Yucatan Deep

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What Lies at the Bottom of Cenote X?

Cenote X. The Mayans called it K'uxulch'en, the "Well of Sorrows."

Since the days of the Conquistadors, its exact location was known only to local forest tribes--until its discovery by Mike Bryant and Pete Wiley, cofounders of the Yucatan Deep Project. When their joint attempt to set a deep-diving record four years ago met with disaster, the Well of Sorrows lived up to its ...

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What Lies at the Bottom of Cenote X?

Cenote X. The Mayans called it K'uxulch'en, the "Well of Sorrows."

Since the days of the Conquistadors, its exact location was known only to local forest tribes--until its discovery by Mike Bryant and Pete Wiley, cofounders of the Yucatan Deep Project. When their joint attempt to set a deep-diving record four years ago met with disaster, the Well of Sorrows lived up to its name. Now, Mike is returning to the world's deepest sinkhole to finish what he and his late partner began.

Not everyone wants Mike to make the attempt. Bridget Marceau--Mike's team physician, fellow diver, and soul mate--fears losing the man she loves to the same cave that claimed Pete Wiley. She is determined to keep Mike out of Cenote X. And she's not the only one. Someone else is keenly interested in what lies more than 1,300 feet beneath the surface. That person already knows exactly what to look for--and why he must at all costs prevent Mike from discovering the secret hidden in those lightless depths.

Punctuating high-risk adventure with inside glimpses into the world of technical diving, author Tom Morrisey plumbs the depths of the human soul. Yucatan Deep is a taut tale of loyalty, greed, and the wellsprings of faith and life.

Author Biography: Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section. He has launched, edited, or contributed to numerous national publications and is a regular contributor to Skin Diver magazine. A popular speaker, he is also active in both youth and prison ministry. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing fromBowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines. He and his family live in rural Jackson County, Michigan.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cave diving is a relatively unusual topic for an evangelical Christian adventure novel, and this debut novel by Morrisey is chock-full of interesting characters and cliff-hanging suspense (not to mention enough brand-name details to satisfy any number of potential corporate sponsors). As members of the media look on, Mike Bryant and his mentor, Pete Wiley, attempt to log record dives in Mexico's Cenote X, the world's deepest known water-filled cave. Expedition Channel commentator Viktor Bellum is among the onlookers, but he has his own sinister reasons for wanting them to fail. Also watching is one of CBA fiction's more original characters, deaf physician Bridget Marceau. Mike and Bridget's lives are about to intersect with that of surfer-turned-missionary Elvis Hastings, making conversion scenes (one occurring underwater!) inevitable. The story leapfrogs through various locations, time periods and points of view, but there are enough common threads to keep the narrative woven together. The author, a certified Full Cave diver, has an affinity for detail that is both an asset and a liability: original descriptions are sometimes overwhelmed by technical information, repetition, clich s and overuse of brand names (including at least six for sunglasses). There are some memorable moments, as when Bridget and Mike have a knock-down, drag-out argument in sign language, but the novel's breast cancer subplot is a tired one. Some readers may also quibble with the author's simplistic take on answered prayer. However, Morrisey's fresh characterizations and flair for suspense should hook adventure readers. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310239598
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 9/1/1902
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 8.06 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Itza Maya Territory,

New Spain--June, 1524

Crouching motionless in the upper limbs of a sprawling banyan tree, the red howler monkey gazed out at the pit, a chasm nearly three acres in size, tan limestone walls dropping sixty feet to water that was the deep blue of approaching night.

Around the pit was a clearing nearly fifty yards deep, creeping vines and underbrush gradually reclaiming a broad, sun-whitened necklace of rock. At its periphery, the clearing gave way to jungle, a dense canopy of ropy trees and saw grass that stretched seamlessly to the horizon in all directions. The monkey, a well-grown male--twenty pounds of muscle wrapped in short, thick, reddish-brown fur--watched as a breeze picked up and then died, sending a silver crescent of wavelets shimmering across the surface of the water. The animal blinked its round eyes once, swiveling its fur-ruffed head to take in the whole of the pit and its clearing.

Something close to awe seemed to register in the howler's eyes. It gazed noiselessly at the open space, at the rare, cloudless purple vault of twilight sky. Then the monkey began making its way down to the ground, its long, thin limbs working slowly and easily, the prehensile tail working like a fifth paw.

Five feet above the ground, the animal stopped again. Once more, it looked and listened, a moment of caution before leaving the relative safety of the tree. The howler had just feasted at ease in the upper reaches of the canopy, resting on slender branches that would easily bow and register the weight of an approaching predator. Now it was time to drink.

Overhanging the very edge of the pit was a rectangular limestone block, visible from any point in the clearing. Elaborate carvings graced either end of the block, but if the howler recognized these as stylized representations of its own species, it gave no indication. Nor could the monkey know how the shallow, dished spot near the center of the altar had been chipped away over the years, even though the scars from a thousand obsidian knife-points still dimpled it.

But the dished spot held water for hours after the afternoon rain, and this the red howler apparently did know. And just as the limestone altar was visible from all parts of the clearing, so it afforded a clear view of all the surrounding jungle forest. Nothing could approach the monkey there unseen.

By bending its forepaws at the wrists, the red howler could just touch its thumbs to its middle and index fingers, a trick that gave it sufficient dexterity to grasp a leaf. It plucked one from a lower branch now, and then dropped to the ground with cautious silence. Holding the leaf over its head like some fabulous treasure, the lanky primate ambled comically across the clearing, glancing right, then left, before hopping up onto the altar. Turning to face the jungle, the red howler settled to its haunches on the warm stone surface, dipped its leaf into the shallow basin, and raised the improvised cup to its lips. It began to sip delicately, like a dowager taking afternoon tea. Then, just as the big male dipped the leaf for a second sip, it froze, glaring at the near edge of the clearing, red fur rising slowly on its back.

A young bachelor from the red howler's troop, a monkey only half the big male's size, had alighted from the lower branches of a papaya tree. Cautiously, it began to approach the altar. Dropping the leaf, the big male leaned forward and began a loud, prolonged, clicking croak, its mouth open in a wide O, exposing formidable incisors--an unmistakable warning that this drinking spot was his, and his alone.

The smaller monkey lowered its head submissively but did not retreat. Turning, it began to slowly crab sideways toward the altar. The big male rose to its hind legs, the ruff around its face standing on end. It stamped its front feet loudly, its croak changing to an eerie howl, rising in timbre.

The little bachelor hung its head even lower but did not change course. Moving by degrees now, it shuffled all the way up to the altar and hesitantly draped one shaggy forepaw at the other male's feet.

Shrieking, incensed at the young bachelor's persistence, the big male leapt high into the air, landing with a frightening, resonant thump, bare inches from the offender's paw.

The smaller animal did not retreat, and the big howler leapt even higher, a dramatic display that was half tantrum, half threat. When even this did not evict the intruder, the big male leapt once more, landing loudly, stained teeth bared, ready to strike.

Suddenly, both animals froze.

The altar had moved.

With a splintering crack, the block tilted, and the monkeys sprang away, shrieking and fleeing for the safety of the trees. Behind them the entire limestone overhang sagged, weakened by centuries of rainfall, finally succumbing to gravity's inexorable tug. As the rivals watched, wide-eyed, from the tree-limbs high above, the stone gave one last mighty crack, and then plunged into the flooded pit below.

White water shot almost to the treetops, collapsing back upon itself in diminishing liquid commotion. Then the jungle was still, the rolling surface of the pool the only evidence that anything had happened at all.

Beneath the surface, the altar continued its journey; dust and pebbles streaming behind it like an ancient comet's tail. The huge limestone block weighed nearly twelve tons, yet it dropped through dark water for better than a minute without touching a ledge or an outcropping. Finally it struck bottom, raising silt that billowed all the way to the surface, a quarter of a mile above.

For days, the silt hung in the water, minuscule particles of clay and cal-cite drifting slowly back to the substrate from which they'd come. When the waters finally cleared, fully three-quarters of the altar lay buried in the debris at the bottom of the underwater pit. At one end, the carved head and shoulders of a single monkey-idol were all that remained above the rubble.

The stern features glared up grimly through the darkness, hollow stone eyes glaring, as if chastising a world with the impudence to treat its deities so basely.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2005

    Tapping the Depths

    This gripping novel weaves a tale of the tensions between the most up-to-date deep-water diving and a primitive jungle cult between the competing ambitions of two men vying for a Deep-Diving World Record and the evidence of a smuggling, drug-running ring. The balance of technical detail is near perfect, giving fascinating glimpses of the very real dangers of a deep-water dive without getting bogged down in those details. Woven throughout is a simple message of Hope in Christ. It barely escapes becoming preachy at times, yet that ¿peachiness¿ is an integral part of character development, not a tack-on, so almost always slips through without becoming intrusive. This book will intrigue those with a technical bent, but still be appreciated by those bored by technical detail. Well worth reading!

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