Dead Men's Silver

Posted on March 18, 2012 by Jack Kelly
Tags: readings

The other book I finished on the previous voyage was Hugh Edwards’ Dead Men’s Silver: The Story of Australia’s Greatest Shipwreck Hunter.

My first impressions upon starting the book was that Edwards has a very high opinion of himself. He quotes himself on the back cover, calls himself “Australia’s Greatest Shipwreck Hunter” on the front cover lays on the literary references in the first chapter and frequently reminds you that he’s written other books. For someone who spent a lot of time in the newspaper industry, the book has quite a few spelling and grammar errors.

That’s a shame, because the stuff that Edwards has done doesn’t need to be puffed up. He’s credited as one of the principal discoverer on several Dutch shipwrecks, campaigned for proper legal protection for pre-colonial wrecks, salvaged all manner of interesting things from the sea floor, survived a run-in with Pol Pot and built his first set of dive gear at age 13. (It was a surplus WWII gas mask with aaround Wes laundry hose.)

It’s interesting. People talk about the power that modern corporations have, but it’s not entirely a recent phenomenon. The Dutch East India Company had the legal ability to wage war and was allowed to maintain armies. The company’s 4,785 ships traded over 2.5 million tons of goods around the world, making it a pretty mean megacorporation, and that was between 1602 and 1796.

Every ship Edwards has found has an interesting story associated with its demise, and when he’s not tooting his own horn, he goes into a good level of detail.

If you can put up with the self-promotion, it’s a really good read about a guy who has led a really interesting life.

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