A wide-ranging assessment of how and why the sinking of the Titanic has remained a perdurable part of the West's sociocultural heritage. In a brief introduction Heyer (Communications/Simon Fraser Univ., British Columbia) summarizes the known facts of the maritime tragedy that resulted in the loss of over 1,500 lives. After concluding that the great ship represented a form of technological hubris, the author turns his attention to wireless radiotelegraphy, a then advanced communications medium whose central role in the calamity made Guglielmo Marconi a household name in the UK and US. War reportage apart, Heyer characterizes the loss of the Titanic as one of the 20th century's biggest single-event news stories. Examining the print era's coverage on both sides of the Atlantic (which he ranks second only to JFK's assassination in volume), the author details how the New York Times emerged as the fourth estate's clear winner by dint of intelligent enterprise and unrivaled resources, including controversial ties to Marconi. Heyer then focuses on the many ways in which the fate of the Titanic has captured the imagination of filmmakers, folk singers, and writers. Cases in point range from Thomas Hardy through the oddly assorted likes of Clive Cussler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Goebbels, Leadbelly, George Bernard Shaw, and Danielle Steel. The author touches on the intrepid aquanauts who in 1985 located the doomed craft's wreckage more than 13,000 feet below the North Atlantic's surface. In closing he draws parallels between the ill-starred steamship and Noah's Ark. Engrossing and original perspectives on a maritime misfortune that retains its fascination deep into the space age.