Thank you for those title recommendations, just what is needed as the summer winds down and the evenings grow longer. When I saw the topic of treasure I immediately went to the bookcase accommodating my diving literature and took down one of the volumes:
Jane & Barney Crile (1954) Treasure Diving Holidays
. London: Collins.
According to Stephen W. Collins' NAUI International Bibliography Down to the Sea with Books
, the Criles' tome was also published in the USA in 1954 by Viking Press of New York.
I own a first-edition copy of the UK version, bought at a used bookstore somewhere for the princely sum of £3. The book is subtitled "The Adventures of a Family under the Sea." My copy still has its paper cover, which is just as well because the inner flaps contain several pragraphs designed to whet the reader's appetite:
WILL DESCENDANTS OF CAPT. ASHBY UTTING, commanding the man of war H.M.S. Loo, wrecked off the coast of Florida in 1974, KINDLY COMMUNICATE with the advertiser, who would like information on the wreck.
This unusual advertisement appeared recently in the Personal Column of a London newspaper. Behind it lie two remarkable stories, the story of a British man-of-war that was wrecked 210 years ago in the course of operations on the Spanish Main, and that of an American surgeon and his family who discovered it on the ocean bed while pursuing their favourite hobby of underwater swimming.
Dr. and Mrs Crile's underwater adventures began in the bathtub where they first practised holding their breath under the surface. Then came a home-made diving hood in which they all but drowned one another. Next they tried "skin diving"; with no more equipment than "wings of rubber on our feet, and over our eyes and nose a plate of glass" they entered a new world and began to explore the secrets of the sea.
Soon their children were old enough to join them. They had been concerned that children today were becoming too dependent on the organisation of city life. To teach them self-reliance and ingenuity, they took them back to the sea, our natural heritage. Family holidays became family adventures.
Each summer found the children a year older, stronger and able to explore the ocean bed at greater depths. From the pursuit of fish and the study of life beneath the sea, they were swept into the vortex of a new enthusiasm, the search for sunken treasure. They caught gold fever. They were to learn not only the technique but the philosophy of treasure-hunting. Treasures were not just gold and silver, but all the homely little articles that conjured up the life of centuries past. They found great tusks of ivory from a slave ship, and cannon from a British man-of-war that had sailed for George II against the Spaniards. They found the feeding bowls of the slaves, fragments of delfware made in Bristol, wine bottles from the Rhine, muskets and cannon balls; and from one lump of coral came a rare and perfectly preserved Queen Anne pewter teapot. "We never knew what we would find next." To the thrill of discovery was added the challenge of identification and the tantalising pursuit of the clues that might solve these mysteries of the sea.
They found delight, and frequently danger too; above all, they found adventure in a world in which the average family too seldom meets it at first hand. And from their adventures grew a new self-reliance and a family solidarity. "Diving united us in adventures shared; it gave purpose to our fun."
So there's the book's "blurb." As a retired educator, I particularly enjoy reading in this book how underwater swimming equipped just with a mask and fins can feed young people's imagination, stimulate curiosity, lead to more autonomy and above all, be great fun. Treasure does not need to be about precious metals but can be just about simple artefacts like kitchen utensils that support our study of the past. It's all a world away from complicated modern diving techniques and technology and all the better for that in our overengineered new millennium.