Never before have I had such a physical reaction to a book. James M. Tabor’s research chronicles the “race to the center of the world.” He tells the two opposing stories of Bill Stone’s exploration of Cheve in Mexico and Alexander Klimchouk’s exploration of Krubera in former Soviet Union Georgia. The two men were unwittingly battling each other for one of Earth’s last major discoveries–the deepest cave on earth.
I was seriously nervous and short of breath while reading Blind Descent. I’d be in the bath tub reminding myself to breathe evenly. I didn’t even know I was claustrophobic until now… I mean, I can fly in planes and ride elevators without trouble…but the idea of worming my way through an 18 inch tunnel a mile under the earth’s surface?
No seriously, I am never doing that. Ever ever ever.
What Stone and Klimchouk had to endure in order to break new ground is mind-boggling. We’re talking about weeks, sometimes even months, spent totally underground in the complete pitch dark. One wrong move or bad judgement call could mean death, and for several of Stone’s team member’s that’s exactly what happened. Not only were they risking their lives climbing and rappelling, there was diving involved! Swimming around in dark silty water having to squeeze my way through unknown twists and turns is not my idea of a good time. More than once underwater panic almost cost Stone and company their lives.
Like I said, forget that.
I was really enthralled by this book and I learned a lot about a completely foreign topic. Tabor does a great job explaining what sleeping next to a roaring waterfall is like, as well as what it is to experience “the Rapture”–a type of panic attack/hallucination brought on by so much uninterrupted time in the dark. I found Stone’s story much more engrossing because he had a lot more drama surrounding his life, but I would much rather work for Klimchouk if I had to choose. Nobody died with him.
4 crinkling sleeping bags of 5