Volume 91, Issue 43

Thursday, November 13, 1997

$48 refund


Titanic restores memory

The Titanic
Geoff Tibballs
Raincoast Books
$21.95/128 pp.

After 85 years, it's a wonder anyone still cares about the Titanic. But care they do. This illustrated large-format paperback book is the first of many Titanic-related offerings ostensibly centred around the release of Director James Cameron's mega-budget big-screen spectacle this Christmas.

The facts for those under age 85: with great fanfare, the Titanic, the biggest passenger vessel ever made, set off on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, for New York City on April 10, 1912. Several days later, it struck an iceberg just after midnight in the North Atlantic and the ship dubbed 'unsinkable' by its makers went to its watery grave in less than two hours. Of the 2,200 people on board, 1,500 perished mainly because there were only lifeboats for about 1,000.

Tibballs The Titanic makes the most of its illustrated large format in telling this fascinating story. The period illustrations, pictures and advertisements are generous and sumptuous – effectively bringing the times and the tragedy to life. The book also neatly summarizes the controversies and fascinating minutia surrounding the Titanic, both before and after its single voyage.

Such as: 14 years before the disaster, a book called The Wreck Of The Titan foretold the disaster. The tale revolved around a huge, unsinkable ocean liner called The Titan which sank like a stone after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. There were few survivors in this fictional tale because of (surprise, surprise) a lack of lifeboats. The Titanic set out with a thousand passengers shy of its full capacity of 3,200 passengers and crew. A coal strike had resulted in many cancellations in the weeks prior to the boat's launch. Survivors in lifeboats watching for other vessels to come to their aid spotted lights from another ship off in the distance. The boat seemed to turn and go away despite the many flares launched from the slowly sinking Titanic.

The Titanic is a fine primer to the disaster. No doubt, entire books could be written on some of the controversies surrounding the tragedy, but The Titanic fills the bill on most counts for the curious neophyte.

The controversies are plentiful: recent tests on the steel in the ship's hull indicate it was of a much poorer quality than claimed. Sixty-two per cent of first-class passengers were saved, 41 per cent of second-class and 38 per cent of third-class. The identity of the boat which sped away from the scene of the disaster is still a mystery.

But for all these intrigues, perhaps the most compelling is of the enduring allure of this tragedy. And to that end, The Titanic is a fascinating read and definitely one to be recommended.

–Bob Klanac

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997