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Thursday, June 19, 2014

“The Discovery of the Titanic”, by Robert D. Ballard


230 pages, Warner Books, ISBN-13: 978-0446513852

Dr. Robert Ballard will forever remain the man who found the Titanic. In so doing, he became the world’s most famous ocean explorer who found the world’s most famous ship, eclipsing even the renowned Jacques Cousteau. Having then achieved the outstanding feat of finding this elusive shipwreck, Bob Ballard has put together the most complete and yet outstanding tale of search, discovery, and success, coupled with an accurate portrayal of the life and death of the ship itself. All the facts and historic photographs are here, as are further photographic images taken far below the surface, creating as complete a montage of the various sections and profiles of the wreck as it sits today (or rather as it sat in 1987 when this book was published).

But this is more than the tale of discovering the Titanic. Ballard’s book takes us from his early days at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to the discovery of the great wreck. It is written well and illustrated beautifully, and Ballard’s honesty in writing this book is striking. He makes no attempt to portray himself as a great hero, finding the Titanic like an oceanic cowboy, but rather lays out his strengths and weaknesses for others to judge. He is clearly proud of his accomplishment, yet regrets some of his actions, if only for the meaning others might take from it. Few authors have ever been so modest. I was also pleased that the book dealt with the sinking itself as much as it did. The bulk deals with the discovery of course, but the last chapter sheds light on Titanic mysteries based on the wreckage. One never feels the chilly, star lit night of 1912 to be very far away.

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