This is the kind of book that had I read it in my youth -- I'd be a treasure hunter now! A thrilling adventure that traces the search for the legendary pirate ship, The Golden Fleece, commanded by Joseph Bannister, a former merchant captain turned pirate extraordinaire. Not a name I'd heard before, but detailing Bannister's pirating career, Kurson gives us a hall of fame pirate captain that takes on two British frigates simultaneously, while his own ship was careening. [Careening was the practice of grounding a sailing vessel at high tide in order to expose one side of its hull for maintenance and repairs below the water line when the tide goes out.]
Kurson writes a fantastic tale, weaving in extensive research and history as colorful chapters that enliven the story instead of bogging it down. From the "Golden Age of Pirates" to the Mafia years of the Gambino family, and the war in Viet Nam, Kurson traces the evolution of treasure hunters John Mattera and John Chatterton, and the grueling quest that would test their skills, patience, and dedication.
You'll be transported to the Caribbean waters, searching for sunken ships and their treasures, and back through history to the age when pirates sailed the seas. A page turner that I wished would have been at least 3x as long. Exciting and riveting, fascinating history expertly written, and Porter is a flawless narrator. Loved every minute of it and highly recommend.
As far as books on exploration and historic expeditions, this is about as good as it gets--written by an award winning author familiar with mountaineering, exploration, etc., using the scientific journals, letters, and diaries of members of the 1911 Australian Antarctic Exploration (AAE)--particularly Australian heroes Douglas Mawson and Xavier Mertz. Roberts article about this historic expedition in the January edition of National Geographic piqued my interest, and the book expanded the fascinating article.
The explorers set out on a 600 mi. round trip journey across the unexplored frozen land, unprepared for the icy gales over 120 mph, week long blizzards, and perilous crevasses--hidden under *ice bridges* that gave no sign of the deep chasm beneath until the ice had cracked and swallowed the victims. Of the original 27 men and 36 dogs--only Mawson survives to meet the rescue ship, covering the last 100 miles by himself. Sir Edmund Hillary, of Mt. Everest fame, referred to Mawson's final lone push to the base camp (I will let you read about the terrifying incidents yourself) as, "the greatest survival story in the history of exploration."
Roberts did fastidious research but doesn't add flourish to the journals, keeping the story as accurate and real as possible. I thought the style was captivating and kept the events immediate--the desperation and fear felt threatening, the starvation was painful. The men write about the thin canvas tents in the relentless blizzards, layers of clothing frozen to them while they slept in their sleeping bags, the maddening loneliness and quiet, peeling off layers of frozen dead skin, the paralyzing fear that each step might crack open a bottomless icy cavern--it truly is chilling. Maybe I'm less fussy than other listeners, but I felt the narrator did a wonderful job balancing the sciene with the humanity.
I'm an animal lover and feel like my dog is people...so the fact that man's best friend became man's best meal bothered me immensely--just a little personal aside. (And wasn't it enough that they ate masses of the penguins and their eggs?..did they have to entertain themselves by antagonizing them first?!) It's hard to hear about in such expressive detail...*journalized for science* the taste of boiled Husky brain...(and the NG magazine had pre-expedition photos of the poor canines--gulp). Because of the scientific nature of the expedition, this is different from, say... Into Thin Air... and the type of adventure book that is more about a personal conquest. Know that there is a lot of detail and history of previous explorers. At times, the story jumps from one group's story to a previous group, and was a little challenging to follow. The epilogue is fantastic, detailing the impact of the expedition as well as the fate of Mawson. Sitting by my fireplace, I lookled out the window and thought the snowy-20 degree day didn't look so bad.