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Shipwreck Hunter -- Deep, Dark & Deadly In The Great Lakes

by Gerald Volgenau
Hard cover 2007 Ann Arbor Media Group, 200 pages
ISBN 978-0-58726-430-6
9.25 x 6.25

Shipwreck Hunter -- Deep, Dark & Deadly In The Great Lakes is about just that, hunting for shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. It's about the dangerous passion of a small, dedicated and very competitive community of divers who search for some of the most famous, and often most remote, wrecks. There are as many as 10,000 of them in the Great Lakes, many beyond reach, but a good number accessible to daring divers willing to brave depth, icy cold water, poor visibility and occasionally rough seas.

Author Gerald Volgenau is a seasoned journalist with decades' worth of experience as a reporter and editor at the Detroit Free Press where he also spent eight years as a globe-trotting travel writer. Volgenau's journalistic credentials mean that Shipwreck Hunter is well written, well edited, well laid out and very polished. I mention that because in this era of self- and alternate publishing, one can no longer take that for granted. Me, I appreciate books that are not only well written, but also shine in layout, typography and editing.

The title Shipwreck Hunter primarily refers to David Trotter, a particularly skilled and determined wreck searcher, and his ever changing and evolving crew. The book covers Trotter's increasingly sophisticated hunt for wrecks of particular historic value, using sidescan sonar, a meticulous work ethic, and considerable diving skills. In it for the hunt and discovery rather than for salvage, trophies or financial gain, Trotter leaves wrecks untouched and keeps their location secret from anyone.

While the 200-page book centers on Trotter's efforts, it is sandwiched by the tragic events that lead to a severe decompression accident with one of Trotter's crew. It's a structure often used when a book is based on actual events, and one that perhaps makes one want to rush through the book too quickly to find out what exactly happened at the end.

Shipwreck Hunter not only covers Trotter's efforts over several decades, but also, in less detail, those of other shipwreck hunters. It also takes fairly detailed looks at Trotter's team members and delves into ancillary topics such as the zebra mussel infestation of the Great Lakes that has had a profound impact on those bodies of water (mostly bad, but also a bit of good in greatly improving visibility in some areas). As a result, Shipwreck Hunter moves back and forth between historical issues, technical matters, and some rather involved background stories on many of the involved parties, making for somewhat uneven reading.

The book is organized into 15 chapters, many of which include very impressive shipwreck sketches by artist Robert McGreevy. They are not only enjoyable, but also greatly help in getting a picture of what those wrecks are like, including current condition, as photographs cannot tell the story due to the darkness and generally poor visibility. I enjoyed reading this well crafted book on wreck diving in the Great Lakes, loved the historic information, but felt it was a bit light on technical issues and a bit long on personal matters ranging from excursions into faith, to speculations on mental makeup, to somewhat chiding commentary on waistlines. -- C. H. Blickenstorfer, scubadiverinfo.com

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