In conversation with Paul Lee
We talked to British researcher Paul Lee about his interest in the Titanic, the two books he has authored on the subject and his current and future research plans. We hope you will find it of interest!
Paul, how did you become interested in the Titanic disaster, and when did your interest first awaken?
As a youngster I was always interested in mysteries, and I often got books which focussed on the unexplained or darker areas of the world. I was aware of the Titanic from "compendium" books - ones that focused on a variety of different stories and I learned a little of the tragedy - 'The world's first [sic] SOS failed to save 1500 people', the unsinkability, the lives lost, the 'cursed mummy' on board, the Titanian, 'Futility' etc. But it just registered as a passing interest. You'd read the story and then go on to the next.
Then, sometime about 1983, my primary school teacher started telling us about the Titanic. I remember she stood on her chair and fumbled about on some shelves well above her head and brought out a very dilapidated magazine. Now, I am sure that it was 'The Deathless Story of the Titanic' - and I think it might have been an original. She told us the bare bones of the story and we were asked to write stories about how we had escaped the liner and then years later, explored the wreck. I think I still have my exercise book with my story but I won't publish it for fear of ridicule!
I was aware that a memorial stone (above) to W.T. Stead was outside the town library; he edited our local paper, "The Northern Echo". But the matter didn't really interest me. (I was later to find, post-wreck, that my town of Darlington manufactured the Olympic class vessels' rudders and stern frames).
And then the wreck was found a few years later and just two months short of my 14th birthday, and the story absolutely gripped me; I have no idea why. I think my developing mind was fascinated by this, the world's biggest time capsule. I wanted to learn more but there was precious little on the news broadcasts we got, or in the newspapers that we had access to. All I had was those compendium books mentioned earlier. I gathered all the pictures I had and drew a reasonably good representation of the ship on the back page of my school notebook, along with a list of facts gleaned from my books (I even called it a "Red Star Liner" - whoops!). Soon talk of the ship filled my conversations and I remember my friends at school were adamant that people must have been killed in the initial impact and didn't believe me when I said that no-one had. My English teacher I suspect had more than a passing interest in the disaster and we sometimes talked about the disaster - very soon some of my essays had references to the Titanic (I even loaned him my off-air VHS recording of "Titanic - The Nightmare and the Dream" a year later). One project the class was given was called "Book Week" - we would choose a book and then write stories, draw pictures etc. on our chosen book. I remember going to the local library after school (with my parent's blessing) and, still in my school uniform, going through the microfiche of our local paper - "The Northern Echo". The headline of the April 17th issue was "The Greatest Maritime Disaster Ever Recorded" and I 'borrowed' it for a faux newspaper article for my project. I remember getting home very late that night!
At that time, I had just purchased my first Titanic book ("End of a Dream" by Wyn Craig Wade) and I produced a gargantuan dossier on it. My teacher kept it for quite a few months and when my parents met him he laughed and say that he was still "wading through it."
That was Robert Anderson and I owe him so much.
Do you have any special areas of interest regarding the Titanic disaster? If so, what are those special areas, and how did they first grab your interest?
As you might have gathered above, I have a fascination with open ended matters of history, mainly ghosts. I love the fact that since they are unsolved, anyone can delve into the intricacies and either perform original research and/or suggest solutions.
At that time, the biggest mystery of the Titanic was the question of the Californian but researching it was not very easy. Access to Inquiry transcripts in 1987 or so was impossible and all I had access to was the few books I had amassed plus volumes borrowed from the library. Wade's book was ranged against Captain Lord and I simply accepted his conclusions. And then in October 1987 came 'The Discovery of the Titanic'. I had no idea it was due to be released and when I went into my local bookshop, there was a huge stack of them. I simply stared in disbelief at the large cardboard stand topped with a painting of JJ illuminating the anchor and bow of the Titanic. I had to have it. My mum insisted I wait as my birthday was only a few weeks away. Nope. I had to have it. The next day I went and bought it immediately and read it all that night. I recall waiting for the bus home, and staring in wonder at the blue and white photos of items from the debris field towards the back of the book.
I had actually thought that the Titanic's wreck site, which had been kept secret, would demonstrate that the Californian was in very close proximity to the Titanic and was astonished to learn that the distance was some 21 miles. That revised my thinking about the two ships and I started to think that maybe Captain Lord was innocent after all. By this time, I had joined the THS, and I wrote a letter using my (at the time) flimsy knowledge of physics to try and show that the two ships were miles apart and that Lord was innocent of the charges against him. A short while later, I received a letter from retired engineer John C. Carrothers, who acted as a technical consultant for the THS and while he said that he was impressed by the paper I had written, the heads of the THS thought it was too technical to print in the Commutator. Carrothers suggested that I re-write it (he included a writer's guide) and submit it to The Royal Institute of Navigation for inclusion in their journal. I spent a long time expanding it and unfortunately they rejected it too. But they were sufficiently impressed by the quality of the writing, especially given my age (I was about 18) that they suggested I enter it in their "Young Navigators Competition", which I did. Months later I received an invite to attend their presentation ceremony in Kensington. This was January 1990 and sadly neither my parents could get time off work to attend with me. So, one very dark, cold evening in London, going round in circles in the streets of West London looking for the venue paid off. There were a lot of people of all ages - from late teens to school children. I won a pewter cup and a trip to sea aboard the HMS Broadsword that summer. This was prestigious as Broadsword was journeying from Portsmouth to London escorting the Queen Mother on the Royal Yacht Britannia as part of her birthday celebrations that year. The sponsors of the prize was the Royal Navy and, knowing that I was due to start University that October, were more than a little forthright in mentioning that they were on look out to sponsor students to be officer candidates. This didn't really interest me, but on Broadsword's trip there were a few others on board whom the Navy were trying to entice. I got to do a 12-4am tour of "duty" on the bridge, and even got jackstayed from Broadsword to Britannia, given a quick tour and then back again. This involved wearing a rubberised orange survival suit while the two ships matched course and speed. Then a line was thrown between the two ships and each of us 'officer candidates' were hoisted up and across to the other vessel. An odd feeling, looking down and watching the water rush by, dozens of feet below.
At about the same time, I was also in contact with Leslie Harrison, and he bolstered whatever pro-Lord feeling I had, providing some material that he had accumulated. John Carrothers had also given me some papers that he had written and I even visited him and his wife at their Connecticut home in the summer of 1989. By this time, there had been the announcement that the UK Government was re-opening the area of the Titanic Inquiry concerning the Californian, but in my own little backwater I heard very little about. I soon started getting letters from excitable Californian proponent David Eno who, on and off, urged me to pester the Inquiry offices in Southampton to determine a publication date.
I attended Southampton University but by the early 1990s my interest in the Titanic had seriously waned; I even let my THS membership lapse and I didn't even visit the Maritime Museum until my very last week in the town in 1993. Before that, though, I managed to get hold of a copy of the Re-appraisal from a dockside bookshop in Soton, and its dual conclusions gave it a very confusing slant.
And then, on a trip to London, I visited my usual bibliographic haunts and, like "Discovery" in 1987, there was "The Ship That Stood Still." Piled high and in a cardboard display case. There was no warning, and of course I bought it at once. I had heard of Leslie Reade in "The Night Lives On" and I also had a query from Ed Kamuda in 1989 asking if I could confirm stories that Reade had recently died. It was a hot summer's day and I was due to be meeting friends that evening in a pub as we had just completed our final University exams ... but I kept delving into the book. Most of it was brand new to me.
I was initially disgusted by the book's constant sniping at Captain Lord. But I soon realised that Reade's research was compelling and credible - and he had also exposed areas of the two 1912 inquiries that had been ignored by the pro-Lord faction. I was not too happy at effectively being lied to and I felt cheated. It also gave me a warning not to take things on trust and to always go back to original source material if possible. You don't know what has been omitted in the retellings over the years, or what has been selectively removed because of the politics of the author.
Carrothers had died years before, and I never bothered to contact Harrison again. Our last correspondence was 1990/1.
But looking back, some time about 1988 when I started re-writing my paper for "The Royal Institute of Navigation" there was the genesis of an idea for a book on the subject. In March 2007, dissatisfied my life and having suffered a major depressive relapse due to politics at work, I resigned from my software job and started writing my first book.
As for any "special areas", I would say I don't have any specific interests. I am intrigued by open-ended stories but basically if anything seizes my attention, I'll research it.
What are some of the most important (or most surprising) historical discoveries you've made while researching the Titanic disaster?
Apart from the vague thoughts of perhaps writing a book on the Californian, it didn't occur to me till the mid 1990s that I could possibly research and contribute to the Titanic story. I was aware of controversies that I would like to explore - for instance, the debate over Ismay's escape from the doomed liner. Did he jump or was he pushed?
About 1995, the first Titanic websites started to appear. Most of them are gone now but some can be found on archive.org; and looking back, many were just cobbled together from pictures scanned from books with an absolute minimum of text.
There was one aspect that caught my eye; the mention of a Titanic mailing list and I duly signed up. Over the following months, several names familiar to Titanic researchers also joined and the debates were always fascinating; one person with whom I became very friendly was George Behe and our friendship has endured for over a quarter of a century now. I only had my University email account at the time and after I returned after a two week Christmas vacation, I found my mailbox swamped with discussions. On Monday morning, as I worked my way through the backlog, a friend sat next to me at his workstation and hissed jokingly, "Do some work!"
Those were the good old days. Many myths were shattered in that mailing list...
I distinctly recall Charles Haas getting argumentative over his support for plans to cut into the Titanic's hull. But on the whole, it was fascinating material - and then a post from Steve Anderson appeared which mentioned that the Titanic might have been found before 1985 which truly piqued my interest. I registered this in the back of my mind but soon forgot details, such as Steve's full name.
Unfortunately, soon afterwards, the members of the board petitioned to start a publicly accessible newsgroup ( alt.history.ocean-liners.titanic ) and support for the mailing list dropped away and it faded away. Now, the newsgroup is hardly used either. It took nearly ten years before the defunct mailing list's administrator was mentioned elsewhere and I was able to contact him to ascertain Steve Anderson's name and we were soon in touch; it seemed that a lot of the list's traffic was not archived. Since then, I have been researching the possible pre-1985 Titanic discovery extensively but, while it seems that Steve's story has no basis in truth, research on a tangential matter which might resolve the matter is stymied by the fact that the US Government won't declassify vital documentation until December 2033! Sadly, the man who tipped me off about a valuable lead, Robert Gibbons is no longer with us to learn the truth behind the matter.
There have only been a few instances in my subsequent research where the eyebrows were indeed raised. A navigational datum regarding a ship that the Titanic had encountered on the 13th April was unearthed in a Scottish newspaper. An account regarding the surviving crew returning home was found written by an officer on the Lapland after a long and laborious search in Welsh papers - there was a brief mention of this in another publication but there were no further details and I reasoned that another, unknown journal might publish his letter in full (I was right!)
Another surprising piece of research countered a cherished belief that the ocean floor around the wrecksite is littered with shoe pairs, indicating the presence of a body at one point. I spent many years sifting through Walter Lord's papers, held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Without those copious files is a letter from Ken Marschall to Lord. Within, Ken told how he had gone through all of the 1985 and 1986 wreck footage and photographs, and he only ever saw three or four shoe pairs.
The only "surprise" that jumps readily to mind was during my research into the Californian. In 1990 it was announced that the UK Government would re-evaluate the evidence relating to that ship's proximity to the Titanic. When writing my book, I petitioned the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) for their files on the matter and was rejected. A little while later, I wrote to them again, reminding them my taxes pay their salaries and a few days later, I received a massive wodge of photocopied papers from their files. They wouldn't release the internal working papers or notebooks but everything else was there. It contained a few surprises; how the examiners of the evidence had been helped - and in the case of arch pro-Lord defender David Eno - pestered by authors and researchers. The largely unavailable wireless log of the SS Birma was there, albeit as a very poor photocopy; details of the Samson's movements in 1912 were in the files, which proved that the whole navigational details of the putative "mystery ship" candidate were, in all honesty, devoid of sanity.
The biggest surprise related to one of the few instances were an internal paper had escaped the veto of the administrative staff at the MAIB during their photocopying spree for me.
First, a little explanation. One of the heads of the MAIB had tasked a subordinate to assess the Californian matter; his conclusion was that the two ships were in sight of each other. But then, a curious incident occurred. Another staff member was then asked to review the evidence and he concluded that the two ships were NOT in visual range. The final report was a mix of these two opinions, seriously negating the document's worth. Only the conclusion agreed by both examiners -that the Californian had seen the Titanic's rockets, irrespective of whether the two ships themselves were in view - salvaged some of the document's respectability.
It was long suspected that the MAIB had produced a hybrid for political reasons. Rather than the UK Government being forced to deal with dozens, if not hundreds of letters per year complaining of Captain Lord's 1912 treatment, they could be "brushed off" and directed to the report. The working papers provided by the MAIB in 2007 partially confirmed this. For there, in the morass of documentation was the admission by the head of the MAIB where he stated his view that the two ships must have been in view of each other. If that was the case, why ask for an appraisal of the re-appraisal by another staff member, where diametrically different conclusions were reached?
I recall being stunned when I read this. It raises serious questions about the aims and worth of the overall MAIB re-appraisal. For one thing, why publish two sets of conclusions?
Are you frustrated about any specific Titanic-related subjects in which people continue to quote outdated research information instead of embracing the latest discoveries?
I only check on ET and Facebook once a month or so, and then only very briefly so I am not familiar with the majority of discussions. I have more exposure to other social media outlets, namely Twitter and Instagram and some of the disinformation there is truly alarming - some garner quite a few "likes" when a little research would show the fallacies. A good case in point was on a group on Instagram a few weeks ago when it was stated that Colonel Gracie released the Titanic passengers dogs from their kennels. It seems that checking his book or reading his inquiry testimony is too difficult for some people. And some people are still claiming that there was never any mention by anyone that the Titanic was unsinkable BEFORE the disaster, and that "Nearer My God To Thee" is a fiction. And don't get me started on the tedious matter of the Californian, or those who loudly hail the "Samson" as definitely the so-called "mystery ship."
I remember the halcyon days on Facebook c.2013 on "Passengers and Crew", ET and others where it seems that every single facet of the disaster was debated. The most memorable conclusion was that a fair portion of Eva Hart's later pronouncement on the disaster were dubious, if not downright fiction - especially her mother's "premonition." I sometimes see her dubious comments discussed and accepted as truth. It feels as if the good work of some forums has been eroded and forgotten, and old myths propagated. Its very upsetting, and indicative that people just don't want to search old discussions - or they don't want to know the truth.
One thing that I have been researching very intimately, as mentioned above, is a possible pre-1985 discovery of the wreck, and the matter of the "Hecate" always comes up. Despite me thoroughly debunking the story - including an email chat I once had with the CO (it seems that the rumour that the Titanic had been found came from an humourous, off-the-cuff remark by a crewman which was misinterpreted and readily spread like wildfire) - it still gets dredged up.
One aspect of Titanic research - which we see quite frequently - is that battles over historical research are not won by the validity of arguments and evidence, but by who has the loudest voice. This is something that we are seeing a fair amount of at the moment and I find it disgusting. It is nothing less than a subversion of history.
Does your study of the Titanic and/or her passengers overlap with any of your other historical interests? If not, what are your other areas of interest that are independent of the Titanic?
Sadly not. The only other interest of mine that could have possibly overlapped with the Titanic was my research into allegedly haunted locations in the UK. Since 2015, I have been collecting ghost reports - these formed the basis of a "map" webpage and android app that now number nearly 5300 cases. My good friend George Behe has provided me with some of his own research into the paranormal and psychical phenomena connected to the Titanic but the only material he had regarding ghosts was fairly recent and some of it dubious - which is to be expected considering the controversial aspects of the topic. I would have thought that there would be a lot of mentions of Titanic ghosts in the literature but having read hundreds of books and scoured dozens of newspapers, the only one I could find a mention of is at the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne. It is said that a male ghost, thought to be violinist John Woodward has been seen in the orchestra pit - but no-one has seen him recently sadly.
Do you have any new Titanic-related projects in the works? If so, could you please give us a sneak peak about the type of subject matter they involve?
Yes, I have a few things in the pipeline.
The first was prompted by an article in a British newspaper at the time of the disaster in which other shipping disasters were tabulated. It occurred to me that politicians on both side of the Atlantic had ample opportunity well before the Titanic to reconsider the provision of safety equipment on board - and we are talking decades before in some cases. I am curious to ascertain the mindset of lawmakers into lifeboat coverage. Thanks to a perusal of on-line UK Parliament discussions there are quite a few cases where the lack of lifeboats was brought up, and yet nothing was done. I am quite friendly with the librarian in Parliament and he seems keen to help; in fact, he furnished me with some material relating to the Olympic class liners and their lifeboats that was overlooked when the debates were transcribed for on-line access. Unfortunately, covid occurred within weeks and my project was placed in limbo. The majority of the research could be done on-line and it is an example of my depressive state that I haven't progressed with this project in this last year.
The other possible research avenue concerns a British organisation that has "three or four box files" of material relating to interviews connected with Titanic survivors in the 1950s. Likely some of these files just contain items unconnected to the disaster, such as admin and therefore of no interest to scholars of the Titanic. I had already visited the research department of this establishment on an unrelated matter some 15 years ago and they were very co-operative. But since then, their policies have changed and they are no longer friendly to freelance researchers. Although I have moved further away, making access harder, I do occasionally write to them to inquire about access to their collection in the hope that changes in management have relaxed their stranglehold. So far nothing, but I will keep trying.
I don't think the above two topics will warrant enough material for a book, but they will certainly provide sufficient data for a research article or two.
My next Titanic book was to be the product of a research trip that would have taken place in early 2020. Obviously that didn't happen. I've identified a library in the north of England that has an untapped archive of Titanic related material. Only one other person knew of it and I gather that he has passed away. This will be my next major project, probably in the summer of 2022. I can't tell any more as I have, in the past, accidentally let slip the location of one archive and within weeks, a series of "exclusive research projects" appeared based on my pirated research and was used, in a cherry picked sense, to support the author's bogus pronouncements about the Californian. I think you might be able to guess who this is.
Unfortunately, one literary aspect that I will no longer be performing is producing e-book versions of my works. Sales for my last book over the Christmas period were depressingly low and then I found out that a group had downloaded the book from Amazon, stripped off the copy protection and passed the book around amongst themselves; I suspect that these same people who were also responsible for a hack into my website a few years back, when my back-up store of newspaper items I had collected for my last book was accessed. Fortunately, nothing was deleted or altered. I've also since learned that my twitter recreation has been plagiarised without credit (for instance on Instagram) and this has soured my opinion of many in the Titanic community.
My next book, which will probably take until early October to complete is nothing to do with the Titanic; I feel I need a rest from the disaster and, by stroke of good fortune, the majority of the research had been accomplished a few weeks before lockdown was imposed in March 2020. If I say that the book is due out "by Halloween", that will give you a hint as to its contents! After that, I have other interests and other projects which deserve a literary treatment.
In the meantime, I will be updating my website with new information as and when it arises. I've been asked by a few people to turn it into a book and that might happen, barring some technical problems (for instance, the publishers that I use do not allow "gatefolds" which would be needed for the ship plans used in my "collision" page). However, I will probably be providing digital copies of my website to the British Library and the National Maritime Museum not only as a thank you for the invaluable help that they have provided, but also as a resource for future researchers should my website disappear, as nearly happened in 2020 when funds ran dry. These versions will have interactive elements that The Wayback Machine doesn't archive.
Also, resuming later on in the year, after current commitments have concluded (see above), I intend to resume research trips to the British Library. Since lockdown started in March 2020, I have accumulated a large list of newspapers, journals and magazines I want to peruse. The partial lifting of restrictions to the library last Summer meant that access wasn't worthwhile, especially considering the travel costs involved. Now, with things easing soon hopefully, I may be able to resume my trips sooner rather than later.
Were you encouraged by others to write your book, or did you come up with the project all by yourself? Did you receive help from anyone special during the writing process?
No, not really. As I said above, my research on the Californian was instigated because of my love of a good mystery. During the writing of that book, I was able to develop new leads and peruse material that had either lain dormant for many years or have not been accessed previously. It was all terribly exciting and fun, and I still get a feel for that excitement every time I visit an archive or library.
The genesis of the second book arose because of an observation that most of the depositions on the disaster given by the crew when they returned to England are missing, probably lost forever. Of course, an attempt by myself at the time to interest the press to try and generate publicity in finding these lost statements came to nothing. I thought at the time that a reconstruction of the missing statements could be attempted through an analysis of contemporary newspapers. Within years, I had started on my pilgrimage to libraries and museums. I found this gruelling at times. I wasn't quite as young as I was when I wrote the first book and the trips were more tiring and draining than before. But finding occasional gems made up for it - anything that wasn't related to my research I placed on my website for all to enjoy, free of charge.
Most of my research stems from two simple questions: "I wonder...?" and "What if...?" These have generated many of the articles on my website and my ponderings sometimes left me wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. An excellent example was the tabulated list of shipping movements in Lloyd's journals (see above for a sample page). There were thousands of vessels and I doubt if anyone had gone through the whole list to determine which ships could have been in the area at the time of the disaster. I remember skimming through the list initially and thinking, "You know, someone really should go through this...", little thinking that that "someone" would be me. It was a long arduous job that lasted well over a year, travelling from Cambridgeshire to London every few months. Fortunately, I had a lot of help in ship specifications from the late Ted Finch of the Mariners Mailing List. Ultimately, it was a thankless task and you often wonder why you bother.
As for getting help, I didn't seek any for my first book, but I did for my second. Unfortunately the subject matter was so specialised and so "niche" that no one could help. It was therefore just me, my notepad, pencil, camera and hundreds of newspapers to scour. The troublesome microfiche machines at the British Library were a huge struggle and it took a while for me to realise that, rather than expend money printing out relevant sections, I could email the pages to myself as pdfs - free of charge. By then, of course, I had spent a lot!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My advice would be to focus on one facet of the Titanic disaster and just research the hell out of it. The story is too large and too sprawling for any one book to do justice to. An encyclopedia is the only real way that the totality of the disaster could be tackled, and that would be a lifetime's work.
Don't be afraid to ask for help in your research - but be careful who you chose. There are many bogus researchers out there who hide behind a very thin veneer of "respectability".
Decide on who your target audience will be; whether it is a general audience or people who have a knowledge of the Titanic. From my knowledge of the book industry, mainstream publishing houses are somewhat tired of the Titanic, and the number of new titles have dropped considerably since the centenary (citing "market fatigue"). Unless you have an idea that is absolutely new, you might want to explore vanity, or print-on-demand printing, like kdp or lulu. If this is the case, you'd probably be focusing on an audience that knows something about the ship and its passengers and crew. If so, you can probably consider dispensing with details that a mainstream book would demand, like back histories of passengers and crew that we all know. There are pros and cons between mainstream and vanity/print on demand publishing. Mainstream printing has better error checking and proof reading, and can even advise in the case of possible legal problems. They also have much better publicity and distribution methods. However, the profit margin is lower, and you also may lose some editorial control of the manuscript.
Vanity/print on demand publishing can, under many circumstances, mean that you get more money per sale, and you also have complete control over the content. But it also means you have to go to the trouble of seeking help for proofing and checking. Distribution may be limited to only a few countries where the physical printing takes place - and postage costs to other countries can be exorbitant (unless you do an electronic version). And publicising your work can be a nuisance. There are at least two authors on Facebook who would take any opportunity to tell potential readers of their, admittedly, mainstream work. Their excessive publicity drives got so tedious I eventually blocked them.
Be wary about just providing one sentence from an account, and be very careful about using quotes out of context - and also, be circumspect about the use of ellipsis which can hide so much. I always raise an eyebrow when a sentence is lifted from another piece. How do we know the rest of the account isn't substantially bunkum? The audience doesn't of course - they trust the author not to tell lies or circumvent troublesome data (think of the Californian!). Don't maneuver your audience into feeling cheated later on, if they find out that material omitted doesn't tally with the rest of their research.
Don't put anything in your book that you wouldn't feel happy defending later on. This is a lesson I learned in my doctoral viva, where I had to be able to justify everything in my thesis. On one matter, I faltered when my examiner asked me a question I couldn't answer. This was a salutary lesson. Don't skimp on research and know your material inside out, because others will be quick to point out your failings. (Incidentally, I passed my doctoral examination). In my last book, one researcher sent an alarmed email to a mutual friend accusing me of making a huge mistake in my research. When I became aware, I checked and the "huge" mistake was nothing of the kind. On a sliding scale of mistakes, it was teetering on the edge of insignificance. And what's more, I could produce a newspaper clipping that proved that I was right.
Footnotes and appendices are your friend. They allow you to expand on your data and ideas without deviating from the main narrative of your book (this relates to the "be wary about providing one sentence" point above). I may sometimes overwrite in my books and essays on my website, but I feel happier knowing that the audience follows my thinking and reasoning step-by-step, that nothing is overlooked, and more importantly, they know as much as I do. Remember that a conclusion in a single sentence hides so many sins.
Don't expect to get rich off a Titanic book. You may just break even. What you will get, which is a far greater reward, is respect.
Be prepared to spend large amounts of time in libraries or on research trips. Not everything is on the internet. And try to factor these costs in when trying to calculate your "break even" costs. You may be delighted to find that you have earned a few hundred dollars from sales - but if this is offset against a couple of thousand dollars in research trips and associated costs (postage, photocopying etc.) it isn't quite such a palatable feeling. In general, be prepared to spend a lot of time on your book anyway, from research, through to compilation, writing up and editing. My last book took nearly 6 years of research to complete. If it wasn't for library facilities closing due to covid, I would probably still be working on it to this day.
If you become disheartened, remember the words of Lord Mersey (above) at the British Titanic Inquiry when he was trying to coax information from an uncooperative witness:
"If you try, you will succeed."
I hope this hasn't put you off. If you have ambition, nurture it. Don't be deterred if your first book isn't a resounding success. Learn from your experiences.
Finally - good luck!