To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Sealab: America's Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor Hardcover – January 10, 2012
Books with Buzz
Discover the latest buzz-worthy books, from mysteries and romance to humor and nonfiction. Explore more
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
“It’s Hellwarth’s eye for anecdote—pranks the aquanauts played on their commanding officers, the sparkling wine they drank at 200 feet below sea level even though the high pressure forced out the fizz—that brings this long-shuttered program back to life.”
“A thrilling, true-life adventure that transports the reader to a place as foreboding, exciting, and dangerous as outer space. Ben Hellwarth’s Sealab is more than a great history of unsung American explorers. It is a tale of man’s deepest desires and grandest ambitions, and his willingness to risk it all for dreams as vast as the ocean floor itself.”
—Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
“[Hellwarth] combines the work of a diligent investigative reporter with that of a feature writer . . . Ben Hellwarth has produced a fascinating history of man in the sea. It is a book well worth reading, whether you are an aficionado of undersea operations or a casual reader who likes a great sea story.”
“Sealab is a must read for anyone who wants to know the true story behind America’s Man-in-the-Sea Program, complete with all of its triumphs and tragedies.”
—Dr. Robert D. Ballard, Deep Sea Explorer and author of The Discovery of the Titanic
“I grew up with Sealab and Conshelf. Our decisionmakers need to focus on the importance of one of our vital life support systems—the ocean, 70% of our planet. This incredibly detailed, precise book should be read by those who care about our future so they can start planning by basing their passion and decisions on solid foundations.”
—Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder and president, Ocean Futures Society
“A remarkably stirring narrative filled with an awe-inducing cast of scientific adventurers who risked life and limb to not only explore the ocean’s depths, but to make them their own. What Tom Wolfe revealed in such riveting detail of the space program in The Right Stuff, Ben Hellwarth matches here for underwater discovery.”
—Neal Bascomb, author of The Perfect Mile and Hunting Eichmann
“Ben Hellwarth’s engrossing, meticulously researched chronicle of America’s quest to live underwater doesn’t merely recount a forgotten chapter in contemporary history. It reminds us of a time when the country had big, larger-than-life ideas—and the Right Stuff-sized characters to plunge into them.”
—David Browne, author of Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970
“Painstakingly reported and beautifully written, Sealab is proof that American literary journalism is alive and well. How deep under the water can man go, and how long can he stay there? Sealab is Ben Hellwarth’s fascinating answer.”
—Robert S. Boynton, Director of Literary Reportage Concentration, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University, and author of The New New Journalism
"Intelligently and accurately recorded, Ben Hellwarth's Sealab finally brings the historically significant story of America's daring aquanauts out of the long shadow of the nation's astronauts. Jules Verne himself would have been proud to tell this tale of teamwork and raw courage, with its colorful cast of divers boldly attempting to go far deeper into a hostile ocean and stay down far longer than ever before. Sealab is a magnificent book that honors those who risked all for science and their country.
—Leslie Leaney, Founder and Publisher, The Journal of Diving History
Top Customer Reviews
- The writing style is excellent. The author tells a story with a good balance between the personalities, the challenges, and the science/physiology of underwater habitats. The story-telling is first-class. There are some larger-than-life personalities involved like Jacques Cousteau and astronaut Scott Carpenter, and this history is set in an interesting environment of exploration and competition.
- The detail is amazing. The author leaves no stone unturned, and covers every aspect from the design of the habitats to the medical science of saturation diving and decompression. The book covers every step in the process of bringing the idea of underwater living to reality, including all of the pressure chamber tests conducted prior to the first Sealab deployment.
Overall: I gave this rating 4-stars because it is so detailed, so exhaustive, that it will probably only satisfy readers with a very strong interest in underwater habitats. There are a lot of non-fiction books out there that take a subject and make it available to the average reader. "Sealab" is too detailed and its coverage of the subject too thorough to qualify as a book to capture the interest of an average reader. That is not necessarily a bad thing, it just depends what you're looking for. I thought the account got bogged down by the details, but other readers may object to a broader survey of events that are just not covered in other works.
NOTE: I put a lot of effort in capturing the strengths and weaknesses of this book as I perceived them and I welcome comments and feedback on this review.
In the early 1960s, Navy Doctor George Bond authored a proposal to explore and make a presence on the ocean floor. He felt it would not only be beneficial to the Navy in terms of military and rescue acumen but there would also be spin-offs into civilian life, much like the ongoing space program led to Teflon and Tang, as well as "endeavors such as mineral mining, marine biology, and marine archaeology" (although it would be oil drilling that would be the greatest beneficiary). As the author says about Dr. Bond, he "believed that undersea exploration would bring the next generation of antibiotics, and that massive supplies of fresh water that boiled up from the continental shelf could be tapped. He believed, too, that the very survival of the human species depended on our ability to take up residence on the seabed and learn to harvest the ocean's edible protein."
Even though the concept of living on the ocean floor goes at least as far back as Jules Verne, Dr. Bonds' "Proposal for Underwater Research" with his exploration and exploitation ideas was rejected by the Navy. A former country doctor used to working on his own, Dr.Read more ›
There are constant failures of equipment, not just complex equipment, things like water heaters and other simple devices that should not have happened. Safety rules, like ALWAYS swim in pairs, were routinely broken, for no obvious reason. The results were sometimes fatal. Orders were routinely disobeyed, again with sometimes tragic results. Divers were asked to perform 24 or more hours of terribly stressful work in horribly uncomfortable conditions, as if that would not affect their safety or performance. There was no coordinated effort to achieve the goal of deep, reliable saturation diving. In the end, the goal was not achieved and the entire program disbanded.
Many of the people in the story held advanced degrees, MD,s PhD’s, but they acted with no more wisdom than a high school student. I once taught gifted students in high school. I am convinced they could have done a better job than the people in this story.
The work could be entitled: A Comedy of Errors, or Murphy’s Law Par Excellence, except for the tragic incidents involved.
I was left with a depressed feeling and one of despair for the human condition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just as the title suggests, there are moments in history that slide underneath the radar and SEALAB is certainly one them. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Neva G. Sullaway
It was a good read and provided insight into part of our history that I was not previously aware of.Published 8 months ago by J.Wainscott
I love this book! The story is utterly fantastic, and at times it's hard to believe it all really happened. Read morePublished 12 months ago by R. Smith
This is a very detailed book and has an extensive history of saturation diving. I have done some diving and have a friend whose exploits are mentioned in this book. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Larry237
Having been trained as part of a Sealab III team, I found this narrative to be quite accurate including the tragic events leading to the death of Berry Cannon, one of the finest... Read morePublished 15 months ago by LarryRaymondElder
This is an interesting account of early attempts to perfect deep diving techniques by dedicated and intelligent men. Read morePublished 18 months ago by mary b
A good in-depth look at the story behind Sealab. Should note that it's not just about Sealab. It also includes mentions of some of Cousteau's much-publicized efforts and some of... Read morePublished 18 months ago by astrofan
Great piece of non-fiction about one of the most interesting and important quests in American history. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Mary Beth DeLucia