In his first book to be published in the United States, famed shipwreck hunter Mearns (The Search for the Sydney, 2009, etc.) provides an engrossing collection of his most exciting undersea finds.
With stories that would befit an adventure novel, the author recounts seven of his dramatic shipwreck journeys, including a number of famed World War II ships (like the HMS Hood and the HMAS Sydney), a 15th-century vessel belonging to Vasco da Gama’s fleet, and commercial freighters featuring sordid histories straight out of a soap opera. Beyond the stories of the ships themselves, Mearns, a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and the Explorers Club, shows how the life of a shipwreck hunter is itself dramatic and fraught with risk. “I have experienced,” he writes, “just about every emotion imaginable for a person in charge of such costly and technically complex adventures….Searching for shipwrecks is basically an all-or-nothing proposition, where you either find what you are looking for or go home empty-handed.” The chapters are only loosely connected, with little overarching narrative arc, but the author does well to keep his tales highly entertaining and understandable for lay readers. Mearns doesn’t ignore the necessary technical detail, but he smartly keeps it to a minimum. At the end, the author includes two ships he’d yet like to find, but one of them—the USS Indianapolis—was located in 2017. While Robert Ballard’s 1985 discovery of the Titanic remains the most famous individual shipwreck find (and therefore made him the most famous hunter as well), Mearns deserves a spot in the upper echelon of deep-sea explorers, not only for his work of finding lost wrecks, but also for his continued efforts, along with the oceanographic community, to map the entire ocean floor.
A touch overlong but required reading for any maritime enthusiast.