Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: drowning, deaths at sea, maritime disasters, Atlantic slave trade
I was definitely one of those kids with a RMS Titanic obsession as a child, that honestly, had nothing to do with the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet romance movie (didn’t want that until much, much later). The level of hubris and poor planning in the name of aesthetics is what captured many people’s attention, but for me, it’s the physics and aftermath that fascinated me. Humans are characters, but the focus here rests on shipwrecks in general, as a study, as a phenomenon, as a hobby, and some of the greatest tragedies that befell humans on the regular before air travel rose to prominence.
The specific lens that this book tells the tale of the fated voyage is strictly through the point of view of finding and uncovering shipwrecks. Entertaining, informative, and so focused on the final phase of a ship’s life time, rather than the story of a single ship’s demise.
I have a healthy fear of the open ocean. It’s too big, we don’t know what’s at the bottom of it, and good luck thinking you can bring anything back. Despite the thousands of maritime accidents that at one point were frighteningly routine, people’s attention zeroed in on this one. Why? Well, the primary reason is that thought hundreds of people died in the RMS Titanic disaster, hundreds also survived, and they had stories to tell. Plus, there were myriad technological and protocol developments that both improved the safety of ships, but also allowed for deep-sea treasure hunting to take off. The little details, such as how “women and children first” made great PR post-facto, but was never a true protocol to begin with, really make this a captivating read. Stone is as excited to share all he learns about ships and wrecks, and that enthusiasm is infectious.
One of the more art-imitating-life aspects of this account is just how invested and obsessed Stone himself seems to be in the stories of different disasters and sharing all he learned about the hydrodynamics and physics of wrecks themselves. The way it’s concentrated to specific tales and ships makes the otherwise dense science really accessible. Plus there are threads that tie up much later in the book, and Stone does a great job guiding us through the lifecycle of a ship, plus the environmental and greater effects.
A really fun read from an unexpected perspective, perfect for those of us obsessed with the ship of dreams at any point in our lives.