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The Ship, the Saint, and the Sailor: The…

The Ship, the Saint, and the Sailor: The Long Search for the Legendary… (edition 2018)

by Bradley G. Stevens (Author)

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Title:The Ship, the Saint, and the Sailor: The Long Search for the Legendary Kad'yak
Authors:Bradley G. Stevens (Author)
Info:Alaska Northwest Books (2018), 280 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Ship, the Saint, and the Sailor: The Long Search for the Legendary Kad'yak by Bradley G. Stevens



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed this book and I feel that those who would consider themselves "armchair scuba divers" or "armchair shipwreck hunters" would as well. There was some technical jargon that was a little difficult to follow in some parts, but it did not detract from the total understanding of the book.

Those interested in Alaskan history or Russian-Alaskan history may also find parts of the book interesting, but I feel that the title is a little misleading in that regard. In The Ship, The Saint, and The Sailor: The Long Search for the Legendary Kad'yak, I expected to read more about "the saint" and "the sailor". While the author, Bradley G. Stevens, does delve into the history of the ship (and its captain - "the sailor") and what is known about its sinking, I would have liked to have read a little more. "The saint", referring to Saint Herman, was buried in an area of Alaska where the Kad'yak was reported to have sunk. He was an important person to many of those who lived in the area at that time. Depending on your beliefs, the lack of a prayer by the Kad'yak's captain when sailing by the saint's grave was speculated to have even been a possible reason for the ship's sinking! So even though Saint Herman and the Sailor/Captain are discussed in the book, I think the title is a little misleading. Much more of the book is devoted to the attempt to locate and dive the ship's wreck site. I understand that that is important work and should be explained thoroughly in the book. Understandably, modern-day historians, archeologists, scuba divers, shipwreck enthusiasts, and others will find this the main part of interest in the book. But because so much less was discussed about the saint and the sailor, it leaves me feeling like the title was created as a clever use of alliteration, when they could have been covered some more.

For those interested in shipwreck diving, this book does a fairly comprehensive job of covering many of the steps involved, from start to finish. I've seen several documentaries and regular tv programs about the topic and still had no idea how complex the process could be, particularly when a new and historic wreck is discovered. The Kad'yak is the oldest shipwreck discovered in the waters of Alaska. This gave it much historical significance and also got many different "parties" interested in diving the site. The legalities involved and permissions from various organizations can be quite complex. The care that must be taken when diving on such a site is also of paramount importance, which obviously also includes the safety of all those involved, both the divers and those who remain above sea level. The proper documentation of anything found at the wreck site must be very precise. The author does a very good job of explaining how all of this was done. Sometimes we see how it can also be a learning process of trial and error. This is especially true in the case of the author, who although was an experienced scuba diver, most of his professional experience underwater had been working as a marine biologist studying crabs! ( )
  KimDV | Jan 11, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The first and final chapters of THE SHIP, THE SAINT, AND THE SAILOR are the best parts of the book. The first chapter outlines how the ship, Kad'yak, came to be wrecked in the early spring of 1860 in Alaskan waters. The final chapter tells of the loss of a crab fishing boat in the winter of 2005, 145 years later than the Kad'yak wreck. Called Big Valley, it had played an important part of the search for the remains of the Kad'yak. All chapters in between the two are basically the memoirs of author, Bradley G. Stevens, a marine biologist who worked for many years for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Kodiak, Alaska while studying king crabs and other kinds of crabs sold on the commercial market.

Stevens comes across as a totally affable fellow, one with whom a reader might sit over a cup of coffee or a beer and listen to his stories. He seems to be a passionate man with lots of interests: maritime history, shipwrecks, diving, local Alaskan culture and music, and the fisheries industry among others. He was not only active with his job, but active in the community of Kodiak (he now lives in Maryland), and while living there became seduced by the story of the wreck of the Kad'yak.

The basic story is that Captain Arkhimandritov promised to honor Saint Herman on a visit to Kodiak Island. The promise was made to the wife of the Chief Administrator of the territories. She wanted him to go to Saint Herman's grave, say a prayer, and perhaps leave an offering. The Captain promised to do so, but broke his promise. As the story goes, his ship - the Kad'yak - was then wrecked, and sunk into the depths, although all men aboard were saved. Well over a century later, Bradley G. Stevens became obsessed with finding the wreck of the Kad'yak. Chapters two through twenty outline his interest in finding the Kad'yak, those he worked with to accomplish this task, and the long time it took for the project to come to fruition.

If one is interested in diving and shipwrecks, Stevens' memoir will at least hold one's interest. However, despite its catchy title, THE SHIP, THE SAINT, AND THE SAILOR, seems to lack a lot of the drama of sea adventure and a lot of the methodical research of the usual maritime history book. As a memoir, however, it certainly conveys a man's passion and interest, and brings up interesting points regarding salvaging a shipwreck vs preserving it. Several of the men who started searching for the Kad'yak with Stevens decided they wanted to file a claim on the wreck, thus causing friction on the team, the rest of whose members were more into preserving and documenting the wreck rather than taking any possible gain from it. The odd part is that this is the main tension in the story, but about halfway through, Stevens allows those men to disappear from the narrative, leaving the reader wondering exactly how all those problems and conflicts were resolved.

Stevens is a marine biologist, not a maritime historian. He did a fairly good job with his story, but it is definitely not a page turner. One simply meanders through his words, thinking that the man had good intentions, and feeling mildly happy for him that he was able to accomplish what he did. If the story of Captain Arkhimandritov had been woven throughout the narrative or if the fate of the Big Valley had been explored a bit more, Stevens' book might have been more readable. What stands out most, though, is how ethical Stevens is, and his words and actions certainly allow the reader to think about and analyze the ethics of maritime discovery. ( )
1 vote IsolaBlue | Jan 11, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a free copy of Bradley G. Stevens' book "The Ship, The Saint, and the Sailor: The long search for the legendary Kad'yak" from LT's early reviewers program. Unfortunately, I can't overstate how much I disliked this book.

The author comes across as a fairly egotistical guy -- he appears to want a lot of credit for essentially having a map translated from Russian to find an old shipwreck off the coast of Alaska. He uses government property -- when his boss explicitly says not to -- and grant funding that is not for the project when he gets interested in the idea-- which he tries to justify in a "everyone does this" sort of way.

I like the portion of the book about the Kad'yak itself, but otherwise I found the book was way to bogged down in excruciating detail about the search for the ship -- from grant proposals to actual search trips. The story really wasn't all that interesting to me. There is probably enough material here for a good magazine length piece, but not a book. ( )
  amerynth | Jan 3, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author of this story about finding the wreck of the Russian ship Kad'yak in Alaskan waters possesses a skill set that was uniquely appropriate for the adventure he embarked on: marine biologist, SCUBA diver, historian, amateur archeologist, etc. And to all of this he added persistence and determination. It all makes for a very interesting dive - pun intended - into a bit of Alaskan history from the mid-1800s wedded to modern day sleuthing and technology, culminating in a remarkable discovery. But not without difficulties. Bradley Stevens had been interested in the history of the Kad'yak for decades before he undertook a careful analysis of available, but not always clear, historical documents concerning the ship wreck. He consulted with others who could add to what he was putting together, despite their skepticism about some of his assumptions and conclusions. And there was the very real possibility of some less scrupulous helpers exploiting his efforts to their own advantage. All of this is told in a very direct and forthright fashion. This is not literature with frills and fancy jargon. There are ample illustrations that help the reader understand the challenges involved in making this discovery. And there is a bit of religious mystery mixed in to make the reader stop and wonder. ( )
  BlaueBlume | Dec 21, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Back in 1860, a Russian sea captain lost a ship named the Kad'yak off the coast of Kodiak Island while carrying ice to California. One hundred forty three years later, a marine biologist studying king crabs in Alaska decides to try and find it. They do, but not without drama.

Stevens' memoir of the search for the Kad'yak, the players involved, the legal fights over ownership and salvage was certainly interesting, and I enjoyed learning about the history of Russian trade in 19th century Alaska and the legalities of shipwrecks. Is it "captivating" and "poetic" as claimed on the back? Not really - but for those interested in the subject it'll be a nice read. ( )
1 vote drneutron | Dec 12, 2018 |
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