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During the summers of 1998 and 1999, three elite divers lost their lives, all on separate dives from the top dive boat out of Montauk, the 65-foot Seeker. Craig Sicola was clearly suffering from "china fever" before he went down. He'd handled teacups brought up by veteran Doria diver Gary Gentile, and the gleam in Craig's eye was unmistakable. Craig dove on June 24, 1998. A few hours later, his body bobbed to the surface. He was carrying a plate. Joe Haberstroh, the award-winning Newsday reporter, watched events unfold during the summers of 1998 and 1999. In this remarkable and intriguing book he recreates what was the pride of the Italian fleet, how it sank, the dangers of the deep, and the gripping personal stories of the men who live or die for a teacup from its remains.
"Should be required reading for all divers."--Immersed
"Well researched, well interviewed, and written without frills. It doesn't need frills. Wreck diving is already on the edge, an extreme sport with virtually no margin for error. Drama is built in."--National Geographic Adventure
"[This is] a well-narrated tale. Haberstroh does a deft job of laying out the character and motivations of five ill-fated divers and their guide...And Haberstroh's restraint serves him well, giving the book a fully informed breadth . . . a solid, intriguing contribution to the genre." --Seattle Times and Post Intelligencer
"Haberstroh gives about as close a look at the world below that you'll get without strapping on a set of steel 120s."--St. Petersburg Times
"An extremely well-researched and fast-paced book."--East Hampton Star
Every time they brushed their fins on anything, they touched off floury clouds of brown silt. Some of the muck even dislodged when the divers' exhalation bubbles boiled into the warped bulkheads. After more than forty years in the high-pressure environment of the deep, the china closet looked nothing like a closet. Long ago it was cleverly designed to fit under a stairway on the ship. Now it was an open mouth in the rusted steel, the gap shaped like a diamond, the edges like razors. A steel support beam knifed into the corridor; one man could hang on to this while the other propped his elbows on the side of the jagged opening and stretched inside with the rake.
They began to work there. Vince took the rake first. The rake tinkled as he pulled it across the goop inside the closet. It was painstaking. After raking the mud, they had to wait for the silt to settle to see if any china had been unearthed. Out of habit, Murphy glanced frequently at his dive timers. Twelve minutes had passed since he and Vince had entered the water. They wanted to stop the work at the china closet at twenty minutes, which would give them five minutes to back out of the ship and get to the Seeker's anchor line.
Vince worked another couple of minutes, then stopped and pointed at Murphy, who took his turn with the rake. Murphy raked the closet down, then waited. Soon a flash of white winked through the soup. It was china.
Murphy reached in and plucked a celery plate. It was intact, and it bore the maroon braids of the first-class service. It was not a cup, or a large dinner plate, but it was boomerang shaped, a bit of an oddity, and he happily placed it in the mesh goodie bag attached to his gear. Time was short, so Murphy thought he'd rake the closet down one more time, as a courtesy to the next team that would inevitably come back to this cache. He began to claw at the muck when Vince reached up to Murphy's mouth and yanked his regulator out of his mouth.
A cloud of bubbles swarmed between them as the regulator released the rest of the air that Murphy had been inhaling.
Stunned, Murphy reached to his left out of a defensive instinct and grabbed Vince's harness. Keeping Vince at bay in this way, he reached for the emergency regulator hooked to the small bailout canister mounted between the big tanks on his back. He kept that rarely-used regulator clipped up near his right shoulder. In a moment, he had the regulator safely clenched in his mouth. Then he turned to Vince and leaned in so their masks were no more than six inches apart.
Vince pointed at Murphy's back. Murphy didn't understand, so he drew his right index finger across his throat. Using the scuba hand signal for an airflow problem, he was asking Vince whether he was having difficulty breathing. Vince didn't respond.
"You out of air?" Murphy screamed through his mask.
Vince returned a placid gaze. It wasn't clear that he could hear what Murphy was saying.
"You out of air?" Murphy repeated. He pointed at Vince. "You out of air? You out of air?"
Now Vince shook his head furiously. No!
He pointed again at Murphy's back. Now Murphy wondered whether he was the one in trouble. It was possible that his main tanks were leaking. The telltale bubble trail would be invisible to him, but Vince could see it, if that indeed was happening. Is that what Vince meant? If so, could he have chosen a more bizarre and idiotic way of telling Murphy that there was a problem?
Nothing made sense. Murphy wanted out.
"Let's get the fuck out of here!" he screamed.
"Yeah!" Vince replied.
Vince took the lead and they swam out of the wreck. Murphy checked the pressure gauges on his main tanks. They indicated that he had plenty of air, even with all the heavy breathing he had just done. He listened for a moment and didn't hear any hiss from an air leak. His main tanks were fine. He spat out the bailout regulator and replaced it with one from his main tanks. Then he pushed off the mottled skin of the Andrea Doria's hull, and the two men swam aft together-toward the shipwreck's stern.
As Murphy watched, Vince started to slow down. He saw the familiar pearls pouring from Vince's main tanks. He was breathing. Those were exhaust bubbles. Vince was breathing. But where was he headed? Murphy couldn't put it all together in his mind. He looked at the luminous gauge that told him how long he had been underwater. Eighteen minutes. He needed to get moving to his first decompression stop, which was one hundred feet up the anchor line. Murphy started to lose sight of Vince.
Dan and Moyer appeared. They were swimming along the ship's length, and Dan had his video camera. At 4:03 P.M., he pointed the lens at Vince, who by now was moving slowly. Vince held his arms straight down, perpendicular to his body. They fluttered, as if they had fallen asleep and he was shaking them to awaken them. His fins moved only inches up and down. He was swimming, at least by the dictionary definition. But it was like a slow-motion film. It would take effort to move your fins that subtly.
Faintly illuminated by the brilliant day above, the ocean at the wreck of the Andrea Doria was a deep blue-green. Vince swam. The ocean gathered in his form. Murphy watched. He thought Vince was simply checking out some other aspect of the wreck. Maybe. Murphy watched, and Vince's receding image was painted over with successive strokes of green. Then, he was gone.
At 4:08 P.M.-five minutes after Vince was captured swimming lethargically on Dan's video-Nick Caruso stepped from the Sea Inn's cabin, squinted into the afternoon light, and saw a diver in the water fifty feet away. Was the diver adjusting his equipment? Glare bounced off the water. No, he wasn't moving.
Caruso shouted at Tommy Surowiec to retrieve the diver in trouble. Surowiec dived in immediately. He reached the diver and turned his face toward the sky. "I need everyone up here now," Caruso said. A few divers, including Santiago Garcia, had been dozing in their bunks below. They all rushed on deck. Caruso threw a line to Surowiec, and they towed in the two men. It wasn't until they got the stricken diver on the Sea Inn's swimming platform, at the boat's stern, that Surowiec recognized the diver as Vince Napoliello.
First they unclipped Vince's main tanks and his decompression stage bottles. Garcia removed Vince's hood. Someone else opened the suit by unzipping the zipper that ran diagonally across the front. They scissored the wrist seals and pulled off Vince's gloves. Surowiec and Caruso began chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Vince's chest rose a couple of times. His eyes fluttered once. Then his pupils became fixed and dilated. Oddly, for a diver who had apparently risen quickly from a great depth, Vince had none of the froth at his mouth that is associated with a catastrophic lung injury. Maybe he hadn't been that deep when he shot to the surface.
|1||Secret Spot No. 26||7|
|9||Six-Eight, Three Twenty||181|
|11||"When Your Number's Up, It's Up"||211|
|12||Succumbing to Circumstances||233|
Posted January 1, 2005
If you're expecting a 252 page story, as I was, you'll be disappointed. The book is constructed as though Haberstroh dropped his notes from 5 investigations enroute to the editor and scooped the shuffled pages back into the file. I was further frustrated by the numerous typographical errors and several repeated passages. B&N Review Rules prohibit giving away a book's ending. Not a problem here - there isn't one. The bright side: 5 interesting dive accident accounts if you have the patience for it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2003
I took this book to the beach and read it to the sound of the waves, where there were a pair of wrecks lying just 1/4 mile offshore. If you are interested in diving, wrecks, and/or ocean emergencies and disasters, you will find this book to be fascinating. It certainly held my interest throughtout. The author is a journalist, so his prose has a bit of a journalistic touch. He is very objective and thorough, providing a mix of the factual elements of the story and opinions of those he interviewed. He leaves the reader to make most of the judgements. The only frustration in reading this book is its abrupt ending. This may not be the fault of the author since, at that point, he is describing litigation, the results of which may not be available. By no means should this stop you from reading the book. You may want to compare this story to that told in the book Deep Descent, which covers similar events from the perspective of a journalist who has dived to the Andrea Doria himself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 26, 2009
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