Published back in 1976, Clive Cussler’s adventure story, Raise the Titanic!, brings the legendary ship back to life.
Raise the Titanic! begins in April of 1912. As the legendary passenger ship is making its fateful journey across the northern Atlantic Ocean, a mysterious passenger lies awake in fright. He’s a hunted man, constantly looking over his shoulder and staying one step ahead of his assassins.
When the Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink, the mysterious man forces a member of the Titanic‘s crew to escort him to one of the cargo holds. Down in the depths of the sinking ship he opens and locks himself inside of a massive vault. The secret, he believes, will remain with the ship on the bottom of the ocean.
Fast forward to today (1976).
Dr. Gene Seagram is the leader of the top secret Meta Section at the Pentagon. One of the projects on the hot plate in Meta Section is the Sicilian Project, a highly advanced method of stopping Soviet ballistic missiles from reaching their target. The science has been researched for the Sicilian Project. The only problem is that the Sicilian Project requires a massive amount of energy to function. Scientists believe that the rare mineral byzanium should provide enough energy, but it’s an extremely rare mineral. So rare in fact that the only known source of byzanium is on a small island just of the coast of the USSR.
Taking an incredible risk, Meta Section sends geologist / scientist Sid Koplin to the island near the Russian coast. Koplin locates a secret mine and determines that a group of miners beat everybody to the byzanium. And those miners did it nearly seventy years ago, too. A Soviet patrol stumbles onto Koplin, and he forced to run for his life. Just as he’s being captured, Dirk Pitt kills the Soviet soldier and flied Koplin on a helicopter and back to an American ship.
Gene Seagram researches the expedition and follows a series of clues about the mysterious miners who already claimed the prize. It turns out that the miners were a highly skilled set of men known as The Coloradans. These men were originally hired by the French government to mine the mineral, but they were persuaded by the U.S. to double-cross them and give it to America. The men attempted to escape and were pursued across Europe by a team of assassins. By the time the group arrived in England, only one man was still alive. He took the valuable cargo with him on board the Titanic.
The few clues point to the Titanic as the mineral’s final resting place. The challenge, of course, is finding the shipwreck in the northern Atlantic Ocean and somehow raising the sunken ship. It’s a project of immense scale. If it works and the byzanium is still in the vault on the ship, then the reward will be a powerful shield against incoming airborne threats.
Remember that this story was set near the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Effectively stopping incoming threats, whether it’s an aircraft or missile, would effectively give one country a significant combat advantage over the other.
Gene Seagram is able to persuade Admiral James Sandecker and Dirk Pitt, Director of Special Projects for the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) to accept the challenge of finding and raising the Titanic. Take note that about seventy or so pages go by until Dirk Pitt takes center stage in Raise the Titanic! He’s involved in the rescue of Koplin near the beginning of the story, but then he’s not involved in anything until quite a ways later.
Al Giordino and Rudy Gunn are deep underwater conducting and experiment with currents when they discover a cornet resting on the bottom of the ocean. The musical device is recovered, and an expert determines that the cornet was manufactured in the early 1900s. It’s an extremely special version and was used for special circumstances, such as playing for a very prestigious company, or a ship. A mighty ship on its high-profile maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Ocean scientists develop a model based on eyewitness reports of the Titanic‘s sinking location and the location of the cornet, and they give an estimated ocean floor location of the Titanic. NUMA sets out again, and when using fancy sonar equipment, they locate the shipwreck close to its estimated position.
About nine months progress quickly as the massive NUMA operation uses deep-sea submersibles and support ship to repair damage to the Titanic‘s hull. Remember that this story was written in the mid 1970s, well before the wreckage was discovered and photographed in real life. Back then it was still accepted theory that the ship remained in a single piece on the ocean floor.
All is not well, and unknown to NUMA, the Soviets also have their eyes on the byzanium and salvage operations in the northern Atlantic Ocean. With a Soviet ship on stand-by, the Soviet’s intelligence and strike teams are prepared to do whatever it takes to A) capture the byzanium, or B) prevent the Americans and sink the Titanic.
The remainder of Raise the Titanic! is a page turner as the ship is finally raised and once again sits on the ocean’s surface.
Highlights of the final scenes include:
- US Navy tugboats arrive on scene and being hauling the massive ship to New York City, concluding the journey it began decades ago.
- Saboteurs striking the ship and salvage crew, before an incredibly strong hurricane nearly sinks the Titanic again.
- Soviet soldiers raiding the Titanic during the eye of the storm.
As a whole, Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic! is a great story sure to captivate many seafaring and adventurous imaginations. Yes, the story is very dated since we now know that the ship lies in two giant pieces and salvaging it would be an incredible challenge. But when you take the story at face value and remember when it was written, Raise the Titanic! is a hit.
The action is great, the story is fascinating, and the Titanic itself still captures one’s imagination. As it was noted by Dirk Pitt and Admiral Sandecker, once you begin learning about the RMS Titanic, the ship slowly pulls you into its spell, making you desire her even more.