Catastrophes and Heroes


Catastrophes and Heroes: True Stories of Man-Made Disasters

Sometimes We Are the Authors of Our Own Disasters

Catastrophes and Heroes takes a close look at eight man-made disasters that span nearly a century, from the boiler failure and subsequent sinking of the Civil War-era steamship Sultana to the completely avoidable landslide that overtopped the Vajont Dam in Italy in 1963, destroying the towns below and rendering the dam inoperable. Some were honest mistakes, some were the result of overconfidence, hubris, or greed. Some were even the result of planned malice.

In all these stories, both heroes and villains emerged. Some heroes sought out the wounded or dead, and some heroes did the difficult, tedious labor of investigating  the disasters and guarding against similar events ever happening again. Villains emerged as well, from self-taught engineers who built dams without a firm grasp on the principles involved, to greedy quartermasters who saw money to be made by exploiting recently released prisoners of war.

In Catastrophes and Heroes, author Jerry Borrowman gives us a view of the extremes of human behavior and what is revealed when things go horribly wrong.