Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson


The Cold Spring Shops reference library contains a number of works on Titanic, and Titanic's Last Secrets provided material for a book review earlier this year. For Book Review No. 40, I offer The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, the Californian, and the Night the Titanic Was Lost. Perhaps because I was familiar with the story, I was less than impressed. Somebody who is beginning a Titanic library might disagree: Other Side includes vignettes of life as a merchant seaman (but unanswered questions: did trimmers and stokers ever work their way up to engineer, the way cabin boys could work their way up to captain, and how many captains might have viewed dinner table with the Rich and Famous as just one more duty?) and the early history of Marconi wireless (the telegrams the well-off were sending to Cape Race when Californian radio operator Cyril Evans attempted to alert Titanic to the ice field have all the information content of a tweet) and modern insights into Californian master Stanley Lord's psychology.

That noted, despite author Daniel Allen Butler's friendship with maritime historian Walter Lord, and despite Mr Lord's passing the mantle to Mr Butler, and despite Mr Butler's efforts to reconcile the logs of Californian and Titanic so as to establish that the steamer several of Californian's crew observed firing rockets could only be Titanic (an effort reminiscent of Mr Lord working out from Japanese and U. S. reports which SBD squadrons sank which carriers at Midway) there's not much by way of original content. The Night Lives On has much of the same content. The U.S. and British inquiries established Captain Lord's dereliction of duty for all time in 1912, and Captain Lord went on to an uneventful career hauling nitrates in the southern oceans. There's not much reason for another refutation of the books suggesting Californian saw a ship other than Titanic sending up rockets: to paraphrase a passage I saw in some other book about the sinking, it matters not whether a Gloucester fisherman or Flying Dutchman or The British Home Fleet lay between Californian and Titanic and sent up rockets. Several of Californian's crew reported rockets to the captain, and the captain did nothing.

On the other hand, perhaps there is yet another layer of Titanica for marine historians to investigate. Britannic, laid down as Gigantic, hit a mine in the Mediterranean. Olympic rammed and sank a U-boat. Californian and Carpathia were torpedoed. Author Clive (Raise the Titanic) Cussler sponsored an expedition that found Carpathia. I want to know more about the U-boats involved.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: history
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