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Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness
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Crown 2014
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Description
The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job—with deadly results
 
A quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.”
 
In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile-long tunnel—its endpoint stretching farther from civilization than the earth’s deepest ocean trench—to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.
 
Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative. The climax comes just after the hard-partying DJ Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade assignments as they head into the tunnel, sentencing one of them to death.
 
An intimate portrait of the wreckage left in the wake of lives lost, the book—which Dennis Lehane calls "extraordinary" and compares with The Perfect Storm—is also a morality tale. What is the true cost of these large-scale construction projects, as designers and builders, emboldened by new technology and pressured to address a growing population’s rapacious needs, push the limits of the possible? This is a story about human risk—how it is calculated, discounted, and transferred—and the institutional failures that can lead to catastrophe.
 
Suspenseful yet humane, Trapped Under the Sea reminds us that behind every bridge, tower, and tunnel—behind the infrastructure that makes modern life possible—lies unsung bravery and extraordinary sacrifice.
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Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
02/18/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307886743
ASIN:
B00ERTDIMM
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APA Citation (style guide)

Neil Swidey. (2014). Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness. Crown.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Neil Swidey. 2014. Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness. Crown.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Neil Swidey, Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness. Crown, 2014.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Neil Swidey. Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness. Crown, 2014. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Neil Swidey is the author of  Trapped Under the Sea, a #1 Boston Globe bestseller that was named one of the best books of 2014 by Booklist. He is also the author of  The Assist, named one of the best books of 2008 by the  Washington Post, and a co-author of the New York Times bestselling  Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy. A staff writer for The Boston Globe Magazine, Swidey also teaches journalism at Brandeis University and has been a contributing analyst for NBC News. His work has been featured in  The Best American Science Writing,  The Best American Crime Writing, and  The Best American Political Writing. He is a seven-time winner of the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society for Professional Journalists and has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award. He lives outside Boston with his wife and three daughters. As an outgrowth of his first book, he founded the Alray Scholars Program, a mentoring and scholarship nonprofit that helps give inner-city students a second chance at college.
      • name: Neil Swidey
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title
Trapped Under the Sea
fullDescription
The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job—with deadly results
 
A quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.”
 
In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile-long tunnel—its endpoint stretching farther from civilization than the earth’s deepest ocean trench—to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.
 
Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative. The climax comes just after the hard-partying DJ Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade assignments as they head into the tunnel, sentencing one of them to death.
 
An intimate portrait of the wreckage left in the wake of lives lost, the book—which Dennis Lehane calls "extraordinary" and compares with The Perfect Storm—is also a morality tale. What is the true cost of these large-scale construction projects, as designers and builders, emboldened by new technology and pressured to address a growing population’s rapacious needs, push the limits of the possible? This is a story about human risk—how it is calculated, discounted, and transferred—and the institutional failures that can lead to catastrophe.
 
Suspenseful yet humane, Trapped Under the Sea reminds us that behind every bridge, tower, and tunnel—behind the infrastructure that makes modern life possible—lies unsung bravery and extraordinary sacrifice.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Dennis Lehane, author of Live By Night and Shutter Island
      • content: "Trapped Under the Sea is extraordinary. It bears comparison with The Perfect Storm in its brilliant evocation of everyday, working class men thrust into a harrowing, at times heroic confrontation with death and disaster."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action and The Lost Painting
      • content: "This book will take you on a journey into a fascinating but little-known world--it's the anatomy of a tragedy, a dramatic tale with a cast of vividly drawn characters, superbly written and researched."
      • premium: False
      • source: Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe and The Sixth Extinction
      • content: "Trapped Under the Sea is a heartbreaking tale of real-life bravery, real-life bungling, and real-life tragedy. Neil Swidey is a terrific storyteller."
      • premium: False
      • source: Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
      • content: "Thrilling and beautifully told, Trapped Under the Sea delivers us into a dangerous and mysterious world, a place that speaks to our darkest fears and where heroes work, as Swidey so masterfully shows us, just beneath the surface of our everyday lives."
      • premium: False
      • source: Chuck Hogan, author of Devils in Exile and The Town
      • content: "A fascinating, sympathetic, and suspenseful look at a doomed, high-risk engineering job, the working class men who dared to undertake it, and its ripple effect on the survivors. Claustrophobic and compelling."
      • premium: False
      • source: Mitchell Zuckoff, author of Frozen in Time and Lost in Shangri-La
      • content: "A marvel of masterful reporting and suspenseful writing. Neil Swidey has delivered a gripping, action-filled account of the human costs deep inside a feat of modern engineering. He has a remarkable knack for bringing to life indelible characters and making readers hold our breath as these brave men enter the claustrophobic world of their undersea lives."
      • premium: False
      • source: Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management and author of Teaming
      • content: "Trapped Under the Sea offers vital insights into how organizations work--or fail to work--and how very smart people can make very bad decisions. Neil Swidey's riveting account of the Deer Island disaster should be essential reading for anyone in a position of leadership. I couldn't put it down."
      • premium: False
      • source: David Ropeik, author of Risk!
      • content: "A masterfully reported, grippingly written, and moving case study of how the emotional way we assess risk can lead to deadly mistakes. Nearly everyone in this sad story, driven by their own unique motivations, misjudged a deadly danger that was staring them in the face, and the results were tragic. There are lessons here, for all of us."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from November 4, 2013
        Since the opening of Boston’s immense Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant in September 2000, the “giant, stinking cesspool” of Boston Harbor has cleared significantly in what has been widely hailed as an environmental engineering triumph. This gripping history focuses on construction of its business end: the world’s longest dead-end tunnel, which travels 9.5 miles though bedrock, ending in 55 vertical pipes that diffuse effluent far out to sea. In hindsight, disaster was inevitable, since the project’s contract stated that these pipes’ 55 safety plugs could be extracted only when the tunnel was complete—meaning all drainage, ventilation, transportation, and electrical systems were removed. Commercial divers tackled the job. Years of research and interviews by Boston journalist Swidey (The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of their Lives) has produced a fascinating account of these skilled blue-collar men and their mission, aborted when a malfunctioning oxygen supply killed two of them. While others later completed the job, Swidey describes the years of bitterness and litigation that followed. This virtuoso performance combines insights into massive engineering projects, corporate litigation, environmental science, and cutthroat free-market behavior with vivid personal stories. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 1, 2014
        Sprawling account of a preventable tragedy during the gigantic cleanup of Boston Harbor. Boston Globe Magazine staff writer Swidey (Journalism/Tufts Univ.; The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives, 2008) tackles an obscure topic with precision, looking at the little-known field of commercial diving and its otherworldly environs. In 1999, a small crew of divers was recruited to solve a minor-seeming problem; after nearly a decade of tunneling deep under the harbor, the mammoth Deer Island sewage-treatment tunnel was completed, except for the removal of 55 "safety plugs" that had protected the tunnel builders from flooding prior to the removal of the tunnel's ventilation system. At this point, there were so many construction corporations and governmental entities involved that, after extensive disagreement on the best way to remove the plugs, the task was subcontracted to two small diving companies and a socially awkward whiz-kid engineer who considered himself an expert in hazardous dives. Yet, the engineer foisted upon the divers a jury-rigged air delivery system that a state police investigator later thought resembled "an eighth-grade science fair project gone horribly wrong." Two divers died, and three more barely escaped from the tunnel's airless atmosphere. In the prologue, Swidey sketches the flash-point moment when the divers' system failed and then skillfully builds suspense, showing the development and gradual unraveling of the complicated plan. The author leisurely builds his characters' back stories, contrasting the ambitions and eccentricities of both roughneck divers and the hard-charging "suits" who were simultaneously under court order to finish the project and determined to minimize their liabilities. Remarkably, despite investigators' recommendations, neither the cocksure engineer (who "had shown willful disregard for the lives of the divers") nor anyone else was held liable for the deaths. Swidey delves enthusiastically into the minutiae of law, diving, public works and worker safety under extreme circumstances. The complicated narrative sustains interest despite occasional meandering. A story of infrastructure told on a human scale and a trenchant reminder that the modern metropolis comes with high risks and savage costs.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from January 1, 2014

        Here is an enlightening look at one municipal infrastructure project and its cost in human lives. In the 1990s, Boston built a game-changing sewage treatment plant with an outfall via an undersea tunnel ten miles long. At the tunnel's far end there would be more than 50 tall pipes with dispersal nozzles to release the treated water into the Atlantic. Once the tunnel itself was completed, the last job was to open the outfall pipes; this needed to be accomplished after all the equipment and air handlers in the tunnel were removed. With no oxygen in the tunnel, five professional divers were given an elaborate breathing system and sent down into the darkness. Something went wrong; two men died, and the three who survived struggled for years with guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder. Swidey (staff writer, Boston Globe; The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives) provides immense detail about the challenges, solutions, politics, management, legalities, and personnel involved in a huge, expensive, necessary project that transformed Boston Harbor from an open sewer into a recreational area. VERDICT The author provides masses of facts yet never loses sight of the people involved. The result is a valuable resource for all engineering, urban planning, and journalism collections.--Edwin Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from November 15, 2013
        In the summer of 1999, after an extraordinary project to clean up filthy Boston Harbor was stalled, five commercial divers were brought in for a dangerous, high-stakes mission hundreds of feet beneath the ocean floor. To unstick the Deer Island sewer treatment plant project, the men entered a 10-mile-long tunnel, a dark and claustrophobic space in which oxygen was fed to each man through an umbilical hose. When the mission went wrong, the men found themselves fighting for their lives in a race to get out of the tunnel. Swidey spent five years poring over documents and interviewing all the major figures, including the surviving divers, who speak for the first time about the tragedy and its lasting impact on their lives. More than just an exploration of the elements of a mission gone wrong (the politics, engineering, and design), this is a look at the dangerous jobs done by countless workers executing the grand plans of politicians and engineers that are taken for granted. With the pacing and feel of a special-ops adventure and the insight of a public-policy investigation, Swidey details the lives of the divers, leading up to their fateful mission, the horrors of the ordeal, and its aftermath as the survivors coped with trauma and guilt.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job—with deadly results
 
A quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.”
 
In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile-long tunnel—its endpoint stretching farther from civilization than the earth’s deepest ocean trench—to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on...
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Trapped Under the Sea One Engineering Marvel Five Men and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness
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One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness
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