It is always a delight when Mark Chirnside authors a new book. His newest one deals with a neglected subject, White Star Line's 'Big Four'. The luxury liners Adriatic, the Baltic, the Cedric, and the Celtic each had long and lively careers while crossing the Atlantic.
This handsome edition is divided into 8 chapters: 1. The Colossus of the White Star Fleet 2. Crossings and Cruising 3. Liverpool & Southampton 4. The War Years 5. A Very Enviable Reputation 6. On the Rocks 7. The Last Lap 8. The Cruise of the Adriatic
There are also appendices of construction chronology, specifications, and passenger statistics.
An authoritative text is interspersed with rare accounts by people who sailed on these four ships. These rare glimpses by those who were there give this volume a more intimate quality and a rare window in the past. Passengers talk about beauty of the ships interior, the daily routines, unusual instances that made the voyages more exciting. And these voyages were exciting from powerful storms, sea rescues, darting across the Atlantic to avoid submarines, unfortunate groundings, and final goodbyes to the scrapyard. The author takes care to describe these instances in great detail, aided by the words of people who were there.
The infamous JP Morgan is quoted in the book talking about why he liked the Adriatic, "Ships have personalities. I like this one." There was a lot to like about these vessels. The Adriatic had a pool, elevator, and turkish bath, among other amenities. These four ships had dining rooms with high vaulted ceilings, carved wood work and stained glass. Second and third class are not forgotten either. The author shows through photos how they are an improvement from older liners. Thumbing through the book, the reader will find rare images of the interiors, deck plans, onboard memorabilia such as menus, passenger lists, log cards, and souvenirs. Many of these items appear in a generous color section in the middle of the book.
The photos of on board life make this book a particular delight. Many were taken by passengers and crew and reside in the collection of the author and other collectors. Unique photos of different parts of the ship such as the engine room will delight the technological ships fans. Amusing pictures of locals diving off the deck of the ship into the waters of Funchal or passengers gathered around Captain Marshall give it a "you-are there" feeling. Particularly rare are the ones of those of the Celtic held fast to the rocks in 1928. Sadly this would be the end of the ship and as we read, she was slowly dismantled on the spot.
This book will no doubt become a favorite and a valuable resource for those who want to learn more about historic ships.