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The Silent World

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  660 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery & Adventure, by the 1st Men to Swim at Record Depths w/the Freedom of Fish is a '53 book coauthored by Capt Jacques-Yves Cousteau & Frédéric Dumas, edited by James Dugan. Tho French, Cousteau wrote it in English. It's the basis of the '56 Academy Award winning The Silent World. As of its 50th anniversary it has been t ...more
Paperback, 266 pages
Published by New York Review of Books (first published 1953)
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Oct 27, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cousteau
This is an amazing book, chuck full of so much information and things I never ever thought about. Cousteau wrote this book with his friend Frederick Dumas in English (not in his native French). Cousteau and Emile Gagnan designed, built and tested the first "aqua-lung" in the summer of 1943 off the southern coast of France. In the opening chapters Cousteau recounts the earliest days of scuba diving with his diving companions Frederic Dumas and Philippe Tailliez. The aqualung allowed for the first ...more
Jun 19, 2009 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening shot of Louis Malle's film version of "The Silent World" tracks a platoon of divers as they descend through blue water; the focus of the shot, however, is not the men themselves, but on the long strings of bubbles emitted by their regulators, and the flares each of them is holding. The trace in other words: a flexible, buoyant, and irrepressible string, which threads the seawater beautifully and then disappears on the surface, in a series of harmless gurgles.

Cousteau's writing in Th
Erik Graff
Nov 25, 2008 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: scuba enthusiasts
Recommended to Erik by: Alfred & Mildred Hogle
Shelves: sciences
During childhood summers spent along the lake at Grandmother's in SW Michigan I was effectively an only child, my brother Fin Einar not being born until I was seven and being pretty useless for years afterwards. There was only one other kid in the woods we called "Livingston Hills", Diane Werner, the daughter of Dad's childhood friend, Christian. We would see each other a lot over the years until she, maturing faster, started getting girlish around age twelve.

Diane and I had an arrangement where
Joshua Phillips
Jan 14, 2014 Joshua Phillips rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fantastic book. As a deep water diver, I found Cousteau's autobiographical recounting of the early days of diving to be informative and moving. While Cousteau has long been a hero of mine, reading his own account of the incredible pioneering that he, Dumas, and Tailliez performed only built my appreciation for their deep sea trio as well as for those others who met with death along the course of discovery. This book will inspire even those who have never reached below the depths.

Feb 26, 2010 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
Wow. Scuba diving, the Red Sea, exploration ... what else can a girl ask for? This girl, anyway! My favorite bits of this book were the ones that revealed how much diving (and biology) has changed in the past 50 years. No more riding turtles, ripping out gorgonia, or petting cuttlefish. The "crunch of coral" is a bad thing these days. And oh, this book is so French - Cousteau talks about all the bottles of wine they brought with them on their adventures. Point me towards the ocean!
Jan 18, 2015 Mack rated it really liked it
One of the great explorers who dares to leave the sunlight and plunge down to visit lobsters in the crevice of a reef or rebuff a curious shark by hitting it on the nose with a camera. An amazing story of undersea adventures of Cousteau and his fellow explorers, the rewards of genius and courage. Fascinating illustrations.
Dec 09, 2016 Essie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, wow, adventure, cool
This book was very good. I loved how the divers never gave up. They were courageous to offer to be the first ones who tried multiple "artificial lungs". They were the first to be able to move around without having to worry about interrupting nature with huge, metal suits. AWESOME!!!
Jesse Becker
Jan 31, 2017 Jesse Becker rated it really liked it
You don't need a new story to fall in love with diving. This origin story has an amazing amount of adventure.
Cora Pokrifka
Nov 17, 2012 Cora Pokrifka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book has beautiful descriptions that continue to make me say to myself "that's so cool!" Although I know that scuba diving is not the life for me, this book made me harbor a new understanding and appreciation for the mysterious and adventitious beauty of the silent world below the waves. I loved his writing, and the beautiful and human nature of the book. I love the fact that his curiosity and nonchalance just bubbles itself through the entire book, making the book and its contents even more ...more
Ryan Miller
Nov 08, 2011 Ryan Miller rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-favorites
Loved it. Important to remember they embarked on these adventures in the 1930s and 1940s with primitive aqualung technology. This book is full of wonderful stories of discovery.

A favorite passage:

"During the summer of Liberation I came home from Paris with two miniature aqualungs for my sons, Jean-Michel, then seven, and Philippe, five. The older boy was learning to swim but the younger had only been wading. I was confident that they would take to diving, since one does not need to be a swimmer
Sep 05, 2013 Christians33 is currently reading it

The Silent World was an interesting and very informational text to read. The author Jacques Cousteau did an excellent job with the style of his book. He made the story as if the reader was actually experiencing it themselves. When a reader is able to imagine that they are actually experiencing what is occurring in the book it aids them in engaging into the reading. When a reader has an easy time engaging they find the story more interesting and possibly even more relatable. Cousteau used languag
Bev Dowdell
Dec 27, 2013 Bev Dowdell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Snorkellers & Divers
Amazing to read about the pioneers of diving and Jacques Cousteau breaking new ground in its evolution. What stuck out for me was when he talked about the behaviour of sharks - at one point towards the end of the book he was ready to state flatly that all sharks were cowards. How they - Dumas and Jacques - became overconfident after encounters where sharks were easily frightened off - then a frightening encounter being stalked by sharks to the point of exhaustion - with a lucky escape. A reminde ...more
Jan 09, 2011 Gina rated it really liked it
I don't think I would ever classify myself as having an interest in deep sea diving or sea creatures but this was a fascinating read and at times Cousteau's prose is almost poetic.

This is Cousteau's true life accounts of his deep sea diving expeditions: it's not a book you will speed read in one night. I found myself immersing myself in a few pages at a time, fascinated by what he was describing but also my mind drifting from the science talk.

Overall, I feel like I learned a lot and really enjo
Jan 13, 2015 Natalia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Увлекательная книга. На удивление увлекательная книга о деятельности, которую интересно совершать, но скучно наблюдать.

Было очень познавательно читать о развитии подводных исследований с самого начала, о том, как увеличивалась глубина погружений, которая не приводила неминуемо к смерти пловца от кессонной болезни.

Потрясающие истории о кораблях под водой, которые сами по себе являются сокровищами. Даже не то, что находится или могло находиться в погребенных под тоннами воды созданиях человеческо
Feb 19, 2013 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
"The Silent World" is likely the most famous book in all of Marine Biology, and for a reason. Cousteau manages to write about the fascinating, almost alien world that exists below our seas with a perfect blend of wonderment and scientific objectivity. When I was young and first began my fascination with all things underseas, this is the book that truly cemented that love for it in me. The photography is also fantastic, especially in the historical context as some of the first underwater photogra ...more
Mihai Popa
Oct 04, 2010 Mihai Popa rated it it was amazing
The Silent World is a monumental book, with a huge influence all over the world, with the same impact in Eastern Europe, where it was quickly translated, surpassing any ideological barriers and winning over the Iron Curtain. It influenced at least one generation of naturalists, divers, biologists and geologists, and it hugely influenced my childhood, when I got fascinated with the sea and with scuba diving. Because of it and of its sister TV series so many kids, including myself, fell in love wi ...more
Feb 06, 2008 Mcvet rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mcvet by: Found it
The first autobiography by Jacques Cousteau, this book not only describes his amazing early marine adventures, but it chronicles the invention of diving, which was largely pioneered by Cousteau and his friends. There are detailed accounts on the technology, theory and trials they developed to make diving safer. There are also several accounts of the mistakes made and the horrors suffered while developing the technology. I was amazed by the amount of science described in the book. An incredibly i ...more
Jun 06, 2012 Nicki rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It definitely would have been more fun to read right when it came out, when people were not yet familiar with the world of scuba diving, but I still really enjoyed it. Cousteau's tales of the effects of diving on the human body were fascinating, including his tales of testing how deep they could go before the "rapture of the deep" robbed them of their sanity. The chapter on cave diving was pretty terrifying - that's a dangerous hobby today, and they did it back when the ...more
Mar 18, 2011 Duncan rated it it was amazing
This was not my introduction to Cousteau, but his introduction to the world. Cousteau and some of his coterie were among the first scuba divers. In this book he recounts his trial and error entry into undersea exploration. The stories are thrilling and told by an enthusiast. In later books and films he understood that he had a mission to educate as well as to convey his love of the water. But in this one, his enthusiasm is the infectious enthusiasm of a young man, an adventurer and lover of life ...more
I would love to have read this book when it came out in the 1950's. By 2012 it has lost most of its novelty. I can certainly see why it makes the National Geographic's list though. Cousteau and his friends opened up the exploration of an entirely new world, one that man had been so close to for thousands of years, yet could not enter except for brief visits.

Favorite part of the book: when Dumas held on to the outside of a submarine as it submerged. How hard core can you get?

Definitely worth re
Apr 26, 2015 Lindsay rated it really liked it
I read this as a kid, back when I had dreams of being an oceanographer. (What can I say? I love the sea.)

Jacques Cousteau was someone I looked up to when I was young. I watched his TV show and I read his books. This one is a fascinating look at how he got started in the whole undersea exploration business. Even after all these years, it remains a great read -- but very much a product of its time. Sadly, it's probably too tame for a lot of readers these days, who seem to like their "true life" ta

Amazing story of the advent of scuba diving and underwater exploration; slightly less than amazing prose.

My favorite sections were the descriptions of encounters with underwater "monsters" like the octopus, which Cousteau and his companions found to not be monsters at all, and of the exploration of a 2000 year old galley carrying Greek treasures from Greece to Rome. Also interesting to see how a young Cousteau writing in 1953 had environmental ideas which predated the environmental movement.
Dec 14, 2012 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fascinating. The descriptions of what they saw and felt are almost palpable, written is such a way that I could almost experience it myself. Each thing mentioned is backed up with why they did it, whether for science or posterity, or just to do it. Cousteau writes with amazing voice. I simply loved everything in this book.
I recommend it to everyone. To people interested in nature, in science, in swimming, in history, in everything.
Sep 26, 2007 Sheila rated it it was amazing
As a diver, I loved this book. Even translated from French to English, you get a feel for the beautiful language of Cousteau, and the reverence he feels when he writes about the ocean. Couple that with the amazing (and dangerous) things these men did while developing modern-day scuba equipment, and it's a look at a different time, when you just experimented, pushed the envelope, and kept going for the love of exploring, until and even in spite of the deaths that sometimes resulted.
May 28, 2012 DW rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, good-to-know
All about some of the first scuba experiences of Cousteau and company. Some of the things they did were mind-bogglingly stupid, though. "Let's see how close we can get to an exploding underwater bomb without being blown up!" "Let's see how deep we can go, knowing that we'll get nitrogen narcosis, and not even tie our regulators in our mouths!" (One person died from that, so they stopped.)

Perhaps I would have liked the book more if I had seen some of the footage he had filmed.
Mar 16, 2014 Marian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-my-bookcase
A great memoir by a great explorer. Cousteau was one of those people that led me to love the sea at an early age, and reading this book took me back to that feeling - discovering "the silent world" for the first time. If you enjoy history as well, there are some fascinating anecdotes about the divers' lives and roles in the WWII era.

As an aside...I was disappointed by the number of typos in this edition. (Nat Geo, you can do better than this!)
Nov 06, 2015 Dylan added it
I have not finished this book, but I am done reading it. I found this book very difficult to follow; it is a book for adults. My mom had recommended it to me, and I may still read when I am older. I could not even tell if "Didi" and "Dumas" were the same character, or if they were separate people working together. Anyhow, I would recommend this book to people who enjoy biography-like writing in at least 8th grade.
Aug 07, 2014 Madisson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really fascinating book. The groundbreaking discoveries Cousteau, Dumas, Tailliez and many others made are incredible. Being a scuba diver myself, I found this book very interesting and informative. (Even if you've never been diving, I think you'd still enjoy it immensely.) It has helped me to appreciate the time and incredible effort these men put into their work, accomplishing great things in the early days so we can enjoy diving as we do today.
Jeff Williams
Jul 08, 2008 Jeff Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a reason this book single-handedly launched an entire business of recreational diving. Besides being a charsimatic, passionate Frenchman whose love for the sea and it's inhabitants was only matched by that for the world, he was also a deft craftsman with the english language. Anyone with the love for aquatic life or diving in general will fall in love with this book. I can't say enough good things about it.
Jun 02, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: memoir
A phenomenal read. Cousteau's writing is effortless and yet so unbelievably descriptive, depicting a universe so foreign to the imagination. Always humble and self-reflexive in describing his team's successes and numerous failures, Cousteau's part-history, part-memoir, and part manifesto is even more relevant today than ever.
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Born in 1910, was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, and filmmaker, who studied the sea. Although he is most famous to us from his television programmes, he also co-developed the aqua-lung, and pioneered marine conservation as a political and scientific priority.
In the Calypso, an ex-Royal Navy minesweeper, Cousteau visited the most interesting waters of the planet. During these trips he
More about Jacques-Yves Cousteau...

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“I swam across the rocks and compared myself favorably with the sars. To swim fishlike, horizontally, was the logical method in a medium eight hundred times denser than air. To halt and hang attached to nothing, no lines or air pipe to the surface, was a dream. At night I had often had visions of flying by extending my arms as wings. Now I flew without wings. (Since that first aqualung flight, I have never had a dream of flying.)” 12 likes
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