Cover image for Shackles from the deep : tracing the path of a sunken slave ship, a bitter past, and a rich legacy
Shackles from the deep : tracing the path of a sunken slave ship, a bitter past, and a rich legacy

Racing the path of a sunken slave ship, a bitter past, and a rich legacy
Shackles from the deep : tracing the path of a sunken slave ship, a bitter past, and a rich legacy
Personal Author:
Publisher Info:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Partners, LLC, [2017]
Physical Description:
127 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Presents an investigation into the wreck of the Henrietta Marie and how it reflects the tragic history of slavery in England, West Africa, the Caribbean and America.


Call Number
Material Type
382.4409 COTT Book Adult Nonfiction

On Order



A pile of lime-encrusted shackles discovered on the seafloor in the remains of a ship called the Henrietta Marie, lands Michael Cottman, a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and avid scuba diver, in the middle of an amazing journey that stretches across three continents, from foundries and tombs in England, to slave ports on the shores of West Africa, to present-day Caribbean plantations. This is more than just the story of one ship - it's the untold story of millions of people taken as captives to the New World. Told from the author's perspective, this book introduces young readers to the wonders of diving, detective work, and discovery, while shedding light on the history of slavery.

Author Notes

The National Geographic Kid is curious about the world around them, empowered in the face of challenges and responsible for others and the natural world. Combining these principles with the international educational heritage of Collins, this partnership is a natural fit for books that are funny, weird, exploratory, educational and loved by children.

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-In his search for the lost treasure of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1972, "Moe" Molinar uncovered a mound of iron shackles on the ocean floor. His discovery, however, didn't lead marine archaeologists to the sunken Spanish ship but rather to the Henrietta Marie, an English slave ship that sank off the coast of Key West, FL, almost 300 years prior. Twenty years later, journalist and scuba diver Cottman was asked to chronicle the ship's history, but what started out as a routine assignment turned into something much more personal for the writer: it became one man's quest for answers about our collective past and relationship with slavery. Cottman previously recounted his pursuits in his adult novel The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie: An African-American's Spiritual Journey To Uncover a Sunken Slave Ship's Past, making him vastly familiar with the subject matter, especially considering that he has been at the forefront of documenting the ship's story for almost 25 years. However, readers eager to be regaled with detailed descriptions of Cottman's investigative adventures undersea and on land will be disappointed. The narrative is often short and choppy, jumping from one moment or line of inquiry to the next without fleshing the scene out. The Henrietta Marie as a subject is secondary to the author's personal reflections and questions on the matter. VERDICT Although Cottman's role in bringing the Henrietta Marie's story to light is praiseworthy, readers seeking a less obtrusive and more thorough exploration of the transatlantic slave trade, marine archaeology, or sunken ships should look elsewhere.-Audrey Sumser, Kent State University at Tuscarawas, New Philadelphia, OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this accessible and very personal account, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and scuba diver Cottman travels to the Caribbean, England, and West Africa as he retraces the route of a sunken slave ship, the Henrietta Marie, whose iron shackles kindle an "emotional journey. I had a deep yearning to know more about the oppressed African people aboard." Cottman's angered efforts to understand how the slave trade could be "simply business" drives his quest as he visits the grave of the shackle maker, Gorée Island in Senegal, and a Jamaican banana-packing farm. Cottman's attunement to his emotional state is never far from the surface: "I knew it was unusual, but I had this strange sense that, whether or not these people were actually distantly related to me, they were my family," he reports. "In the face of so much despair, cruelty, and sadness, these people and I were all connected because we had survived. Our people had survived." A timeline, map, color photo insert, index, and additional resources round out this chilling exploration of the slave trade, along with a pitch for the "next generation of young adventure-seekers" to consider scuba diving. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The idea of identity is at the center of this fascinating narrative nonfiction book about the slave ship Henrietta Marie, which sank off the coast of Florida in the early 1700s. Cottman, an African American journalist and scuba diver, was moved to join the investigation of the wreck of the Henrietta Marie thanks to his curiosity about his own ancestry: Could it have been possible that any of my ancestors had been on this slave ship? His search takes him to London to research the iron worker who made the shackles discovered in the wreck, some small enough for children; to Barbados, where 188 slaves were purchased at an auction by the same man; and to countries in West Africa to walk the land where those Africans were captured. This truly multidisciplinary volume, an adaptation of his 1999 adult title The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, engagingly explores a wide scope of topics, including the history of slavery, marine archaeology, and contemporary racial discrimination, culminating in a dive down to the wreck itself. Every bit of this concise, detailed book feels personal, and Cottman's exploration and investigation of the wreck is rich with intrigue and poignant, thought-provoking questions. Color photographs show artifacts from the Henrietta Marie, and end material includes references and additional reading. Part mystery, part history, part self-discovery, this is a stunning trip well worth taking.--Linsenmeyer, Erin Copyright 2016 Booklist