“Everyone knows what rockets at sea mean,” said the portly Boston Harbor pilot.
“They mean distress…It means, please come to me because I am in trouble. Simple as that.”
“But you see, that’s just my problem. If it is that simple, I’m trying to understand why the ship that The Titanic saw did not come….Is there any reason why the captain would not go to the aid of the distressed ship?”
“No, if he saw them, he must go. It’s the oldest tradition of the sea.”
The Californian was the closest ship to The Titanic on the night it sank, possibly only 8 miles away. It was close enough for crew members to see the lights on the sinking ship and the eight distress rockets sent up by The Titanic. They alerted the Captain. And, yet, they did not go to help.
This is the story of The Midnight Watch.
The Midnight Watch is a super read. I loved it and I’m sure it is going to rank high in my books of the year. Even though, it is also soooooo frustrating. Right from the start you know that The Californian did not go to help The Titanic. And of course, you want to know why. And at times you want to reach into the book and shake one of the people and yell “Why? Why didn’t you do something?” WHY?” Or, as one of the reporters in the book says to Captain Lord of The Californian
“If you’re the only one who can speak, then you must speak more!”
The writing is beautiful. From tales of heroism and gallantry to cowardice and inaction, The Midnight Watch covers the best and worst of human behaviour both in the face of, and following momentous events:
“Because by now we knew the numbers. Fifty-eight first-class men has found their way into the lifeboats but fifty-three third-class children had not. It was an almost perfect correlation. For almost every rich man who lived a poor child had died”
“What Franklin (Head of The White Star Line) thought of the Captain I couldn’t know, but I did know that if he, Franklin, had been accused of abandoning so many people, the weight of shame would have broken him. And yet, Lord’s head was upright, he seemed to bear no weight at all”
So, so good. The Midnight Watch not only brought the story of The Californian but the entire period to life. This is the kind of historical fiction that I love; writing that truly transports you to another time and place. Oh and, if you wiki Captain Lord, he looks EXACTLY how I imagined he would!
When I read I see the words as a movie in my head and I think that this would make a fabulous film. The journalist searching for justice, the proud, flinty Captain; the second officer torn between loyalty and a desire to tell the truth. It would be amazing.
I was initially disappointed with the “answer” posited by David Dunn as to why Lord and The Californian did not go to the aid of The Titanic. Although perfectly plausible, It felt to me like an anti-climax; such a little reason for such an appalling consequence. But then I realised – pretty much any answer would have been disappointing. Because the only acceptable answer to the question of “Why didn’t you save the 1500 people who died that night?” would have been “Because we were too busy saving 1501 people elsewhere”.
Nonetheless a totally brilliant read.
Punch Romaine was served To First Class passengers on The Titanic as a palate cleanser between the first and second courses on the fateful night of April 14th. It is a white wine, rum and champagne cocktail served over…wait for it…. a mound of crushed ice. Which is surely worth it’s own line in Alanis Morisette’s Ironic. Don’tcha think?
On a total tangent, Romaine was one of the names my parents had picked out for me before I was born. Can you imagine a more foodie name than Romaine Fryer? Then again, Taryn was bad enough growing up, can you imagine going through life with the same name as a lettuce?
You know what else is a lettuce?
Which brings us back to…..doh, oh, oh, oh….or Punch Romaine.
- 1 egg white
- 1 oz. white rum
- 1 oz. white wine
- 1⁄2 oz. simple syrup
- 1⁄2 oz. lemon juice
- 1 oz. fresh orange juice
- 2 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine
- Twist of orange peel, for garnish
- In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine egg white, rum, wine, simple syrup, lemon and orange juice.
- Shake vigorously until well mixed and frothy.
- Mound crushed ice in a large coupe glass, and pour drink around it.
- Top with champagne, and garnish with orange peel.