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On a hot and sticky magazine assignment for Outside magazine to cover a diving championship in Greece, James Nestor discovered free diving. He was fascinated by the ease with which the divers descended, without breathing equipment, for hundreds of feet below the water, for minutes after they should have died from lack of oxygen. The free divers were Nestor's way in to the world of deep-sea pioneers, underwater athletes, scientists, spear fishermen, billionaires and ordinary men and women who are poised on the brink of some amazing discoveries about the ocean. Soon he was swimming with sharks, fixing tracking equipment to a sperm whale's head, finding out how humans can become almost amphibious under deep-water conditions, learning about a billionaires' race to plumb the lowest point of the ocean and visiting Aquarius, a Florida Laboratory 60ft underwater, where US scientists have discovered a kind of 'telepathy' between deep-water corals. The sea covers seventy per cent of Earth's surface: Deep: A Sea Odyssey blends science and adventure to uncover its amazing secrets.
"Put Deep at the top of your reading list. This book will do for the oceans what Cosmos did for space. It's mind-bending, intrepid, and inspiring."
– Po Bronson
"This exploration of the "human connection to the ocean" begins with free diving, the technique of depth diving on single breaths of air. While free diving may have earned YouTube notoriety as a danger-laden sport with "fringe disciplines" and stunning depth records, Nestor is only briefly fascinated by the "ego-driven competition, " and focuses instead on free diving as the elemental mode for accessing the wonders of the ocean. A surfer with a lifelong connection to the ocean, Nestor interpolates his own training to "go deep" with encounters with scientists researching at the limits of ocean knowledge. He avoids the "quasi-religious terms" encountered in others' experiences of deep dives, yet still offers an acute sense of wonder and respect for the ocean, from the disappearing diving traditions of ancient cultures to the diversity of life in earth's deepest trenches. Nestor's explorations of the "outer limits of amphibious abilities" and "latent and unconscious senses" that link humans to our aquatic evolutionary heritage make for a thrilling account, made timely by the rapidly changing state of earth's most expansive environment. "
– Publishers Weekly (04/28/2014)
"Competitive freediving is an extreme sport that tests one's limits and fights one's natural instincts. Diving without any scuba gear to depths of up to 300 feet all in one breath can result in resurfacing unconscious, paralyzed, bloody, or dead. The author, a journalist, adventurer and traveler labels it the most dangerous sport on earth. Although practiced for centuries by pearl, coral, and sponge divers, these groups had an economic purpose. A party with whom the author associated in his travels to Central America and the South Pacific uses freediving as a vehicle to learn about whale and shark navigation and communication. They are scientific amateurs without academic credentials but with great curiosity and love of the ocean. Chapters are arranged by increasing depths (minus 60 feet, minus 300 feet, etc.) and include trips the author made in a homemade submarine that submerged beyond 2500 feet. A melange of facts about hydrothermal vent animals; the underwater habitat Aquarius in Key Largo, FL; bioluminescence; and marine geology are presented by the author, whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and S". This reviewer found no other books on the subject. VERDICT This well-written title will either fascinate or repel readers with its discussions of marine life on the one hand and the horrific descriptions of the masochistic sport of freediving. Photos not seen."
– Judith B. Barnett, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Kingston, Library Journal (05/15/2014)
"Nestor (Get High Now (without drugs), 2009, etc.) takes readers around the world as he explores the ocean's mysterious and revealing depths-and what the deep might reveal about mankind's origin and future.We've all seen documentary footage of strange deep-sea creatures, trundling along a hazy ocean floor, maybe even glowing in the dark. But how much do we really know about these ecosystems, and how much have we forgotten about our own profound connection to the ocean? With verve and humor, the author describes his own risk-taking attempts to understand the ocean's ancient secrets and future potential and the daring and brilliant people who have dedicated their lives to probing deeper. Take free diving, for example: Historical accounts suggest that humans have been diving hundreds of feet deep for centuries, with no equipment and holding just one breath of air. Our bodies are capable of withstanding the crushing pressure in deep water, and we have a built-in instinct called the "master switch of life" that activates to give human bodies amphibious skills. Nestor goes into great detail about his own free-dive training, and his writing is sharp, colorful and thrilling. Equally magnetic is the account of his adventure in a deep-sea submarine, a cramped contraption that dove to 2600 feet below the surface, where light can't penetrate the water but a variety of organisms thrive. Perhaps the most memorable chapter covers the author's experience diving with sperm whales, whose enigmatic vocalizations may be the most complex language we can imagine. Throughout, scientific mini-lessons and lively character profiles give context to the author's anecdotes, bringing the ocean to life from a research perspective as well as a human one.An adventurous and frequently dazzling look at our planet's most massive habitat."
– Kirkus Reviews (05/15/2014)
"*Starred Review* The ocean, journalist Nestor reminds us, is the final unseen, untouched, and undiscovered wilderness. It is also a frontier extremely difficult to explore. The pressure is so intense, at 30 feet down our lungs collapse to half their normal size. Yet Nestor watches divers descend to 300 feet without scuba gear at a freediving competition. Alarmed (the consequences can be dire) and intrigued, Nestor sets out to learn about the allure and best purpose of freediving as a tool to help crack the ocean's mysteries, thus launching an exceptionally dramatic and revelatory inquiry. As he begins training as a freediver, in spite of his fears, Nestor learns about our body's remarkable amphibious reflexes, instantaneous physical transformations used for centuries by pearl divers. Now innovative and daring marine explorers use freediving to swim among sharks, dolphins, and whales. Their mind-blowing discoveries about how these denizens of the deep navigate and communicate in the watery dark are matched by findings that prove that we, too, can practice echolocation and orient ourselves via our innate magnetic sense of direction, natural abilities our ancestors used long before maps and GPS. With a wow on every page, and brimming with vivid portraits, lucid scientific explanations, gripping (and funny) first-person accounts, and urgent facts about the ocean's endangerment, Nestor's Deep is galvanizing, enlightening, and invaluable."
– Booklist (05/15/2014)