Descent, by Brad Matsen

So I am just finishing up with a fantastic new book that I’d like to tell you about.

, by Brad Matsen is about the early days of deep diving. Deep diving for that day and age, anyway.  It
is the story of two odd, but compelling characters: William Beebe
and Otis Barton. The two became international celebrities of the
Depression era by building and piloting a new kind of underwater capsule called a bathysphere (Beebe came up with
the name, but it was Barton’s design) to what was for the time record depths. The bathysphere was a
four-and-a-half-foot steel ball dangling from a steel rope. As the world listened in (on a somehwat new fangled
device known as a “radio”) the bathysphere was lowered to a depth of 2,200 feet…the deepest anyone had gone in history.
The two reached a depth where there was no light, where through a tiny porthole they observed bizarre creatures
that had never been seen in their natural habitat. They were heroes. Well, Beebe was the one heralded as a hero. He’s
the one who got most of the credit because he was a famous writer/explorer. Barton went along for the ride and kinda
got gypped out of a lot of the credit.

Matsen tells the story so well that you become hooked early on and want to find out what happens next. It’s wonderful
to read about these characters that few of us have ever read about before. Such fascinating guys they are, too! Beebe
is the dashing (and balding) Indiana Jones, gallivanting all over the world to satisfy his adventuresome spirit. His
thirst for knowledge. Barton is the rich kid who wants to be taken seriously, who believes that a path to greatness
lies in exploring the ocean’s depths (and, unsuccessfully, it turrns out, trying to film them). 

These are some great unheralded characters, Beebe and Barton, and Matsen does a great job showing their humanity and
determination to do things no one had done before. It’s a terrific read, that really made me want to do
a lot more research about deep sea exploration.