"Women and children first" is the phrase that enters many readers' minds when thinking of lifeboats and sinking ships. It is also one of the first myths author Stilgoe handily punctures in this sobering, nitpicky history. Falling somewhere between a social history of a ubiquitous yet often misunderstood piece of equipment and a rambling, rumination on a personal obsession, the book takes on many sacred cows and societal illusions. Stilgoe, a Harvard history professor and author of Alongshore and other books, combs through centuries' worth of lifeboat accounts and comes up with a relatively low number of examples of steadfast sailors trying to save their passengers (or of sailors ganging up against passengers when the going gets tough) and each other. He saves his admiration for sailboat-trained seamen-already a disappearing species by the early 20th century-who, time after time, steered their tiny boats of starving, sunburned survivors hundreds or thousands of miles across empty ocean to safety. Stilgoe also rhapsodizes over the lifeboat itself, a rugged contraption standardized by the British Board of Trade in the 19th century, which consistently proved its ability to stay afloat in gales that swamped larger vessels. Titanic looms large here, naturally, and Stilgoe has a good time deflating some of the shipwreck tales that the film propagated. B&w illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
With a voice that is knowing and nautical, John Stilgoe leads readers along a salt-encrusted time line of the evolution of lifeboats. Lifeboat is a fascinating and meticulously researched work to be enjoyed by seafarers and history buffs alike.(Linda Greenlaw, author of The Lobster Chronicles and The Hungry Ocean)
As with Mark Kurlansky’s Cod or Charles Corn’s Scents of Eden, in the right hands a thing, trade, or practice traced through a century or two provides another window on history, small but very clear, and from an angle just enough to one side to bring other events into a new perspective. The lifeboat is the MacGuffin for Stilgoe’s plot, and it brings a great deal into view.... Lifeboat is a majestic, prodigious, mighty book.(John CaseyNational Book Award–winning, author of Spartina) See all Editorial Reviews
A great readable exploration into something you might want to think about on your next cruise. I would have given him five stars but even John Keegan only gets five stars upon... Read morePublished 12 months ago by CMA
fascinating history and stories about the humble lifeboats
truly makes one appreciate them
and nostalgic for the old seafaring culture not lost with motorization... Read more
This is undoubtedly the worse book I have pickup in years. It is totally boring, non-interesting, a waste of paper. It's only value is to recycle it. Read morePublished on June 29, 2012 by twesjewel