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Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering…

Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster… (2014)

by Neil Swidey

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1372887,614 (4.11)13
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Why the heck would anyone want this job? Crazy. 9 miles of tunnels under the ocean. Only one way out. Sounds nuts. Well told story. Very engaging. Always a little leary of when they recreate conversations, but the end notes say everything was well sourced - so maybe close to the truth. Read like a fiction thriller. ( )
  bermandog | Dec 3, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book turned out to be about much more than the event references in the title: Five men, construction divers, encountered a disaster while trying to complete an engineering project in Boston Harbor. While Swidey does a fine job presenting all the heartbreaking details of the disaster's genesis and impact on the lives of those affected, he also goes a long way toward shining a light on the often-overlooked laborers whose efforts — and sometimes lives — are spent in building up the infrastructure all of us depend on.
  rosalita | Aug 10, 2017 |
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." ( )
  THCForPain | May 27, 2016 |
Until recently, Boston harbour was apparently one of the dirtiest harbours in the US, thanks to millions of gallons of untreated sewage being pumped directly into it. So the city built a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant on Deer Island, part of which included an outfall tunnel stretching ten miles out to sea under the ocean bed, and through which treated effluent can be dispersed into the surrounding water. The diffuser heads on the ocean floor, however, had been sealed during construction to protect the workers, but once the tunnel was completed all electricity and ventilation was removed… leaving those diffuser heads still sealed. So the contractors hired a diving company to send five men along the ten-mile tunnel to remove those seals. They would have to be divers because without ventilation, the ten-mile tunnel no longer contained a breathable atmosphere, even though it was still empty. The diving company came up with what it thought was an innovative solution. Since they couldn’t carry enough bottled air to last the journey and the hours they would be working (they used two specially adapted Hummers to travel to the end of the tunnel), the divers would be fed blended oxygen and nitrogen from tanks of liquid gas, mixed using a special piece of equipment imported from Denmark. But it all went horribly wrong and two of the divers died of asphyxiation. Because the equipment was never designed to be used to feed oxygen and nitrogen to human beings, its safety features had been disabled through ignorance, and the man running the job refused to admit his plan was unworkable or even dangerous. A fascinating read. ( )
  iansales | Dec 5, 2015 |
I came to know that there exists a treatment plant setup in Boston, Massachusetts (hey this isn't a spelling bee!). This plant cleanses sewage water from the right-half of the entire Massachusetts and dumps the treated water into a water body (lake I think?). Once infamous for spoiling the water ecosystem (meaning killing beings living in water) it now boasts as one of the largest water-treatment plants in the country creating a clean environment.

The story about what happens to the cleaning crew was interesting but I couldn't care much about the flashbacks and the background life-story about the characters. After the first few chapters the book brings up a painstaking amount of depth into the communication that happened between different companies that were tasked with setting up this plant. That was TMI for me and I started skipping a couple of paragraphs here and there. Then at 50% mark I dropped this book. I felt like I had read enough to satisfy my curiosity. ( )
  MugenHere | Jul 12, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307886727, Hardcover)

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
In the 1990s, Boston built a sophisticated waste treatment plant on Deer Island that was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. The state had been dumping barely treated sewage into the water for so long that Boston had America’s filthiest harbor, with a layer of “black mayonnaise” coating the seafloor. Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.” But before the dumping could stop, 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, but not all of them came out.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, 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 heading into the tunnel, sentencing one diver to death and the other to a trauma-induced drug addiction that eventually lands him in prison. Suspenseful yet humane, Trapped Under the Sea reminds us that behind every bridge, highway, and tunnel—behind the infrastructure that makes modern life possible—lies unsung bravery and extraordinary sacrifice. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:08 -0400)

Documents the disastrous 1990s mission during which two members of a five-man diving team were killed while completing construction on a ten-mile tunnel at the end of Boston's Deer Island waste treatment plant.

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