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The Eternal Darkness 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691027401
ISBN-10: 0691027404
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As a young man, at a time when most of his peers were turning their eyes to deep space, Robert Ballard came under the spell both of scientific inquiry and of the ocean. After taking a doctorate in marine geology and geophysics, he spent three decades at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, through which he participated in more than a hundred deep-sea expeditions. Writing from the point of view of "a privileged witness to a fascinating burst of exploration," Ballard recounts many of those explorations, including the first up-close studies of the great mid-ocean ridge of volcanic mountains that circles the globe, full of seafloor vents and "black smokers." Along the way Ballard provides a brief history of modern oceanography, looking at the contributions of such scientists as Charles William Beebe and Otis Barton, whose legendary dives in the early 1930s paved the way for much subsequent research. Ballard's narrative takes on particular vigor when he describes, in fascinating detail, his team's search for the wreckage of the Titanic--a search that relied on intelligent guesswork as much as on hard evidence. The methods he and his colleagues used--employing, among other things, sophisticated remote-control craft--to find the unfortunate vessel ushered in a new era of deep-ocean research, a contribution in which Ballard takes justified pride. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

The man who found the Titanic, discovered black smokers on the sea floor and first ventured into the mid-Atlantic ridge tells the story of deep-sea exploration through his own story and those of the argonauts who preceded him into "the abyss." Ballard begins in 1930, when "the first humans entered the world of eternal darkness and returned alive"--Charles William Beebe and Otis Barton, who descended 1,426 feet in a bathysphere, basically a hollow steel ball let down via cable. Highlighting both the human drama and technical achievements of this and subsequent dives, Ballard takes the story through Auguste Piccard's bathyscaphe, which in 1960 carried Piccard's son, Jacques, to 35,800 feet in the Pacific's Challenger Deep--the bottom of the world--to the subsequent development of small, more maneuverable submersibles, particularly Alvin, within which Ballard explored the mid-ocean ridge and, in a project of great biological import, those smokers, undersea hot vents in which life may have first arisen on Earth; and on to the recent advent of remote-controlled "eyes" like Argo and Jason Junior, which have not only allowed for the surveying of the Titanic and other historic wrecks, reinvigorating the field of marine archeology, but which, linked to the Net, have also allowed scientists to explore the sea bottom from the safety of shore. Replete with personal anecdotes, this history gives an insider's savvy look at how science, commerce and military interests have combined to open up a new frontier of exploration. Ballard weighs the pros and cons of various means of descent, and acts always as a booster of his field. Scores of photographs highlight the steadily absorbing text; together, words and pictures present a vital and authoritative general history of humanity's adventures deep beneath the waves.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (February 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691027404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691027401
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By tvtv3 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Ballard speak on some of his explorations. It was quite an honor because I remember when his team discovered the Titanic in 1985 and because of that discovery I have tried to keep up at least a popular know-how about science and technology. THE ETERNAL DARKNESS discusses some of the things Dr. Ballard spoke about when I heard him and some of the things I remember reading about when I was a kid.
The book is basically a very brief history of deep-sea exploration that is divided into three parts. The first part deals with exploration up until the time of the submersible. There really isn't much about ancient exploration techniques because until the beginning of the 20th century, humankind really wasn't doing any deep-sea exploring. The book talks a lot about bathyscaphs and bathyspheres, things that I only vaguely remember from old Walt Disney cartoons.
The second part of the book explores the discoveries made using submersibles. Ballard began his career near the beginning of the end of this age and it is in this section that he begins discussing many of his own personal voyages and discoveries, including those in the mountain ranges of the oceans.
The third part of the book talks about the events in deep-sea exploring from about the early 1980s on with robotic vehicles doing most of the really deep work. In this part of the book, Ballard discusses other discoveries he was involved with including the Titanic.
Personally, I found the book quite interesting. Ballard does seem to take a lot of credit for various discoveries and events, but he was actually there for the discoveries of those things or at least was a member of the team. This book probably isn't something that an expert in science would want to read (too easy), but it's great for the average Joe. If only all science books were as easy to read as this one.
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Format: Hardcover
The earlier reviews of The Eternal Darkness show the benefit of Amazon's review system. I get nothing for polishing Amazon's apple, but this company has transformed book selling in much the same way that Ballard took existing knowledge, technology, and organizational leadership and enthusiasm and converted them into historic discoveries on the ocean floor.
As one with longtime personal acquaintance with Ballard's oceanographic work, I advise readers not to place credence in one carping, jealous critic. On the other hand, without Amazon's review system how else could one ever learn of the nuanced, knowledgeable critique of "Time Walker"?
One noteworthy point is that beside his spectacular images and technical breakthroughs, Ballard is ever on the alert to new ideas and concepts. For example, he realized and has popularized the amazing resource that the Black Sea - which has no oxygen through most of its 2000 m depth - offers for finding new insights into ancient cultures. In this environment teredo worms and ordinary bacteria that destroy virtually all wood and metal are absent. The anaerobic bacteria that remain operate exceedingly slowly - offering the chance that even leather and sometimes paper might remain recoverable when wrecks are buried in mud.
Because of the popularity of Ballard's work he has enjoyed support of powerful organizations, from the U.S. Navy to National Geographic. He uses these resources not to enrich himself as many others might do, but primarily to advance further explorations whose costs might otherwise be prohibitive.
So enjoy the visual and the action in Ballard's book, and keep the mind open for the talk, and appreciate one of the large spirits of 20th Century and 21st Century science and exploration.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Ballard is one of my favorite explorers. He not only makes his seemingly mundane work interesting, he also explains science in such a way that anybody who reads this book or his other book, "Explorations," can turn into an armchair scientist.

The main difference with this book vs. "Explorations" is that Ballard chronicles in more detail the history behind his groundbreaking discoveries. You appreciate his dangerous adventures aboard submersibles when others before him had far less sophisticated equipment to do the same job. I only wish he would have talked more about about early deep sea exploration via submersibles. His thoughts on death being only inches away every time he dove adds a special poignancy to the book that is especially worth taking to heart.

I would totally disagree with those who say Ballard doesn't give proper credit for his accomplishments. Ballard actually goes out of his way to give proper acknowledgment of his discoveries. He mentions scores of scientists and explorers who either go and help him on his expeditions. He lays an impressive groundwork for the work that goes before him and makes it perfectly clear he wouldn't be where he is today without those people.

I don't know the man personally but I gather Ballard is an extremely personable man who loves to share his discoveries with the average layman and tries his best to make science understandable. A lot of people call him a showman who borders on entertainment to sell science. Fine, but if I could go with him on one of his expeditions, I'd do so in a heartbeat.
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