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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review: Deep - Freediving, Renegade Science, and What Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves

I listened to Deep as an audio book. I expected a short, fairly easy listening book, and what I got was a long book full of scientific research, interesting people, and stories, interspersed with all sorts of random facts that would be too much to enumerate in a book review.

The story starts with free diving. OK, free diving is fun, and anyone who's ever done any snorkeling is going to love this part of the book, since it's about the amazing breath holds and how to get down to very deep depths without the bother of scuba gear and other annoying issues. Unfortunately, the sport of free diving seems competitive and driven by the one-upsmanship that happens whenever human beings start to compete with each other. The author describes competitors who black out under competition, one man who was paralyzed from the damage caused, and a man who died under competition conditions. This is not a sport you're going to be encouraging your kids to get into. And it's not even fun: most of the competitors dive with their eyes closed, because goggles would slow you down!

Fortunately, James Nestor decided it was pretty pointless as well, and goes on to other areas of oceanographic research in addition to finding an instructor and training to free dive. He even meets the Ama, the Japanese free divers who have a multi-generation tradition of Pearl diving. The book covers many topics such as the attempt to tag sharks near Reunion using free divers.

There's extensive coverage of dolphins and whales and echolocation, as well as an interesting visit to the Marinas trench, as well as the world's deepest underwater tour submarine. All in all, listening to this book took me months and provided lots more material than I expected.

My only complaint about the book is that the author uses the same voice to depict all the other characters he meets, which sometimes sounds like he's caricaturing them. That's a really minor complaint.

This book comes recommended, and is worth your time.

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