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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2012
I don't swim and the very thought of diving is anathema to me. As for diving deep in caves - horror of horrors. I like to go high in the mountains and battle with that kind of breathing difficulty with plenty of thin fresh air. So I lifted this book off the shelf with something less than enthusiasm.

I was soon caught up in the diving world of the amateur 'sports' divers pushing the boundaries. In this case pushing just too far. There is a startling set of statistics near the end of this book 'The number of people who survive dives to 250 metres without injuries is about 10%, and at least half have lost their lives'. Here you will read of some of the real men who make that awful statistic. It is startling to realise that climbers enter the 'death zone' when more than 7,000 metres above sea level but when men go down into water the 'death zone' is no more than 250 metres below.

This book educated me in the basic science of diving and that was a revelation to me. I learned about the different breathing systems and gas mixes,their merits and risks. Also the awful pressure that a very few metres of water can place on the human body. It took me into the world of the obsessive quest of going deeper and deeper. In some ways this is the mirror image of climbers pressing on to the summit of Everest way past the time when they should have turned back. Most high moutaineering deaths occur on the descent due to exposure, fatigue, exhaustion but for these divers the real danger is in the ascent. It only takes a few minutes to sink deep into the water but many hours to return safely to the surface, pausing repeatedly to decompress every few metres of ascent, with the threat of hypothermia caused by long inactive hours under water breathing gas. So many different ways to cause death.

More than that this is a story of bonding and friendship of like-minded men; unproclaimed achievement, but above all, great personal tragedy for the families of those associated with the events in Bushman's hole in South Africa. It is a frightening book but very rewarding to read.
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on 1 January 2011
This is a truly excellent book, both factually 'in-depth' as well as narratively exciting. Experienced rebreather diver or complete novice this book describes an apocryphal episode in extreme sport diving history. It sets out a definitive horizon for rebreather diving (using current technology) based on something no one either understood or expected - Carbon Dioxide exchange within the lungs at depth.

Having dived both the BioMarine MK15.5 and Inspiration myself; and having read the book in part to identify what it was that caused Dave Shaw to lose his life in this way I - have one question for the author: At the very end of the book, reference is made to two contributing factors: Hypercapnia and the assembly of the MK15.5 rebreather. The latter leads one to ask how this might have happened. I therefore back tracked to where Dave purchased the MK15.5 in the expectation that (as with any commercially sold rebreather) he would have been trained on its specifics. Alas no. The rebreather had been purchased from a collector and no account is given of any subsequent training. Specifically, such training would have described a critical assembly sequence for the lexan lidded scrubber unit - spacer and then open cell (absorbent foam filter). This would also have been shown in the MK15.5 USN manual.

So what happened here? Did Dave S teach himself? Did Don Shirley help him? Why did Dave not go to someone such as Kevin Denlay in Oz for IANTD certification prior to using it at all?
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on 5 August 2011
As a diver I did enjoy the book, its well written and covers the topic well and in enough depth that someone with no knowledge of the sport would understand, albeit the vast depth achieved seems to be mentioned almost in passing, which may leave the uneducated to suspect all divers routinely achieve depths of 270 m's.
The names of the 2 divers in question, Dave Shaw and Don Shirley often caused me confusion as to who was who in the earlier stages, probably cause of the same starting letter, however it was a grim read.
I'm well aware of the story, divers pushing the limits of their sport find lost diver and choose to set about recovering him, and in the process become victims too, but its all the other little references throughout the book of divers dying that would make anyones 'non diving' friend truly question the mentallity of someone that pursues the sport of cave diving.
As I've said it is a bit grim, but tense and engrossing, it truly shows the capability of the human body and mind to endure. Well worth picking up a copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2008
An excellent book, well written and very pacy.
Even though the bulk of the main story is laid out in the first chapter, the background fills in to build the tension before the final dive. There's quite a twist at the end, which I won't spoil by describing !
Fascinating for scuba divers, but well explained for non-divers too. I couldn't put it down .....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2009
I couldn't put this down.
A gripping story of friendship, adventure, survival and tragedy.

You don't have to be a diver to enjoy this book, as enough of the terminology of mixed-gas diving and rebreather technology is explained to assist the non-diver, yet not explained TOO much to bore the experienced diver.
Simply excellent.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2008
I first learned about Dave Shaw and his tragic accident while researching rebreathers. A short burst of surfing later and I was reading 'Raising the Dead', an article by Tim Zimmerman for 'Outside' magazine. Before I knew it, I was viewing Dave Shaw's head cam footage, recovered after the ill-fated dive. I was almost in tears. 270 metres underwater, he might as well have been walking on the Moon. I would defy anyone not to be moved by his story.

I bought this book despite being sceptical that it would add much to what I already knew or have the same impact as my original encounter with the story. Being longer than the Zimmerman article, Finch has taken the opportunity to flesh out the personalities and roles of the participants - yet it remains a gripping, fast-paced and moving story. I read most of it in one sitting and couldn't wait to get back to it - even though I already knew how it would end. This is the diving equivalent of Joe Simpson's 'Touching the Void'.

By the way, it also provides a very brief and simple explanation of how rebreathers work and points out the hazards of breathing different gases under pressure (i.e. at depth). This book is so good that I've bought another copy for my favourite dive buddy.
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on 30 September 2011
I purchased this book on my kindle when I came accross it by chance. I read the reviews which were overwhelmingly positive. The price was steeper than I normally pay on the Kindle but I decided to give it a go, and what a decision it was! The story is exciting, gripping, shocking, harrowing and tragic, all rolled into one. I did some Open Water dives a few years ago and loved it but realised how tough (and frightening) an environment it is unde3rwater, but this was down to 12 metres! In this book, Dave Shaw and Don Shirley reach just a little bit further than this!

As you read you slowly get the idea of just how great a feat these guys, and others, achieved.

This is a book which I would recommend anyone who either has a slightest interest in diving or adventure or real life emergencies to read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2009
I am not a diver and as a friend gave me this book to read, I was at first very sceptical as to why he recommended it. Having read it I can see why. This was simply a real page turner I could not put this book down. Forget the technical "stuff".It is a gripping and tragic account at the same time. I tried to imagine why Dave Shaw should attempt to rescue the body of someone he did know knowing the obvious risks to himself and indeed others. I think I still don't really understand why but forget this and read it as a human story with a sad ending.This is real life not Hollywood.The book itself is well written and kept this reader wanting more. I even watched the film of the fateful dive and that for someone who has no interest in this type of "hobby" is really saying something about the quality of this story.
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on 21 June 2011
Super book! Like many other reviewers here, I just couldn't put this down. It's a true story that's not been overtly dramatized, it feels real, is well paced and interestingly woven together. You feel as though you know these characters and if you're a diver (recreational or technical) you will feel you are right there as you relate to the processes and training involved. It also educates about some of the finer points of technical diving, rebreathers and the great discipline and skills required, but without being too geeky for the non-initiated. I thought it might be an interesting read but it's rare I find a book that commands so much of my time so immediately. A must for all divers but be warned it also reminds us of the real-world consequences for the families tragically left behind.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2008
A book which is simply un-putdownable, but which is also tragic. A truly riveting read that tells an amazing story - I can't recommend it enough. However, one can't help but think why on earth Dave Shaw thought this was a risk worth taking, especially since he knew the extreme dangers involved in cave diving. Very sad.
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