As any serious history buff knows, shipwrecks are more than just action-packed disasters. Sometimes, they serve as a tale of caution against pride and narcissism—those who think their new technology can withstand anything. Other accounts offer fascinating chronicles of social class, war, exploration, and the limits of human endurance. Here are seven books about disastrous shipwrecks throughout history—with something to satiate all sorts of curious readers.
Like the Titanic, the Andrea Doria was supposedly “unsinkable.” But sink she did, after a horrific collision with the much smaller ship, the Stockholm, on July 25, 1956. Just what happened that foggy night? From the journalist who covered the court hearings following the wreck, Collision Course recounts the events of the journey that led to that fateful night.
The Morro Castle wasn’t your typical shipwreck. On her way back from Havana, just a few hours outside of New York Harbor, she caught fire and flames engulfed the ship—killing 134 of her passengers. At first the blaze was assumed to be accidental. But as Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts reveal, at the heart of the demise of the Morro Castle is a tale of true crime…and premeditated murder.
A Night to Remember
Though it was published in 1955, Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember is still considered the definitive account of the sinking of the Titanic. Lord’s painstaking chronicle of the night the “unsinkable” ship sank, and the events leading up to the horrific finale when more than 1,500 people lost their lives, is still a page-turner.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
From the author of The Devil in the White City comes the story of the ill-fated voyage of the Lusitania, a luxury liner out of New York bound for Liverpool on May 1, 1915. Despite the lavish surroundings onboard, the waters were treacherous—filled with German submarines. Larson, a master storyteller, paints a terrifying portrait of all the puzzle pieces that converged in the sinking of the Lusitania when 1,198 of the 1,962 passengers were killed.
Island of the Lost
Joan Druett’s compelling Island of the Lost tells of the treacherous Auckland Island, 285 miles off the coast of New Zealand. In 1864, not one but two boats were shipwrecked there, with their surviving crews making a go of it on opposite sides of the island…unaware of each other’s presence. The harrowing tale of both shipwrecked crews and their ordeal is a thrilling story of human endurance.
The Perfect Storm
Despite the fact that the fishermen of the Andrea Gail were experienced sailors, they were no match for the monolithic storm that pummeled the Northeast in early November 1991. Junger's account of the storm is particularly harrowing given the fact that he spends the first half of the book describing their tight-knit community in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The storm was so intense that neither the wreckage of the Andrea Gail, nor the remains of any onboard, were ever recovered.
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage
The lifestyles of the rich and famous aboard the Titanic are the focus of this book by Hugh Brewster. Some upper crust men, like John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, died as the crew ordered “women and children first.” Lady Duff Gordon and her husband Sir Cosmo survived the sinking in one of the lifeboats, only to be met with rumors that they had bribed the crew not to return to the site of the sinking to pick up survivors. Featuring over 100 photos, Brewster reveals what life on that fateful night was like for those who were used to living a charmed life.
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