Deep, by James Nestor

James Nestor's DeepIf you have ever wanted to know what it’s like to live life as a dolphin, take a trip into the blue abyss through James Nestor’s Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves.

The book is a first-hand introduction to freediving. The underwater diving technique, sans-SCUBA gear, was, until recently, remarkably widespread among fishing communities worldwide since time untold. Freediving is still used today by a handful of traditional fishing folk — and by some devoted researchers who want to come face-to-face with their cetacean subjects.

Nestor explains that humans share some of the physiological faculties that are used by modern marine mammals, but that few of us landlubbers have any idea what we’re capable of. He learns from the masters how to hold his breath, virtually to the point of blacking out, and explains in vivid detail the seemingly frightening techniques that he is taught.

Along the way, Nestor introduces us to a group of extreme athletes that compete to stay underwater for the longest and to dive to the deepest depths. These athletes certainly know what they’re capable of — but they often overestimate their abilities, in a mad rush for glory within their small community, with sometimes crippling or even deadly results.

To reach greater depths than can be reached with lungfuls of air alone, the book also describes humanity’s error-plagued history of building machines that help us plunge to seemingly fathomless depths. It explains the biology of much of what we have found once we got there.

Deep is a wonderful read that will entrance even the most knowledgable of ocean experts.