Normally I don’t like sequels. I often find them to be inferior products. So when John Potter asked me to review On the Track of the Monmouth’s Galleon, I said yes with some dread. The book is a sequel to his autobiographical book My First Nine Lives. It continues Mr. Potter’s story from 1954 to 1958. But On the Track is a new story, and it is good.
The central focus of the book is a two-year diving adventure to recover the treasure from the Monmouth, a Spanish galleon that sank in 1702 in Vigo Bay. In many ways, Mr. Potter’s book reminds me of Moby Dick. On the Track provides a fascinating and detailed discussion of the equipment, the research and planning required, and the way such a venture is financed. The book also vividly describes the dangers the diving crew of the Dios te Grande encountered.
Interspersed among the diving material are vignettes that are lively and fun. Mr. Potter meets several celebrities on his travels including Errol Flynn, Richard Burton and Andres Segovia. There are also several touching stories. My favorite involves the sinking of the Ave del Mar off of Vigo Bay in 1956. Twenty-five fishermen were lost. Mr. Potter and his crew from the Dios te Grande spent two weeks searching the ocean bottom for the wreck. Eventually they located it and were able to recover the dead bodies. This was extremely important to the family members of the victims because they believed without burial it would be impossible for the souls of their loved ones to travel to heaven.
Stylistically, On the Track is impressive. Mr. Potter’s descriptions are vivid. His memory of events 60 years in the past as well as his knowledge of European history are encyclopedic. The book is also fast paced with mystery. You wonder whether these courageous divers will find their treasure, but you won’t get the answer from me. You’ll have to read the book. It’s a worthwhile endeavor.
I wrote this review two weeks before John Potter died on January 4 of this year. It was a sad day for East Chop and for me because he was a special friend. A celebration of John’s life will be held on Sunday, June 15 at 3 p.m. in Union Chapel. I hope to see you there.