Another partial standing ovation followed. James Cameron and Bill Garzke returned to our table. People followed them, hoping for a quick chat or to give praise. I offered Cameron my compliments for his interesting talk:
“I never thought I could be so fascinated by a sunken battleship story. It was a great presentation.”
I know how valuable it is to receive feedback after my speaking engagements on the Andrea Doria. Cameron seemed to relish in everyone’s positive comments as if he had heard these words for the first time. It was another way to share the message that he appreciated our interest in his work. People continued to flock at his side. I took this opportunity to chat with a couple of distinguished marine engineers. One had been to the Andrea Doria ‘gravesite’ on July 26, 1956. He explained almost apologetically that with other Coast Guard cadets, he was ordered to shoot holes into the lifeboats that were still afloat. “We used them for target practice,” he quipped. “They were considered a danger to navigation.”
I peeked over to what had become an autograph session. A gentleman saw that I was anxious to offer my book to the famous film maker. He gave me his place in line and I actually dared to take a seat facing James Cameron. I handed him my book, Alive on the Andrea Doria! The Greatest Sea Rescue in History. Inside I had written a lengthy dedication. Cameron looked at the cover with great interest as I told him that I would love the opportunity to see this shipwreck on the seafloor for myself; that it would allow me the chance to make peace with the cadaver that was once a luxury liner.
“Do you think Elwood would like to explore the Andrea Doria?” I boldly asked.
Cameron, the explorer-humanitarian understood my need, having offered this kind of therapy to the Bismarck survivors.
“Since the wreck is only at 250 feet, I think it’s feasible. I would let you navigate him from the surface…but I need to know that there is scientific value for using this approach, as opposed to what is already being done.”
I heartily assured him that I would do my research on that.
The evening offered precious moments in my life as a shipwreck survivor and author. Moreover, speaking to James Cameron felt like I had climbed a mountain top, even though we were discussing the bottom of the planet.
Speaking of planets, Cameron is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and is working on the project to get cameras on the pending manned Mars mission. I hope the marine world doesn’t lose one of its most ardent researchers to another part of the universe.
N.B. Bill Garzke told with me later that Cameron shared his delight for receiving an honorary induction into ASNE. As the two men descended the stage, the outstanding film maker beamed,
“My Dad will be very proud of me.”
Cameron’s father is an engineer.
(Conclusion of article)
 For information on the book, see www.PieretteSimpson.com.