ILL-FATED: Titanic before her maiden voyage from Southampton, bound for New York City. The Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on the evening of April 14, 1912, losing 70 percent of passengers and crew.

Titanic museums in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and in Branson, Missouri, have told the ship’s story to 7 million visitors in the past six years. Now the attractions are marking the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic by sponsoring a Coast Guard cutter to take 1.5 million rose petals to the North Atlantic site where the ship went down 100 years ago.

The museums will commemorate the anniversary on April 14 with ceremonies in Tennessee and Missouri. The flowers will be dropped at the location to commemorate the victims on the luxury liner, which sank on April 15, 1912 after hitting an iceberg. More than 1 500 of the 2 200 on board died.

The cutter will leave Boston on April 10 and join several commercial cruises in the area for the occasion. The museum-sponsored trip is not open to the public.

“It’s a memorial, and we’re just going to do the ceremony,” said Rick Laney, spokesman for the museums, who will be on board. “We’ll have a priest, pastor and rabbi along.”

Laney is not worried about bad weather or the danger that befell the Titanic a century ago.

The museums, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Missouri’s country music-oriented resort town of Branson, are to conclude activities on April 14 with a symbolic re-enactment of the launching of Titanic’s distress flares and the lighting of a memorial flame at the ship’s bow.

John Joslyn, co-owner of both museums, said the ceremonies “will pay tribute to the courage of the rescuers and survivors, respect the sacrifice so many made so that others might live, and honour the memory of all those aboard”.

Joslyn was co-leader of the first private expedition to visit the ship’s resting place on the ocean bed. Other expeditions have been conducted, including one by James Cameron, director of the Titanic movie.

In 1987 Joslyn and a team spent 44 days at sea, diving to the site 32 times, getting hundreds of hours of ghost-like images used in the TV special Return to Titanic… Live!

Up to 20 descendants of those who were aboard the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage are scheduled to attend ceremonies at the museums, Laney said. The Titanic Historical Society is helping co-ordinate the activities.

The museums, half-scale replicas of the giant ship, are home to hundreds of artefacts from survivors of the disaster and from the ocean liner. The attractions, with eerie symbolism, strive to show visitors how it felt to be part of the tragedy: They can learn how to send an SOS signal; dip their hands into -2.2ºC water, simulating the water the night the ship sank; and feel the chill of an iceberg. Each guest gets a boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger or crew member. At the end of the tour, they learn the fate of their passenger.

Visitors can walk through hallways, parlours, cabins and a grand staircase while surrounded by the artefacts and exhibits.

The two museums are billed as exhibiting one of the largest permanent collections of Titanic artefacts and memorabilia.

The museum in Branson has had more than 5 million visitors since its opening in 2006; its counterpart in Pigeon Forge has had 2 million visitors since it opened in 2010.

The 1997 movie is being re-released in 3D in time for the centennial. – Sapa-AP