OVER THE STERN of the MS Balmoral on April 15, John Eaton ’48 watched as memorial wreaths bobbed on the ocean’s surface, miles above the wreck of the RMS Titanic. As the Balmoral’s orchestra played “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” Eaton was startled by a realization.
“I was there at the magical moment when Titanic’s past suddenly became her future,” he remembers of the ceremony, which took place at the location and time of the ship’s sinking 100 years ago. “This piece of history that I spent so many years studying suddenly became something new — almost unknown. Something I was going to have to, in many respects, restart my consideration of.”
Eaton and his longtime co-author, Charles Haas, were featured lecturers aboard the memorial cruise that followed the ship’s route of its fated maiden voyage. Calling the journey an “epic” culmination of decades of study, the respected historian enjoyed the trip through time surrounded by 1,309 passengers, who shared his enthusiasm for Titanic.
“Charles and I were almost instant celebrities,” he says. “Two-thirds of our audiences were well-acquainted with Titanic. It was nice to be accepted as a member of a community that knows so much.”
Eaton, of Cold Spring, N.Y., is co-founder, historian, and longtime trustee of Titanic International Society.
A biology graduate, Eaton pursued his avocation throughout his career in hospital administration.
The third edition of Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy was released in December 2011.