Strength of Will and Nobility of Spirit Emerge

Strength of Will and Nobility of Spirit Emerge in New Novel Based on Real-Life Tragedy

Capsize draws from the real-life sinking of a dive-charter boat in 1991 and author’s life’s work as a research professor
at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of California, San Diego

“A riveting action novel…Van Dorn’s story has mixed the raw challenges of survival with a wide range of personalities and their ability to cope with adversity…We are drawn into an intricate story of deception and heroic effort.Just when the intrigue begins to unwind,
a new challenge arrives before we head toward the exciting conclusion. A fascinating read…” Review

It’s all too easy to contemplate, especially for those who sat riveted through the movie Titanic: one moment you are snugly asleep in the bunk of your chartered diving boat, and the next moment it flips upside down, fills with water, and sinks, while you struggle to crawl out into icy water and make it to the surface in a raging windstorm.

Even worse, like the sinking of the Titanic, this calamity actually occurred. On New Year’s Day in 1991, under circumstances identical to those described in the new novel Capsize by author William Van Dorn, the dive-charter boat Santa Barbara sank in a storm in the northern Gulf of California. Of the fourteen people on board, only two survived.

At the time, Van Dorn was researching cold water survival victims for the second edition of his book Oceanography and Seamanship, which describes how boats and ships behave in a real ocean. He interviewed all available survivors and relatives of the victims, and thus was born the idea for a novel based on this tragedy.

In Capsize, of the original fourteen divers and crew on board the dive-charter boat Cecilia Valdez, only six manage to crawl out into the icy water and make it to the surface, including a physician, his wife, and the beguiling nurse whose very presence threatens to destroy their marriage. “The rest of this incredible story,” says Van Dorn, “recounts the heroic survival efforts of those who escaped the sinking, not as a group, but mostly alone.”

Many groups and individuals are involved in the massive rescue effort, but their labors are unexpectedly stymied by a vagrant surfer whose psychopathic nature leads to chaos. Throughout the novel, Van Dorn explores the strength of will and nobility of spirit that enables some but by no means all those who survived the initial catastrophe to face themselves squarely, overcome their ordeal, and better their lives.

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Author: William Van Dorn received his BSc in engineering from Stanford University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he worked as a research professor for forty years, specializing in the study of tsunamis and explosion-generated waves. In addition to more than one hundred research reports and published papers, Dr. Van Dorn is the author of Oceanography and Seamanship and Ivy-Mike, a narrative history of the first hydrogen bomb test.






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