Stars Beneath the Sea

Stars Beneath the Sea : The Incredible Story of the Pioneers of the Deep Sea

3.92 (57 ratings by Goodreads)
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This is the remarkably funny true story of some of the brave, brilliant and often barmy men that invented diving. It is a story of explosive tempers and exploding teeth, of how to juggle live hand grenades and steer a giant rubber octopus. A series of vivid portraits reveal the eccentric exploits of these underwater pioneers. They include Guy who held a world altitude record when only sixteen, wrote a film for Humphrey Bogart, invented snorkelling and loved his wife enough to shoot her. Roy wore a backet over his head and stole a coral reef. Bill wearied of fishing with dynamite and wrestling deadly snakes, so he sealed himself in a metal coffin to dangle half a mile beneath the ocean. Cameron, testing the bouncing bomb for dam busters, made a plastic ear for a dog, a false testicle for a stallion and invented a mantrap disguised as a lavatory. He ascended from a depth of 200 feet without breathing equipment to see if his lungs would burst, then studied the effects of underwater explosions by standing closer and closer until shattered by the blast. The book also traces the evolution of underwater exploration, from spear fishermen to conversationalists, from treasure hunters to archaeologists, from photographers to philosophers. The sea is a secretive and seductive place and the author describes, with incredible humour, knowledge and historical accuracy, the magic and mystery of being beneath the more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 22mm | 258.55g
  • Cornerstone
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • b&w illustrations
  • 0099405091
  • 9780099405092
  • 393,012

Review Text

Lively, encapsulated histories of a dozen or so adventurers, scientists, and eccentrics who experimented to discover ways to plumb the depths of the ocean, written by British scientist Trevor (Marine Biology/Univ. of Liverpool).Nobody had ever gone skindiving before John Guy Gilpatric created the first diving mask out of an old pair of flying goggles. That was in the South of France late in the 1920s, but people had been upending bell jars to capture the air inside in order to diveand breathesince Aristotle. Later in the 20th century, the efforts to discover the secrets of the deep became more scientific. J.B.S. Haldane, who follows his distinguished father in Trevor's study, began as a demolitions expert, progressed to the serious study of blood chemistry in the water and in the sky, and finished by laying the foundations for human and population genetics. He probably deserves his own book. Each of these adventuresome, sometimes foolhardy men arrived at the bottom of the ocean by a different routefrom a love of the sea, from a love of the air, from pure curiosity, or from the love of photography. Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was seminal for most of them. Many tended to hurl themselves into the center of their experiments, some squashing themselves into leaky diving bells, others percolating their own blood for scientific ends. But what all Norton's subjects have in common is a battle against the pressure of deep water as they fought against the dark and the huge weight of an undersea atmosphere that tended to make eardrums perforate, bleed, and worse: "If the air supply was cut off," says Norton of some early divers who were over 150 feet down in primitive "hard hat" diving suits, "his entire body could be rammed up into the helmet, except for the soft bits which would shoot up the air hose." A seaworthy effort. (b&w photos, illustrations) (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Trevor Norton

Trevor Norton is Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool and Director of the Port Erin Marine Laboratory on the Isle of Man. He has authored over 150 scientific publications and books, and is an authority on the history of scientific more

Review quote

"Trevor Norton has shown that a gifted writer is an alchemist... Norton's agile prose is burnished with faintly mocking humour, and he has the natural storyteller's eye for detail" Daily Telegraph "This anecdote-packed book reads rather like the draft of a rollicking after-dinner speech... rich entertainment" Mail on Sunday "Norton writes with wit and a fine eye for the poetry in the scientific work... funny and gripping" Guardianshow more
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