Titanic Undertaking

Rider alum Charles Haas ’69 has long been mesmerized by the story of the R.M.S. Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable passenger ship that defied that opinion 100 years ago this month. He has spent the past half-century investigating the luxury liner, and his book "Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy" has been called the most comprehensive book available on the subject.
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Charles A. Haas ’69 distinctly recalls accompanying his grandfather to work one day as a 12-year-old, and peering down at New York Harbor from the office at 17 Battery Place in Lower Manhattan.

“You know, there was once a huge ocean liner that was destroyed by floating ice,” Haas’ grandfather, a manager at a stevedoring company, told him. “It was supposed to arrive right here in the harbor, but never made it.”

The ocean liner was the R.M.S. Titanic, which had indeed sunk in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean nearly 50 years earlier. Somehow feeling the absence of the majestic luxury passenger ship on the relatively placid water in his sights, the adolescent Haas was immediately entranced.

Now, with the world set to observe the hundredth anniversary of the Titanic’s loss this month, Haas has published revised, expanded third editions of his critically acclaimed books, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy and Titanic: Destination Disaster, which he co-authored with his writing partner, John P. Eaton. Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy has been called the most comprehensive book available on the subject, and the new edition brings Titanic’s story right up-to-date with extensive new text and more than 100 evocative new photographs.

Now retired from a 36-year career as an English and journalism teacher at Randolph (N.J.) High School, Haas became the first teacher in the world to dive to the wreck of the Titanic during a 1993 expedition that he also served as a historian, along with Eaton. He returned to the wreck again for subsequent explorations in 1996 and 1998.

“I felt one of the most amazing blends of emotions,” said Haas – a first-time diver – of his initial foray. Seeing the almost-mythic ship so still on the ocean floor was a bit “like seeing an old friend,” he said. “But, I had a feeling of tremendous melancholy, looking at all these things meant for people that were never enjoyed.”

Haas, who is a featured speaker on a Titanic memorial cruise shipping out of Southampton, England – the starting point of its ill-fated predecessor – in April, has served as president of the Titanic International Society since 2006, and has written extensively for its quarterly journal, Voyage. He is an honor member of the British and Belfast Titanic Societies and served as consultant to National Geographic and Discovery Channel.

Haas also recalls being invited by RMS Titanic, Inc., the exclusive steward of the sunken vessel’s legacy, to its New York headquarters some years back. Its location? Seventeen Battery Place, in the very same building where his lifelong interest was launched by his grandfather.

 

Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy

By John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas

Haynes Publishing, Third Edition

Hardcover, 416 pages, $49.95

 

Titanic: Destination Disaster

By John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas

Haynes Publishing, Expanded Third Edition

Paperback, 223 pages, $19.95

 

A version of this story appears in the spring 2012 issue of Rider magazine.

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Charles A. Haas '69 has published revised, expanded third editions of his critically acclaimed Titanic books.