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Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth Hardcover – 15 Jun 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (15 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067677
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067671
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.4 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 940,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Heart-stopping and relentlessly gripping. Tabor takes us on an odyssey into unfathomable worlds beneath us, and into the hearts of rare explorers who will do anything to get there first."--Robert Kurson, author of "ShadowDivers


""Holds the reader to his seat, containing dangers aplenty with deadly falls, killer microbes, sudden burial, asphyxiation, claustrophobia, anxiety, and hallucinations far underneath the ground in a lightless world. Using a pulse-pounding narrative, this is tense real-life adventure pitting two master cavers mirroring the cold war with very uncommonly high stakes."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)

"A fascinating and informative introduction to the sport of cave diving, as well as a dramatic portrayal of a significant man-vs.-nature conflict. . . . What counts is Tabor's knack for maximizing dramatic potential, while also managing to be informative and attentive to the major personalities associated with the most important cave explorations of the last two decades."--"Kirkus Reviews
"


"From the Hardcover edition." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling account of a thrilling real-life journey into deepest cave on earth. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth

Blind Descent is certainly a good read and I rattled through it in a short time period. But there are criticisms so the best thing to do is to ignore the central conceit and enjoy the book as it is. The idea that two different cavers are racing each other on different continents to find the deepest place on earth is just laughable. And the conclusion that the deepest cave on earth has been found is also somewhat suspect. But the accounts of the expeditions are well written and should excite both cavers and non-cavers alike. As a caver I'm pleased that there isn't the usual fall back on over dramatisation and hyperbole which often ruins many caving books aimed at a wider audience. The author makes a decent stab at explaining caving techniques - including digging! - to a wider readership so its accessible to anyone with even a slight interest in exploration and why people go to such lengths to do what they do. So have a read and see what you think.
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Format: Paperback
Tunneller40's review is spot-on. Writing about caves is difficult, and Tabor does a pretty good job. But first, the not-so good stuff: technical errors - carbide lamps have jets, not wicks, for example; purple passages - a "bottomless" sump, for example; and absurd digressions, such as this on the subject of underground dehydration: "It is not too great a stretch to visualise thirst-crazed city dwellers drinking their neighbours' blood..."

Eh?

Still, Tabor's story is by a non-specialist, for non-specialists, and it captures much of the excitement of intense caving. The description of the six-day trip by Bill Stone and Barbara am Ende to the bottom of Huautla is genuinely thrilling. I recall sitting at the top of a pitch in a deep Pyrenean pothole after 20 hours on the go, hallucinating and hypothermic (but fortunately well clipped on) - and on that occasion I had only been underground for three days. Six days, on the wrong side of a big sump, at great depth is unimaginable.

As has been said, Tabor concentrates unnecessarily on an implicit duel between two very different expedition leaders. The caving expeditions I used to go on never had 'leaders'; they were loose cooperatives, with everything done by consensus and trust, and they worked fine that way. Harder to write about, though.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a diver (but not a caver) I thought I'd give this book a go. I have to say its a great tale of expeditionary Super Caving - quite a bit of it left me asking "buy why?".

The story is worthy of 5 stars, but I have to take at least one star off for the terrible prictures - so small you cannot see them and the total lack of diagrams & maps.

A simple map of the two regions, and some 'pyramid tunnel like' drawing of 3 or 4 of the primary caves mentioned, drawn to scale, annotated with dates and depths, would add tremendously to the book. Shame really, opportunity missed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is about the psychological pressures faced by cave explorers. The book is only partially about cave exploration; a lot of the it focuses on the personalities that lead or organise the teams that explore caves and the problems that they must overcome.The book splits into two pieces; one piece is about an American expedition leader and the other is about a Ukranian leader. It seems that the author found it easier to write about the American leader; more than half the book is devoted to him and there seems much more background and detail about the expeditions led by him than by the Ukranian. It also seems like the American expeditions are naturally more dramatic; the Ukranian expeditions have fewer casualities and the organiser of them seems to be a much quieter person.

The book is a fun read, if a little breathlessly hyperbolic about the lifestyle of a cave explorer. The author writes in fine style and creates very well the feeling of claustrophobia and desperation that must be faced by the caving expedition teams. There's not a terribly deep moral to the stories in the book and there's not much to take away from the book in an intellectual sense, but the author created sufficient enthusiasm in me that I ended up looking at the autobiography of the American team leader. Inspiration to dig deeper (no pun intended) into the subject matter is an indicator of a good read, I think!
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Format: Paperback
'As the fifteenth century began, we believed, absolutely, that the earth was flat.
As the twenty-first century began, we believed with equal certainty that every one of the earth's great discoveries had been made. Almost a century had passed since Peary first trod the North Pole...'

So begins Blind Descent, James M. Tabor's account of deep cave exploration over the last thirty or so years. As you can see, Tabor is not a man to let the facts stand in the way of a bold superlative. (The medieval world knew the earth is spherical; most historians think Peary never reached the North Pole.)

Tabor's habit of trying to vacuum pump the excitement by means of dodgy superlatives is a bad one. Sometimes the superlatives cancel each other out. On page 58 he tells us that 'supercaves are always noisy', comparing the volume to a 747 engine. By page 60 he is telling us that they are so quiet that cavers who have sex underground are inevitably overheard. On page 276 he tells us that he has not personally been in a cave, as he is not full-cave certified and that to go into caves without such training is 'tantamount to suicide'. By page 278 he is telling us that he knows about rigging and rebelays from 'my own caving experience'.

The narrative is structured as an Amundsen v Scott style race, with the goal being 'to discover the deepest place on earth'. Bill Stone leads the charge for America, exploring the Cheve Cave in southern Mexico. Meanwhile, Alexander Klimchouk of the Ukraine oversees the exploration of the Krubera cave in the Republic of Georgia.

In the end, 'the deepest place on earth' turns out to be another one of Tabor's dodgy superlatives.
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