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Beyond the Deep: The Deadly Descent into the World's Most Treacherous Cave Hardcover – June 18, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Set in stygian gloom, this account of a 1994 caving expedition in southern Mexico produces what adventure readers crave: danger, dissension, death, and ultimate success. Led by author Stone, the spelunkers sought the furthest reaches of a cave system, the Sistema Huautla, which plunged a kilometer and a half down and stretched out for tens of kilometers. To go the deepest, the coveted "booty" in the caving community, Stone developed a special "rebreathing" apparatus for swimming through submerged passages called sumps. As the saga unfolds (dramatically assisted by admittedly reconstructed dialogue), the riskiness of the enterprise becomes apparent as the cavers survive various snafus, which rattle some group members who come to resent Stone's hard-charging style. A cheerful wisecracker named Ian Rolland is not daunted--but soon pays the final price for this adventure. After much acrimony about whether to continue, Stone and his then-girlfriend press on, their course marked by helpful diagrams of their progress. The technicalities of this death-defying recreation, and the raw honesty with which this episode is depicted, will win over extreme-sport fans. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

" BEYOND THE DEEP is an extraordinary and heroic account. I shuddered as I read it." -- Wade Davis, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society, author of THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW

"... describes one of the most significant achievements of modern exploration, with personal stories that make this an exciting, page-turning read." -- Hazel A. Barton, Ph.D., co-star of the IMAX film, "Journey into Amazing Caves"

"For anyone wanting to vicariously experience the hardship and dangers of expedition life underground, this is the book to read." -- Bernie Chowdhury, author of THE LAST DIVE and publisher of Immersed: the international technical diving magazine.

"From the opening page...BEYOND THE DEEP plunges you into a tubular heart of darkness. -- Jeff Long, author of THE DESCENT
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition / First Printing edition (June 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446527092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446527095
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Author Bill Stone points out that the world never knows how deep a cave is until someone "bottoms it out." The tallest mountain's height is a known factor before anyone attempts the climb, but the mystery of caving remains.
"Beyond the Deep" recounts Stone's expedition into the cave system of Systema Huantla in Mexico, which as of 2001 was rated the 8th deepest cave system in the world at 1,475 meters. As the deepest cave in the world, the Kubera Cave in Georgia (formerly USSR) is 1,710 meters, only 235 meters deeper than Huantla, we are talking about some extreme caving.
The main purpose of the expedition was to test out Mr. Stone's "rebreather," an artificial breathing device that allows an underwater diver more than six hours of oxygen as opposed to 45 minutes in the average scuba tank. This amount of time is needed in caves with large "sumps" or underground water passages where the surface can be a great distance away. The problem with the rebreather, aside from its experimental nature, is its complexity, an added component of difficulty to a diver's already altered state of awareness.
The expedition was a diverse group consisting of five divers (these are extreme guys!), five top-of-the-line cavers, and Stone's girl friend, Barbara am Ende, a PhD geologist, but less experienced cave diver. The story unfortunately begins in Maryland where they assembled the group and the gear. I say "unfortunately" because it is an overlong section that leaves us a long time to wait before we get to the cave. Once at the site, the book is engrossing and exciting. Excellent maps are included that are vital to the understanding of what they were doing and where they were at any given time. Stone's descriptions of the types of caving and diving required are outstanding.
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Format: Hardcover
As a personal friend of both Bill & Barb, as well as several of the key players in this story, my original reason for purchasing this book was more as a token of friendship, than anything else. Although I have been a test-diver and active user of the rebreather technology it describes since 1994, I'd never had much of an interest in exploring caves. I had expected to skim through the pages, read a few paragraphs here and there, then add it to my bookshelf alongside other books of a similar vein. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Even though I already knew most of the details of the expedition, and knew full-well in advanced how the story begins, develops, and ends...I was nevertheless held captive by it from the time I opened its cover and began reading, until I completed its last page. The motivation behind cave exploration never seemed to make much sense to me before, but now it all seems crystal clear. This is TRUE exploration at its most extreme -- something often boasted about, but seldom genuinely so. This one is as genuine as it gets.
Because it would be easy to discount my endorsement as merely a kind gesture to my friends, I leave you to make your own interpretations based on the comments of other reviewers having less direct associations with the authors and expedition participants. However, as somewhat of an insider, I would like to take this opportunity to vouch for the authenticity of the events as they are described. I have had many long (multi-hour) discussions with Bill, Barb, and Noel Sloan about what happened during this expedition, and have also had conversations with Kenny Broad and Jim Brown, as well as a number of other people directly associated with the events described in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I was really excited about reading this book because I love reading about cave diving, technical diving, and adventure stories. However, while reading this book I was often frustrated by its construction. I feel this book should have been written as a memoir. A lot of its awkwardness is due to writing what should have been a memoir as a third person nonfiction book. I wonder WHY it was written as such, since Bill and Barbara are the authors. I wish we had been allowed to get inside their heads. Especially Barbara, since she seems comes off as such a martyr without much of her own opinions.

Also, it was kind of hard to figure out the audience for the book. Some of the details were technical and presented in a way that made it confusing for me to really appreciate the quest. The book is kind of front-loaded with a lot of technical information.

At times I'd become frustrated with asides and side stories that seemed to reach no conclusion or point. They seemed interesting, but were under explained or weren't tied into the story. I also felt that the book ended kind of abruptly; since we followed Bill and Barbara so long I would have liked a more drawn out conclusion. For example (not trying to spoil the book), we're introduced to them as a couple, see the lengths they go through together, but it ends with a one-sentence line saying they broke up (yet presumably came together to write this book?).

I gave it 3 stars because I don't regret reading it and I found parts of it fascinating, but the above problems with the book prevented me from really enjoying the narrative.
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