Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Review: The Last Dive

Diving and underwater exploration has always interested me.  It has many of the tech requirements of space exploration and is also open to some extent, anyone with the interest and money needed to buy equipment and time.  Add these facts to it being a slightly "on the edge" hobby that can be pushed to life risking limits and it compares nicely with other sports I am interested in and have partaken in on occasion--mountaineering, rally racing, sky diving, bull riding, etc.

The Last Dive is centered around a father and son diving team and follows them from their first lessons, to their initial cave diving forays, to their deaths off the coast of NJ during a dive of an unidentified WWII U-boat.  Recounting their history is technical diver and friend of the father and son--Bernie Chowdhury.

Chowdhury is not the most graceful of writers.  He repeats nearly verbatim various facts about diving and its surrounding personalities a number of times in this book--something you would think a better editor would have taken out of the work.  He also spends a great deal of time talking about his own history, feelings and diving efforts--particularly his dives on the Andrea Doria and a resulting severe case of the bends.  All this takes away from the core story and makes the work feel like it is fluffed up to get to an acceptable length.

The information at the core of the work is one worth telling, as are the details and background on technical diving--a lot of which I had not known, including the effects of "air" at depth (narcosis), the use of mixed gas (helium-oxygen) allowing deeper dives, and the massive rate of fatalities within the sharp end of the sport.  Chowdhury's recap of the deaths of many of his diving friends and the sometimes random nature of these deaths, again lends itself to its comparison with others of the world's more dangerous sports.  Similarly Chowdhury's examination of the personalities, egos and conflicts involved in the sport are eerily similar to other "extreme" sports with the most interesting presumptions coming in statements detailing the need of athletes in these sports being attracted to them due to some emptiness in their life (need for acceptance, notoriety, belonging, etc.) that they did not find at other points in their life.

When I ended the book I felt like I certainly learned a lot about the sport and the causes behind the deaths of Chris and Chrissy Rouse but I wasn't truly entertained.  The book is going on my shelf to stay...for now.

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