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The Eternal Darkness:
A Personal History of Deep-Sea Exploration
Robert D. Ballard
With Will Hively

Recipient of the Commonwealth Award for Science and Invention, Sigma Xi
Honorable Mention for the 2000 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Geography and Earth Sciences, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2002 | $30.95 / £21.95 | ISBN: 9780691095547
408 pp. | 6 x 9 | 16 color plates. 100 halftones.
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Reviews | Table of Contents
Introduction [HTML] or [PDF] pdf-icon | Chapter 1 [HTML] or [PDF] pdf-icon

Until a few decades ago, the ocean depths were almost as mysterious and inaccessible as outer space. Oceans cover two-thirds of the earth's surface with an average depth of more than two miles--yet humans had never ventured more than a few hundred feet below the waves. One of the great scientific and archaeological feats of our time has been finally to cast light on the "eternal darkness" of the deep sea. This is the story of that achievement, told by the man who has done more than any other to make it possible: Robert Ballard.

Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic. He led the teams that discovered hydrothermal vents and "black smokers"--cracks in the ocean floor where springs of superheated water support some of the strangest life-forms on the planet. He was a diver on the team that explored the mid-Atlantic ridge for the first time, confirming the theory of plate tectonics. Today, using a nuclear submarine from the U.S. Navy, he's exploring the ancient trade routes of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for the remains of historic vessels and their cargo. In this book, he combines science, history, spectacular illustrations, and first-hand stories from his own expeditions in a uniquely personal account of how twentieth-century explorers have pushed back the frontiers of technology to take us into the midst of a world we could once only guess at.

Ballard begins in 1930 with William Beebe and Otis Barton, pioneers of the ocean depths who made the world's first deep-sea dives in a cramped steel sphere. He introduces us to Auguste and Jacques Piccard, whose "Bathyscaph"descended in 1960 to the lowest point on the ocean floor. He reviews the celebrated advances made by Jacques Cousteau. He describes his own major discoveries--from sea-floor spreading to black smokers--as well as his technical breakthroughs, including the development of remote-operated underwater vehicles and the revolutionary search techniques that led to the discovery and exploration of the Titanic, the Nazi battleship Bismarck, ancient trading vessels, and other great ships.

Readers will come away with a richer understanding of history, earth science, biology, and marine technology--and a new appreciation for the remarkable men and women who have explored some of the most remote and fascinating places on the planet.

Review:

"The Eternal Darkness is a straightforward look at a complicated business that shows again not just that exploration is worth doing but that even at home here on earth it is far from over. . . . [It] is not really a book about the past. It's a promise that the "E" word remains the deepest adventure of them all."--Michael Parfit, New York Times Book Review

"Drawing from the expertise gained during his more than 100 trips into the abyss, Ballard highlights historical and scientific events that he and Hively expertly weave into a series of scintillating tales."--Loretta DiPietro, Scientific American

"Dr. Ballard is a passionate advocate of deep-sea exploration, pointing out that all such expeditions so far undertaken have probably surveyed less than one percent of the sea floor. . . . One can hardly disagree with Dr. Ballard's proposal that we should expand that one percent."--The Atlantic Monthly

"The man who found the Titanic, discovered black smokers on the sea floor, and first ventured into the mid-Atlantic ridge tells the story of deep-sea exploration. . . . Scores of photographs highlight the steadily absorbing text; together, words and pictures present a vital and authoritative general history of humanity's adventures deep beneath the waves."-- Publishers Weekly

"The Eternal Darkness is an excellent book . . . It is authoritative and well written, and . . . it is impossible to put down."--Richard Shelton, Times Literary Supplement

"Titanic discoverer Ballard . . . handily summarizes a technology unfamiliar to many readers. Ballard has published popular books about his recovery of other famous sunken ships besides the movie's namesake, which adds cachet to this more scholarly work."--Booklist

"Doing science is exciting! This is the main message of Ballard's fascinating combination memoir and history of deep ocean science."--Library Journal

More reviews

Table of Contents:

Preface vii
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 3
Part I DEPTH
1 A Simple Tethered Sphere 13
2 Bathyscaphs Race to the Bottom 33
3 The Tragic Dawn of the Modern Deep Submersible 58
Part II DISCOVERY
4 Scientists Begin Exploring the Deep 93
5 The Midocean Ridge: Womb of the Earth 117
6 Hydrothermal Vents: Exotic Oases 157
7 Black Smokers: Recipe for a Salty Ocean 187
Part III DETACHMENT
8 A Tethered Eyeball Races to Find the Titanic 217
9 Recovering Our Past by Remote Control 255
10 Should Humans Continue to Dive? Two Paradigms 299
A Note on Sources 313
Further Reading 315
Index 375

This book has been translated into:

  • German
  • Chinese (Complex)

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Robert D. Ballard:

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Hardcover: Not for sale in Australia and New Zealand
Paperback: Not for sale in Australia and New Zealand

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    File created: 4/17/2014

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