Cole's Titanic Disaster at Sea was Another Children's Book This One Best Avoided


Nov 12, 2000
682
3
171
The book: The Titanic: Disaster at Sea by Michel D. Cole.

This book is actually listed with two subtitles: Death of the Dream Ship and Disaster at Sea, though both titles have the same isbn number.

It is a fairly brief work, which takes just four chapters to tell the entire Titanic story, plus a fifth chapter on the discovery of the wreck. There is quick one page look at other nautical disasters. One plus is that there are reference notes attributing sources, unusual in a book for young readers. There is also a short list for further reading; oddly the books mentioned in the notes are not listed in the bibliography.

Still, at just 48 pages, this book seems very expensive at its retail price of $18.95. Plus I had some serious issues with the text. The writing style is in a fairly sterile, just-the-facts format that actually makes the event seem rather dull. Worse are the many mistakes I found in the text. Here is a list of the major errors I caught:

On page 12 the author states “Even if three of the sixteen watertight compartments became filled with water, the ship would still stay afloat”. Actually the ship could stay afloat if any two compartments were flooded, or if any three of just the first five compartments.

Also on this page is Captain Smith’s famous quote “I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that”. The author insinuates that Smith is talking about Titanic, but the captain gave this quote years earlier about an entirely different ship.

On page 23, there is the statement “The ship’s general alarm was never sounded. The alarm might have caused a panic among the passengers.....”. Titanic did not have an alarm, general or otherwise, to sound.

On page 25 the text has Second Officer Lightoller in charge of the starboard lifeboats and First Officer Murdoch in charge of the port boats. Actually, the reverse is correct, Lightoller on the port side, Murdoch on the starboard.

On page 32 there is the statement “Boilers within the ship exploded, killing crewmen and passengers who were still below”. There is no solid evidence that any boilers exploded and a great deal of proof they did not.

Then on page 33, “The Carpathia shot flares into the sky to alert other ships that the survivors had been found”. Wrong again. Carpathia did fire off flares, but she did so to alert the Titanic’s passengers and crew that help was rushing to their aid.

Again on page 33, “Many of the lifeboats were close to sinking by the time the Carpathia got to them”. There was an overturned collapsible men were standing on that was in serious trouble, and one of the other lifeboats was so overcrowded that it was wallowing dangerously; does that qualify as many?

Page 35 “ The White Star Line hired a ship from Nova Scotia to search for bodies....”. In reality, four ships were sent out for this purpose, not just one.

Finally on page 37 is this, “During the hours after the collision, the Californian was the only ship that passed near the Titanic”. In fact the Californian was stopped for the night. You can argue (any many do!) whether Californian was close enough to help or not, but stating that the ship ‘passed’ the Titanic is not only wrong, its misleading.

Because of the uninspired style of the writing, and the many errors in the text, I cannot recommend this book to any but the most avid completist collectors (and we know who we are). Especially at that high retail price.
 
May 12, 2005
3,109
7
163
Michael,

Great review. I look forward to reading all your reviews and updates.

A little bit of advance news for you on a possible solid lead on at least the working title of Edith Russell's long-elusive autobiography. I am in touch with a journalist, now retired, who served as Edith Russell's secretary during the last year of her life, when she was trying to solicit the somewhat effusive manuscript for her book. Like Molly Brown's memoirs, Edith Russell's proposed life story, as you know, has either been destroyed or remains uncatalogued in some archive. In Russell's case, I suspect the former.

At any rate, I am shortly to be in receipt of copies of her secretary's correspondence (including internal memorandums from Cassell's Publishers in London)which should shed light on the scope and content of this unfortunately lost document.

I will be in touch as soon as I have the letters/memos.

Best wishes,

Randy
 
Nov 12, 2000
682
3
171
Randy,

the news about Edith Russell is potentially quite exciting! do let us know what turns up when you get the material.

wasn't this information supposedly in Charles Pellegrino's hands as well? I seem to remember reading about him having material about her?

best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 

Jason D. Tiller

Moderator
Member
Dec 3, 2000
8,248
11
308
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Hi Michael,

Thanks for the great review on the book. I'll be sure to avoid that one completely!

Hi Randy,

That's great news on Edith Russell and I look forward to hearing more. I also remember reading that Charles Pellegrino had some information on her.

Best regards,

Jason
happy.gif
 
May 12, 2005
3,109
7
163
Michael and Jason,

Pellegrino has access to some letters she wrote to Walter Lord. But as far as I am aware, Lord still owns them. Lord does also have some other memorabilia (apart from Edith's little piggy)and I am in the process of learning just what and how much I will be allowed access to.

Randy
 
May 12, 2005
3,109
7
163
Michael,

As a PS, I'll add for the record that I doubt Pellegrino will be as forthcoming and willing to share information with others as I am. I'm not trying to pattern myself as "Titanic Sage" the way he is; I enjoy networking and helping out others (and being helped), rather than pretending to have all the answers.

And since we're on Pellegrino, let me say that he's not only often wrong on dates and facts, as I and others have pointed out, but he's actually reworked some of the stuff Walter Lord was kind enough to give him. The supposed 1934 account he "shares" on his website is partially drawn from a 1970 TV interview with Edith Russell. It is worded almost exactly in some places as her statements in the BBC program. This is a dead-give away. In fact the whole document is suspicious as it looks to me like a strung-together compilation of Edith Russell's various accounts over the years. Daniel and others who have read her articles may can back me up on this. (For instance, I see close resemblences to phrasing used in her 1962, 1964, and 1973 articles.)

So if Pellegrino comes forward with info on Edith Russell, beware. On the other hand, I'm in touch with people who actually knew her and am also working from many contemporary published sources.

Randy
 

Similar threads