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July 2003 Vol. 18, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Summer Reads for Divers

five classics not to miss

from the July, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Looking for a well-written book with a powerful story about the underwater world? These books are available through Undercurrent, which will deliver you Amazon.com's best prices and send a hunk of the profits directly to the Coral Reef Alliance.

Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean, by Osha Gray Davidson. In the mid-1970s, scientists and divers see tumors on green turtles, first in Hawaii, then Florida, then elsewhere. While the tumors at first seem superficial and can be removed, they soon spread into the turtles' organs. Turtle populations plummet. And the race begins to find the cause. What's in the water? Why aren't fish seemingly affected? What does this portend for our seas, as the problem expands and continues today? Journalist Osha Gray Davidson has written a medical detective story that will fascinate any diver who has ever seen a turtle beneath the surface. Davidson gives us an inside look at the Cayman turtle farms -- and the history of Cayman's turtles and turtle fishing -- and dives with turtles at Maui's Turtle House. He tells us what was behind the big Caribbean sea urchin die off a decade ago, what's happening in the dying waters of California's Monterrey Bay, and Alaska's sea cow slaughters. Davidson's keen eye produces a marine biologist's thriller for the lay reader, while touching on plenty of topics dear to a diver's heart. While you may not be aware of the plague facing our turtles, Davidson makes it apparent how it's a serious indicator of the threats to our oceans and its critters. A well-written, informative, and suspenseful book. Hardbound, $18.20.

Fatal Depth: Deep Sea Diving, China Fever, and the Wreck of the Andrea Doria, by Joe Haberstroh. In the summers of 1998 and 1999, a 65-foot dive boat from Montauk, N.Y., lost five divers in separate incidents on the Andrea Doria -- about one diver in every four trips! Diver error? Captain error? Bad luck? A continuing, unaddressed problem? Joe Haberstroh, a reporter for Newsday, explores each death in detail, explaining the divers' motivations, their training, and what happened on their fatal dives. The divers are ordinary guys, some trained better than others, but each diving below 200 feet in search of Doria trophies. What happened on board the Seeker? What was the captain's role? Could the accidents be prevented? Here's a real look at technical diving, the sport divers who take it up, and the bizarre risks they'll take to claim a piece of Doria pottery. A fascinating book, any serious diver will find it difficult to put down. I read it in a day. Hardbound, $16.77.

The Last Dive, A Father and Son's Fatal Descent in the Ocean's Depths, by Bernie Chowdhury. Arguably the most exciting book about diving in the last several years. Bernie Chowdhury, the founder of Immersed, the international technical diving magazine, has written a suspenseful and haunting tale. It's the story of Chris Rouse and his son, Chrissy, only 18 years apart in age and locked in a sophomoric relationship that played itself out every day and in every dive. Their maniacal devotion to diving leads them into more complex dives, progressing from Pennsylvania quarries to Atlantic wrecks, and eventually to the Andrea Doria. All in four years. Chowdhury's research leads him to his own voyage of self-discovery, as he learns painful lessons about what diving, in the context of his life, means to him. His gripping account of a dive gone wrong, his own terror, and a bends hit that takes him near death is a cautionary tale for all of us. As a back-story, he tells how sport diving metamorphosed into technical diving as adventurers unsatisfied with look/see dives to 130 feet push into extreme conditions of deep caves and wrecks. The Last Dive is a grand adventure, a remarkable book. Paperback, $11.16.

Beyond the Deep: the Deadly Descent into the World's Most Treacherous Cave, by William Stone, Barbara am Ende, and Monte Paulsen. In 1994, in the most dangerous diving expedition ever, Dr. Bill Stone led his team into what is probably the deepest cave complex in the world -- Mexico's uncharted Huautla cave system. This new book explores the adventure and danger that illuminate tech divers' obsession to tackle whatever exploratory challenge they can find. At record-breaking depths, Stone and Barbara am Ende, the team's least experienced diver and only woman, found themselves in a life and death struggle, virtually cut off from help. Their exceptional adventure is chronicled in 318 pages -- a harrowing and heroic page-turner. Hardbound, $18.97.

Down Time, Edited by Ed, Casey, and Jim Kittrell. Famous writers recount their most memorable underwater adventures. Dave Barry does battle with a lobster ... James Jones is awestruck in a coral cathedral ... Robert Stone faces down fear with his air running out ... Clare Booth Luce discovers the reef's true treasure ... Tim Cahill tracks the zombie of the deep ... James Hamilton Patterson tries to make high frequency noises underwater by squeaking condoms. Thirty-five passages by winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award, novelists and journalists, explorers and film makers. (You won't find Jacques Cousteau here; his family refused reprint permission.) Thrilling, funny, and original, this is terrific writing ferreted out with careful research -- thoughtful book for intelligent divers. Paperback, $15.

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