Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

How the Container Ship Sunk

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

How the Container Ship Sunk

Article excerpt

How the Container Ship Sunk Rachel Slade. Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking ofEl Faro. New York: HarperCollins, May 2018. $27.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-269970-1. 400pp.

This book would have been a miracle if Rachel Slade managed to find diaries or CCTV footage with audio of the dramatic twenty-four hours before the El Faro sank on October 1, 2015 in the middle of Hurricane Joaquin headed for the Bermuda Triangle. Sadly, most of the conversations and actions recorded in these pages are based on what Slade images must have happened. It is written as a dramatic reenactment based on "hundreds of exclusive interviews with family members and maritime experts." The first of these two categories could not have known much about the events from the ship as it could not even be found, so it seems unlikely that relatives could have reached those on board over the phone to learn what was transpiring there in these final hours. Experts definitely should have been able to explain the tragedy, and I would have preferred to read a book on this subject that relies fully on scholarly discussions with such experts. A crew of thirty-three died in this disaster. The mystery this fictionalization attempts to answer is how a ship with "satellite communications, a sophisticated navigation system, and cutting-edge weather forecasting could suddenly vanish." It might seem fictionalized to me, but perhaps all of the text is evidence-based. Eric Bryson, "the pilot who sailed the El Faro out of the Port of Jacksonville on its final voyage", according to the Press Herald, wrote to me in response to this review with this correction: "The reviewer states that the dialogue in the book is fictionalized. It is not. It is clear to anyone who read the book that the dialogue is directly quoted from the transcript of the voyage data recorder (black box) that was recovered." Meanwhile, Slade promises that this book has come up with definitive proof. She is sure the crew were terrified as they "struggled to carry out Captain Michael Davidson's increasingly bizarre commands, which, they knew, would steer them straight into the eye of the storm. …

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