Titanic's last secrets The further adventures of shadow divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler

Bradford Matsen

Large print - 2008

Previously undiscovered wreckage from the Titanic suggests that the doomed ship may have broken in half while nearly horizontal and gone down before most of the passengers knew what was happening.

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Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press 2008.
Main Author
Bradford Matsen (-)
Large print ed
Physical Description
445 p. (large print) : ill., maps ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
  • Shipwreck
  • 1. History
  • 2. Ribbons of Steel
  • 3. Titaniacs
  • 4. The Eyes of Billy Lange
  • Dreams
  • 5. Pirrie
  • 6. Ismay
  • 7. Andrews
  • 8. A Thousand Days
  • 9. Titanic
  • 10. Millionaire's Captain
  • 11. 41[degree] 46' North, 50[degree] 14' West
  • 12. Yamsi
  • 13. Investigation
  • Secrets
  • 14. Roger Wrong, Roger Right
  • 15. Wee Man
  • 16. Britannic
  • Epilogue
  • Cover-Up
  • Endings
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • About the Author
Review by Booklist Review

An experienced writer on maritime subjects chronicles the further adventures of John Chatterton and Richie Kohler (see Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, 2004). Now distinguished underwater archaeologists, they investigate a novel theory about why the Titanic sank so rapidly. With the help of dives on the wreck and several experts on the ship and her fate, they bolster suspicions that it and its sibling liners were structurally weak, too large for the standard shipbuilding techniques of the day. Whether they wholly convince the reader, their research is impressively thorough and their prose clear. Furthermore, they offer vivid accounts of the golden age of shipbuilding, of relations among the three men (Lord Pirrie, Bruce Ismay, and Thomas Andrews) who created the Titanic and sealed her doom, and of the pleasures and perils of underwater archaeology. Those who pick this up in anticipation of the centennial of the sinking should be enthralled.--Green, Roland Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this expertly written account, Matsen (Descent) does what would seem impossible: he tells us something new about the Titanic disaster. In August of 2005, a team using Mir submersibles found previously undiscovered wreckage from the ship on the ocean floor. The wreckage suggested that the Titanic had not sunk with the stern rising into the air. Instead the ship had broken in half while almost horizontal and gone down before most of the passengers knew what was happening. The discovery directs Matsen's retelling of the Titanic story, beginning with events that led to the creation of the giant ocean liner. Matsen is an engaging writer and has smoothly incorporated massive amounts of research. After opening in the 21st century, Matsen spends 150 pages recounting the entire Titanic saga, including biographies of the builders, the ins-and-outs of shipyard politics and ocean travel. It's all very well done but leads at times to a loss of overall focus. A dive to Britannic, Titanic's sister ship, is handled rather hastily and the personalities of the team that made the Titanic discovery are never fully developed. These are minor issues, however, and it testifies to the quality of the book that the reader is left wanting more. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Chatterton and Kohler, the two wreck explorers introduced in Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, became interested in the few remaining questions about the Titanic's sinking. Beyond the well-known story, controversy over the exact details remains, e.g., whether the ship sank in one piece or two and why it went down so fast. These intrepid divers rented a Russian ship with two deep-diving minisubs and found a couple of large pieces of the hull, previously unnoticed. From the torn steel, they arrived at some conclusions that added modestly to the generally accepted story, mainly regarding the flexing of the hull and the expansion joints. To confirm their suspicions, they then dove on one of the Titanic's two sister ships, the Britannic, which was sunk by a mine in World War I. Matsen (Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss) incorporates much intimate detail about the builders of the ship, reconstructing conversations from 1912 via secondary sources. Dedicated Titanic enthusiasts will be interested, but only libraries with extensive marine collections need consider. [A film adaptation of Shadow Divers is in the works for a 2009 release; see Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/08.]--Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined ArmsResearch Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Matsen (Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss, 2005, etc.) provides an intriguing postmortem of design-safety compromises on the "Ship of Dreams." The author's point of entry into the story is the diving team of John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, stars of the TV series Deep Sea Detectives. They wanted to resolve why the mighty ship sank only two-and-a-half hours after hitting an iceberg on April 15, 1912. By contrast, sister ship Olympic had survived and made it to port after colliding with a Royal Navy cruiser in 1911 and sustaining damage so severe it took six weeks to repair. In 2005, Chatterton and Kohler descended to the wreck in two Russian submersibles and, with the help of a maritime forensics analyst and an imaging technician, pieced together what happened to Titanic. It had grounded on the iceberg, not just sideswiped it, thereby scraping the bottom of its hull and opening an additional fatal hole. When not discussing the dive's planning, execution and analysis of its findings, Matsen focuses on the crucial decisions made during Titanic's construction by three men: chief designer Thomas Andrews, who went down with his ship; White Star Line chairman Bruce Ismay; and Lord William Pirrie, head of the Belfast shipbuilding firm Harland and Wolff. Heeding Ismay's insistence that they reduce costs and space, Andrews reluctantly used the Board of Trade's specifications for the amount of steel in the hull and the number of lifeboats required, rather than the additional quantities of each that he deemed safe for a ship of this size. A dive into the wreck of the Britannic, which sunk after striking a German mine in 1916, strongly suggested that Pirrie and Ismay, knowing Titanic's expansion joints were weak, sought to bolster them on its companion vessel. The divers ultimately concluded that Titanic's designer, builder and owner "had sent a ship to sea not knowing if it was strong enough to survive." Wholly engrossing narrative of a crowning example of catastrophic hubris. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.