A Pulitzer Prize–winning African-American journalist recounts how his passion for scuba diving led to an emotional connection to a shipwrecked slave vessel.
The story of the discovery of the wreckage of the Henrietta Marie began when a Panamanian treasure-hunter discovered shackles in the Gulf of Mexico; the later discoveries of an iron cannon and the ship’s bell verified that it was a slave ship and identified it. Cottman had loved swimming and diving since he was a child in Detroit, so when given the opportunity to join the National Association of Black Scuba Divers and their expedition to explore the slave ship site, he jumped at the chance. In preparation, Cottman set out to learn everything he could about the Henrietta Marie by teaming up with David Moore, the white researcher who helped discover the ship’s watch bell, and visiting multiple sites including a foundry in rural England, a farm in Jamaica, and the storied Gorée Island in Senegal. Cottman weaves his personal story of discovery with history of the slave trade, helping readers understand why a sunken slave ship from the 1700s still matters. His emotional attachment to the artifacts, including child-sized shackles, deepens the storytelling in this highly readable narrative.
Cottman wrote a well-received version of this story for adults (The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, 1999), and this retelling for young readers is just as intriguing. (timeline, map, color photographs, epilogue, suggestions for further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)