230 feet doesn't sound very far. It's less than a football field in length. But when you go scuba diving to such depths there's a lot of weight and water pushing down on you and your body needs time to adjust. You have to descend slowly but more importantly you have come back up slowly. Your blood is carrying oxygen to all parts of your body but as you come up and the pressure decreases those gasses inside of you start to expand – a condition called "the bends." If you don't take adequate time for your body to adjust you can easily – and very painfully – be killed. So you need to keep a close eye on your air supply, which is easier said than done since the light from the surface doesn't penetrate that far down. So, why would anyone dive so deep? That's what Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson tries to explain.
Wherever there's a sunken shipwreck you'll find a good fishing spot as well as the potential to recover something valuable. Hence, fishermen and divers alike tend to keep such locations secret when possible. Bill Nagle, having gained fame by recovering the bell from the Andria Doria, gets the coordinates to another deep-sea wreck, which he suspects could be a huge find. Too sick from the effects of alcoholism, he assembles a group of expert divers to check it out, including John Chatterton. Chatterton dives first to determine if it's worthwhile, and discovers a German U boat (submarine) from WWII – right off the coast of New Jersey! The true mystery becomes which submarine is it? As he and fellow diver, Richie Kohler, become increasingly obsessed with discovering its name, several other divers lose their lives trying to help solve the mystery.
Kurson does an excellent job telling this true story of the diver's obsession with the mystery U boat. His attention to detail doesn’t get tedious and he explains especially well the difficulties with such deep diving – you almost feel as though you've been to the bottom of the sea with Chatterton and Kohler. Their mystery quickly and easily becomes real, and I found it difficult to put the book down, reading compulsively until the mystery was solved, at which point appropriate background is given on the men who died aboard the "U-Who."
This story is kind of the flip-side of Krakauer's account of climbing Mt. Everest but with just as much adventure and told with a little more flair. I've also seen comparisons to "The Perfect Storm," but I found that story with its made-up dialog (everyone died, after all) to be perfectly boring. Grab this one if you're looking for an exciting summer read.
*Actually, I just finished another advance book about an explorer, so I guess this really isn't the last one.