Recent Read:
Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde
by Brad Dimock (Fretwater Press, 2001); Winner of National Outdoor Book Award (2001)

Several weeks ago, I was in Bryce Canyon National Park and visited the historic Ruby’s Inn just outside of the Park boundary. Ruby’s Inn has it all – quite a spread – of cabins, hotels, motels, shops, auto garage, camping, trails, and all kinds of amenities. Even a bookshop! (No library as far as I could tell though!) The gift shop there has a nice selection of books and of course, I had to peer at all the titles. One in particular caught my eye, Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde by Brad Dimock (Fretwater Press, 2001). This is the fascinating story of Glen and Bessie Hyde who, on their honeymoon, decided to embark on an adventure on the Colorado River in a sweepboat aka scow. The year was 1928, before the River was dammed at Lake Mead (construction began on Hoover Dam in 1931) and at Lake Powell (construction began on Glen Canyon Dam in 1956)  and they put in at Green River, UT to float through Cataract Canyon and then into the Grand Canyon, only be lost forever lost to the world after a month into their trip. At the time of their trip, the Colorado River and its canyon walls were beginning to be explored more, with adventurers relying on information gathered through Major John Wesley Powell’s trip on the Colorado River in 1869.

The book is very well written by expert boatman Brad Dimock, who with his wife, recounted their own trip in a scow boat down the Colorado River, tracing the path and steps of Glen and Bessie Hyde. In this biographical adventure book, that is well-researched, and filled with historic photographs of the couple, also including the couple’s family histories and genealogy, and the Colorado River as well as other historic river runners. Perhaps most interesting were the notes from Bessie’s own river journal, which was recovered from their belongings left in the boat along the River. The book also includes her poignantly melancholy poetry throughout. The fate of Glen and Bessie Hyde may never be known, their lives and deaths swallowed by the great river, but author Brad Dimock examined the history, the stories and claims of others to be Bessie and Glen, and the scow boat intricacies, the river, the geography and canyon walls itself, to form a hypothesis about the couple’s ultimate end. There are several theories out there, some may be perpetuated as urban legends. Bessie seems to hold particular fascination with the stories and there are variations on a theme with her demise.

This fascinating book also walks through some of the early history of the Grand Canyon National Park, the early boatmen and traces the water levels and changes and how that is reflected on the river journeys. I had a sense of Glen and Bessie’s epic, thrilling, adventurous, and adrenaline-driven trip. I had a sense of the fall temperatures, moving into the cold winter weather of November and December, the snow that fell and the ice that formed. I had a picture of Bessie’s petite strength, her bravery and courage to face that gigantic river, as one of the first woman to float the River, and the only woman at that time to float the great River in a scow boat.

If this book is of interest, you may also enjoy Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael Patrick Ghiglieri; Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy through the Grand Canyon by Edward Dolnick; Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty by W. L. Rusho, Vicky Burgess, and John Nichols; Vanished!: Explorers Forever Lost by Evan L. Balkan; and The Last Season by Eric Blehm. See more titles for reading ideas at Fretwater Press.

Advertisements