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Seafaring Stories: A Program and Books on Ships and Shipwrecks

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Seafaring Stories: A Program and Books on Ships and Shipwrecks

seafaring stories

Shipwrecks and the artifacts found in them are time capsules of history capable of revealing information about life, technology, trade and warfare at the specific moment they were lost. Studying shipwrecks can help us understand the past, connect us to our cultural heritage, and teach us lessons on how the environment and human error can impact each other.

The treacherous Jersey shore has been the untimely grave of thousands of seafaring vessels. 

On June 10 at 7pm, join us for Famous And Forgotten Ships And Shipwreck of the Jersey Shore: An Archaeological Odyssey,  presented by Dr. Richard Veit, Associate Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Anthropology at Monmouth University. 

This well-illustrated presentation examines a select group of New Jersey ships and shipwrecks reflecting the importance of maritime transportation to the history of the state.  An eclectic range of vessels is examined, from Native American dugout canoes, to colonial privateers, a Durham boat, Civil War submarine, and 20th-century ocean liners.  Shipwrecks and the artifacts found in them are time capsules of history that reveal important themes that have shaped our state and nation’s history.

There certainly is no shortage of books about shipwrecks, including true accounts of disaster and adventure, historical fiction, and contemporary and classic literature. 

Here is a selection of some captivating fiction and nonfiction reads revolving around ships and shipwrecks available with your Livingston Library card:

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A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice by Rebecca Connolly

Based on the remarkable true story of the Carpathia–the only ship and her legendary captain who answered the distress call of the sinking Titanic. Just after midnight on April 15, 1912, the passenger steamship Carpathia receives a distress signal from the largest passenger liner ever built, RMS Titanic, which is on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York.  Told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Captain Rostron on the Carpathia and Kate Connolly on the Titanic, this historical novel is a compelling, heart-pounding account of two eyewitnesses to an epic disaster. Rostron’s heroic and compassionate leadership, his methodical preparations for rescue, and his grit and determination to act honorably and selflessly to save lives and care for the survivors, sets the course for this awe-inspiring story.

A Flick of Sunshine : The Remarkable Shipwrecked, Marooned, Maritime Adventures, and Tragic Fate of an American Original by Frederic B. Hill

The true and remarkable life of Richard Willis (Will) Jackson, an intrepid seaman from one of the leading shipbuilding families in nineteenth-century Maine, whose exploits and adventures in the oceans of the world include surviving a harrowing shipwreck in the Marshall Islands, being washed overboard rounding Cape Horn, and running down Alaskan glaciers. His faithful letters to his family in Maine and his diary offer a compelling portrait of an extraordinary young man of character and independent spirit, intellect and curiosity, no small ambition, and that most admirable of traits, an abiding sense of humor.

From Below by Darcy Coates

The SS Arcadia vanished during a routine voyage. A strange, garbled emergency message was broadcast, but no trace of the ship, or of its crew, could be found. Sixty years later, its wreck has finally been discovered more than three hundred miles from its intended course. A small team are granted permission to dive to it. Their purpose is straightforward: explore the wreck, film everything, and, if possible, uncover how and why the supposedly unsinkable ship vanished. But the Arcadia has not yet had its fill of death, and the submerged halls hold more than simple mysteries. Trapped hundreds of feet beneath the surface, the dive team must fight for their lives in a place where even the smallest mistake turns deadly.

Graveyard of the Pacific : Shipwreck and Survival on America’s Deadliest Waterway by Randall Sullivan

A vivid portrait of the Columbia River Bar that combines maritime history, adventure journalism, and memoir, bringing alive the history-and present-of one of the most notorious stretches of water in the world. Off the coast of Oregon, the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean and forms the Columbia River Bar: a watery collision so turbulent and deadly that it’s nicknamed the Graveyard of the Pacific. Two thousand ships have been wrecked on the bar since the first European ship dared to try to cross it in the late eighteenth century. For decades ships continued to make the bar crossing with great peril, first with native guides and later with opportunistic newcomers, as Europeans settled in Washington and Oregon, displacing the natives and transforming the river into the hub of a booming region. Since then, the commercial importance of the Columbia River has only grown, and despite the construction of jetties on either side, the bar remains treacherous, even today a site of shipwrecks and dramatic rescues as well as power struggles between small fishermen, powerful shipowners, local communities in Washington and Oregon, the Coast Guard, and the Columbia River Bar Pilots-a small group of highly skilled navigators who help guide ships through the mouth of the Columbia.

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks by David J. L. Gibbins

From renowned underwater archaeologist Gibbins comes an exciting and rich narrative of human history told through the archaeological discoveries of twelve shipwrecks across time. The Viking warship of King Cnut the Great. Henry VIII’s Mary Rose. Captain John Franklin’s doomed HMS Terror. The SS Gairsoppa, destroyed by a Nazi U-boat in the Atlantic during World War II. Since we first set sail on the open sea, ships and their wrecks have been an inevitable part of human history. Archaeologists have made spectacular discoveries excavating these sunken ships, their protective underwater cocoon keeping evidence of past civilizations preserved. This is not just the story of those ships, the people who sailed on them, and the cargo and treasure they carried, but also the story of the spread of people, religion, and ideas around the world; it is a story of colonialism, migration, and the indomitable human spirit that continues today.

into raging sea

Into the Raging Sea : Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade

On October 1, 2015, Hurricane Joaquin barreled into the Bermuda Triangle and swallowed the container ship El Faro whole, resulting in the worst American shipping disaster in thirty-five years. No one could fathom how a vessel equipped with satellite communications, a sophisticated navigation system, and cutting-edge weather forecasting could suddenly vanish—until now.Relying on hundreds of exclusive interviews with family members and maritime experts, as well as the words of the crew members themselves—whose conversations were captured by the ship’s data recorder—journalist Rachel Slade unravels the mystery of the sinking of El Faro. 

The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria : The Sinking of the World’s Most Glamorous Ship by Greg King & Penny Wilson

In 1956, a stunned world watched as the famous Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria sank after being struck by a Swedish vessel off the coast of Nantucket. Unlike the tragedy of the Titanic, this sinking played out in real time across radios and televisions, the first disaster of the modern age. Andrea Doria represented the romance of travel, the possibility of new lives in the new world, and the glamor of 1950s art, culture, and life. Set against a glorious backdrop of celebrity and La Dolce Vita, Andrea Doria’s last voyage comes vividly to life in a narrative tightly focused on her passengers – Cary Grant’s wife; Philadelphia’s flamboyant mayor; the heiress to the Marshall Field fortune; and many brave Italian emigrants – who found themselves plunged into a desperate struggle to survive. This account follows the effect this trauma had on their lives, and brings the story up-to-date with the latest expeditions to the wreck.

The Night Ship: A Novel by Jess Kidd

1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks. 1989: A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck.

Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie

In this historical novel based on real events and people, Imrie provides a glimpse into the glamor and heartbreak that was the sinking of the Titanic. In 1911 France, a dreamer named Marcella must find a trade. While studying to become a seamstress, she’s swept off her feet by Michael, an ambitious, handsome classmate. Michael, determined to become the best tailor in Nice and to win Marcella’s hand, proposes marriage, but her parents convince her to wait. In the meantime, Marcella and Michael work to fulfill his dream and open a tailor shop. Michael finally convinces her to marry; three years and two young children later, he has become abusive, jealous, and controlling, and Marcella secretly begins divorce proceedings. When served with papers from the court, Michael is outraged and determined to destroy Marcella. Meanwhile, New York socialite Margaret Hays is touring Europe with friends. Bored with travel and wanting to go home, she books her passage to New York on the magnificent new Titanic. At sea, the three characters’ arcs collide.

The Ship Beneath The Ice : The Discovery Of Shackleton’s Endurance by Mensun Bound

A renowned marine biologist presents this extraordinary firsthand account of the discovery of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance–a century to the day after Shackleton’s death–that captures the intrepid spirit that joins two mariners across the centuries, both of whom accomplished the impossible.

sinkable

Sinkable : Obsession, The Deep Sea, and The Shipwreck Of The Titanic by Daniel Stone Stone spins a fascinating tale of history, science, and obsession, uncovering the untold story of the Titanic not as a ship but as a shipwreck. He explores generations of eccentrics, like American Charles Smith, whose 1914 recovery plan using a synchronized armada of ships bearing electromagnets was complex, convincing, and utterly impossible; Jack Grimm, a Texas oil magnate who fruitlessly dropped a fortune to find the wreck after failing to find Noah’s Ark; and the British Doug Woolley, a former pantyhose factory worker who has claimed, since the 1960s, to be the true owner of the Titanic wreckage. Along the way, this book takes readers through the two miles of ocean water in which the Titanic sank, showing how the ship broke apart and why, and delves into the odd history of our understanding of such depths.

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan Henry

It was called “The Titanic of the South.” The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten–until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told. When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking. Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Dawson, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions.

The Wager: A Tale Of Shipwreck, Mutiny, And Murder by David Grann

A new account of the Wager Mutiny, in which a shipwrecked and starving British naval crew abandoned their captain on a desolate Patagonian island, emphasizes the extreme hardships routinely faced by eighteenth-century seafarers as well as the historical resonance of the dramatic 1741 event. On a secret mission to liberate Spanish galleons of their gold, the 28-gun HMS Wager was separated from the rest of its squadron rounding Cape Horn in a massive storm. Beset by typhus, scurvy, and navigational problems, the ship struck rocks, stranding its beleaguered crew on a remote island in Chilean Patagonia. In the months that followed, harsh conditions and meager provisions would test storied British naval discipline. Captain David Cheap, who had spent a lifetime at sea but was new in his rank, ruthlessly managed the group’s larder. A dispute with gunner John Bulkley over a risky plan to sail a makeshift craft back home through the Strait of Magellan turned violent. A few bedraggled sailors would find their way back to civilization, prompting high-stakes courts-martial and sensational accounts in the British press.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

 

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