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The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal: Exploring the Ghost Fleet of the South Pacific Hardcover – October, 1993

18 customer reviews

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Dozens of battered warships lie beneath the constricted waters off Guadalcanal, justifying the macabre moniker of Iron Bottom Sound. Unseen for 50 years, this submarine battlefield received its first visitor in 1992, aquanaut Robert Ballard. The twisted, encrusted shapes he saw are here spread out with the same lavish pictorial formula used in his enormously popular albums on the Titanic and the Bismarck. Prewar photos of battleships in dress regalia contrast graphically with eerie paintings and photos of shell and torpedo strikes that destroyed them and their crews. Now--as in the moment of foundering during the half dozen sharp, short naval battles around the island--guns aim askew, fatal holes gape wide, and turret plates peel back. The Titanic and the Bismarck--both on maiden voyages--sailed to the deep with ill-fated majesty. But Ballard treats these unheralded ships--American, Australian, and Japanese--with the same technical accuracy and awesome reverence. The author's name alone should trigger demand. Where will Ballard dive next? Jutland? Trafalgar? Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; 1st edition (October 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446516368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446516365
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 9 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Between August 1942 and February 1943, a land-sea and air battle was waged for an island in the south pacific called Guadalcanal. The six-month long battle for the island would be one of the definitive battles of the war. It was also one of the costliest. Thousands of Allied and Japanese soldiers died. And a channel north of the island had so many ships go down there that it was renamed Iron Bottom Sound.
It is possible that more men died in the waters off Guadalcanal then on the island itself. But for many years, most of the ships were out of reach to divers and eventually were all but forgotten. Then, in 1992, Oceanographer Robert Ballard, who had found the Titanic and the Bismarck, decided to explore the area using the latest in technology. It is quite an experience to see a past battlefield on land like Normandy, Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg or Guadalcanal itself. But the battlefields were obviously cleaned up afterward and don't look the way they did when the battle concluded. But time knows no boundaries in Iron Bottom Sound. The paintings by Ken Marshall and the photographs show many of the ships still upright on the ocean floor; Their guns and torpedo tubes still trained outward as if firing at a long gone enemy. But some of the ships are not so beautifully preserved. The Battleship Krishima, for example, lies upside down in two pieces on the ocean floor. And the Destroyer Barton is broken in half and lying on its side from two torpedoes. Nevertheless, most of the ships appear ready to rise up and continue fighting.
Lavishly illustrated and with a detailed text, The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal will make a welcome addition to the collection of any War, Naval or Shipwreck enthusiast (If you can find a copy that is).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
From stunning photographs of the wrecks, to nicely detailed accounts, to beautiful paintings depicting the wrecks as they are today, to art from people who fought over a half century ago, this book is a wonderful account of the naval war in "Iron Bottom Sound" (Gudalcanal). Exciting. Poignant. You can feel for the poeple who were caught in the battles. I've read this book cover to cover twice, and highly recommend this text for the historian and general reader alike.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ned Middleton on September 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The work of Dr Robert D. Ballard knows no bounds and is truly inspirational to those of us who read of his exploits and seek to emulate his standards with much lesser shipwrecks.

Once again, just as soon as I took delivery of "The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal" I knew I had a 5 Star Book in my hands and, once again, I found nothing within it's 220 pages to make me take away any of those stars.

This book will stand the test of time as a literary work and outstanding account of one of the major naval battle zones of the Pacific in WW2. There are modern photographs including a number taken from the air, historic photographs (American, Australian, Japanese and local) of the places, the personalities, the ships, aircraft and soldiers, some incredible paintings of the night actions that took place, pictures of Ballard's crew as they go about their work and his advanced equipment being deployed and used. There is also a picture of a very young John F. Kennedy in his PT-109.

The first underwater pictures are enough to make the heart stop for just a moment as you realise this man Ballard has done it again - not once, but in this case several times. Commencing with the 9,850 ton Heavy Cruiser HMAS Canberra (the "A" stands for Australian) we no sooner see the first underwater photographs of this once magnificent ship - which went down fight in the opening minutes of the Battle of Savo Island, then we turn the page to find a 3-page open-out spread of Ken Marschall's painting of the entire wreck.

On the opposite side of that 3 page spread is another equally outstanding painting of USS Quincy followed by her own set of underwater photographs.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Pardus Amicus on November 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will say that like most of Ballard's books this is nicely laid out; good sized and with excellent photographs & drawings.

Most of the book is taken up by short histories of the various battles that make up the 'Guadalcanal Campaign.' This didn't leave much room for the exploration of the wrecks themselves which gives you a rather rushed feeling despite the good background history.

Perhaps this would have been even better as an expanded two volume set.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Whigham on August 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Bob Ballard discovered the Titanic in the mid 1980's using cutting-edge underwater technology. For this book, he turned that skill and knowledge to lead an expedition to examine the wrecks of one of the bloodiest naval battles of World War II, one so full of death and destruction that veterans of the battle gave the waters of Gualdalcanal the nickname of "Iron Bottom Sound" because of the number of ships and aircraft that lay underwater. Guadalcanal was the linchpin of American and Japanese military strategy for control of the south Pacific islands. The Americans controlled the airfield, but the Japanese controlled the island and the waters around it. The Japanese couldn't resupply its army because of attacks to its freighters by Allied aircraft and the Americans couldn't resupply its airfield because of attacks to its fleet of ships. In one single battle in the pitch-black darkness of night, the mighty Japanese fleet engaged a weaker American destroyer group where American guns were aimed by radar and Japanese guns were aimed by looking for the flashes from the American weapons. The American fleet was destroyed but it was a Pyhric victory because the Japanese supply ships failed to reach the starving Japanese troops on the island. Dr. Ballard does a remarkable job of capturing both the essence of the battle and the essence of underwater archeology to create a wonderful book filled with full-color pictures of the wrecks and period black-and-white pictures of the war. He also includes the fantastic paintings and maps in the style that has adorned his other books to show how the wrecks would look if there was absolute clarity underwater and with a "God's Eye". This book is one of the better ones I've found that deal with the ships of Guadalcanal and underwater archeology.Read more ›
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