The Wreck of the Medusa: The Most Famous Sea Disaster of the Nineteenth Century / by Jonathan Miles
Arguably the worst shipwreck prior to the Titanic and certainly one of the most (in)famous sea disasters ever, the 1816 destruction of the French naval vessel Meduse was nothing if not a testament to the corruption and incompetence of man pitted against the forceful brutality of nature. The wreck and subsequent sinking of the ship near the west African coastline was only the beginning. What followed in the hours, days and weeks aboard the crew's one lifeboat and a makeshift life raft of 150 mutinied passengers would be one of the most excruciating survival experiences ever recorded. French author Miles accurately re-crafts the story of the most doomed voyage in the Age of Sail, not shying from the utterly deplorable accounts of barbarism, atrocity, mayhem and murder.
Sea Venture: Shipwreck, Survival and The Salvation of the First English Colony in the New World / Kieran Doherty
Few people familiar with the story of Jamestown, England's first New World colony, realize the particularly dire straits it experienced in its first formidable years of existence. Illness and harsh conditions had dwindled the burgeoning township of over 500 settlers to a meager 50 by the time rescue aid arrived onboard the cargo ship Sea Venture; and yet the ship's tale of perseverance through adversity had been as harrowing as that of the fledgling colony. Originally the flagship at the helm of 9 smaller frigates embarking for North America, all was nearly lost when a vicious storm obliterated the fleet, destroying all the subsidiary vessels and only sparing the Sea Venture when it washed ashore at Bermuda. Even then it would be a ten month hiatus before the voyage could successfully be re-engaged and the rescue mission completed. Doherty's fantastic narrative of this largely overlooked but incredibly important historical tidbit is a great read for anyone even remotely interested in America's earliest years.
Treasure Ship: The Legend and Legacy of the S.S. Brother Jonathan / by Dennis M. Powers
While the Civil War waged in the eastern United States, the Pacific coast remained largely uninvolved subsequently carrying on with routine matters. Gold was still an avid interest and prospectors, craftsmen and merchants continued unheeded with the business of trading the precious metal. So it was on July 30, 1865 that the S.S. Brother Jonathan, a steamer noted for its efficiency, was traveling north along the California coast with over $50 million in gold bullion when turbulent seas violently heaved it onto an uncharted reef. Only 19 of the ship's 247 passengers survived and the ship's remains along with its lucrative cargo were seemingly lost forever, a presumption upheld through several salvage efforts over the years until in 1993, amid a fluke expedition, the wreckage was discovered. Numerous adventurers, archaeologists and treasure hunters would descend to the site only to have their eager retrieval efforts jutted by a myriad of ensuing legal battles, political proceedings and lawsuits which would be ongoing for nearly a decade.
Treasure Hunt: Shipwreck, Diving and the Quest for Treasure in an Age of Heroes / by Peter Earle
Earle, bestselling author of The Pirate Wars, informs and entertains in this riveting account on the evolution and lasting romantic legacy of treasure hunting and the heralded adventurers who lustfully sought it out. From the early years when Spanish galleons and Dutch traders would trundle vast quantities of gold and jewels from the New World to the years immediately following when commercial voyages and pirates would earnestly seek out the same merchant vessels--sunken, shipwrecked or otherwise--and into the age when primitive diving equipment was employed to retrieve unsalvaged booty, this is a book that will delight fans of the true-adventure novel as well as anyone curious about the real history behind lost riches just waiting to be found. For a non-fiction compendium to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, this is a great read.