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