I loved Ship of Gold (full title Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea). Great story that is all the more incredible for being true. It's great history
and well told with a good bit of sailing and navigation
The side-paddle steamer S.S. Central America
sank off the Carolinas in 1857 coming back from the California
gold fields with 500 passengers including many women and children
. Most drowned after a three day struggle to save the ship while trapped in the hellish storm. So much gold was in her holds that the loss created a recession in the US ("Panic of 1857"). For 130 years, treasure hunters looked in the wrong place until a young guy spent several years painstakingly researching the ship, the voyage, the passengers, and nearby ships. The book is full of "truth is stranger than fiction" research
. Here's one:
A Norwegian bark named the Ellen loaded with mahogany logs
was caught in the same storm. As the storm wound down, her captain
alterned course from east to northeast for a better angle. At 6PM a huge man-of-war hawk swooped across the quarterdeck hitting the captain
on the shoulder. The bird repeatedly wheeled and dived on the captain until he caught it and had it's head
cut off. Then, thinking this bird an omen, he went back to his original easterly course. Twenty miles later, around 1AM in pitch
blackness, the captain heard "agonizing shrieks, as it seemed, of a hundred human voices". The Ellen was passing directly through the swimming survivors of the sunken Central Republic. They could not be seen but only heard. The Ellen rescued over 40. The bird's actions was recorded in the log at the time and verified by multiple members of the Ellen's crew. If she had not changed course at precisely the moment, over 40 more people would have died.
As I said, the book is full of such moments - although the detailed descriptions (from the survivors) of the storm are not a good way to temp one's spouse to sailing.