Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson


I picked up Robert Kurson’s latest book Pirate Hunters after really enjoying its predecessor. Shadow Divers was about the discovery of a German submarine that had sunk off the coast of New Jersey. I was hooked on that book, as Kurson talked about the divers’ near death experiences, the eerie feeling of exploring a ship full of the corpses of young enemy combatants, and the research necessary to positively identify the vessel. It was the story of adventure and discovery that kept me enthralled until the last page.

Unfortunately, lightening doesn’t strike twice. Pirate Hunters is a perfectly adequate book that never managed to grip me. In fact, the most interesting parts of the book occurred when Kurson referenced that German submarine from his first book. Part of the problem is that treasure hunters aren’t as interesting as the deep-sea Sherlock Holmes-types that make up the shadow diver team.

The book follows three divers/treasure hunters: John Chatterton, Tracy Bowden and John Mattera. Enthralled by the romantic stories of the pirate life, they decide to look for the wreck of a 17th century pirate ship off the coast of the Dominican Republic. The ship was commanded by Joseph Bannister, an English sea captain who went rogue and stole his ship, the Golden Fleece. The boat sake in 1686 after battling British forces.

69-year-old Bodwin, pretty sure he knew the ship’s final resting place, enlists Chatterton and Mattera to look for the ship. They can’t find it and the book sputters for a long time as they look, go back to the library and research, argue with each other and then look again. Rinse, repeat. It’s also a race against time, because Unesco has been cracking down on treasure hunters and their noble mission to lift stolen loot. I started feeling like grumpy Indiana Jones (generally a pretty good way to feel, tbh).


This books called an adventure story, but it wasn’t very exciting. Instead, it was about a bunch of guys with fancy equipment bickering about where they should look for a ship. Kurson also writes for magazines like Rolling Stone. I think this story would have been better if it were condensed into a magazine article. The story isn’t compelling enough to last 275 pages. Pirate Hunters wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon, but it’s not a book I would recommend.

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