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In the midst of the waterfront is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, where curator Gerry Lunn is busy setting up an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking, highlighting the efforts of the crewmen who pulled the victims’ bodies from the sea. A permanent display of salvaged artefacts already draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year – a number that rose significantly after the 1997 release of James Cameron’s Titanic movie and shows no sign of dropping.

‘Any story that involves the loss of human life is compelling,’ Gerry says, ‘and the Titanic is one of the best-known disasters of that kind. But the sad fact is, it’s one in a long line of tragedies in this region, and these continue to happen. Scratch the surface of families in some areas and you’ll discover brothers, uncles and fathers lost in the sea.’

Along this coast is a slew of fishing villages and coves with the idyllic charm to inspire a thousand watercolour paintings – from Lunenburg, with its brightly painted houses, to the perfect lighthouse setting of Peggy’s Cove – yet each has a steely core that has seen it withstand centuries of assault by seas, winds and storms. Echoing this resilience are the hardy fishermen – the ‘iron men in wooden boats’ of local lore – who, despite the risks, continue their traditions and head out day after day into the unforgiving waters. ‘

In the fishing communities, there are deep roots going back through the years – a toughness that’s passed on from father to son – and there’s a great feeling of pride in that,’ Gerry continues. ‘But there is also an underlying sense of the ocean as a living, breathing thing that can take revenge if you show hubris or don’t give it due respect. It’s like the old saying goes – you should never turn your back on the sea.’

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the photo caption stated that the lighthouse pictured is in Cape Race, Newfoundland instead of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. It has been corrected.

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The article ‘The Titanic’s last resting place’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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