FRANK POPE has worked on underwater expeditions under the auspices of Oxford MARE (Maritime Archeological Research and Excavation), including the salvage of Lord Nelson's flagship Agamemnon. He divides his time between London and Nairobi.
This intense look at the fierce competition in what first-time author Pope slyly calls "the extraordinary underworld of shipwrecks" focuses on the effort in the late 1990s to recover a hoard of precious 15th-century porcelain from the sunken Hoi An ship in the Dragon Sea, a stretch of "typhoon-torn" water off the coast of Vietnam. Pope is equally adept at illuminating "the peculiarly powerful allure of shipwrecks" that drives the Hoi An team as he is in explaining the larger and more difficult context of modern excavation efforts, where "maritime archeologists who were regularly leading excavations around the world could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but the number of looters, souvenir-seekers, and well-equipped treasure-hunters was in the high hundreds." But Pope's strength in detailing the Hoi An story comes from his fascinating in-depth portraits of the main players in what became an unprecedented and expensive recovery effort: Ong Soo Hin, a Malaysian businessman who helped launch the project; Mensun Bound, the director of Oxford's Maritime Archaeological unit; and Dilip Tan, the operations manager under "nightmarish pressure" to finish the project. Pope expertly shows how the same ocean that can terrify and enrich can also "lay bare the very nature of man." (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The lure of buried treasure is always a hard one to pass up. When the treasure is 15th-century porcelain in a ship that sank in the Dragon Sea off the coast of Vietnam, the lure is irresistible. This is marine archaeologist Pope's true-life account of the excavation of the trading junk Hoi An. Pope served as operations manager of the salvage, finding himself trapped between the pull of archaeology and big business and also between two men: Oxford underwater archaeologist Mensun Bound and Malaysian-Chinese businessman Ong Soo Hin, both overflowing with ego, dreams, and their separate expectations for the porcelain treasure. Filled with the fascinating stories of the large international crew of archaeologists, scholars, divers, businessmen, and treasure hunters, Pope's tale defines the environments, personalities, and dangers that now accompany underwater archaeology, where the stakes are tremendously high. While the book has enough excitement and danger for even Indiana Jones (Bound is known as "the Indiana Jones of the Deep"), it also presents some of the tough issues that today's underwater archaeologists must face in a world where technological advances are allowing for the discovery of truly amazing treasures. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Melissa Aho, Metropolitan State Univ., Saint Paul, MN Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
PRAISE FOR "DRAGON SEA" "Treasure and typhoons, conflict and greed, plus a cast of intriguing characters and a weighty issue at its heart--Frank Pope's tale has all the ingredients of a classic thriller. But it's all true. A stunning debut."--Nicholas Evans, author of "The Horse Whisperer" "It takes a writer of extraordinary talent to tell a story like the one we find in "Dragon Sea, " but Frank Pope is one. This masterful recreation of the salvaging of the Hoi An hoard is as exciting as it is suspenseful--a thoughtful and gripping true thriller."--Clive Cussler