By: John Viele
In this third book in a series on the history of the Florida Keys, John Viele tells the true story of the Florida Keys wreckers, the daring seamen who sailed out in fair weather or foul to save lives and property from ships cast upon the unforgiving Florida Reef in the passage south of the Florida Keys, one of the most dangerous in the world, having claimed thousands of ships and lives. In the 1850s, the heyday of the wreckers, ships were piling up on the reef at the rate of nearly one a week. Salvaging these wrecks was a highly competitive and hazardous gamble of the lives, limbs, and vessels of the wreckers against an often elusive gain.
From the archives of the federal court at Key West, or “wrecking court,” and from contemporary letters, diaries, and newspaper articles, the author has captured the drama of the lives and times of the Florida Keys wreckers with accuracy and clarity. Richly illustrated with drawings from nineteenth-century magazines and newspapers, artists’ concepts of wrecking scenes, and reproductions of old paintings and photographs, this book will fascinate sailors and landlubbers alike.