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Author, editor, and speaker Bruce M. Caplan of Redmond, Washington has been a Titanic aficionado since he was a child. For the past decade he has lectured at scores of schools and on a dozen cruises about the facts regarding the demise of the Titanic.
Caplan’s book , The Sinking of the Titanic, is now in its18th printing. “I like people to know about the real facts of the Titanic,” said Caplan,, who has traveled all over the country, educating people about little-known details that make the Titanic disaster more fascinating than any Hollywood film.
“Did you know that a nearby ship, The Californian, could have saved everyone on the Titanic? The radio on the Titanic was owned by the Marconi company,” explained Caplan, and it was set up to make money transmitting wireless messages to and from the passengers. “The Marconi transmitter had broken down that day and they had to fix it.
When it was repaired several hours later, the Californian sent word to the Titanic’s operator that they had to stop for the night because of ice. However, the Titanic operator was upset because of the interruption and told the Californian operator to shut up so he could continue to send his backlogged messages. A few minutes later, the Titanic hit the iceberg, but by then the Californian operator had turned off his radio and gone to sleep.”
Caplan delights in telling audiences that the collision went virtually unnoticed by most passengers, but those who were still awake that evening were actually pleased with this sudden turn of events. “It was a minor annoyance, and they weren’t hurt,” said Caplan, adding that when the engines stopped, passengers thought their vacation on the luxurious ship would be extended. “It was kind of exciting for the first 45 minutes to an hour.”
The slow realization by the passengers that the ship was actually sinking made the boarding of lifeboats seem like a mere formality, said Caplan. “The first ones departed almost empty.”
The book paints Titanic’s Captain John Smith as a hero, but Caplan pointed out that by sailing with a fire on board, Smith was negligent. “Had he prudently waited for about a week to extinguish the fire in the coal bin, and then sailed, the probability of the ship hitting the iceberg in the same place was a billion to one.”
Since it’s re-issue, Caplan has attended a multitude of book signings and has sold more than 40,000 copies of “The Sinking of the Titanic,” often donating the book’s proceeds to worthy causes.
Said Caplan, “I want people to have empathy for what the Titanic’s passengers went through by trying to get them to understand the many facets of what happened 100 years ago.”
Most recently he was the opening author at the new Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge Tennessee. In addition to the Titanic, he can speak about two other famous nautical catastrophes, The Andrea Doria and The Lusitania.