STOCKTON SPRINGS — The story of the Titanic is well known as a tragic icon in the public imagination—the ship, the iceberg, the frozen deaths of hundreds during that long, dark night of April 15, 1912.

But who were these suffering individuals?

Mainers on the Titanic (Down East Books) by Maine native Mac Smith takes a uniquely regional approach that allowed him to explore a subset of personal stories, from the moment of the accident, through the loading and lowering of the lifeboats, on to the sinking of the ship, seen from a distance by survivors, and then to rescue.

Through a research period that took ten years, Smith culled the passenger list for a particular population, and drew from nearly 100 sources that include published works of the time, biographies, historical societies, college records and census data.

Smith is a former Navy and Naval Reserve man who went on to a career in medical transcription, interrupted by a stint as a newspaper reporter. Today, his big project is to restore the family homestead—and to enjoy the readings and signings scheduled by his publisher.

“I’m on cloud nine about it,” he said from his Stockton Springs home.

His interest in the Titanic started as a kid.

“My older brothers had told me about it,” he said. “One day, I was in a bookstore looking for a present. My brother likes Maine history, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Maine history related to the Titanic?'”

Smith traveled up to the University of Maine at Orono, which preserves newspaper collections on microfilm. He studied Maine-based newspapers from April 15 to May 31, 1912. Numerous articles revealed not only the names of Mainers but—not surprisingly, given the intense scrutiny of the day—abundant information about who they were and the experiences of many on the boat, largely through anecdotal information provided by survivors.

“So I had a lot of information and investigated each lead,” he said.

Those leads allowed him to piece together individual experiences. Thus, the narrative reads like a gripping suspense story, every description and discourse rooted in reliable sources.

“When I was first putting my facts together, I puzzled over how to do it,” he said. “At first, there was a dearth of information, here in Maine and everywhere. They knew the ship had sunk, and they compared survivor lists versus passenger lists. I wanted to get that sense of suspense out, and then, boom! Get into the entire story.”

One of those passengers, for example, was York author and world traveler Helen Churchill Candee, on the Titanic to meet her recently injured son. Interweaving her experience with the tales of other passengers, Smith takes the reader to Candee at the time of the crash when, after the shock subsided, she opened her cabin door to find silence and loneliness, “not a human being in sight.” In a lifeboat, Candee would later recall the horror of the sinking ship.

“No one spoke. Speech was insufficient for such a catastrophe,” she said in the newspaper account. “Then did hope drop from me. The whole world was gone.”

Smith recounts the memory of another survivor, who said “not a sound came from the ship until the very last, when a sort of wild maniacal chorus, mingling cries and yells, arose from the ship.” It was a moment when “flesh and blood could not withstand that gasping cry of horror as the sea rose to them.”

These stories moved the author as much as they will the reader. He recalls “young Mr. White,” a recent graduate of Bowdoin College, his trip on the Titanic a reward for a job well done.

“It was so sad,” Smith said. “There was a story to each Maine passenger—and I found them all fascinating.”

Smith’s next booksigning will be held at the Ellsworth Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 23, 6 p.m.