Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Night to Remember

A Night to Remember is the definitive tale of the sinking of the Titanic. Walter Lord interviewed more than sixty survivors. And he wrote this minute-by-minute account of the collision with the iceberg, and
the experiences of passengers and crew.

In 1898 a struggling author named Morgan Robertson concocted a novel about a fabulous Atlantic liner, far larger than any that had ever been built. Robertson loaded his ship with rich and complacent people and then wrecked it one cold April night on an iceberg. This somehow showed the futility of everything, and in fact, the book was called Futility when it appeared that year...

Fourteen years later a British shipping Company named the White Star Line built a steamer remarkaby like the one in Robertson's novel. The new liner was 66,000 tons displacement; Robertson's was 70,000. The real ship was 882.5 feet long; the fictional one was 800 feet. Both vessels were triple screw and could make 24-25 knots. Both could carry about 3,000 people, and both had enough lifeboats for only a fraction of this number, But, then, this didn't seem to matter because both were labeled "unsinkable."

On April 10, 1912, the real ship left Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. Her cargo included a priceless copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam and a list of passengers collectively worth two hundred fifty million dollars. On her way over she too struck an iceberg and went down on a cold April night.

Robertson called his ship the Titan. the White Star Line called its ship the Titanic.

I quoted there from Lord's forward to the book, because it just amazed me! The rest of the book may be more familiar, but it is only 152 pages long, and "enthralling from the first word to the last." (The Atlantic Monthly)

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