Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review #111 - Ocean Titans by Daniel Sekulich

Book 35 of 52
Page count - 242

This book was published in 2006 and looks at modern commercial shipping.  The twist here is in the sub title; Journeys In Search Of The Soul Of A Ship.  Most times a ship is humanized first by giving it a name and then by referring to it as "she."  Emotional connections are often formed with vehicles, from bicycles to cars, planes and ships, even spacecrafts; they take us from one place and, hopefully, safely deliver is to another.

Sekulich begins his journey where it all ends; the ship-breaking yards of Alang, India, where we find him searching for clues about the last crew of the tanker SS Sag River.  He wanders the vessel looking through the various areas finding small, personal items left aboard by its last inhabitants.  It's really is quite a sad scene but from it we are shown the wonderful and largely invisible world of commercial shipping.

Just about everything we own has spent some time aboard a ship, transported from a factory to a dock, a rail car and or a truck and delivered to a store to be purchased by us.  It's a system that is vital to our economies and yet we only hear about them when disasters happen.

The author takes us around the world searching and experiencing the impact a ship has on people.  We start at the design phase to the fascinating world of ship building; from the first cut of steel to sea trials.  We get an understanding of the ship owners, the captains, the engineers who keep the vessels running and to the deck hands.  We also learn about the sea itself and how people cope with the weeks and months of isolation.  Finally we see the last days of a ship; from being beached to being taken apart by the folks who's lives depend on recycling these gigantic machines.  We are also treated  to a glimmer of life in the creation of something new from the scrapped, forgotten and yet wonderful boats.

From the title I expected a romantic view of the subject and I was not disappointed.  It was also a well researched and interesting subject, I can't recommend it enthusiastically enough. It was a charming, understanding, respectful and hopeful read.  I've come away with a well rounded understanding of this nearly invisible, world-spanning industry.  Through it all the book is deeply infused with humanity; it would have been easy to get lost in the numbers and the technicality of it, but the author never lost sight of the fact that it is people that make the whole damn thing work.


Daniel Sekulich
You can find his blog HERE.

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