Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of Jon Krakauers Into Thin Air
and Sebastian Jungers The Perfect Storm
comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery-and 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 bones-all 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 sailors-former 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.)
"[A] well-paced tale of adventure on the high seas." Kirkus Reviews
"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
"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
"Exquisitely researched and superbly told...will leave even armchair adventurers gasping for breath." People (Critic's Choice...four stars)
"Kurston also exposes the fascinating, high-risk world of deep diving and the strong personalities attracted to it...one of the best adventure books published" Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Shadow Divers is filled with turns of phrase that you will remember long after you finish this tale.... Shadow Divers is a book for everyone..." Bookreporter.com
"A solid adventure story, painstakingly stitched together from countless hours of interviews and research.... I know I've finished a great book when I am propelled to learn even more about the subject." Chicago Tribune
"Kurson's terrific narrative skill in Shadow Divers...lifts this admirable book to the top shelf of the true-adventure genre." Oregonian
"The phrase "page-turner" is bandied about too cheaply, but Shadow Divers is the real thing.... Robert Kurson brings a reporter's sure hand to telling all, providing coverage from every angle: historic, technological and, above all, human." Dallas Morning News
"Letting the drama speak for itself, Mr. Kurson vividly captures the hazardous world of diving (one scene of a father-son diving mishap is the stuff of nightmares) and the competition and camaraderie of the divers themselves." Wall Street Journal
"That storytelling flair energizes every page of the engrossing Shadow Divers, which 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
"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 IIs Greatest Rescue Mission
"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.... his prose is, as always, plain gorgeous." James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street
"An engrossing saga of the suspenseful, intriguing, and dangerous underwater investigation of a Mystery U-boat." Clive Cussler
"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..."
John McCain, author of Faith of My Fathers and Why Courage Matters
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.
For more than four decades, world-renowned diver and treasure hunter Captain Robert MacKinnon has reclaimed sunken caches from the dangerous shallow waters along the Atlantic coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Known as the Death Coast for its treacherous reefs and violent currents, the areaandrsquo;s rocky bottom is layered with shipwrecks and untold riches.
In shortandmdash;a treasure hunterandrsquo;s paradise.
In Treasure Hunter, Robert MacKinnon recounts the risks and challengesandmdash;both nautical and legalandmdash;in exploring shipwrecks dating back to the War of 1812 and before the Revolutionary War. As he salvages the secrets of the sea, MacKinnon vividly captures the excitement of discovery and conveys his passion for preservation in the still-developing field of underwater archeology.
A compelling chronicle of modern-day adventure, Treasure Hunter is a fascinating voyage into an amazing undersea world.
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.
Reading Group Guide
1. Is there something you would risk everything — your family, sanity, and life - to discover?
2. Was it proper for Chatterton and Kohler to risk their lives, and the lives of others, by insisting that all divers allow the remains of the fallen U-boat sailors to remain undisturbed?
3. Chatterton and Kohler lost their marriages to their quest to identify the U-Who. Was it worth it?
4. Why werent Chatterton and Kohler bothered more by the German sailors mission — namely, to sink Allied ships and kill American sailors?
5. Do you think the U-Whos crewmen would have appreciated the efforts of Chatterton and Kohler to identify their submarine and explain their story?
6. The German government told Chatterton that all requests by scuba divers to explore sunken German war graves had been denied. Chatterton politely explained his intentions, then dove the wreck of the U-Who anyway. Was this morally acceptable?
7. Gisela Engelmann dearly loved her fianc?, U-869 torpedoman Franz Nedel, despite Nedels fervent commitment to Hitler and Nazi ideals - and despite the fact that the Nazis had imprisoned both his father and Engelmanns father. Could you love someone whose political beliefs were abhorrent to you?
8. Despite claustrophobic conditions, many Germans preferred submarine service to army ground service, where they might find themselves dug into trenches and dodging enemy bullets. Which would you opt for?
9. Given the grave danger of Chattertons final plan to dive the wreck of the U-Who, should Kohler have stuck to his first instinct and refused to accompany Chatterton?
10. Chatterton did not attend the funeral of his dear friend, Bill Nagle. He never completely explains the decision. Why do you think he didnt attend Nagles funeral?
11. Divers continue to debate the ethics of removing artifacts from shipwrecks. When is it proper to take artifacts from wrecks? Are there circumstances under which artifacts should never be disturbed? Does your answer change if there are human remains onboard?
12. Chatterton seemed emotionally ready for the Rouses to identify the U-Who. But he seemed incapable of accepting the possibility of a “greenhorn” diver doing the same. Why?
13. Kohler gave up diving for two years in an effort to keep his family together. Can a person ever surrender his true passion and hope to live a happy and fulfilled life?
14. Did the discovery of the U-Who hasten Bill Nagles demise?
15. Given the intentions of the crewmen aboard U-869 — to attack and kill Allied ships — do you think the book treated them too kindly?