LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves


by James Nestor.

James Nestor pulls us into the forbidding world of freediving – an activity during which participants plunge (sometimes hundreds of feet) underwater without any kind of breathing apparatus – and right to the edge of human survival.

Nestor is learning to dive. As a journalist, he’s covered freediving events, and sets out to explore the history, science, applications, and techniques of this formidable skill. He learns straightaway that life-affirming can also mean life-ending, and that if your ears aren’t bleeding when you surface, you’ve done well. Deep is structured by feet below sea level – starting in the shallows and reaching to the depths. As we descend, Nestor investigates a huge range of subjects, including dolphins’ communication, the body’s electrical signals, and humans’ latent ability to echo-locate. All the while he seems both pulled and repelled by the idea of going deep: tempted by the allure of negative buoyancy, but not wanting to die in the process.

Nestor’s attitude to being a newbie is self-effacing, and his manner easy-going: he writes about his experiences without getting in the way. I found this a hugely enjoyable read.


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