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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
by Robert Kurson
Publisher: Random House
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Book Description
In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery-and make history themselves.

For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.
But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous divers were prepared for what they found 230 feet below the surface, in the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey: a World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bones-all buried under decades of accumulated sediment.
No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location.

Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. Some of them would not live to see its end. Chatterton and Kohler, at first bitter rivals, would be drawn into a friendship that deepened to an almost mystical sense of brotherhood with each other and with the drowned U-boat sailors-former enemies of their country. As the men’s marriages frayed under the pressure of a shared obsession, their dives grew more daring, and each realized that he was hunting more than the identities of a lost U-boat and its nameless crew.

Author Robert Kurson’s account of this quest is at once thrilling and emotionally complex, and it is written with a vivid sense of what divers actually experience when they meet the dangers of the ocean’s underworld. The story of Shadow Divers often seems too amazing to be true, but it all happened, two hundred thirty feet down, in the deep blue sea.

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Brielle, New Jersey, September 1991

Bill Nagle's life changed the day a fisherman sat beside him in a ramshackle bar and told him about a mystery he had found lying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Against his better judgment, that fisherman promised to tell Nagle how to find it. The men agreed to meet the next day on the rickety wooden pier that led to Nagle's boat, the Seeker, a vessel Nagle had built to chase possibility. But when the appointed time came, the fisherman was not there. Nagle paced back and forth, careful not to plunge through the pier where its wooden planks had rotted away. He had lived much of his life on the Atlantic, and he knew when worlds were about to shift. Usually, that happened before a storm or when a man's boat broke. Today, however, he knew it was going to happen when the fisherman handed him a scrap of paper, a hand-scrawled set of numbers that would lead to the sunken mystery. Nagle looked into the distance for the fisherman. He saw no one. The salt air blew against the small seashore town of Brielle, tilting the dockside boats and spraying the Atlantic into Nagle's eyes. When the mist died down he looked again. This time, he saw the fisherman approaching, a small square of paper crumpled in his hands. The fisherman looked worried. Like Nagle, he had lived on the ocean, and he also knew when a man's life was about to change.

In the whispers of approaching autumn, Brielle's rouge is blown away and what remains is the real Brielle, the locals' Brielle. This small seashore town on the central New Jersey coast is the place where the boat captains and fishermen live, where convenience store owners stay open to serve neighbors, where fifth graders can repair scallop dredges. This is where the hangers-on and wannabes and also-rans and once-greats keep believing in the sea. In Brielle, when the customers leave, the town's lines show, and they are the kind grooved by the thin dif

Book Description
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Product Details
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; edition (Jun 29, 2023)
  • ISBN: 0375508589
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 Based on 161 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: 1362

Customer Reviews

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:

5Gripping story on every level, Sep 29, 2023
This is a gripping story that will grab any reader with its rich and multi-faceted story.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5A fantastic tale that happens to be true, Sep 15, 2023
Shadow Divers is a dream come true for non-fiction readers. It's where fantasy world meets reality. Author, Robert Kurson, deftly tells the true story of a German U-boat discovered off of the coast of New Jersey in 1991. Two deep sea divers, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler tirelessly set out to solve the mystery of its identity and rewrite history. Chatterton and Kohler are the main characters in this book. Their personal lives are delved into and some of their deepest secrets revealed.

This book is not just for diving aficionados. I've never dived a lick in my life, yet, I found myself diving into this book, and took great pleasure in learning about the intricacies and discipline of deep sea diving. Tragically, lives are lost during the quest to identify the U-boat. Two of the deceased were a father and son duo whose lives are chronicled in the book, "The Last Dive" by Bernie Chowdhury.

Chatterton had an excellent quote that reads, "It's what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment." Chatterton experienced many of those moments. His story gives the reader a glimpse of what these moments are about.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5Adventure, Mystery and History -- tough to put down!, Sep 12, 2023
It often seems that we live in an age when the only significant discoveries are the result of massive expeditions that depend upon millions of dollars in high tech resources and vast support teams that include corporate sponsors and publicists. Shadow Divers tells a different story, a story of highly skilled (and very courageous) men investing their own time, money and passion for history in the discovery and identification of a sunken German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey.

This is not about a search for the riches that might be found in a Spanish galleon, or the historical significance of the Titanic, Andrea Doria or the Lusitania. The target of the divers was an unknown submarine, a wreck found below 300 feet of ocean in a place where no German U-boat was ever reported lost. The mystery of the boat's identity, why it was in New Jersey waters, and how it met it's end sent John Chatterton, Ritchie Kohler and their associates on a six year odyssey. That this mission was a dangerous one is underscored by the fact that three men lost their lives during dives to the wreck they came to refer to as the U-Who. They operated off a charter boat, basically chipping in for gas money, relying on skill, enthusiasm and bravery.

Robert Kurson's telling of this story is fantastic! He relates the steps of their six year quest and adds to it with poignant explorations of the character and passions that motivated these men to risk their lives to put names and identities to the skeletons - both human and metal - that lay at the bottom of the ocean. I found myself moving from page to page with the curiosity and anticipation normally engendered by a fictionalized mystery. But this is a tale of real divers, divers with day jobs - at one point Kohler finishes his conversation with a renowned U-boat historian and drives off to replace the glass for a drive-thru window at a KFC restaurant!

You might ask yourself what drove these men to risk their lives? The answer isn't a simple one, but it revolves around issues of character and commitment. Kurson leaves you with an appreciation of those qualities, sufficient enough that you'll respect both of them and the other "weekend divers" that worked to solve the questions of a warship that was supposed to be half a world away from the place where it died.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5Submariners and divers will find this book enthralling., Sep 10, 2023
This was a hard one to put down. The characters are finely drawn in this excellently written sport-thriller. Other than a few errors on the technical side of the story line, the author has certainly done his homework and brought this World War ll Submarine casualty into the 21st century with striking clarity. An extremely fine read even though you've never been to sea!

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

5Among other things, A Perfect Example of Careful Writing, Aug 27, 2023
Immediately before finding this book, I read and reviewed "On Writing Well," by Zinsser. With that book in mind, I began "Shadow Divers" slowly, looking for clutter, excess wordage, grandiose exaggerations, qualifiers, bad punctuation - and other techniques Zinsser considered awful. I could find none. The lead sentences and closing sentences in each paragraph were strong. The sentences were not all the same length and each thought led into the next. Unusual words were not excessive and when used, added clarity. I found examples of Zinsser's techniques being used and a wealth of good creative writing. No wonder this author was successful. Within a chapter I was hooked, dropped my analysis and finished this book very late that night.

In addition to doing a good job technically, this author had a good story, did his research meticulously and was careful to include the human element on every page - I'm not surprised it was a New York Times Bestseller. Highly recommended.


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