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Non-Fiction Review – Blind Descent

 

Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth

by James M. Tabor

Review Vicky T. (VickyJo)

 

Space—the Final Frontier. All you Star Trek fans will remember that spine-tingling phrase. But guess what: Turns out, space is NOT the final frontier. In reality, the final frontier is the Center of the Earth.

Long after every other ultimate goal had been achieved—both North and South Poles reached by 1911, Mount Everest scaled in 1953, the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the oceans, reached in 1960, the moon in 1969—the deepest cave on Earth was still undiscovered. In fact, as late as 2000, the “supercave” had not yet been found, despite numerous attempts. “Blind Descent” by James M. Tabor tells the story of two men, both driven to find and map the deepest cave on Earth, the teams they lead, and the triumphs and tragedies that befall them both.

The author begins the first section of the book by introducing us to Bill Stone, an American caver and entrepreneur who has been searching for The Supercave since the 1970’s. Tabor tells us about Bill Stone’s early years, how he became interested in caves, and the various teams he has pulled together over the years in an attempt to discover the deepest cave, the elusive Supercave. Stone, a type A personality that others either love or hate, is in his mid-50’s by the year 2004. He is convinced that a cave in Mexico called CHAY-vay will turn out to be the Supercave he’s been searching for.

Then we meet Bill Stone’s biggest rival in the caving world: Ukrainian caver Alexander Klimchouk. Oddly enough, Klimchouk seems to be Stone’s polar opposite. Stone is bold, brash, and commanding while Klimchouk is quiet, self-effacing and modest. Stone is tall and muscular while Klimchouk is short and slight. Klimchouk has been married to his wife for decades, while Stone is divorced and has had a series of relationships. But, Tabor points out “They are alike in two key ways: both are scientists and explorers…willing to risk everything, including their lives and those of others, for the ultimate discovery.” Alexander Klimchouk is also in his mid-50’s by 2004, and he believes the Supercave is in the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union, a cave called Krubera.

Blind Descent details the race between these two men, half a world apart, but united by a common passion. Caving on a good day can be a dangerous sport; exploring supercaves can be incredibly deadly. Not only are you basically climbing mountains in reverse, but the hardest part, the ascent, comes last. Cavers spend weeks underground, camping in the dark under less than ideal conditions. Diving is also a common requirement, compounding the dangers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can honestly say that I have found yet another sport that I will never attempt. And I won’t tell you which caver wins this competition; you’ll have to read the book to find out.

 

 

 

 

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