The True Story of the Wreckers Who Risked All to Save Ships in Peril

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From the Civil War to after World War I, a group of reckless men roamed the seas, rescuing sinking ships and salvaging what they could. These men, known as Wreckers, lived fascinating lives that ranged from heroic behavior to piracy.

From the Atlantic to Pacific and Bering Sea to the Great Lakes, follow the Wreckers as they face turbulent seas to save foundering ships, or to collect treasure as told in Dennis Powers' "Taking the Sea: Perilous Waters, Sunken Ships, and the True Story of the Legendary Wrecker Captains" (ISBN 9780814413531, Amacom Books, 2008).

In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of brave, reckless, sometimes callous, even generous men ruled the waves. Known as Wreckers, these sailors were called upon time and time again to rescue sinking ships. To some, they were heroes, helping to rescue both passengers and ships with courage and skill. To others they were ruthless pirates, who exploited the unfortunate simply to collect the shipwreck's valuables.

Dennis Powers returns to the maritime world he has so frequently written about with such compelling power. In "Taking the Sea," Powers explores a nearly forgotten part of sea-faring history. From early beginnings when the poor followed sinking ships to enrich their lives a little, to the golden age of Wreckers following the Civil War, and on into the early twentieth century when steamships and schooners ruled transportation, Powers tells the tales of shipwrecks and the fearless, or at times, mercenary men who came to their rescue and received their share of what was saved. Powers tells that some communities prospered tremendously from wrecking. By the mid-nineteenth century, wrecking had made Key West the largest and richest city in Florida, and the town was known for its disproportionate supplies of fine silk, chandeliers, and champagne, all before more lighthouses, better charts, and stronger ships began cutting down the easy opportunities.

At the center of the book is Captain Thomas P. H. Whitelaw, the greatest ship salvager of his day. At age sixteen, he arrived in San Francisco with twenty-five cents to his name. By age forty-five, he had extensive wealth in shipping, salvaging, mining, real estate and ranching as a result of his success as a wrecker. He was internationally known as "The Master Wrecker" and "The Great Wrecker of the Pacific." Captain Whitelaw's ventures ranged from Mexico to the Bering Sea and different countries called upon his expertise. Whitelaw was the most legendary, but just one of the wrecker captains whose stories Powers features.

Anyone intrigued by the sailor's life, or who loves a story of adventure and danger, will find "Taking the Sea" impossible to put down. Kirkus Reviews states that in the book "there are plenty of interludes blending tragedy and triumph, and a few wondrous, death-defying finales." Ingenuity and heroism fill this book. Readers will marvel at the courage of the sailors who risked their lives to save others, and the depths to which men will go to make their fortunes. The best and worst of human character are revealed in this surging depiction of drama on the high seas. "Taking the Sea" has made certain these heroic sea stories will never be forgotten again.

About the Author
Dennis Powers is an avid historian of nautical life. He is the author of "The Raging Sea" (2005) and "Treasure Ship" (2006). His next book, "Sentinel of the Seas," (2007) was about lighthouses, particularly the St. George Reef Lighthouse located off the California coast--and the most expensive, dangerous, and remote one ever built. He spent five years meticulously researching the subject for his latest book, "Taking the Sea," which tells the stories of these death-defying adventures and times of the Master Wreckers.

"Taking the Sea: Perilous Waters, Sunken Ships, and the True Story of the Legendary Wrecker Captains" (ISBN 9780814413531, Amacom Books, 2008) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit Publicity contact: Review copies available upon request.


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