Review: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, Robert Kurson

Published June 16th 2015 by Random House

Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: Goodreads giveaway


From Goodreads

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men—John Chatterton and John Mattera—are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister’s exploits would have been more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s, but his story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history—it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates—like Bannister—that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Yo ho yo ho! It felt like fate that I won this ARC of Pirate Hunters just as my boss recommended that I read Kurson’s first book Shadow Divers – that one it is on my TBR now because Pirate Hunters totally held me captive!  Sorry- well kind of sorry.  Pirate John Bannister was quite a man.  He had been a successful British merchant captain when he all of a sudden turned pirate with his ship and ended up being hunted down by the British Navy.  His ship was sunk -possibly filled with treasure – in the Caribbean.  Kurson could really only speculate about what caused Bannister to completely change his life – but it was totally fascinating to read about the golden age of piracy and what could have spurred such a change in direction.  

Pirate hunters Chatterton and Mattera brought Bannister back to life as they tried to find the Golden Fleece.  I was so impressed at the depth to which they immersed themselves into Bannister as a man.  I wouldn’t have expected the men diving for treasure to be students of history – and that was my mistake.  Kurson details the incredible research that Chatterton and Mattera had to do to find any location where the Golden Fleece might have gone down.  Finding primary sources at libraries in Europe sounds just as amazing to me as the actual diving!  I was on edge every time they were out in the water waiting to hear what they might find.  The reader goes reader back and forth from the history of the ship and of the golden age of piracy to the personal histories of Chatterton and Mattera -and they were nearly as interesting as Bannister himself.  I loved this quote from a treasure hunter Chatterton and Mattera went to for help:

Treasure shows who you really are.  It strips away every facade you’ve  constructed,

every story you believe about yourself, and reveals the real you.

That kind of gave me the chills – and now I want to learn to deep sea dive of course.  I am slow with reading non-fiction but this moved fast and I wanted more of this story!  I hope to eventually read some more of what happened with their discovery and I definitely need to read up on piracy!

4 stars!

Thank you Random House and Goodreads for this First Reads giveaway copy!


  1. Great review! I don’t read a ton of non-fiction because I have SO MANY fiction titles demanding my attention but I love learning about sunken ships and shipwrecks. My Mom does too so we spend a lot of time watching documentaries on things like the Titanic (or ancient Egypt to be in a totally different vein) on The History Channel or The Discovery Channel. Now I really want to find one about pirates!

  2. I love books like this, where the author or authors bring a story to life by sharing their related, modern-day adventures. Mitchell Zuckoff does a great job with this in Frozen in Time if you’re looking for another similar read 🙂

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