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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed my perception of "engineering marvels" forever.
This book is so expertly researched, impressively detailed, and captivatingly written that it appealed to my logical, ethical and emotional sides. Though I knew absolutely nothing about waste treatment plants, engineering projects or big corporations going into this, I didn't have trouble following because everything was clearly explained.

The prologue jumps...
Published 8 months ago by PencilStubs

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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling story, could be a screenplay
It seems as though the author was hoping that this book would get picked up by a film producer and turned into a screenplay. There is the exciting teaser prologue to get you hooked, then the background info on the characters to get you to sympathize with them, then the story continues from where the prologue left off. But unless you really want to know who the main...
Published 8 months ago by Bryan Cass


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed my perception of "engineering marvels" forever., February 22, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
This book is so expertly researched, impressively detailed, and captivatingly written that it appealed to my logical, ethical and emotional sides. Though I knew absolutely nothing about waste treatment plants, engineering projects or big corporations going into this, I didn't have trouble following because everything was clearly explained.

The prologue jumps right to the moment where all hell breaks loose in the underwater tunnel, then the narrative shifts to the Boston Harbor pollution mess, the construction of the waste treatment plant, the major players involved, and the increasingly unnerving setbacks that cropped up while finalizing the tunnel, which leads back to where the prologue left off. The final third of the book recounts the investigation, legal battles, and the struggles of the surviving divers to put the underwater tunnel nightmare behind them.

This compelling read reveals the massive amount of planning, money, effort and time involved in huge "engineering marvels," and it exposes the risks that may be taken toward the end of projects where time and money pressures, as well as dangerous complacency, can lead to shortcuts and carelessness. It's heartbreaking and infuriating that completely avoidable deaths occurred during the final stage of the Boston Harbor's waste treatment plant's construction because the people in charge became negligent and rash.

This book certainly changed my perception of industrial structures (not only do they cost a lot in terms of money, but also sometimes in terms of lives), and I'll definitely be more apt to stand up for my safety if I've ever asked to do something I have doubts about at work. Highly recommended for anyone interested in history, non-fiction, engineering, or sea related disasters.

My only gripe is that I wish some photos of the waste treatment plant and the relevant people had been included. (Maybe they are in the finished copy?)

Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very compelling read, February 20, 2014
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This book is a wonderfully detailed account of a needless tragedy. Faulty design, bad science, poor engineering, lack of oversight, and some extremely bad decisions all contributed to the deaths of these unfortunate men. To say " I couldn't put this book down" is an understatement. The author brings you right into the tunnel with these men. You can actually feel the cold, the dampness, and the cramped, claustrophobic conditions that they had to endure. Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN, March 1, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
In a persons lifetime there comes along how many books that stick in your craw forever? A handful at best? I'm an avid reader and have to say that THIS is one of those books.

Boston harbor was a disgusting garbage dump for ages, an embarrassment. It was well past time for a clean-up when the plans for the Deer Island treatment system were dreamed up. I approached the first pages of this book with trepidition due to the fact that even tho i was intrigued, and am from the Boston area, i was afraid it might be too technically written.
Nope.
Not only do the participants indiviual personalities emerge, but the construction and development of the tunnel... and the major problems that came up, were explained simply and directly.
The book is on its way north to my dad who did dive jobs in the harbor and will relate even more than I.
When it was finished there was a lot of hooplah but who got the glory? NOT the grunts, the sand hogs. Not the ones who died. Not the guys who crawled into an unlit unoxygenized concrete tunnel 10 miles under the ocean. This is a sad commentary on what actually happened, and the higher-ups that played the blame game .
---ps- for the reviewer who gave this book one star....those men WERE trapped under the sea! They had to HOPE that they had enough air to breathe to get 10 miles back to land for gods sake, breathing from non functioning thrown together contraptions .... THAT is trapped. THEY rescued themselves! Trade places and then write the review again about being stuck. As for the authors explanations?? They were needed to draw the full picture for the reader. One star shows a lack of comprehension.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening Story, January 9, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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The result of decades of environmental abuse, the solution to cleaning up the filthy Boston Harbor was a chancy engineering solution that went bad and cost five lives. Journalist Neil Swider looks at the reasons why the harbor was assaulted environmentally, the engineering solution of digging a deep water tunnel to take the garbage and junk ten miles out into the Atlantic,the politicians and environmentalists who drove the project, and the workers who were placed in jeopardy.

I liked this book very much. It combined history, environmental issues and concerns, engineering solutions and the inherent dangers of the final solution, and the human story of those who lost their lives pitted against politicians who drove the project. While it encompassed a lot and was extremely thorough, it was well organized and compelling and it moved quickly because it was a collective look at a tragedy in the making as well as its aftermath. I found myself fascinated and also repulsed by the continued goings on, but I absolutely never was bored as I read on.

On a personal level, I found the engineering aspects of this project interesting but also not exactly foolproof. Be it the Roeblings building the Brooklyn Bridge or the technical issues surrounding the building of the St. Louis Arch I have always been a sucker for engineering projects. This project was no exception.

I don't live in the northeast and had never heard of this disaster so I was not previously invested in this story, but found myself becoming involved quickly. To me, this is indicative of a good book.

This is really great investigative reporting that covers both the public issues, greed, and personal stories and results in a can't put down book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched exposé of the tragic accident that led to two deaths in the Deer Island ouotflow tunnel, January 27, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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Neil Swidey's "Trapped Under The Sea" tells a chilling tale of what happens when human lives are put at risk, unnecessarily, by schedule and budget pressures in a big construction project.

The Deer Island outflow tunnel is a 9-mile-long tunnel bored into base rock deep under the Atlantic Ocean east of Boston Harbor. Deep, dark, scary - and dangerous. The last step required to complete it and allow the flow of treated effluent from Boston's new, state-of-the-art sewage treatment facility was the removal of plugs from fifty-five shafts that connect the far end of the tunnel to the surface and through which the effluent material is released into the sea. All lighting and ventilation had been removed from the tunnel before this task began, so the job called for commercial divers to make their way down the tunnel, which narrowed at the end to just five feet high, carrying their own lighting and air supply - then crawl through fifty-five 30-inch-wide pipes to remove the 65-pound plugs.

The design decisions that led to this necessity, and the dangerous task that faced the commercial divers tasked with removing the plugs, are well-documented by Swidey, a staff writer for The Boston Globe Magazine who wrote feature stories on the project for the magazine. Poor decisions, based on completion schedule pressures and cost -- as well as unfounded assumptions regarding less-dangerous alternatives -- led to the creation of a dangerous work environment that claimed two lives and left many others deeply scarred.

The situation spiraled further into the realm of unnecessary risk when a poorly-thought-out and poorly-executed design for a self-contained breathing system, designed by an egotistical, arrogant engineer with little experience in the field, was hastily approved by the overseeing authorities- and Swidey shows very clearly how the principles of risk-avoidance followed by the various agencies which had oversight powers on the project -- the practice of minimal "touch" in order to avoid liability - allowed this system to be approved, putting the divers' lives at risk.

This book will be of interest to anyone who is curious about, or concerned at, the manner in which big-dollar, high-risk public engineering projects are handled. The author handles the entire story with skill, and sensitivity for the tragic consequences for the people involved, and is to be commended for the result of the many hundred of hours that went into the research of the story and writing of the book. I would have liked to have seen more technical information, and a bit less emphasis on the personalities and personal backgrounds of the people involved -- but that is just my preference (and the reason for the 4-star rating).
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid account of an unnecessary tragedy, December 7, 2013
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This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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WOW! What a job the author did on this! He has everything in here from the logistical problems that started the whole thing, technical problems, great information on all the people involved (from personal and business aspects), the civil legal problems, the criminal legal problems, and the aftermath for the 5 affected men and their families. This is just a phenomenal work from the author!

He does a great job of bringing all the people to life, and making you feel like you're right there. His descriptions are perfect! He tells you exactly what you need to know, without dragging in a lot of excess description that gets in the way of your reading, which I really like. This book was very well written; exciting and suspenseful. A page turner.

This project also disgusted me! Taking sewage water UNDER the harbor and dumping it farther out in the ocean just doesn't cut it for me. The thought of inflicting that on the ocean and the oceanlife sounds criminal to me. I think money would be better spent in coming up with better ways to dissipate the waste, instead of ways to spread the crap farther out into the ocean so the precious harbor doesn't stink!

All in all this is a very interesting account of a tragic story that need not have happened.

WARNING! Do not read the rest of this if you don't want to know about something that happens in the book (I got reamed out from someone who was irate I shared something that happened in the book, in one of my reviews, so here's a caveat)!

On the other hand, this book made me absolutely nauseated.

The most evil player involved here was in a corporation, so he is totally teflon. People (companies) make decisions that kill people. Too bad so sad! We'll fine them then. WHAT? The fine is too HIGH? Well, then let's just half the fines, shall we? No criminal charges. So a man LIES about his experience and expertise, makes idiotic decisions, won't back down when things start going wrong, people DIE, but gee WHIZ! Guess he'll know better next time! Which he'll certainly have a chance to show, because this little snafu didn't hurt his career at all! This man should no more be called an engineer than I should. WHY was this man's license not yanked? WHY is he still practicing engineering? (This is one aspect that the author did not go into, was the professional licensing involved. I know a couple things about administrative law, and the engineer board in Masschusetts should have been FROTHING over this! Of course, the engineer was from Canada, and working on a government project. But I would still hope they would have some sort of jurisidiction here. And there certainly does not seem to be any remorse on the part of this engineer. The Attorney General's office in Massachusetts SHOULD have prosecuted this guy (they decided not to). It's just infuriating! They'll prosecute you fast enough if you run a red light and don't pay your fine! But do very important things that involve risking people's lives, and do them without being properly qualified and knowledgeable and kill people, and that's okay! This guy totally infuriated me, as well as the investigator in the Attorney General's office who resigned when she was unable to get the Office to prosecute!

I fully understand why Roger didn't question the decisions Harald made. Harald was the engineer, and Roger didn't know engineering. He trusted his expertise. I think the moral of the story is do not EVER trust what one person says, even if you think you know them and how brilliant they are. Apparently there were numerous decisions made here that were totally substandard to the engineering profession. There needs to be a way to weed this kind of thing out BEFORE it happens.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, significant, and moving read, February 18, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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This is one of the most compelling and interesting nonfiction books I have read in years. It reminded me of Into Thin Air in the gripping way it brought the scenes and characters to life. It also educated me tremendously about environmental engineering and the incredible and often unacceptable risks to the workers who build the great tunnels, bridges and other construction projects of our world and the way governmental and private interests, safety and budget concerns, often collide. It's reminiscent of the costs of war and the way young lives and unquestioning risk takers are required to fuel the system. Meticulously researched and brilliantly presented, this is creative nonfiction at its best, both heart-rending and thought-provoking.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting!, February 2, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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Neil Swidey uses his insight into human nature, especially the nature of people who do the riskiest work; detailed but rapid-moving prose, and 5 years of research to create this gripping read. Telling the story of a chilling and fatal accident among divers sent under the sea to drive down into a tunnel that was part of an effort to clean Boston Harbor, Swidey gives us a broad picture of the lives of these men and the diving culture, the tense atmosphere among Boston officials, and the incredulous decisions made by managers that put these men at risk. Swidey tells the story primarily through DJ, one of the divers, but draws on the experience of the other survivors, and examines the seeming cavalier attitude of one of the managers from the corporation overseeing the project. Decisions this man makes, and that others fail to question (including the owner of his company), make catastrophe inevitable. In the end, 2 of 5 divers are dead and the others will never be the same. Swidey also covers the legal battles the survivors and families of all the divers go through, sifting through the endless documents and conducting interviews of all parties involved, and finally describing this heartbreaking situation in a detailed but readable way. If you like adventure based on real life, which takes you from A to Z in describing the job at hand, and delivers the drama, read this book! And the bonus is, you will be reading a cautionary tale concerning ecology, engineering, and an event that bears remembering, even though you probably haven't heard of it before unless you live in Boston. Stellar.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling story, could be a screenplay, January 29, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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It seems as though the author was hoping that this book would get picked up by a film producer and turned into a screenplay. There is the exciting teaser prologue to get you hooked, then the background info on the characters to get you to sympathize with them, then the story continues from where the prologue left off. But unless you really want to know who the main character's girlfriends were and why they became divers, etc, it's really not that much help to the main story. I found myself skipping whole chapters of background details to get back to the main story of the tunnel incident. The story is interesting and sadly true, but I could have done without so much detail on background. Just tell the story - I think it could stand on its own.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read if you're not claustrophobic, January 6, 2014
This review is from: Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness (Hardcover)
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Neil Swidey's account of a tragedy in which lives were lost during a construction project in a tunnel under Boston Harbor in 1999 reads like a novel. The lives of the men involved are exhaustively chronicled -- both before and after the event, so that you come to know them and have a stake in their fates.

"Few people notice the casualties when they come, as they typically do, in increments of one or two," he says of construction accidents like this one. Mr. Swidey has succeeded in making sure the men involved in this accident are noticed and remembered.

The author's style is conversational, yet his journalistic reportage doesn't suffer from it. This is both a well researched and well written account of why and how this accident happened. The implications of the decisions that preceded the event and the legal wranglings that followed it are presented in plain, understandable language, which is no small feat for a writer!

But, although I appreciate thorough reporting, this book gave me way too much information. I found myself wanting to skip through pages and pages to get to the author's main points. More importantly, I would have liked to know how -- or whether -- a tragedy like this changed laws or procedures, so that it could be placed in a larger context. Mr. Swidey makes a bare mention of "lasting lessons" in his epilogue, but only for the companies involved in the tragedy. He discusses in one paragraph the way complex projects like this one are structured today.

As an example, I recently read Betty Medsger's book about a break-in of an FBI office during the Vietnam War era (The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI). She was able to show how this minor crime was a precursor to larger crimes (a.k.a. Watergate) that eroded the American public's faith in its own government. I was hoping that the author's scope in this book would be similarly broad, so that the reader would understand why we need to notice these tragedies.
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Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness
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