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Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth
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Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  2,546 Ratings  ·  430 Reviews
'Blind Descent' explores both the brightest and darkest aspects of the timeless human urge to discover - to be first. It is also a thrilling epic about a pursuit, caving, that makes even extreme mountaineering and ocean exploration pale by comparison.
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Random House (first published January 1st 2010)
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Will Byrnes
Jun 11, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Humanity is very concerned with great height. Flying, scaling Everest and walking on the moon are obvious examples. But can you name the deepest cave on earth? I didn’t think so. Neither can most people. But there are explorers who live for the challenge of finding the deepest part of our planet.

There are many wonderful books about explorers and adventurers. Among them are Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, which looks at those who climb (or try) Everest and Richard Preston’s The Wild Trees, which looks
Jul 31, 2010 Jason rated it liked it
The BEST COVER PHOTO in the last 100 books--easily, hands down! It’s the picture of a smooth, vertical chimney about 500 feet long in Cheve cave in Oaxaca state, Mexico, the deepest known ‘supercave‘ in the Americas. It’s about 150 feet in diameter and could hold the water volume of 750 Olympic-sized pools. AND THERE--near the bottom of the picture, the black profile of a person on rappel, tiny, underlit, and for a flash, suspended against the bright red, orange, and tan striations of rock with ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Mateo rated it did not like it
A book about a race to discover the deepest cave on earth has the potential for Krakauer-like suspense, but Tabor destroys whatever tension might be present--and there should be a lot, since spelunking is at least as difficult and dangerous as mountain climbing, if not more so--by constantly and oppressively hyping the excitement and pushing the thrill in our face. It's as though he doesn't trust the subject enough to leave it alone. One can imagine him amping up the prose describing a trip with ...more
Mar 15, 2011 Brandon rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
..But cave explorers like Vesley and Farr could not see the route and so could not anticipate the dangers, a partial list of which includes drowning, fatal falls, premature burial, asphyxiation, hypothermia, hurricane-force winds, electrocution, earthquake-induced collapses, poison gases and walls dripping with sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. There are also rabid bats, snakes, troglodytic scorpions and spiders, radon and microbes that cause horrific diseases like histoplasmosis and leishmaniasis. ...more
April Helms
Nov 14, 2010 April Helms rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
My best friend and I listened to this on CD while working on various projects. The topic it covers is fascinating -- supercaving and trying to find the deepest point on the planet. The perils of supercaving make climbing Mount Everest look like a vigorous weekend backpacking trip. At least from Mt. Everest, there is a chance of rescue if you get into trouble, within a reasonable amount of time. Where these cavers go, if you get hurt you are up a creek, to put it politely. The book covers two ...more
Alisa Kester
Jun 18, 2011 Alisa Kester rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's always interesting to read about people undergoing tremendous physical ordeals - and deep caving definitely counts as an ordeal. The conditions under which these explorers lived (sometimes for weeks) defies belief. At the same time, however, I'm shaking my head at the stupidity of it all. Despite the author's repeated claims that all of this is done for "science", no mention is ever made of what "science" got out of a bunch of people tormenting themselves in a deep hole. It's pretty clear ...more
Jason Sinclair Long
May 17, 2010 Jason Sinclair Long rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: firstreads
A fast-paced, white-knuckled read, somewhat akin to Into Thin Air and other extreme adventure accounts (loads of deadly and near-deadly accidents as well as heroic rescues). Despite the fact that the feats in the book rate a solid 5 stars (truly amazing stuff), the book itself pulls a 4 (I did really like it). The writing is solid and straightforward, with just enough pizazz to keep the pages turning (as if the adventure alone wasn't enough for that).

Essentially an account of two men, across the
I've grown to really love adventure and survival books and thought this would definitely be an interesting read in the genre. I wasn't disappointed. Blind Descent tells of cave exploration adventures in 2 of the world's deepest caves. I was initially concerned that the author wouldn't be able to make me see the cave in my mind as he told the story and that the author couldn't possibly hold my interest throughout the entire book, but I was absolutely enthralled and found myself daydreaming of ...more
Nov 22, 2010 Corinne rated it it was ok
I can't believe I finished this book. While the underlying content was good, the pacing and organization was off. A big chunk on one team (Stone’s), a small chunk of the other (Klimchouk’s), mingle them a bit at the end, and blah. I’m glad I did push through to get to read about Klimchouk’s experience as an Ukranian.

Yes it was non-fiction, but it didn’t find a good balance in engaging and informing. If it was boring and straight forward I would have preferred it. The writings style tries to mak
Oct 02, 2010 terpkristin rated it it was ok
This was an alright book. I was weary of reading it at first, since I've actually met one of the "super cavers" that this book is about a number of times (Bill Stone), and I find him to be an utter twat. I really didn't want to read a book that glorified this man in any way, shape, or form.

Sadly, this book did just that. Even though the cave that Stone was exploring is NOT the deepest cave in the world, more than 3/4 of the book was devoted to him. It may as well have been a biography of Stone,
Caving=scary, but like watching a train wreck, I'm intrigued! Sort of like reading "Into Thin Air" or "Eiger Dreams" about climbing the most dangerous, forbidding places on earth, only going the opposite direction INTO the mountains.

The cave descriptions also reminded me of how "House of Leaves" describes the spaces behind that closet door ... naming indescribably huge openings things like 'the cathedral room', etc.

This book is so reminiscent of Krakauer's accessible journalistic prose put to
Jun 05, 2011 kingshearte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
I learned a number of things while reading this book. The first and foremost thing that stuck in my head, however, is that supercavers are completely, 100%, absolutely bat-shit crazy. Caves are cool. I've enjoyed some very guided visits to some of them, and to a certain extent, I can see the appeal of doing a little exploring on your own, to see where this passage goes. But to deliberately and repeatedly put yourself through the torture of the kind of intense cave exploration going on in this ...more
May 26, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it
Recommends it for: enthusiasts of exploration; scuba divers
Blind Descent; the quest to discover the deepest place on earth, by James Tabor, chronicles the last great competition for terrestrial exploration: part of a tradition which included the race to the South Pole, and the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The drama, , however, lies with the personalities of these X-treme cavers, and not the actual competition. Bill Stone is the leader of the American expedition exploring the Cheve system in Mexico. Indomitable, competitive, aggressive are ...more
Susan (the other Susan)
This is the first time since joining GR that I've been tempted to say, "It's not really a four, it's a 3.5." Entertaining, painstakingly researched, often suspenseful... But. I can't help but make an admittedly unfair comparison between Blind Descent and my favorite true story of adventure/survival/man-against-nature, Jon Krakaeur's heartbreaking, outrageous, raw-nerved epic, Into Thin Air. Krakauer was part of that story; this author, if he participated in a deep-cave exploration, doesn't write ...more
Apr 23, 2011 jeremy rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature
james tabor's blind descent: the quest to discover the deepest place on earth, while written about an immensely fascinating subject, leaves much to be desired. like many books of its ilk, it perhaps would have been a more cohesive and compelling read if featured as a lengthy magazine article. the narrative focuses on the efforts of two teams to explore and map what each is hoping to be the deepest cave on earth (chevé in the oaxacan state of mexico and krubera in the republic of georgia).

tabor f
David Quinn
A decent but flawed book. I would rate it 1.75 stars if it were possible.

The writing was very inconsistent; at times it was interesting and well written but at many other times it was stilted and ham fisted. The first hundred times the author talked about the dangers of spelunking were bad enough but the next hundred times were completely annoying. Everything about cave exploring is dangerous and he means EVERYTHING! And over and over again he described the environs: cold, dark, wet, loud, forbi
Sep 08, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it
"Why do you climb the mountain?" The answer, the trite "Because it's there!" Simple, but in the case of Blind Descent, you've still got to wonder. The explorers here are not climbing mountains but diving and exploring caves in hopes of finding the deepest ever, the bottom of the world. They endure the worst conditions to realize their dream. Cold, wet, dark and dank; no other way to describe it. Darkness that leaves them virtually blind, sound that is so intensified all else is blocked out, ...more
Jan 04, 2013 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Hard to compete with Jason's review, so go read that one at He's dead on about everything, especially the photographs which are astounding.

I remain astonished at the things people will do. This has to be far worse than climbing mountains, because you are basically doing exactly the same thing except it's in the dark and once you have achieved your goal going down you have to survive coming back up.

A quote to whet your appetite: Needing to relieve himself
Jun 29, 2012 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is about teams of cavers penetrating big caves. It reiterates that these people do scientific explorations. Another point of hyperbole is the repeatedly used phrases of "deepest place on Earth...toward the center of the Earth...less known than deepest ocean floors or the moon". What is the ground of such claims? What have they found out after caving for decades? No mention. What could be so mystery in limestone dissolved by water forming these caves? The book does not describe any ...more
Adam Wiggins
Jun 14, 2015 Adam Wiggins rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure-story
Cavers are people who explore caves. I also have to conclude, after reading this book, that such people are thoroughly insane.

Exploration of supercaves (a supercave is to a cave as a mountain is to a hill) involves rappelling down hundred-foot drops, squeezing through tiny cracks, clearing debris with crowbars and power tools, and the most dangerous type of scuba diving in the world: cave diving.

Cavers live for weeks on end deep underground, where darkness is absolute except for the tiny lights
Aug 16, 2011 Ohenrypacey rated it it was ok
An interesting subject nearly ruined by the writer's hyberbolic style. There was never a 'race' to find the world's deepest cave; what there was was a dedicated Ukrainian caving society exploring the world's deepest cave, and an intrepid megalomaniacal american caver trying to establish a mexican cave as the world's deepest (it's not even in the top 5) over the same 25 yr. period, whose story the author desperately wanted to tell.
Both stories were interesting, and a better writer would have fou
Dec 26, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Anybody who knows even the slightest bit about me can probably tell you that I have a pretty strange obsession with extreme, outdoor, one-tiny-mistake-and-you-die sports. Not that I regularly participate, mind you. I just like to read about them and live vicariously through people insane enough (or passionate enough?) to willingly hang their bodies out over thousand foot drops in the middle of nowhere; or sail blindly into unknown waters for months-long journeys in tiny sailboats; or venture ...more
George Andrews III
Pros: the book covered material wich, on the whole, I was completely unfamiliar. During some of the descriptions of cave decent I became claustrophobic and could actually feel my anxiety rising. It also was a great juxtaposition of two types of leaders; the pros and cons of each.
Cons: The book could have been half the length. If he told us one more time that caving is like climbing Mr. Everest in reverse I was going find the deepest hole I could and drop the book into it. I litterally found myse
Feb 12, 2011 Ray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook version, and I use the number of exits I miss on the highway as an indicator of my engagement. I find if I'm really caught up in the book, I drift past my turns, or drive around the block a few extra times to get to the end of the chapter. On the other hand, when an audio book doesn't capture my attention, the opposite is true and it's the words of the book that I miss and not my turns. That describes my reaction to this book. Maybe it's a lack of imagination on my ...more
4fabfelines Cox
Jul 11, 2010 4fabfelines Cox rated it really liked it
This is about two of the world's best cavers: American Bill Stone and Ukrainian Alexander Klimchouk... these two men are looking for the same thing: the world's longest deepest cave.
This is a good book, well researched and has action and adventure galore... you can almost feel the water, the noise from the waterfalls and the darkness all around you.
These men and women explorers, experiance hunger, fatigue, hallucinations, injuries and sometimes death on their quest to find the deepest cave in th
Jan 22, 2011 Blakely rated it really liked it
A fascinating story of the quest to find the world's deepest cave, this book is enthralling, informative, and difficult to put down.

This book focuses on two teams - one American-led and one Ukrainian-led - and the difficulties they encounter as they try to prove the caves they are exploring are the deepest in the world. An overview of supercaving (exploration of caves that often descend thousands of feet) and the dangers and difficulties included in supercave exploration are thoroughly covered.
Michael Flanagan
Jun 27, 2012 Michael Flanagan rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-adventure
Being a tad bit claustrophobic I entered the pages of this book with some trepidation. But from the world go I enthralled by the world of super caves and those who seek to go deeper than anyone else. Apart from these people being certifiably insane their devotion and bravery is a wonder to behold. This book has shone light on an area of exploration I had no knowledge on at all, and amazed me with the beauty and lethality of these wonders of the world. I will continue to follow the quest to sink ...more
Barbara Kluver
Aug 06, 2012 Barbara Kluver rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting book. The author had access to the journals and diaries of members of caving expeditions to discover the "deepest places on earth" - one in Mexico (Cheve cave) and one in Soviet Union Georgia (Krubara). If you like non-fiction adventure, survival stories, then this book is for you. I listened to it on Audible and the narrator (Don Leslie) was excellent - however, I would strongly recommend reading it in real book form (or maybe e-book) so you have access to pictures ...more
Jul 22, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it
With our technology, it's tough to imagine anywhere on earth that no one has gone or seen. Caves be the last such frontier where you can't see what's there or where they go without actually going inside. This book follows the quest of two men who are leading separate teams trying to discover the deepest cave in the world. You follow them as they rappel, climb, squeeze, and swim through caves thousands of feet deep in the earth. It makes you want to go find a cave and see what it's like for ...more
Sherrida Woodley
Nov 28, 2010 Sherrida Woodley rated it really liked it
This is a book I'll return to over and over, not only for its "extreme caving" but for the look at men and women who participate, the nature of the environment, the imaginary implications. This is exploration, not sport. "Descent" takes the reader into the unknown, places ancient and secretive. Though sometimes wishing I could read more about their fears, the cavers left me with one "extreme impression." I would never want to do this--but find it almost irresistible from a novelist's POV. It ...more
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