edited by Jack Winocour
Dover Publications, 320 pp, 1960
I bought this book a few years ago off the
clearance rack at Barnes and Noble for about three or four dollars. It was
quite a find, actually, because it contains invaluable eyewitness accounts
of the Titanic disaster.
This volume contains two books, one by
British science student Lawrence Beesley, the other by Archibald Gracie, a
retired colonel from the U.S. Army. Of the two, Gracie's is a more
compelling personal story, while Beesley offers a fine overview and
analysis of the disaster. The book is rounded out with an essay by
Commander Lightoller, the highest-ranking officer to survive, and one of
the Titanic's Marconi operators, Harold Bride.
Beesley didn't witness much of the on-deck
drama. He was in his room when the ship collided with the ice, and was one
of the first ones off the Titanic and into a lifeboat. His account
is based on his own personal observations and interviews with other
survivors. For example, he believes that many lifeboats went away empty
because few passengers believed the ship was sinking. They saw no reason
to abandon the supposed safety of the mighty Titanic for the small
lifeboats. The crew never did announce make a ship-wide announcement that
Titanic was going down, and Beesley believes that was the correct call,
because such an announcement would have produced a massive panic.
According to Beesley, all was mainly quiet
on the deck as the ship sank. Those left behind met their fate calmly and
graciously. Beesley also claims, as do the other three, that the Titanic
did not break in two. We know now that it certainly did, so how did they
miss it? Perhaps it broke apart underwater. Who knows?
Colonel Gracie's account is more compelling
because he, like Lightoller and Bride, went down with the ship and
survived by clinging to the bottom of a capsized collapsible boat. He
conducted himself well by helping fill other lifeboats with women and
children. He actually was sucked underwater and had to swim back up to the
The other two accounts are fairly
pedestrian and don't add anything new. But they're all interesting because
they all claim the same thing - the ship didn't break in two, Captain
Smith was not negligent in going too fast through ice, that they and other
passengers could see the lights from the Californian just ten or
twelve miles away, and all passengers showed remarkable courage when
If you're fascinated with the Titanic
and what happened that fateful night, you'll love this book.