On a Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic
by Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt
J. Kent Layton, Bill Wormstedt, and Tad Fitch
Just bought it and can’t wait to get started reading. The shear word content is amazing. I hope it’s as through and factual as the reviews state.
Utterly essential. Required, even!
I’ve got it downloaded on my phone. It’s an amazing book, essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Titanic IMV
Amazing book. Can’t recommend enough
Well worth the read, everything you need to know.
A few answers from the authors
J. Kent Layton, Bill Wormstedt, and Tad Fitch
1. How did you become interested in the Titanic disaster, and when did interest first awaken?
Seeing “Titanic” (1953) and “A Night to Remember” on TV in the early 60s and reading “A Night to Remember” in 1963. There were no other books or movies available at the time, and I got re-interested in when the wreck was found in 1985. I got online in the late 90s, and met other Titanic enthusiasts.
My father was a Titanic enthusiast since he saw “A Night to Remember” on TV when he was young, and had the 1976 illustrated edition of the book before I was even born. It was one of my first books that I read as a child. Then, when I was about three or four, he came home with the 1/350-scale model of Titanic, which we worked on together. The films “SOS Titanic” and “Raise the Titanic” also had a huge impact. All of this happened in a very short time when I was very young, and I was permanently hooked.
I have always had an interest in history in general, something that both my father and I have shared throughout my life. My first memory of Titanic comes from when I was a young child, and my family was on vacation in Virginia Beach. We were eating dinner at a seafood restaurant, which had a model of the Titanic on display, as well as a model of the Lusitania. My father explained what they were and their stories, and how both had sunk in the Atlantic. In my young mind, that meant right off the beach where we were staying, which of course, was a bit off the mark. When the wreck of the ship was discovered, I quickly became hooked on the subject, and the interest has never faded.
2. Do you have any special areas of interest regarding the Titanic disaster? If so, what are those special interests?
My main interest is exactly what happened the night of the sinking, and in particular, the lifeboat launching. That does mean I have to have some knowledge about the passengers and the structure of the ship itself.
There are a number of aspects of Titanic’s story that fascinate me. 1) There is the aura of a completely different age, a very optimistic age where it seemed that anything was possible. 2) I am also fascinated by the technical aspects of the ship, and keen to know and understand these details in great detail. Then there is 3) the excitement and enthusiasm of the construction, trials, delivery trip, the stay at Southampton, of things all coming together, and of the maiden voyage itself going so well! And then 4) I am particularly keen to understand how the jigsaw puzzle pieces of the disaster all fit together, and the importance of telling the story of the ship accurately to dignify the people who experienced these events. 5) Finally, I’m also fascinated with the forensic examinations into how the sinking played out and how the wreck came apart and sank to the seafloor.
My greatest areas of interest are the human aspects of the disaster, and learning what individuals experienced, as well as about their lives. Preserving that information keeps their legacy alive, and helps one relate to the events. I also have a passion for delving into and researching unknown aspects of the disaster, and trying to shed light on events where the details are shrouded in mystery. However, I do feel it is important to have a well-rounded knowledge base about all aspects of the ship and disaster, if you are really going to understand it and determine what really happened. Due to this, I do maintain an interest in the technical aspects of the ship, as well as forensic evidence related to the wreck and sinking.
3. What are some of the most important (or most surprising) historical discoveries you've made while researching the Titanic disaster?
In 2000, with Tad Fitch and George Behe, determining a revised lifeboat lowering order, as the original British Inquiry lowering order was obviously flawed. https://wormstedt.com/Titanic/lifeboats/lifeboats.htm
Where do I even start? We’ve learned so much over the past 15-20 years. I love how the incredible research that Tad, Bill, and George did into the lifeboat launching sequence has proved so accurate over the years. I also love how that research has dovetailed into the work that Sam has done into the events seen from Californian and also the work that we’ve all done together on the order and timing of events experienced by many people on the ship that night. Although there’s a little wiggle room on specific timing of a number of things, and there is still much that remains unknown, it amazes me how much we have been able to piece together considering the fact that only ⅓ of the stories were even available to begin with.
For me personally, my favorite discovery has to do with how the popular depiction of Thomas Andrews being in the Smoking Room at the end of the disaster, in a daze, is inaccurate. To me, Andrews has always been a personal hero of sorts, and I was very attached to those depictions, that concept; however, seeing hard evidence that proved he was seen later on in other locations helped to teach me never to get so emotionally involved in a conclusion that I can’t let go of it if new, reliable, evidence comes to light.
I’ve also been horrified at how Titanic has become a cash cow in the last 20-25 years; how so many bad news stories, books, television programs, miniseries, and films have been cobbled together that are filled with myth, innuendo, rumor, and just bad research, and then how these are packaged together and made to look convincing to the unsuspecting average enthusiast. Quite simply, people like conspiracy theories, splashy headlines, bold claims of “new discoveries”, and so when they see what looks and sounds like good research packaged up so neatly, they don’t always tend to ask a lot of questions and look to see what the real story is.
Seeing grave distortions, bad or lazy research, and what sometimes appears to be deliberate falsehoods, all being passed off as fact? That really bothers me; it motivates me to make sure that my research, and the work that we all do as a team, is made available to help correct the historical record and keep it grounded in fact as we move further from the disaster.
Since some of my coauthors have responded prior to me, I would say that our research into the lifeboat launch sequence and timeline in general is one area that I am very proud of. Also, our research into controversial topics such as whether an officer committed suicide, whether anyone was shot, how did the ship actually break apart, what were the true fates of Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews, etc. In general terms, I am thankful that we have been able to bring to light some lesser-known accounts of the disaster and familiarize readers with more of the people who were aboard, as opposed to many works, which simply use the same handful of eyewitness statements again and again. There are lots of accounts and raw material that has not been properly examined before. I also am proud of the work we have done in debunking and correcting the historic record on conspiracy theories such as the recent coal fire claims, claims that the ship was constructed of shoddy materials, that Mount Temple was the ship seen from Titanic, repeated claims about what the time indicated on the recovered
chronometer means, when we have shown the hands were not in their current position prior to conservation, etc.
4. Does your study of the Titanic and/or her passengers overlap with any of your other historical interests? If so, what are those other areas of interest?
I have a broader interest in the Atlantic liners in general. I’ve done extensive research work on the Lusitania -- both her life and her tragic fate in 1915; the Mauretania and Aquitania, Titanic’s two sisters, Olympic and Britannic, and the German trio from that era, Imperator, Vaterland, and Bismarck. Ships like the Empress of Ireland, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Normandie, SS United States, Andrea Doria, and so many others -- each has a different, and unique, appeal to me. Whether it’s the story of their life or the tragic fates they met, these liners just fascinate and intrigue me.
As an aside, the music from SOS Titanic, Raise the Titanic, and James Cameron’s Titanic all helped spur an enthusiasm for film scores and classical music, and even of period music from the past.
I have an interest in history in general, although Titanic has always fascinated me. And no, my interest does not come from the movie, but predates that by many years. Other subjects that I have researched and published material related to are liner history and U-boat history during World War I and the First Battle of the Atlantic, the RMS Aquitania, as well as delving into some areas from World War II and my family's personal genealogy. I’ve gotten as far back as the 1000s for one branch of my family.