DEEP: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Eamon Dolan Books) | June 24, 2014


BBC Book of the Week | Finalist for the PEN American Center Best Sports Book of the Year | an Amazon Best Science Book of 2014 | BuzzFeed 19 Best Nonfiction Books of 2014 |
ArtForum Top 10 Book of 2014 | New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice | Scientific American Recommended Read | Christian Science Monitor Editor’s Pick


While on assignment in Greece, journalist James Nestor witnessed something that confounded him: a man diving 300 feet below the ocean’s surface on a single breath of air and returning four minutes later, unharmed and smiling.


This man was a freediver, and his amphibious abilities inspired Nestor to seek out the secrets of this little-known discipline. In Deep, Nestor embeds with a gang of extreme athletes and renegade researchers who are transforming not only our knowledge of the planet and its creatures, but also our understanding of the human body and mind. Along the way, he takes us from the surface to the Atlantic’s greatest depths, some 28,000 feet below sea level. He finds whales that communicate with other whales hundreds of miles away, sharks that swim in unerringly straight lines through pitch-black waters, and seals who dive to depths below 2,400 feet for up to eighty minutes—deeper and longer than scientists ever thought possible. As strange as these phenomena are, they are reflections of our own species’ remarkable, and often hidden, potential—including echolocation, directional sense, and the profound physiological changes we undergo when underwater. Most illuminating of all, Nestor unlocks his own freediving skills as he communes with the pioneers who are expanding our definition of what is possible in the natural world, and in ourselves.


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Charles and John Deane knew it would be dangerous. But the brothers—raised in the slums of Victorian London—also knew that plundering undersea shipwrecks could make them phenomenally rich. And so, in 1828, they invented the world’s first practical deep-sea diving rig.


Largely forgotten by history, the Deane brothers opened a new frontier for human exploration—and exploitation. They achieved glory but paid the price in suffering, estrangement, and madness.

Half Safe: A Story of Love, Obsession, and History's Most Insane

Around-the-world Adventure

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In 1948, a young Australian mining engineer named Ben Carlin set out to do the impossible: circumnavigate the globe, by land and sea, in a single vehicle. The vehicle in question was an amphibious jeep developed by the U.S. Army, which Carlin christened Half-Safe, after a deodorant slogan. It was a mechanical mongrel that was supposed to move with equal ease across land and water but in practice wasn't much good for either one.


Undaunted, Carlin and his wife Elinore set out from New York with dreams of fame and fortune, and of carving a small notch in history. What happened next is one of the most bizarre, remarkable, and forgotten adventure stories of the 20th century.

©2017 James Nestor