By John Joslyn
As a young boy growing up in Wisconsin, I first encountered RMS Titanic when I read Sea Disasters, a collection of stories published by Columbia House Book Club. Each page filled me with wonder and amazement as Titanic’s life-and-death struggle unfolded. Little did I know, this book – this ship – would one day shape my destiny.
That day dawned in 1987 as I prepared to co-lead a six-million dollar expedition to the wreck site some two years after Titanic’s incredible, joint discovery by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the French exploratory agency, IFREMER. Our team’s mission was to explore the wreckage, retrieve artifacts, and bring back film footage of the broken ship. These priceless images were shared with millions of people when “Return to the Titanic…Live” television show aired October 1987. I co-produced this television special with Doug Llewelyn after returning from the expedition. With the help of an exceptionally talented crew, this Titanic special was the second-highest rated show of its time, something I still have pride and delight in today.
Titanic’s discovery sparked the imagination of people around the world. As this grand, ill-fated ship experienced a rebirth, a new generation fell under her spell. At the same time, my dream of creating a permanent Titanic museum attraction began to take shape. Twenty years later, the World’s Largest Titanic Museum Attraction opened in April 2006 in Branson, Missouri. With the second one following 2010 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Photo courtesy John Joslyn
From the beginning, I knew Titanic’s story was timeless and would be told and retold for generations to come. Unfortunately, myth and mystery attached themselves to her legacy over the years, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. I was determined – obsessed, really – to get it right. After my emotional visit to the decaying hulk of that once-magnificent ship, I felt obligated to honor the people who faced death that cold April night in 1912. I knew then that their stories of courage, sacrifice, and survival were the real building blocks and an enduring Titanic tribute.
Having a dream and making it come true would take more encouragement and support than I could have imagined. Fortunately, I discovered there are hundreds of knowledgeable people around the world – scholars, collectors, artists, and writers whose lives, like mine, had been touched by Titanic. In building Titanic Museum Attractions, I had invaluable assistance from this esteemed, international “family,” and I am grateful to each and every one who helped make this man’s impossible dream come true.
John Joslyn is President and CEO of Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN. His association with Titanic began in the mid-1980s, when he co-founded and served as General Manager of Titanic Ventures Limited Partnership, the predecessor company to R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. He also mounted and acted as the Co-Expedition Leader of the 1987 Titanic Expedition in collaboration with the distinguished French Institute for Research and Exploration of the Sea (“IFREMER”).