J. Richard “Dick” Steffy stood inside the limestone hall of the Crusader castle in Cyprus and looked at the wood fragments arrayed before him. They were old beyond belief. For more than two millennia they had remained on the sea floor, eaten by worms and soaking up seawater until they had the consistency of wet cardboard. There were some 6,000 pieces in all, and Steffy’s job was to put them all back together in their original shape like some massive, ancient jigsaw puzzle.
He had volunteered for the job even though he had no qualifications for it. For twenty-five years he’d been an electrician in a small, land-locked town in Pennsylvania. He held no advanced degrees—his understanding of ships was entirely self-taught. Yet he would find himself half a world away from his home town, planning to reassemble a ship that last sailed during the reign of Alexander the Great, and he planned to do it using mathematical formulas and modeling techniques that he’d developed in his basement as a hobby.
The first person ever to reconstruct an ancient ship from its sunken fragments, Steffy said ships spoke to him. Steffy joined a team, including friend and fellow scholar George Bass, that laid a foundation for the field of nautical archaeology. Eventually moving to Texas A&M University, his lack of the usual academic credentials caused him to be initially viewed with skepticism by the university’s administration. However, his impressive record of publications and his skilled teaching eventually led to his being named a full professor. During the next thirty years of study, reconstruction, and modeling of submerged wrecks, Steffy would win a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and would train most of the preeminent scholars in the emerging field of nautical archaeology.
Richard Steffy’s son Loren, an accomplished journalist, has mined family memories, archives at Texas A&M and elsewhere, his father’s papers, and interviews with former colleagues to craft not only a professional biography and adventure story of the highest caliber, but also the first history of a field that continues to harvest important new discoveries from the depths of the world’s oceans.
*Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Loren Steffy is the author of five books of nonfiction: Deconstructed: An Insider's View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades (with Stan Marek); The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens (with Chrysta Castañeda); George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability, and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet; The Man Who Thought Like a Ship; and Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit." He is also the author of a novel, The Big Empty, which combines a sweeping appreciation for history and the struggles of small-town America with an examination of technology and the social and economic changes that come about when the two meet head to head.
Steffy is also a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and a managing director for the communications firm 30 Point Strategies, where he heads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. He is the founder of his own imprint, Stoney Creek Publishing, a company committed to stories and narratives from unique voices. Stoney Creek has an award-winning team of editors and designers who are committed to producing high-quality books in less time and with fewer hurdles than traditional publishing.
He writes a regular blog, Loren Steffy's Writings and Ramblings, which can be viewed through his website at www.lorensteffy.com. He has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business, MSNBC, the BBC and the PBS NewsHour, and is regular guest on local television and radio news programs in Houston.
Prior to his current positions, Steffy was the business columnist for the Houston Chronicle for nine years and his writing has been published in newspapers and other publications nationwide.
Before joining the Chronicle, Steffy was the Dallas bureau chief and a senior writer for Bloomberg News for twelve years. He covered a variety of business topics in Texas and across the country, including the collapse of Enron. His reporting on the demise of Arthur Andersen was selected for the 2003 edition of the "Best Business Stories of the Year." Before joining Bloomberg, Steffy worked at the Dallas Times Herald, the Dallas Business Journal and the Arlington Daily News.
Steffy holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He and his wife, Laura, live in Wimberley, Texas, and share their home with 3 rescue dogs and an ungrateful cat.
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