I am obligated to arrange my part so that we meet that deadline. The rest is out of my control, and therefore proceeds exactly as it did in the first timeline. It is this that makes me look over my shoulder, for hints of what happened before. As if I expect to see it written on the wall somewhere.

But enough nonsense. I’m going to lock this journal away, close my office, and go home to my family. I will have dinner, play with my children a while, and tuck them into bed. Exactly as life should be.

Character’s Corner: Time Travel Journal Entry of Sam Altair, 19 January 1912

Received a letter from Albert (Einstein) in which he expounds upon the parallel universe theory of time travel. In particular, he takes me to task – and rightly so – for sloppy nomenclature. He reminds me that this second universe is not parallel to the original one. How could it be, when its starting point is in the other universe?

(He also wrote two pages on the question of whether or not what I’ve been calling the “original” universe is in fact, original. How do we know it is not itself the result of a time travel incident in some other universe, ad infitum? The answer, of course, is that we don’t know, but I simply cannot be bothered with such an irrelevant detail. Perhaps I’ll write about that at another time.)

But back to the parallel nomenclature. In our research, Albert and I are both fond of this simple drawing:

where the first line is the original universe, and the second is, of course, our own universe. In other words, we are rightly called a tangential universe. I know this, but I have not been rigorous in insisting that others use the correct term.

I blame Casey for this. The girl is irrepressible. From the beginning, she has said “parallel universe,” which I think she got from Star Trek or something. We had so many obstacles to overcome at the beginning, that it felt cruel to pester her about such a little thing. But truly, it makes a difference.

For instance, because this universe has a point in common with the original one, I have hopes that we can someday go back there. There is much research yet to do, but I believe it has to do with the neutrinos. They are at the core of time travel, after all. And the neutrinos in this universe have a common nature with those in the original. Like cousins separated over distance, they may have a proclivity to find each other.  It is this that I hope to harness someday. After I’ve managed to invent the electron microscope, of course. We’ve advanced the technology quite a bit since arriving here, but we’re not that far along, yet.

 

Character’s Corner: Journal Entry of Casey Andrews, 10 January 1912

Mrs. Herceforth called yesterday, and as usual, provided a stimulating and amusing time of chatter. At one point, she mentioned the dinner party she hosted last week. Tom and I were not able to attend, and she said that although she missed our presence, it nevertheless gave her guests plenty of time to discuss Tom’s prospects in a run for city council.

I reminded her that Tom has no desire for public office, but she only shook her head at me. It seems that the public (or a few influential members of it) is clamoring for his service. Mrs. Herceforth gave me the impression that Tom may not have a lot of choice in the matter.

I mentioned it to Tom last night. He just sighed, the kind of sigh that says, “I don’t bloody have time to serve in public office, there are too many ships that need building.” Of course, Tom would never say “bloody” – but if he ever allowed himself to say it, he would have used it last night.

What he DID say, was that he hoped to simply ignore them until Titanic was finished and he had returned from her maiden voyage. He would deal with them then.

He said it just like that – the casual statement of a busy man who automatically prioritizes the demands on his time and gives no more thought to them. And as has been happening so often lately, his innocent statement felt like a punch to my stomach.

He talks as if he has no knowledge of the future, no idea of what will happen on that voyage. As if, of course he’ll go on the voyage in April, and will be back in six weeks and life will continue as it always has.

Why does he do this? I live in dread of every day that brings us closer to April 14, but he just goes on as if it means nothing. Sometimes I think he doesn’t really understand. I know he believes us – he’s done so much to make the ship stronger than she was in our timeline. I guess he thinks that’s enough. That even if they hit the iceberg, the ship will float long enough for rescue to get there, and they’ll have enough lifeboats anyway. That’s what he and Sam have tried to do, after all.

I will never be able to relax about it. I don’t care what they’ve changed, Tom could still die. And when he says things like he did last night, I feel that he’s not taking it seriously enough. He’s so busy, that if I bring it up, I feel like I’m nagging him. No – I feel like he thinks I’m nagging him. 

Oh bother. When I read back through this, I can see that I must be very difficult to live with these days. I really try to put on a brave face. But I keep seeing the scenes from that movie. It doesn’t show how Tom dies. No one knows exactly – the last anyone saw him was either in the first-class smoking room, or on deck, throwing chairs and doors to people in the water.

But I see him. I see him die a hundred different ways in my dreams. And I can’t let it go. I can’t stop these thoughts, and my every attempt at bravado falls flat. 

If we can travel back through time… why can’t we stop it, too?

 

Character’s Corner: Journal Entry of Thomas Andrews, 02 January 1912

Casey and Sam are fond of celebrating the New Year, but as I had to work yesterday, we did not stay up much past midnight on Sunday. In fact, we had a rather abrupt end to New Year’s Eve celebrations. As the clock struck midnight, I turned to Casey, expecting to kiss her. Instead, she just burst into tears. Not a very reassuring sight for a husband to see!

I was distraught, of course, to see her so upset. Still, I cannot say I was surprised. For Casey, the year of 1912 brings her worst nightmares to fruition. She has been on edge for months already, but when the year actually changed from 1911 to 1912, she reached a new depth of despair.

I do my best to reassure her, but the simple truth is that it is just not as real to me as it is to her. I truly believe everything she and Sam have told me about Titanic. I have done everything that Sam and I can think to do, to help the ship survive if she hits an iceberg. But the reality of it… well, I don’t know how to put it, exactly. I just know it’s more real to them. To me, it’s a story – a warning that something will go wrong, and a chance to prevent it. But it hasn’t happened yet, and like any prophecy, it’s possible that it will never come to pass. God knows, I take the warning seriously. But it’s still not real.

To Casey and Sam – it happened. They’ve seen the pictures, read the newspaper articles, even seen films of the actual ship in her bed at the bottom of the Atlantic. I believe that is what Casey sees when she thinks of Titanic. She doesn’t see Ship 400, growing grand in her slip at the yard. She sees the broken vessel, covered with sea plants and bottom-feeders, rusting through a haze of seawater.

What a curse this time travel is! A blessing – yes, and one I am grateful for. But a curse, nonetheless, that brings my wife such sorrow.

Journal Entry: Casey Wilson, 10 August 1906

Sam brought home a gramophone, today. We have more money now, which means better shelter, better food, better clothes. But that silly gramophone did more to make me feel normal than anything has done since we came here.

Music is back in my life. It’s scratchy, corny, early-twentieth-century music – but it’s back. 

Journal Entries: Casey, 5 June 1906

So here we are: time travelers from the future, just like on Star Trek. Except we’re poor and hungry and dirty. Sam is still sick. Sometimes, I’m tempted to turn us in – go to some officials with our modern gadgets and convince them of what we are. Offer to give them future information in exchange for a decent living. But what information? What will they do with it? Would it make things worse?

Journal Entry in Time Travel Journal # 1 of Casey Wilson, June 5, 1906

Journal Entry, 25 January 1906

Time travel used to be an experiment, a switch flipped in a laboratory. Now it’s the buildings around me, the people in the street, the smell of coal in the air. Scared? I’m bloody terrified.

Entry in Time Travel Journal # 17* of Samuel Altair, January 25, 1906

*Journals 1–16 are in the future. I have decided to keep the numbering consistent, in case those journals are found.

Journal Entry of Sam Altair, 16 June, 1906

When Casey and I decided to keep journals of our experiences in 1906, we had no real plans to try and change our history. We always knew it was a possibility. Two people who have moved backwards through time, and are living in the past, will cause changes that affect the future. Just being alive will cause that, no matter how careful we try to be.

But now something has happened, and we are considering: should we try to deliberately change an event?

In our original history, on 14 April 1912, the RMS Titanic, at the time considered the greatest ship in the world, was on her maiden voyage toNew York City.  Around midnight, she struck an iceberg in the middle of theNorth Atlantic and sank in about two-and-a-half hours. Over fifteen hundred people died, including Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer and builder.

Casey has just met Thomas Andrews.

She didn’t know who he was until I told her. She’d come home a couple of days ago, excited about an errand job she’d picked up that would pay her several shillings. This was good news, we needed the money, but she was also blubbering on about the “seriously hot” fellow who hired her. I ignored most of this; Casey is young and I’m sure she’s lonely. I don’t begrudge her any fantasies.

But when she came in yesterday, she said the fellow had offered her a temporary job at Harland & Wolff Shipyard. Then she told me his name. We had quite a discussion about it, since she had seen that movie about Titanic in 1997. She was only eleven years old at the time, but she remembered Thomas Andrews. She wants to warn him.

I’m tempted.

Thomas Andrews was one of my childhood heroes. The Belfastschool system is enamored of him in the future, and in seventh grade we had an entire week-long session on the Titanic and the shipyard. I was intrigued by him and did a lot of research on my own. It’s true what they say: no one ever said a bad thing about him. He was a true gentleman, and certainly Casey’s brief experience bears this out.

There is so much we don’t know about time travel. Are we truly in our own history, with our actions affecting the future we were born into? Or are we in an alternate universe created when we traveled to the past? Some of the same events have occurred. The San Francisco earthquake is one example. We had no way of changing that, of course. It’s a different thing from the Titanic sinking. The Titanic disaster was (is? will be?) the result of myriad human decisions and haphazard actions that put the ship in the path of a large iceberg. There are so many things we could warn Andrews about, so many details he might change to prevent the collision. Or if he can’t do that, then perhaps build the ship with better safety designs. I’m convinced it needs to stay afloat longer. Even if they had more lifeboats, they would need the time to get everyone on them.

We have to be careful who we tell about us. It may be melodramatic, but Casey is right when she says that telling the wrong person might result in our becoming prisoners and pawns of governments or militaries. Whatever is right or wrong about changing history, we both want to remain free. We want a chance to live our lives as well as we can.

Of all the Titanic characters, Tom Andrews is the only one I would really trust with knowledge of time travelers. Lord Pirrie or Bruce Ismay may be better placed to make changes to the ship or sailing schedule, but I don’t quite trust them. Either of them might want to use our future knowledge for personal gain, or might feel it’s in their best interest to turn us over to the government.

What about Captain Smith? Of all people, he’s in the best position to prevent the collision. Simply stop the ship for the night and wait for daylight to navigate the ice field. But I know almost nothing about the man’s character. No, of all of them, Tom Andrews is both the safest and best-placed choice. It may be serendipity that he is the one we have met.

So briefly, here is what happens (happened?) on 14 April 1912: the ship was sailing at not-quite full speed, it was a dark night and the sea was completely calm. Captain Smith had several warnings about ice, but ignored them. The collision caused gashes along the starboard side for about three hundred feet.

We know some of Andrews’ actions that night, how he sounded the ship and warned the captain that she would sink in about one-and-a-half hours, at most. She lived an hour longer than that. We know that Andrews spent the time helping. He helped the crew with the lifeboats, he helped load people into boats, he encouraged the use of life belts, he distributed blankets. Eyewitnesses place Andrews everywhere that night: the engine room, the decks, throwing chairs and doors to the people in the water, the smoking room.

The smoking room is the most famous anecdote. A steward sees him standing at the real fireplace, staring at the painting on the wall. One sees him there, amid the wood and mother-of-pearl, as the ship tilts downward, eyes on the painting, but thoughts—where? We only have conjecture. Like others, I feel he was thinking of his family: wife, daughter, parents, siblings. He loved his life, the people in it. Did he feel responsible? Did he think of times he gave in to the economic or political demands of others, and failed to insist on important safeguards? They considered the Titanic the safest ship in the world, but did he know they could have improved her? Certainly, he had asked for more lifeboats. Had he asked for a double hull or higher bulkheads? Are these things I can help him with?

I think about him on the deck, concerned about the people in the water. They had life belts on, but the water was so cold, they would die in minutes. They say he loved his ships, but he tore the Titanic apart bit by bit, to give those people whatever aid he could.

Some think he died there in the smoking room. Others say a wave washed him off the deck and into the ocean. We do know he did not have his life belt on. They never found his body.

Casey is right. We have to warn him.

Character’s Corner, Sam’s Journal Nov. 4, 2005

Sam Altair, Scientific Notebook
4 November, 2005

 The debates have been endless. I have a headache. We’ve done so many experiments with those damn toys. Every one of them has disappeared. But I just can’t figure out how to track them. Where are they going?

Jin brought up her alternate universe theory again. As usual, she makes a lot of good points. My immediate reaction is that she’s wrong – but my bias is suspect. If she’s right, then time travel is exceedingly dangerous, and I have no right – no moral, ethical right, to pursue it.

Although even Jin acknowledges that won’t stop someone else from attempting it. Like me, she believes that ideas – that knowledge – cannot be stopped. If we set it aside now, or try to bury it, someone will simply figure it out later.

Jin described her idea quite simply. I’ll repeat it here, as I try to figure out my own thoughts and feelings on this.

We live in our universe. As far as we know, our universe began at some point in the past, and has proceeded in orderly fashion to the present, just so:

 

 

Our research has convinced us that time, like light, has more than one property. To us, who experience it within the shell of our limited senses, time is a straight line. All that we see has a beginning, proceeds to grow older, then dies, and reincorporates into the whole. This holds for fish or people, stars or galaxies. It is true, as far as we know, for our entire universe.

Yet… it is not true. Even within our universe, time has eddies. It is fluid. All time exists all at once. No, I can’t comprehend it. But I’ve learned how to use it. And for the purposes of Jin’s theory, comprehension doesn’t matter.

What happens if we travel backward along our straight timeline?

 

This is not to scale, of course. I want room to show what happens. I’ve chosen 1906 arbitrarily – 100 years being an easy number to work with.

Consider the line. From “0” (the beginning of time), up until 2006 the line is straight. Then we move an object, or perhaps someday, a person, back to 1906.

We have not moved EVERYTHING back to 1906. Just a very small piece of our universe. So for all that remains in 2006, the line continues on as if nothing has happened.

But in 1906, there is change. In 1906, the next hundred years must happen again. And there is no reason they must be exactly like the first timeline. In fact, because of our time traveler, there is instant change. How large or small the change is unknown. But there is no way for the coming years to follow along the exact course they did before.

So the timeline now looks like this:

 

 

A new timeline. A new… universe. Because the one hundred years DID happen, and they are not simply erased when we go back in time.

All of time exists at once. I know this from my research, even if I can’t comprehend it. But is it true, that I am creating  new universes every time I send something back in time?

Jin thinks so. And I bloody well don’t want that on my conscience.

More later…