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Author: Clive Cussler. Best known for the Dirk Pitt adventure series, Cussler has been writing since 1965. His fascination with the sea and the lost treasures below have helped establish him as a leading writer of fiction, with dozens of published works and two major motion pictures based on his stories.
Plot: Working for the Pentagon, Dr. Gene Seagram has made significant advancements in missile defense technology using sound waves. The problem is finding a power source that can meet the needs of the program, now called The Sicilian Project. A rare mineral called byzanium is known to release great quantities of energy but is difficult to find. Satellite images pinpoint a location on an island off the northern coast the Soviet Union where the mineral can be mined, but when the Pentagon’s top secret division named Meta Section sends Sid Koplin to find the source, he discovers it has already be extracted. On his way out, Koplin is attacked and shot, but rescued by Dirk Pitt, a NUMA scientist doing research in the area. He brings Koplin to Seagram and based on the information Koplin was able to unearth, trace the valuable ore to man named Joshua Brewster, who, with a group called “The Coloradans” stole the minerals at the start of the 20th century and tried to sneak out of Russia to the United States. Brewster’s journey criss-crossed Europe and he eventually makes it to England where he booked passage to America. Problem is, he took a ride on the most famous doomed ship in maritime history. Now, 75 years later, with no other options available, it’s time to raise the Titanic.
Part 3: That Abyss (Chapter 36): With the only ample supply of byzanium in world lying on the sea floor, efforts are secretly put in place to find it and bring it to the surface. That turns out to be not so easy. Aside from finding the wreck, there are other issues, including the Soviets, who are lured into the intrigue by the C.I.A. who leak the story of the of the Sicilian Project and the mission to raise the lost vessel in hopes of snaring an elusive Russian intelligence agent. Knowing that if the Americans get their hands on the precious mineral first, they might lose the balance of military power, they send Captain Parotkin to investigate and hatch a plan to either outright destroy the American salvage effort or steal the mineral at any cost.
Pitt, Giordino and their crew have scoured the North Atlantic, weathering horrific icy storms and high seas. Putting all their resources to work, and after nine months of exhaustive searching, they narrow the grid down and are using deep water submersibles called Sappho I & II, Deep Fathom, and the Sea Slug. Using sophisticated sonar and imaging equipment, they find a debris field, including what they recognize as the ship’s massive boiler. Inside the Sea Slug, Pitt, Giordino and Gunn are reading the monitors and breathlessly scanning the muddied waters through the ports, inching closer to the once lost ship. Cussler writes:
They spoke no more for the next few minutes as the Sea Slug closed the distance. Their faces were pale and strained with anticipation. Pitt’s heart was pounding painfully in his chest, and his stomach felt as if it had a great iron weight in it and a huge hand crushing it from the outside. He became aware that he was allowing the submersible to creep too close to the ooze. He pulled back the controls and kept his eyes trained through the viewport. What would they find? A rusty old hunk far beyond hope of salvaging? A shattered, broken hull buried to its superstructure in the muck? And then his straining eyes caught sight of the massive shadow looming up ominously in the darkness. ( . . . ) Pitt eased the submersible upward past the eight-ton portside anchor until they could all clearly make out the three-foot-high golden letters that still proudly proclaimed her as the Titanic.
Why it Matters: It’s this fantastic moment when Cussler illustrated the excitement of discovery and gives voice to our imaginations. For decades, and during the time this book was published, the Titanic was still a mystery, a fascinating tragedy that remained unseen by eyes since it went down that fateful night in 1912. No one knew where it was nor what it looked like in its final resting place, though it was the source of many stories and fantasies. Cussler ran with that and brought us down to the depths and painted a brilliant picture of what one possibility might be:
There was a morbid beauty about her. The men inside the submersible could almost see her dining saloons and staterooms flooded with lights and crowed with hundreds of light-hearted and laughing passengers. They could visualize her libraries stacked with books, her smoking rooms filled with the blue haze of gentlemen’s cigars, and hear the music of her band playing turn-of-the century ragtime.
This moment in the story takes a break from the intrigue and adventure and settles on pure exploration and wonder. For a few pages, we are lost in the deep currents of the North Atlantic and sit inside the small submersible along with our heroes. Cussler, with uncanny accuracy predicted the techniques and same sense of euphoria Robert Ballard would have ten years later when he led the expedition that eventually did discover the real wreck. Raise the Titanic is an exciting thriller and considered by many to be the best in the long and popular Dirk Pitt series. With great suspense and vivid characters, this a great read.