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Donald Campbell: Bluebird and the Final Record Attempt Paperback – 1 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752482580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752482583
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 19.7 x 26.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 401,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The Bluebird Project's historical advisor details that fateful speed record attempt from its formative planning to the trials and mechanical setbacks, to the rising hopes, expectations and darker moods of Campbell, to the first complete scientific analysis of that crash- still indelibly etched in the mind of those who saw it in the flesh or on grainy television footage. Many of the 300-plus pictures in the book are from unseen private collections and printed here for the first time. Fascinating stuff. --Cumbria Magazine

There have been several texts already dedicated to the story of Donald Campbell's record attempts but this is something else entirely. Sheppard grew up in the Lake District, scene of Campbell's many record-breaking attempts, and is an acknowledged authority on the speed merchant. Here he charts in diary format the beginnings of Campbell's formative plans in May 1966, through the preparations and modifications to Bluebird K7 and the many trials, mechanical setbacks, and unsuccessful runs made in December of that year, to a discussion of why disaster was not inevitable. The author offers a scientific analysis of the fatal crash, and has uncovered hitherto unreported trials and headaches faced by Campbell and his team as time marched on and the media became increasingly caustic. Well written and a compelling read. --Octane magazine

World record breaker, and son of world record breaker, Donald Campbell was born to speed on land and water. And he died through speed as he attempted his eighth World Water Speed Record on Coniston Water on a winter's day in 1967. His jet hydroplane, Bluebird was on its second run when it leapt from the surface of the water at 300mph. Neil Sheppard, in this superbly illustrated book, tells the full story of Campbell's ill-fated final year. --Cumberland News

From the Author

I better explain briefly tell you where my interest in Donald Campbell came from ...,
`Returning home from a day out with my parents, we were driving along the shoreline of Ullswater, prompting mum and dad's conversation to turn to a time when they had witnessed a man called Donald Campbell driving his jet propelled boat, Bluebird, out on the lake. Having an interest in things that went fast, suddenly, I was paying attention.
They told the story of how in the summer of 1955, they had spent many an evening alongside the shore, with hundreds of other people, witnessing Campbell's high-speed trials in Bluebird K7, as a precursor to breaking his first World Water Speed Record. I was amazed that something so exciting could take place on my doorstep.
Within a few days, I was pestering mum to visit the local library and see if they had any Campbell books that would satisfy my curiosity. We picked up the biography `Donald Campbell CBE'. My parents didn't hear much of me for the rest of that evening, and the next or the one after that... I was totally engrossed and have been ever since.... I hope when you have read this book, you will be too ...' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Griffin on 13 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
There have been a number of books published about Donald Campbell in recent years, possibly spurred on by the discovery of his Jet propelled Hydroplane "Bluebird K7 " recovered from the depths of Coniston Water and the remains of her driver - over 10 years ago now. All are worthy of shelf space. This book however, stands out amongst them as an unrivalled collection of photographs and information painstakingly put together by one of today's greatest Campbell enthusiasts - Neil Sheppard - of Campbell's last campaign to further the World Water Speed Record to over 300 MPH.

An incredible collection of colour pictures alongside many black and white ones, never previously seen in the public domain.

To compliment the pictures, documented memories of many of the people involved with that attempt, re-living the echoes of their past - giving us a real taste of what it was like to live a record attempt, the bitter and the sweet.

The last chapter by Dr. Keith Mitchell, sets out to explain the circumstances behind Campbell's untimely yet spectacular end and puts to bed a lot of conjecture that has surrounded the attempt and the infamous crash sequence, captured for the world forever on film taken at the time that has been analysed frame by frame specifically for this chapter

Worth buying if you are not a Campbell enthusiast just for the fabulous collection of photographs. If however you are a Campbell enthusiast - then this is the one book that you must have in your collection.

If you are quick, you may be lucky enough to get one of the numbered limited edition collector's copies - with many extra features, including the autographs of the remaining members of the team, fold out card casing with lots of extra information, and other exclusive items only available with this edition.

I thoroughly recommend you add this one to your collection.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Damien Burke on 10 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Donald Campbell died before I was born but as a child his story was one that popped up again and again in books and occasional - heart stopping - replays of his final moments on TV programmes. When I was old enough to understand I was immediately impressed by the man and his succession of speed records, which kept Great Britain in the world eye and helped to ensure that people remembered the 'Great' bit. Much has been written about the speed king's life - and death - since that dark day in January 1967 and so one could ask what more could there be to write about?

The answer, it turns out, is a great deal. Neil Sheppard has amassed a stunning collection of photographs and personal reminiscences from those involved in and around Donald's team, and this book concentrates on the final few months of his life and the ill-fated attempt to push the World Water Speed Record above 300mph. Enough background is gone over so that the reader unfamiliar with the Campbell story is not left in the dark, and from Chapter 3 onwards you are immersed in the world of Bluebird K7 and the struggle to upgrade the old girl so that she would be capable of pushing past the 300mph barrier. With limited funds and time available, Donald's team were clearly facing quite a challenge - "this rather stony path" being Donald's description at one point (and this book's title before it was changed to the current one). A nice touch is that the account is strictly linear, with the date - and attendant weather conditions - noted in the margins. The cruel hand of fate, in the guise of the British weather, adds to this foreboding tale of problem after problem that leads up to the final record attempt.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Holter on 14 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a book I have been waiting for. Several years ago while working with Bluebird's co-designer, Ken Norris, we began to piece together what we thought had happened during Donald Campbell's last fateful attempt. For us, it was just a small part of a more general work on both Campbell's, Sir Malcolm and his son Donald. This book looks solely at the last attempt, and finishes with a technical breakdown of why it all went wrong, an analysis that goes beyond whatever I dreamed possible, in depth of research, calculation and observation.

Taking the bulk of the book, the author takes the reader through a thoroughly detailed diary of events, backed up with personal recollections of those who were present. Reading the text, each page gives you not only a journal of the events, but illustrates it with pictures of untold atmosphere. When a page tells you the mood was heavy, as was the weather, you merely have to glance at the pictures on the page to confirm it.

Throughout, the reader is transported back in time and literally relives the last fateful record attempt of Donald Campbell. It will, undoubtedly draw in another generation of Campbell aficionados.

The final chapter takes what is a complex string of events, and gives the reader all the ammunition needed to understand the bald mechanics of an accident. It stays away from the oft quoted, inaccurate assumptions that Campbell's failure to refuel created a light boat, it stays with what is known, but expands that to leave the reader with little to doubt.

The layout quite obviously has had much time and thought put into it, and it has paid off in spades, and when you add all this together, it makes for a complete a book as you could wish for. The author, and all those that contributed should be commended.
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