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Perils of the Atlantic: Steamship Disasters,…
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Perils of the Atlantic: Steamship Disasters, 1850 to the Present

by William H. Flayhart

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201515,329 (4.33)1
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A nice book for any sea-faring stories buff to own and essential to a library like mine. Not quite so ‘up-to-date’ as the author might have imagined, but then no imagination could come up with our latest disaster, in the “Med” in 2012 with a liner’s so-called‘Captain’ refusing to re-board his own distressed vessel to assist the passengers and resisting all Coast Guard orders to do so! (He was, he claimed, ‘thrown off’ his ship into one of the lifeboats!)
Essentially the book offers a straightforward chronological narrative, in well researched and clear prose, of over 21 shipping disasters in the Atlantic. Each event is very fully detailed, from the first (usually) navigational error to resulting Board of Inquiry conclusions. Obviously Professor Flayhart has deep understanding on nautical affairs and terms, but does not “show off” his knowledge by any unnecessary descent into the lingo or “Esperanto” of the seaman’s language. It is this core skill … seamanship… that shines through many of his accounts of these shipwrecks. Marconi Radio Operators showing initiative and staying at their posts long past good sense should have let them. Captains being always the last to leave the ships – if at all. Or, conversely, the mad, expedient and very prompt evacuation of the crew first, long before that traditional ”Women and Children First” rule.
After many years at sea, through a few ‘near misses’ of my own, these stories thrill. Nowadays my seafaring is restricted to “Cruising” in vast, top-heavy ships designed to ensure that most passage-makers are totally isolated (protected?) from the experience and realization of their actually being at sea.
With ingrained distrust of such un-seaworthy designs and mistrust of crews whose only experience seems to be in the hotel and resort trade, I always ensure my wife and I know the most direct route to our designated lifeboat and its location on the true boat deck. I am pessimistic in my expectations that in the event of yet another “Steamship Disaster” the crew will be away in the boats whilst most of the passengers are still compliantly assembling – below decks – in the dining room as they have been trained to do in the pantomime of the usual Cruising Ships “Boat Drill”. Only my wife’s complaints stop me from boarding with our own self-inflating life-vests, complete with snap-shackles and safety tethers!
Only one thing grated throughout this enjoyable and gripping read – in my near-seventy years of boating, sailing and reading about the Maritime Service, boats, ships and vessels have always been called such, never, as they are consistently and persistently in this work, were they ever referred to as ”units”.

But that is the only gripe about this work from this very satisfied reader.
  John_Vaughan | May 15, 2012 |
The grounding of the St. Paul was almost ludicrous (she was racing a rival in fog), while the tale of the sinking liner Veendam marks one of the book's most moving episodes-thanks to superb seamanship, not a soul perished. Flayhart also offers background on the business and financial dealings that created certain ships (such as the burned Morro Castle), as well as salvaged cargo lists (""1,720 boxes of bacon, 595 pails of lard"") that show the less glamorous side of the liner business. Written in a matter of fact, respectful tone with balanced judgments on controversial questions, this volume is an absolute feast for lovers of maritime history
added by John_Vaughan | editPublishers Weekly (May 12, 2012)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393041557, Hardcover)

"Flayhart delivers a gripping chronicle of mishap and mayhem . . . filled with danger and heroism and rich with detail."—Sea Power

A colorful and deadly history of ocean liner disasters from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, Perils of the Atlantic is a chronicle of the most frightening episodes in the maritime history of the North Atlantic. From 1850 to the present day, the Atlantic has been home to hundreds of ocean liners and cruise ships, each more lavish than the last...all of them symbols of wealth and luxury. Perhaps this is why readers have always been fascinated by the lives of these ships—and their deaths. Many of us know the stories of the Titanic and the Lusitania. Both tragedies caused tremendous loss of life, even as they made the ships immortal. But there are many little-known accounts of extraordinary survivals at sea, such as the Inman and International liner City of Chicago that jammed her bow into an Irish peninsula in 1892 but stayed afloat long enough for all to be rescued, or the City of Richmond that survived a dangerous fire in 1891, and a year earlier the City of Paris, whose starboard engine exploded at full speed in the mid-Atlantic and yet miraculously still made port. Often such tales are forgotten even if the ship sank: In 1898 the Holland-America liner Veendam hit a submerged wreck and sank at sea, but all lives were saved—so this vessel's dramatic story seemed less important in maritime history than incidents involving human loss. As recently as 2000, the Sea Breeze I sank off the East Coast of the United States while on a positioning voyage, but all her crew members were rescued in a heroic effort by U.S. Coast Guard helicopters. These stories and many others are dramatic, and acclaimed maritime scholar William Flayhart has spent much of the last forty years in search of material from which to create colorful narratives. 26 illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:02 -0400)

"Perils of the Atlantic is a chronicle of the most frightening episodes in the maritime history of the North Atlantic. From 1850 to the present day, the Atlantic has been home to hundreds of ocean liners and cruise ships, each more lavish than the last...all of them symbols of wealth and luxury. Perhaps this is why readers have always been fascinated by the lives of these ships - and their deaths."."Many of us know the stories of the Titanic and the Lusitania. Both tragedies caused tremendous loss of life, even as they made the ships immortal. But there are many little-known accounts of extraordinary survivals at sea, such as the Inman and International liner City of Chicago that jammed her bow into an Irish peninsula in 1892 but stayed afloat long enough for all to be rescued, or the City of Richmond that survived a dangerous fire in 1891, and a year earlier the City of Paris, whose starboard engine exploded at full speed in the mid-Atlantic and yet miraculously still made port. Often such tales are forgotten even if the ship sank: In 1898 the Holland-America liner Veendam hit a submerged wreck and sank at sea, but all lives were saved - so this vessel's dramatic story seemed less important in maritime history than incidents involving human loss.As recently as 2000, the Sea Breeze I sank off the East Coast of the United States while positioning voyage, but all her crew members were rescued in a heroic effort by U.S. Coast Guard helicopters." "These stories and many others are dramatic, and acclaimed maritime scholar William Flayhart has spent much of the last forty years in search of material from which to create colorful narratives. Flayhart retells classic ocean liner disaster stories while bringing to light never-before-published but compelling episodes of man's ongoing battle with the sea."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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