Mystery of the Last Olympian
– By Richie Kohler with Charlie Hudson
Bringing history to life, Richie Kohler’s book, ‘Mystery Of The Last Olympian’ is an all-encompassing saga of iron and steel and flesh and blood that’s as much about those who, “go down to the sea in ships” as it is about those who go down to the ships in the sea; the explorers and technical divers who have sought to unravel the secrets that remain entombed inside the world’s largest intact shipwreck, the former HMHS Britannic.
Younger sister to the RMS Olympic and the ill-fated RMS Titanic, the RMS Britannic was the third of what was to have been, at 882 metres in length, the world’s largest and newest breed of luxury liner. Still under construction when the supposedly unsinkable, RMS Titanic met its fate, a number of modifications, including the addition of a double hull, were incorporated into the design with the intention of making the Britannic, “practically unsinkable”.
Nearing completion at the outbreak of World War One, Britannic‘s later fitting out phase as a luxury liner was halted when the British government requisitioned the vessel for service as a hospital ship. Despatched to the Mediterranean in November 1916 to assist in the evacuation of troops wounded and injured in the Balkans campaign, the HMHS Britannic came to grief close to the Greek island of Kea, in the Aegean Sea, on the 21st November after apparently striking a German mine.
Sinking in just fifty minutes, but with comparatively minimal loss of life, both the cause of the catastrophe and the reason for the speed in which the “practically unsinkable” HMHS Britannic succumbed, remains an enigma; one that’s exercised the imagination of some of modern diving’s most accomplished undersea explorers.
Lying at a depth of 120-metres close to a busy shipping channel, Britannic remained largely forgotten until its discovery by Cousteau in 1975. Although he and his team became the first to dive the wreck, it was left to others to determine the causes of its sinking.
In 1997, a team led by technical diving pioneer, Kevin Gurr paved the way for subsequent expeditions, including the 2006 History Channel Expedition led by, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, the ill-fated 2009 mission in which expedition leader, Carl Spencer, died, and the 2015 Explorers Club Flag Expedition, marking the author’s return to the wreck where his friend had died.
Well researched and meticulous in its detail, ‘Mystery Of The Last Olympian‘ is so much more than just a dry-as-dust, slipway-to-seabed history of a shipwreck. As well as providing possible answers about the causes of the sudden sinking, it’s a blueprint for successful deep diving expeditions; a gripping read filled with sometimes harrowing accounts of penetrations deep into the bowels of the mighty liner; and a magnificent tribute to the memory of the author’s mentor and friend, Carl Spencer.
A tale well told by one of modern diving’s most accomplished identities, ‘Mystery Of The Last Olympian’ deserves a place on every divers’ bookshelf.
See the website at http://www.mysteryofthelastolympian.com for more details.
Categories: Book Reviews