Blind Descent: new arrival The Quest to new arrival Discover the Deepest Cave on Earth sale

Blind Descent: new arrival The Quest to new arrival Discover the Deepest Cave on Earth sale

Blind Descent: new arrival The Quest to new arrival Discover the Deepest Cave on Earth sale
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“Heart-stopping and relentlessly gripping. Tabor takes us on an odyssey into unfathomable worlds beneath us, and into the hearts of rare explorers who will do anything to get there first.”—Robert Kurson, author of ShadowDivers

In 2004, two great scientist-explorers attempted to find the bottom of the world. American Bill Stone took on the vast, deadly Cheve Cave in southern Mexico. Ukrainian Alexander Klimchouk targeted Krubera, a freezing nightmare of a supercave in the war-torn former Soviet republic of Georgia. 

Both men spent months almost two vertical miles deep, contending with thousand-foot drops, raging whitewater rivers, monstrous waterfalls, mile-long belly crawls, and the psychological horrors produced by weeks in absolute darkness, beyond all hope of rescue. 

Based on his unprecedented access to logs and journals as well as hours of personal interviews, James Tabor has crafted a thrilling exploration of man’s timeless urge to discover—and of two extraordinary men whose pursuit of greatness led them to the heights of triumph and the depths of tragedy. 

Blind Descent is an unforgettable addition to the classic literature of true-life adventure, and a testament to human survival and endurance.

“Holds the reader to his seat, containing dangers aplenty with deadly falls, killer microbes, sudden burial, asphyxiation, claustrophobia, anxiety, and hallucinations far underneath the ground in a lightless world. Using a pulse-pounding narrative, this is tense real-life adventure pitting two master cavers mirroring the cold war with very uncommonly high stakes.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A fascinating and informative introduction to the sport of cave diving, as well as a dramatic portrayal of a significant man-vs.-nature conflict. . . . What counts is Tabor’s knack for maximizing dramatic potential, while also managing to be informative and attentive to the major personalities associated with the most important cave explorations of the last two decades.”—Kirkus Reviews

Includes a 16-pg black and white insert

Review

"Heart-stopping and relentlessly gripping. Tabor takes us on an odyssey into unfathomable worlds beneath us, and into the hearts of rare explorers who will do anything to get there first."—Robert Kurson, author of ShadowDivers


"Holds the reader to his seat, containing dangers aplenty with deadly falls, killer microbes, sudden burial, asphyxiation, claustrophobia, anxiety, and hallucinations far underneath the ground in a lightless world. Using a pulse-pounding narrative, this is tense real-life adventure pitting two master cavers mirroring the cold war with very uncommonly high stakes."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A fascinating and informative introduction to the sport of cave diving, as well as a dramatic portrayal of a significant man-vs.-nature conflict. . . . What counts is Tabor’s knack for maximizing dramatic potential, while also managing to be informative and attentive to the major personalities associated with the most important cave explorations of the last two decades."—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

James M. Tabor’s last book was the international award-winning Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering’s Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters. The writer and on-camera host of the acclaimed national PBS series The Great Outdoors, Tabor was also co-creator and executive producer for the 2007 History Channel special Journey to the Center of the World. Tabor is a former contributing editor to Outside magazine and Ski Magazine; his writing has also appeared in Time, Smithsonian, Barron’s, U.S. News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and many other national publications.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


STOP.

We have a fatality.

BILL STONE, HALF A MILE DEEP and three miles from the entrance in a Mexican supercave called Cheve, did stop. Red-and-white plastic survey tape hung across the narrow passage he had been ascending. The message, scrawled on notebook paper, was affixed to the tape at chest level, where it could not be missed. Afloat in the cave’s absolute darkness, the white paper burned so brightly in the beam of Stone’s headlamp that it almost hurt his eyes. The time was shortly before midnight on Friday, March 1, 1991, though that made no particular difference—it was always midnight in a cave.

Stone, a hard-driving man with a doctorate in structural engineering, stood six feet, four inches tall and weighed two hundred hard-muscled pounds. He was one of the leaders (two veteran cavers, Matt Oliphant and Don Coons, were the others) of an expedition trying to make the last great terrestrial discovery by proving that Cheve (pronounced CHAY-vay) was the deepest cave on earth. He had brown hair, a long hatchet face, a strong neck, intense blue eyes, and a prow of a nose angling out between them. Stone was not classically handsome, but it was a striking, unsubtle face men and women alike looked at twice.

Not just now, though. Having been underground for almost a week nonstop, he was gaunt, haggard, and hollow-eyed, his cheeks rough with scraggly beard, and he resembled somewhat the Jesus of popular imagination. A week underground was long, but not extremely so by supercaving standards, where stays of three weeks or more in the vast underground labyrinths were not unusual.

With three companions, he was halfway through the grueling, two-day climb back to the surface from the cave’s deepest known point, something like 4,000 vertical feet and 7 miles from the entrance. The note and tape had been strung just before the expedition’s Camp 2, where four others were staying. They explained to Stone what had happened. At about 1:30 p.m. that day, a caver from Indiana named Chris Yeager, twenty-five years old, had entered the cave with an older, more experienced man from New York, Peter Haberland. Yeager had been caving for just two years, and going into Cheve was,

for him, like a climber who had been on only small Vermont mountains suddenly tackling Everest. This is not a specious comparison. Experts affirm that exploring a supercave such as Cheve is like climbing Mount Everest—in reverse.

Not long after he arrived in camp, more experienced cavers nicknamed Yeager “the Kid.” Seriously concerned about the younger man’s safety, a veteran, elite cave explorer named Jim Smith sat Yeager down for what should have been a sobering, thirty-minute lecture: don’t go into the cave without a guide, carry only a light daypack at first, learn the route in segments, get “acclimatized” to the underground world before going in for a long stay. The warnings fell on deaf ears. Yeager started his first trip with a fifty-five-pound pack, planning on a seven-day stay.

Yeager’s problems began soon. Just three hours into the cave, he did not properly secure his rappel rack (a specialized metal device resembling a big paper clip with transverse bars, built for sliding down long, wet ropes with heavy loads in caves) to his climbing harness. As a result, he dropped it. The rappel rack is a critical piece of equipment for extreme cave exploration, probably second in importance only to lights. Without his, Yeager could not continue.

Yeager used his partner’s rack to descend to the area where his had landed. Given that a rappel rack is about 18 inches long and Cheve Cave is almost unimaginably vast and complex, this was rather like looking for a needle in a thousand haystacks. Yeager was lucky indeed to find his rack, which allowed him to continue down with Haberland. They did not keep descending for long, however, because they quickly got lost and could not relocate the main route for forty-five minutes.

After seven hours, they arrived at the top of a cliff that had been named the 23-Meter Drop because it was exactly that, a 75-foot free drop from lip to pit that had to be rappelled. By supercaving standards, where free vertical drops hundreds of feet long are common, this was little more than a hop down. Haberland went first, completing an easy rappel without incident. At the bottom he detached his rack from the rope, then moved away to avoid any rocks Yeager might dislodge.

Above, Yeager was wearing standard descent equipment, which included a seat harness similar to those used by rock climbers but beefed up for the heavier demands of caving. A locking carabiner (an aluminum loop, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, with a hinged “gate” on one side) connected the harness to his rappel rack, and the rappel rack connected him to the rope. The rope wove through the rack’s bars, like a snake sliding over and under the rungs of a ladder, providing enough resistance for a heavily laden caver like Yeager to control the speed of his descent.

Before going farther, Yeager had to transfer his rack from the rope he had been descending to a new one that would take him to the bottom of the

23-Meter Drop. He made the change successfully, leaned back to begin his rappel, and realized instantly that something was wrong. The rope did not stop his backward-tilting motion. Instead, he kept going, as if tipping over backward in a chair. Somehow his harness had become separated from the rappel rack, which was still attached to the rope.

Instinctively, he lunged to grab the rope and the dangling rappel rack. Had he been carrying no pack, or even a light daypack, it’s possible that he might have saved himself by holding on to the rope, or to the anchor bolted to the wall, or perhaps even setting up something called a body rappel. But that would have required almost superhuman strength and would have been extremely difficult even without any load. His fifty-five-pound pack made any such self-arrest impossible, and in another instant he was dropping through space. He fell so quickly that he did not even have time to scream.

Falling rocks can shatter and ricochet like shrapnel; Peter Haberland had moved off and sheltered behind a boulder, so he did not see Yeager land. He realized something was wrong only when he heard a rush of air and the crunching impact of a long fall ending on solid rock. Praying that Yeager had dropped his pack, Haberland called out, but he got no answer.

Within seconds, Haberland found Yeager, lying beside the bottom of the rope. He was in a pool of water three inches deep, on his right side, his face partly in the water, his arms stretching forward, as if reaching for something. Yeager’s right leg was broken, the foot rotated grotesquely 90 degrees so that while the body was on its side, the foot pointed up. He had no pulse or respiration, but Haberland turned his face slightly anyway, to keep his mouth and nose clear of the water.

Haberland rushed down to the Cheve expedition’s Camp 2, a twenty- minute descent, where he found two other cavers, Peter Bosted and Jim Brown. They left a note hanging from red-and-white survey tape and rushed back up to Yeager’s position with a sleeping bag and first aid supplies. When they arrived, they found that some blood had run from his nose, but there were no other changes. All three attempted CPR without success. Chris Yeager was dead.

Understanding precisely why the accident happened requires a detailed knowledge of caving equipment. But the root cause was not equipment failure; it was “pilot error.” Yeager entered the cave with too much weight, became fatigued, misused his equipment, and, last and worst, failed to properly secure the locking carabiner that connected his harness to the rappel rack. He apparently made this mistake not just once but twice, the first instance having caused the rack’s earlier loss.

LEARNING OF THE ACCIDENT, Bill Stone could only shake his head in dismay. He had been uneasy about Yeager’s presence in camp in the first place. Yeager; his girlfriend, Tina Shirk; and another man traveling with them had not been part of the original expedition. After climbing some volcanoes, the three had traveled to the Cheve base camp. Shirk was a competent caver who had been in Cheve the previous year but, with a broken collarbone, was not caving just then. The other man had told Shirk and Yeager that, earlier, he had secured permission for Chris to go into the cave. There is some disagreement about that, but Stone, for one, knew nothing about it. As far as he was concerned, the trio had “crashed” the expedition.

Yeager’s death affected everyone. Peter Haberland later wrote in a caving magazine article that he was “shattered at that moment.” Tina Shirk was devastated. Other reactions ranged from anger at an overzealous rookie to grief over a young man’s death to horror at the reality of a body decomposing down in the cave. For his part, Bill Stone was saddened by the needless loss of a young man’s life. He was angered because Yeager’s death left the leaders and the team with a thorny problem that could be solved only by endangering others. And he was afraid, not so much of recovering Yeager’s body, but that his death might abort the expedition. They could have been on the verge of finding the way into Cheve’s deepest recesses and, it was not ridiculous to assume, possibly into history as well. But now it seemed likely that this expedition’s time had run out all too soon.

Stone was completely committed to the expedition’s mission, financially, emotionally, and physically. The intensity of his work, and his no-nonsense style, left no doubt about that in anyone’s mind. He was thirty-nine years old, and if time had not run out for him, he could hear his body clock ticking. Thirty-nine was pushing the upper limit for activities like extreme mountaineering and deep caving, which make such ferocious physical demands on participants.

Like an Olympic athlete who trains for a lifetime to spend minutes chasing gold, Stone knew how precious an opportunity had just been snatched away. It was especially galling to have it stolen by someone who, he believed, had no business being in Cheve in the first place.

Also like an Olympian, Stone was aware that his golden opportunity might never come again in this supercave called Cheve—or anywhere else, for that matter.

Chapter Two


BUT DEATH TRUMPS ALL, and other considerations would have to wait. Yeager—or, rather, his corpse—was now the expedition’s responsibility, like it or not. The Mexican authorities, never entirely comfortable with these big cave expeditions, which caused unrest among some insular and superstitious locals, were going to be very unhappy about the death. Worse, they might even want the body, but had none of the skills necessary to retrieve it themselves. That job would fall to Bill Stone, his co-leaders, and the other cavers. The problem was that nobody had recovered a corpse from so deep in a cave like Cheve.

Supercaves present more hazards than any other extreme exploration environment. Just descending into and climbing out of them is exorbitantly dangerous. Recovering a body, dead or alive, from deep within any cave is even worse, increasing that danger by an order of magnitude. The same year Chris Yeager died, a caver named Emily Davis Mobley broke her leg only four hours and several hundred vertical feet from the entrance of a New Mexico cave called Lechuguilla—big but far less hazardous than Cheve. It took more than one hundred rescuers four days to bring her to the surface. One expert estimated that every hour of healthy-caver descent time equaled a day of ascent in rescue mode in Lechuguilla, which was noted for, as cave explorers put it, “extreme verticality.”

“Extreme verticality” describes perfectly the part of Cheve through which Yeager’s body would have to be hauled. From its entrance, the cave drops like a steep staircase almost 3,000 vertical feet, over a total travel distance of 2.2 miles, before it begins to level off somewhat. It is not one smooth, continuous drop. Those 3,000 feet include innumerable features and formations, with the odd level stretch, but Cheve’s main thrust here is down. One giant shaft alone is 500 feet deep. Like rock climbers, cavers call such vertical drops “pitches.” There are also shorter pitches—many of them, in fact—as well as waterfalls, crawl spaces, walking passages, lakes, huge boulder fields, and many more formations, unique and almost impossible to describe except with a camera.

In the entire cave, there are ninety pitches requiring rappels. Thirty- three of those lay between Yeager’s body and the surface, including that 500-foot monster. So going back up that way with a body on a litter, at virtually every one of those thirty-three pitches, recovery teams would have to install haul systems of ropes and pulleys and counterweights. The bigger the wall, the more complex the hauling system.

Rigging such haul systems there, particularly on the big walls, would be more dangerous than rappelling down and climbing back up such faces. The work would require that fatigued cavers hang for hours high in the air, in the dark, sometimes under streams of cold water, in painfully biting harnesses, setting bolts and hangers and pulleys. All that would be even before beginning the hauling, which would entail the use of living human bodies as counterweights, among other unpleasant and dangerous tasks. There is more to body recovery, but this gives a hint of its complexity.

Yeager’s father, Durbin, arrived several days after the accident with another relative and a caver friend from Indiana. The body, meanwhile, had been secured temporarily not far from the accident site. There followed a week of discussions between the expedition leaders and the Yeager contingent. Stone, not surprisingly, took the lead for his side. He and the others felt strongly that putting expedition members at great risk to retrieve a dead body was unwise. An accomplished climber himself, Stone pointed out that mountaineers often buried fallen comrades in situ. (At the time, something like 130 climbers had died on Everest, and most of those bodies were still up there.) Stone also pointed out, perhaps indelicately but correctly, that recovering the body would be much easier if it were left in the cave for several years, allowing it to desiccate. A smaller team could then more safely retrieve the bones.

Heated discussions followed, particularly between Stone and his co- leaders and Yeager’s friend from Indiana. Finally, the law was laid down: no one would be going into Cheve to get that body. In the end, Durbin Yeager understood that a recovery attempt would invite more accidents, and he reluctantly agreed to have his son’s body buried in Cheve Cave.

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Top reviews from the United States

dcs
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It''s fun to read about (some) crazy people . . .
Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2019
This book was fascinating because I was totally unfamiliar with cave exploration, so it was all new to me and intriguing in the same way that stories about mountain climbing are - think "Into Thin Air," although not nearly as well written. The book did a good job of... See more
This book was fascinating because I was totally unfamiliar with cave exploration, so it was all new to me and intriguing in the same way that stories about mountain climbing are - think "Into Thin Air," although not nearly as well written. The book did a good job of describing the more difficult parts of the descents, but I would have appreciated more newbie details - there were references to tools that even Wikipedia didn''t know very much about. And, as it says in the blurb, the book highlights the different approaches taken by two teams going for the deepest cave - and the two approaches were very different and so were the results - interesting reading.
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Steve
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Tale of Exploration and Bravery in the Deep Parts of the Earth
Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2010
I''m a big fan of any sort of non-fiction book about the survival ability of human beings in extreme environments. I''ve read books about Everest, Antarctica, the Amazon, and Outer Space... and now I will be adding ''inner space'' to the list. And it turns out that this story... See more
I''m a big fan of any sort of non-fiction book about the survival ability of human beings in extreme environments. I''ve read books about Everest, Antarctica, the Amazon, and Outer Space... and now I will be adding ''inner space'' to the list. And it turns out that this story of deep caves and the people who feel the need to explore them is one of the most exciting books that I have ever read! I couldn''t stop turning pages, late into the night, until I finished this one.

Blind Descent follows the journey of two high profile ''cavers'': Bill Stone of America and Alexander Klimchouk from the Ukraine. We hear about their struggles through deadly cave networks, their drive to push their expeditions deeper through personal risk, scientific research, and almost unimaginable bravery. This book is filled with harsh stories of how dangerous these supercaves can truly be. The almost alien cave world is well described, and I really did feel at times that my dark bedroom illuminated by Kindle light was actually some cavern chamber thousands of feet below the Earth. Thankfully I don''t have to worry about navigating a 500 foot cliff or scuba diving my way through a pitch black world of sudden dead-ends and surprise waterfalls. I have nothing but respect for the cavers in this book.

If you''re into tales of exploration at all, then I''d highly recommend this book. I don''t have many negative comments at all. The only thing I can think of is that there are some photos in the Kindle edition of this book, but the small black and white doesn''t really do these supercaves justice - so I went online to check out a bunch of photos. I''d highly recommend doing this if you get into the book.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Bill Stone (one of the major players in this book) did a talk about cave exploration on TED. It''s really interesting and provides a bunch of cool visuals. Here''s the link if you want to check it out:

[...]
12 people found this helpful
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Gary Menaker
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Amazing True Story
Reviewed in the United States on November 11, 2020
Amazing story of the miles deep technical exploration of the worlds deepest caves. I can’t even imagine the fortitude it takes to go underground for weeks at a time in these deep caves that require tons of provisions plus scuba diving the water filled sumps. Rescue is... See more
Amazing story of the miles deep technical exploration of the worlds deepest caves. I can’t even imagine the fortitude it takes to go underground for weeks at a time in these deep caves that require tons of provisions plus scuba diving the water filled sumps. Rescue is almost impossible if there is trouble as the many deaths attest. Compelling story. I went and bought another book on the subject as I was so captured by these stories.
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Jesse
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Non-Fiction book that reads like a thriller - No Spoilers
Reviewed in the United States on January 15, 2014
Tabor does a great job of telling the true story of the international push for the deepest cave in the world. Described, in detail, that almost puts you in the cave, and certainly in the mind, of the leaders of the expeditions. I found it extremely interesting how Tabor... See more
Tabor does a great job of telling the true story of the international push for the deepest cave in the world. Described, in detail, that almost puts you in the cave, and certainly in the mind, of the leaders of the expeditions. I found it extremely interesting how Tabor compared/contrasted the leaders and what drove them while continuing to use the caves as the third set of characters. I was 50 pages in before I realized it was non-fiction. I was hooked either way.

I accidentally purchased this, thinking it was the first Hallie Leland novel, as I enjoyed Frozen Solid immensely. After reading this, I will be buying Deep Zone and expect it to be great just based on Blind Descent. If the truth is this good, I can''t wait to see what Tabor''s imagination does with it.
9 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 starsVine Customer Review of Free Product
4.5 stars. REALLY like his style
Reviewed in the United States on July 1, 2010
disclaimer: I''ve always had a special interest in caves, having visited a "semi-wild" cave about 30 years ago. "Blind Descent" is quite a ride, although, personally, I don''t get the groups'' desire to be the first to the deepest place on Earth; I seem to be... See more
disclaimer: I''ve always had a special interest in caves, having visited a "semi-wild" cave about 30 years ago.

"Blind Descent" is quite a ride, although, personally, I don''t get the groups'' desire to be the first to the deepest place on Earth; I seem to be missing the competitive gene altogether. Still, the vast amounts of money and huge chunks of time spent and the constant potential for serious or deadly injury are most interesting. In my opinion, the author shows particular strength with his explanations of equipment or techniques that may not be familiar to the reader; his word choices are down-to-Earth and easy to understand, without being condescending. Taking an example from page 5, one which many people will be familiar, "A locking carabiner (an aluminum loop, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, with a hinged "gate" on one side) connected the harness to the rappel rack..." I have a carabiner in my pocket, but I''d have been hard-pressed to explain what it is! Similar explanations make the book very easy to follow, even for readers who know nothing about climbing. Bravo to Mr. Tabor for making a deeply technical subject so readable! Highly recommended.
8 people found this helpful
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William Capodanno
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Go Where Few Have Gone Before
Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2010
After reading quite a few books on some of the world''s most alluring and deadly mountains --- Everest, K2 -- and books on climbing to the highest parts of earth, this presented an interesting counterpoint. Tabor captures the world of deep cave diving and the world of... See more
After reading quite a few books on some of the world''s most alluring and deadly mountains --- Everest, K2 -- and books on climbing to the highest parts of earth, this presented an interesting counterpoint. Tabor captures the world of deep cave diving and the world of extreme spelunkers attempting to explore the deepest caves the world has to offer.

Bring together no personal experience exploring caves and without any knowledge on the subject, I found "Blind Descent" to be a fascinating and at times a nerve wracking read. The individuals who pursue these caves possess some of the same characteristics as world class mountain climbers, except they enjoy spending their time in the dark, burrowing through rocks, descending giant waterfalls and into sinkholes and looking for air pockets that might lead to new, unexpored passages.

There are times when it can be a bit difficult to make a mental image of what Tabor is describing, especially without exprience exploring caves and without pictures (completely realize why there aren''t) but overall, "Blind Descent" makes for a fascinating read about some of the least explored and least hospitable parts of the earth.
5 people found this helpful
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William Dobbs
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It''s a dangerous business!!
Reviewed in the United States on September 24, 2019
I found it interesting reading of the planning, the organization and the huge costs in bringing these quests to fruition Accidents happen people get sick and 911 isn''t around the corner -- so how do they and have they taken care of them? It''s a good story and enjoyable.
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joel t kelley
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great story
Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2019
I know very little about caving. I went on a guided tour of mammoth cave in Kentucky a few years ago. This book was recommended on Goodreads by someone, (I forgot who now.) Be that as it may, this was a great read. I learned a lot. Especially the fact that I''ll never... See more
I know very little about caving. I went on a guided tour of mammoth cave in Kentucky a few years ago. This book was recommended on Goodreads by someone, (I forgot who now.) Be that as it may, this was a great read. I learned a lot. Especially the fact that I''ll never explore a Supercave! I just am not in the shape required to do it. Definitely recommended
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Top reviews from other countries

Jam Mad
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well Written Real Adventure
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 10, 2019
If you enjoyed "The Perfect Storm", "Into Thin Air" and "The Shadow Divers", you''ll enjoy this book too. A very well written account of the race to the bottom of the earth, with many heart-in-mouth moments that really happened. And if you''re a fan of well-written books...See more
If you enjoyed "The Perfect Storm", "Into Thin Air" and "The Shadow Divers", you''ll enjoy this book too. A very well written account of the race to the bottom of the earth, with many heart-in-mouth moments that really happened. And if you''re a fan of well-written books about adventure and haven''t read those other three I mention above, you''ll enjoy them too, they''re all of a very similar style. My only criticism is there''s a serious fault with the Kindle formatting, so you think you''re two-thirds of the way through the book when if finishes. You then get to enjoy many photos and informative appendices, but the book is over long before you expect it to be.
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J Dunn
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting, engaging, short and sharp
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 6, 2021
A really fun read overall short sharp chapters tell a story of two halves about two very different cavers. I know next to nothing about caving and this was really informative and jargon-free, with a clear explanation in the narrative of the more technical aspects of caving....See more
A really fun read overall short sharp chapters tell a story of two halves about two very different cavers. I know next to nothing about caving and this was really informative and jargon-free, with a clear explanation in the narrative of the more technical aspects of caving. The narrative style is sharp to keep you interested. It’s a little repetitive in places (I think that’s perhaps the nature of caving though!) and I would have liked a bit more detail in places on the personal experiences of the cavers and the inner descriptions of the cave features. But overall a really engaging and easy read, making a complex subject accessible. It’s really interesting to learn about the geography and regions as well.
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Corin
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Finding the world''s deepest cave, extraordinary
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 25, 2013
We all know what a ‘super cave’ is, well wrong. A supercave is something else, a vast geological monster miles long and many thousands of feet deep. Their exploration requires huge, costly expeditions, multiple subterranean camps and weeks spent underground. ‘Blind Descent’...See more
We all know what a ‘super cave’ is, well wrong. A supercave is something else, a vast geological monster miles long and many thousands of feet deep. Their exploration requires huge, costly expeditions, multiple subterranean camps and weeks spent underground. ‘Blind Descent’ chronicles two teams both aiming for the deepest cave system in the world. Bill Stone in Mexico with American money and Alexander Klimchouk with Russian. 20 years of exploration reach a finale (of sorts) in 2004. Bill Stone was looking at a Mexican cave called Cheve (limestone and massive chambers), Klimchouk at Krubera in Abkhazia, south eastern Georgia (vertical, tight and harsh). These were driven men and a few women, all of whom pulled their own weight. Tabor, a writer with National Geographic, describes the work of these two teams. They dig, they drill and bolt, they crawl, they live underground for weeks, they sump dive at 6,500 ft with out oxygen, they haul 40 lbs loads in batches of 16 (that what it says on the photo ☹). 99% of the work supports the 1 % at the sharp end. And they die. In one passage alone a team laid 120 explosive charges to clear a squeeze for a litter to pass through. The campsites are numbered upwards, so Camp 6 is the very deepest. At the end of a month’s exploration two people passed through a sump, using re-breathers, and did not exit that sump for 6 days. Then three days ascent to sunlight. There was no-one else in the cave system, for the whole of those nine days. They were over 5 miles from the entrance and nearly 5,000 feet down. Margin of error? Tabor is writing for the mass market and his technical descriptions are a little fuzzy. Some 40% of the book is taken with his references. But the stories are stunning and the descriptions are excellent, the writing carries you deeper. The power of obsession is very impressive. A must read book.
2 people found this helpful
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Morgan
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good fun!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 10, 2012
This is about the psychological pressures faced by cave explorers. The book is only partially about cave exploration; a lot of the it focuses on the personalities that lead or organise the teams that explore caves and the problems that they must overcome.The book splits...See more
This is about the psychological pressures faced by cave explorers. The book is only partially about cave exploration; a lot of the it focuses on the personalities that lead or organise the teams that explore caves and the problems that they must overcome.The book splits into two pieces; one piece is about an American expedition leader and the other is about a Ukranian leader. It seems that the author found it easier to write about the American leader; more than half the book is devoted to him and there seems much more background and detail about the expeditions led by him than by the Ukranian. It also seems like the American expeditions are naturally more dramatic; the Ukranian expeditions have fewer casualities and the organiser of them seems to be a much quieter person. The book is a fun read, if a little breathlessly hyperbolic about the lifestyle of a cave explorer. The author writes in fine style and creates very well the feeling of claustrophobia and desperation that must be faced by the caving expedition teams. There''s not a terribly deep moral to the stories in the book and there''s not much to take away from the book in an intellectual sense, but the author created sufficient enthusiasm in me that I ended up looking at the autobiography of the American team leader. Inspiration to dig deeper (no pun intended) into the subject matter is an indicator of a good read, I think!
5 people found this helpful
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johnh
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Boys Own adventure, all cliches present and correct
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 26, 2015
This Boys Own story of caving is OK if you like simple, straightforward tales of derring do, where men are granite jawed and women lithe and fragrant. But the writing is cliched, the drama laid on with a trowel, the pictures are bad, and its repetitive. Focussing on the...See more
This Boys Own story of caving is OK if you like simple, straightforward tales of derring do, where men are granite jawed and women lithe and fragrant. But the writing is cliched, the drama laid on with a trowel, the pictures are bad, and its repetitive. Focussing on the adventure tale means its a missed opportunity to balance that with almost anything else. There might be something more to be said about, for example, how such caves are formed, their ecologies, their role in our culture. But its not said here.
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