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on 21 March 2002
This is a unique book that tells the story of a bunch of intrepid and inspired men who pioneered the exploration of the last great unknown: the deeps of the sea. How would you fancy wading out under water with nothing more than an inverted coal bucket over your head? Would you agree to a fight a shark, equipped with nothing more than a knife, all so that some movie company could film the gory encounter? Inventive, adventurous, foolhardy to the point of recklessness, many of the diving pioneers were also world-famous in their own right, like the great biologist JBS Haldane, who worked out how to survive at dangerous depths. Others evolved from treasure seekers to become the first underwater archaeologists, exploring ancient shipwrecks in exotic waters, or, most interesting of all, opening our eyes to the beauty of marine habits and wildlife, including the seriously threatened coral reefs. The author, himself a marine biologist and diver, blends all this into a magical weave of fact and wonder enlivened by a mordant wit and a delightful eye for quirky detail. I would recommend it to any reader.
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on 4 August 2001
One of, simply, the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. An interest in diving and matters sub-aquatic would provide an incentive to read this book but is far from necessary. A few of the names would be familiar to many, some to few. The common theme of underwater activities links a series of mini-biographies of interesting, multi-talented men and women only a part of whose abilities ¨C and eccentricities - centre on the topic of the title. The problems arising from the popularisation of an activity and the questionable benefits that may arise are well-illustrated. The style of writing is delightful providing good insight into the characters through both wit and compassion. It is an ¡®easy¡¯ and thoroughly enjoyable read which informs in an unobtrusive manner. On top of that, it is laugh-out-loud funny in many places.
It would be a pity if the title deterred potential readers: it really is a gem.
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on 4 August 2001
Trevor Norton presents us with a series of vivid portraits of the strange assortment of characters who pioneered diving. Henri Milne Edwards conducted the first expedition by a submarine biologist in 1844 off Sicily. As early as 1865, the mining engineer Benoit Rouqayrol designed a diving suit with a compressed air cylinder at the back, and a demand valve that supplied oxygen only when the diver sucked on the mouthpiece; but the idea somehow lay forgotten for eighty years.
The engineer Otis Barton designed, built and tested the first bathysphere in 1932, reaching a depth of 3000 feet. Jack Kitching was the first marine ecologist. In the 1930s, Guy Gilpatric, who held a world altitude record when he was only sixteen, invented the very idea of diving for pleasure.
John Scott Haldane worked on improving miners' safety and studied the effects of high pressure on deep-sea divers and of altitude sickness in climbers. His son, the communist and geneticist J.B.S. Haldane, was the first to map the genes on a human chromosome. He also worked on solving the problems of pressure experienced by divers and submariners.
In 1942, Jacques Cousteau's colleague Emile Gagnan re-invented the demand valve, the key to developing the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA). Louis Boutan and Ernest Williamson started underwater photography, popularised by those most photogenic photographers, Hans and Lotte Haas, in their 26 BBC television programmes.
Frederic Dumas, Peter Throckmorton and George Bass initiated underwater archaeology. Throckmorton found lost ships all over the world, most famously a 3,200-year-old wreck at Bodrum on the Aegean coast. He was the first to realise that "it was possible to do scientific archaeology under water." He acutely observed, "What historians had missed, the sea remembered."
Trevor Norton's fascinating book is full of humorous stories and conveys masses of information in a charming and easy style.
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on 12 January 2004
I can only endorse what everyone else has said already. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My wife who is not only a non diver but a non swimmer is reading the book and is enjoying it also. Well written and well researched. The historical connections to time and place are educational.
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on 14 July 2009
As an instructor i know that SCUBA diving itself is a stupid sport, we willingly immerse ourselvesin a volume of water larger than we could swallow in one gulp, but at least we have decent modern equipment. This book describes the story of the early pioneers of diving took the plunge using anything from flying goggles to up-ended buckets.
an excelent book that i would heartily reccomend to any diver and to any fan of the stupidity of the human spirit in its constant drive to 'lets have a look over there'
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on 21 December 2000
One of, simply, the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. An interest in diving and matters sub-aquatic would provide an incentive to read this book but is far from necessary. A few of the names would be familiar to many, some to few. The common theme of underwater activities links a series of mini-biographies of interesting, multi-talented men and women only a part of whose abilities ¨C and eccentricities - centre on the topic of the title. The problems arising from the popularisation of an activity and the questionable benefits that may arise are well-illustrated.
The style of writing is delightful providing good insight into the characters through both wit and compassion. It is an ¡®easy¡¯ and thoroughly enjoyable read which informs in an unobtrusive manner. On top of that, it is laugh-out-loud funny in many places.
It would be a pity if the title deterred potential readers: it really is a gem.
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on 19 February 2016
I bought this for My Dad who is 93 years old and was a Marine Engineer and served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. He loved this book - it's easy to dip in and out of, well laid out and genuinely good fun to read. Inspiring pioneers of diving.
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on 23 September 2014
Great memories from the early diving era
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on 5 May 2009
I thought this book was excellent. Easy read, funny and free flowing. I felt no pressure on my brain when i dove in and din't need to come up for air thanks to nortons breathable prose.
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on 2 March 2009
We know the dangers of deep diving because someone did it before and reported... Highly recommended
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