But the lesson was stark and by now familiar: written history was fallible. Sloppy and erroneous assessments had been rushed into the official record, only to be presumed accurate by historians, who then published elegant reference works echoing the mistakes. Unless a person was willing, as [wreck divers John] Chatterton and [Richie] Kohler were, to ditch work and sneak off to Washington, chisel away at mountains of opaque original documents, sleep in fleabag motels, eat street-vendor hot dogs, and run outside every two hours to shovel quarters into a parking meter, he would presume the history books to be correct.Cold Spring Shops readers who get paid to do research, whether as part of the job description, or on government grants, or for a dissertation, take heed. (That goes for recreational researchers whether working on family histories or investigating prototypes so as to build a model railroad as well.)
The quote comes from Robert Kurson's The Shadow Divers, which provides background on the identification of a mystery submarine wrecked somewhere off the New Jersey coast. The book reads a lot like Frederick Forsyth in the technical details and in the character development, but it has in common with all good sea stories that you could begin it, "No s***, this really happened." It also reinforces something my brother told me years ago, that it is easy to die on a big shipwreck. (Happens off Milwaukee all the time on Prins Willem, he has advised me.)
What U-boat was it? Read the d*** book.