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February 20 , 2010


The Strange Fate of the Morro Castle


A spellbinding moment-by-moment account of one of the most spectacular disasters off the coast of New York, which killed more than 130 people, Shipwreck answers the question that until now has remained unanswered: Was it a terrible accident—or arson?

In the early morning hours of September 8, 1934, the luxury cruise liner Morro Castle, carrying 316 passengers and 230 officers and crew, caught fire a few hours out of the New York harbor on a return voyage from Havana. The fire spread with terrifying swiftness, transforming the ship into a blazing inferno. One hundred and thirty-four people died that night—was it an accident?

Until now, that question has remained unanswered. In Shipwreck, authors Thomas and Witts prove that the disaster was no accident, that it was planned, meticulously and deliberately, by an officer of the Morro Castle. His name: George White Rogers, chief radio officer aboard the ship. They show that, quite possibly, Rogers was also responsible for the untimely passing of the ship’s captain, who died mysteriously, apparently poisoned, several hours before the fire broke out.

Other embarrassing questions are answered, questions raised during the investigation following the disaster and never satisfactorily answered. Why was a proper alarm never given? Why did the fire-fighting equipment, such as it was, fail to function? Why were only two lifeboats launched, and why were they filled with crew and officers instead of passengers?

Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts have written a spellbinding moment-by-moment account of the Morro Castle’s last voyage, one of the most spectacular disasters to stir the Atlantic Ocean. In interviews with eye-witness survivors, rescuers, and investigators they have uncovered the startling answers to a multitude of questions that have surrounded the case for almost forty years. The result of their research is a dramatic tale of personal heroism, obvious incompetence, tragedy, and quite possibly murder.
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