Perils of the Atlantic: Steamship Disasters, 1850 to the Present

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"Flayhart delivers a gripping chronicle of mishap and mayhem . . . filled with danger and heroism and rich with detail."—Sea Power
A colorful and deadly history of ocean liner disasters from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, Perils of the Atlantic is a chronicle of the most frightening episodes in the maritime history of the North Atlantic. From 1850 to the present day, the Atlantic has been home to hundreds of ocean liners and cruise ships, each more lavish than the last...all of them symbols of wealth ...

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Overview

"Flayhart delivers a gripping chronicle of mishap and mayhem . . . filled with danger and heroism and rich with detail."—Sea Power
A colorful and deadly history of ocean liner disasters from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, Perils of the Atlantic is a chronicle of the most frightening episodes in the maritime history of the North Atlantic. From 1850 to the present day, the Atlantic has been home to hundreds of ocean liners and cruise ships, each more lavish than the last...all of them symbols of wealth and luxury. Perhaps this is why readers have always been fascinated by the lives of these ships—and their deaths. Many of us know the stories of the Titanic and the Lusitania. Both tragedies caused tremendous loss of life, even as they made the ships immortal. But there are many little-known accounts of extraordinary survivals at sea, such as the Inman and International liner City of Chicago that jammed her bow into an Irish peninsula in 1892 but stayed afloat long enough for all to be rescued, or the City of Richmond that survived a dangerous fire in 1891, and a year earlier the City of Paris, whose starboard engine exploded at full speed in the mid-Atlantic and yet miraculously still made port. Often such tales are forgotten even if the ship sank: In 1898 the Holland-America liner Veendam hit a submerged wreck and sank at sea, but all lives were saved—so this vessel's dramatic story seemed less important in maritime history than incidents involving human loss. As recently as 2000, the Sea Breeze I sank off the East Coast of the United States while on a positioning voyage, but all her crew members were rescued in a heroic effort by U.S. Coast Guard helicopters. These stories and many others are dramatic, and acclaimed maritime scholar William Flayhart has spent much of the last forty years in search of material from which to create colorful narratives.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“The author mixes catastrophes both famous and obscure, giving maritime mavens something new to discover.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Twenty-one stories...told engagingly, from development of plans for the ship to the disastrous conclusion...a fine way for salts and landlubbers alike to spend a few afternoons.”
Publishers Weekly
A distinguished maritime historian offers readers a carefully researched sampling of notable steamship "challenges and disasters" in the North Atlantic. Flayhart (The American Line) begins with the loss of the Collins Line's Arctic in 1854 and ends in 2000 with the loss of the Seabreeze, an obsolete cruise liner on her way to be scrapped. In between, he offers clearly written accounts of some of most famous disasters-Titanic, Lusitania and Andrea Doria-and some of the lesser known ones, such as the Atlantic (grounded off Nova Scotia, with a loss of 585 lives) and the Empress of Ireland (sunk in a collision in the mouth of the St. Lawrence). Flayhart also describes less grisly episodes, such as the rescue of the liner City of Paris after an engine-room explosion; his consideration thereof provides a capsule history of 19th-century steam-engine technology. The grounding of the St. Paul was almost ludicrous (she was racing a rival in fog), while the tale of the sinking liner Veendam marks one of the book's most moving episodes-thanks to superb seamanship, not a soul perished. Flayhart also offers background on the business and financial dealings that created certain ships (such as the burned Morro Castle), as well as salvaged cargo lists ("1,720 boxes of bacon, 595 pails of lard") that show the less glamorous side of the liner business. Written in a matter of fact, respectful tone with balanced judgments on controversial questions, this volume is an absolute feast for lovers of maritime history. 48 illustrations. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393041552
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/9/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

William Flayhart is professor of history, political science, and philosophy at Delaware State University, and is the author of, among other books, The American Line, QE2, and Majesty at Sea with John H. Shaum Jr. He lives in Dover, Delaware.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11
Ch. 1 Perils of the Atlantic: A Century and a Half of Maritime Challenges and Disasters, 1850-2000 17
Ch. 2 The Wreck of the Arctic, September 27, 1854 19
Ch. 3 A Hostile Shore, Stormy Weather, and Inattentive Lookouts Make for a Deadly Combination: The White Star Liner Atlantic Fails to Make Halifax, April 1, 1873 39
Ch. 4 The Ville du Havre and the Loch Earn: The Sudden Loss of the Second-Largest Ship in the World, November 22, 1873 56
Ch. 5 The SS Pennsylvania of the American Line and the Great Hurricane of 1874, February 23, 1874 69
Ch. 6 Grounding of the Steamship Rusland of the Red Star Line off Long Branch, New Jersey, March 17, 1877 79
Ch. 7 The Graceful City of Brussels and the Deadly Fog of the Irish Sea, January 7, 1883 92
Ch. 8 The Loss of the Cunard Liner Oregon, March 14, 1886 100
Ch. 9 An Inconceivable Horror: Two White Star Liners Crash off New York - The Collision of the Celtic and the Britannic, May 19, 1887 118
Ch. 10 An Atlantic Disaster Narrowly Missed: The Explosion of the Engines on the City of Paris, March 25, 1890 126
Ch. 11 Fire at Sea on the City of Richmond, June 1891 146
Ch. 12 The City of Chicago and the Old Head of Kinsale, July 1, 1892 155
Ch. 13 Ocean Racing Can Be Hazardous!: The St. Paul and the Campania Experience Near Disaster, January 25, 1896 164
Ch. 14 The Loss of Holland America's Gallant Veendam to Causes beyond Comprehension, February 6-8, 1898 185
Ch. 15 A Sinking Tanker in Heavy Weather Can Be a Tricky Thing: The Vindobala, December 1898 196
Ch. 16 The Wireless Brings Aid for the First Time: The Republic and the Florida in Collision, January 23, 1909 204
Ch. 17 The Ultimate Catastrophe: The Largest Ship in the World, the SS Titanic, Strikes an Iceberg in the Middle of the North Atlantic, April 14-15, 1912 223
Ch. 18 Fog in the St. Lawrence Can Be Deadly: The Loss of the Empress of Ireland, May 29, 1914 255
Ch. 19 The Lusitania Meets an Untimely Fate, May 7, 1915 271
Ch. 20 Fire at Sea, a Dead Captain, and a Sociopathic Killer: The Morro Castle Disaster, September 8, 1934 290
Ch. 21 It Never Should Have Happened: The Collision of the Italian Andrea Doria and the Swedish Stockholm, July 26, 1956 308
Ch. 22 A Final Voyage Can Have More than One Ending: The SS Seabreeze I, December 18, 2000 329
Notes 333
Bibliography 353
Index 365
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