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Diving into Darkness: A True Story of Death and Survival Hardcover – September 30, 2008

35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this gripping account, Finch (F2F) narrates a disastrous attempt to recover a body nearly 900 feet underwater in a South African crater named Bushman's Hole. David Shaw, an Australian pilot for Cathay Pacific, became obsessed with diving in his early 40s and quickly became a world-class deep diver. In South Africa, Shaw trained with renowned diving instructor Don Shirley, and the two men grew close. Shirley was a proponent of diving rebreathers, sophisticated pieces of equipment that allow divers to reach greater depths while using less equipment. In 2004, Shaw dove to the bottom of Bushman's Hole, where he discovered the corpse of a diver that had lain there for a decade. Together, Shaw and Shirley decided to try to raise the body. Finch seamlessly weaves together the various strands of his story, from the character biographies to the dangers and arcane technologies of deep diving. An experienced cave diver himself, Finch brings the reader into a strange and hermetic underworld that few have ever experienced firsthand. In deep diving, he demonstrates, even the smallest breakdown in judgment or equipment will bring catastrophe. Although the outcome is never in doubt, Finch manages to build suspense to fevered intensity. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

In January 2005, extreme diver David Shaw entered Bushman’s Hole, a watery crater in the Kalahari Desert. Easing himself through a narrow fissure, he aimed himself at the bottom of the crater, roughly 900 feet below him. Soon after, his diving partner, Don Shirley, followed Shaw down. In less than an hour, one of the men was dead, and the other faced a harrowing 10-hour decompression, during which he scrambled for every breath. This is a dramatic and emotional story, vividly told by journalist and diver Finch (who really makes us feel what it must have been like, spending 10 hours wondering if he would run out of air before he made it to safety). The author explores not just the episode he’s writing about, but also the sport of diving: its factions, its superstars, its history. A solid addition to the sport-diving genre. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383947
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Conrad H. Blickenstorfer on October 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Diving into Darkness is the story behind the fatal body recovery attempt conducted by the Australian diver David Shaw at Boesmansgat, or Bushman's Hole, in South Africa in January of 2005. This is a thriller, but one where we know the ending. David Shaw died at the almost incredible depth of around 900 feet while trying to recover the body of Deion Dreyer, a young diver who had perished in the massive sinkhole a decade earlier. The mission, which Shaw attempted with Don Shirley as his primary support diver, is well documented and you can see the video Shaw took during his last dive on YouTube.

Author Phillip Finch neither knew Shaw nor was he part of the well-publicized expedition, but the Kansas-based journalist, who is a cave diver himself, managed to create a spell-binding, riveting account of how David's Shaw's passion for extreme diving led to an almost inevitable conclusion.

Unlike most in the small community of extreme divers, David Shaw did not have thousands of dives and decades of experience under his belt when he attempted the complex recovery at near record depth. He was a commercial pilot with Cathay Pacific Airlines who had started in crop duster and charter planes and then worked his way up to ever more complex machinery. It wasn't until 1999, at age 45, that Shaw took up scuba, but once he did, he progressed to Nitrox, decompression dives, wreck diving, cave diving, trimix and rebreather certifications at near record speed.

Rebreather training got him in contact with Don Shirley, an widely renowned instructor and "rebreather evangelist" in South Africa.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John O. Cameron on April 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
First off, I am John Cameron's wife, not John Cameron. And I am not a cave diver, not even much of a swimmer. But I was drawn to this book because I am deeply interested in people who do extreme things for no good reason. (I like to read about mountain climbers too). Diving into Darkness was a cracking good read! I am in awe of the author's skill - we know from the jacket that this dive is not going to go well, but we don't know which of the two men will not survive. And we keep reading through the technical details, well explained, and loads of back story so that by the time we return to the fateful day, we care, we want to know what happened and how it happened. After reading this book, I have a better idea why cave divers do what they do. I learned they are not thrill seekers, on the contrary. The charge they get is that total concentration, the buzz from living in the moment. And as a keen yoga student, I do understand that. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By medi on October 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It is inevitable that comparisons will always be made between great books within the same genre. Such is the fate of Phillip Finch's "Diving Into Darkness". This engaging book concerning the the rarefied world of deep diving will forever be compared to the ever-popular "Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson. In both sagas the story unfolds at unimaginable depths where even the slightest mishap/mistake can and does cascade into a fatal event.

Notwithstanding further comparisons, "Diving Into Darkness" is a about a diver (David Shaw) who in the span of only 5 years went from a "rank beginner(diver) to one of the most accomplished and ambitious divers" in the history of sports diving. The depths to which Shaw achieved (700 ft to 900 ft) were often record dives on a non rebreather apparatus; "more men have walked on the moon."

In June 2004, during a cave dive at Bushman's Hole Shaw descended to an astounding depth of almost 900 feet. What he inadvertently discovered was the body of a young cave diver lost to a diving mishap some 10 years earlier. Though the author makes little note of the fact that Shaw is deeply religious and that Shaw had a previous dream envisioning that he would discover this body, Shaw felt that God has guided him to the body so that he can retrieve it for the still grieving parents of the young diver. All this would be little known to the world except for the fact that the mainstream media picked up the story; a story in which the media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television and a video team) intended to document this Herculean effort to retrieve the body at the bottom of a 900 ft deep cave. This is diving at the extreme!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard Hawkins on August 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm an avid diver, with almost 400 dives under my weight belt, yet I still haven't got my Advanced. I started diving at the age of 48. Dave Shaw was doing extremely dangerous dives very soon after he started diving: going to extreme depths around his fiftieth dive, etc. In spite of this, he may have survived on that body-recovery dive in a sinkhole in Sth Africa if literally everything hadn't gone wrong. This is a suspenseful story, well-written and definitely of great interest to anyone into diving and the potential for disaster while diving (it's a morbid curiosity of mine to imagine all the things that could possibly go wrong whilst diving).
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