I’ve never read a Clive Cussler novel. I’ve thought about it, but I’ve never heard anyone say it’s great stuff, just kind of odd. But a few years back I spent some quality time in a hospital bed, and someone gave me Sea Hunters. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t leave a book alone if it’s within reach, so I checked it out.
I love this book.
Many of Cussler’s books are about a guy named Dirk Pitt, and his organization called NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency). Well, Cussler is just as interested in finding sea treasures as Dirk, though Cussler’s treasure is history. So he created a real non-profit called NUMA, which is primarily funded by Cussler’s book royalties. But he doesn’t just fund it, he’s actively on site for every search.
Each chapter covers a different recovery mission, and typically starts with a small dramatization of how the craft was lost. While Cussler’s novels are a bit odd, he does know how to string words together, and since he’s actually trying to be historically accurate, these are interesting.
Not all the chapters lead to success; in truth he mentions in the introduction that failures outstrip the successes. Despite that, his successes have been truly excellent. Some examples:
- The Union 24-gun frigate Cumberland, sunk during the Civil War by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack);
- The Confederate Hunley, which became the first submarine in history to sink a warship;
- The U-21, a German U-boat, which during World War 1 became the first sub to sink a warship and escape;
- The American troop transport Leopldville, which was destroyed by a German submarine on Christmas eve, 1944, with huge loss of life;
- Engine #51, the lost locomotive of Kiowa Creek, which roared off a storm-weakened high bridge in 1878.
- The steamboat Lexington, which burst into flames in the frigid winter of 1840, causing the loss of over 150 lives–but sparing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who missed the trip only because he arrived at the dock seconds too late.
- There’s also the odd fate of the steamboat Charleston, which became the warship Zavala and which was so horribly damaged in a terrible Atlantic storm in 1842 that it was abandoned in a Galveston, Texas, marsh, and slowly sank from view. In tracing its location, they finally found it–under a parking lot!
I should point out that the Locomotive Engine was not found but they were able to prove that it had been salvaged not too long after it went off the bridge.
This is everything I love about history and adventure. I can’t recommend this book enough to people who are interested in history, and are interested in actually taking part.
Sea Hunters II recently came out, and I got it from the library yesterday. Watch this space dear reader, for a review!