The Sea Hunters II [NOOK Book]

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From the author of the #1 bestselling The Sea Hunters comes more unforgettable true adventures with famous shipwrecks.
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The Sea Hunters II

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Overview

From the author of the #1 bestselling The Sea Hunters comes more unforgettable true adventures with famous shipwrecks.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.
Library Journal
This is nonfiction, but it's still pretty thrilling: Cussler recounts the efforts of his organization, NUMAR the National Underwater and Marine Agency to dredge up lost ships with historical value. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The creator of the immensely popular series of marine and underwater adventures starring Dirk Pitt (Valhalla Rising, 2001, etc.) returns with a sequel to his nonfiction Sea Hunters (1996). Cussler’s flair as a novelist often bleeds into his real-life adventures with an ad hoc group of companions variously skilled in the arts of shipwreck hunting that now bears the imprimatur of National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), borrowed from the fictional entity of the same name. This is not to imply any distortion of key facts (more on that later), but it does allow Cussler and NUMA cohort Dirgo to weave corking good stories around episodes that are often equal parts adventure and misadventure. NUMA’s mission is to locate wrecks, not salvage them; nobody dives down, for instance, to tangle with a giant squid over a chest of doubloons. And here, towing a Magnetic Anomaly Detector over the seabed or riverbed to pinpoint where a wreck is not (in the case of Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s PT 109) easily passes for a bona fide adventure. Threats of weather and wave occasionally loom, but more often botched plane reservations or cafes that don’t stock the right brand of hot sauce are the drolly rendered impedimenta. Exhaustive research on intended targets like the "ghost ship" Mary Celeste, the Civil War vessel U.S.S. Mississippi, and particularly the siege of Charleston, which cost the Union so dearly in ironclads and their crews, is genuinely illuminating, and the events often fascinatingly told. Cussler, however, belongs to that genre of writers who are somehow informed by the Almighty as to the precise final words, thoughts, and actions of those about to succumb (in this case to maritimedisasters), so that hypothesis is not an issue to be flagged. A lively narrative slickly done: nothing wrong with that, but intelligent readers who like their history straight up may find it simply annoying. First printing of 250,000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440674266
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 12/30/2003
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 43,573
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Clive  Cussler
Clive Cussler is the author of many New York Times bestsellers, most recently The Spy and Lost Empire. He lives in Arizona.
Craig Dirgohas been special projects manager on many NUMA expeditions since 1987 and now serves as a trustee. He is the coauthor of The Sea Hunters and The Sea Hunters II.

Biography

Cussler began writing novels in 1965 and published his first work featuring his continuous series hero, Dirk Pitt, in 1973. His first non-fiction, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered The Sea Hunters in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in May, 1997. It was the first time since the College was founded in 1874 that such a degree was bestowed.

Cussler is an internationally recognized authority on shipwrecks and the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, (NUMA) a 501C3 non-profit organization (named after the fictional Federal agency in his novels) that dedicates itself to preserving American maritime and naval history. He and his crew of marine experts and NUMA volunteers have discovered more than 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites including the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, the Confederacy's Hunley, and its victim, the Union's Housatonic; the U-20, the U-boat that sank the Lusitania; the Cumberland, which was sunk by the famous ironclad, Merrimack; the renowned Confederate raider Florida; the Navy airship, Akron, the Republic of Texas Navy warship, Zavala, found under a parking lot in Galveston, and the Carpathia, which sank almost six years to-the-day after plucking Titanic's survivors from the sea.

In September, 1998, NUMA - which turns over all artifacts to state and Federal authorities, or donates them to museums and universities - launched its own web site for those wishing more information about maritime history or wishing to make donations to the organization. (www.numa.net).

In addition to being the Chairman of NUMA, Cussler is also a fellow in both the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London. He has been honored with the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration.

Cussler's books have been published in more than 40 languages in more than 100 countries. The author lives in Arizona.

Biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA)

Good To Know

Cussler worked for many years in advertising and was responsible for coming up with Ajax's "White Knight" commercial catchphrase, "It's stronger than dirt."

The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered Cussler's 1996 nonfiction book, The Sea Hunters, equivalent to a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997.

Cussler is a fellow in the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London, and has been granted the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration.

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    1. Hometown:
      Phoenix, Arizona
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 15, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Aurora, Illinois
    1. Education:
      Pasadena City College; Ph.D., Maritime College, State University of New York, 1997

Read an Excerpt

PART ONE
L'Aimable
I
The Father of Waters
1684-1685

"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 Canadiangovernor 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.

. . .

RENÉ-ROBERT Cavelier de La Salle never would have won a popularity contest.

On the lee side of Hispaniola Island in the country of Santa Domingo at the port of Petit Goave, the commander of the French thirty-six-gun warship Joly, Captain Andre Beaujeu, was airing his grievances about La Salle to Captain René Aigron of the supply ship L'Aimable. Aigron, whose ship was anchored off Port-de-Paix, was separated from the other ships of the fleet by a mix-up in orders. He had traveled by donkey to the other side of the island for the conference.

"La Salle is touched," Beaujeu said. "First he refuses permission for us to stop in Madeira, then he bans the sailors from baptizing the passengers as we cross the line into the tropics. Those two rituals are time-honored nautical traditions."

Aigron was a short man, just over five feet in height and weighing 120 pounds. Pursing his lips, he puffed on a long thin pipe. The bowl of the mahogany pipe had been carved into the shape of a jellyfish. Waving away the smoke, he pointed to a crude chart on the table in Joly's captain's quarters.

"I'm more than a little concerned," Aigron noted. "Nowhere on this crude chart do I see where La Salle has marked the great river running into the Gulf of Mexico."

"I asked him before we left La Rochelle," Beaujeu said as he sipped from a silver flute of wine, "what exactly was our intended course. Then as now, he refused to disclose the route."

Aigron nodded and waited for Beaujeu to continue.

"Honestly, I don't believe La Salle knows where we are going," Beaujeu concluded.

Aigron stared at Beaujeu. His fellow captain was not a handsome man. His left cheek sported a dark red birthmark that was roughly the shape of the British Isles. Half his front teeth were missing, and the rest were stained from the wine Beaujeu habitually drank.

"I agree with you, Captain," Aigron said. "I believe La Salle is bluffing. Even though he claims to have traveled to the mouth of the river by land, I don't think he has a chance of finding it from sea. Navigating on land is much easier than over water."

"It will become extremely dangerous once we enter into the gulf," Beaujeu noted. "From there on, we'll be sailing under the Spanish death sentence."

For the last hundred years, the Spanish Crown had made it known that any foreign vessels found in the Gulf of Mexico would be impounded and their crews killed. That was the primary reason no navigational charts were available. The Spanish alone had charts, and they were not about to share them with another country.

"La Salle must be losing his mind," Aigron said.

Beaujeu nodded and took another puff. At this very instant, La Salle was bedridden with the fevers, so it was hard to argue with Aigron on that point.

"Then we need to make plans to ensure the safety of our ships and our sailors," Beaujeu said.

"Understood," Aigron agreed.

Then he reached for a flask of brandy to toast their treasonous alliance.

AS LA SALLE lay in his sickbed, the fact that his expedition was already fractured was the least of his worries. Surely, the lies he had told his king must have topped the list.

Specifically, to receive the funding necessary to the venture, La Salle had told Louis XIV three lies.

The first lie was that the savages in the new land sought conversion to Christianity. The truth was far from that-other than a few scattered pockets where the Jesuits had made inroads, the Indians had resisted any attempts at salvation. Second, La Salle had boldly claimed he could raise an army of 15,000 savages to stave off any attacks from the Spanish, who currently claimed the area. That was simply not true. The Indian tribes in America were scattered and warring among themselves. The third, and probably the most important, was his representation that the return to the mouth of the great river was a foregone conclusion. The truth was that his knowledge of the river came only from land-finding it from sea was an entirely different matter altogether. He clung to the hope that he could locate the muddy brown stain where the river mixed with the salty water of the gulf. And that would prove as easy as finding a pin in a hayfield the size of Belgium.

The date was December 1684, two months after their arrival in Hispaniola.

"I FEEL stronger now," La Salle said to Tonty, who sat in a chair near his bed.

Tonty was the son of a Neapolitan financier who was La Salle's closest friend and adviser. A French soldier until the loss of his hand to a grenade, he was now fitted with a crude iron device where his hand had been.

La Salle was still far from healthy. He was worried that, if the expedition did not sail soon, it might never make it off the island. Spanish buccaneers had already captured St. François, the expedition's thirty-ton ketch assigned to carry fresh meat and vegetables for the colony. In addition, the French sailors had spent most of the last two months in Haiti, drunk and disorderly. To compound the troubles, the settlers, who were tasked with forging a colony in the New World, were at odds with the sailors. Of the more than three hundred that had left La Rochelle, sickness and desertion had taken a third. And then there was the festering revolt by the captains. Word had leaked back to La Salle about the frequent meetings between them, and he feared the worst.

The situation for the expedition was grim-and growing more deplorable by the hour.

"We must sail in the morning," La Salle murmured weakly. "We cannot wait another day."

"My friend," Tonty said, "if that is your desire, I will alert Captain Beaujeu."

Leaving the house in Port-de-Paix, Tonty descended the hill to the port. A stiff wind was blowing from the north, and the temperature, which usually hovered near ninety degrees, had dropped into the low sixties. Rounding a curve in the cobblestone street, Tonty stared at the three remaining ships anchored in the bay. The thirty-six-gun ship of the expedition, Joly, was farthest to sea. The Belle, a small frigate mounting six guns, was closer to shore. The 300-ton store ship for the expedition, L'Aimable, lay just off the docks at anchor. As the sun slipped behind the clouds, the water in the bay turned a midnight black. Tonty continued to the dock. Once there, he boarded one of L'Aimable's launches for the short ride out to the vessel.

Captain Aigron had been alerted by the lookout that Tonty was on his way out. Defiantly, instead of leaving his cabin to stand on deck as a show of respect, he remained below until Tonty was led down.

"Monsieur Tonty," the sailor said, after knocking on the captain's door.

"You may enter," Aigron said quietly.

The sailor opened the door, then stepped aside to allow Tonty entrance. L'Aimable's captain's cabin was high in the rounded stern of the vessel. Though not particularly large, the cabin was fitted out in a splendor not seen in the rest of the ship. Several brass whale-oil lamps were mounted on swivels that rocked with the ship. One lamp was placed near the berth, another near the table where Aigron sat, and another near an angled shelf mounted to the wall where the navigation charts were kept. A finely woven Persian rug, now becoming moth-eaten and worn from foot traffic, lay on the floor. To the right was Aigron's berth. Little more than a wooden shelf with high sides to prevent a person from rolling out as the ship rocked, it was fitted with linen sheets and a pair of feather pillows.

Atop one of the pillows lay the ship's cat. The aged feline looked worse for wear. He was a dusty yellow-and-brown color with a missing ear, the result of a rat attack deep in L'Aimable's hold. The cat hissed as Tonty entered the cabin.

"Monsieur Tonty," Aigron said, still sitting at the table, "what brings you here?"

"La Salle orders you to prepare L'Aimable to sail in the morning," Tonty said evenly.

Tonty did not care for Aigron, and the feeling was mutual.

"Captain Beaujeu and I have been talking," Aigron said haughtily, "and before we will set sail we must see Monsieur La Salle's charts. We have no idea of the location of the river. More important, we need a solid course to sail."

"I see," Tonty said quietly. "So you and Beaujeu have decided this?"

"Yes, we have," Aigron said forcefully.

"Then you leave me little choice," Tonty said.

Tonty took two steps closer to Aigron, then grabbed him with his iron hand by the neck and held tightly. Dragging him along the passageway to the ladder, he pulled him topside to the deck. Once on the main deck, he shouted to the closest sailor.

"Who is the second in command?" Tonty asked.

A tall, thin man stepped forth. "I am, Monsieur Tonty."

"Scrub this ship from stem to stern," Tonty said. "We sail in the morning with La Salle as your captain. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," the second officer said.

Aigron started to speak, but Tonty squeezed his Adam's apple tighter.

"Captain Aigron will be going ashore with me," Tonty said, as he led the captain to the ladder going down to the shore boat. "La Salle will be back in a few hours. We weigh anchor at first light."

"As you wish, sir," the second in command said solicitously.

Tonty dragged Aigron across the deck to the ladder and then down the few feet to the shore boat. Stepping into the boat, he pulled the captain into a seat and motioned for the sailor to shove off. The boat was halfway to the dock before Tonty released his grip on Aigron's neck.

Staring straight into the captain's eyes, he spoke in a low voice. "You may take over command of Belle or I'll toss you into the drink right now. What is your choice?"

The hook had crushed his voice box-Aigron could barely speak.

"The Belle, please, Monsieur Tonty," Aigron said in a hoarse whisper.

The shore boat was pulling abreast of the dock.

"You defy La Salle's orders again," Tonty said, "and your neck will feel my cutlass."

Aigron gave a tiny nod.

Then Tonty climbed from the shore boat and walked down the dock without looking back. His friend La Salle dreamed of conquering a continent for his king.

But dreams do not always come true.

--from The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler and Craig Durgo, Copyright © October 2002, G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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First Chapter

PART ONE
L'Aimable
I
The Father of Waters
1684-1685

"THE FOOL!" RENƒ-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, RenŽ 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 Crvecoeur 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.

. . .

RENƒ-ROBERT Cavelier de La Salle never would have won a popularity contest.

On the lee side of Hispaniola Island in the country of Santa Domingo at the port of Petit Goave, the commander of the French thirty-six-gun warship Joly, Captain Andre Beaujeu, was airing his grievances about La Salle to Captain RenŽ Aigron of the supply ship L'Aimable. Aigron, whose ship was anchored off Port-de-Paix, was separated from the other ships of the fleet by a mix-up in orders. He had traveled by donkey to the other side of the island for the conference.

"La Salle is touched," Beaujeu said. "First he refuses permission for us to stop in Madeira, then he bans the sailors from baptizing the passengers as we cross the line into the tropics. Those two rituals are time-honored nautical traditions."

Aigron was a short man, just over five feet in height and weighing 120 pounds. Pursing his lips, he puffed on a long thin pipe. The bowl of the mahogany pipe had been carved into the shape of a jellyfish. Waving away the smoke, he pointed to a crude chart on the table in Joly's captain's quarters.

"I'm more than a little concerned," Aigron noted. "Nowhere on this crude chart do I see where La Salle has marked the great river running into the Gulf of Mexico."

"I asked him before we left La Rochelle," Beaujeu said as he sipped from a silver flute of wine, "what exactly was our intended course. Then as now, he refused to disclose the route."

Aigron nodded and waited for Beaujeu to continue.

"Honestly, I don't believe La Salle knows where we are going," Beaujeu concluded.

Aigron stared at Beaujeu. His fellow captain was not a handsome man. His left cheek sported a dark red birthmark that was roughly the shape of the British Isles. Half his front teeth were missing, and the rest were stained from the wine Beaujeu habitually drank.

"I agree with you, Captain," Aigron said. "I believe La Salle is bluffing. Even though he claims to have traveled to the mouth of the river by land, I don't think he has a chance of finding it from sea. Navigating on land is much easier than over water."

"It will become extremely dangerous once we enter into the gulf," Beaujeu noted. "From there on, we'll be sailing under the Spanish death sentence."

For the last hundred years, the Spanish Crown had made it known that any foreign vessels found in the Gulf of Mexico would be impounded and their crews killed. That was the primary reason no navigational charts were available. The Spanish alone had charts, and they were not about to share them with another country.

"La Salle must be losing his mind," Aigron said.

Beaujeu nodded and took another puff. At this very instant, La Salle was bedridden with the fevers, so it was hard to argue with Aigron on that point.

"Then we need to make plans to ensure the safety of our ships and our sailors," Beaujeu said.

"Understood," Aigron agreed.

Then he reached for a flask of brandy to toast their treasonous alliance.

AS LA SALLE lay in his sickbed, the fact that his expedition was already fractured was the least of his worries. Surely, the lies he had told his king must have topped the list.

Specifically, to receive the funding necessary to the venture, La Salle had told Louis XIV three lies.

The first lie was that the savages in the new land sought conversion to Christianity. The truth was far from that-other than a few scattered pockets where the Jesuits had made inroads, the Indians had resisted any attempts at salvation. Second, La Salle had boldly claimed he could raise an army of 15,000 savages to stave off any attacks from the Spanish, who currently claimed the area. That was simply not true. The Indian tribes in America were scattered and warring among themselves. The third, and probably the most important, was his representation that the return to the mouth of the great river was a foregone conclusion. The truth was that his knowledge of the river came only from land-finding it from sea was an entirely different matter altogether. He clung to the hope that he could locate the muddy brown stain where the river mixed with the salty water of the gulf. And that would prove as easy as finding a pin in a hayfield the size of Belgium.

The date was December 1684, two months after their arrival in Hispaniola.

"I FEEL stronger now," La Salle said to Tonty, who sat in a chair near his bed.

Tonty was the son of a Neapolitan financier who was La Salle's closest friend and adviser. A French soldier until the loss of his hand to a grenade, he was now fitted with a crude iron device where his hand had been.

La Salle was still far from healthy. He was worried that, if the expedition did not sail soon, it might never make it off the island. Spanish buccaneers had already captured St. Franois, the expedition's thirty-ton ketch assigned to carry fresh meat and vegetables for the colony. In addition, the French sailors had spent most of the last two months in Haiti, drunk and disorderly. To compound the troubles, the settlers, who were tasked with forging a colony in the New World, were at odds with the sailors. Of the more than three hundred that had left La Rochelle, sickness and desertion had taken a third. And then there was the festering revolt by the captains. Word had leaked back to La Salle about the frequent meetings between them, and he feared the worst.

The situation for the expedition was grim-and growing more deplorable by the hour.

"We must sail in the morning," La Salle murmured weakly. "We cannot wait another day."

"My friend," Tonty said, "if that is your desire, I will alert Captain Beaujeu."

Leaving the house in Port-de-Paix, Tonty descended the hill to the port. A stiff wind was blowing from the north, and the temperature, which usually hovered near ninety degrees, had dropped into the low sixties. Rounding a curve in the cobblestone street, Tonty stared at the three remaining ships anchored in the bay. The thirty-six-gun ship of the expedition, Joly, was farthest to sea. The Belle, a small frigate mounting six guns, was closer to shore. The 300-ton store ship for the expedition, L'Aimable, lay just off the docks at anchor. As the sun slipped behind the clouds, the water in the bay turned a midnight black. Tonty continued to the dock. Once there, he boarded one of L'Aimable's launches for the short ride out to the vessel.

Captain Aigron had been alerted by the lookout that Tonty was on his way out. Defiantly, instead of leaving his cabin to stand on deck as a show of respect, he remained below until Tonty was led down.

"Monsieur Tonty," the sailor said, after knocking on the captain's door.

"You may enter," Aigron said quietly.

The sailor opened the door, then stepped aside to allow Tonty entrance. L'Aimable's captain's cabin was high in the rounded stern of the vessel. Though not particularly large, the cabin was fitted out in a splendor not seen in the rest of the ship. Several brass whale-oil lamps were mounted on swivels that rocked with the ship. One lamp was placed near the berth, another near the table where Aigron sat, and another near an angled shelf mounted to the wall where the navigation charts were kept. A finely woven Persian rug, now becoming moth-eaten and worn from foot traffic, lay on the floor. To the right was Aigron's berth. Little more than a wooden shelf with high sides to prevent a person from rolling out as the ship rocked, it was fitted with linen sheets and a pair of feather pillows.

Atop one of the pillows lay the ship's cat. The aged feline looked worse for wear. He was a dusty yellow-and-brown color with a missing ear, the result of a rat attack deep in L'Aimable's hold. The cat hissed as Tonty entered the cabin.

"Monsieur Tonty," Aigron said, still sitting at the table, "what brings you here?"

"La Salle orders you to prepare L'Aimable to sail in the morning," Tonty said evenly.

Tonty did not care for Aigron, and the feeling was mutual.

"Captain Beaujeu and I have been talking," Aigron said haughtily, "and before we will set sail we must see Monsieur La Salle's charts. We have no idea of the location of the river. More important, we need a solid course to sail."

"I see," Tonty said quietly. "So you and Beaujeu have decided this?"

"Yes, we have," Aigron said forcefully.

"Then you leave me little choice," Tonty said.

Tonty took two steps closer to Aigron, then grabbed him with his iron hand by the neck and held tightly. Dragging him along the passageway to the ladder, he pulled him topside to the deck. Once on the main deck, he shouted to the closest sailor.

"Who is the second in command?" Tonty asked.

A tall, thin man stepped forth. "I am, Monsieur Tonty."

"Scrub this ship from stem to stern," Tonty said. "We sail in the morning with La Salle as your captain. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," the second officer said.

Aigron started to speak, but Tonty squeezed his Adam's apple tighter.

"Captain Aigron will be going ashore with me," Tonty said, as he led the captain to the ladder going down to the shore boat. "La Salle will be back in a few hours. We weigh anchor at first light."

"As you wish, sir," the second in command said solicitously.

Tonty dragged Aigron across the deck to the ladder and then down the few feet to the shore boat. Stepping into the boat, he pulled the captain into a seat and motioned for the sailor to shove off. The boat was halfway to the dock before Tonty released his grip on Aigron's neck.

Staring straight into the captain's eyes, he spoke in a low voice. "You may take over command of Belle or I'll toss you into the drink right now. What is your choice?"

The hook had crushed his voice box-Aigron could barely speak.

"The Belle, please, Monsieur Tonty," Aigron said in a hoarse whisper.

The shore boat was pulling abreast of the dock.

"You defy La Salle's orders again," Tonty said, "and your neck will feel my cutlass."

Aigron gave a tiny nod.

Then Tonty climbed from the shore boat and walked down the dock without looking back. His friend La Salle dreamed of conquering a continent for his king.

But dreams do not always come true.

—from The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler and Craig Durgo, Copyright © October 2002, G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2003

    Sea Hunters Hits a home run

    The Sea Hunters II Clive Cussler is the most interesting & suspenseful master of any current author. He has no equal in creating a story & relating it to his readers. He makes history come alive & entertaining. He enlightens the reader & teases them along the way. His enthusiasm for his adventures permits the reader to better enjoy his stories. In this latest adventure, The Sea Hunters II, he shares his accounts of searches for lost shipwrecks, airplanes, and steamships of the past. He weaves a story in only a way that the reader will want to know more of the past events. The book reader, Mr. Scott Brick, is excellent & one can almost hear the author¿s enthusiasm for this current adventure. The unabridged version of his latest audiobook is outstanding. Michael W. McShan, MD 02/14/03

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    engaging look at predominately nautical history

    Sea adventure novelist Clive Cussler is as highly regarded for his efforts to hunt and find real shipwrecks (see THE SEA HUNTERS) as he is for his exciting NUMA books that are far from the Pitts. Mr. Cussler and Craig Dirgo provide a new account of their search for shipwrecks (and air-wrecks) around the world. Each description provides fascinating historical background data that includes information about the vessel, where it allegedly sunk and why, and the team search of records and other related evidence before finally conducting an on-site investigation. Bottom line is that THE SEA HUNTERS II is an absorbing account that confirms or denies the ¿authoritative¿ locale. Though a fictional account of what the crew might have said as the ship sank might turn off historical purists, THE SEA HUNTERS II is an engaging look at predominately nautical history through the disasters that typically shocked those individuals aware at that time. Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2014

    Andrea

    I need a ship to drop me off at the moon pool pkease pick me up at 11:06

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2014

    Rmma

    I need 2 shups. One for defense and one for quests.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Good Read

    Mr. Cussler is truly one of the great authors of recent times. His ability to suck you into a story quickly is unmatched in my opinion. Hunters 1 was better by a thin margin but this is still very entertaining.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2014

    A young warrior

    Im a girl

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012

    Awesome

    I bought this at a yard sale for fifty cents. I felt like i was the one finding these ships. Been hooked on Cussler ever since.

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  • Posted September 24, 2012

    I decided to read this book while looking for some adventurous r

    I decided to read this book while looking for some adventurous reads to share with my teen grandsons, and to my great surprise, I loved everything about the book! Definitely sharing with all three grandsons!

    This book is a great blend of historical fiction , telling about various real sea vessels and sea airplanes that ended their lives in crashes. NUMA is an organization that is mostly funded by adventure author, Clive Clussler. It's mission is to find and salvage these sea vessels for history.

    Two of the most famous vessels written about were Kennedy's PT 109, and the Carpathia, the ship first on the scene after the Titanic sank. All the stories were fascinating, and the many expaditions to find and authenticate the wreckages were even more fascinating. I'd recommend this book for everyone who likes adventure and history!

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  • Posted July 22, 2012

    Worth reading if this is of your interest

    Well written as have all of his real stuff. I'm not a fan of Cussler's fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    Gift

    Bought as gift.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    Informative and entertaining

    This book is fun,informative and educational for anyone seeking real life adventure. You will not be dissapointed!

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    Posted October 20, 2010

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