Review Blog

Apr 02 2012

101 things you thought you knew about the Titanic . . . but didn't by Tim Maltin

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Wakefield Press, 2010. ISBN 978 186254 9234.
The 14th April 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the night when Titanic struck an iceberg off Newfoundland and sank with the loss of over 1500 people.
The vessel and the disaster which befell her still captivate our imagination after so many years and this marvellous book helps us to understand the myriad factors which converged to culminate in this catastrophic event.
Providing 101 entries ranging from great importance to minor interest, the book seeks to inform, explain and clarify historical details which have been clouded by time or misinterpreted after repetition and hearsay. Relying upon a range of historical documents, the most important being the U.S. and British investigations into the sinking, the author has sought to address a variety of commonly known facts, a few distorted myths and some complete falsehoods which are associated with this terrible disaster.
The appeal of this book is not restricted to those who are obsessed with the topic who probably don't need to read it anyway. The details provided are historically interesting to anyone remotely aware of the disaster and it is written in such a way that it may be consulted as a reference or read from cover to cover, depending upon the reader's level of commitment.
I found the testimonies to be interesting, the engineering details illuminating and the logical examination of science and evidence to be compelling. Sadly, for some reason, no maps, diagrams or plans have been included and this detracts markedly from the book's intention of educating the reader concerning the details of the incident. Some aspects, particularly the vessel's layout and navigational manoeuvres on the night are simply impossible to visualise from the text.
Examination and sensible analysis of source material by the author makes this an engaging book which is extremely balanced and reserved in its treatment of those who have been depicted in history as incompetent, cowardly or villainous. Perhaps the most famous fact, that too few life boats existed to carry the ship's complement - is presented so calmly with reference to engineering principles, crew numbers and remarkable safety statistics for trans-Atlantic crossings that the reader is left satisfied that this was in fact completely reasonable.
I encourage others to read this book to be similarly surprised by other details.
Rob Welsh

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