Shipwreck: A History of Disasters at Sea by Dr Sam Willis

After watching ‘Shipwrecks: Britain’s Sunken History’ on BBC4, I was really interested to see how Dr Sam Willis could outdo himself. To put it simply, he outdid himself with this book. Dr Sam (as I will refer to him throughout this review) really captured my interest and imagination on the subject with ‘Shipwrecks: A History of Disasters at Sea’.

samDr Sam Willis is renowned in his field, and recently presented ‘Shipwrecks: Britain’s Sunken History’ on BBC4.


I have always been fascinated in how shipwrecks such as the Titanic, and more recently the Concordia disaster, have captured the essence of what it is to be human and fragile. And so, I dug into this book like the Americans dug for gold…with zeal.

With a trove of paintings, photographs, maps and charts; ‘Shipwrecks’ makes for an exciting read, The book uncovers both the causes and consequences of  some of the most talked-about shipwrecks in history, from the ancient fate of the Kyrenia to the Mary Rose and USS Arizona. With access to eye-witness accounts, Dr Sam takes the reader on a journey revealing not only what life was like as a sailor;  but the ships courses and the cargoes that they carried.

Dr Sam is an expert in his field, and is renowned all over the world for his maritime knowledge. Reading his book, passion and expertise seep through every page. Clearly, maritime history floats his boat, and this is what makes it so easy to read. Everything is so eloquently described in such a relatable way that you can almost imagine him sat in the pub on a Sunday afternoon  regaling the punters with stories of shipwrecks.

The book makes you stop and ponder about things you never really thought about…like, what happens to the survivors before they are rescued? And, just how many ways can a shipwreck destroy a person?

I guess you’ll just have to read it to find out!

Check out our fantastic interview with Dr Sam Willis here!

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