Saturday, October 1, 2011

“West Coast Wrecks & Other Maritime Tales”

By Rick James
ISBN No. 978-1-55017-545-5
www.harbourpublishing .com
Herman Melville ends “Moby-Dick” with a line about a shipwreck at sea where suddenly everything falls in on itself, is swallowed by the water, and the sea rolls on as it had for 5,000 years. Wow…
There’s a mystery in the idea of a shipwreck that transcends the TV punchline of people stranded on, and voting each other off, a deserted island. Of course, there’s the cruise ship/paradise aspect of the sea, and all that “Pirates of the Caribbean” silliness for the ADD generation. And unless you’re running for Republican office the sea is that primordial pool from which all life – even sushi! - came. Archaeologist Rick James knows all this and he unpacks an engrossing – that’s right! – treasure trove of 140+ years of maritime disasters, sailing folklore, and finally, definitively explains why British Columbia’s nudist retreat is named Wreck Beach. The book is like a baker’s dozen of Titanics and is as addictive as TV’s “The Deadliest Catch.” The black-and-white pictures are appropriate for the eras (late 1800s and early 1900s) and amp up the little asides that’ll roll around your head for days after reading (like when evacuating a burning ship was hindered because the Chinese employees didn’t speak English).