Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

Random House, ISBN 9781400063369, June 2015

John Chatterton and John Mattera had decades of experience as shipwreck divers when they formed a partnership to go hunting for sunken treasure galleons. They invested their money, bought their equipment, picked their target--and then got a call from Tracy Bowden, a quiet legend among shipwreck divers, now well past the age of serious diving himself.

He had a lead on something rarer and more wonderful than a treasure galleon: one of the great pirate ships of the Golden Age of piracy, the late seventeenth century. Bowdon thinks he knows where Joseph Bannister's Golden Fleece is sunk.

If they can find the Golden Fleece, it will be only the second authenticated shipwrecked pirate ship to be found--the only previous one being the Whydah, which sank off Cape Cod in 1717, and was found in 1984.

Mattera and Chatterton aren't just fighting the odds, the sea, and rival shipwreck hunters, though. They're also racing against a new treaty which will give governments full control of anything they find.

Kurson unfolds the story of the hunt for the Golden Fleece, the lives of Mattera, Chatterton, and Bowden, and their growing knowledge and understanding of Joseph Bannister in fascinating detail. The physical hunt itself takes place in the Dominican Republic, where poverty, little infrastructure or law enforcement in remote areas, and the lure of treasure to sometimes unscrupulous international shipwreck hunters add to the challenges and risks. Political shifts also affect them, as the Dominican government moves toward cutting lease sizes for shipwreck hunters or simply reassigning leases whose leaseholders haven't yet found anything significant. And that's nothing to the challenges of the personality conflicts among the men.

There's a fair bit of excitement here, and a lot of fascinating history. Well worth the read.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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