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Book Review: Pirate Hunters (2015)

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It sounds like the stuff of children’s story books: Caribbean pirates fighting a pitched battle with the Royal Navy in the seventeenth century, modern day treasure hunters searching for the pirate shipwreck, inter personal tension amongst the searching team and a race against time. It’s the story of a merchant ship captain who “stole the great ship he commanded, the Golden Fleece, and embarked on a piracy rampage, a genuine good guy gone bad in the 1680s, the Golden Age of Piracy.” (p.4). What’s more, it’s all true.

Pirate Hunters (2015) by Robert Kurson tells the story of how three very different men, Tracy Bowden, John Chatterton and John Mattera, joined forces to search for a legendary pirate ship. A ship commanded by Captain Joseph Bannister; but it’s not a simple or straight forward story. Diving in remote Caribbean waters to search from an ancient shipwreck may sound glamorous – but it’s not. Harsh and unrelenting living and working conditions would take their toll on young men, let alone middle aged men. When this is combined with the steady haemorrhaging of funds, the constant threat from other treasure hunters and imminent changes in the law that would end treasure hunting, it creates a toxic cocktail.

Robert Kurson vividly captures the tension within and friction between team members, as well as the highs and lows of the whole expedition. He reveals how painstaking searches in library archives around the world, understanding Captain Joseph Bannister and the Pirate Code, together with years of methodical searching enabled them to eventually find the wreck site.

Pirate Hunters certainly tells a dramatic and intriguing story of the life and career of Captain Joseph Bannister – and it is an amazing story. From seizing the ship he was commanding to his initial capture. His audacious escapes from captivity, pitched battles against the Royal Navy, to his apparent hanging from the yard arm of HMS Drake in 1687. However, we are left to wonder ‘was the man hung really Joseph Bannister. Would such a man have allowed himself to be found so easily and so meekly arrested? Why he was hung and his body thrown overboard within miles of the British Governors residence rather than tried and convicted in a court of law?’ You can decide.

An engaging feature of the book is the way Robert Kurson weaves the story of Joseph Bannister with pen portraits of the three main characters. He also supplements the book with numerous photographs and charts, maps and sketches, as well as notes on his sources and an extensive index.

Epilogue: In many children’s story books they all live happily ever after. Unfortunately this is not true of the salvage of the Golden Fleece. Disputes arose between the salvors which resulted in legal action. At the time Pirate Hunters was published the action was ongoing.


Pirate Hunters (2015)

  • by Robert Kurson
  • Publisher – Elliott and Thompson Limited
  •  306 pp
  • ISBN 9781783962198

Robert Kurson was awarded a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and a degree in law from Harvard Law School. His award winning stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine and Esquire.

Other novels include Shadow Divers (2004), Crashing Through (2007) and Rocket Men (2018). Robert lives in Chicago.


Find out more about the reviewer, Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

Dr Fred Lockwood is Emeritus Professor of Learning and Teaching, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver and dived in the waters of Central America and Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, Australasia and the Pacific Islands. Follow Fred at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 180: Dawn Kernagis

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Dawn Kernagis

Gemma and Ian chat to Dawn Kernagis.  Dawn joined DEEP in 2023 as the Director of Scientific Research.   DEEP is an ocean technology and exploration company with a mission to ‘Make Humans Aquatic.’ DEEP’s undersea habitat and submersible systems, combined with multi-phased diver and human performance training, will create the next evolution of subsea science, research, and exploration capabilities.   Dawn is a NASA-trained NEEMO Aquanaut, Explorer’s Club Fellow and Women Divers Hall of Fame Inductee and who is also tasked to establish DEEP’s first US presence in North Carolina.   Dawn has also been a diver with numerous underwater exploration, research, and conservation projects since 1993, including the mapping and record-setting exploration of some of the deepest underwater caves in the world.

https://www.deep.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawn-kernagis-995383152/

The BiG Scuba Podcast is brought to you by Narked at 90.   “Beyond Technical”   Narked at 90    If you are thinking of moving across to tech diving or completely new to diving, Narked at 90 can advise and guide on the best equipment and set up for your personal or commercial requirements  https://www.narkedat90.com/.  There is currently a code for you to use for purchases and the code is  BIGSCUBA2024.

If you are interested in the INSTA360 action camera we discussed then please click this link:   https://www.insta360.com/sal/x3?utm_term=INRAI8S

We hope you have enjoyed this episode of The BiG Scuba Podcast.  Please give us ★★★★★, leave a review, and tell your friends.   Contact Gemma and Ian with your messages, ideas and feedback via The BiG Scuba Bat Phone    +44 7810 005924   or use our social media platforms.   To keep up to date with the latest news, follow us:

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🎧You can listen to the BiG Scuba Podcast on all major podcast platforms including …. iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify and Stitcher 😀.  ISSN Number 2752-6127

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The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 173: DEEP – Making Humans Aquatic

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Gemma and Ian visited DEEP and were hosted by Phil Short, Research Diving, Training Lead, and were given a tour of the facility at Avonmouth and then over to the Campus at Tidenham.

DEEP is evolving how humans access, explore and inhabit underwater environments. Through flexible, modular and mobile subsea habitats that allow humans to live undersea up to 200m for up to 28 days, work-class submarines, and advanced human performance research, DEEP completely transforms what we are capable of underwater and how we conduct undersea science and research.

www.deep.com

You can listen to Episode 173 of the BiG Scuba Podcast here.

We hope you have enjoyed this episode of The BiG Scuba Podcast.  Please give us ★★★★★, leave a review, and tell your friends about us as each share and like makes a difference.   Contact Gemma and Ian with your messages, ideas and feedback via The BiG Scuba Bat Phone    +44 7810 005924   or use our social media platforms.   To keep up to date with the latest news, follow us:

We are on Instagram                     @thebigscuba

We are on Facebook                      @thebigscuba

We are in LinkedIn                          https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian%F0%9F%A6%88-last-325b101b7/

The BiG Scuba Website                  www.thebigscuba.com

Amazon Store :                                https://www.amazon.co.uk/shop/thebigscuba

Visit   https://www.patreon.com/thebigscubapodcast and subscribe – Super quick and easy to do and it makes a massive difference. Thank you.

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