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

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • An excellent read
    Shadow Divers is a well-written and thoroughly absorbing adventure story. I found it hard to put down and stayed up far too late on several nights getting through it. Some people compare this book to Into Thin Air, and compare the sport / vocation of wreck diving to extreme mountaineering and I feel both comparisons are valid. I work in the marine industry and do some warm water diving so I found this book of particular interest.

    Kurson's writing is excellent and the story is full of compelling characters. If it were a work of fiction it would at times be too outrageous to be believed. In this modern world it sometimes feels like adventure is missing and that one must do something truly daring to explore new territory. Thanks to Kurson and the stories he relates in Shadow Divers it is possible to believe in adventure as well as the ultimate strengths and dimensions of the human character.

    Finally, the chapter about the lives of the U-Boot men was perhaps the best chapter; especially when the reader is aware of their collective fate. After reading that chapter I had to put the book down and think long and hard about the things important in life....more info
  • The Lure Of A Mystery In The Ocean's Cold Depths
    A novel could not have been more gripping and compelling than Shadow Divers.

    It is a story of discovery, greed, ego and death in a remarkable journey underwater and on land to find out why a U-Boat sank in a location that simply couldn't be correct. Author Robert Kurson does an excellent job in outlining the oftentimes tumultuous lives of the divers; with some seemingly using the great depths of danger as an escape from the reality in their fractured homes.

    The type of diving utilized is fraught with danger and those who have the most respect for the ocean are not safe from the perils. The submarine not only buried its crew, but seemingly had to snatch several more lives before the mystery could be solved by those willing to soldier on.

    Even if the reader has no background in deep-sea diving or WWII history, it will be tough to put the book down once it is open.

    ...more info
  • Diving The "U-Who": A Challenge For The World's Elite Divers
    "Shadow Divers" was given to me as a gift. Although I have an interest in World War Two and maritime engineering and technology, it is a book I would have likely passed over, but it would have been my loss. This book is an incredible recounting of the discovery of a World War Two German U-Boat off the coast of New Jersey, and the divers who risked their lives trying to identify it.

    The book centers on two divers, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, who live for discovery. The book details their lives, and how this cause furthered their friendship as they became more involved in the mystery of identifying the "U-Who." What would seem to be a fairly routine piece of investigation became extremely convoluted, and required years of research, trips to German and US archives, as well as numerous high-risk dives on the wreck. Through these pages I had my eyes opened about the types and degrees of risk associated with deep wreck diving (three divers were killed diving this U-Boat), and came to admire people who pursue historical wreck diving, particularly Chatterton and Kohler.

    The tenacity and bravery of these man can't be underestimated, and I appreciate Robert Kurson for weaving the disparate elements of this story so skillfully into a book both compelling and comprehensible to non-divers like me. I thoroughly enjoyed "Shadow Divers" and recommend it without reservation. ...more info
  • Stellar reading, especially if you are a diver or like anything to do with WW II or history itself...
    This is a must read if you are interested in any of the following: World War II, shipwrecks, scuba diving or a good historical mystery.

    Without giving the book away: This is where John Chatterton and Richie Kohler hit the limelight before getting on the National Geographic Channel. Who are they? Read the book and find out or catch one of their shipwreck shows on the NG channel and you will find out.

    These guys are first class wreck divers who discover a mysterious sunken WW II U-Boat of the New Jersey coast. Interesting yes, but the real amazing thing here is that this mysterious wreck was not documented in any U.S. Navy files nor Kreigsmarine (German Navy) files!!! So where did it come from and how did it wind up in U.S. waters? And how come nobody seems to know anything about it? Read the book and you'll be amazed. You'll also learn more about the men involved who attempt to solve one of WW II's greatest enigmas. Warning: Once you start this book, it's very hard to put it down....more info
  • Excellent drama
    If you are looking for a thrilling and captivating mystery that just happens to also be a true story, this is an excellent book to read. Shadow Divers gives the story of a group of divers who decide to investigate a report of a potential sunken ship off the coast of New Jersey. The divers assume that it will be a pile of rubble or a pipe barge, but are astounded to discover a sunken German U-Boat. There were no reports of a U-Boat sunk in New Jersey waters, so the divers embark on a dangerous mission to identify the sunken wreck.

    The book reads like a thriller, complete with drama and danger. I was truly hooked from the start and found it to be a wonderful account of the danders of deep diving and wreck diving, German naval history and World War II. If you even have a passing interest in any of these subjects, this is a great book to pick up and read.

    I've seen other reviews that have stated that book dragged a bit through some descriptions of submarines, etc, but I found ever bit of it entertaining and interesting. Perhaps parts of the book were a little over-dramatic, but with the danger that these divers put themselves through in order to identify the wreck, drama seems justified....more info
  • very good service
    the book was shipped and recieved in a very short time and in excellant condition...more info
  • Shadow Divers
    This is an exceptional book about two men driven by the need to resolve the mystery of an unknown submarine. The wreck claims the lives of three divers but still the urge to solve it burns. The chapter regarding the death of a father and son diving team is particularly heart rending. If you are a diver like me you will love this book, but adventurers will also understand the drive that these two divers had....more info
  • the best book ever
    This is the best book I have ever read. It is imposable to put down. If you scuba dive in the North East it is a must read. I have read many books about scuba diving and this is the best by far. Also if you like learning about World War II this is also the perfect book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...more info
    I am a Diver and found the book facinating! I could not put it down. Non-divers will be spell-bound by the history, detail and story telling....more info
  • Couldn't put it down
    I bought this book for my husband and he loved it as a matter of a fact he couldn't put it down. I'm getting ready to purchase more books and some DVD's very soon for him for Fathers Day. If your a diver or are just looking for an intersting treasure seeking adventure you'll be very pleased with this....more info
  • Great adventure book
    This was a heart pounding adventure book. Once the story really started unfolding, there was new twists and turns around every corner. Once the submarine was found, it became an obsession for the two divers who spearheaded the exploration to identify this unknown u-boat. Deep sea diving has such a high risk factor, many divers lost their lives diving to this wreck. It was a fascinating and very well written book, with an immense amount of research in it. This book made me want to go out and begin scuba diving. Well worth reading....more info
  • Sad
    Yes they identified the U-Who. But they so embellished the rest of the story that another author needed to come out and expose it. ...more info
  • A High Schooler's opinion
    Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson, is the true story of one of the last mysteries of World War II. When Bill Nagle, a deep sea wreck diver, trades coordinates with a fisherman, he's not sure what to expect. While the fisherman says it is a great fishing spot, it could turn out to be just a sunken barge. Bill decides to take a chance and finds a crew of twelve men that are willing to take a gamble on the dive. It turns out to be a sunken German U-boat from World War II. The men soon become obsessed with discovering the identity of the U-boat, for not a single U-boat has been documented being sunk within 400 miles of the coordinates.

    When the men dive to the boat, they find hundreds of skeletons and scattered bones on the wreck. Sow what could have happened to cause this? While the men want more than anything to find out the name of the wreck, they don't want to disrespect this tomb.

    The wreck is more than 200 ft down, a dive few men could make when SCUBA diving was still a new sport. The peril and excitement are obvious when men die on one of the many dives. Kurson really makes it feel like you are right beside the diver as they plunge into the frigid Atlantic waters and head down to solve this remaining mystery.

    Also, I really liked that Kurson told not only the mystery story, but the story of the toll this obsession had on the men's lives. When the divers aren't underwater, they are looking for any clues in history books and soldiers diaries that could lead them to learning the identity of this "U-who". Slowly, the men's lives are unraveling, but they are too involved to notice.

    Kurson's goal is to unravel this mystery and slowly lead the reader on, while also telling the other, not so common story, of obsession. As a Freshman, I believe he accomplishes this goal extremely well. Some strengths of the book is the expert use of language and imagery that make every dive as exciting as it would be if the reader was on the wreck. However, when the plot goes a way from the diving and talks about all the research, it gets a little slow. Overall, the book was very enjoyable and I recommend it to all.
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  • A Great Story Well Told
    Shadow Divers is one of those nonfiction history books that makes you wish you could have written it. Kurson starts with a great story of a mystery sub and then tells it in a compelling way. Along the way, you learn a lot about deep wreck diving and its dangers. Kurson also treats his focal characters as a novelist would and develops them with their faults and strengths.

    I think the greatest compliment you can pay a nonfiction book is that "it reads like a novel." By that, I mean it's a interesting story with fascinating characters that holds my attention and won't let go. And Shadow Divers does all that. ...more info
  • Reality in a Dive Story
    This was absolutely the best non-fiction book that I have read in a long time. The story-telling was compelling and the story itself had all the components of an excellent adventure thriller.

    I would recommend this book to all dive enthusiasts, lovers of submarine lore, and WW II history buffs....more info
  • ++++
    Fascinating, and I did not even particularly desire to dive wrecks. It was my initial dive story read as a new diver and not only intrigued me but taught me a great deal of this world I had got myself into. And inspired further education in the myriad aspects of diving. To my knowledge; the most recommended Dive Book must read. ...more info
  • Fantastic Adventure!
    Lots of history and excitement! Amazing true story. You will not be disappointed with this book. ...more info
  • Best Book I've Read in the Last Three Years
    This book is outstanding. The adventure of a lifetime. A mystery underwater? I was already hooked. Two guys who find a German U-Boat off the New Jersey coast? The entire crew still inside? That's a book with promise. And the author delivers. He weaves the right combination of non-fiction research and a fascinating tale of two men struggling for seven years--against incredible and unexpected odds--to figure out which U-Boat they had found. If you know anything about research, or simply believe in the value of an accurate historical record, you'll enjoy the subplot as much as the death-defying dives to the sub, forever submerged under 200 feet of cold, North Atlantic waters. This may be the best non-fiction I have ever read.

    I was particularly struck by Kurson's tone. It is perfect: urgent, but not overstated (the way this review surely appears). The book moves quickly between narrative scenes and factual/historical context, and Kurson's voice is not sentimental. He plays the straight man throughout, but the straight man who is pressing relentlessly on toward the finish. The book is brisk.

    When you finish the book and look at this story, the amount of material Kurson had to comprehend and then organize into a narrative, his work is astounding. But you won't think about that until you finish. The book is too good to stop and think about such things--you'll just want to read and read and read.

    ...more info
  • Underwater action adventure!
    A real underwater adventure and a fantastic read! At times it was hard to believe the risks that Chatterton and Kohler, the main characters of the book, undertook to solve the mystery of U-869 - a shipwreck of a WW2 U-boat they discovered in the early 90's. They've lost three fellow divers, their personal lives went through a storm, they saw burnouts and despair, but after years of deep diving into the archives and the sea, they finally identify the wreck. Shadow Divers is a great story about perseverance, character, and dedication to a goal. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Shawdow Divers
    Unexepectedly excellent book with a main theme of discovery and exploration. What makes this work quite unique is the detail the author gives to the book's characters. It delves into what make them tick; what drives them to pursue goals; what it takes for success. Gives the opportunity for the reader to examine his own struggles, as we are all shawdow divers in the ocean of the mysteries of our lives....more info
  • Fascinating story
    Well written story, very intense. Full of details and facts but told in a way to make it a very personal story and very readable. ...more info
  • Deep Wreck Divers
    This is an excellent book. I love John Chatterton and Richie Kohler and have watched all their Deep Sea Detectives shows. This book not only was telling the story of the lost U Boat, it delves into the lives and feelings of John and Richie and their friends. I also purchased Hitler's Lost U Boat on DVD at the same time. Good documentary tying in with book, in fact plan on getting both....more info
  • Glad it was recommended
    I would never have picked up this book unless it was recommended by a friend. It was surprisingly suspenseful throughout several parts of the book and the diving info and history he includes was more interesting than I would have thought. There are a couple parts that seem to drag but they were important to the book overall I think. Generally I really liked this book and found it fascinating, being as it's all true. I just saw that the two divers have another book coming out from Twelve, might have to pick that one up too!...more info
  • A Great Story Well Told
    Shadow Divers is one of those nonfiction history books that makes you wish you could have written it. Kurson starts with a great story of a mystery sub and then tells it in a compelling way. Along the way, you learn a lot about deep wreck diving and its dangers. Kurson also treats his focal characters as a novelist would and develops them with their faults and strengths.

    I think the greatest compliment you can pay a nonfiction book is that "it reads like a novel." By that, I mean it's a interesting story with fascinating characters that holds my attention and won't let go. And Shadow Divers does all that. ...more info
  • Shadow Divers
    Well worth the money. A riveting read: you won't be able to put it down....more info
  • Absolutely enchanting
    This book was a recommendation from my father, who used to watch the TV show "Deep-Sea Detectives." While I never really paid much attention to the show, I gave this book a chance. I'm so glad I did! I'd only had a mild interest in shipwrecks before and this book really changed that. There is nothing I love more than reading a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. It was very well-researched and very well-written. All I wanted to do was read this book, whether I had the free time or not. I was sad to put this book down when I finished. It launched me into a spree of reading other wreck-diving books (all of which were wonderful).

    A fantastic read! I highly recommend this one.

    ...more info
  • Throughly Enjoyable
    More than a book about finding a Uboat, it is a story about wreck diving and the interesting personal stories of the divers. A throughly enjoyable read, I regretted finishing the book. ...more info
  • Extraordinarily well written and researched non-fiction diving adventure book
    What do you do when you're an accomplished wreck diver and unexpectedly come across what turns out to be not a pile of rubble but an unidentified U-boat from World War II? And not only unidentified, but also laying in 230 feet of cold water, 65 miles off the New Jersey Coast. The answer, if you're a red-blooded wreck diver or captain of a wreck diving ship, is you move heaven and earth and do not rest until you have proof positive of the boat's identity and place in history.

    Such is what happened when scuba divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler came across a wreck on Labor Day of 1991, at a location where, according to official records, there simply could not be a sunken U-boat. Chatterton quickly finds a tantalizing hint, a couple of dishes bearing the German Nazi Swastika and the year 1942. This startling find sets in motion a six year story of events that bring adventure, setbacks, human drama including death, and a seemingly never-ending sequence of frustrations as the two principals -- Chatterton and Kohler -- come ever closer to finding the identification they so desire, just to be thwarted by the deteriorating hulk again and again. The quest forges powerful friendships between unlikely men, and none more unlikely than that between the scientifically minded, methodical Chatterton and the treasure artifact hunting Kohler.

    Though mostly focused on the quest of identifying the U-boat, Shadow Divers provides background information as well. There are briefer portraits of other divers who participate in the frequent charter trips to the location of the sunken sub, the story of rivalries between boat captains and diving teams, relationships that begin, blossom, and die because of the dominating passion for the sport, and, saddest of all, how one of the pioneers of wreck diving and great wreck diving captains, Bill Nagle, is slowly claimed by, and eventually succumbs to, alcoholism. There's very little of the superfluous historic review of diving found in almost every other diving book, none of the typical authors' biases, and there aren't any fillers. There's just the fascinating story of the tedious, plodding attempts to identify the boat.

    Much of this is actually recorded, or at least touched on, in other books. The rivalry between two of the major wreck diving boats, the Seeker and the Wahoo is legend, as is that between their captains and certain crew members. The deaths of several divers, including those of Chris and Chrissy Rouse, are well documented. Yet, Shadow Diver manages to truly take us there like none of the others. Kurson also takes great care to describe Richie Kohler's growing connection with the men who had sailed the mystery craft, and then with their families, many of whom he visits.

    What sets Shadow Divers apart is that is not just an extraordinary diving book, but an extraordinary book, period. Extraordinarily well written, extraordinarily well organized, and certainly extraordinarily well researched. Much more thoroughly than most. I enjoy good writing, and Kurson certainly has the gift. Check out the author's background and you'll find that he has a degree from Harvard Law School, but then decided to embark on a writing career instead, working as a drapery and blinds installer to make ends meet until he established himself as a writer for leading papers and magazines and contributing editor to Esquire.

    And not only is Kurson a spellbinding storyteller, his multi-disciplinary background also shows itself an an extremely thorough 27 page index; two dozen pages of photographs, many in color; a detailed list of sources; and a concluding interview with Richie Kohler and John Chatterton. Yet, the book never comes across as scholarly or stuffy. This is a true masterpiece, and enjoyable reading whether you're into diving or not. -- C. H. Blickenstorfer, [...]...more info
    I saw this book mentioned briefly in Time magazine or Newsweek, one of the two, and it sounded pretty interesting so I decided to check it out. I was a little put off at first because it seemed like quite a brick of a book, but I started reading it and I could not put it down. It's packed full of astonishing detail and brilliant descriptions. You feel like you are actually down there with the divers exploring all of these fascinating wrecks. This is the book that has instilled in me a love of the underwater world and a deep rooted fascination with the incredible amount of history that is sitting on the bottom of the ocean, much of it unreachable. To dive down to wrecks like the Andrea Doria and the Titanic are absolutely fascinating to no end to me, but for a bunch of guys to go explore what they think is nothing but a sunken barge or even a pile of rocks and instead discover a Nazi U-boat that no one can explain is another thing entirely! I can't recommend this book enough. It inspired at least one sub-par documentary, called Hitler's Lost Sub, which is a great visual look at the story contained in this book, but fails miserably at an attempt to recreate the moment of discovery and the sunsequent exploration. People like John Chatterton are amazing divers, but they're certainly not actors! ...more info
  • Shadow Divers
    In the fall of 1991, deep wreck diver John Chatterton found a German U-boat laying under 230 feet of water off the New Jersey coast. This in and of itself wasn't surprising; at the end of World War II a U-boat had a less than fifty percent chance of making it home again. Of the 1,167 U-boats built, 757 were sunk. But there is no record of Chatterton's U-boat either in US records or German records. No U-boat had ever been recorded sunk within a hundred miles of the wreck site. According to all the history books, it simply couldn't be there.
    It took Chatterton and fellow diver Richie Kohler six years, multiple dives to recover artifacts, exhaustive record searches through the National Archives and the Naval Historical Center, multiple trips to Germany, the solicitation of an endless anecdotal history from other divers, U-boat crew members, their relatives and U-boat historians, and above all a mutual devouring obsession to solve this mystery.

    But that's just the plot on which Kurson hangs the other, even more gripping stories, the ones about the price of friendship, the testing of character, the insanity of war, the writing of history, the human love for mysteries and the equally human need to find answers to them, and through it all a you-are-there look into the world of deep wreck diving. Yes, the amount of testosterone in this book made my beard start growing out as I was reading it, but this story is a true adventure the likes of which any of us is seldom granted in this jaded age, and Kurson's gift is to bring us along for the ride. Are we our brother's keeper? Chatterton and Kohler would say yes, even unto, and after, death....more info
  • As Exciting as Any Dive I Have Been On.
    Short on air, I'll be brief. I took this book to Blackbird Caye Resort, Belize, on a SCUBA vacation. Once started, it hooked me in, to the point I only put it down for meals and to prep for my next dive. There are 248 other reviews to inform you of the story content. Let me just add, if you buy this book, read this book, and don't like this book, you have my permission to flame this review and spit in my dive mask....more info
  • Not Everybody's Idea of a Hobby
    This book will open up the world of deep wreck diving to the reader In this world identifying an unknown wreck seems to be the ultimate achievement, obtaining a wreck identifying artifacts, and gaining access to all areas is highly valued while maintaining a rivalry with other dive clubs. The rivalry extends to actually impeding others from exploring a wreck. A "deep" brotherhood develops between divers where putting oneself over 200 feet down, into a muddy dark claustrophobic wrecks, exploring more by touch than sight , where a wire or sharp metal fragment can snag a diver, all the while monitoring their air tanks to insure the trip topside. Ths story revolves around a group of divers that discover, explore, analyze and identify a German U-boat. The investigation takes place over several years and leads them from the ocean to archives in Wash. DC, informational sources in New England and Germany. That last part of the book involves placing some of the boats artifacts in the hands of family members in Germany, relatives of the lost crew that never returned.
    A real eye-opener to what some people consider a hobby, This one wreck sacrificed a few divers and marriages. I am intrigued by some the the one star ratings listed for this book. The explanation is that the reader should read "Shadow Diver Exposed" to get the real story, and so I shall, someday. I found this book an easy, fast, interesting read, maybe Shadow Divers Exposed will continue the story..
    ...more info