Ship of Gold

In which I post about the most recent non-fiction book I read (#87), and start counting the letters I send to see if I can make it one per month for six months (#8).

I didn’t expect to read all five of my non-fiction books in the first year of working on my list. Apparently, I underestimated myself. So I’m going to continue to post about my non-fiction, in part because I just finished the book that I was looking for when I picked up A Brave Vessel, and it was worlds more interesting.

The hubs’ Aunt Nancy recommended Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea when we went up to visit in August. I’ll be writing her a card today to let her know how much I enjoyed it, which starts me on my at least one card per month for six months goal. I’ve also been recommending it in turn to everyone I think might find it interesting.

Hello, blog people. I think you might find this book interesting.

I was fascinated by this book. It tells the story of the sinking of the SS Central America on her voyage from Gold Rush California back to the East Coast and the efforts to find and recover artifacts from the wreck in the 1980s. She wrecked in 8,000 feet of water, which required the man behind the recovery, Tommy Thompson, to invent new technologies and ways of recovering the treasure. All while convincing a bunch of very rich people that the “impossible” was within reach, or would be with the help of considerable millions in donations.

But the book also touched on the strange legal fictions involved with claiming and excavating a shipwreck. Did you know that you have to sue the ship? You must bring an artifact to the court, which arrests it in the process of claiming jurisdiction and granting access to the finders.

The account of the shipwreck is heartbreaking and gripping. And, unlike Brave Vessel, there is no speculation. The wreck’s loss of life and gold were covered extensively in period newspapers, providing thousands of articles and accounts to the folks researching to find the ship, and the author. Kinder weaves reflections from survivors of the wreck together almost seamlessly. And even though that inherently gives away who survived, he maintains the suspense.

There’s also a couple of local connections that added to my interest. The survivors were sailed into Norfolk, and a Norfolk court claimed jurisdiction over the wreck, pushing the law into the future. (Previously, the courts would only claim jurisdiction over the traditional three-mile-limit. That hadn’t been challenged until Thompson developed the technology to recover artifacts from the deep ocean.) And the Captain who went down with the Central America was later honored by the town named for him — Herndon, Virginia.

It’s a good book. If this sounded interesting to you, you should definitely read it. I’m not doing it justice here.