NEUTRAL BUOYANCY by Tim Ecott

NEUTRAL BUOYANCY

Adventures in a Liquid World
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An enticing catalogue of undersea diving experiences, with extended side trips into the sport's history and culture, from BBC reporter Ecott.

As a sport, diving is a mere 50 years old, so there is still much to discover in the waterworld, and Ecott seems bent on doing his part to cover as much underwater territory as is feasible. In the baker's-dozen diving areas described here, Ecott displays a knack for conveying the particular atmosphere of each place, tropical or cool temperate water, daytime or night. There are dives off Ireland and in the haunted waters of the Bismarck Sea, where warships litter the seabed; he dives with dolphins off the Florida Keys, and watches the wild antics of deep free diving off Sardinia. Each dive is told as a story, with a level of personal disclosure to keep the tale alive but not foundering on the confessional. Equal of interest to Ecott to any undersea habitat is the history and culture of diving. Is it possible, he wonders, that Alexander the Great “visited the seabed in a glass barrel at the Siege of Tyre in 332 b.c.”? Maybe, though his tracking of the developments behind diving, bells, diving engines, and diving helmets is fully informed and fascinating. So too, and unexpectedly, is the world—biological, commercial, and mythopoeic—of sponges: know, for instance, that fresh sponges have the consistency of raw liver. Then there are the darker times he has witnessed, as when a woman underwent a panic attack and refused to budge from a compromised situation, nearly drowning in the process. Or his glimpse into the tortures of the bends, which is enough to keep readers—to this point increasingly rapt and ready to don scuba gear—from ever taking the plunge.

As elemental, entertaining, and stimulating as the environments it traces. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-87113-794-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2001




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