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From the manners of the day to the conduct fo those boarding the lifeboats, from acts of kindness to palpable greed, here is an unforgettable portrait of human nature in the face of the Titanic tragedy, in the words of the men and women who survived....J. Bruce Ismay, British officer of the White Star Line, who hopped into a lifeboat to save himself and never looked back to see her go down....Second officer Charles Lightoller's harrowing plunge as the sinking ship's force of suction pulled him under water....On-duty lookout Frederick Fleet's admission that the iceberg might have been avoided if the crew had been equipped with binoculars....Passenger Daisy Minahan, who recalled the refusal of an officer in her lifeboat to aid those adrift in the frigid waters...and many more witnesses to one of the most shattering events of our century. Illustrated with historical photographs, The Titanic Disaster Hearings is a vital piece of the puzzle that has sparked worldwide fascination.
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SENATOR SMITH: Suppose you had had [binoculars], could you have seen this black object [the iceberg] a greater distance?
MR. FLEET [a Titanic lookout]: We could have seen it a bit sooner.
SENATOR SMITH: How much sooner?
MR. FLEET: Well, enough to get out of the way...
"Here the world learned of Isidor and Ida Straus's decision to die together rather than separate under the 'women and children first' evacuation tradition," writes Kuntz. "Archibald Gracie vividly described people swarming up the Titanic's rear decks as the ship plunged deeper into the sea." One does not envy the wireless operators explaining how their state-of-the-art system managed to screw up so badly, nor Titanic officer Pitman, who claimed his passengers and crewmen refused his order to row back to pick up screaming survivors in their boat, which had room for 20 more people, because they feared those in the water would swamp them:
SENATOR SMITH: How many of these cries were there? Was it a chorus, or was it--
MR. PITMAN: I would rather you did not speak about that.
SENATOR SMITH: I would like to know how you were impressed by it.
MR. PITMAN: Well, I can not very well describe it. I would rather you would not speak of it.
SENATOR SMITH: I realize that it is not a pleasant theme, and yet I would like to know whether these cries were general and in chorus, or desultory and occasional?
MR. PITMAN: There was a continual moan for about an hour.
There are 32 useful pictures in the book, but its raison d'Ítre is words, which Kuntz has compiled and arranged in an addictively readable fashion.
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