Alisa Kester's Reviews > Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth

Blind Descent by James M. Tabor
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's review
Jun 13, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 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 it's all done for adrenaline, kicks, and fame.

Spoiler warning:

That said, this would have been at least a four star book, except for the author's blinding arrogance. He claims that caving is the last exploration left to mankind. Space exploration, done. Undersea exploration, done - despite the fact that less than 5% of the world's oceans have been explored! He also discounts any exploration left on the surface of the world, despite the fact there are still place left that human eyes have never seen. This is an arrogance laid out in the prologue and repeated often, ending with this:

"They (the cavers) knew they were experiencing one of the signal moments of history, the last link in a long, hallowed chain created by Peary at the North Pole, Amundsen at the South, Hillary and Norgay on Everest, Piccard and Walsh in the Challenger Deep, and many other, earlier great who had paved the way for modern explorers. Kasjan and his people knew: they had just made the last great terrestrial discovery."

This, despite the fact that a large portion of the land and sea has never been SEEN by humans? This, despite the fact that they only established the current world's record for the deepest cave, and more caves are being discovered and explored all the time? And I found this quote humorous as well:

"...they worked their way down three more vertical pitches...and finally dropped into a triangular-shaped room...with a flat, clay bottom and nondescript walls.... This was it. The bottom of the world."

The bottom of the world? Considering the fact that they started 8,000 feet up on a mountain, and made it down 6,562 feet through the cave, their 'bottom of the world' wasn't the bottom of anything...except for maybe the mountain. They ended up basically at sea level!
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Reading Progress

June 13, 2011 – Started Reading
June 13, 2011 – Shelved
June 13, 2011 –
page 10
3.5% "Little turned off the arrogance of the prologue where the author basically states that everything in the world has been seen and photographed except for deep caves, and therefore cavers are the most important explorers of our century. With less than 5% of our oceans explored, and vast regions on dry land that remain unexplored (much never even SEEN by human eyes!) such a mentality is not just arrogant, but foolish."
June 18, 2011 – Shelved as: non-fiction
June 18, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I've had this on my stacks for ages... It sounds too aggravating for me to plunge into. The quotes you put in make me red in the face!

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