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Interesting, but also disappointing
on 31 July 2012
I am a big fan of Dr. Ballard's work and I have many of his excellent books. Alas, this doesn't come up to that standard. It's not devoid of interest, but it basically promises more than it can deliver. There is a consistent, overwrought commentary that promises that Dr. Ballard shall reveal great, hitherto unknown secrets. This is pure piffle. In many cases, the stories have been better told before - and ironically, one of Dr. Ballard's discoveries, that the "Bismarck" was scuttled, is not even mentioned! In summary:
1. Bismarck - OK, but too much padding and attempts to generate excitement. The footage of the ship is not great.
2. Belgrano - total waste of time. They don't even find the ship, so it's just a retelling of the story of the sinking, plus a couple of veterans from the ship and the submarine being nice to each other.
3. Gallipoli - merely a retelling of the attempted forcing of the Dardanelles with a few sunken ship pictures tossed in. Some interesting footage of a sunken landing barge (interesting to someone whose wife's great-uncle was an ANZAC), otherwise not of any great moment
4. Lusitania - I found this one really interesting. Dr. Ballard shows that the ship was almost certainly not carrying explosives, and suggests that it might have been a coal dust explosion, triggered by the shock of the torpedo impact on nearly empty coal bunkers. (Later work has definitively ruled out the presence of explosives, and have suggested that a boiler exploded). It is enlivened by the comments of survivors of the sinking. Especially poignant are the photos of the dead (some still unidentified) in the Cunard records. "Who is responsible for the tragedy?" asks Ballard, "we all are". For as long as humans try to solve problems by fighting about them and impart artificial glory to military deeds, innocents caught in the crossfire over which they had no say will die.
(P.S. Did anyone else notice that one of the U-Boat films was of a WW2 one with a swastika flag?).
So, I recommend, advance with caution.