Media and Events


J Kent Layton

J Kent Layton in the 2021 HFX Documentary ‘The Odyssey of Titanic’s Lifeboat No. 2’.

Although my primary focus is on written works, I have been proud to consult on or help create or consult on various media endeavors and live events, as well.

It has become clear to me that when people want to learn nowadays, they don’t always reach for a book first. The internet, media, and video are the new ‘go-to’s for hungry enthusiasts. However, these often have to wade through a veritable minefield of cleverly-crafted nonsense, tangled webs of conspiracy theories and uneducated guesswork. I had been hoping to be able to make the leap into more modern media formats for some time, but was concerned about content and quality control.

I had been hoping to be able to make the leap into more modern media formats for some time, but was concerned about content and quality control.

In 2019 and 2020, on the anniversaries of the Titanic disaster, I was honored to be asked to co-host the live real-time sinking animations with Tom Lynskey from Titanic: Honor & Glory. But little did I know that this journey had only just begun…


This video was released on 19 March 2024. It is a 20-minute documentary that tells an incredible story. The RMS Olympic Steinway Association, a legally-registered non-profit organization of which I am a Board Member, has been formed to try and purchase, preserve, and share with the public a historic piano with ties to both Olympic and Titanic. Tom and the HFX team did a bang-up job putting this story together and drawing awareness to our work at the Association.


On 31 May 2023, Tom Lynskey of HFX Studios set up a livestream to commemorate the 109th anniversary of the Empress of Ireland disaster. The goal was also to celebrate the release of the new book Dans le Sillage de L’Empress of Ireland: Sauvetages, Enquêtes, et Plongées À L’été 1914, by Empress of Ireland historian and author David Saint-Pierre. We had a wonderful evening with David, and spent over an hour discussing the photographs behind his new book as well as the value of creating livestream animations as a tool to learn more about the events of these disasters. We even discussed our own Lusitania-related projects, including the new editions of Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography that will be released in the coming months.









That’s right! We have moved into the domain of liner-related music now! Some two years ago, Tom Lynskey of HFX Studios and I began to talk about the possibility of creating an entire album of liner-related music.

Over time, we compiled a list of some 20 different musical numbers, many of which were incredibly rare, that we wanted to make recordings of for the album. These included very old songs written regarding the Collins Line steamers, or even the Great Eastern. There were various songs about the White Star Line, Cunard Line, American Line, and more. There were songs about particular ships, such as several about the Lusitania, and a beautiful waltz about the Empress of Ireland. There was one written by Dr. Beaumont of the White Star Line. There was another about the Great Lakes steamer Eastland. Finally, there was the legendary song Oh, You Beautiful Doll, which featured so prominently in Titanic lore. Many of these songs were exceedingly rare, and it is likely that some of them have not been heard in a century or more.

My wife Tessa and I lovingly transcribed and recorded each piece of music. In the end, we provided two different versions of 19 of the songs. One was recorded in our own shop on vintage pianos we were restoring, and another set was recorded on a more modern instrument. You can download the album or stream it from any of the major music streaming services. Here are direct links to three of the more popular options:

If you order the album on Apple Music, it comes with an accompanying digital booklet. However, other services do not seem to offer the booklet, so we are including a copy of it here for free. Please click here if you would like to download the accompanying digital booklet in PDF form.


ON A SEA OF GLASS–LIVE! (2023) (111th Anniversary Livestream)

This year’s livestream event stands as a genuine pinnacle in our livestream history. I have had the privilege of joining Tom Lynskey for every anniversary since 2019, and Tom had done these livestreams for years before even that; however this year was a truly special event.

We were honored and pleased to be joined for the second time by Titanic visual historian and artist Ken Marschall, and for the first time this year George Behe (past vice-president of the Titanic Historical Society) also joined us. Our ‘on air’ time nearly ran to 6 full hours, and we covered a broad variety of topics. The wealth of knowledge that George and Ken brought to our panel was extraordinary, and we were also able to share an update on the HFX Studios project Lusitania: The Greyhound’s Wake.

I look forward to more of these live events in the near future!


Sometimes my two primary areas of secular work happily coincide. When I am not working on maritime research and writing, I work in our longstanding family business of piano tuning and restoration. Over the past year, my wife Tess and I have been working closely with Tom Lynskey of HFX Studios to prepare some very rare recordings of fascinating period music that was written about or heard on many of the old liners and steamships. The first official release of this material is a waltz written in 1911 for the Great Lakes steamer Eastland, which famously capsized and sank at its Chicago wharf in 1915. (Click here to watch the feature length documentary on the Eastland‘s career and sinking that I had a small role in helping out with.)

Stay tuned for more updates on the musical venture, including how we did many of the recordings on period pianos that were in for restoration in our own shop.

Hosted by Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton & Bill Wormstedt;
Special Guests Mark Chirnside, Samuel Halpern, & Michael Brady

On 2 December 2022, the authors of On a Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic and Recreating Titanic and Her Sisters: A Visual History hosted a live event via Zoom to present do a presentation on a number of topics regarding the Titanic and Olympic-class ships in general. Tad, Bill and I invited three special guests to join us: Mark Chirnside, one of the foremost maritime historians of our day, spoke on the subject of evidence regarding Titanic‘s three-bladed center propeller, as well as the importance of giving context when considering historical data; Samuel Halpern joined us to discuss his most recent book, Prelude to an Allision, which is an in-depth technical analysis of how Titanic met her iceberg; Michael Brady of Ocean Liner Designs joined us to discuss some of his Titanic artwork. Each of the three guests did a powerpoint presentation to share with our audience.

Tad, Bill and I did a live Q&A and answered a number of pre-submitted questions. We did a giveaway for one of our own books, Titanic: Solving the Mysteries, and we shared the last ten minutes of the On a Sea of Glass real-time sinking animation (historian edition), and we finished by inviting everyone to join us on 14-15 April 2023 for the 111th anniversary livestream with Tom Lynskey of HFX Studios.


J Kent Layton in Titanic Secrets

I do not frequently participate in large-scale documentary programs because it is difficult for me to ascertain whether the final content of the program will end up being an honest attempt to re-tell Titanic‘s story, or if it will instead prove to be a mashup of conspiracy theories and blatant errors. However, I was approached early in 2022 to assist and participate in a three-part ‘longform’ series for Fox Nation, an online subscription-based channel; after carefully interviewing the producers, I concluded that they were making an honest attempt to get the facts right, and that I should try and give them the help that they were asking for.

In the end, Don Lynch and I made lengthy appearances in all three episodes; I was honored to appear in the same show as Don, and I was very surprised that they producers used so much of the interviews that both he and I did in the final cut. Unfortunately, there were a number of mistakes in the programs, so I can not vouch specifically for anything contained therein beyond our interviews, but the interviews themselves, as featured in the show, might be of interest. On a personal note, I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the show had been narrated by Billy Zane, who played the fictional villain Caledon Hockley in James Cameron’s Titanic.

Click here to watch the series. If you are not already a subscriber to Fox Nation, many will find that the trial period that they offer will give you enough time to watch all three episodes, which total about an hour in length.


In the weeks after the live real-time event, our team worked very hard to finish a more detailed real-time animation of the sinking, one that was not narrated by historians and researchers. Called Titanic Sinks in Real Time: “Historian Edition” this production showed the disaster in real time, and included sound effects and music. Again, Tad, Bill and I were given the opportunity to give a final stamp of approval on the film’s content, to ensure the highest accuracy.


After completing the two real-time sinking animations, our team realized that there was much more material contained in the sinking animation than could be shown off even in a real-time animation nearly three hours long. We thus decided to make a test documentary focusing on one particular subject, and see it through from beginning to end.

Our selection was the complete story of Emergency Boat No. 2, which had a thrilling and oft-overlooked story that played a crucial role in the disaster. Again, the historians were given the keys to creating a documentary with accurate content. Thanks to Ton’s brilliant directing, the finished piece was a worthy equal to any documentary program shown on television.


With the completion and success of the documentary The Odyssey of Titanic’s Lifeboat No. 2, we realized that we were just beginning to scratch the surface of what could be accomplished in helping tell the story of Titanic and of those who were aboard her. Our attention quickly turned to producing a quality piece focused on Thomas Andrews, a much-beloved and often misunderstood figure in Titanic‘s history.

From his role in helping to create Titanic all the way to the last place that he was seen during the sinking, this full-length documentary retraces the steps of Thomas Andrews as no one ever has before.


April 2022
I was recently asked to join Quincy & Clare for the debut episode of their new podcast; the topic for this episode was discussing conspiracy theories surrounding the Titanic. It was fantastic to be able to join them and my fellow historian and frequent collaborator, Mark Chirnside, to have a sort of virtual ’round-table’ discussion of the subject!

ON A SEA OF GLASS–LIVE! (2022) (110th Anniversary Livestream)

After the success of our On a Sea of Glass livestream last year, and the other ventures we’ve embarked upon since then (which can be found on this page), our intention was always, right from the start, to maintain a tradition that Tom had started about eight years before: an annual livestream on the anniversary of the Titanic disaster, in real time.

This year, we used the same animation which had been generated by HFX for last year’s broadcast. We intended to have Michael Brady of Ocean Liner Designs join us again, but in the event he took ill just a day before we were to go live, and couldn’t join us.

Although we were deeply saddened that Michael couldn’t join us, we were thrilled to have Ken Marschall join us live, on very short notice, to fill Michael’s shoes and help answer the many questions that our audience posed. Ken has been involved with Titanic for so many years, has learned so much about the ship, has personally dived the wreck, and worked on many Titanic documentaries and films through the years, and in the end, we all spent five hours together talking about the disaster and helping to bring it to life for our viewers. For me, personally, this was a genuine highlight of my career in maritime history, and I’d like to personally thank Ken for joining us and helping us out – particularly at the last minute.

As an aside, you can order copies of Ken’s artwork, in various formats, through either of his web sites:

Titanic: A Deeper Dive! (2022) (110th Anniversary Live Event)

Just a couple of hours before we did the 110th anniversary livestream, Tad, Bill, and I were all invited to participate in a live author discussion for the Mark Twain House & Museum. Our co-panelists included authors Charles Haas and Brandon Whited. We really enjoyed the little more than an hour we all spent discussion Titanic. You can watch the video of our discussion that evening here:

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In early 2021, after Tom had left the THG team, we decided to put together an entirely new real-time sinking animation for the 109th anniversary on 14-15 April. A new team was united under the banner of Tom’s production company, HFX. For the first time, it was we as historians — Tad Fitch, myself, and Bill Wormstedt — who were at the helm of a serious Titanic production. We were able to have the final say in the production’s content and give it a ‘stamp of approval’ for authenticity; although we were on a very tight deadline, and there are a few things that need refining over time, the final results were nothing short of incredible.

It is important to point out that this venture was completely unprecedented. To our knowledge, this endeavor was the first time that historians were given the final say on the content; most televised programs are created by a production company and are designed to sell commercial space. Historians who are interviewed are often dismayed to find after the fact that their interviews were edited to make it look like they supported a non-historical premise presented in the show to get viewers. The historians rarely have any say over the show’s final content, in spite of appearances to the contrary.

This project was happily different: Tom and his team gave the historians the opportunity to present the information that we had compiled over the course of many years of research and writing in a finished ‘composite’ that was so accurate that we were often able to literally see how certain disparate events ‘lined up’ and came together for the first time since they actually happened in 1912. It was an incredible experience.

The anniversary broadcast animation was entitled On A Sea of Glass–LIVE! It was literally a multi-hour event that brought to life all of the findings contained in our 2012 book On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic. Tom, Tad, Bill, and myself were joined in the live broadcast by our modeler and animator Levi Rourke, as well as artist and researcher Michael Brady of Ocean Liner Designs, who helped us create the digital model used in the animation.

And yes, ​I look forward to participating in more of these projects in the future!