Experienced sport diver and publisher Chowdhury (Immersed magazine) chronicles the accidental deaths of a father-son diving team.
Although the title removes all suspense from this overlong account, it injects a compensatory dosage of dramatic irony. On October 12, 1992, Chris Rouse and his son Chrisy—both having experienced (and survived) hundreds of perilous dives in all sorts of underwater environments—died after surfacing too quickly following an aborted exploration of the wreckage of a German U-boat in the North Atlantic. Both died of decompression sickness (the “bends”)—whose precise causes, prevention, and treatment are “still one of diving’s great mysteries.” Chowdhury begins aboard the charter boat that fatal day, showing us the contentious, almost adolescent relationship between the Rouses. They behaved like “siblings strutting on the high school parking lot,” observes Chowdhury, and earned in the elite diving fraternity the nickname “Bicker Brothers.” The first chapter ends as the men descend for their last dive. Then Chowdhury returns to 1988 and follows the Rouses (including wife and mother Sue, who trained with her men) as they learn to dive, becoming both highly skilled and obsessed. Chowdhury, who sometimes dived with the Rouses (and was charmed by their “energy, enthusiasm, and gregariousness”), includes heavy chunks of his own history as well (sometimes losing track of the Rouses), featuring a near-fatal attack of the “bends” that climaxes with an out-of-body experience, complete with requisite white light, tunnel, and decision to return to life. With the arrogance of the outdoorsman, Chowdhury believes that courting death in the deep (or on the slopes of Everest, whose dangers he recalls) allows us to “venture even deeper into ourselves.” Throughout, indeed, there appears to be as much testosterone as water in the ocean as divers compete for underwater booty, diving records, and what Shakespeare called “the bubble reputation.”
A sorrowful education in diving history and technique, in the psychology of the adventurer, and in the dominion of death.