Angus Konstam,
Ghost Ships
(Lyons Press, 2005)

The vast expanse of the sea is filled with mystery, so it's only fitting that so many stories have grown up around the questions that remain unanswered, such as where ships and sailors have vanished to, and why certain vessels seem to reappear in impossible circumstances long after their loss.

Angus Konstam tackles many of these legends in Ghost Ships.

The book is very readable, breaking down the tales -- some very well known, others less so -- into compact narratives of a few pages each. Konstam describes the history of the ships in question and those who sailed them. When possible, he relates the circumstances leading up to each disappearance or the last time a ship was seen.

The book is at its best when Konstam keeps a narrow focus: ghost ships that have manifested in ghostly form to wondering mariners, such as the infamous Flying Dutchman, HMS Eurydice and the five-masted Kobenhaven; haunted ships, such as HMS Asp and the yacht Spray; and ships who were found adrift, with no explanation for the missing crew, such as Mary Celeste and Joyita.

Less successful to my mind are entries on ships that were merely unlucky, sinking or running aground under entirely explicable circumstances, or that simply never reached their destinations. While they make for interesting reading, they don't truly fit into the scope of this book.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book. It could have been twice as long and I would not have complained!

book review by
Tom Knapp

13 December 2014

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