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Simple courage : a true story of peril on the sea (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Frank Delaney

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844143,474 (3.81)3
Member:tymfos
Title:Simple courage : a true story of peril on the sea
Authors:Frank Delaney
Info:New York : Random House, 2006.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:non-fiction, disaster/rescue, maritime history

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Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea by Frank Delaney (2006)

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Showing 4 of 4
I'd never heard of this commercial shipping accident before, but Irish author Frank Delaney assures us, for about three days anyway, it was the only thing the world talked about in late December 1951. I'm pretty sure my father knew about it as he was a young man at the time from New Jersey (home of the books hero) and was a boatman (though not commercially). With that said, coming to this completely unaware of the story, I found it sort of overblown. The press seemed to play it up, I guess you had to be there at the time to appreciate the zeitgeist of the moment. Not to say Captain Carlsen didn't act heroically but he was doing what a lot of captains would have done, he was competent at his job. Delaney takes an almost uncomfortable obsession with Carlsen due to what he perceives as his own issues with his father, which makes the book kind of weird in the end. Anyway, 9 hours was probably more than I wanted to spend but now I know lots about an event that fascinated the world for a time and lives on most vividly in the memory of a generation or two who remember it. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Apr 23, 2014 |
The author was about eight years old as this tale of sheer, uncorrupted courage and seamanship unfolded in the seas off the English Channel. I was nine and just 6 years later joined my first ship. However Delaney was a landlocked Irish kid with little connection to the sea, other than a kindly teasing Grandfather who, as an ex-stevedore, escorted Frank around the docks to see ships and seamen. I was born on an island in the Thames estuary in a family and a community of seafarers, Naval Officers and Marine Engineers. But he was as equally fascinated, obsessed and impressed with the unfolding drama to which we all eavesdropped, by courtesy of the BBC radio reports, presented in among the twice daily Shipping Forecast and News. As was pretty much the whole of Britain at the time.

Captain Kurt Carlsen declined to join his rescued crew and passengers and elected to fulfill what he saw as his simple duty to stand-by his wrecked vessel until he could bring it safely to port … or she sunk. He was of that “Great Generation” mold and the vicious storms, in 1952, occurred while we were still on rationing for basic foodstuffs after WWII. His examples of sheer seamanship and professional ethics offered a hero and an honorable courage to respect, without the bloodshed of our wartime heroes, and a ‘role model’ that could more easily be adopted as it was in an area of skills and an environment to which many of us could directly relate.

Delaney’s book is well crafted, tells the tale in a straightforward chronological structure and does not avoid the various technicalities and terminology of the sea, the accident, the rescues attempts and the sad, frustrating but nearly inevitable end. It is in fact the ending, of his book, that creates a problem. He seems unable to let the story conclude and having identified a genuine hero then explores the nowadays almost equally inevitable need to pull him down. The introduction of the author’s own troubled relationships with his father, the usual muck-racking and questioning of the motivation for Captain Carlsen’s simple courage do not add to the book’s worth and detract from the value the author crafts in recounting this hero’s story.
1 vote John_Vaughan | Oct 4, 2011 |
Actually should get 7 stars ( )
  dickcraig | Aug 20, 2008 |
Very good. Frank Delaney starts out with his memory as a child and hearing abour the Flying Enterprise. The book is exciting and intriguing and keeps you wanting to know more about this great Captain Kurt Carlsen. Level headed and proud. A good read and will have you wanting to know more.... ( )
  loubigfish | Dec 2, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
In Simple Courage, Frank Delaney departs from the gifted storytelling that made his 2005 novel Ireland a best seller to recount in documentary style the true tale of the rescue operation in late December 1951 to save the brutally damaged freighter S.S. Flying Enterprise.

Cracked apart by an ocean storm, slammed on its side by rogue waves 60 feet high, the ship floundered helplessly off the coast of England. While other vessels raced to its aid, the world watched news reports of a stoic captain who refused to abandon ship.

Capt. Kurt Carlsen defined heroism by defying bleak odds to save his passengers and his crew before stubbornly trying to bring his crippled ship to port. During the two-week ordeal, he endured hammering high seas, hurricane-force winds and winter temperatures so cold they turned sea foam into ice missiles.

On its surface, this is an engaging story of bygone days when character counted more than celebrity or money. But for readers less maritime-mesmerized than the author, the book's ballast brims with technical flotsam — seafaring minutiae and merchant-marine legalities that never let the suspense get up to full speed.

More difficult to navigate, however, is an undertow throughout the book that tugs at the reader to believe that this harrowing rescue attempt was one of the most meaningful stories of its time — one that "marks a generation," as Delaney puts it, in the same way the Kennedy assassination did.

For the author, maybe so. Then a boy in a coastal town of Ireland, young Delaney stayed glued to radio bulletins of the perils Carlsen faced. With World War II a recent memory, the man-vs.-sea theme had wind in its sails back then. Humphrey Bogart captained The African Queen to an Oscar that year, and Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny won a Pulitzer. But the Flying Enterprise was no Titanic. It was no Andrea Doria, no Lusitania, not even an Edmund Fitzgerald. And Courage is not The Perfect Storm.

By the book's end, Delaney tries to tie together an underwhelming finale with personal dunnage — his troubled relationship with a strict and unloving Irish father and how the two of them found, if only for a short time that winter 55 years ago, an escape from the perils of their own home life in the uncommon courage of a heroic skipper and ship lost to the seas.
added by PLReader | editUSA Today, Don Oldenburg (Jul 24, 2006)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812975952, Paperback)

“HEAVEN HELP THE SAILOR ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS.”
–old folk prayer

In late December 1951, laden with passengers and nearly forty metric tons of cargo, the freighter S.S. Flying Enterprise steamed westward from Europe toward America. A few days into the voyage, she hit the eye of a ferocious storm. Force 12 winds tossed men about like playthings and turned drops of freezing Atlantic foam into icy missiles. When, in the space of twenty-eight hours, the ship was slammed by two rogue waves–solid walls of water more than sixty feet high–the impacts cracked the decks and hull almost down to the waterline, threw the vessel over on her side, and thrust all on board into terror.

Flying Enterprise’s captain, Kurt Carlsen, a seaman of rare ability and valor, mustered all hands to patch the cracks and then try to right the ship. When these efforts came to naught, he helped transfer, across waves forty feet high, the passengers and the entire crew to lifeboats sent from nearby ships. Then, for reasons both professional and intensely personal, and to the amazement of the world, Carlsen defied all requests and entreaties to abandon ship. Instead, for the next two weeks, he fought to bring Flying Enterprise and her cargo to port. His heroic endeavor became the world’s biggest news.

In a narrative as dramatic as the ocean’s fury, acclaimed bestselling author Frank Delaney tells, for the first time, the full story of this unmatched bravery and endurance at sea. We meet the devoted family whose well-being and safety impelled Carlsen to stay with his ship. And we read of Flying Enterprise’s buccaneering owner, the fearless and unorthodox Hans Isbrandtsen, who played a crucial role in Kurt Carlsen’s fate.
Drawing on historical documents and contemporary accounts and on exclusive interviews with Carlsen’s family, Delaney opens a window into the world of the merchant marine. With deep affection–and respect–for the weather and all that goes with it, he places us in the heart of the storm, a “biblical tempest” of unimaginable power. He illuminates the bravery and ingenuity of Carlsen and the extraordinary courage that the thirty-seven-year-old captain inspired in his stalwart crew. This is a gripping, absorbing narrative that highlights one man’s outstanding fortitude and heroic sense of duty.

“One of the great sea stories of the twentieth century… [a] surefire nautical crowd-pleaser.”
--Booklist é (starred review)

“Frank Delaney has written a completely absorbing, thrilling and inspirational account of a disaster at sea that occasioned heroism of the first order. In the hands of a gifted storyteller,
the ‘simple courage’ of the ship’s captain and the young radio man who risked their lives to bring a mortally wounded ship to port reveals the essence and power of all true courage–
a stubborn devotion to the things we love.”
–Senator John McCain



From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In December 1951, laden with passengers and nearly forty metric tons of cargo, the merchant marine freighter S.S. Flying Enterprise steamed westward from Europe toward America. A few days into the voyage, she hit a ferocious storm. Within 28 hours, the ship was slammed by two rogue waves--solid walls of water more than sixty feet high--cracking the decks and hull almost down to the waterline. The captain, Kurt Carlsen, mustered all hands to patch the cracks and try to right the ship. Then he helped transfer, across 40-foot waves, the passengers and crew to lifeboats from nearby ships. Then, to the amazement of the world, Carlsen defied all entreaties to abandon ship. Instead, for the next two weeks, he fought to bring Flying Enterprise and her cargo to port. His heroic endeavor became the world's biggest news.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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