Shadow Divers by Robert KursonIn 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.
Shadow Diver on the U869 narrated by John Chatterton
A seaworthy U-boat saga
Amazed at this discovery, Chatterton and his fellow divers make a pact to keep the U-Boat a secret until they can discover its identity and claim credit for its discovery. Unfortunately, this pact is broken almost immediately by a couple of members of the team who decide to tell close friends, and the secret is let out. Historical records claim the closest U-boat wreck to be hundreds of miles away. The book chronicles the seven year quest to learn the identity of the mysterious wreck, dubbed U-Who by the dive team, the identities of the men aboard her, and how she came to rest on the ocean floor near New Jersey. Over the length of the quest several members of the original dive team quit, either because their lives lead them elsewhere or over concerns for their safety. Several new members were brought in, including Richie Kohler , a member of the notorious "Atlantic Wreck Divers" club that had the reputation of being pirate-like and reckless in their diving philosophy.
The friend said that Nagle, a washed-up diver who ran a charter boat business, and Chatterton, who was working underwater construction for a living, had come across a sunken German submarine in off Brielle, N. No one, not even the Navy, had known or even suspected it was there, Kurson said. With no knowledge of the dangerous and cliquey world of deep sea diving, a world inhabited by weekend warriors lurking in shadowy, lethal depths, Kurson was nevertheless intrigued.
In the fall of , Captain Bill Nagle of the dive boat "Seeker" led a team of recreational scuba divers on an expedition to explore an unknown wreck site 60 miles off the New Jersey coast. Inquires to the both the German and American Naval Authorities failed to identify or explain the presence of this mystery U-boat. No attacks by or against a U-boat had been reported in this location during the war and no explanations were offered. Over the next six years, a small team of divers explored the wreckage. Their mission: to figure out which U-boat this was and who these men were. The diving was extremely deep feet and hazardous, and sadly three of the divers died while investigating the U-boat. Despite these losses, my partner John Chatterton and I continued to dive to the limits of the current scuba technology, even after other divers had quit.