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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.

Miscellaneous Blogs

Jeff chats to… Anca Vaida – Doctor, Actor, Director, Writer and Producer – about her love of Scuba Diving (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Anca Vaida – Doctor (Consultant Psychiatrist), award winning Actor, Director, Writer, Producer and Scuba Diver, about her love of diving.

Anca is a Romanian Actor, Director, Writer and Producer, who trained at East 15 Acting school, London. She has won seven acting awards at a variety of international film festivals for playing the role of Dr Alex Ionescu in the TV series ‘Psyched!’, which she also wrote, directed and produced.

Some of Anca’s most notable projects include Crossing Continents on BBC radio, the film Can We Order First? which premiered at the Berlin Short Film Festival, the play Sorry, My Compassion is on the Blink at the Pleasance Theatre, London, and the play Fine and Dandy at the King’s Head Theatre.

A keen diver, Anca got her PADI Open Water Certification in 2012 and has gone on to dive in Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Dahab in Egypt, as well as in Lefkada in Greece, The Cape Verde Islands and Miami, USA.

In her spare time, when not diving, Anca is also a Doctor (Consultant Psychiatrist) with 13 years’ experience in the NHS.

Find out more about Anca at: https://www.spotlight.com/5491-3425-9331


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Jeff chats to… Craig Waller, Underwater Lighting Technician on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Craig Waller, Underwater Lighting Technician on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Craig is a Key Grip and Lighting Director with 10,000s of hours of Set Experience.

In Craig’s own words:

I started my career when I was in my first year of college.  I always had that creative side of the brain that needed to be followed as a career.  I thought that would be in designing engineering pieces but wasn’t happy about the idea of an office cubicle and drafting table.

I accidentally found my way onto a big commercial job for a week and decided “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO”.   I made it my career after that. This is a quick list of recent and big projects in my 35 yrs of TV / Film / Photography.

Most Recently:

  • “Black Panther 2” – UW Lighting Technician / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
  • “Stranger Things” Season 4 – UW Lighting Technician / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
  • “Suicide Squad 2” – UW Gaffer / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
  • NASCAR / FOX Sports 1 – Network TV Lighting Director – 7 years / 700 races of Live BIG track TV shows
  • 10,000s of commercials / music videos / tv shows

I started diving when I was 18 years old with my OW and then AOW with PADI. I was diving with lots of friends in the late 80s and early 90s and then moved onto Kayaking. I got my daughter into diving when she turned 14 and have picked up where I left off.

I have approx 5000 dives now and spend most of my free time diving.

Here are my certs:

  • OW – AOW 1989
  • Adv Nitrox / Deco 2020
  • Cavern – Intro Cave 2021
  • CCR Tech – Fathom – 2021

You can find out more at www.craigwaller.com


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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