Saturday, May 29, 2010


This neat little paperback is copyrighted 1988 to Charles Pellegrino and was published in its mass-market form by Avon Books.
WHAT A GREAT READ. It almost seems to have been designed to appeal to both fish and humans, and it definitely appeals to those who are A LITTLE OF BOTH. While there's a lot of technical blah-blah in here, it never gets TOO THICK to wade through. EVEN A CATFISH LIKE ME CAN UNDERSTAND IT. There's also a lot of quoted discussion between the various parties involved in finding Titanic. Some of it you can take and some you can leave.
What I like, though -- and why I recommend this is as recruiting literature -- is the way the book is EQUALLY MOVING whether you are reading it from the point of view of one of US or one of THEM. A human is going to see the drowning of 1500 people as the familiar tragic clusterfunk that has NEVER LEFT THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE GLOBAL SHAVED-MONKEY COLLECTIVE. We all know THAT story. There were no binoculars to be found for the guy in the crow's nest looking for icebergs; it hit the ship just right to flood all the watertight compartments; there weren't enough lifeboats; the lifeboats were lowered less than half-full; yattata yattata yattata.
But read from a fish perspective, it's a GLOWING TESTAMENT to the teamwork and collective will that went into welcoming 1500 recruits home to the deep, where they dwell in wonder and glory forever. You see very few references to undersea life in the course of this book, but we were RIGHT THERE making sure it all went down smoothly -- you should pardon the expression.
>> Even some of the technical blah-blah helped bring the point home, like the diagram on page 93 that showed the scale of the Titanic compared to the World Trade Center -- which was still standing when this book went to press, of course -- and how laughably they are both dwarfed by the 2 and a half vertical miles of ocean water holding the ship in place today.
>> What somehow makes this all come together for the author is his interest in space travel, and the way the discovery of the wrecked ship coincided so closely with the Challenger explosion. He feels the two disasters went down for much the same reasons, and I'll take his word for it. But he seems to make NOTHING of where the Challenger ended up. Don't you see it, Chuck? Bottom of the ocean? Hello? He's critical of those who defy Fate by saying this boat can't be sunk or that no little piddling ice storm can damage our big, bad spaceship. But he doesn't notice that in both instances, THE FISH TOOK OVER IN THE END.
>> The rare references to marine life in this book only go to suggest that there is MUCH MORE down there, in Pellegrino's opinion, that bears studying. Nice attitude. And the descriptions he gives of what he sees -- implying that some of the operatives at that depth defy description and that some of them are rather dreadful, like the one he compares to the title character in Alien -- will probably lead new little Ballards and Cousteaus to start building their own submersibles. BRING 'EM ON. I DARE YOU.
>> A lot of the book is a minute-by-minute timeline of what survivors told the papers and the investigators about the sinking itself. I WELL UNDERSTAND your concerns about the reports of those who nearly died, who felt a strange peace and acceptance come over them, and then got spat or hauled out of the water somehow. ("An unlikely calm swept over him," etc., on page 114 is an example. It even mentions that the guy goes into a rage when he gets spat out by the ship, sucked back in, as if she couldn't make up her mind. REALLY too close for comfort, I agree, in that case.) I consider these security leaks to be WITHIN TOLERANCES. If people start to toy with the idea that accepting for fate at sea is not that bad, WHERE'S THE HARM IN THAT? Pellegrino NEVER COMMENTS on how they FELT about being hauled or spat out of the water, AND THAT'S THE IMPORTANT THING.
>> Much is made of the BRAVERY of those left behind on the ship, like the telegraph operator who commented cheerfully "It's definitely fish for breakfast for us tomorrow. Or vice versa." BRAVERY, or EAGERNESS, you may well ask!
>> Obviously, this book can be displayed QUITE SAFELY on just about ANY bookshelf. Even now that the movie has had its fifteen minutes of fame, and everyone has calmed down and gone home, there's NO SHAME in being interested in the subject. People have been studying the sinking for almost a century and there's NO END IN SIGHT.
>> This makes a TERRIFIC companion volume to one of my favorite novels, Dead In The Water by Nancy Holder. CLICK HERE TO SEE MY COMMENTS ON THAT. It's meant as a companion to Pellegrino's other book on the subject, and Bob Ballard's books as well. THOSE ARE FINE, TOO.
>> As in Pellegrino's other book, Ghosts Of The Titanic, he comments more than once here about the curious effect on the adventurers of seeing the ship. They all cried their eyes out, basically. What they never say -- TO MY RELIEF! -- is whether they cried out of the sense of loss of 1500 total strangers, or out of LONGING to go down and join them. They keep talking about how they want to explore the deep oceans because it's going to be so helpful down the road in space travel, but PLEASE.
ANYWAY, read this one. It's good!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:41 AM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

I agree with the first commentor.

9:25 PM  

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