Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Damn Nazis are still causing problems.

Quick synopsis: The discovery and attempts to identify an unknown Nazi sub off New Jersey in 1991.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Back in 1991, when the book takes place, a diver could only be at a wreck for about 20 minutes before having to return to the ship. The time needed to decompress means a dive that lasts hours was mostly spent returning to the boat.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Salvage diving is very dangerous for a number of reasons. One of them is panic. If you panic because you get caught on something for instance, you will breathe faster. If you breathe faster, you expend your air faster. Which means…

My Take: A shipwreck story? Count me in! Oh, in New Jersey… ok, fine.

Let me get the one bad out of the way first. Kurson does a great job of explaining the dangers of salvage diving. However, I felt he came perilously close to hero worship for this particular breed of diver. That is the bad news. The good news is that this is a short part of the book and everything else is fantastic.

The book follows the story of two divers as they try to identify a submarine off the New Jersey coast in 1991. The book is a mixture of biography (of both the divers and the submarine crew), adventure story (people die trying to identify the sub), and history lesson on World War II submarine warfare.

There is a lot to cover in one book but Kurson does a great job making this accessible to anyone who wants to read this. If you aren’t a full-blown history nerd, don’t worry, you’ll love everything else. Kurson leaves no stone unturned but never belabors the point.

Verdict: A really great book that covers everything about this story you could possibly want.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Eric Jay Dolin, Brilliant Beacons
  • Spike Walker, Coming Back Alive
  • Michael Tougias, The Finest Hours
  • Michael Schumacher, Wreck of the Carl D.
  • David Mearns, The Shipwreck Hunter
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Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
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