Review published on December 8, 2017.
Ever since watching the raising of the ‘Mary Rose’, and learning about the ‘Lusitania’, I have been intrigued by ship wrecks, so a chance to look at a book entitled The Shipwreck Hunter was bound to excite me. Written by David L. Mearns, an American, he tells us of how he became a global asset in the undersea world of exploration. He then embarks on various well-documented searches for high profile wrecks.
This altogether exciting account of what befell him over many years searching for shipwrecks is so totally engrossing that when I actually came to the end, I wanted it to continue, or maybe read it again. It is full of the ups and downs of marine technology, and how it is all put together to reach a veritable climax upon discovery.
Searching for a lost vessel to highlight a fraudulent insurance claim, by a high profile entrepreneur named Udo Protsch, was in itself a riveting story. The ship in question was named MV Lucona; it was blown apart by an on-board bomb with the result that all crew were lost.
Then another sensational wreck, that of the MV Derbyshire, which broke up in a typhoon. The fact-finding mission was to ascertain why it broke up, mainly for the relatives of the crewmen lost, but also to show how corrupt governments can be and how they often fudge the truth.
I expect one of the greatest tasks set before David L. Mearns, was finding the wreck of the WWII-era H.M.S. Hood, and within the sequence of this allotted task, he also photographed the German battleship Bismark on the ocean floor. This particular story has so much emotion attached to it that it reads like a complete story unto itself. Many other stories of sunken warships, all with seriously emotive connotations are here. The legends, the rumours, the relatives, all the harrowing stories that culminated in the final plunge to the bottom, and the distress created for those left behind. To say it is a roller coaster of reading is an understatement. One almost lives on board with the crew of the searching vessels as they hunt for the missing wrecks. Intense is a word I would use quite easily.
There are a few pages of photographs to enhance the stories; also, each chapter begins with a picture of the subject ship itself on the surface. Further into the book, a more historic wreck story, and a fascinating account of bad seamanship really, but the assorted artefacts discovered make it another compulsive chapter for me. We also have a couple of other wrecks mentioned that still need finding, the Endurance, the explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship, that was lost in the pack-ice during 1915, or the USS Indianapolis, sunk in 1945 with the resultant loss of nearly 400 crew, either by exposure or sharks.
This is altogether an excellent book from cover to cover. A great shame that the subject matter is such a terrifically expensive and difficult task to do, otherwise there could be even more exciting books like this one to read.
Reg Seward 5/3
The Shipwreck Hunter by David L. Mearns
Allen & Unwin 9781760295257 hbk Oct 2017
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