- Book reviewer
- History - general, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Blunders and Disasters at Sea. An anthology
By David Blackmore
Peribo Books, Mt Kuring-Gai NSW. rrp $75.00.
Published 2004 by Pen & Sword Maritime, Barnsley, South Yorks, UK.
Reviewed by Vic Jeffery
This book can best be described as a superb collection of some ninety nine well- researched and concise short stories of tragedy at sea, over the centuries. This 246 page book is divided into eight parts and 19 appendices.
Part 1, titled Antiquity and the Classic Epoch: 1176-549 BCE commences with the first entry covering an ambush in the Nile Delta, followed by Part 2 covering The Medieval & Renaissance Ages: Nov. 1084 – May 1678. The following chapters run through to the present day.
Illustrated with 34 black and white photographs, this most entertaining book has certainly expanded my vast maritime knowledge, and the supporting appendices and notes with this ready reference are, in my humble opinion, an absolute treasure trove. The recovery of the Mary Rose, theories about the USS Maine explosion, questions about the SS Lusitania, and the salvaging of the Russian submarine Kursk, are but a few of the entries.
Certainly a book crammed with information on ships of all types, and one which I found difficult to put down. I wonder how many people would know that the United States Navy used the capsized French liner SS Normandie as a wartime training ground for over 2500 divers, who removed 10,000 tons of rubble and broken glass, and sealed over 2000 underwater openings, or that ‘friendly fire’ was responsible for killing 90% of all Allied POWs lost at sea during WW2?
The Epilogue contains reasons for the causes of some of the tragedies which have resulted from gales, fog, ice and other natural causes, or just plain bad luck. All too often, however, catastrophe has been due to human factors including navigational error, faulty design, timidity, complacency, inflexibility, bad timing, misinterpretation of orders, procras- tination, incompetence – the list goes on, with the last sentence in the book summing it all up with the quote: ‘Moreover, nature still has, and probably always will have, power beyond human control and technology’.