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on 18 July 2017
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on 30 September 2012
There's no shortage of books about the Titanic. This one is written by a modern day expert in marine accident investigation. It is well worth reading. In shows how many factors contributed to the accident and the massive loss of life. It debunks versions of the story which vilify particular individuals. It shows how, as is so often the case, a series of errors well within the bounds of normal human frailty, led to a catastrophe. Folly played its part, but the important thing in such cases is to learn and put safeguards in place to prevent the same mistakes being made again. For example, it might be regarded as outrageous that nearby vessels didn't respond urgently to distress signals - until you realise that at the time there was no unambiguous agreement about how to signal distress. The book is carefully written in a quietly eloquent style, and the initial context setting section is interesting for its own sake, giving general insight into seafaring at the time.
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on 14 September 2012
As a someone who has read a library of Titanic books and seen the films, I shuddered when I read notice of publication of another new book on the subject. Very topical, on this the 100th. anniversary of the disaster and also following the recent Costa Concordia catastophy.

But this is a refreshing analysis of this ubiquitous incident by John Lang the former Chief Inspector of the UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch which seeks to answer just two questions:- Why did the Titanic collide with an Ice berg? and, Why did so many people lose their lives?

Applying his MAIB expertise, Lang's new book offers a fresh look at the evidence that was produced in the US and UK inquiries after the disaster and which tends to have coloured our thinking ever since.

In his forward to this book which can be found at [...], Michael Grey, ex-Editor of Lloyds' List, provides a more detailed review and critique than I can ever hope to achieve.

The book Titanic by John Lang, ISBN978-1-4422-1890-1 is available in hardback from Amazon etc., but as yet is not available as an e-book. It is well worth the read and not just by Titanic aficinado's. It is a must for all those who have been assciated with Marine Accident Investigation
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on 7 January 2013
This book is an investigation of the sinking of the RMS Titanic by a retired marine accident investigation specialist with a long naval career. It seeks to answer two main questions 'Why did the Titanic collide with an iceberg' and 'Why did so many people loose their lives' He starts by giving a background of the state of marine transport in Edwardian time, before given a factual account with full details of the events leading up to the collision with an iceberg and the subsequent foundering of the ship and escape and rescue of some of her passengers. There is nothing that is new or sensational in this account but considerable detail is given of facts that might have materially contributed to the disaster. Finally he summarises his findings without attempting to apportion blame but in such a way that recommendations for the improvement of future safety at sea might have been made in 1912. The only fact not available in 1912 that he has made use of is the known position of the wreck - and this is used in a careful analysis of the position of the 'Californian' relative to the Titanic. The master of the 'Californian' was crticised at the time for being the closest vessel to the sinking but only headed in that direction after the lifeboats had been picked up by the Carpathia.
The basic reasons he gives for the collision are in no way new - the ship was steaming too fast by night towards a known icefield with inadequate lookout. Nor are the reasons for the great loss of life - too few lifeboats, many launched only half full. But his long list of underlying and contributory causes is very interesting - clearly the last-minute substitution of Captain, the totally inadequate training of the officers for the situation that arose were major factors but he introduces many additional points - the lookouts were continuously exposed to a 22 knot blast of ice-cold air and had no binoculars bacause the key to their locker had been lost, the lack of any preparation by the prevailing system of the Captain for the trauma of loosing his ship which resulted in inadequate command of the situation and many other factors.
Overall this is a very straightforward and interesting account by an expert and is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in one of the most well known maritme disasters of the last century.
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on 11 November 2012
I was concerned that this book would be inaccessible to me; a little too technical or high-brow. I needn't have been. It has proved to be a balanced, well-written, easy to understand and wide-reaching explanation of an event which has been much discussed and dramatised in the last 100 years.

Lang's perspective offers an intelligent and thought-provoking assessment of the demise of the Titanic. His credibility, given his working life, is second to none and lifts this book above many others that have gone before it.

Well worth a read.
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on 18 July 2013
The saga of the Titanic has always had a special and personal significance for me; my late great uncle was first officer of the Carpathia and was on the bridge when the distress call was received. From childhood, the tragedy of this great ship's foundering has fascinated me, and, when I last counted, I found I had over sixty books on the subject, together with numerous papers and essays.
So, when asked to review Admiral John Lang's new book, I was a little afraid it had all been said before. How wrong I was. There was plenty to learn. Perhaps a clue lies in the book’s title: ‘Titanic: A Fresh Look at the Evidence by a Former Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents.’ This is emphatically not a potboiler of the type of content I have seen so many times before in other books. It was not about comments and questions such as, ‘what Captain Smith had for lunch on the fateful day,’ or ‘did J. Bruce Ismay have a second glass of port after dinner?’
The book begins with an excellent summary of how the North Atlantic seafarers developed, from the vagaries of sailing ships to the great steam-driven ocean liners. We see how seafarers were trained and how they learned the different skills required of them. We also gain an understanding as to how the great shipping lines developed from humble beginnings, as well as an insight into the massive immigration influx to North America, which, of course, underpinned the growing transatlantic passenger trade.
We also learn how Marconi developed his radio system, which was to play such a key role as the tragedy unfolded, and the extraordinary way that the Marconi men operated in a kind of limbo.
At the end of these useful and fast-flowing sixty or so pages, then it is down to the serious stuff! Here, the author takes the reader through the available evidence and considers the findings of the formal investigation led by Lord Mersey. One most interesting part is the amount of attention given to human factors, such as fatigue, and the fact that the officers and crew of the Titanic had never had a proper shakedown voyage to embed teamwork and to check that prescribed procedures actually did work in practice.
Lang refers to his work as a ‘Report into the Loss of the Titanic,’ and casts an experienced seafarer's eye over the evidence. The panic and confusion that occurred as the tragedy unfolded, together with the fact that many key people such as Captain Smith, some of the senior officers and Thomas Andrews died in the sinking, gave rise to many contradictory statements being made at both the British and US Senate inquiries. The book strives to set out the sequence of events in a methodical manner, and the author makes it very clear when he is or is not able to form a judgment on a particular point. The style in which the book has been written and the way the facts are set out will allow the reader to form their own conclusion.
The unusual and novel approach to one of maritime history's most infamous tragedies alone make this a book to read carefully; your reward will be an excellent insight into the Titanic's loss and into the factors building up to it. From childhood, the tragedy of this great ship's foundering has fascinated me and I am delighted to add John Lang’s brilliant book to my library.
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on 26 January 2014
There are dozens of books about the Titanic, but unfortunately most of them give the impression of being a rehash of the story based on previous books by other authors. For this reason, not many can really be recommended.

This book, by an experienced seafarer, who latterly headed the UK MAIB is a refreshing change. Analysing the disaster in the style of a contemporary marine accident investigation, it is based on some useful original research and takes the reader through the events of 14-15 April 1912 in a logical and unemotional style, introducing a fair number of facts that will probably be unfamiliar. The book is split into various sections, looking at the background to the North Atlantic steamer service, the characteristics of the ship, the events as they unfolded, the roles of various personnel and some interesting and not always obvious conclusions as to the causes of the disaster.

Though not journalistic piece in the style of Walter Lord, it is always very readable and once you have got started, it is not easy to put down. That said, it does have its faults: the price is somewhat high for what is really quite a small book and the illustrations and charts are small and poorly reproduced. With the latter in particular, which are important to the analysis, one has to ask what the editors were thinking of when they accepted small black writing on a fairly dark grey background. There are also some interesting artist's impressions of what the lookouts might have seen, but most of their value is mostly lost due to small size and murky reproduction.

Thanks to his long nautical experience, Lang always feels as though he is the master of his subject and minor oddities excepted - like the assertion that there were no foreign crew members apart from the French staff of the a la carte restaurant, which is surely mistaken - this is an account that always feels authoritative on the crucial points. Unfortunately there are a few silly errors and typos that should have been picked up by the proof readers (eg Carpathia is called SS Carpathia in one place and RMS Carpathia in another) but they don't really detract from the narrative.

So, on balance, a very good book which anyone interested in the Titanic will want to own, but which is slightly let down by its production values. One hopes that if it runs into a second edition - which it deserves to - this (and a few typos) can be put right.

In conclusion, it is also worth saying that this is a book that might profitably be read by anyone who manages safety critical processes, as the author raises a number of thought provoking issues whose application goes far beyond the shipping industry - eg in relation to training and systems design, and with regard to the value of taking calculated risks in an emergency.
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on 12 February 2013
At last a book about the Titanic that is actually written from evidence and facts and treats its readers with intelligence. All the more frightening because the Costa Concordia sank because of catastrophic uncontrolled flooding. The Captain of Titanic at least went down with his ship rather than 'fell into a lifeboat' but they share a common position that no one on the bridge questioned their foolhardy order, although you would have hoped that 100 years on things may have changed
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on 7 January 2013
A fresh look at the evidence, first class read for anyone interested in safety at sea, writen by a true expert.
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on 13 November 2014
Disappointing. Nothing new regarding the Titanic incident. Some interesting pieces about the qualifications of merchant navy officers for those that didn't know. I was expecting more, but given that the whole story has been gone over many tImes by excellent authors I was being too optimistic.
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