Synopses & Reviews
Into thin air and Sebastian Junger's The perfect storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mysteryand make history themselves. For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships. But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous divers were prepared for what they found 230 feet below the surface, in the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey: a World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bonesall buried under decades of accumulated sediment. No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location. Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. Some of them would not live to see its end. Chatterton and Kohler, at first bitter rivals, would be drawn into a friendship that deepened to an almost mystical sense of brotherhood with each other and with the drowned U-boat sailorsformer enemies of their country. As the mens marriages frayed under the pressure of a shared obsession, their dives grew more daring, and each realized that he was hunting more than the identities of a lost U-boat and its nameless crew. Author Robert Kursons account of this quest is at once thrilling and emotionally complex, and it is written with a vivid sense of what divers actually experience when they meet the dangers of the oceans underworld. The story of Shadow Divers often seems too amazing to be true, but it all happened, two hundred thirty feet down, in the deep blue sea.
"This superlative journalistic narrative tells of John Chatterton and Rich Kohler, two deep-sea wreck divers who in 1991 dove to a mysterious wreck lying at the perilous depth of 230 feet, off the coast of New Jersey. Both had a philosophy of excelling and pushing themselves to the limit; both needed all their philosophy and fitness to proceed once they had identified the wreck as a WWII U-boat. As Kurson, a writer for Esquire, narrates in this debut, the two divers next undertook a seven-year search for the U-boat's identity inside the wreck, in a multitude of archives and in a host of human memories. Along the way, Chatterton's diving cost him a marriage, and Kohler's love for his German heritage helped turn him into a serious U-boat scholar. The two lost three of their diving companions on the wreck and their mentor, Bill Nagle, to alcoholism. (Chowdhury's The Last Dive, from HarperPerennial in 2002, covers two of the divers' deaths.) The successful completion of their quest fills in a gap in WWII history the fate of the Type IX U-boat U-869. Chatterton and Kohler's success satisfied them and a diminishing handful of U-boat survivors. While Kurson doesn't stint on technical detail, lovers of any sort of adventure tale will certainly absorb the author's excellent characterizations, and particularly his balance in describing the combat arm of the Third Reich. Felicitous cooperation between author and subject rings through every page of this rare insightful action narrative. If the publishers are dreaming of another Perfect Storm, they may get their wish. Agent, Heather Schroder.7-city author tour; first serial to Esquire; rights sold in Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.K. (On sale June 29)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Shadow Divers surely ranks with Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air in the realm of nonfiction adventure." Chicago Sun-Times
"Exquisitely researched and superbly told...will leave even armchair adventurers gasping for breath." People (Critic's Choice...four stars)
"Absorbing...From U-boat history to the mortal dangers of diving...Kurson explains it all, even as he's spinning a fantastic yarn that happens to be true." Newsweek
"The play on words is irresistible: Once you dive into Kurson's estimable book, you will not surface again till the end." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"[A] well-paced tale of adventure on the high seas." Kirkus Reviews
In 1991, acting on a tip from a local fisherman, two recreational scuba divers discovered a sunken German U-boat 60 miles off the New Jersey coast. The wreck lay in 230 feet of ocean water, too deep and dangerous for all but the most accomplished scuba divers. The submarine's crew perhaps 60 men lay dead inside. No historian, expert or government had a clue as to which U-boat the divers had found. By all accounts, there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at this location. Soon, the divers realized that if they did not pursue this mystery, it would remain forever unsolved.
Over the next six years, these men devoted their lives to identifying this sunken U-boat and its crew. They became expert and well-traveled researchers, taught themselves German, befriended U-boat aces, turned back fanatics and conspiracy theorists, hunted clues in Germany, corrected history books presumed to be gospel, and constructed original and ingenious theories. In between, they made some of the most daring and dangerous scuba dives ever attempted.
Over those six years, three of their colleagues died exploring the wreck, including a father and son team. As the challenge grew more deadly and the clues dried up, the two divers once bitter rivals became best friends. As the mystery choked their marriages and threatened to consume them, each realized that he was on more than a mission to identify a lost U-boat. Each of them, they realized, was on a mission to discover himself.
In 1997, when it looked as if the U-boat would never surrender her name, the two divers conceived a plan so daring, so risky, that each of them presumed it would end in death. The book concludes with this final dive one that literally came down to the final breath.
THE BOOK OF NUMBERS
Brielle, New Jersey, September 1991
Bill Nagle's life changed the day a fisherman sat beside him in a ramshackle bar and told him about a mystery he had found lying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Against his better judgment, that fisherman promised to tell Nagle how to find it. The men agreed to meet the next day on the rickety wooden pier that led to Nagle's boat, the Seeker, a vessel Nagle had built to chase possibility. But when the appointed time came, the fisherman was not there. Nagle paced back and forth, careful not to plunge through the pier where its wooden planks had rotted away. He had lived much of his life on the Atlantic, and he knew when worlds were about to shift. Usually, that happened before a storm or when a man's boat broke. Today, however, he knew it was going to happen when the fisherman handed him a scrap of paper, a hand-scrawled set of numbers that would lead to the sunken mystery. Nagle looked into the distance for the fisherman. He saw no one. The salt air blew against the small seashore town of Brielle, tilting the dockside boats and spraying the Atlantic into Nagle's eyes. When the mist died down he looked again. This time, he saw the fisherman approaching, a small square of paper crumpled in his hands. The fisherman looked worried. Like Nagle, he had lived on the ocean, and he also knew when a man's life was about to change.
In the whispers of approaching autumn, Brielle's rouge is blown away and what remains is the real Brielle, the locals' Brielle. This small seashore town on the central New Jersey coast is the place where the boat captains and fishermen live, where convenience store owners stay open to serve neighbors, where fifth graders can repair scallop dredges. This is where the hangers-on and wannabes and also-rans and once-greats keep believing in the sea. In Brielle, when the customers leave, the town's lines show, and they are the kind grooved by the thin dif
An engrossing saga of the suspenseful, intriguing, and dangerous underwater investigation of a Mystery U-boat.
Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, about the divers exploring a sunken shipwreck off the New Jersey coast, is a gripping account of real-life adventurers and a real-life mystery. In addition to being compellingly readable on every page, the book offers a unique window on the deep, almost reckless nature of the human quest to know.
-SCOTT TUROW, author of Reversible Errors
A tremendously suspenseful story of discovery that comes as close as any book could to providing the reader with approximate sensations of deep sea diving and of life on a submarine at war, and that leaves us with a hell of an impression of the grit, guts, and compassion of a U-boat crew and the two American divers who risked everything to solve the mystery of their last mission.
-JOHN MCCAIN, author of Faith of My Fathers and Why Courage Matters
Robert Kurson's status as an undiscovered pleasure among Chicago readers is about to change, I suspect, in a hurry. Shadow Divers is so culturally astute and terrifyingly suspenseful that it should reach the sort of audience John Berendt, Susan Orlean, Jon Krakauer and Laura Hillenbrand have recently earned. Kurson's new focus is the larger historical world--a world of U-Boats, forensics and lung-crushing pressure--and his prose is, as always, plain gorgeous.
-JAMES MCMANUS, author of Positively Fifth Street
A winning tale exceedingly well told, Shadow Divers takes us on a dangerous and seemingly quixotic descent into the murk-and then, in a fog of nitrogen narcosis, brings us back to the surface with a richer, fuller fathoming of a history we only thought we knew.
-HAMPTON SIDES, author of Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission
From the Hardcover edition.
Recounts the 1991 discovery of a sunken German U-boat by two recreational scuba divers, tracing how they devoted the following six years to researching the identities of the submarine and its crew, correcting historical texts and breaking new grounds in the world of diving along the way. 100,000 first printing. First serial, Esquire.
About the Author
ROBERT KURSON earned a bachelors degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, then a law degree from Harvard Law School. After working as a features reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago magazine, he moved to Esquire as as a contributing editor. His award-winning stories have also appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He lives in the Chicago suburbs and can be reached via the Internet at www.robertkurson.com.