Unsinkable The Full Story

Michael E.

Former Member
Hi everyone.
I just wanted to know if any of you have read the book "Unsinkable, The Full Story" by Daniel Allen Butler. If you have, what are your thoughts on the book. I found it very informational and well researched. Walter Lord even had praise for it. I'm just curious of what everyone else thought of it.


Former Member
I don't think much of the book or its author. Get A Night to Remember and you'll basicly have Unsinkable (entendez-vous?)
A good part of "Unsinkable" is Butler's comments on the sense of duty which is so important to understanding the behaviour of the crew and many of the male passengers. Butler is a military man and was brought up on a code of honour not unlike that of 1912.

Another useful part is the contribution from a psychologist who discusses Captain Smith's likely mental state after the collision.

Much of the rest is far less satisfactory. He makes numerous nautical errors, including the silly nonsense about the reverse action steering wheel, which derives ultimately from Lord.

There are other petty careless errors, not relevant to the main tale. He's even invented a composer called Fritz Lehar.

It's hard to recommend the book as a general reference.

Daniel Rosenshine

Former Member
Actually I didn'tlike the book too much either. Surely he must be credited for his research, but some of it is just a collection from various books but told as his own interpretation -- frequently incorrectly. He puts a passenger, I believe it was Mrs Potter in C51. I think if there is any cabin number that enthusiast know, it's C51 belonging to Col. Gracie.

The above was merely an example, nothing in particular, but something that glowed brightly as being incorrect, amongst some other things.

I didn't have any lasting impressions of the book, only just to contact the author and to correct the obvious mistakes.

If one wants to read that book, then it's ok, but certainly I would not run around recomending it. "Titanic: an ilustrated history" stands out as one of my most favourite.

This is a very interesting book. Yes,a lot of it does seem to be A Night to Remember rewritten. The Californian and Captain Smith comments on the end are very interesting. I do recommend this. Many of you are right, there are some errors and it is not my # 1 choice.
I'll be bucking the trend of this thread, but I rather like Butler's book. sure, it had its share of mistakes, but I know of almost no book on the subject where errors didn't creep into the text. that's what they made 2nd editions for! :).

Butler's strength is that he shoots straight from the hip. his text is solid and his attempt at opposing revisionist historical writing is commendable. I thought it was well done. a perfect Titanic work? no, but well worth reading.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T

Tracy Smith

Well, you know that I would take a dim view of Butler's book because of his near character assassination of Captain Lord, which at times reeks of emotional righteous indignation.
Tracy because of your views on the Californian issue I understand where you're coming from, but I personally feel that Butler didn't attack Lord anymore than Walter Lord did, and to me he wasn't really too harsh. I personally believe that Butler made several good points about the Californian. Near character assassination? If you choose to see it that way.

Tracy Smith

"When the true picture emerged, it became clear that Lord was a latter-day Captain Bligh, an inflexible tyrant..." p.244

Hmm, seems pretty harsh to me. And this is Butler's unverifiable opinion presented rather emotionally as documented fact.

"Stanley Lord was clearly unwilling to go to anyone's aid." p.244

Clear to whom? Was Butler able to read Lord's mind nearly 90 years after the fact? This is opinion, once again, being presented as fact.

"Though he would find subsequent employment as a master in years to come, his career had effectively ended, as his commands became progressively smaller and slower." p. 234

This one is pure untruth. If you'll turn to the Encyclopedia Titanica Research Articles, in the article I coauthored with Mike Standart, and Captain Erik Wood, and read the section about Captain Lord's career, you'll find Butler's statement to be patently false. One highlight from that article was that his next employer, Lawther/Latta had so much confidence in him and his abilities that their newest ship was reserved solely for his command when it was completed in 1917, even though Lord was the line's youngest captain with the least seniority with the line.

It is quite obvious that Butler did not do any but the most superficial research into Stanley Lord and his career.
Good points Tracy, they most likely are Butlers own opinions. People are allowed to state them (of course they should label as opinions not facts). About Lord's career ending many people have made that mistake, even Ed Kamuda of the THS once stated "Lord's life was ruined by this basically". Butler is not the only one who has these opinions. I don't intend to get into a big argument over this, but I do feel that there may be some truth in Butler's statements. About being "unwilling to go to anyone's aid" many people agree with that althought Lord said he would have tried had he known. I highly doubt any captain would turn away from a ship in distress. That is a rather unfair opinion. Butler also mentioned some things I have heard no where else, such as Fleet and Lee informing the bridge of seeing the light and that some Lordites claimed that the Samson fired off flares that were seen from the Californian. By the way, it's not really fair to dismiss a Titanic book just because you don't like it's explanation of the Californian incident. An anti-Lordite shouldn't hate Titanic Triumph and Tragedy or Titanic: An Illustrated History just because it's pro-Lordite. Neither should a pro-Lordite toss out The Night Lives On or Unsinkable just because the book is anti-Lordite. Anyway, I hope we haven't gotten off on the wrong foot Tracy-it's a pleasure to "meet" you!

If you're going to condemn the man for what you consider "unverifiable opinion presented rather emotionally as documented fact" (based, of course, on your own unverifiable opinion ...), you should at least do him the courtesy of correctly quoting him, and within the context.

"When the true picture emerged, it became clear that Lord was a latter-day Captain Bligh, an inflexible tyrant..." p.244

"When the true picture finally emerged, it became clear that Lord was a latter-day Captain Bligh, an inflexible tyrant with a powerful temper, given to sarcasm and derisive comments that embarrassed and humiliated his officers, who in turn would go to any length to avoid conflict with their captain." (Butler, "Unsinkable", p. 244)

"Stanley Lord was clearly unwilling to go to anyone's aid." p.244

"What is unforgiveable is that, even if it was not the Titanic seen from the Californian's bridge that night, someone was in trouble, and Stanley Lord was clearly unwilling to go to anyone's aid." (Butler, "Unsinkable", p. 244)

Moreover, those two particular quotes are excerpted from an Appendix of the book which deals primarily with the subsequent efforts of Lord's supporters. If you look instead to the *body* of the text, e.g., Chapter 12, (see Index: "Lord ..., character of") you'll find corresponding statements *with* footnotes identifying the basis for those remarks.

Incidentally, Dan Butler is a regular contributor to the newsgroup "alt.history.ocean-liners.titanic", and would probably be delighted to address any concerns you might have about the validity of his various conclusions. :^)

John Feeney

Inger Sheil

Poor Bligh! His very name is now shorthand for a tyranical master. Not quite fair, as the trend of historical analysis now tends towards the idea that he was one of the more misunderstood figures in nautical history. Since the mutiny on the Bounty, supporters of both Bligh and Christian have been duking it out. In the 20th Century Hollywood pretty much declared Christian the winner, and Charles Laughton's Bligh has carved himself quite the niche in popular culture.

While recent historical appraisals have been much kinder to Bligh, I believe that one of the best books on the subject is Richard Hough's work, Captain Bligh and Mr Christian (London, Hutchinson, 1972). It has generated its fair share of controversy since first published, but the author has a talent for seeing the men involved as fully fleshed human beings rather than stereotypes. He constructs a very plausible scenario explaining why Bligh, such a brilliant Captain under adverse conditions (as when rounding the Cape during foul weather and in his extraordinarily feat of navigating a ship's boat to safe harbour after the muntiny) could be such a nightmare under fair conditions.

Bit of a tangent, but some of us are partial to RN history. I must admit to being a bit partial to Fletcher Christian, though!

~ Inger
wasn't there a Bounty movie a few decades ago that was very sympathetic towards Bligh? I'm thinking it was in the 1970s, with Mel Gibson (of all people) as Christian, and, I think, Anthony Hopkins as Bligh? the movie may even have been based on Hough's book.

I'm working on memory here, which is always a dangerous thing!
Michael (TheManInBlack) T
You're absolutely right, Michael. Mel Gibson's Fletcher Christian was portrayed as a love-sick sailor who refused to leave his Tahitian lover, and encouraged other sailors who had taken island girls as lovers to join him in mutiny. Of course, Anthony Hopkins' Captain Bligh was a harsh and exacting disciplinarian, but no reason for mutiny. The real end of the story is that all the mutineers and some of their lovers and in-laws perished either from infighting or disease, save for one lone surviving sailor who found a Bible and used it to form an island government. Eventually, Seventh-Day Adventist missionaries discovered the island and all the inhabitants were absorbed into that church until travel became more readily available and the descendants went out on their own to discover the outside world and a few left their religious and historical heritage behind.

All the best,

Inger Sheil

G'day Mike -

Your memory is in very good working order ;-) The movie you're referring to with Mel and Anthony Hopkins was based on Hough's book. It dealt rather indirectly with some of the more controversial theories Hough proposed, but was far more sympathetic to Bligh than his previous silver screen incarnations.

~ Inger