The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas and Plundered Shipwrecks, from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005 - History - 326 pages
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Bella Bathurst's first book, the acclaimed The Lighthouse Stevensons,told the story of Scottish lighthouse construction by the ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson. Now she returns to the sea to search out the darker side of those lights, detailing the secret history of shipwrecks and the predatory scavengers who live off the spoils. Even today, Britain's coastline remains a dangerous place. An island soaked by four separate seas, with shifting sand banks to the east, veiled reefs to the west, powerful currents above, and the world's busiest shipping channel below, the country's offshore waters are strewn with shipwrecks. For villagers scratching out an existence along Britain's shores, those wrecks have been more than simply an act of God; in many cases, they have been the difference between living well and just getting by. Though Daphne Du Maurier made Cornwall Britain's most notorious region for wrecking, many other coastal communities regarded the "sea's bounty" as an impromptu way of providing themselves with everything from grapefruits to grand pianos. Some plunderers were held to be so skilled that they could strip a ship from stem to stern before the Coast Guard had even left port, some were rumored to lure ships onto the rocks with false lights, and some simply waited for winter gales to do their work. From all around Britain, Bathurst has uncovered the hidden history of ships and shipwreck victims, from shoreline orgies so Dionysian that few participants survived the morning to humble homes fitted with silver candelabra, from coastlines rigged like stage sets to villages where everyone owns identical tennis shoes. Spanning three hundred years of history, The Wreckers examines the myths, the realities, and the superstitions of shipwrecks and uncovers the darker side of life on Britain's shores.
 

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Disappointing in many ways, which is a shame, considering the almost cinematic potential that the theme carries with it. Bathhurst's account, though well written, is very speculative and full of inferences that simply dont seem watertight to me. You'd be better off watching that famous Hitchock movie (whose name I can't quite recall) dealing with the same subject.  

Contents

FALSE LIGHTS i
1
GOODWIN SANDS
27
SCILLY ISLES
104
ROYAL FISH
183
CORNWALL
213
EAST COAST
254
EPILOGUE
283
Bibliography
309
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About the author (2005)

Bella Bathurst is the author of The Lighthouse Stevensons, which won the Somerset Maugham Award, and of the novel Special. Her journalism has appeared in the Washington Post, the London Sunday Times, and other major periodicals. Born in London, she lives in Scotland.

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