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Ghosts of the Titanic: An Archaeological Odyssey

Ghosts of the Titanic: An Archaeological Odyssey

5.0 3
by Charles R. Pellegrino, James Cameron
In 1996, Charles Pellegrino published Her Name, Titanic, a riveting account of the most famous disaster in American history. The book became a New York Times bestseller, garnering superb praise from both readers and the pres. Now Pellegrino, expert oceanographer and a member of the original team that discovered the wreck two-and-one-half miles below


In 1996, Charles Pellegrino published Her Name, Titanic, a riveting account of the most famous disaster in American history. The book became a New York Times bestseller, garnering superb praise from both readers and the pres. Now Pellegrino, expert oceanographer and a member of the original team that discovered the wreck two-and-one-half miles below the surface of the sea, has written the ultimate book on the sinking of the Titanic. Using the latest technology to penetrate the ship's watery grave—where low oxygen levels and a water temperature only two degrees above freezing have kept many of the ship's artifacts from even mild decay—Ghosts of the Titanic recreates those last, horrifying moments on board the doomed ship, and uncovers fascinating secrets about ocean life. Filled with new discoveries about the ship's fate and history, it reveals:

  • The surprising fate of the Grand Stairway
  • Why the lookout never saw the iceberg before it was too late, and why the Titanic was much closer to the iceberg than previously thought
  • Who was looting cabins as the ship went down
  • Diaries and letters from passengers, perfectly preserved at the bottom of the ocean

About the Author:

Dr. Charles Pellegrino's seven books include Unearthing Atlantis and Her Name, Titanic. He lives in Long Beach, NY.

Editorial Reviews

James Cameron
An incredible adventure at the bottom of the sea. Pellegrino brings the Titanic back to life!
Arthur C. Clarke
Very moving. Like Her Name Titanic, Ghosts of the Titanic often brought tears to my eyes.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pellegrino's sequel to his 1996 bestseller, Her Name, Titanic, is a tour de force incorporating new information about the shipwreck and the nightmarish human dramas of survivors, reconstructed from letters, diaries and oral histories. An oceanographer, paleontologist and space scientist, Pellegrino draws on his 1996 deep-sea expedition to the Titanic as well as other marine scientists' recent research. Contrary to the popular notion that the ship succumbed to a gigantic gash after it hit an iceberg, he shows that the Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, was felled by a series of ice stabs and bullet-hole-like punctures adding up to just 12 square feet of openings through which tons of water poured. The Titanic's Grand Stairway, all five stories of it, probably broke free and floated out of the disintegrating ship, he concludes. According to survivors' testimony, the accident occurred because the ship was traveling at a reckless speed: its owners decided to arrive in New York a day early as a publicity coup, and this meant lighting extra boilers, which led to an out-of-control bunker fire. The ship didn't simply run up against a lone iceberg--it encountered a field of icebergs over 10 miles wide. By correlating eyewitness accounts, Pellegrino establishes that many shootings did occur on the ship, as crew and officers armed with guns prevented third- and fourth-class passengers from boarding the lifeboats. His fresh re-creation of the Titanic's final hours provides an eerie and astonishing adventure, a time capsule gracefully wrapped in elegant prose, deserving a place alongside Walter Lord's classic A Night to Remember. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
School Library Journal
YA-Many mysteries about the sinking of the Titanic continue to generate controversy among experts. Among the larger of these: the actual cause, what happened to the bodies of the many victims, why the "mystery ship" failed to come to the rescue, and the motivations behind several seemingly inexplicable actions by crew and passengers. Pellegrino, author of Her Name, Titanic (Morrow, 1990) looks again at these and other puzzles, illustrating his points with fine drawings of discoveries made during scientific expeditions, and with a generous number of diagrams of the ship as it might have appeared at different points in the disaster. He describes the new forensic evidence found by recent expeditions to the wreck, and views it from a variety of scientific perspectives. He places these insights in the context of the historical record-and comes, in the end, to some surprising new conclusions. Along the way, he asks many questions of his own, and, considering the behavior of the people involved, offers a valuable meditation on the nature of leadership. The author's wide-ranging musings might seem at first to be rather disorganized-and, to some readers, overly personal-but for most, the book delivers the ghosts promised by its title. As Pellegrino writes, "People who love and perhaps even worship technology often forget humanity. The Titanic never lets you forget." A fascinating, thought-provoking account.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A haphazard eulogy to the big boat that refuses to release her grip on the popular imagination. Following a turgid foreword by Titanic director James Cameron (in which the nastiest stereotypes of Hollywood illiteracy receive ample confirmation), Pellegrino (Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, 1994, etc.) launches into his eclectic collection of tales from the Titanic. In this grand hodgepodge, the reader meets such intriguing characters as the ship's baker (who survived by sheer force of will), lookout Frederick Fleet (who bore the brunt of the blame for the accident), and undocumented passenger Howard Irwin (who disappeared without a trace). Such stories are told to mixed effect: when Pellegrino narrates simply and subtly, he sketches a thumbnail portrait of a person alive with minute detail. On the other hand, his authorial voice at times intrudes with astounding banalities ("I know all about ghosts") and stilted dramatizations ("Tell your mother that I loved her dearly and still do"). The re-creations of the Titanic's final moments are linked to scientific discussions of the archaeological processes of investigating her. Pellegrino examines the immense difficulties of such a study in loving detail (and in accessible and exciting prose). For example, his analysis of the rusticles (a bacterial species that combines itself symbiotically with worms) is bizarrely fascinating; such scientific exuberance, however, is less enjoyable when directed to computing the ratio of survival between dust mites and cockroaches. In an afterword and postscript, Pellegrino considers the fates of the crew and their passengers, lists the expeditions that have studied the ship's wreckage, and ponders the dangersoftechnological hubris. Suffering from the same stilted emotionalism that plagued Cameron's movie, Pellegrino's study nevertheless provides gripping reading due to the inherent fascination of the ship and her watery grave.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Thoughts for a Countdown

If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day.— John Archibald Wheeler

And You May ask me, why do I not believe in psychic events?

How can I not believe? you may ask, given what I have seen, what I have learned.

And it occurs to me that I cannot provide an adequate answer, because I do not believe the proper words exist for me to explain my agnosticism. You cannot know, therefore, and neither, it seems, can I.

What I do know is that odd coincidence, or synchronicity — call it what you will — has always surrounded the Titanic. And it has surrounded me, too, ever since the Titanic.

In the summer of 1985, I was a space scientist and paleontologist (or, as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould once put it, "an astronomer who occasionally looks down"). At that time, no one in the world could have seemed farther from the Titanic. In fact, most of my work was out of this world — way out of it, way past Mars. I had, with my childhood friend and fellow astrobiologist Jesse Stoff, proposed models for ice world interiors that were leading to the discovery of new oceans beneath the crusts of Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Europa, and Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus. The Voyager II spacecraft was supporting our models, and was flying on past Titan and Enceladus toward an encounter with the cryovolcanoes of Triton, but it saddened me that Jesse could not be with me at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. About three years earlier, he hadabandoned our ice world studies, literally in midstride, so that he could fly away to London and try to figure out how the human immune system evolved. Along the way, he focused attention on a rare genetic disorder. By coincidence, I was tracing this same genetic marker back through the origins of all the modern human races, following a trail of aberrant DNA as if it were a trail of footprints (and all the genetic roads were leading back to Africa, about 120,000 years ago). By coincidence, this same genetic trail — the entire gene complex — had turned up in my own blood, and was waiting to hatch out. And by sheer coincidence, Jesse had discovered treatments for this same genetic condition, even as I bemoaned his departure from the space program and into medicine, and said as much in the preface to a report titled, "Extraterrestrial Life: New Hope in our Own Solar System."

The words ankylosing spondylitis describe a condition in which the immune system becomes overly active, attacking cells that belong to "self" with as much vigor as those that belong to "non-self " It is similar in its effects to the graft-versus-host disease commonly seen as a result of bone marrow transplants, and when kept under control (or even when deliberately induced, and controlled via the emerging technology of immunogenetics), the disease becomes a powerful ally against other diseases, particularly cancer. When out of control, however, it can trigger a biological chain reaction that maims, and occasionally kills.

In July 1985, the disease aimed to kill me. My doctor in New York told me I should put my affairs in order. To judge from the rate of deterioration he was witnessing, he predicted that I would have "a short autumn."

Then Jesse showed up at my door — the only person I know of who, at that time, just happened to have a magic bullet sitting in his lab.

I got better.

My doctor died.

And then I received a call from Bob Ballard. By coincidence, he had been reading a book by Jesse and me in which we discussed the possibility of oceans inside ice worlds, and described the sorts of robots that might one day be sent to probe them. By yet another emerging coincidence, Bob had been building deep-ocean robots directly ancestral to the ones Jesse and I had described. One of them had just found the Titanic, and Bob had his next expedition already in mind. He wanted to know if I would be interested in joining him."

Oooh, this can't be happening," my father said, when I told him of the call. It was just as I had said it would be, two months earlier, when I was so sick and dog tired that I lived what I was coming tocall "koala bear days" — twenty-hour naps, almost comatose. And during those koala days I did a very strange thing, when Dad and I look back upon it now and come to consider that in July 1985 I had never even read the Walter Lord classic, A Night to Remember. During my few waking hours I somehow managed to construct a little white model of the Titanic, properly ballasted with some of its watertight compartments built in. I shut off the filter and pumps in my parents' swimming pool and sprinkled the water with the same red dust I had used in the laboratory to reveal patterns of circulation around the siphons of clams and octopi.

Each time I sank the ship, I watched very carefully the slipstream of dust that trailed behind it. After the model came to a sudden stop on the bottom, the dust spread out over a radius at least as large as the ship's length, in great cauliflower billows.

"Downblast," I had called it.

"Why are you doing this?" my father had asked. Of the very few hours I could remain awake, I spent an inordinate number sinking a toy boat in a swimming pool, and the water at one end was beginning to resemble blood. It was inexplicable to Dad and I was scaring the neighbors."Why this?" he demanded.

What People are Saying About This

James Cameron
Like Godfather II, better than the original.
— (James Cameron, Oscar-winning director of Titanic)

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Ghosts of the Titanic: An Archaeological Odyssey 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was great It had me int he seat of my chair
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Ghosts of the Titanic' is a great read, evoking the feelings and emotions of that April night in 1912 while simultaneously examining what Titanic means to the present and could mean to the future. Mr. Pelligrino has done his research and this book is a must-have for real Titanic buffs.