by Terri Bey
The Titanic Book Club's "Book of the Month" for February is author Geoffrey Marcus' "The Maiden Voyage." The historical information included in the book is somewhat outdated as it was first published in 1969. After all, much more has been discovered about the RMS Titanic when the wreck of the great liner was found in 1985. However, the information in the book was very helpful to "Raise the Titanic" author Clive Cussler who said of Marcus, " I am Particularly indebted to G.J. Marcus, whose book, "The Maiden Voyage, has been invaluable to me."
Overall, I really loved this book, even if it was outdated concerning the facts. The book was very well-written. Marcus tells the story of the RMS Titanic from the Boat Train, to departure, to the tragedy, to the inquiries. I really enjoyed reading about the trip that passengers would take on the Boat Train. That was very interesting. I could imagine the excitement of the passengers who were going to be on the brand new liner. Marcus captures departure day as if the reader were there. I easily imagined myself there and going about the largest ship in the world at that time.
When the reader comes to the part where the RMS Titanic is on what wound up being just 5 days at sea, the author gives the reader a vision of a ship that is completely splendid and for me, magical. The way the author described all the rooms and decorations made me feel like I was on a ship that had a certain magical aura about her. Before that tragic event, being on that grand liner had to have been like Heaven on earth, at least that is how the author portrayed it. The author did a great job of describing the collision and the tragedy, with the facts he had.
I also appreciated that Marcus delved into both the American and British Inquiries. According to his book, the American Inquiry conducted by US Senator William Alden Smith (R-MI) was not received well in Great Britain as the liner was British operated and considered "British" even though technically the RMS Titanic was American owned via American businessman J.P. Morgan's International Marine Merchant, a conglomerate which owned several shipping companies, including the White Star Line and ironically, the Leyland Line, which ironically operated the S.S. Californian, Senator Smith's line of questioning was seen as a joke.
The author gives an interesting picture of the events of the British Inquiry. Titanic Second Officer Charles H. Lightoller, the highest ranking officer to survive the disaster, called it a "whitewashing." The way Marcus described it, it certainly was. What was the most interesting about it was how spectators reacted when certain witnesses came to testify. When the Duff Gordons testified, the audience was dressed up, as they were going to a day at Royal Ascot. It was a huge event. When it came to Captain Stanley Lord and the Officers of the S.S. Californian, the audience hung on every word.
Of course, the author obliterates Captain Lord in his book. That was predictable. However, the author also blames the Californian's wireless operator Cyril Evans for the "Californian Affair", all because he didn't put that fateful iceberg warning in a proper message format. Evans had sent the Titanic a message warning of ice, starting with, "Say, old man...." As most people know, Titanic operator Jack Phillips was busy working Cape Race and sending private messages that were backed up. Phillips replies rudely, "Shut up, Shut up. Keep Out. I'm working Cape Race." Evans never makes an attempt to resend and shuts down his equipment at 11:30 pm, Californian ATS. The author went on and on about how Evans was supposed to get permission from the captain to get a message and do all these things. I just think it was a bit much to blame the whole thing on Evans, just because Evans didn't put "MSG" on the ice warning. Evans should have, but he shouldn't take the blame.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. Geoffrey Marcus' writing is easy to read and comprehend. The book is very interesting and I think this book will be good for Titanic Enthusiasts to enjoy.