The Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent into the Ocean's Depths

The Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent into the Ocean's Depths

4.5 21
by Bernie Chowdhury

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What price are you willing to pay for adventure and knowledge? Spurred on by a fatal combination of obsession and ambition, Chris and Chrisy Rouse, an experienced father-son scuba diving team, hoped to achieve widespread recognition for their outstanding and controversial diving skills by solving the secrets of a mysterious, undocumented, World War II German U-boat


What price are you willing to pay for adventure and knowledge? Spurred on by a fatal combination of obsession and ambition, Chris and Chrisy Rouse, an experienced father-son scuba diving team, hoped to achieve widespread recognition for their outstanding and controversial diving skills by solving the secrets of a mysterious, undocumented, World War II German U-boat that lay only a half day's mission from New York Harbor. Chris and Chrisy Rouse found the ultimate cost of chasing their personal challenge: death from what divers dread the most—decompression sickness, or "the bends." In this gripping recounting of the Rouses' tragedy, author Bernie Chowdhury, himself an expert diver, explores the thrill-seeking, high-risk world of deep sea diving, and its legendary figures, most celebrated triumphs, and notorious tragedies. By examining the diver's psychology through the complex dynamic between father and son, Chowdhury offers a modern morality tale that illuminates the explorer's willingness to risk it all for the pure, raw adrenaline rush of the unknown and the extreme, and the desire to expand our knowledge and the limits of human endurance.

Editorial Reviews

Daniel Hays
While reading The Last Dive I could feel myself hundreds of feet beneath the ocean's surface. I had dreams where I felt the pressure and floated in the beauty. The story is well told and once I started, I could barely come up for air.
Patrick Dillon
Meticulously detailed and dramatically paced, a tragic story told deftly and with the rare authority that comes only from personal experience.
Sherry Sontag
Going as deep as the most daring military divers, but without the military's advanced technology or life-saving support, a father and son explore realms as alien as any in space. They swim for the sheer joy of exploration into a mesmerizing adventure undertaken at overwhelming cost.
Tampa Tribune
Superbly written and action-packed, "The Last Dive" ranks with such adventure classics as "The Perfect Storm" and "Into Thin Air.
Philadelphia Enquirer
A suspenseful tale [that] amounts to one long nail-biter...will leave even surface-dwellers gasping for air.
Kenneth Kamler
This book gave me more palpitations than any dive I've done myself. Bernie Chowdhury is a true modern-day explorer who penetrates not just sunken ships but the minds of those who risk their lives to explore them. The climactic last fatal dive left me as out of breath as the divers he wrote about.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An experienced diver with a personal connection to his subjects, Chowdhury chronicles the tragedy of Chris and Chrissy Rouse, an energetic, quarrelsome father-son dive team who, in 1992, met with disaster while attempting to reach a German U-boat in the waters off the New York coast. Though highly competent in risky underwater-cave diving, the Rouses lacked experience on the open sea. Lured by pride to make the 230-foot dive despite questionable weather conditions, the two fell victim to a cruel convergence of circumstances that led to agonizing death. While Chowdhury tells the Rouses' story well and provides insight into their characters, his best writing is devoted to explaining the history and dangers involved in the sport itself. Readers learn in clear terms about how nitrogen can build up in divers' bloodstreams, leading to the danger of "the bends"; and about "Martini's Law," which describes the disorientation caused by nitrogen, an effect roughly equivalent to drinking one martini on an empty stomach at every 50 feet of depth. These and other clarifications of diving's obstacles are combined with stories from his own experience to produce a highly enjoyable survey of human exploit below the surface. Though the book has weak points, particularly stilted dialogue that bristles with exclamation points, the alluring nature of the Rouses' tale and Chowdhury's clear portrayal of diving will entice anyone who has thought about exploring the deep. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Extreme sports, such as climbing Mount Everest, are becoming increasingly popular in this country. Among these activities is extreme scuba diving deep diving, wreck diving, and cave diving, often using nonair gas mixtures. Chowdury chronicles the world of these divers, using his own story and that of a father-and-son dive team that died following a penetration-wreck dive at 230 feet using air. Excellently written and a real "grabber" to read, the book includes much information about the history, equipment, and people who make up the world of extreme or "technical" diving. This book should be read by any diver thinking of getting involved in wreck, cave, deep, or mixed-gas diving. One hopes it will change their minds, for there's absolutely no margin for error in these risky ventures. There is also much meat here for those interested in the psychology of extreme sports. Strongly recommended for libraries of all types with interests in scuba diving, sports (especially extreme sports), and the psychology of sports and risk-taking.--Margaret Rioux, MBL/WHOI Lib., Woods Hole, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Experienced sport diver and publisher Chowdhury (Immersed magazine) chronicles the accidental deaths of a fatherson diving team.

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Adventure Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.78(h) x 1.34(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Deadly Secrets

October 12, 1992. North Atlantic Ocean,
approximately 60 miles offshore,
equidistant from the New Jersey and New York coastlines.

The wind mounted steadily throughout the night as Chris Rouse, cocooned in his sleeping bag, braced himself against the side of his bunk. He felt a bit uneasy, his stomach tossed by the dark waves that slammed against the 60-foot length of the dive charter boat Seeker. He was not that far from the New Jersey coast, but he might as well have been in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Chris peered out from between his sleeping bag and the bunk. In the dawn's soot-gray light, all he could see through the boat's windows was a blanket of sky and dark-blue waves with white spray blowing off their crests. Somewhere in the distance lay the horizon, but he couldn't tell where; the sea and sky were seamless. He judged the waves to be five feet high, with occasional rollers over eight feet. Not a good day to continue the exploration of the most technically challenging dive site he had faced in more than seven hundred logged dives.

Only yesterday, the thirty-nine-year-old Rouse and his twenty-two-year-old son, Chrissy, had conducted two dives to the unidentified submarine 230 feet below them. The wreck lay in three pieces, like a cigar with its middle torn out and angled between the ends. The middle section included the conning tower, the large tubular structure perpendicular to the vessel's body. The tower, though still intact, had been torn from its mount and thrown aside by whatever unknown force had sunk this submarine, probably back in the Second World War. Underneaththe conning tower was the control room, the submarine's brain. Nothing was left of this nerve center but a jumble of jagged, sharp-edged steel plates and debris, the result of some violent explosion. Yesterday, Chrissy Rouse had crawled under and between the steel plates, wriggling his way inside while his father hovered outside the wreck. Somewhere in those razor-edged ruins lay something that would identify this sub, and father and son were determined to find it. Maybe the captain's logbook-it had to be nestled amid the wreckage just inside the opening. Chrissy hadn't found it yesterday, but the Rouses knew they were close. All that stood in their way was time, effort, and eight-foot waves.

The Seeker bobbed and tugged at its anchor line, like a trapped animal seeking to break its tether. It had fought the ocean incessantly throughout the night, and its wooden beams and planking let out creaks of protest at the restraint. The passengers and off-duty crew had tried to sleep in their bunks while wedged in such a way as to prevent being thrown to the heaving deck. John Chatterton, a commercial diver, sport-diving instructor, highly respected wreck diver, and one of the Seeker's two captains (required by Coast Guard regulations during an overnight boat charter), burst into the main cabin and threw the light switch. "It's six o'clock," he announced. "If any of you want to do two dives today you need to hit the water early. Weather report's calling for steadily increasing seas, and you can see" -- he nodded toward the window -- "it's snotty already. If you wanna dive, get in the water fast. We'd like to pull the hook and get out of here soon, before we really get slammed. I'm gonna blow off my personal dive, and I'll just go down to pull the hook."

The blond Chatterton looked as if he'd fit in more readily on a college campus than on a dive boat, with his wire-rim glasses and boyish face. Unlike many hard-bitten sea captains, Chatterton had a receptive mind; he was happy to discuss diving techniques and gear configuration with his customers, even as he remained soft-spoken when talking about his own expertise and accomplishments. Chatterton never made others feel stupid or inadequate. His demeanor, combined with the depth of his experience, lent his advice more weight, and divers sought it out.

Chatterton was on intimate terms with the wreck that Chris and Chrissy Rouse aimed to conquer. The captain was credited with having been the first diver to identify the mysterious object as a submarine. On Labor Day, 1991, Chatterton had headed out on the Seeker with a group of divers to check out a potential wreck site that the boat's owner, Captain Bill Nagel, had heard about from a fisherman during one of Nagel's frequent drinking bouts. The captain's alcohol-sodden memory had been accurate. On a follow-up dive, Chatterton had recovered a single dinner plate bearing the German eagle and swastika, with the date 1942 stamped on it. The wreck was a World War II submarine, which the Germans called an Unterseeboot -- "under-sea boat," shortened to U-boat. The first U-boat was U-1; the highest-numbered German vessel to see service was U-4712. Because the Germans did not number the U-boats consecutively, 1,152 German U-boats were actually commissioned and put into service during the Second World War. For lack of an official name or number, Chatterton and other divers had dubbed the discovery U-Who.

Every year along America's East Coast divers find new wrecks -- victims of storm, collision, fire, and war -- but the U-Who was an unusual find. U.S., German, and British naval archives listed the location of every U-boat that lay on the ocean bottom worldwide, but they had no reference to anything even close to the U-Who's location, a half day's mission from the entrance to New York Harbor. The wreck seemed to have been sunk by an explosion, but if it did not go down in a battle recorded in the archives, how...

The Last Dive. Copyright © by Bernie Chowdhury. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Bernie Chowdhury is the founder and co-publisher of The Inteinational Technical Diving Magazine. A world-class diver, Explorers Club Fellow, and a recognized expert on extreme sport diving, he also makes documentary films and is a frequent lecturer.

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Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent Into the Ocean's Depths 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful read. Bernie did a fantastic job bringing the reader into the world of deep diving in it's early stages. The book goes into detail about the men and women who pioneered the sport of tech diving and the controversial use of mixed gas diving. Bernie not only gives great technical info but he also delves into the psychological aspect of deep diving. I read shadow divers and thought it sounded more like a fictional novel than an actual book relating a true life event. The Last Dive is a tragic story about real people who lost their lives exploring the limits of deep diving without using colorful adjectives and adverbs to dramatize the story. If you are looking for just another good story then read the other books, but if you want the cold hard truth. Read the Last Dive. A must for new divers
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bringing their only child into the world, and making a lifetime commitment to each other, changed everything for Chris and Sue Rouse when they faced her unplanned pregnancy. Chris was 18 years old, and still in high school, when Chris Jr. - known throughout his life as 'Chrissy' - arrived. Sue gave up her dreams of college, a career, and world travel so the young couple could build a business and a family instead. Eventually they succeeded so well financially that Chris could afford such hobbies as owning his own small airplane. Then he discovered scuba diving, a sport to which he promptly introduced both Sue and Chrissy and the Rouse family's lives changed again. Never inclined toward doing anything by halves, they soon moved from recreational diving - a relatively safe pursuit - to the adrenaline rush of cave diving. The Rouses earned respect in a remarkably short time among their fellow cave divers, as they made hundreds of dives and thoroughly mastered that incredibly dangerous sport. Next Chris and Chrissy turned their attention to open ocean wreck diving, to which they applied their cave diving knowledge. Into this new and at least equally perilous (possibly more so) universe, Sue followed her men less eagerly. Chris and Chrissy found a kindred spirit in Bernie Chowdhury, a fellow cave diver also intrigued by transferring that sport's principles to diving inside shipwrecks. When Chowdhury survived an agonizing, temporarily crippling and potentially fatal case of the bends, after pushing his body and his skills too far during a wreck dive and being forced to choose between drowning and surfacing without hours of life-saving decompression, the Rouses listened to his story and hoped to learn from it. Yet they found themselves facing the same decision during a dive to the wreck of a mysterious German U-boat nicknamed the U-Who, after business reverses forced them to cut corners in supporting their expensive hobby. Was it that alone, trying to get by on compressed air on a dive so deep that the Rouses would have been safer breathing more expensive 'trimix' to avoid nitrogen narcosis? Or were there other factors, less obvious ones, leading up to the father and son team's fatal last dive? Author Chowdhury's book is only partly a loving memorial to his two friends' memory. It's also an analysis of what motivates, and often obsesses, not just cave and wreck divers but everyone who pursues extreme sports that require constant (and often escalating) risk of one's life. His fascination is rooted in his own terrifyingly close brush with not only death, but permanent physical disability. He's not only interested in why divers, mountain climbers, etc. pursue such sports he also wants to understand why such men and women are rarely deterred by hearing about, or even witnessing, others' fatal or crippling mishaps. While I notice that some other reviewers have not been pleased by Chowdury's personal narratives included in this book, I found those narratives completely necessary to achieving the author's purpose. I thought the same about the details of Rouse family life, which illuminated Chris and Chrissy's behavior as they made a series of decisions on what turned out to be their final morning alive. No, this isn't another SHADOW DIVERS. If you've read both books, you must have noticed and been puzzled - as I was - by the total disconnect between John Chatterton's behavior during the Coast Guard evacuation of the Rouses from the dive boat Seeker, as Chowdury described it here and as it's described (in entirely different terms) in SHADOW DIVERS. Chowdury isn't an accomplished author for whom writing is a career. He's simply a man with an important story to tell, who has in my opinion done a fine job of doing exactly that. Nothing more but nothing less, either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this the 'light vs. dark' thing from the prophecy. Good! Keep it up!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello guys, again, thank you for reading. Remember, the last one is the prolouge, so it does not have to have a ton of detail. Anyways, thanks! &psi "Novakit, come on! Stop mourning over a dead mouse!" Darkkit called as they treked through the forest. Darkkit had left the mouse that he had just tortured on the ground. They were five moons old by now. They left the foxes den in search of a place to call home. "But Darkkit, don't we have enough fresh mice? I mean, why are you taking this mouses life, if you only just leave it here?" Novakit said as she caught up to Winterkit, Foxkit, and Darkkit. Darkkit had grown large, considering that he was the third born. His yellow eyes ment death to all smaller things than him at first sight. Whitekkit had grown slender, and loved to scout ahead, with her sister, Foxkit, who had the same build. "Just for fun." Dakkit sneered darkly as a reply. "Darkkit, dont be so harsh on your little sister." Whitekit said as her white pelt stood out among Foxkits red, and Novakits and Darkits black. "Dont tell me what to do! I am the tom you know." He hissed as Whitekits pale blue eyes widened with shock. "Oh yeah, well I am the oldest! Ha!" Whitekit replyed quickly as she got in Darkkits face. Darkkit hissed and jumped onto his elder sister. Whitekit sidestepped, but it was off timed. Darkkit landed on top of her, and only then did Foxkit, Whitekit, and Novakit notice that his claws were unsheathed. They rolled about, thrashing in the dirt, kicking up sand. Whitekit was underneath Darkkit when Novakit ran over to Foxkit. "What do we do!" Novakit wailed. "We could run, but we don't know how fast you are." Foxkit said, never taking her green eyes off her siblings. "I am just as fast as you, maybe even faster." Novakit said. When Darkkit stayed on top of Whitekit, they realized that running wasn't an option. "Stop it!" Novakit and Foxkit cried in unison. When Whitekit and Darkkit didn't stop shedding each others blood, Novakit raced into them, knocking them apart. "Novakit! What are you doing!" Foxkit cried. "Stop your fight." Novakit growled. "Or else what?" Darkkit sneered. "You will have to kill me first." She meowed bravely. "Fine. We will only stop because you risked your life to stop me from killing your deadly sister." Darkkit meowed as he cleansed himself from blood, both his own, and Whitekits. Whitekit was suprisingly bot very hurt. "He missed a lot." Whitekit meowed when she noticed Foxkit and Novakit staring at her few wound with shock. The sun had started to set when they were all feeling better about the fight. "Lets camp here for the night." Whitekit meowed. They all agreed. Even Darkkit was to weary to object. They settled into thier makeshift den under a rosevush, and slept in profound silence. &psi Thank you for reading! Please rate and review my story. I must have at least one like to continue. Next story at next result! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After having read the book, I am really daunted. Not that I wasn't aware of the much higher risk that one would be taking when crossing from recreational to technical diving, but it was simply the fact that even the most experienced tech divers could ended up in situations that were beyond their control. Bernie Chowdhury has definitely done a great job incorporating all the awesome stuff from diving history, U-boats, hyperbaric medicine etc etc, all packed into a book that could be easily digested. I am really glad that I picked up this book especially when I am about to enter the realm of technical diving.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book tremendously and could not put it down until it was completed. Bernie did an excellent job in describing the technical aspects of tech diving and some of the pitfalls associated with the sport. Although some people do not condone this type of activity, it's nice to read about a community of divers who share the same passions. This was definitely a tragic accident and Bernie illustrates all the details superbly. His writing style is right on...and yes, he's no Tom Clancy, but then again, this is a true story, not fiction, so all you reviewers who bashed his writing style, give him a break. I disagree with the reviewer from February 2001, Bernies writing style is right on and at least the author knows how to spell the word 'recommend.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having returned to sport diving after a 10 year absence (with a Cayman Island dive trip, I might add), I became interested in reading about real life diving adventures. This book, while detailing diving accidents, is full of info on the history of commercial & sport diving and introduces the world of tech diving. I describe this book also as a truimph of human spirit and our desire to live, not just survive. If you enjoy adventures of any sort, you don't have to be a diver to enjoy this book, you should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book tells a fascinating story of the deaths of father/son deep wreck diving team, and much of their diving history together. If you can get past the braggart-style of writing, the book is enjoyable. Unfortunately, the author thinks quite a bit of himself and his circle of peers, and it is difficult to get past this aspect of the book. His machismo atitude tends to get worse as the story progresses, and much of the details of the story, and deep diving in general, are repeated over and over. Basically, this is a very interesting story that would have been much better had someone else done the writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A true story about a father/son team that take it to the limits with very deep 240'+ and cave....tragic end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I remember watching on the Discovery Channel the taping of the U-Who boat and at one point the mentioning of the Father and Son who died trying to find out what U boat it was. Saw the book by chance and wanted to read more about them. I liked how the auther told how he didn't just write about the accident but, how they came to love diving, the only problem I had was how he ran on at times about the same thing over and over again almost drilling it into us or thinking we wouldn't remember that far back in the book something he already mention. All in all I really enjoyed the book and hope he plans to write more books he has potentioal.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is much more than just a tragic story of a father and son¿s death. It brings into focus the limits technical sport diving and the relevant physiology and psychology associated with this truly extreme sport. For those of us that sometimes dive at the recommended limits of recreational SCUBA diving, this book provides essential information that is never presented by the large recreational SCUBA certification agencies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Last Dive was a reccomended read by a fellow diver at my office. I enjoyed the book immensely and have reccomended it to others. The gripping narrative lead me to read the book in a day and a half. Any adventurer (particulary recreational divers and budding technical divers) will enjoy the sad true tale of the Rouse's last dive on the U869. The book explains well the technical and psychological obstacles that lead to the failed attempt to identify the mysterious submarine. My praise of the book is tempered only by a few problems in the writing and a bit of the content. I believe this is Chowdhury's first book and it shows in places. Controlling pace is sometimes difficult when a technical subject is discussed in such depth. Chowdhury is not yet Clancy in this area. Often the mundane is made too dramatic and obvious scenes languish for far too long. That being said, it is a good book and the slight flaws are overcome by the story and the majority of the writing is well done. My final complaint comes in the form of content. Chowdhury seems very selective in inclusion of certain technical leaders in the dive world. Most noticeably, Chowdhury repeatedly acknowledges Bill Stone's work in the Woodville Karst project in Florida, but omits the much greater work at the same system by George Irvine and the WKPP organization. Irvine is a staunch rival of Stone and has surpassed all of Stone's records at Woodville. Additionally, Irvine would never condone most of the diving practices discussed in the book leading to the death of the Rouse's and the near-death of Chowdhury himself. I wonder whether Chowdhury has intentionally ignored Irvine simply because he is aware of Irvine's scorn for using 'deep air' which is likely the root cause of all problems occurring in the book. Nevertheless - buy and read the book. It is very compelling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Last Dive is a great book for divers and non-divers alike, however, if you have ever been on a wreck then you will get a pit in your stomach and a lump in your throat while reading some of the accounts. I am certainly not a 'novel' reader but I could not put this book down. Awesome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My father has been diving in NJ for over 25 years, whenever he has the opportunity. An avid wreck diver, he was given this book by a dive partner and could not put it down! He fabulously recalled the entire story to me with such excitement, I would have to recommend this book to any divers, or otherwise who are interested in reading a compelling true story. Not one for novels, I was suprised that he enjoyed the book so much, which is testament to its worth!