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on January 4, 2001
I am a technical diver with some wreck experience, although I do not possess the advanced training (Full Cave, Deep Air, etc.) of either the author or the father-and-son team who perished, the Rousses. I found Bernie Chowdhury's "The Last Dive" to be an exciting, well-told account of a very unfortunate accident, but I must respectfully say that the two divers featured in the title did not earn my sympathy.<P... for all their training and technical equipment they both took chances underwater that were guaranteed to get them into trouble. Chrissy 'tossing' the end of the penetration line to his father, then swimming into a wreck without seeing that it was securely tied off. Playing 'bumper cars' with underwater scooters. Teasing and shaming each other into completing a technically challenging dive when neither diver was fully comfortable about going into the water. And on their final dive, attempting a dangerous penetration in a deep, challenging wreck on air (not the most suitable breathing gas for the dive, for those of you who have not yet read the book), because they couldn't afford the more expensive--but much safer--trimix. What were they thinking?
I live in Alaska, and every year men and women die in this state pursuing activities that are not unduly dangerous--hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, flying, and the like. Sometimes the accidents are the result of poor planning, inadequate equipment, and a failure to grant nature the respect it demands. But sometimes people die when it seems they did everything right, the victims of plain bad luck. Chris and Chrissy Rouse fall into both categories.
In the end, I give Mr. Chowdhury high marks for a fine job of telling the story of his two friends. The many background details on diving were fascinating and accurate, and the author's re-creation of the Rousses' last dive on the U-boat had me on the edge of my seat. But if there's a lesson here, it's that technical diving does not lend itself to people with Chris and Chrissy's competitive personalities and careless attitudes.
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VINE VOICEon November 23, 2004
I picked up Chowdhury's "Last Dive" after reading --and thoroughly enjoying-- Robert Kurson's excellent book, "Shadow Divers." (see my other reviews) If you read and enjoyed Kurson's book, be forewarned: this book isn't in the same league.

In "Shadow Divers," Chris Rouse and his son Chrissy were among the divers involved in the quest to uncover the identity of a sunken German U-boat discovered in 230 feet of water off the coast of New Jersey. They (along with another diver), lost their lives during the six years it took to unravel the mystery.

The Rouses were interesting characters. Seemingly always at each other's throats, they gave me the impression that watching them was sort of like witnessing a latter-day "Two" Stooges. No one doubted that they loved one another, but their antics and belittling comments to one another while aboard dive boats had become legendary by the time they took their final dive.

Since the subtitle of this book is "A Father and Son's Fatal Descent into the Ocean Depths," I sort of expected that the book would be about them. Actually, it's focus was seemed to be more on Chowdhury.

Bernie Chowdhury was a friend of the Rouses, and also participated in the extreme sport now known as "technical diving." (As opposed to recreational diving, which imposes some pretty strict limits on depth and time for safety's sake.) Indeed, Chowdhury himself very nearly died, and was lucky to avoid being permanently crippled as the result of a dive accident. He writes rather extensively about this incident... and many others, involving other friends and acquaintances --thus filling a pretty significant fraction of the book's 356 pages.

Don't get me wrong. The Rouse family IS discussed at length. But it seemed that the author was way too quick to go off on a tangent that all too often seemed like he was writing his own memoirs.

As an aside, though I found the deaths of Chris and Chrissy to be a sad case of lives cut short, I can't bring myself to consider the case "tragic." These guys (and those like them), lived life on the edge. They took chances, played the odds, and lost. This was not a toddler with leukemia. They may have been nice guys, good to their friends, and decent, upstanding people, but their actions almost ensured their own obituaries ...and in reading Chowdhury's epilogue, it seems that quite a few people seem hell-bent on joining them.
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on January 21, 2005
As a life long wreck diver this book, though a bit uneven, riveted me from start to finish. The author furnished a lot of information that was new to me, primarily about cave diving and the Rouses. Some of the other players were people I knew or knew of which made the book doubly fascinating.

One phrase that constantly ran through my head (a hundred times) as I read the book was "Gee, that was stupid". Stupid and diving don't mix.

It was fascinating to read about the dysfunctional Rouses and their motivation for this type of diving. Diving for fame or recognition is asking for trouble. It is like flying, the best pilots and divers are those who pursue their avocation because they love it, all else being secondary.

When I got to the end of the book and read the part about the Rouses fatal accident my skin literally crawled and I cringed in an empathy of pure terror. I know what it is like to be trapped in a wreck with zero visibility. I also know that panic equals death in diving and it must be controlled at all cost. Part of a good divers job is to work diligently at extrication from a problem right up to the end, calmly, and then if you have to die, to die quietly. Reading between the lines a bit I feel that the younger Rouse, after being freed from entrapment by his father bolted from the U-boat and went straight up in wild panic. The father followed.

Also sad was the author's thoughts on the last pages of the book on an expert cave and wreck diver whom he held in high regard as a personal friend. After the book was published this diver, too, died cave diving. By himself.

The book is an utterly fascinating litany of everything not to do as a diver and is a must for the library of every serious scuba diver. The Wreck Hunters: Dive to the Wreck of the USS Bass
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on January 8, 2001
The "Last Dive" is really 4 books in one. The first deals with the strange (!) Rouse family, father and son, who die needlessly while exploring a sunken German U Boat off the New Jersey coast. The second and by far the stongest is concerned with serious deepwater adventures to sunken U Boats, underwater caves and the "remains" of well-known wrecks including the "Andrea Doria" and the "Empress of Ireland", in the St. Lawrence River. In this portion, "LD" is every bit as fascinating as "Into Thin Air" or "The Perfect Storm" and the book soars. The third part tells us of current trends and personalities in the diving world and the final part is about the technical aspects of diving: diferent equipment, various underwater gasses (oxygen, nitrogen etc.) The end result is an often repetitive hodge podge of a story that ultimately leads the reader nowhere.Harper Collins, the publisher, obviously declined to invest in any editing at all. "FD" is also FAR too long, perhaps because the author was "filling up" pages to justify a hradcover price. Too bad, because the core of a superior tale was there, but no one brought it to fruition. The final 50 pages were torture as this reader waited for the author to wrap up. I suspect Mr. Chowdhury is far more effective at shorter, more focussed magazine articles than the longer fare of a novel. Add 2 stars if "LD" is re-edited and shaped up. Add 3 more stars if you are a hardcore dive fanatic-you won't care about the shortcomings. The rest of the world is forewarned- especially at hardcover prices. Oh for what could have been. A final pont: As with so many other books, MAPS(!) of the dive locations would have helped enormously.
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on December 13, 2000
This is one of those books as the pages dwindle away your disappointment rises as you realize that soon it will be over. As I started this book I thought it was going to be a patchwork of SCUBA diving stories. Nothing could be further from the truth. I soon realized that it was a skillfully woven account of the lives of several divers including Chris and Chrissy Rouse. While you'll get much more out of this book if you've experienced diving it is not necessary (he puts everything to layman's terms) to still have you hanging on the edge of your seat. Bernie Chowdhury's attention to detail which allowed him dive to the outer edge of the envelope and survive some close calls is the same asset that makes this book so enjoyable. While the title suggests it is simply about the loss of Chris and Chrissy Rouse on the U-Who, it is much more. The U-Who was the unnamed U-boat off the coast of New Jersey that John Chatterton and others spent 6 years identifying. There's substantial information here about the evolution of cave diving and the personalities and events that pioneered the first dives to the "Andrea Doria".
Many dive stories seem to be ego oriented reports of exaggeration. Not this one. The author's unassuming approach takes full responsibility for the real close call which nearly cost him his life. The author shares with the reader not only what happened but what he felt on many of these long dives. For example some of the thoughts that pass through your mind as you hang suspended for hours at a time during decompression following a deep dive. I dove with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Divers Posse for 8 years in the early 1970s mostly in the pitch black lakes of Arizona and found myself reliving those dives but you don't have to have ever had a wetsuit on to find yourself totally immersed in this fine account of tragedies and triumph in sport diving.
A must read for any diver!
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on December 6, 2000
As a diver with a drive to excel like the Rouse's, I found this book both chilling and thrilling. I think Bernie really hits home when he begins to probe the psychology of extreme diving.
I'm sure any diver will find the accidents described in the book chilling, however, I believe they point out an interesting trend. It's highly unusual anymore to hear of a fatal scuba accident due to equipment failure, especially in extreme dives. Instead, the fatal accidents in extreme diving seem to show a trend of minor mistakes, shortcuts, or flawed decisions that cumulate to result in a fatality. And in most cases, one error sets off a domino effect of following errors. (Not using Tri-mix on a dive to 230ft --> severe narcosis, impaired judgement, clouded mind --> inability to find stage bottles for decompression --> direct ascent to sfc, skipping over 90 minutes of decompression --> death )
That is certainly a simplification, and there is no guarantee the Rouse's would have survived if they had been on Tri-mix for that fateful last dive. However, knowing what happened to them on that dive, it certainly could have been the fabled last straw on the camel's back.
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on November 11, 2000
Scuba diver's delight...Wow! This is a fantastic introduction to the world of wreck diving. If you have ever drawn breath on a regulator, you will appreciate this well-written book. This is the best popular work on the thrills, dangers, and deadly mistakes experienced in the sport of technical diving. The story of a father and son who lost their lives, and the near-miss of the author himself, this book explains in a readable yet captivating way the history, background, and living reality of diving on shipwrecks. Although I personally take issue with his 'trophy-hunting' attitude to artifact recovery, Chowdhury gives keen insight on the frame of mind which drives people to the extreme.
The same way 'Into Thin Air' draws you to the summit of Everest, even if you've never hiked more than a mile in your life, 'The Last Dive' introduces you to the mystery, fascination and danger of the depths.
I highly recommend it!
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on January 29, 2001
As a recreational diver, I found this true story that takes place within the deep diving community absolutely amazing, exciting, and a little scary because of the risks these men take. I bought the audiobook, which is one of the best abridgements I've ever come across (and thankfully, it's long- 6 INCREDIBLE hours of well-written accounts of the adventures of deep divers and why they do what they do. *Also, the reader is one of the best, if not THE best narrator I have ever heard read an audiobook.) It's written so well that you always understand clearly what is going on, and you really come to care about these guys- these divers that need to go beyond the recreational diving limits of 130 feet, risking their lives to do so, and you find yourself envious of their skill and courage to do it. Have you ever wondered what it's REALLY like to go into a recompression chamber? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be at 240 feet, diving an undiscovered shipwreck?...If you're a diver- YOU'VE GOT TO LISTEN TO/READ THIS BOOK! Take it on your next dive trip.
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on April 7, 2002
Picked the book up in the airport, read a bit, bought it, and finished it in less than a day. Simply couldn't put it down. The book does an outstanding job of describing the sport, people, equipment, risk, and tragedies of technical diving, and does so in a compelling, engaging fashion.
I would not put too much faith in those reviewers who knocked the writing; they know not what they preach nor do they seem to appreciate that Chowdhury is a diver first, and a writer second, in spite of which, his storytelling is superb. To be sure, there are some minor hiccups in the writing, but you would hardly notice, given the engaging nature of the delivery.
It is one of those few books that, once finished, will find its way into your conscious thoughts for days to follow, with some enlightening insights as well.
I think divers of all types will enjoy this book immensely.
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on October 16, 2000
I picked this book up with no intention of buying it whatsoever. Once I began reading it in the store I knew that it was one that I wouldn't be able to put down. I bought the book and finished all 350 pages in a night. It was a gripping story with the author paying excellent attention to the history and detail of scuba diving. As a recently certified diver, I found myself realizing things that weren't apparent to me before. The stories within this book will forever stay in my mind..both in the water and out
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