I grew up in NSW, Australia, graduating from Warilla High School in 1984. After commencing a degree in medicine and surgery at the University of Sydney, I decided blood and gore was not for me, so trained instead as a ship's officer at the Australian Maritime College. Studying at the AMC was quite an experience. I was one of the last year groups to learn to navigate by sextant, compass and nautical tables (no GPS back then!), and I sailed the world’s oceans on a wide range of merchant ships, some of which were much larger than the Titanic.
While at the college I completed a dissertation about the Russian cruiser liner Mikhail Lermontov, which sank in Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand after striking rocks. I used the ship’s plans to create a computerised model which I was then able to ‘sink’ by flooding various compartments. I concluded that the damage revealed by the divers’ report was not enough to sink the ship: either a watertight door had been left open, or there was other, hidden damage.
Another highlight of my time at the college was working on the communications and co-ordination vessel during a grand race of tall ships from Hobart to Sydney in 1988, as part of Australia’s bicentenary celebrations.
I graduated from the college with distinction and was awarded a number of prizes, including the prize for the highest marks in seamanship and ship operations, the prize for best performance in navigation studies, and the Company of Master Mariners of Australia Award for highest overall achievement in the course.
I then returned to University of Sydney to complete a combined degree in Arts and Law, while continuing to work at sea as a ship’s officer in the university holidays. In my arts degree I studied English and Music, achieving high distinctions in English and first place in Music. In my law degree I was awarded first class honours, and after graduation worked as a litigation lawyer in Sydney at Freehill Hollingdale and Page (now Herbert Smith Freehills). In the mid-1990s I moved to London and worked as a maritime lawyer at Hill Taylor Dickinson, a legal practice whose parent firm (Hill Dickinson) represented the Titanic’s owners back in 1912. It was during my time at HTD that I became obsessed with ‘the Californian incident’, and began to think about writing a book about it.
In 2002 I returned to Australia, obtained a Diploma in Education from the University of New England, and commenced teaching English at Kambala, a high school in Sydney's eastern suburbs. In 2009 I was awarded a Commonwealth Government scholarship to write a book about the Californian incident as part of a Doctorate in Creative Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney. The doctorate was conferred in November 2013. My research for the book took me to many and varied places around the world including London, Liverpool, New York, Boston and finally the Titanic wreck site itself in mid-Atlantic.
The Midnight Watch was published in 2016 by Penguin Random House in Australia, St Martin’s Press in America and Atlantic Books in the United Kingdom. For reviews and interviews click here.
Nowadays I spend my time teaching and writing in Sydney.