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Download Trapped under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into the Darkness Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Trapped under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into the Darkness, by Neil Swidey Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Neil Swidey Narrator: David H. Lawrence XVI Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job—with deadly results

A quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.”

In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a ten-mile-long tunnel—its endpoint stretching farther from civilization than the earth’s deepest ocean trench—to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative. The climax comes just after the hard-partying D. J. Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade assignments as they head into the tunnel, sentencing one of them to death.

An intimate portrait of the wreckage left in the wake of lives lost, the book is also a morality tale. What is the true cost of these large-scale construction projects, as designers and builders, emboldened by new technology and pressured to address a growing population’s rapacious needs, push the limits of the possible? This is a story about human risk—how it is calculated, discounted, and transferred—and the institutional failures that can lead to catastrophe.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Trapped under the Sea is extraordinary. It bears comparison with The Perfect Storm in its brilliant evocation of everyday, working-class men thrust into a harrowing, at times heroic confrontation with death and disaster.”

    Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Live By Night and Shutter Island

  • “A fascinating, sympathetic, and suspenseful look at a doomed, high-risk engineering job, the working-class men who dared to undertake it, and its ripple effect on the survivors. Claustrophobic and compelling.”

    Chuck Hogan, New York Times bestselling author of The Town 

  • “A marvel of masterful reporting and suspenseful writing. Neil Swidey has delivered a gripping, action-filled account of the human costs deep inside a feat of modern engineering. He has a remarkable knack for bringing to life indelible characters and making readers hold our breath as these brave men enter the claustrophobic world of their undersea lives.”

    Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of Frozen in Time

  • “This book will take you on a journey into a fascinating but little-known world—it’s the anatomy of a tragedy, a dramatic tale with a cast of vividly drawn characters, superbly written and researched.”

    Jonathan Harr, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Painting 

  • “Thrilling and beautifully told, Trapped under the Sea delivers us into a dangerous and mysterious world, a place that speaks to our darkest fears and where heroes work, as Swidey so masterfully shows us, just beneath the surface of our everyday lives.”

    Robert Kurson, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers

  • “While corporate boardrooms are the usual point of entry for dramas involving big money and technological hubris, Swidey, a journalist and author, works instead from the bottom up in his impressively reported account...His is a skillful examination into the basic fragility of such huge infrastructural projects and a lesson in how worker fatalities result not so much from single catastrophic mistakes as from ‘a series of small, bad decisions made by many individuals.’”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Gripping…This virtuoso performance combines insights into massive engineering projects, corporate litigation, environmental science, and cutthroat free-market behavior with vivid personal stories.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “David Lawrence’s deep, rich voice provides a smooth backdrop to this riveting story of death inside a waste-water treatment tunnel buried deep under Boston Harbor in 1999…Rich in human emotion, tragedy, and courtroom drama, this cautionary tale and tribute unveils the steps that led to the deaths of divers and the fallout for those in charge.”


  • “With the pacing and feel of a special-ops adventure and the insight of a public-policy investigation, Swidey details the lives of the divers, leading up to their fateful mission, the horrors of the ordeal, and its aftermath as the survivors coped with trauma and guilt.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, February 2014
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