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The 1854 collision at sea between the Arctic and the Vesta, a much smaller French steamship, set in motion one of the most harrowing events in maritime history, with enormous and tragic consequences. David W. Shaw, who brings decades of experience as a seaman to his writing, has based this riveting tale on the firsthand testimony of the few who survived the wreck, including its heroic captain, James C. Luce. It is the story of the brave and dutiful Luce fighting his mutinous crew as they take the lifeboats, leaving hundreds of men, women, and children to suffer a cruel and painful death. It is also the story of those who survived the frigid waters and those who perished -- including Luce's own frail son, who died as the grief-stricken captain helplessly watched. Not only did 400 people die by daybreak, the wreck brought to an end the domination of the seas by the American maritime fleet. Utterly compelling, beautifully written, and a fascinating, heretofore little-known slice of American history, The Sea Shall Embrace Them is a stirring narrative that puts the reader on the deck as a shipful of men, women, and children do battle both with a mighty ocean and with their own baser instincts to survive.
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By the mid-19th century, steamships were eclipsing traditional sailing ships in the lucrative transatlantic trade. The largest of these, the American Arctic, collided with a smaller vessel in 1854 with a frightful, and unnecessary, loss of life. David W. Shaw's The Sea Shall Embrace Them tells the story of this disaster, eerily similar in many ways to the later sinking of the Titanic. Shaw lays out the immediate and secondary causes of the disaster: bad weather, no established shipping lanes, the ship's owners' preference for speed rather than prudence, and an appalling lack of safety precautions. As well, he describes the suffering and grotesque deaths of many aboard and dozens of acts of pure cowardice on the part of the crew. The writing for the most part is vivid and effective, though the physical layout of the ship is somewhat murky. The story of the Arctic is not only sad and the tragedy avoidable, but one that, as Shaw points out, would be repeated many times in the decades to follow. --H. O'BillovitchAbout the Author:
David W. Shaw brings decades of experience as a seaman to his writing. The author of Inland Passage, Daring the Sea, and Flying Cloud, Shaw writes extensively for yachting magazines. He has contributed to Sail, Cruising World, Offshore, and many other boating publications. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Elizabeth, and sails in Maine.
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