David Blackmore,
Blunders & Disasters at Sea
(Pen & Sword, 2004)

The history of the sea is filled with tales of disaster, from the unavoidable -- sudden storms, hidden rocks and the like -- to the stupid mistakes that remind us why some people should never be allowed to stand on the deck of a ship.

David Blackmore's book, aptly titled Blunders & Disasters at Sea, is brimming with stories, from ancient times to modern, that will certainly give landlubbers pause before taking their chances in blue water.

Beginning in 1176 B.C. with a bold ambush on the Nile to a series of four collisions with the same transport on the English Channel in 2002, Blackmore has compiled a vast assortment of incidents, many of which cost countless lives and some of which could have been avoided. Although he oddly omits the Titanic incident -- perhaps that capital blunder is too well known to retell here -- it's hard to imagine he missed much else.

The stories are brief, ranging from under a page to four or five for more involved incidents -- the longest, about a Nazi maneuver through the Channel that left the British Navy floundering, is 10 pages. But each entry is packed with detail that will keep both experienced seamen and armchair sailors absorbed.

I read mostly nautical fiction, but nonfiction books such as Blunders & Disasters at Sea make the sea come truly alive. This book is highly recommended.

review by
Tom Knapp

16 January 2010

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