Reviewed by Tom Insley
The new Apple iPad app “Titanic: Her Journey” from The History Press is an amazing one stop resource for Titanic information, presented beautifully with graphics, maps and audio that take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities. (Indeed, you can choose to read the text yourself or have it read to you by professional voice actors.) However, it is not without its shortcomings.
Beginning with the historic background of the trans-Atlantic emigrant trade, we are guided through White Star’s motivations in building the trio of super liners; their construction and preparations for service. The Titanic’s voyage is covered in incredible detail, including audio clips of quotes from survivors – some describing the day to day routine aboard the ship leading up to Sunday, and others telling in chilling detail the events of that night and its aftermath. The app even includes rare film footage of the Titanic fitting out (said to be the only known moving pictures of the ship), Captain Smith, and survivors of the sinking.
The app also includes details of the Titanic’s construction, a complete set of deck plans (a true must for every aficionado!), as well as statistical data on survivors and victims. There are short biographies on key members of White Star management, the crew and passengers, and brief histories on the “forgotten sisters”, Olympic and Britannic. Also included is information about Titanic memorials around the world and a list of websites and ‘bricks and mortar’ museums one can visit to learn more and see actual artefacts from the ship – some found in the Atlantic in 1912, and others recovered during recent expeditions to the wreck site.
While the app is thorough in presenting the history of the Titanic, it is by no means exhaustive; both the American and British Inquiries are covered in a total of five paragraphs, for example. (This could be addressed rather easily in a future update by including a link to the Titanic Inquiry Project The findings of both inquiries are summed up that “the Titanic’s speed was inappropriate for the ice fields through which she travelled” – which hardly describes all the findings of the US Senate Inquiry or the Wreck Commissioner’s Court, and does not take into account the fascinating details of much of the testimony at both sets of hearings. Potential controversies – such as whether the White Star crew withheld critical evidence at the Senate Inquiry, or whether the Board of Trade Inquiry was a whitewash (as later claimed by Second Officer Lightoller) – are either addressed with a single sentence (in the case of the former) or ignored altogether (in the latter case).
Similarly, the two most controversial aspects of the story in recent years – the involvement of the S.S. Californian, and the nature of the break up – are also given short shrift. The Californian’s involvement (or perhaps more correctly, her lack therof) is merely noted as being “contentious”, without going into much detail as to the nature of the controversy – namely, the insoluble question of her true distance from the wreck, what her officers really saw, whether there were other “ships in between” and what (if anything) she could have or should have done to render assistance. Understanding first-hand the deep and passionate emotions held by Titanic buffs on both sides of the issue, it is not surprising that the authors would seek to avoid being seen to favour one side over the other; however, given that the controversy is such an integral part of the Titanic story one would expect to see at least a non-judgemental presentation of the facts (as established by the inquiries) of what happened that night, and let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Likewise, the break-up of the ship is simply said to have happened, without going into the questions of the manner in which she broke (high angle? low angle? top down? Bottom up?), nor do the app’s authors entertain questions as to whether the ship’s design either directly or indirectly contributed to her demise (i.e.: faulty rivets, brittle steel, thinner hull plating to save weight, poorly-designed expansion joints, etc.)
While it is understandable that the authors should wish to please as broad a base of potential users of this app, and thus wish to avoid offending readers with opinions at variance with their own, it is the present reviewer’s opinion that they perhaps went too far “the other way”; by all but avoiding any mention of anything controversial, they have produced a watered-down story that leaves out many of the aspects of the narrative that are of the greatest interest to the dedicated researcher. The casual reader, however, will likely not be so troubled with such concerns.
Recommendation: Despite the shortcomings, this beautifully-presented app is a must-have for any Titanic buff!