Paperback cover of Shadow Divers
|Genre||non-fiction history adventure|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||397 pp (paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-375-76098-9 (paperback)|
In 1991, a group of divers, including Richie Kohler and John Chatterton, set out on Seeker to explore an unknown object lying 230 feet (70 m) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and discover an apparent historical impossibility: a World War II German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey. 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. This is to prevent "wreck-jumping" where another person claims credit and/or removes objects from the wreck. 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. Consulting both the United States Navy and the German Navy both lead to complete denials of the possibility of a World War II-era U-boat wreck in that area. 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 are 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. This philosophy is completely the opposite of Chatterton's, and he initially dislikes Kohler, however during the course of the quest the two men discover qualities in each other they both admire and respect. Kohler himself is driven not by monetary desires but the history behind the wreck, and the personal connection he feels as his family is of German descent. He and Chatterton become close friends.
The quest for the U-Boat's identity and the identity of the men on board push the men and the dive team to the limits, ultimately ending Chatterton's and Kohler's marriages, and the lives of three divers, including a son and a father.
In 2000 a PBS NOVA show called Hitler's Lost Sub was aired which followed Chatterton and Kohler in their quest to identify the sub.
Another book challenges some of the facts about the sinking of the U-869 called Shadow Divers Exposed: the Real Saga of the U-869 (2006), self-published by Gary Gentile. Gentile, a noted wreck diver, researcher, and author, sharply refutes Chatterton and Kohler's theory of how U-869 sank. He cites attack logs and eyewitness accounts from the crew of two destroyer escorts suggesting that the U-boat was initially damaged with a hedgehog launched by the USS Howard D. Crow (DE-252) and then subsequently damaged with a depth charge by the accompanying USS Koiner (DE-331). Gentile also contradicts the events on deck after the Rouses' (father and son) fatal dive.
- American Booksellers Association's Non-fiction 2005 Book Sense Book of the Year Award
- American Library Association Alex Award
- New York Times Best Seller list
- The Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent into the Ocean's Depths Bernie Chowdhury. Harper Paperbacks, 2002., 384 pp., ISBN 0-06-093259-7.
- Interview with Robert Kurson on Shadow Divers at the Pritzker Military Library
- Booknotes interview with Kurson on Shadow Divers, July 11, 2004.