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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Book Review: Shadow Divers

Do you have a hobby that can get you killed? Are you in to shark wrestling, Russian roulette, scaling sky-scrapers? Well, deep-sea wreck diving is right up there. The diving going on Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers is not the leisurely, ooh look at the pretty fish, scuba diving you do in crystal clear tropical resort waters. No way. Diving at 230 plus feet is incredibly dangerous. The physiological effects of diving this deep can kill you outright. At the bottom of the sea, your field of vision narrows and your mind goes fuzzy as you slip into narcosis. Or your equipment fails and you drown. Or you get trapped in a half-rotten shipwreck and join the crew in Davy Jones Locker. Or you panic and surface too quickly and get the bends as your blood turns to foam and you die in gutwrenching agony. Sound like fun? C'mon bring the kids!

Robert Kurson's well-written account of deep-sea wreck diving chronicles the escapades of two divers based out of Brielle, New Jersey. In 1991, our heroes discover the wreck of an unidentified U-Boat sixty miles off the Jersey shore, thus uncovering one of the last mysteries of World War II. The two main protagonists, Chatterton and Kohler, become obsessed with learning the true identity and fate of the U-Boat dubbed the "U-Who." To prove my point that the sea is indeed a harsh mistress, over the course of the decade much danger ensues and the sunken warship claims her fair share of fresh victims. The book is interesting both for its depiction of the practitioners of deep-sea wreck diving and for its analysis of the obsession that drove the men headfirst into peril, time and again.

One criticism, I did find the book's sympathetic treatment of the U-boat's officers and crew somewhat disconcerting. While I'm sure Germans pressed into the U-boat corps in the waning days of the Reich did not have much choice in the matter, they were still coming to sink U.S. ships and kill Americans.

Overall, Shadow Divers is good read and good example of the genre. I still prefer Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air for pure, sustained outdoor adventure writing. But if you don't have time to read the book, don't worry, Shadow Divers is coming soon to a theater near you.


At Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 9:06:00 PM EST, Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

What a coincidence. I was just today describing this book to a colleague who dives, and I could not remember the name.

Great book. Thanks.


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