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Pirate Hunters

Robert Kurson
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Pirate Hunters: Treasure, obsession and the search for a legendary Pirate Ship.

No it's not regarding the modern day pirates who operate the high seas, it’s about two middle aged men who hunt for the galleons of the pirates who roamed the seas during “The Golden Period”. The likes of Captain Kidd, Morgan and Blackbeard; real 17th century pirates, the names that most school boys have heard of and who imitated whilst playing.

Well “Shiver me timbers!” This is a book which took over two years to write and the research and interviews that went into it are quite remarkable. This is the authors second book on the subject of diving for wrecks the first being Shadow Divers which told the story of a German U boat that was discovered and identified by one of the divers featuring in this book, John Chatterton.

The book is a fascinating insight into the search for a ship called The Golden Fleece who was captained by one of the most notorious pirates ever to have lived, a name lost to time, Joseph Bannister.

Who? Well that’s what I thought as well, but it transpires that Bannister was the only pirate who defeated The Royal Navy, forcing two of His Majesty's war ships to sail away from battle, failing in their objective to either take Bannister prisoner or kill him.

The book explains the politics of the search, how the two divers, John Chatterton and John Mattera, met, became firm friends, and how they worked with a chap named Tracy Bowden; a 69 year old treasure hunter who had the rights to survey and dive where, as a result of research carried out, he “knew” The Golden Fleece to be.

Now it’s explained early on in the book whilst the divers are meeting Bowden for the first time in Bowden’s home that only one pirate ship had previously been discovered. Just one ship, The Whydab lost in 1717 off Cape Cod and recovered in 1984.

The book tells the stories about Chatterton and Mattera, chapters are given over to their life, miniature biographies if you like and what stories they are, it tells how Mattera was a schoolboy friend with the son of one of New York’s top Mafia bosses.

It tells the story of how Chatterton and Mattera got the bug for diving, the dangers involved, the thrill of diving comes alive, even if like myself you have never donned a scuba suit you can sense the thrill that comes from exploring the deep. I just wish after reading this book that I was thirty years younger and in good health, I might have taken scuba diving up as a hobby, prior to reading this book I have never gone further out than chest deep whilst on holiday in the Channel Islands!

This is a book, which again I might never have read in the past but am very pleased that I now have. It is well written but at times there is a bit of repetition, but that is forgiveable as it does lend to the amount of research that Mattera in particular carried out, flying to Spain for example to read documents in the Madrid Library; and also to the continuity of the read as both divers and their small team battle against the politics and amount of money (hundreds of thousands of dollars) that they are getting through in their battle to discover the Golden Fleece.

Did Chatterton and Mattera find what they set out to find? I am not saying but it does have a rather poignant ending.

Altogether a rather educational book about pirates from a bygone age, which has given me an appetite for more. And they never did say that famous line….”Shiver me timbers”…..or did they??

4.5 out of 5 mushroom heads.’
Gout Man
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