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Raising the Dead: A True Story of Death and…
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Raising the Dead: A True Story of Death and Survival

by Phillip Finch

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Found this book a compelling read. The magnitude of the adventure was engaging - even the scientific information about gases and how they operate at depth was neither tedious nor difficult to understand.

There was suspense and tragedy as well as drama and adventure. I would recommend this to those who enjoy some drama with their adventure. ( )
  michelegorton | May 27, 2014 |
Very well researched and written. The pace of the book was perfect and engrossing. Phillip manages to set the scenes well, and provide backgrounds on different characters. ( )
  akl168 | Jul 12, 2013 |
Some suggestions for the relaunched Chappies Bubble Gum to put on their wrappers: did you know, for example, that more men have walked on the moon than have dived below 213 metres?

And did you know that in 2005, 52-year-old South African Nuno Gomes [probably the first person the reach the bottom of Bushman’s Hole] broke the deep diving world record, achieving a depth of 318 metres in the Red Sea?

For non-divers, these Ripley’s Believe it or Not type factoids are fascinating, and the thrilling tale of Dave Shaw and Bushman’s Hole is an old-fashioned adventure story in the mould of Scott of the Arctic.

All the ingredients are there: an exotic locale, a devoutly Christian gentleman-adventurer, extreme danger, a spirit of derring-do, a wonderful team, and a selfless quest to restore a boy to his grieving family.

It should be a story that writes itself, and the mystery is how an experienced writer and journalist got it so wrong: Finch took the active ingredient and diluted it to make a long dreary book instead of short exciting one.

If you happen to be a depth diver, the technical, practical and scientific detail which Phillip Finch – a cave diver himself – harps on will no doubt be both useful and interesting. But for the average reader, even the average diver who seldom exceeds 30 metres in depth, the arguments about and descriptions of specialized techniques and apparatus are not only unnecessary but exceedingly boring.

Finch makes too much of the fact that Dave Finch was a committed Baptist: when this perfect hero is reported as explaining his actions by saying ‘God told me to do it’ he loses a certain amount of sympathy from those who have been black-balled by the god squad.

Affluent and affable, Hong Kong resident and Cathay Pacific pilot Shaw was bitten by the diving bug late in life, and explored many prime deep-diving sites during his flying lay-overs, soon becoming a world-class extreme diver.

His adrenalin – or God – driven quest for ever deeper dives led him to South Africa and Bushman’s Hole – Boesmansgat – where, together with ‘dive-buddy’ Don Shirley he dived to a record depth of 270 metres.

During that dive, Dave swam along the bottom of the hole, discovering the corpse of Deon Dreyer, a young diver who had disappeared in the Gomes expedition a decade before. Unable to free the body, Shaw returned to the surface, reported the find, and promised the Dreyer family he would return to retrieve Deon and bring him to the surface for proper burial.

News of the pledge got out and when Dave Shaw, Don Shirley and the team returned to Boesmansgat they were accompanied by a large media contingent, and Dave was wired up to a documentary camera for the dive.
Spoiler alert for those who don’t remember: Shaw was entangled in Deon’s ropes and drowned, but the two corpses floated to the surface. Shirley survived to tell the story which caused a sensation, and the whole affair has been drenched in purple prose.

Too technical on the one hand, too sentimental on the other, the book cannot seem to decide on its readership. On the one hand we have tear-jerking passages about God, family, personalities and relationships which might prove a bit too much even for readers of Huisgenoot.

On the other hand, however, the pages devoted to descriptions of ambient pressure diving, in-water recompression, Hammerhead control units, trimix, gas physics and physiology [to name just a few but you get the idea] are of interest only to the serious enthusiast.

Still, ‘Into the Wild’, the story of the supremely unlikable Chris McCandles, became a popular film, and ‘Raising the Dead’ is just crying out for the Big Screen makeover. As I said, all the ingredients – except good writing – are already in place. ( )
  adpaton | Jun 12, 2008 |
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A true story of death and survival in the world's most dangerous sport, cave diving. Two friends plunge 900 ft deep into the water of the Komali Springs in South Africa, to raise the body of a diver who had perished there a decade before. Only one returns.… (more)

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