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A Fresh Look at the Evidence by a Former Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents

John Lang

The sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage in April 1912 was one of the defining moments of the twentieth century. Books and films about the disaster that befell the iconic liner are commonplace, and it seems almost inconceivable that anything fresh can emerge. But there is one angle that has not been covered, and Titanic: A Fresh Look at the Evidence by a Former Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents examines the events of April 1912 from that completely new perspective. John Lang brings the standards of a twenty-first-century accident investigation to bear on the events of April 1912, using his expertise and his investigator's instinct to determine exactly what happened a century ago, and what important lessons still need to be learned.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 304Size: 5 3/4 x 8 3/4
978-1-4422-1890-1 • Hardback • July 2012 • $41.00 • (£27.95)
978-1-4422-1892-5 • eBook • July 2012 • $40.99 • (£27.95)
Rear Admiral John Lang is a British professional seaman officer who has served in both the merchant service and the Royal Navy, and after a maritime career spanning 36 years and three sea commands he became head of the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, retiring in 2002.
This is by far the most thorough and well-written investigative book on RMS Titanic's short life and tragic sinking that this reviewer has read (and he has read many). Lang is a former officer in the Royal Navy and head of the UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch. What makes Lang's account far different and captivating is his analytical, detail-intensive, factual, and completely unbiased approach to reexamining the Titanic's full story, from construction to sea trails to sinking, including a close look at the actions of the crew and officers. The author does this within the cultural context and technology of the times, without imposing judgment. No relevant detail of the voyage and sinking is neglected, and all facts are accompanied with detailed diagrams and charts showing Titanic's route, the routes of other nearby vessels, iceberg locations, and movement of vessels during the rescue operation. The author precisely lays out Titanic's track in the hours before collision with an iceberg, enabling readers to visualize and grasp the collision and rapid sinking. Lang goes further, though, by showing how this maritime disaster radically changed shipping safety regulations and maritime crew training. Overall, a refreshing and fascinating work. Summing Up: Highly recommended.

After a sea-going career in both the Merchant and the Royal Navy, Rear Admiral John Lang went on to head the UK Government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch. In this book he has examined the historical record and evidence of the Titanic accident as if it was subject to a MAIB investigation today and draws some interesting conclusions. It is a fascinating account, which includes some interesting background to the shipping industry and conventions of the day as well as a full report divided into three sections: factual information, analysis of the events and conclusions, causes and recommendations. Although a well-known story, this book looks at the facts from a new perspective and uncovers some unexpected findings. A worthwhile read.
Royal Naval Sailing Association

John Lang’s Titanic – a fresh look at the evidence by a former Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents probably won’t be the last book about this shipwreck which has gripped global imagination, but it provides genuine insight into what almost certainly happened before, during and after the ice sliced through the five compartments on the liner’s starboard bow. And as we have learned to expect from the work of the organization Lang once headed, there is a lot less blaming and much more learning than has become the norm these days.

Titanic’s name is one of the most easily recognized words in the language and there have been so many books and films about the disaster that it would be hard to find an aspect untouched. However, Lang, with his experience of marine accident investigation has found an angle in examining events of April 1912 from the perspective of an MAIB officer. His analysis is supported by detailed background material enabling the reader to understand the events of the collision and sinking more fully as he brings the standards of a 21st century investigation to bear on the events in determining exactly what happened and why.

Lang traces forensic causal chains....Lang targets a single goal, adheres to it unswervingly, deliberately reveals his step-by-step thought processes, and delivers a meticulous exercise in evidentiary analysis...The modest Lang...[offer] Titanic students an invaluable service by distinguishing clearly among initiating, root, and underlying factors which, together, greatly clarify a complex causal chain.
International Journal of Maritime History

Among the plethora of books written about the loss of RMS Titanic, none has come from the hand
of so distinguished an author. Rear Admiral John Lang began his sea-going career as a cadet in the
cargo ships of the P&O, commanded submarines and a frigate in the Royal Navy and went on to head the UK government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch. This puts him in the prime position to examine the record of the Titanic with a forensic eye, to interpret the evidence with a seaman’s experience, and to draw conclusions from which emotion is absent. Highly recommended.

Captain Richard Woodman, FRHistS FNI Elder Brother, Trinity House

John Lang brings to this compelling story a fairness and objectivity that were lacking in the aftermath of the sinking, and he casts a fresh, seamanlike eye over the events of April 1912.
M. Andrew Grey, MBE Former editor of Lloyds List

• Winner, The Mountbatten Maritime Award for best literary contribution (2012)
• Winner, Choice Outstanding Award (2012)