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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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The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless tunnel hundreds of feet under Massachusetts Bay to do a nearly impossible job-with deadly results In the 1990s, Boston built a sophisticated waste treatment plant on Deer Island that was poised to show the country how to deal with environmental catastrophe. The city had been dumping barely treated sewage int The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless tunnel hundreds of feet under Massachusetts Bay to do a nearly impossible job-with deadly results In the 1990s, Boston built a sophisticated waste treatment plant on Deer Island that was poised to show the country how to deal with environmental catastrophe. The city had been dumping barely treated sewage into its harbor, coating the seafloor with a layer of "black mayonnaise." Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as "beach whistles." But before the plant could start operating, a team of divers had to make a perilous journey to the end of a 10-mile tunnel-devoid of light and air-to complete the construction. Five went in; two never came out. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, award-winning reporter Neil Swidey re-creates the tragedy and its aftermath in an action-packed narrative. The climax comes when the hard-partying DJ Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade jobs at a pivotal moment in the mission, sentencing one diver to death and the other to a trauma-induced heroin addiction that eventually lands him in prison. Trapped Under the Sea reminds us that behind every bridge, highway, dam, and tunnel-behind the infrastructure that makes modern life possible-lies unsung bravery and extraordinary sacrifice.


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The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless tunnel hundreds of feet under Massachusetts Bay to do a nearly impossible job-with deadly results In the 1990s, Boston built a sophisticated waste treatment plant on Deer Island that was poised to show the country how to deal with environmental catastrophe. The city had been dumping barely treated sewage int The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless tunnel hundreds of feet under Massachusetts Bay to do a nearly impossible job-with deadly results In the 1990s, Boston built a sophisticated waste treatment plant on Deer Island that was poised to show the country how to deal with environmental catastrophe. The city had been dumping barely treated sewage into its harbor, coating the seafloor with a layer of "black mayonnaise." Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as "beach whistles." But before the plant could start operating, a team of divers had to make a perilous journey to the end of a 10-mile tunnel-devoid of light and air-to complete the construction. Five went in; two never came out. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, award-winning reporter Neil Swidey re-creates the tragedy and its aftermath in an action-packed narrative. The climax comes when the hard-partying DJ Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade jobs at a pivotal moment in the mission, sentencing one diver to death and the other to a trauma-induced heroin addiction that eventually lands him in prison. Trapped Under the Sea reminds us that behind every bridge, highway, dam, and tunnel-behind the infrastructure that makes modern life possible-lies unsung bravery and extraordinary sacrifice.

30 review for Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I listened to the audiobook version of "Trapped Under the Sea", and without faulting Neil Swidey, the author, I had trouble visualizing the tunnel project under Boston Harbor which is the heart of the book. The tunnel is so huge, and so foreign to any normal experience I or 99.99% of the rest of us will ever see, it was just hard to appreciate. What helped me, and may help others, is reference to the sketch below which I found at http://www.mwra.com/harbor/graphic/di... The book describes the tra I listened to the audiobook version of "Trapped Under the Sea", and without faulting Neil Swidey, the author, I had trouble visualizing the tunnel project under Boston Harbor which is the heart of the book. The tunnel is so huge, and so foreign to any normal experience I or 99.99% of the rest of us will ever see, it was just hard to appreciate. What helped me, and may help others, is reference to the sketch below which I found at http://www.mwra.com/harbor/graphic/di... The book describes the tragedy which occurred during construction of the Deer Island Waste Treatment plant underwater tunnels in Boston Harbor. Divers were sent into the tunnel to remove diffuser line plugs, miles from their tunnel entrance, AFTER lighting and ventilation support was removed. With no lights to see where they were going, and inadequate air to breathe, it was a dangerous job. Swidey describes the dangers the divers faced, and how the tunnel designers, constructors, and management, unable to determine how the plugs could be removed safely when the job ended, turned the completion project to an inexperienced and overconfident contracting engineer. As you read the book, you know something bad is going to happen on the job, you just don't immediately know exactly what, when, and to whom it will happen. Swidey does a good job explaining the project and its flaws, and telling the personal stories of the men and families of those impacted by this tragic event.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jean-Paul Adriaansen

    If you would write a fictional story about five men who are send into a 9 mile dark tunnel under the sea without ventilation with an never tested breathing system, composed with duck tape and plywood ... readers would say " we know it's fiction but please don't exaggerate." However, this is what really happened in Boston in 1999. Five divers went in, three survived. Municipal authorities facing a very expensive deadline, super greedy big corporations, subcontractors hoping to get more lucrative ord If you would write a fictional story about five men who are send into a 9 mile dark tunnel under the sea without ventilation with an never tested breathing system, composed with duck tape and plywood ... readers would say " we know it's fiction but please don't exaggerate." However, this is what really happened in Boston in 1999. Five divers went in, three survived. Municipal authorities facing a very expensive deadline, super greedy big corporations, subcontractors hoping to get more lucrative orders and scared to fall out of the grace of the big boys, they all put their trust in a pompous engineer. Only the divers had suspicions and doubted the whole operation, they were silenced, and it cost them dearly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A very interesting - and sad, and frustrating - story, but, alas, I didn't find the telling as compelling as many other readers. My sense is that this would have been a truly excellent short book (say, something under 250 pages), and the right editor could have turned it into a classic - something to rival the work of some of the extremely successful and popular "new journalism" rock stars -- think Erik Larson (the best of the lot in my book, no pun intended) or Hampton Sides or Jon Krakauer or A very interesting - and sad, and frustrating - story, but, alas, I didn't find the telling as compelling as many other readers. My sense is that this would have been a truly excellent short book (say, something under 250 pages), and the right editor could have turned it into a classic - something to rival the work of some of the extremely successful and popular "new journalism" rock stars -- think Erik Larson (the best of the lot in my book, no pun intended) or Hampton Sides or Jon Krakauer or Mitchell Zuckoff, and maybe even Michael Lewis (although he's somewhat of a horse of a different color).... But, in the end, there just wasn't enough in this book (to my mind) to justify its length. [As an aside, I couldn't help comparing this book - at least partially about divers - to Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, which I thought was far superior, and I recommend without hesitation.] Granted, I appear to be in the minority on this, and the book came to me highly recommended, so maybe I'm missing something (and I admit that could be the case). On a more positive note: I thought the book opened with a bang, immediately seizing my interest; I also found Swidey finished strong, and his concluding observations were on point, thoughtful, and thought provoking. I'm glad I read the book for those two aspects alone. Ultimately, however, I think the book is exactly what the author implied it was: a repackaging of a years of (most likely) excellent articles about an interesting and infuriating story. If you're intrigued by stories involving massive public works projects, add this one to your shelf - there's plenty of good material in here. If you're someone who likes complexity theory (introduced to many popular fiction readers in Michael Crichton's classic original Jurassic Park (a darn good book, not equaled by the sequels), this is a non-fiction anecdote/case study worth your time. (As an aside, it's easy to forget how good (and creative and path-breaking) much of Crichton's early work was, but I digress....) In retrospect, I think the lengthy (and, in many ways, inaccurate) title reflects my frustration with the book. Potential spoiler alert here, but only if you're completely unfamiliar with the public record... Yes, five men were trapped under the sea (briefly), but - in many ways - the most important actor in the book is the sixth man, whom the author concludes escaped responsibility for his criminal negligence. And, in many ways, one of the most interesting features of the author's relentless research is that he introduces you to the extraordinarily broad and diverse cast of characters that contributed to (or were impacted by) the disaster and/or participated in the aftermath. Having said all of that, kudos to Swidey for sticking with the story for so long. He provided a valuable service - not only to the survivors and their families (and the families of those who were not as lucky) - but a a significant public service to future workers whose lives may be spared (and/or better protected) as a result of using this high profile project and disaster as a teaching tool, lesson learned, or easily applied anecdote with regard to the calculus involved in weighing project completion costs and deadlines against worker safety.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mishehu

    SPOILER: Simply outstanding. TUtS is a first-rate piece of reporting on an unheralded chapter in the history of the Boston Harbor cleanup. It is a superbly engaging human interest story, and a moving testament to the life, work, and sad passing of two young men. A terrific book on all measures.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Agnė

    WHAT IS IT ABOUT? Neil Swidey's "Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness" is a distressing story of five men who were sent on an impossible mission that changed their lives forever. With the accuracy of a journalist and the captivation of a storyteller, Neil Swidey explores a two-decade long Boston Harbor Cleanup Project, a multimillion-dollar engineering marvel which somehow came down to five divers being sent into the end of a dark, ai WHAT IS IT ABOUT? Neil Swidey's "Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness" is a distressing story of five men who were sent on an impossible mission that changed their lives forever. With the accuracy of a journalist and the captivation of a storyteller, Neil Swidey explores a two-decade long Boston Harbor Cleanup Project, a multimillion-dollar engineering marvel which somehow came down to five divers being sent into the end of a dark, airless,10-mile-long, dead-ended tunnel under the sea to finish off the job. This story is a textbook example of how very smart people can make really dumb decisions which lead to devastating results. THUMBS UP: 1) Relevant. This book is a must-read for every Bostonian because it puts a price tag on the clean waters of our Boston Harbor. However, this price is not measured in money but rather in dedication, courage and sacrifice of the "ordinary heroes," the construction workers, who turned an engineer's dreams into reality. 2) Informative. If you are interested in the ins and outs of the Boston Harbor Cleanup Project, this is a perfect book for you. But even if you never heard about this project before (just like me), by the end of the book you will be an expert on it. It seems like the author didn't leave out any details and he managed to present them with such a clarity that I found myself equally interested in all the aspects of the story, from personal recollections to technicalities of engineering, law and politics. 3) Well researched and exceptionally written. I am utterly impressed by the author's extensive research, but even more impressive is his ability to put all these facts together to create an appealing story. To be honest, I always thought that nonfiction books are not my cup of tea as I often find myself tangled in all the details. But maybe the key to a great book is a good writing rather than an interesting subject? 4) Touching yet objective. "Trapped Under the Sea" is a collection of harrowing personal accounts. However, the author somehow still manages to set a relatively objective tone. Thanks to his extensive research and extraordinary reporting skills, Swidey is able to present the story from the multiple points of view leaving enough room for the reader to form his own opinion on the matter. VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5 Just read it. You won't regret.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    (3.5 stars)Advanced Reading Copy. "Trapped Under the Sea" tells the true story of a group of construction divers hired to do some dangerous work to finish the Deer Island (MA) sewer pipe project, far below Boston Harbor and out to the ocean. Due to some questionable (some would say criminal) corporate decisions, some of the divers died, leading to an exhaustive investigation. The first part of the book introduces us to the main players. The second part describes the tragedy and the events leading (3.5 stars)Advanced Reading Copy. "Trapped Under the Sea" tells the true story of a group of construction divers hired to do some dangerous work to finish the Deer Island (MA) sewer pipe project, far below Boston Harbor and out to the ocean. Due to some questionable (some would say criminal) corporate decisions, some of the divers died, leading to an exhaustive investigation. The first part of the book introduces us to the main players. The second part describes the tragedy and the events leading up to it. The final third showcases the investigations that followed, as well as the effects of the event on the survivors. The third act is where the book fell apart to me as it was just too repetitive, micro-analytical and long. The divers are interesting, the story of the event is suspenseful and movie-worthy but the denouement was just frustrating and could have been better with some judicial editing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    It sounds like the plot to a far-fetched disaster movie. Five men are more than nine miles into a tunnel that dead ends. All they have for light is what they brought. They're connected umbilical like to a breathing system because otherwise they'd lose consciousness and die from lack of oxygen. Suddenly, the breathing system fails. And, by the way, the tunnel they're in is some 400 feet under (yes, under) Boston Harbor. But as Neil Swidey explains in the plainly told but engrossing Trapped Und It sounds like the plot to a far-fetched disaster movie. Five men are more than nine miles into a tunnel that dead ends. All they have for light is what they brought. They're connected umbilical like to a breathing system because otherwise they'd lose consciousness and die from lack of oxygen. Suddenly, the breathing system fails. And, by the way, the tunnel they're in is some 400 feet under (yes, under) Boston Harbor. But as Neil Swidey explains in the plainly told but engrossing Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness , that is just what happened in July 1999. He looks at almost every aspect of what led to the men being in that situation, the variety of people involved and the ramifications. In doing so, he looks at almost every aspect of the event, often through the eyes and thoughts of one of the trapped men, D.J. Gillis. And while some of the contributing factors are rather complex, the reporter for The Bowston Globe Magazine renders it all in coherent detail. The background may be as outside the norm as the event itself. For decades, Boston Harbor had been the end point for human waste from Boston and nearly 50 other cities and towns. Half a billion gallons of sewer water and some 140,000 pounds of lightly treated sludge were being discharged into the Harbor daily. By the 1980s, the sludge had decayed and settled to the ocean floor, creating a disgusting mud known as "black mayonnaise." A lawsuit led to a multi-billion dollar project was planned to try to clean up the harbor, including a massive sewage treatment plant on Deer Island that would be "the destination for every toilet flush in the eastern half of Massachusetts." The project, overseen throughout by a federal judge, also included the world's longest dead-end tunnel. Extending nearly 10 miles under Boston Harbor, it would carry treated sewer water away from Boston Harbor to discharge it deep into Massachusetts Bay. Akin to another Boston megaproject, the Big Dig, the tunnel alone took twice as long as planned, almost a decade, and cost the general millions of additional dollars. One last step remained for the tunnel to be complete, removing 65-pound plugs that had been placed in each of 55 30-inch wide pipes leading from the side of the tunnel to risers that would actually discharge the water to protect the miners. Not only were the plugs in an area where the tunnel itself was only five feet high, they were to be removed only after taking out the extensive ventilation, electrical and transportation systems used by the miners. That meant the area also would not have enough oxygen to breathe. The solution? Use commercial deep sea divers, although they would not be able to wear the equipment they normally use. A reader is struck not only by how jerry-rigged the solution was but how relatively harebrained it seemed. An untested breathing system designed for this task by an engineer with a small Spokane, Wash., commercial diving firm would be placed in one of two Humvees. The Humvees were connected back to back because the tunnel was too small for them to turn around, requiring one to be pointed into the tunnel and the other out. Hoses would extend from the breathing system to allow the men to walk to the side tunnels and crawl into them to remove the plugs. Swidey takes the interesting approach of placing the moment of disaster in the book's prologue. From that point, he traces the stories of the men and companies involved, how the plug problem arose and this particular solution was chosen, and takes the reader inside the disaster and ensuing investigation and aftermath. Thus, Trapped Under the Sea tells not only the personal aspects of the story but the institutional ones, including how not wanting to take ownership of the problem or its solution seems to have led inexorably to disaster. He makes both interesting. The book shows the payoff of Swidey's hundreds of hours of interviews with those involved and years of study of the project. It allows us to understand both the men and the processes. It also provides some unique insight into the men involved. In fact, weeks after reading the book I am still struck by the incident that, despite all the horror, sticks in the mind of one of the survivors, one that involves a 2½ inch strip of skin. Given how extraordinary the event was, many readers may wonder why they never seem to have heard of it. It seems to have been swallowed up by the "important" news dominating local and national media -- the effort to recover the body of John F. Kennedy, Jr., after the plane he was piloting crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard. As Swidey observes in his extensive notes, six columns of the front page of the next day's Boston Globe dealt with Kennedy. The story of death and nail-biting survival involving five men trapped 400 feet under Boston Harbor was relegated to an item in the local news section. (Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lostshadows

    This book tells a compelling real life story and explains a bunch of technical things that readers are less likely to be familiar with (diving, sewage treatment, the law), in ways that are easily understandable but don't feel overly simplified. I came away from the book feeling that I understood what went wrong and why. Its not without it's flaws, there are certain digressions that, while its clear why the author included them, don't really flow into the narrative very well. (This may be dealt wi This book tells a compelling real life story and explains a bunch of technical things that readers are less likely to be familiar with (diving, sewage treatment, the law), in ways that are easily understandable but don't feel overly simplified. I came away from the book feeling that I understood what went wrong and why. Its not without it's flaws, there are certain digressions that, while its clear why the author included them, don't really flow into the narrative very well. (This may be dealt with in the published version.) Also, we don't get to learn as much about some of the players as I would have liked, but I suspect that's partly due to who was more likely to be cooperative with people writing about this incident. Well worth the read if the description sounds even vaguely interesting to you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I have not heard about the huge Boston harbor clean up project. Of course this might have something to do with the fact that I do not live in Boston or have never visited. Yet when I saw this book as one that I had a chance to review I jumped on it. I do enjoy reading about true stories. If the stories are told right then my as the reader will grow attached to the people in the stories. Which is what happened in this book. Getting to know DJ, Riggs, Hoss, Billy, and Tim, I felt like I had known I have not heard about the huge Boston harbor clean up project. Of course this might have something to do with the fact that I do not live in Boston or have never visited. Yet when I saw this book as one that I had a chance to review I jumped on it. I do enjoy reading about true stories. If the stories are told right then my as the reader will grow attached to the people in the stories. Which is what happened in this book. Getting to know DJ, Riggs, Hoss, Billy, and Tim, I felt like I had known these guys for a long time. While at times I did feel like I wanted to know more about the project and not about the guys and their lives, I did realize that knowing their stories is part of the whole story. Also, this book is thick but it reads fast. I am sad that good people had to lose their lives due to poor choices by big corporations. If you are a fan of nonfiction then you should check this book out.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth☮

    This is a really intense read. Five men are sent into a tunnel ten miles beneath Boston Harbor to fix an engineering issue that couldn't quite be solved before putting lives in peril. The five men are skilled in deep sea diving, but are sent into a tunnel with little to no assurances of safety. The conditions in which are they are forced to work are harrowing. This is a story of corporations vs. the little man. Of the men that build the blueprints of the engineers that can not fathom the muscle a This is a really intense read. Five men are sent into a tunnel ten miles beneath Boston Harbor to fix an engineering issue that couldn't quite be solved before putting lives in peril. The five men are skilled in deep sea diving, but are sent into a tunnel with little to no assurances of safety. The conditions in which are they are forced to work are harrowing. This is a story of corporations vs. the little man. Of the men that build the blueprints of the engineers that can not fathom the muscle and risk that goes into completing the project. It is a glance into a risky enterprise. And it takes an honest look into politics and who takes responsibility for the mishaps that occur on the job (take a guess: no one).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Reese Copeland

    I really loved this book. It is compelling and reads almost like a first person account. Mr. Swidey did a fantastic job of putting the story together in a comprehensive manner for those of us that are not fluent in the career of diving. I appreciated his explanations of things I would not have understood otherwise, as well as his writing about a subject and tragedy that is still tender in the hearts of the victims. On many occasions, I was able to empathize with the pain and heart break he was a I really loved this book. It is compelling and reads almost like a first person account. Mr. Swidey did a fantastic job of putting the story together in a comprehensive manner for those of us that are not fluent in the career of diving. I appreciated his explanations of things I would not have understood otherwise, as well as his writing about a subject and tragedy that is still tender in the hearts of the victims. On many occasions, I was able to empathize with the pain and heart break he was able to put into words of the story. It is something that people should read as I do not even remember the event at the time it happened. One thing rang true and says with me. Those that passed away as a result of the incident were truly, ordinary heroes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Allison Sharma

    Incredible story, magnificently told. A must-read for Bostonians.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Smith Atkins

    Excellent read on real life choices.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Noah M.

    It was a really good read. It reads like a thriller. It moves you, It makes you want to cry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jesus Ramirez

    In the case of a troublesome task in need of assistance, what is better than an engineering plan to fix it. The way the characters and scenarios are set into place are fantastic. No continuation of the story will proceed without the assurance of the author's brief explanation and detail on a new subjects. This book will guarantee a future civil engineer, or an engineer in general, a marvelous experience. The compelling story of the five main men will bury the reader in emotion and attachment, an In the case of a troublesome task in need of assistance, what is better than an engineering plan to fix it. The way the characters and scenarios are set into place are fantastic. No continuation of the story will proceed without the assurance of the author's brief explanation and detail on a new subjects. This book will guarantee a future civil engineer, or an engineer in general, a marvelous experience. The compelling story of the five main men will bury the reader in emotion and attachment, and it is sure to not disappoint.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    One of my biggest joys in having a book blog, is in being able to read nonfiction books I would never had heard of otherwise. I've always read nonfiction, but in the past is was on subjects I already knew about, or it was a book someone had suggested, or given to me. Blogging has opened my nonfiction eyes, in ways I never though about when I started Wordsmithonia. I've been exposed to people and events I have never heard of, been fascinated by subjects I would never have thought about on my own, One of my biggest joys in having a book blog, is in being able to read nonfiction books I would never had heard of otherwise. I've always read nonfiction, but in the past is was on subjects I already knew about, or it was a book someone had suggested, or given to me. Blogging has opened my nonfiction eyes, in ways I never though about when I started Wordsmithonia. I've been exposed to people and events I have never heard of, been fascinated by subjects I would never have thought about on my own, and most of all, it's given me a better sense of the way other people view the world. With Trapped Under the Sea, I feel as if a piece of our country's history, which I would almost bet most people outside of Massachusetts aren't familiar with, has been exposed for all of us to see. Our national media seems to focus on the latest political scandal, or piece of celebrity gossip. Stories that should be making national headlines don't. I think it would be safe to say that more people know about Britney Spears shaving her head, than know the names of the men who lost their lives in the Deer Island tunnel. And I would also think it's fair to say that even the majority of the people who were exposed to this story in the news, don't remember it know, and probably never knew a ton of the details to begin with. From what I can gather, this book actually started off as two part story in The Boston Globe Magazine. Running in August of 2009, Swidey delved into the lives of the divers involved, and finally put voice to their story. What started off as that two piece story, has turned into one of the best examples of narrative nonfiction I've had the privilege to read in quite a while. Most of you already know that I'm a huge fan of the two Mitchell Zuckoff books that I have read. Frozen in Time and Lost in Shangri-La are two of the best examples I can give of what a good narrative flow is in a nonfiction book. Both, Mitchell Zuckoff and Neil Swidey, have a way of telling a story in it's most natural form. Trapped Under the Sea reads like a well crafted novel. This is not a dry spewing forth of names, dates, and events. This is a well written, compelling story of the lives of those affected by the tunnel disaster, and of those that contributed to it's happening. It's a fascinating look at the decisions that led to this event, and it doesn't shy away from the consequences of it either. Where most authors may have ended the story at it's logical conclusion, Swidey takes us into the aftermath, chronicling not only the investigation, but how the personal lives of those involved were changed by the events that day. It doesn't shy away from the messy details, or the negative ways in which the men who survived, spiraled out after the disaster. I'm sure some are going to read this book as an indictment of the greedy corporate climate, that so many like to point fingers at. And I'm sure that they would be valid in those thoughts, even if that's not what I took away from this book. Instead, Trapped Under the Sea, was a celebration of the human spirit and drive that compels so many of us forward.. It celebrates the men who would even think of going into a 9.5 mile long tunnel under the sea bed. It glorifies the spirit of those would would do so, even into an environment that has no breathable air, or any safe way out if something were to go wrong. It makes us proud to be part of a species that can even dream that big, who even thinks of building a tunnel that far out to sea. It honors all of those who have given up their lives, in the name of human progress and innovation. It's a testament to what has driven this country since it's founding, but it's also a warning of what happens when the goal becomes more important than the lives of those trying to reach it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mirrani

    There isn't a word to describe this book. I started this review about ten times and just kept backing up over the first line because I simply couldn't describe it that easily. Trapped Under the Sea is the tragic story of five divers who went down to work in the Deer Island Tunnel in Boston. It not only covers the lives of the divers in an interesting and captivating way, but it tells the story of the people who worked above them, the men and women who made the choices on the project and who were There isn't a word to describe this book. I started this review about ten times and just kept backing up over the first line because I simply couldn't describe it that easily. Trapped Under the Sea is the tragic story of five divers who went down to work in the Deer Island Tunnel in Boston. It not only covers the lives of the divers in an interesting and captivating way, but it tells the story of the people who worked above them, the men and women who made the choices on the project and who were given the difficult task of assigning blame when everything came to a sudden stop because of the accident in 1999. Swidey has a gift for taking research and turning it into a compelling story rather than just a list of facts and made me feel as if I had met the divers in person. I can not imagine the amount of time and effort that was put into this book in order to properly memorialize those who died and honor those who lived on. Starting on the day of the accident, then moving backward in time to properly introduce you to the miners and others involved in the project, there is a sort of mystery involved. If the news you were watching at the time focused on the John F. Kennedy, Jr. plane crash, then you probably missed the news of this event, which was hidden behind all of that publicity, meaning you will instantly be curious to know who survived and how everything happened. The build up to the final events was in no way a means of capitalizing on a bad situation, but a true memorial, a way of making you see with your mind something that even the divers said you could not understand if you had not been there. My only issue with this very fluid transition through time was that sometimes a character would meet someone and the story perspective would change without much notice. You would be reading about one person's life, then they meet someone and you're following that person's life. These transitions were the only thing that threw me and were not frequent. I could not put this book down, yet I found it took me some time to get through, which seems an odd combination until you realize that this is the kind of book that seeps into your soul so that it can help you live the experience. I think it is the perfect way to honor those involved and to bring to light the struggles that those in the industry face every day just so the general public can be comfortable in their lives. Note: Though this book was a free gift from the author, the content of my review was in no way influenced by the gifting. The book speaks for itself and my review would have been worded just this way even if I'd gone out and bought it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    3.5 Stars originally posted at http://readaholiczone.blogspot.com/ By reading the blurb I had come to the conclusion that the book was going to be about a team of divers and the tragedy that took place while they were in the tunnel causing two of the divers to perish, but this book is about a lot more than just the divers disaster. None the less, this read takes a close look at the unnecessary deaths of blue-collar workers caused by the almighty dollar that large corporations put before the worke 3.5 Stars originally posted at http://readaholiczone.blogspot.com/ By reading the blurb I had come to the conclusion that the book was going to be about a team of divers and the tragedy that took place while they were in the tunnel causing two of the divers to perish, but this book is about a lot more than just the divers disaster. None the less, this read takes a close look at the unnecessary deaths of blue-collar workers caused by the almighty dollar that large corporations put before the worker who trusts them with their lives. Even though this was a high-risk job, human beings with families who loved them died due to pure incompetence. I think that laws need to be changed so that in obvious cases like this one, where the individuals whose neglectful actions end in someone's death, should do mandated jail time. The book begins at the source of the original problem; Boston Harbor has raw sewage dumped into it, causing it to be “the dirtiest harbor in America” or as it was called “The Harbor of Shame”. Therefore, came a solution the second largest state of the art sewage plant would be built so the treated remains would go through the 9.8-mile tunnel under the sea floor and be discharged out into Massachusetts Bay. Well, as the book explains in great detail it was not that simple neither was the content of the book. As I explained above, it starts with the contaminated Boston Harbor and with an astounding explanation of every single fact that did not end until the individuals involved in the tragedy moved on with their lives. This read is packed full of all types of facts and you will learn an abundance of assorted information from diving, how an underwater tunnel is built, all the different tools used in building the tunnel and used underwater, sandhogs, bag lines, breathable O2 mixtures and the consequences if they are not mixed right, the truth is this list could fill multiple pages. The author did a brilliant job of putting together all the facts about every aspect of what happened, but at times I felt bogged down with all the information. Therefore, the prose is not badly written it feels overwritten also containing an overabundance of facts. Even though I am partial to non-fiction and enjoy learning new things I am torn by this book. It was not bad yet I did feel overwhelmed by it. I learned so much information that I did not know before, but with this book I found myself checking how much was left to read way too many times. This book is for a specific type of reader, one who thrives on this subject. "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    This book is so expertly researched, impressively detailed, and captivatingly written that it appealed to my logical, ethical and emotional sides. Though I knew absolutely nothing about waste treatment plants, engineering projects or big corporations going into this, I didn’t have trouble following because everything was clearly explained. The prologue jumps right to the moment where all hell breaks loose in the underwater tunnel, then the narrative shifts to the Boston Harbor pollution mess, th This book is so expertly researched, impressively detailed, and captivatingly written that it appealed to my logical, ethical and emotional sides. Though I knew absolutely nothing about waste treatment plants, engineering projects or big corporations going into this, I didn’t have trouble following because everything was clearly explained. The prologue jumps right to the moment where all hell breaks loose in the underwater tunnel, then the narrative shifts to the Boston Harbor pollution mess, the construction of the waste treatment plant, the major players involved, and the increasingly unnerving setbacks that cropped up while finalizing the tunnel, which leads back to where the prologue left off. The final third of the book recounts the investigation, legal battles, and the struggles of the surviving divers to put the underwater tunnel nightmare behind them. This compelling read reveals the massive amount of planning, money, effort and time involved in huge “engineering marvels,” and it exposes the risks that may be taken toward the end of projects where time and money pressures, as well as dangerous complacency, can lead to shortcuts and carelessness. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating that completely avoidable deaths occurred during the final stage of the Boston Harbor’s waste treatment plant’s construction because the people in charge became negligent and rash. This book certainly changed my perception of industrial structures (not only do they cost a lot in terms of money, but also sometimes in terms of lives), and I’ll definitely be more apt to stand up for my safety if I’ve ever asked to do something I have doubts about at work. Highly recommended for anyone interested in history, non-fiction, engineering, or sea related disasters. My only gripe is that I wish some photos of the waste treatment plant and the relevant people had been included. (Maybe they are in the finished copy?) Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    ♞ Pat Gent

    Let me preface by saying, "I don't read much contemporary non-fiction." I'm not a fan of the genre, but I pulled this one because it had such good reviews from other readers on here. I didn't not like it, which means it's probably a great example of the genre. As non-fiction, it's well researched, well written, with the characters expanded in a way that makes their ultimate fates even more tragic than that of a simple stranger. You care about them. You care about their families. You want to have Let me preface by saying, "I don't read much contemporary non-fiction." I'm not a fan of the genre, but I pulled this one because it had such good reviews from other readers on here. I didn't not like it, which means it's probably a great example of the genre. As non-fiction, it's well researched, well written, with the characters expanded in a way that makes their ultimate fates even more tragic than that of a simple stranger. You care about them. You care about their families. You want to have frontier justice handed down to the corporate machine that devoured them in its greedy jaws. I found it depressing. Mostly because it's just such a classic example of the Peter Principle - people elevated to their level of incompetence, making decisions that they have no knowledge or experience to make, endangering the lives of those they are responsible to protect. There's enough blame here to go around - lack of adequate oversight, corporate greed, willfully uninformed CEO's, OSHA's bumbling mishandling, the MWRA's obsession with the bottoms line, the engineer in charge, the lowest bidder system that was contaminated by allowing the consultant to bid on the project after being allowed to see the bids, bosses unwilling to speak up when they were uncomfortable with what was happening because they didn't want to "rock the boat." It's all enough to make you sick to your stomach. Every small cog in every wheel possible slipped out of alignment on this project, and as a result, two men paid with their lives. And most of us didn't even hear about it. How sad is that?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    Hubris and greed resulted in tragedy, and this nonfiction book is the detailed story of how things went horribly wrong. The undersea tunnel for the Deer Island waste treatment plant was over budget and behind schedule, and completion of the project was driven by time and money with not enough concern for safety. This book, almost 400 pages long in my Advance Reader's copy, had a huge amount of detail and I got a little bogged down in it. Some of the technical aspects were necessary to fully under Hubris and greed resulted in tragedy, and this nonfiction book is the detailed story of how things went horribly wrong. The undersea tunnel for the Deer Island waste treatment plant was over budget and behind schedule, and completion of the project was driven by time and money with not enough concern for safety. This book, almost 400 pages long in my Advance Reader's copy, had a huge amount of detail and I got a little bogged down in it. Some of the technical aspects were necessary to fully understand the story as it developed, but I think the book could have used more editing, event though the author said it was originally half again as long. The author spent quite a few words showing the lives of those affected by tragedy, who and how they were before the accident. It was more than 100 pages before the divers first made their appearance in the tunnel, and close to 200 before the major tragedy. Given that, the writing was straightforward and clearly written, very readable. The story it told was both fascinating and heartbreaking. Hubris combined with lack of technical knowledge was greatly to blame, and it infuriated me. Those who survived had their lives changed forever. In addition to being a well-researched and interesting story, this is a moral tale of what should never have happened to begin with, and perhaps will cause progress to ensure it doesn't happen again. I was given an advance reader's edition of the book for review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    Imagine yourself running out of air underground nine miles offshore, with thousands of feet of ocean above you. This disaster happened in 1999 to 5 men who were working as divers to complete a waste treatment project for Boston. Swidey details every aspect of this avoidable accident, in detail I sometimes struggled to comprehend but nevertheless found edifying. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how huge engineering projects are managed, and contracted, and subcontracted. (I gained Imagine yourself running out of air underground nine miles offshore, with thousands of feet of ocean above you. This disaster happened in 1999 to 5 men who were working as divers to complete a waste treatment project for Boston. Swidey details every aspect of this avoidable accident, in detail I sometimes struggled to comprehend but nevertheless found edifying. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how huge engineering projects are managed, and contracted, and subcontracted. (I gained a whole new appreciation for what goes into building any new engineering project!) I learned about industrial law, and how companies and entities can manipulate it to shift blame when something goes wrong. I learned a lot about how tunnels under water are made, and what you shouldn't do. I also learned about post-traumatic stress disorder, which the survivors of the disaster all suffered from to varying degrees. Swidey tells the story suspensefully. I read the whole book in two days! I don't recommend it for everyone, as I think the management/engineering/insurance/legal aspects may put less technically-minded people off, but it's worth the read if you like this sort of thing, which I do. Recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Don O'goodreader

    by Neil Swidey is a cautionary tale of how engineers can cause disasters and death. In this chronicle of misplaced faith in technology and technologists, Swidey details the circumstances leading the to inevitable death of two divers under Boston Harbor and the subsequent impact on the survivors. The "trapped under the sea" part is just a small interlude between the causes and effects. The project is a ten mile long tunnel to delivery treated sewage out into the harbor. The myriad players -- Federa by Neil Swidey is a cautionary tale of how engineers can cause disasters and death. In this chronicle of misplaced faith in technology and technologists, Swidey details the circumstances leading the to inevitable death of two divers under Boston Harbor and the subsequent impact on the survivors. The "trapped under the sea" part is just a small interlude between the causes and effects. The project is a ten mile long tunnel to delivery treated sewage out into the harbor. The myriad players -- Federal judge, contractors, OSHA, MWRA (Mass Water Resources Authority) -- are deadlocked. Swidey does an excellent job delving into the individual players, their personal and organizational motivations. These characters drive the story and make this book an exciting page turner, even though everyone knows the result is going to be a disaster, where the divers pay the ultimate price for the difficulties and inadequacies of their superiors. For more see: http://1book42day.blogspot.com/2014/0... I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on January 15, 2014. I received the book on February 1, 2014.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gerry Claes

    Imagine what it is like to be 400 feet under ground and down a tunnel that is 10 miles long with 4 of your best friends. The only air and light you have is what you carry with you. Your job is to crawl into a side tunnel that is only 3 feet in diameter, remove a plug that keeps the sea water from the tunnel, drag the plug out of the small side tunnel and repeat this process 54 times. Now imagine that the oxygen that is keeping you alive comes from a jerry-rigged set up and has never been tested. Imagine what it is like to be 400 feet under ground and down a tunnel that is 10 miles long with 4 of your best friends. The only air and light you have is what you carry with you. Your job is to crawl into a side tunnel that is only 3 feet in diameter, remove a plug that keeps the sea water from the tunnel, drag the plug out of the small side tunnel and repeat this process 54 times. Now imagine that the oxygen that is keeping you alive comes from a jerry-rigged set up and has never been tested. Suddenly the oxygen supply systems ceases to function. This is what happened to five divers who were working on the new sewage treatment plant that was being built adjacent to the Boston harbor. Neil Swidley explains the saga of these divers and how they got themselves into this situation. We get to know the divers life history as well as the companies and their decisions that allowed this to happen. Mr Swidey also covers the life of the survivors after the tragedy. This part of the story is almost as tragic as the loss of live. I found this book to be well written and researched. If you enjoy real life dramas I think you will like this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Taylor

    Fascinating and suspenseful book. The prologue drew me in immediately; couldn't put the book down as I read the story of the 5 divers and their families. This was not a book I could read in pieces-started in Baltimore, read for my entire plane trip home to Nashville and finished at 2AM. This is a thoroughly researched and detailed account of a needless tragedy. Neil made the details of building a 9 mile long tunnel under Boston Harbor interesting. Neil honored the 5 divers and all the men who wo Fascinating and suspenseful book. The prologue drew me in immediately; couldn't put the book down as I read the story of the 5 divers and their families. This was not a book I could read in pieces-started in Baltimore, read for my entire plane trip home to Nashville and finished at 2AM. This is a thoroughly researched and detailed account of a needless tragedy. Neil made the details of building a 9 mile long tunnel under Boston Harbor interesting. Neil honored the 5 divers and all the men who worked on this project by telling a story not often told. Usually we hear about the engineers and politicians; this book tells the story of the workers who risk their lives to build engineering marvels we all take for granted. The book made me tear up and so angry I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room but I am so glad I read; a story that needed to be told. There are lessons here that don't just apply to big construction projects but to so many projects/work environments.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trailhoundz

    I love nonfic, and this book did not disappoint. It is well-written, suspenseful, the characters presented beautifully and, in the end, a horrifying tragedy 10 miles under the Boston Harbor. I did find the title misleading, as at no time were the divers actually "trapped." It was more a huge clusterfudge of mismanagement and neglect that led to a technological misfire and resulting accident. So I'm not sure how the title came about. Also, there was no photo insert which is pretty standard in non I love nonfic, and this book did not disappoint. It is well-written, suspenseful, the characters presented beautifully and, in the end, a horrifying tragedy 10 miles under the Boston Harbor. I did find the title misleading, as at no time were the divers actually "trapped." It was more a huge clusterfudge of mismanagement and neglect that led to a technological misfire and resulting accident. So I'm not sure how the title came about. Also, there was no photo insert which is pretty standard in nonfic- would have liked to see photos of the divers, the island, the "jersey risers" in the shaft, etc. There were a few diagrams which helped. But all in all, I would totally recommend this book- a great read, well written and poignant.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    The book itself really should have just stayed as a set of magazine articles (which it started as) because it has some padding that doesn't feel like it adds much. But while it's about the harrowing work of people trying to do a construction project in a tunnel miles under the ocean, it's a more interesting picture of how messed up the contracting process can lead to incentives directly counter to worker safety. In general, the issue of contracting for government services and what that means for The book itself really should have just stayed as a set of magazine articles (which it started as) because it has some padding that doesn't feel like it adds much. But while it's about the harrowing work of people trying to do a construction project in a tunnel miles under the ocean, it's a more interesting picture of how messed up the contracting process can lead to incentives directly counter to worker safety. In general, the issue of contracting for government services and what that means for the effectiveness of all types of government is both a fascinating and extremely dull issue, but to see concerns I have about the ramifications of it for white collar purposes show up here in a distinctly blue collar issue is kind of interesting.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Incredibly well researched, and written in such an accessible manner. It does an excellent job of presenting a disaster that I personally had never heard of before, introducing the people involved to the reader, giving the backstory (interesting to discover that the song "Dirty Water" by The Standells was about how horrifically polluted Boston harbor was), and explaining some topics that would frankly be confusing to a lot of readers (deep sea tunnel construction, underwater breathing apparatuses Incredibly well researched, and written in such an accessible manner. It does an excellent job of presenting a disaster that I personally had never heard of before, introducing the people involved to the reader, giving the backstory (interesting to discover that the song "Dirty Water" by The Standells was about how horrifically polluted Boston harbor was), and explaining some topics that would frankly be confusing to a lot of readers (deep sea tunnel construction, underwater breathing apparatuses, etc.). I cried my eyes out over the men's fates, felt rage over the subsequent lack of consequences, and in the end felt like I'd learned a lot. This is a really great book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Charlie - A Reading Machine

    My personal nightmare. Being trapped underground and running out of air. The kicker - Incompetence at every single level above you is to blame. Neil Swidey does as amazing job telling the story of how a team of divers had to go in and finish the job of opening the tunnel that would transfer the filth out of Boston Harbor. Knowing one of the team will not make it out alive is heart breaking and much much more tragic for being real. So many of the people who are paid a crap load of money to make s My personal nightmare. Being trapped underground and running out of air. The kicker - Incompetence at every single level above you is to blame. Neil Swidey does as amazing job telling the story of how a team of divers had to go in and finish the job of opening the tunnel that would transfer the filth out of Boston Harbor. Knowing one of the team will not make it out alive is heart breaking and much much more tragic for being real. So many of the people who are paid a crap load of money to make smart decisions ending up cutting corners and behaving like irresponsible morons it is sickening.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This book was incredibly fascinating and all the more interesting for me as it dealt with the cleanup of Boston Harbor which is close to where we live. One of my son-in-laws is an engineer for the Boston water department and has toured the ill fated project on Deer Island, Boston which is now a highly functioning sewage treatment facility. It is hard to believe that they could find five divers willing to go in the tunnel 10 miles under the sea with possible deadly consequences.

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