Disaster Strikes During “The Midnight Watch”


th (1)The Midnight Watch focused on the crew of the Californian who watched the distress rockets of the Titanic, but failed to do anything to assist the doomed passengers. In the aftermath of the sinking, the Captain of the Californian came under instant scrutiny once it was realized that it was nearest the Titanic but did nothing to help the doomed souls aboard. Even after all the books I have read about the Titanic, the Californian’s standoffish behavior is still unimaginable to me. This was a fantastic reimagining of their silence and so much more! 

In the maritime industry, all crewman were required to attend classes to learn about safety and protocol to obtain a certification prior to being employed aboard a ship such as the Californian. The second mate, Mr. Stone had such a certification on the night he stood watch on his ship’s bridge and watched as eight separate white rockets illuminated the sky. He knew the rockets were coming from a nearby ship, and knew that white rockets were the international symbol that a ship was in distress. Distress meant only one thing- a ship was sinking. Yet, Mr. Stone sheepishly relented after he woke Captain Lord, who ordered him to contact the ship. Mr. Stone took no valiant efforts to contact the mystery ship or suggest that the Californian sail nearer to it to get a better understanding of why it would light rockets.

I had hoped to gain an understanding of why the Californian‘s crew would ignore clear distress signals, but there simply was no reason for why Mr. Stone and Captain Lord failed to act. Yet, I appreciated that the author gave a background of both men, and attempted to craft a loose argument as to why these men told bold faced lies during the investigations that took place in both America and Britain after the sinking. It seemed almost impossible that these men could be so prideful and arrogant that they could not, and would not, acknowledge that their failure to act was so grossly negligent that it cost the lives of more than 1,500 people.

The author created a newspaper man as a mechanism to delve into the facts of this horrific tragedy. The description of the actual events was the driving force of this novel, much more so than the characters or their development, which was minimal. The author very nicely compiled so much information into a well paced and emotionally charged story. This was informative, without being boring. I especially liked how the author managed to provide stories from people aboard both ships. This is a must read for anyone interested in Titanic lore!

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