RMS Titanic Manual
David Hutchings and Richard de Kerbrech
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Buy *RMS Titanic Manual: 1909-1912 Olympic Class (Haynes Owners' Workshop Manuals)* by David Hutchings and Richard de Kerbrech online

RMS Titanic Manual: 1909-1912 Olympic Class (Haynes Owners' Workshop Manuals)
David Hutchings and Richard de Kerbrech
Zenith Press
160 pages
May 2011
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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It was sad when that great ship went down
Men and women, husbands and wives
Little bitty children lost their lives
It was sad when that great ship went down
--"Ballad of the Titanic"

If you have watched any of the famous films about the Titanic, you are probably already hooked on the story of the most dramatic maritime accidents of the 20th century, in which more than 1500 lives were lost to the icy sea after a few hours of travel on what was then the largest and one of the most luxurious vessels ever built - and one deemed to be among the safest.

It is the building of the ship that concerns the authors of this large coffee table-style book. Kerbrech is a marine engineer and author of many books on maritime history. Hutchings is also a maritime history writer who has served as a draughtsman, weights engineer and technical librarian for the British industry. These experts have carefully collected photographs and drawings of the guts of the ship inside its extravagantly decorated interior. Constructed as a companion ship to the Oceanic and the Britannic, the Titanic was well-named, a seagoing behemoth built to the highest standards of the day. I found the information provided quite fascinating, a reminder that the early 20th century was as technologically thrilling as the early 21st. Using manual labor and purpose-built machines on a massive scale, the visionary capitalists of the White Star Line who made the Titanic a seaworthy and beautiful ship were ahead of their time. Yet, like many men with great schemes, they were blinded by their greed and arrogance. They believed the Titanic was unsinkable.

As the book makes clear, it was not the mechanical functioning of the Titanic that failed her, nor any human error on the part of the hardworking crew. An "unbreachable" system of internal compartments like a vast honeycomb was breached when the ship struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to America, and the ship was a goner in a matter of minutes. Pumps meant to deal with flooding water were swamped. The ship broke in two pieces and dropped to the ocean floor without a hope of diverting its deathly trajectory. The call to abandon ship was delayed because the captain and other officers couldn't believe that a simple iceberg would down the great Titanic. Many lives were lost because there were the minimum number of lifeboats, able to carry fewer than half of the number of passengers and crew who were taking the trip. Many of those who died were men who bravely obeyed the classic rule of "women and children first"; the vast majority were crew and those poor passengers in steerage, many of whom had no idea where the lifeboats were located.

With the old photographs, many of them showing the construction of the sister ships Oceanic or Britannic since what now remains of the Titanic lies moldering on the ocean floor, one gets a sense of the size of the ship and the extraordinary care with which she was pieced together. The scale of the metal walls and giant propellers simply dwarfs the humans who built her. There is a ghostly quality to these old pictures, a reminder that we are looking not just at the monumental works of man but at the reluctance of men to acknowledge fallibility and plan for all possible eventualities.

Though this is a book for those with a technical bent, it is very likely to be read and collected by those who are drawn to the Titanic story as a tragic romance of an earlier time with lessons for the present and the future.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Barbara Bamberger Scott, 2011

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