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Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II Hardcover – June 29, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The New Yorker
Deep-wreck divers are used to operating with almost no headroom and in zero visibility, navigating by touch alone; it is a compliment to be told "When you die, no one will ever find your body." Despite the dangers, wreck divers are typically weekend warriors, men who leave families and jobs behind to test themselves at two hundred feet down. Kurson's exciting account centers on two divers, John Chatterton and Robert Kohler, who in 1991 found an unidentified U-boat embedded in the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey. The task of identifying it leads them to Germany, Washington, D.C., and the darkest corners of the submarine itself. Some of the most haunting moments occur on land, as when the divers research the lives of the doomed German sailors whose bones they swim among. Once underwater, Kurson's adrenalized prose sweeps you along in a tale of average-guy adventure.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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For the divers, the biggest deal, the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby, is discovering a new wreck. The divers in this book are elated to find a new wreck that no one else knows about. In a pact of secrecy they go down to check it out only to discover that it is no ordinary wreck, it is a German WWII Uboat. Right off the coast of New Jersey. A Uboat that doesn't exist according to records, a Uboat that can't possibly be there. Divers Chadderton and Kohler become obsessed with figuring out what Uboat this is. As this is before you could Google information, this became a six year quest that involved letters, international phone calls, meetings with military records administrators, flying to Germany, arguing with historians who are happy with the status quo—and ending up actually rewriting history. The adventure took its toll—three men died while diving the wreck. Another drank himself to death. Both Kohler's and Chadderton's marriages ended. After risking their lives to an insane degree they retrieve uncontrovertable proof of which Uboat this is.
I love books where new information is presented in an entertaining fashion, and this book is the best there is. I was put through a wringer of emotions, everything from terror to sadness, from excitement to grief. I was completely pulled in to this story—even though it is true it is a story by any definition. I recommend this to EVERYONE, no matter what type of books you normally read!!
I have been a recreational SCUBA diver and I love history. I gave Shadow Divers a try.
What a treasure I discovered. I loved this novel. First shipwreck divers discovered a sunken vessel, which happens to be a German U-boat. Then the many dangers of deep sea diving. Next is making the identification of the U-boat, which cost lives. Finally, a history lesson about WWII and U-boats.
I was so happy that I discovered this book. My eyes are blurred from not putting this book down.
I recommend Shadow Divers and will check out other novels by Robert Kurson.
The book takes you beyond just the facts of the finding, into the lives of the divers who first located, then risked their lives to return to the wreck again and again until they had found out what it was and verified what lay within. It takes you into the complicated world of deep sea technical diving - a terrifying world where you either knew someone who had died or knew someone who knew someone who had: never more than a few steps away from the grim reaper in a world man is specifically not designed to go.
The book was riveting, frightening, emotional, elated all in stages, and I cannot recommend it enough.