Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II Info

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New York Times Bestseller 
In the
tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian
Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting
adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a
great historical mystery–and make history themselves.
For
John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a
sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths
that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as
perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and
beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of
sunken ships.
But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous
divers were prepared for what they found 230 feet below the surface, in
the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey: a
World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of
twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bones–all buried under
decades of accumulated sediment.
No identifying marks were visible
on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No
historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men
had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply
could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location.
Over the
next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve
the mystery. Some of them would not live to see its end. Chatterton and
Kohler, at first bitter rivals, would be drawn into a friendship that
deepened to an almost mystical sense of brotherhood with each other and
with the drowned U-boat sailors–former enemies of their country.
As the men’s marriages frayed under the pressure of a shared
obsession, their dives grew more daring, and each realized that he was
hunting more than the identities of a lost U-boat and its nameless
crew.
Author Robert Kurson’s account of this quest is at
once thrilling and emotionally complex, and it is written with a vivid
sense of what divers actually experience when they meet the dangers of
the ocean’s underworld. The story of Shadow Divers often
seems too amazing to be true, but it all happened, two hundred thirty
feet down, in the deep blue sea.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II:

4

Nov 14, 2017

As a kid one of my favorite television shows was Jacques Cousteau's Undersea Kingdom. I was enthralled with the idea of scuba divers swimming with dolphins and looking for sunken treasures and video taping their findings for the world to see. While Cousteau's weekly program showed coral reefs and shallow water scuba diving that many tourists engage in, he on occasion aired a program about deep sea divers searching for the sea's mysteries. When the nonfiction book club on goodreads selected As a kid one of my favorite television shows was Jacques Cousteau's Undersea Kingdom. I was enthralled with the idea of scuba divers swimming with dolphins and looking for sunken treasures and video taping their findings for the world to see. While Cousteau's weekly program showed coral reefs and shallow water scuba diving that many tourists engage in, he on occasion aired a program about deep sea divers searching for the sea's mysteries. When the nonfiction book club on goodreads selected Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson as one of the group's monthly reads, I had my curiosity piqued. Combining two of my interests, history and marine life, Kurson takes his readers on an adventure to discover the identity of one of the last World War II vintage ship wrecks. Although not as breathtaking as Jacques Cousteau's videos, I knew that I would be in for a death defying ride.

Bill Nagle was considered a legend in the North Atlantic deep sea diving community. Engaging in multiple dives to offshore ship wrecks each summer, Nagle dove for the sheer pleasure of it and to unlock clues to the mysteries of the deep. His legend grew to mythic proportions when he rescued the bell from the Andrea Doria and soon began to charter trips to various deep sea wrecks from his boat the Seeker. Although his sport has its risks, Nagle took measured risks in all of his dives, obtaining relics from wrecks up and down the Atlantic seaboard. His name growing to become one of the leaders of his sport, one day a chance meeting lead Nagle to secret coordinates of the coast of Brielle, New Jersey where laying on the ocean's floor was a sunken U-boat. Quickly assembling a team of only the best divers to submerge to the risky depth of 230 feet, the race to discover the mystery of a sunken World War II vintage submarine had begun.

Emerging as the leaders of the quest to obtain the identity of the Who-Boat were John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, Kurson's leading informants on this project. Both men came of age during the Vietnam years, never attended college, and felt more at home in the sea than on land. Chatterton dove to find himself and Kohler, on this mission especially, to find the identity of seamen in order to bring a sense of closure to their families. The two divers despite their at times differing ideologies were kindred spirits. Between 1991 and 1997 either on dives or during research, the two divers stopped at nothing to find out the identity of the mystery U-boat. Whether it was in the form of meetings at restaurants, late night phone calls, or fact seeking missions to the United States Naval Archives in Washington, D.C., Chatterton and Kohler would not rest physically or emotionally until they knew for certain the identity of their mystery U-boat.

With the divers as his guides, Kurson pieces together the difficulty in solving a unique case. I gravitate toward fictional mysteries in between heavier reads to clear my palette, but Kurson has introduced his readers to a truthful mystery. What is the identity of the U-boat? When did it sink and why? In what part of the submarine could divers finally discover the truth to its identity? The search was not without peril as three divers died and others nearly drowned during dives to the wreck. Chatterton and Kohler would not relent on their quest, both at the expense of their marriages. The men would question naval authorities and mentally videotape the rooms of a U-boat both underwater and in museums in order to finally piece together the clues that would solve this great mystery. Kurson was fortunate to be along for the ride.

Bill Nagle was not alive when this mystery was solved, succumbing to cirrhosis after a lifetime of drinking. Chatterton and Kohler persisted even after many members of Nagle's original dive team aboard the Seeker dropped out. After six years they would not rest until they knew the identity of the U-boat and were able to deliver the news to the victim's families after over fifty years of uncertainties. Even though at times I grew frustrated especially as I came to know the dangers of deep sea diving, I remained with Chatterton and Kohler for the duration of their mission. While not a book I would necessarily choose had it not been a group read, I was enthralled by both the history lessons and secrets of the deep, which Kurson unravels over the course of this compelling book.

3.75 stars ...more
4

Nov 17, 2009

Things that don't interest me:

--military history
--WWII
--submarines
--other ocean-going vessels
--maritime terminology
--scuba diving

Oddly enough, these are what this book is about and whenever real life forced me to set it down and walk away for awhile, I spent an absurd amount of time thinking about it and frantically wondering, "what next? Tell me more! I need to know more!" I think that means Robert Kurson might be a brilliant writer.

My husband is a U.S. Navy submarine veteran and belongs to a Things that don't interest me:

--military history
--WWII
--submarines
--other ocean-going vessels
--maritime terminology
--scuba diving

Oddly enough, these are what this book is about and whenever real life forced me to set it down and walk away for awhile, I spent an absurd amount of time thinking about it and frantically wondering, "what next? Tell me more! I need to know more!" I think that means Robert Kurson might be a brilliant writer.

My husband is a U.S. Navy submarine veteran and belongs to a local base of crusty submariners (most of the members are WWII era gents) and whenever I've attended one of their events with him, the technical discussions about submarine qualifications and specifications bores me to tears. And yet I've been talking my husband's ear off all week about German U-boats. He keeps looking at me like he doesn't know me. ...more
5

Dec 25, 2008

Holy moly. I didn't think that this book would be as amazing as it was. I had thought it'd be a rather dry telling of an awesome discovery, but it was so much more than that.

Mr. Kurson was able to tell John Chatterton and Richie Kohler's stories so that it read just like that, a story. His tone was honest and even, his research was obvious. There were points where I had to remind myself that this wasn't fiction.

I truly appreciated the history that Mr. Kurson injected into this entire book. Not Holy moly. I didn't think that this book would be as amazing as it was. I had thought it'd be a rather dry telling of an awesome discovery, but it was so much more than that.

Mr. Kurson was able to tell John Chatterton and Richie Kohler's stories so that it read just like that, a story. His tone was honest and even, his research was obvious. There were points where I had to remind myself that this wasn't fiction.

I truly appreciated the history that Mr. Kurson injected into this entire book. Not only the history of the sub and the men who lost their lives for their country, but the history of wreck-diving, Chatterton and Kohler's histories, and the history of Bill Nagle.

I kept reading through the different chapters thinking, "that's just craziness", or "no WAY!", but I couldn't put it down. The way Mr. Kurson described some of the last moments of wreck-divers that had been lost had me occasionally holding my breath and grieving the outcome. I think that's an amazing feat for a novel such as this. I was genuinely saddened by the losses of divers, and the reconstructed history and eventual loss of the men aboard the U-boat.

I'm amazed by the sheer dedication from Mr. Chatterton and Mr. Kohler. Not only did they want to figure this mystery out, they wanted to do so without giving in to the "treasure hunting" aspect and without disturbing the bones left behind. Their trips all over the world, their passion for discovering the truth, their desire to correct history (and how sad is this - they found that written history is not infallible, that sometimes assumptions were changed and presented as truth in order to make an assessor feel better about his job), and Mr. Kohler's desire to let the families of the U-Boat men know the truth is something that I appreciated, applauded and agreed with.

They risked so much to put an actual name to the boat, not settling for assumptions. They spent years on this project, refusing to quit when their family, friends and colleagues told them it was time to walk away. They didn't give in to the "easy", and instead focused on what was right, and that in itself made their story a magnificent read. ...more
4

Feb 14, 2016

Akin to "Shadow Divers," I know what it's like to have a deep-shrouded mystery gnawing at you, where the answer is out there, somewhere, but finding the answer is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I was adopted as an infant, and spent my entire adult life sifting through murky waters, so to speak, for clues. No joy. Zero, zip, zilch. But joy of joys, just last week through an act of faith after years of searching, I found my birth siblings and my father!!! And I love each and every one of Akin to "Shadow Divers," I know what it's like to have a deep-shrouded mystery gnawing at you, where the answer is out there, somewhere, but finding the answer is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I was adopted as an infant, and spent my entire adult life sifting through murky waters, so to speak, for clues. No joy. Zero, zip, zilch. But joy of joys, just last week through an act of faith after years of searching, I found my birth siblings and my father!!! And I love each and every one of them!!! Such a blessing.

Needless to say, then, I'm a bit behind on my reading and reviewing, being such a joyous and exciting week; and a bit discombobulating; not to mention, RSD triggering. But hey, the best things in life often require healthy doses of patience, tenacity, grace, and a whole lot of love. Making you dig deep to find what you are made of.

Just like John Chatterton and Richie Kohler. Through thick and thin, solace and strife, headaches and heartaches, they tested themselves as divers, historians, companions, and above all - as men, staying the course to solve the mystery of the German U-Boat sunk off the waters of New Jersey where no sub should have been. In doing so, they rewrote history (or rather, corrected history as previously recorded) and gave closure to many German families.

In which, non of it came easy. It took several years and dives, sifting through archives, traveling abroad, many thousands of dollars, and three deep water divers losing their lives before the u-boat could be identified with 99.9% certainty.

Author Robert Kurson did an excellent job researching and documenting this historically relevant and utterly fascinating gem of a story. His suspense-building writing style drew me in and held me captive, balancing action with backstory and dive specific details. He also captures the uniqueness and tenacity of the east coast divers brotherhood. And he gives enough general background information and industry data for clarity, but without bogging down in micro details of limited or vague importance.

Though I must make mention, Kurson isn't shy about using expletives and/or surly language aplenty, in both dialogue and text. Mostly it was easy enough to skim and skip over. Yes, I give him props for adhering to authenticity when direct quoting. However, aside from direct quotes, I'd much prefer reading profanity free text. But hey, that's just me and my cup of tea. To each his own flavor. :-)

FOUR **** Adventure Enthralling and Historically Fascinating **** STARS ...more
4

Apr 22, 2014

Well, I've done some calculations, and it turns out that there are precisely one-bagillion ways to die while deep water diving. As I'm neither Boyle, nor Dalton nor Henry I won't be going into grave (as in watery grave) detail vis-à-vis the laws of physics that make humans so ill-equipped to brave the pelagic depths of the sea.* Things like nitrogen narcosis can impair even a master diver's decision-making skills, and those decisions can often be fatal. Wreck diving, the subject of this Well, I've done some calculations, and it turns out that there are precisely one-bagillion ways to die while deep water diving. As I'm neither Boyle, nor Dalton nor Henry I won't be going into grave (as in watery grave) detail vis-à-vis the laws of physics that make humans so ill-equipped to brave the pelagic depths of the sea.* Things like nitrogen narcosis can impair even a master diver's decision-making skills, and those decisions can often be fatal. Wreck diving, the subject of this riveting read, adds a bevy of other hazards to the diving danger equation.



By the time you've thrown together the variables specific to John Chatterton and Richie Kohler 's quest to identify a previously unexplored (and undocumented) U-boat found off the coast of New Jersey, splash time seems like suicide. However, this isn't just a story about people doing something extremely dangerous (which, admittedly, has an appeal). There's a reason that others have likened this book to John Krakauer's Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm . Shadow Divers is a story with rich characters who are woven into a broader history that seems to almost inevitably lead to the adventure at hand.



This book will also get your heart pumping (which is ok, since your oxygen gauge isn't running low) if you're at all into WWII military history. Author Robert Kurson does a great job of making this about mystery and curiosity, while keeping a respectful distance from the politics of it all (not in a Hitler was a great guy kind of way, in a everyone wants to know what became of their loved ones kind of way).



I'm likely not doing this one justice, because it's the details and the slow build of the relationships, the thirst for knowledge and the love of the unknown that made this so worthwhile.

* If, like me, you find studying the various gas laws to be a fun leisure time activity, check out Andy Davis' The Physics of Diving page

Bonus example of something you do not want to happen while diving:

...more
5

Jan 18, 2017

This is not only the most thrilling non-fiction book I've EVER read, it is one of the most exciting, thrilling books of any genre!

So many times the description for a true story says, “reads like an adventure story”, and then you read it and it's boring. This—THIS is flat out adventure!

The “shadow divers” of the title are deep wreck divers, a sport that consists of only a few hundred diehards. And “diehards” is perhaps a great description, because this sport is incredibly deadly. By the 1980's, This is not only the most thrilling non-fiction book I've EVER read, it is one of the most exciting, thrilling books of any genre!

So many times the description for a true story says, “reads like an adventure story”, and then you read it and it's boring. This—THIS is flat out adventure!

The “shadow divers” of the title are deep wreck divers, a sport that consists of only a few hundred diehards. And “diehards” is perhaps a great description, because this sport is incredibly deadly. By the 1980's, scuba equipment still hadn't evolved much beyond when Jacques Cousteau helped invent it. The limit for recreactional diving is roughly 130 feet, and there are multiple small things that can go wrong and kill you. The deep wreckers go down to 200 feet or even deeper. Below 66 feet, a diver's judgment and focus and soberness decline due to Nitrogen Narcosis. Divers have died even though they have plenty of air, are not trapped, etc, because they have Narcosis and can't figure out where to go or what to do. At 130 feet most divers are impaired. By 170 feet hallucinations are normal. At 200 feet any tiny miniscule event can lead to panic, any major significant event (low air, losing your anchor line) might seem like nothing—and both of those can cause death.

The descriptions of the dives, the hair-raising ecapes, and the tiny mistakes that led to deaths are written in an enthralling manner. The idea of participating in this sport is terrifying.

For the divers, the biggest deal, the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby, is discovering a new wreck. The divers in this book are elated to find a new wreck that no one else knows about. In a pact of secrecy they go down to check it out only to discover that it is no ordinary wreck, it is a German WWII Uboat. Right off the coast of New Jersey. A Uboat that doesn't exist according to records, a Uboat that can't possibly be there.

Divers Chadderton and Kohler become obsessed with figuring out what Uboat this is. As this is before you could Google information, this became a six year quest that involved letters, international phone calls, meetings with military records administrators, flying to Germany, arguing with historians who are happy with the status quo—and ending up actually rewriting history.

The adventure took its toll—three men died while diving the wreck. Another drank himself to death. Both Kohler's and Chadderton's marriages ended. After risking their lives to an insane degree they retrieve uncontrovertable proof of which Uboat this is.

I love books where new information is presented in an entertaining fashion, and this book is the best there is. I was put through a wringer of emotions, everything from terror to sadness, from excitement to grief. I was completely pulled in to this story—even though it is true it is a story by any definition.

I recommend this to EVERYONE, no matter what type of books you normally read!! If you like history, adventures, WWII, pirates, ships or shipwrecks, diving, thrillers, survival, science--or just enjoy a rollickin' good tale, then

Read.
This.
BOOK!! ...more
4

Jul 17, 2019

Finding the book Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon incredibly entertaining and informative, I took the recommendation of a friend and put this one on hold at my library.

I downloaded the audio version and I didn't care for the narrator quite as much as I did with ROCKET MEN. (I see now there is a version narrated by Campbell Scott! That one was not available at my library.) (Not everyone is a Ray Porter!) Also, this version Finding the book Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon incredibly entertaining and informative, I took the recommendation of a friend and put this one on hold at my library.

I downloaded the audio version and I didn't care for the narrator quite as much as I did with ROCKET MEN. (I see now there is a version narrated by Campbell Scott! That one was not available at my library.) (Not everyone is a Ray Porter!) Also, this version seemed to have been adapted from CDs because everyone once in a while the narrator announced to go to the next one. Lastly, the quality of the recording wasn't that great either: it sounded static-y at times.

Audio portion aside, this was an extremely informative book regarding deep sea diving. Now that I've read it, I know that it's something I will never do. I can't even walk around above ground without stubbing toes and running into things. During a deep sea dive, any stumble, any unsure footing could and probably would result in death. As would snagging your line, rubbing up against something abrasive, running out of air or resurfacing too soon. And I haven't even mentioned narcosis yet.

I also learned a lot about history and history books, in general. Turns out a lot of the time, the facts you think you know are not the facts. Just ask the divers in this book who worked for YEARS trying to identify the German U-boat they found off the Jersey shore. They worked tirelessly to discover where the boat came from, who was on it, etc..

Overall, I found this book interesting and informative and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subjects I mentioned above.

*Thank you to my local library for the free download! Libraries RULE! ...more
3

Sep 06, 2008

This is an action-packed adventure story. An adrenalin thrill. Make sure that is what you want before you start.

It is also a non-fiction book about the discovery of an unidentified submarine where none was said to exist. Which submarine was it? Who were the men that discovered it? What was done to discover its provenance and how it came to be there? Who were the dead men on that U-boat? That is the theme of this book. It can be tackled in several ways, two of which are to make it into a This is an action-packed adventure story. An adrenalin thrill. Make sure that is what you want before you start.

It is also a non-fiction book about the discovery of an unidentified submarine where none was said to exist. Which submarine was it? Who were the men that discovered it? What was done to discover its provenance and how it came to be there? Who were the dead men on that U-boat? That is the theme of this book. It can be tackled in several ways, two of which are to make it into a thrilling adventure story that will scare you sh*t~ess or through a calm, balanced presentation of known facts. Yeah, the latter is a bit more of an academic approach. What are you looking for? This is purely a matter of preference and/or mood.

There is another issue to be considered. Are you interested in understanding the psychological underpinnings of the prime actors? I don't think the book does that very well. There is a huge difference between knowing "what Mr. X did then and there" and understanding why that person made the choices he made. I never came to understand John Chatterton or Richie Kohler. Not Bill Nagle, nor Chris Rouse, nor Chris Rouse Jr. The book does state what they did but I just do not understand what motivated these guys. What makes them tick. I just do not understand. Perhaps people are simply born different. This book does not provide a psychological study. There are holes in the information if that is what you are after, and this is what I was looking for. One example: the book doesn't explain why custody of Kohler's children was switched between the parents. If we want to understand Kohler we need to know this. Another instance was when we are told how Chatterton’s mother saw to it that he was not allowed to return to Vietnam. We are told she spoke to people. Who? What did John do to fight these decisions? Nothing is said. If you want to understand the person these are important points. These are just two examples, but there are more. The book presents the actions of the people, but I still never come to understand these men.

I highly recommend this book if you want a thrill and are curious about marine warfare during WW2. The facts related to this dive are thoroughly presented, and you will be scared to death. This starts immediately when at the very beginning you learn of the dangers coupled to of deep wreck diving - nitrogen narcosis and decompression sickness. Don’t think those are the only two dangers!

The narrator of the audiobook is Michael Prichard. He reinforces the tone of the text. So, if you want to be scared, the audiobook is a great choice.

**************

At the beginning:
This is scaring me to death!
...more
4

Feb 02, 2019

*Diving for history’s sake.*

"In contemplating the Doria's tilted grandness, he could glimpse shadows of the secrets great shipwrecks offer those who see with their minds."

This was my second Robert Kurson book after Rocket Men, and it’s clear he’s working from the same blue print.

Highlight event, then background on event, deeper history on individuals involved, minor related events, final analysis of main event ... more or less. Very formulaic, not necessarily in a bad way.

A very dear friend *Diving for history’s sake.*

"In contemplating the Doria's tilted grandness, he could glimpse shadows of the secrets great shipwrecks offer those who see with their minds."

This was my second Robert Kurson book after Rocket Men, and it’s clear he’s working from the same blue print.

Highlight event, then background on event, deeper history on individuals involved, minor related events, final analysis of main event ... more or less. Very formulaic, not necessarily in a bad way.

A very dear friend of mine lost her mother to a deep sea diving accident, so the life threatening aspect of the book was all the more vivid while reading.

Whether it’s rockets in space or submarines on the ocean floor—Kurson knows how to weave a thrilling true life adventure tale.

"In the course of two weeks he had contact with a U-boat ace, a blimp pilot, a historian, and the president of a U-boat club. Each gave accounts of history unavailable in books and sometimes at odds with books. To Chatterton, who had hungered since childhood for better explanations, for the chance to see for himself, this stretching of history's canvas was a revelation."

"Reading about men did not seem like book work to Kohler. Instead, he found himself transported; he could feel the inside of a U-boat not just as a machine but as the backdrop to a human being’s life. He could feel the grueling and claustrophobic conditions under which these soldiers waged war, the coldness of a live torpedo next to a man’s sleeping face, the smell of six-week-old underwear, the spittle in the expletives of men crammed too close to one another for too long, the splatter of a single icy condensation droplet on the neck of an enlisted man finishing a six-hour shift. Technical information interested him, yes, but technology did not make his heart pound—nothing did—like the idea of a U-boat man waiting helplessly while Allied depth charges tumbled through the water toward his submarine, the ominously dainty
ping
.
.
. ping
.
.
. ping
.
.
.
of Allied sonar a prelude to imminent explosion."

"Life is a matter of luck, and the odds in favor of success are in no way enhanced by extreme caution."
— WWII German U-Boat Commander Eric Topp ...more
4

Jun 26, 2019

Shadow Diving is an in depth, or “deep dive” (sorry, the devil made me do it :) study into the profession of wreck diving. John Chatterton and Richard Koehler are premier world class scuba divers who discover a sunk submarine off the coast of New Jersey.

This is a subject I knew nothing about and the author nicely tied in the art of scuba diving, the discovery of the submarine, the WWII U boat history and the lives of the submarine seamen. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this.
5

Aug 12, 2012

When I was around ten years old my dad handed me this book. Looking back on it, I'm not too sure why he did so.

This is what I remember: I heard the word "motherfucker" for the first time, and reflected that it's one hell of a curse word. I became engrossed in the truth and real journalism in this novel--it made me realize the mysteries of the world and the great depths of the sea. Mostly, though, I remember loving the men and their devotion to this wreck. I remember them perservering through it When I was around ten years old my dad handed me this book. Looking back on it, I'm not too sure why he did so.

This is what I remember: I heard the word "motherfucker" for the first time, and reflected that it's one hell of a curse word. I became engrossed in the truth and real journalism in this novel--it made me realize the mysteries of the world and the great depths of the sea. Mostly, though, I remember loving the men and their devotion to this wreck. I remember them perservering through it all to try to uncover the truth about something they had fallen in love with, in a way.

I guess he had wanted to entertain me while I was stuck with him at his office the whole day. Maybe he wanted to teach me a lesson about dedication and freindship. Maybe he wanted to teach me about my Jewish heritage and submarines and warfare and such, somehow.

I remember loving this book and not putting it down until I was finished. Mostly, though, I just remember asking my dad what a motherfucker was, hah! ...more
5

Oct 31, 2007

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Just as on the Titanic, it is U-869’s ghosts that do not let her sleep, crying out of the depths for their story to be told.

2 amateur “shadow” divers moved beyond reason, spent 6 years of their lives in study, research, planning, travel, and dangerous deep sea diving (risking death countless times, three men did in fact die while diving the wreck) to uncover the identity of a lost WW2 submarine discovered in 1991 on the floor of the Atlantic just off the coast of New Jersey. It is a flawlessly Just as on the Titanic, it is U-869’s ghosts that do not let her sleep, crying out of the depths for their story to be told.

2 amateur “shadow” divers moved beyond reason, spent 6 years of their lives in study, research, planning, travel, and dangerous deep sea diving (risking death countless times, three men did in fact die while diving the wreck) to uncover the identity of a lost WW2 submarine discovered in 1991 on the floor of the Atlantic just off the coast of New Jersey. It is a flawlessly researched, creatively written, tale of adventure, mystery, honor and character. Not just the story of the submarine and the German men who sailed her but more so the story of the American men who discovered her identify and in doing so revealed her hidden fate to the world and to the surviving families of the lost crew of U-869.

As a Registered Nurse with experience in trauma, I was enthralled by the author’s attention to detail in describing the physiology of deep sea diving along with its inherent dangers. As the lives of the men connected with the boat and her discovery were fleshed out I felt myself drawn purposefully, by author Robert Kurson, into the mystery and historical aura of the wreck. Like a swiftly turning tide, I was pulled out to sea with all those aboard the “Seeker” searching for truths among the waves of life.

Just as I was finishing the book, I glanced up at a documentary, Titanic's Final Moments: Missing Pieces (in HD), that my husband was watching on the History Chanel and was stunned to see the face of one of the Shadow Divers. John Chatterton is likely now the world’s finest deep sea diver. Tying in with my military studies, he is also a Vietnam veteran, a medic. Both he and fellow Shadow Diver Ritchie Kohler have made a very successful transition from deep sea diver to underwater explorer. A docudrama in words, Shadow Divers has earned its prominent place on my bookshelf inspiring a current of new direction in my adventure reading.

www.uboat.net

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lostsub/

http://www.johnchatterton.com/

http://www.titanic2006.com/

http://uboat.net/boats/u869.htm

http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/W...

http://www.richiekohler.com/

http://www.history.com/shows.do?episo...
...more
5

Jun 17, 2015

This was a fantastic book about a gripping story - part mystery, part history, with more than a little bit of life thrown in. The story of several divers who discover a u-boat 60 miles of the coast of New Jersey - that's right, a NAZI FRICKING SUBMARINE that was so close the submariners in it could have THROWN bombs at us if they wanted, let alone launching torpedoes... and one that was utterly unknown until the 1990s.

The book takes you beyond just the facts of the finding, into the lives of This was a fantastic book about a gripping story - part mystery, part history, with more than a little bit of life thrown in. The story of several divers who discover a u-boat 60 miles of the coast of New Jersey - that's right, a NAZI FRICKING SUBMARINE that was so close the submariners in it could have THROWN bombs at us if they wanted, let alone launching torpedoes... and one that was utterly unknown until the 1990s.

The book takes you beyond just the facts of the finding, into the lives of the divers who first located, then risked their lives to return to the wreck again and again until they had found out what it was and verified what lay within. It takes you into the complicated world of deep sea technical diving - a terrifying world where you either knew someone who had died or knew someone who knew someone who had: never more than a few steps away from the grim reaper in a world man is specifically not designed to go.

The book was riveting, frightening, emotional, elated all in stages, and I cannot recommend it enough. ...more
4

Aug 18, 2015

Liked it, gave it four stars.

The best part, the many and detailed descriptions of searching the u-boat. The hazards, the danger, the insistence of certain divers to keep going back and back again, and yes, back again.

Why I took off one star, I didn't like the main characters. Perhaps I know too many people like this, driven to such exacting precision and perfection they become almost stereotypes of themselves. Or it could be the way the author chose to represent them. I wanted to say (to the Liked it, gave it four stars.

The best part, the many and detailed descriptions of searching the u-boat. The hazards, the danger, the insistence of certain divers to keep going back and back again, and yes, back again.

Why I took off one star, I didn't like the main characters. Perhaps I know too many people like this, driven to such exacting precision and perfection they become almost stereotypes of themselves. Or it could be the way the author chose to represent them. I wanted to say (to the author) yeah, I know, your MC is driven, he's brave, he's courageous, he's a man's man, a hero, actually he's more than a man. Where does he hang up his super-hero cape?

Very good book, though. ...more
4

Dec 31, 2011

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Shadow Divers is a quest story, and, as those often are, a story of obsession. It chronicles the discovery of a sunken U-boat off New Jersey by a group of die-hard wreck divers and their six-year campaign to identify that relic.

In 1991, when Bill Nagle and his small band of fanatics first ran across the sub in question (eventually identified as U-869, sunk in 1945), what we now call “technical diving” was in its gestational period. The equipment hadn’t progressed much past what Jacques Cousteau Shadow Divers is a quest story, and, as those often are, a story of obsession. It chronicles the discovery of a sunken U-boat off New Jersey by a group of die-hard wreck divers and their six-year campaign to identify that relic.

In 1991, when Bill Nagle and his small band of fanatics first ran across the sub in question (eventually identified as U-869, sunk in 1945), what we now call “technical diving” was in its gestational period. The equipment hadn’t progressed much past what Jacques Cousteau would recognize, and a great deal of the knowledge base had been cobbled together from practical experience, cribs from the Navy, guesswork and bravado. A tiny number of loons would ride this thin bubble of safety down 200 or 250 feet through what were usually extremely challenging conditions (cold/heavy currents/low-to-no visibility) to visit historic shipwrecks and collect souvenirs. That some number of them died in the attempt is no surprise.

John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, the two heroes of the story (you know them from the series Deep Sea Detectives), transform what started as an artifact-hunting expedition into a life-consuming obsession that busted both their marriages, nearly killed them, actually killed three of their fellow divers, caused fights and broken friendships, and cost them a great deal of money before they finally succeeded. Kurson spends a lot of time focused on Chatterton and Kohler, including lengthy diversions into their backstories. They were Kurson’s business partners in writing the book, and while Shadow Divers isn’t exactly hagiography, it’s not unexpected that the two men come off perhaps better than they would have in more independent hands.

What Kurson labors mightily to do, but doesn’t quite succeed in the trying, is to make the depths of Chatterton’s and Kohler’s obsessions accessible. There’s lots of explanation, true, and lots of rationalization on both men’s parts. However, as the costs and dangers mount, it’s often difficult for the reader to square the reward with the stakes. You’re required to take a fair amount on faith and ride whatever connection you’re able to form with the men themselves to get through the prolonged dark-night-of-the-soul sequences at the end of Act 2.

Kurson’s writing is fast and atmospheric. He manages large infodumps with enough grace to keep the pace going. He’s able to illuminate the action – which often consists of men inching their way though tiny compartments in zero visibility – in a way that non-divers can fathom and divers can easily imagine. Strangely enough, the chapters that ought to be the most interesting (those reconstructing the sub crew’s last months) are instead flatly journalistic, reading like a newspaper feature rather than the high drama Kurson manages to wring out of the diving sequences. Non-divers will thank Kurson for avoiding much of the gear porn that often clutters the stories of men taking part in highly technical pursuits.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for several years. I’m a diver – advanced open water, EAN, rescue – and I enjoy wrecks, so this ought to have been a perfect read for me. I always found reasons not to get to it, though. This hesitation ultimately boiled down to my reluctance to read highly dramatized accounts of divers dying. (I’ve never seen, and will likely never watch, the film Open Water for the same reason.) When you’re 120 feet down, relying on a collection of rubber and metal to keep you alive and a whole chain of events to get you topside and to shore, you don’t need more bad pictures in your head. Diving wrecks is something I enjoy, not something I feel a need to die for.

Shadow Divers is real-life action/adventure, a portrait of near-insanity, and an exploration of what our inner demons can drive us to. If you enjoy or appreciate ships, history, or discovery stories, or can’t get enough Krakauer or Junger, you should consider this book. If you read Cussler and want to know what underwater exploration is really like, try this. It’s not a neat or happy story, but quests don’t often end neatly or happily.
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5

Apr 18, 2012

This is a great adventure/mystery; a German U-Boat from World War II is found off the coast of New Jersey. But history records do not mention any such submarine in the area. In fact, historical records are shown to be replete with errors and mistaken identities. So which U-Boat is it? What was it doing there? How did it sink?

This is the story of two brave divers, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, and how they solved these mysteries. They risked their lives diving down to 230 feet over the This is a great adventure/mystery; a German U-Boat from World War II is found off the coast of New Jersey. But history records do not mention any such submarine in the area. In fact, historical records are shown to be replete with errors and mistaken identities. So which U-Boat is it? What was it doing there? How did it sink?

This is the story of two brave divers, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, and how they solved these mysteries. They risked their lives diving down to 230 feet over the course of years. Each dive brought them closer to the solution to the mystery. Both men are very experienced in diving at ship wrecks. But their goal is not to scavenge for artifacts. Their goal is to shed light on this mystery, and bring closure to the families of the dead sailors whose skeletons remain aboard the sunken wreck.

These two superb divers came together despite having completely opposite philosophies and experiences. They did not exactly "hit it off" together when they first met. Not until they hashed out their differences did they see each other as colleagues, partners, and friends.

The book interleaves the exploration of the shipwreck with a narrative of the lives of the sailors aboard the U-boat. The story is expertly told, giving the reader a true, intense feeling for the dangers aboard the U-boat, both for the sailors and for the exploring divers. Not a story to be missed! ...more
4

Aug 25, 2017

I believe I read a review of this book recently that stated: Things I'm not interested in, 1.) WW2 U boats, 2.)Deep sea diving 3.) WW2 history of any kind....And yet I LOVED this book! I can honestly say I relate. While I do typically stick to WW2 fiction, I found this read absolutely fascinating. I'm awed by the amount of research that had to go into writing this. And I'm equally awed by the divers that were so committed to revealing the mystery behind this U boat. (Which by the way, was found I believe I read a review of this book recently that stated: Things I'm not interested in, 1.) WW2 U boats, 2.)Deep sea diving 3.) WW2 history of any kind....And yet I LOVED this book! I can honestly say I relate. While I do typically stick to WW2 fiction, I found this read absolutely fascinating. I'm awed by the amount of research that had to go into writing this. And I'm equally awed by the divers that were so committed to revealing the mystery behind this U boat. (Which by the way, was found off the coast of New Jersey?! Yikes! I had no idea any german U boats were ever that close to our shores.) I happened to listen to this via CD. A plus was that when the book ended, there was an interview with the author and Bill Chatterton and Richie Kohler. It was so interesting to hear their voices. You could easily tell how impactful this whole adventure was on all of their lives. ...more
5

Oct 07, 2018

Such a spectacular tale of the characters and mystery behind the discovery of a sunken German submarine off the NJ coast. From the technicalities of deep wreck diving to the lives of U boat sailors in WWII, this incredible true story reads like a Clancy thriller. Literally could not put it down. Bravo, to the discovery itself, and to the author for telling the tale so well.
5

Jul 05, 2017

A thrilling story that's even more compelling because it's a true story.
5

Jun 08, 2017

This was a great recommendation from Emilie! I don't normally read non-fiction, but this was a perfect mix of facts and storytelling. I actually found myself holding my breath during the intense diving scenes.
4

Apr 30, 2016

Not only the date by date survey of a diving project that lasted many years, but also the depth and core story of the reality for the divers who accomplished the answers to the mystery.

Knowing you were going to get the tale of a sunken U boat, I had no idea you would also get the biography to emotional depths and physical conditions for the principles who operated this obsession off "The Seeker". And they did seek, and it did start with obsession. And did end with a more total obsession.

Being Not only the date by date survey of a diving project that lasted many years, but also the depth and core story of the reality for the divers who accomplished the answers to the mystery.

Knowing you were going to get the tale of a sunken U boat, I had no idea you would also get the biography to emotional depths and physical conditions for the principles who operated this obsession off "The Seeker". And they did seek, and it did start with obsession. And did end with a more total obsession.

Being within the U-505 in Chicago during different periods of my life, I knew the spaces and the constraints of that reality. (I was even in it when it was in the process of being moved "outside" decades ago.) One time two of us got to go into it all and alone during that period for hours when the museum was closed for a special event. For the last 10 or 15 years since the "move" that access is no longer true at all. Now you have a narrow band that can be walked and the largest and most interesting sections, like the food prep areas, are barrier obscured and you can only look into or see parts of them.

So I understand how incredible that these men with their gear could begin to fit within the spaces they attempted. It's like a cork in a narrow necked bottle. There would never be a moment of any surety with the collapsing damage and heavy metal components. The graveyard not only visible but, IMHO, imminent second by second. Thus the outcomes. No spoilers, but this is also not a jubilant tale, even within its ultimate successes.

The photos were as superior as the text, and the slimness of that crew in that crew photo! They were small and fine boned teen age and 20 something men who sailed those cigars in 1940-45. Their legacy to destruction was large, their outcomes worse.

Yet I liked the finality of Kohler's last connections and the mission he felt he had to finish.

Dangerous, dangerous avocations and hobbies, and some others not in such a high risk category as this kind of diving, but still testing to longevity! They are addicting habits. It certainly seems that those adrenaline needs and practices will effect every avenue and connection of a life path, that's not uncommon. It is certainly evident in these men's stories and their teamwork. I would be willing to bet that Chatterton is still pushing his limits on occasion. Probably on the sneak. ...more
4

May 20, 2015

This nonfiction book lives up to its subtile: The true adventures of two Americans who risked everything to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II.

In order to fully appreciate my review of this book, you need to know that I am not a World War II (or WWI for that matter) buff in any shape or form. Yes, I've watched loads of war movies, and was that person; the one asking are those the Germans or allies? Am I the only one who did not know that you could tell them apart merely based on This nonfiction book lives up to its subtile: The true adventures of two Americans who risked everything to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II.

In order to fully appreciate my review of this book, you need to know that I am not a World War II (or WWI for that matter) buff in any shape or form. Yes, I've watched loads of war movies, and was that person; the one asking are those the Germans or allies? Am I the only one who did not know that you could tell them apart merely based on their head gear?

I had never even heard of this book until a I read a review by a Goodreads friend, Carol K. It sounded interesting, so I immediately got it on audio, which is wonderfully read by Michael Prichard, and started listening to it on my walks. I was immediately hooked.

This story of deep water wreck divers stumbling across a sunken German U-boat off the New Jersey coast in 1991, and how they go about trying to determine its identity is a fascinating and gripping read. This is my fave kind of narrative nonfiction, and the cast of characters alone are worth the price of admission. I have always been fascinated by people who push their bodies and psyches to the extremes. I think it is their obsession that I admire - that single minded focus, damn the consequences.

I learned much about many things, and plan to watch some U-Boat movies in the near future. The only reason this book did not get the additional star is because the writing is choppy and repetitive at times, but even if you are not a history-war-diving buff, check it out for a fascinating ride. PS. My audiobook had a short interview with the two main divers in this story which was quite fun.
...more
5

Jan 14, 2009

This book is principally the story of two American divers who risk their lives to explore and identify the wreck of a WWII U-Boat.

Rich with adversity, adventure and war history, the author's enthusiasm for the tale (which in turn is lit by the dedication and determination of the divers themselves) lends the writing that elusive thrill of perfect retelling. The balance of back-story of the men who explored the wreck, the detail and technical information, the history, the suspense of the dives This book is principally the story of two American divers who risk their lives to explore and identify the wreck of a WWII U-Boat.

Rich with adversity, adventure and war history, the author's enthusiasm for the tale (which in turn is lit by the dedication and determination of the divers themselves) lends the writing that elusive thrill of perfect retelling. The balance of back-story of the men who explored the wreck, the detail and technical information, the history, the suspense of the dives themselves and smattering of other, relevant wreck-diving tales is all melded into a chase story that enthrals as it informs.

Despite the incredible depth (sorry!) and breadth of Kurson’s research, the story is ultimately about the two men who proceed against the advice of friends, in the face of death, to prove to themselves who they are in the face of adversity, and to return the final story of the lost crew to their surviving relatives in Germany. ...more
3

Jul 05, 2013

3.5 Stars
This story had me hook line and sinker. I initially came to it with its comparison to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air", which blew me away. There is no doubt for the comparison. Where Into Thin Air delves into the politics and risks of climbing Mt. Everest, Shadow Divers deals in the risk and politics of deep sea diving. High altitude sickness vs depth narcosis, and how they both intrude on your sanity while you are already risking your life. This is a true story of discovery. American 3.5 Stars
This story had me hook line and sinker. I initially came to it with its comparison to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air", which blew me away. There is no doubt for the comparison. Where Into Thin Air delves into the politics and risks of climbing Mt. Everest, Shadow Divers deals in the risk and politics of deep sea diving. High altitude sickness vs depth narcosis, and how they both intrude on your sanity while you are already risking your life. This is a true story of discovery. American divers find a Nazi sub on the bottom of the Atlantic off the coast of New Jersey. The mystery lies in identifying it. There is no historical record placing any u-boats at this location. Although I found the whole account very fascinating, I did find the writing a bit choppy and bogged down at parts. I do come away with a richer understanding of deep sea diving, u-boats and their role in World War Two. Now I think I should go watch Daas Boot or U-571. Books Inspire! ...more
5

Jul 30, 2018

I read this the first time years ago when I was just starting to think about getting into technical diving and it earned 5 stars from me. I decided to re-read it now that I'm routinely doing trimix dives on shipwrecks at the same depth as the U-861; it holds up quite well. I appreciated the book so much more the second time through now that I have a much deeper (heh) appreciation for what is involved when diving deep shipwrecks. It's a great book for the interested non-diver as well; I'd compare I read this the first time years ago when I was just starting to think about getting into technical diving and it earned 5 stars from me. I decided to re-read it now that I'm routinely doing trimix dives on shipwrecks at the same depth as the U-861; it holds up quite well. I appreciated the book so much more the second time through now that I have a much deeper (heh) appreciation for what is involved when diving deep shipwrecks. It's a great book for the interested non-diver as well; I'd compare it quite favorably to other adventure stories like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. If the description of the book catches your interest, give it a try; it's a good one! ...more

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