Ghosts of the Titanic

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Charles Pellegrino is a paleontologist and Ghosts of the Titanic is his second book on the famed oceanliner. Ever since its sinking on the morning of April 15, 1912, the Titanic has fascinated generations of readers and filmgoers. Walter Lord’s 1955 book A Night to Remember was based on interviews with survivors and it was then made into a very popular movie. The discovery in 1985 of the Titanic by a team of French and American scientists under the direction of Robert Ballard inspired many more explorations and videotaping of the accident site, the recovery of numerous objects and letters, and James Cameron’s enormously popular 1997 movie Titanic. Pellegrino clearly acknowledges his debt to Walter Lord and earlier investigators, but his focus is different from theirs. Unlike Cameron, he did not imagine fictional lives for survivors and victims and unlike Lord, he went beyond a narrative based solely on primary literature such as early newspaper reports of this accident, transcripts of the British and American investigations of this tragedy, and interviews with survivors.

Pellegrino’s approach is rigorously scientific. He describes very convincingly what caused this massive luxury liner to sink so quickly and why it broke into two separate parts as it was sinking to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland. He argues paradoxically that something positive may result from this tragedy. He explains that there is a very real possibility that new medicines may be created from previously unknown rusticles, or bacteria-induced mineral formations, which have formed on the decaying Titanic. This is a well-written scientific book on the infamous ship.