The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas, False Lights and Plundered Ships

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9780007170326: The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas, False Lights and Plundered Ships

From the bestselling author of The Lightouse Stevensons, a gripping history of the drama and danger of wrecking since the eighteenth century -- and the often grisly ingenuity of British wreckers, scavengers of the sea. A fine wreck has always represented sport, pleasure, treasure, and in many cases, the difference between living well and just getting by. The Cornish were supposed to be so ferocious that notices of shipwrecks were given out during morning service by the minister, whilst the congregation spent their time concocting elaborate theological justifications for drowning the survivors. Treeless islanders relied on the harvest of storms to furnish themselves with rafters, boat hulls, fence-posts and floors. In other places, false lights were set up with grisly ingenuity along the coast to lure boats into destruction. With romance, insight and dry wit, Bella Bathurst traces the history of wrecking, looting and salvaging in the British Isles since the eighteenth century and leading up to the present day. 'For a fully laden general cargo to run to ground in an accessible position is more or less like having Selfridges crash-land in your back garden,' she writes, 'a Selfridges with the prices removed'. Far from being a black-and-white crime, wrecking is often seen as opaque by its practitioners - the divisions between theft and recovery are small. No successful legal prosecution has ever been brought; the RNLI was founded by wreckers - even today lifeboat crews maintain the right to claim salvage; and since the sinking of the Cita in 1997, the inhabitants of the Scilly Isles have a startling propensity to sport Ben Sherman shirts. In settings ranging from the eerily perambulatory Goodwin Sands to the wreck-strewn waters off the coast of Durham, these murky tales of resourcefulness and quick-witted opportunism open a beguiling vista of life at the rough edges of our land and legality.

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About the Author:

Bella Bathurst is a freelance journalist whose portfolio includes work for the Observer, Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Independent on Sunday, Guardian, Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. Her first book, The Lighthouse Stevensons: The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses by the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson, was widely acclaimed. She published her first novel in 2003.

Review:

Praise for The Lighthouse Stevensons: 'Deeply accomplished ! this splendid book preserves the memory of great deeds performed in a heroic era' Frank McLynn, Sunday Times 'Bella Bathurst has built a lamp herself: it illuminates the work of a literary hero, a family business, a habit of mind and a Scottish period ! from the summit of this first terrific book she looks to become one of the best biographers of her generation' Andrew O'Hagan, The Times 'An enthralling story, vivaciously recounted ! These were epic and scarifying adventures, indicative of an age when the taming of nature was a philosophical given, its execution a religious passion' Alan Taylor, Observer 'This is a grand book doing for lighthouses what Dava Sobel's Longitude did for marine chronometers, and doing it, if comparisons be made, with considerably more panache' Nicholas Bagnall, Sunday Telegraph

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