For 23 years, Cussler's NUMA--the National Underwater & Marine Agency--has scoured Earth's waters in search of lost ships of historic significance. This collection contains more of their true adventures. Illustrations.
Well known for his series of action adventure novels starring Dirk Pitt, Cussler is also the founder of the nonprofit National Underwater and Marine Agency, a group that searches for shipwrecks of historical significance. The group does not salvage any artifacts; they simply note the wreckage location and turn their information over to appropriate agencies for further study and planning. In this fast-paced narrative that doesn't tinker with the earlier Sea Hunters' successful formula, Cussler and his teams search for 300 years' worth of wrecks as varied as La Salle's 17th-century flagship, a dirigible lost in a storm off the New Jersey coast in 1933 and the famous PT-109. Cussler traveled along the coast of Texas, up the Mississippi River and to the jungles of the South Pacific in search of historically important wrecks of all sorts. Cussler first provides the historical background for each tragedy (sometimes inventing dialogue when there are no survivors to interview), then dives into his own adventures. One of Cussler's unsuccessful searches took his team to the Maine wilderness, where they tried to locate the wreckage of a French airplane that crashed in 1927 on its way to Washington, having crossed the Atlantic nonstop, before Charles Lindbergh. On the other hand, his crew found the RMS Carpathia (the ship that rescued the survivors of the Titanic), which had been sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast in 1918. Cussler's artful writing style and varied experiences while searching for historical treasures make this a first-rate adventure book sure to please any student of history and the odd Pitt fan who takes the plunge. With a 250,000 first printing, many are expected to. (Dec. 2) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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December 29, 2003
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Excerpt from The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler
The Father of Waters
"THE FOOL!" RENÉ-ROBERT CAVELIER DE LA SALLE SHOUTED as he stood helpless on the desolate shore and watched his flagship, L'Aimable, veer out of the buoyed channel toward what he knew was certain destruction.
Earlier, over the protests of L'Aimable's captain, René Aigron, La Salle had ordered the 300-ton French ship loaded with stores for a new colony to sail across the bar of Cavallo Pass into Matagorda Bay-a body of water that would become part of the state of Texas 157 years later.
Aigron stared menacingly, demanded La Salle draw up a document absolving him of any responsibility, and insisted the explorer sign it. La Salle, still recovering from an illness, was too weary to argue the point and reluctantly agreed to the terms. Fearing the worst, Aigron then transferred his personal possessions to a smaller ship, Joly, which had already crossed the bar and was safely anchored inside.
Now, with the sails unfurled and billowing from a following breeze, L'Aimable, to the horror of La Salle, was sailing into oblivion.
THE MAN who would claim the new world for France was born in Rouen, France, on November 22, 1643. After an unsuccessful attempt to become a Jesuit priest, he left France seeking a new life in New France, now known as Canada, then a French colony. After a few false starts, La Salle established a thriving fur-trading business, an endeavor that allowed him to develop his budding passion for exploration.
When Louis de Buade Comte de Frontenac became the new governor of Canada, La Salle nurtured a friendship with him. In time, the Canadian governor introduced La Salle to King Louis XIV, who granted the explorer a patent, or royal license, to explore the western regions of New France. In effect, La Salle now became France's approved explorer in the New World. La Salle, in debt, wasted little time before exploiting the honor.
Expanding his fur trade to the west and into Lake Michigan, La Salle set out to change the way the business was conducted. Most fur trappers headed into the wilds until they had secured sufficient pelts to load a birch-bark canoe, then they set off on a long journey to a major town where they could sell their bounty. La Salle saw that the Great Lakes needed larger vessels, so he built one. In August 1679, he launched Le Griffon, a rigged vessel of sixty tons mounting seven guns, into Lake Erie. Griffon amazed the Indians in the area, who had never seen a large ship. Unfortunately, the vessel was not long for this world.
In defiance of Louis XIV's order not to trade with the Indian tribes in the western regions, La Salle set out to do just that. After transporting people to Fort Michilimackinac, near where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, Griffon was sent across Lake Michigan to Green Bay. There the ship was loaded with furs and goods for the trip back to Fort Niagara at the eastern end of Lake Erie.
With no explanation, Griffon disappeared into the mists of history.
The loss of Griffon, and another ship loaded with supplies in the Saint Lawrence River, brought La Salle to the edge of financial ruin. To complicate matters, in 1680, just after the loss of the ships, the men assigned to La Salle's Fort Crèvecoeur at the mouth of the Illinois River mutined and destroyed the outpost. Never lucky, La Salle saw his world collapsing.
Rather than admit defeat, he pressed on with his plans to discover the mouth of the Mississippi River. In February 1682, La Salle started down the upper waters of the Mississippi in an expedition consisting of twenty elm-bark canoes. By March, the expedition had reached present-day Arkansas and established contact with the Indians, who welcomed the French explorers. With the weather improving, the expedition pressed south, and on April 6 they finally reached the mouth of the great river.
La Salle was a pompous man given to ego, and the ceremony on April 9 reflected this. Standing next to a towering live oak and dressed in scarlet robes, La Salle had the men sing hymns while standing in front of a cross that had been carved from a large pine tree. Then he claimed all the land lining the Mississippi River for France.
In honor of the king he served, he called the land Louisiana.
Without a war and with hardly a single shot fired, La Salle made a claim to an area that doubled the size of New France. From the Appalachian Mountains to the east, south to the territories claimed by Spain, the land comprised some 909,000 square miles.
Now he needed to establish a base far to the south so he could exploit his discovery for profit: a base far away from his growing list of enemies in New France and far from his creditors. La Salle's friend Frontenac had been replaced as governor of New France by Antoine Levebre Sieur de La Barre, who, like most, cared little for the arrogant La Salle. His last chance was to return to France and convince King Louis XIV to support his efforts to colonize the southern end of the Mississippi River Valley. In this, he was successful.
On July 24, 1684, La Salle left France with four ships and four hundred colonists.