Unsinkable The Full Story

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I'm going to have to find a copy of "Unsinkable" again - I don't recall Butler writing that! Lowe clearly wasn't at the aft starboard boats.

I entirely agree with Bill that the likely candidate for the aft starboard boats is Moody. I don't think there's much doubt at all that he was there, based on the following description from Lee at No. 13:

2527. You mean there was scarcely anybody in No.13 boat? — Yes. Mr. - , I cannot tell you what his name is — a tall officer, about 6 feet in height, fresh complexion — I forget his name; I could not remember his name — he was there attending to passing the passengers into the boats.
2528. Was it Mr Wilde, the chief officer? — No, he is about the sixth officer, or the fifth officer.
2529. At any rate, he was a very tall man according to you? — Yes, tall and spare. I think he was drowned.


It's very clear from the physical description (a strikingly good one given the paucity of physical descriptions given about officers loading boats), Lee's concept of his rank, and the idea he had that the officer in question drowned, that he's talking about Moody.

Walter Wynn also recalled that Moody set him to work at No. 9. Although this doesn't necessarily mean that Moody was right beside 9, it indicates he was in the vicinity of the starboard boats:

13321. I want to omit the earlier part, you see. Did you obey that order? - Yes.

13322. After that did you go and help to clear away at various lifeboats? - Yes.

13323. After that did you meet the Sixth Officer Mr. Moody, who told you to go to your own boat? - Yes.

13324. Did you know your own boat? - No.

13325. Did you ascertain what was your own boat then? - No, not then.

13326. Did you go to a boat? - Mr. Moody told me to go to number nine boat and take charge of number nine.

13327. Whether that was your right boat or not, you do not know? - It was all ready swinging out on the davits and he told me to take charge of No. 9, as I did not know my own boat.

13328. Did you take charge of No. 9? - I got in and assisted the ladies in; and when we started to lower away the boatswain's mate got into the boat, and I handed charge over to him, and took an oar.


~ Inger
 

Logan Geen

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Dec 2, 2001
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I can only cough up one other complaint about Butler's book-Butler claims the reason the officers were "rearranged" was because Smith was concerned with Murdoch's limited experience with big ships and wanted his chief officer from the Olympic, Mr. H. T. Wilde. Good theory, but Murdoch himself was transfered from the Olympic unless I'm mistaken. So unless Wilde had MORE experience this theory really just doesn't "click".
 

Beth Barber

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Jun 7, 2001
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Hi All - I was at Barnes and Noble tonite and found this book called - Unsinkable "The Full Story of the RMS Titanic" by Daniel Allen Butler. Has anyone read this? Would this be a good book to purchase? I looked in this section - Titanic Books - of this message board and didn't see it discussed (At least I didn't see this title). Any help would be appreciated. Thanks - Beth Barber
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Beth, it's been awhile since I've read this book so I can't go into details. I thought it was a decent general retelling of the history of the ship. Not perfect, but nothing out there is. If it's available, by all means get it.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Beth, unless it's dirt cheap, save your money. It's not very accurate and repeats old errors, like the business of the steering orders. I thought the best parts were Butler's remarks on the sense of duty that caused many men to sacrifice themselves. Butler is a former soldier and understands the code of conduct of the time. There are some interesting remarks on Captain Smith by a psychologist, who examines his possible mental state after the collision. Overall though, it's well off the pace.
 
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Tom Pappas

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Hi, Beth -

Mr. Butler goes into a lot of the background that bears on the story - like the code of conduct that Dave mentioned, and the role of the competition for the immigrant trade. It's worth reading for that sort of thing. No one else I've read goes into these backstories with such insight. I give it a B+.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

Well referenced, reasonably written and relatively comprehensive. A generally good book. That said, in my view it contained numerous inexcusable errors -- at least, the edition I have from 1998. Such as 25 double-ended and 4 single-ended boilers (now I wonder what's wrong with that!) There are also basic errors relating to Britannic. The analysis of Smith's post-collision state is pretty decent.

Best.

Mark.
 
Dec 6, 2000
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I recall feeling, while I read "Unsinkable", that it was a longer version of "A Night to Remember". A lot of the same events, in the same order, told the same way.

But I will also admit, that when you're writing about Titanic, and using the Inquiries as your main source, there is going to be a lot of repeating.
 
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Tom Pappas

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Mark -

I suspect the 24 + 5 transposition was probably a typesetting error, because I'm sure Butler knows the right numbers (the guy who produced his The Lusitania had the speed of E Class U-boats at 96 knots).

Bill -

No wonder Walter liked it! (See back cover.)
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Tom!

It's certainly possible that it was a typesetting error, however he repeats it in an appendix and calculates a total of 162 furnaces. That lends me to think it might not have been.

It is unavoidable that mistakes will creep into books -- especially those covering a broad subject -- and all the author can do when a source is found to be wrong is update their text in a later edition. I know from my own experience how mistakes can creep in despite every effort. However, I find some of the mistakes hard to excuse. Take his info. on Britannic (page 235 of the 1998 edition):

He says she was launched in April 1914 (actually, February 1914);
He says she sank in September 1916 (actually, November);
He says she was hit by a mine (possible, but by no means certain);
He says that a 'coal dust explosion almost blew her bow off -- and she sank in an hour and a half (the coal dust explosion was widely believed at the time, admittedly, yet she sank in fifty-five minutes);
He says the death toll was thirty-five (possible, yet records of the time indicate thirty with modern research revealing several more in the immediate aftermath -- it's certainly not an accepted figure.

In the light of mistakes such as those, I'm less willing to give the benefit of the doubt. All authors can attest to errors creeping in, but some seem quite avoidable.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Beth Barber

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Jun 7, 2001
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Hi All - Thanks for all the reviews. They had one copy and it was only $14.95. I figured that wasn't "too" much to spend. I did see some other books there - ones by "Pellegrino" (sp) but I believe that there has been lots of discussion that his books aren't very accurate.

There was a hardback Boon by James Cameron - Ghosts of the Abyss. It looked pretty intersting too but it was also $50.00. I may have to ask for that one for Christmas or my birthday!
happy.gif


There is an antique mall here in Charleston - we were over there today browsing around and they had TONS of books. I am hoping one day soon to get someone to watch my 3 yr old (katie) and I can go and look - maybe I'll find something Titanic related there.

Thanks Again - I knew I could count on friends here at ET. - Beth
 
Jul 12, 2003
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I have a copy of the book "Ghosts of the Titanic" by C. Pellegrino and I like it so far (I am about 1/4 of the way through). I think the book gives a wonderful insight to the ship and her passengers. I think he used survivors accounts in his writing. I would recommend it.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Handle Pellegrino with tongs! I think Mike's understating it when he says he plays a 'tad' loose with the facts. This is a writer who, although purporting to write non-fiction, invents conversations / thoughts of historical figures. As Mike says - take nothing he claims for granted, and if anything he says particularly interests you verify it against an independant, reliable source.
 

Mike Herbold

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Feb 13, 2001
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Saw a great quote in the LA Times yesterday that covers this situation. It is attributed to a California poet named Kenneth Rexroth:

History would be so much simpler if you could just write it
Without ever having to let it happen.
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Thank you for all the insights...and I will remember...but I am reading the book for enjoyment, not to gather historical fact...he is a good writer and I think he is able to make a person feel (or emotionally envision) what it could have been like going through an experience the passengers may have gone through.

I know that the book offers no "proof" of anything but it is an interesting take on the subject.

I am currently working on my family genealogy and I have a lot of info that is "passed down" or "word of mouth". I keep it and take it in and use it as a place to search. But I accept information once I find my proof (birth certificates, coroner's reports, naturalization records, etc.).

As for Pellegrino...I'm just an enjoying a read. (I'd put a smiley face here but I forgot how to do it!)
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Just do a ":" followed by a ")" and that will get you your basic Smiley, Deborah!
happy.gif


If you're reading Pellegrino as fiction than that's okay. Just keep in mind to exercise extreme caution before believing anything he writes as fact. Personally I find his writing style not to my taste - too turgid and purple, and it's very frustrating when you know something about the real disaster to see fabrication passed off as fact, but then tastes differ!

Oral history, as with what you're using in your family genealogy, is a perfectly legitimate place to start, and you sound like you've certainly got the hang of cross referencing such material against contemporary documentation. Problem with Pellegrino is that much of his material has no such basis - and it's frustrating to try and work out where research ends and invention begins. Would be much better for all concerned if he marketed under fiction, not history. But as you're conscious of the fact that his work is very dubious as an historical source, and are concentrating purely on deriving entertainment from his work, that shouldn't be a problem for you!
 
Nov 12, 2000
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I wouldn't go so far as to say Pellegrino should be considered fiction. lol. but you certainly cannot take anything he says for granted without double-checking his details out in other sources. I'm probably getting to be a broken record about this, but Pellegrino is a true mystery to me. at times I think his insights are spot on, at other times his enthusiasm completely overruns his good sense. yet he is one of the very few scientists to be invited on not one, but two expeditions to the wreck. surely he cannot be a complete crackpot?

but back to Butler. I think Bill W said it best that Unsinkable reads like a longer version of A Night to Remember. I would go on to add that it is also a much more up to date version of Walter Lord's classic work. Butler covers a lot more ground than Lord had access to in the 1950s. Butler's book has its share of blunders as Mark noted above, but overall I still think it is a solid addition to the literature, and very readable.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Sometimes I think it is important to read everything even if you suspect it is fiction or a part of it is fiction. You never know what other doors or questions may arise from it that may lead you to other places. Plus it is important to understand where people might be getting false information from so you don't accidentally fall into the same pit.

But I'm not too worried...I have you guys to put my questions to and to guide me.

Thank you, Inger, about the smiley face instructions...those I did know about...it was the actual yellow round one that I wanted to do but it slipped my mind. I'll have to go get reacquainted with the tutorial.