Trapped Under the Sea

Neil Swidey's Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into the Darkness tells the unforgettable story of an ambitious engineering project and the disaster that could have been averted. Boston Harbor, widely recognized as the most badly polluted in the United States, was an environmental ruin. When the state finally mandated a cleanup, the city built a highly sophisticated waste-treatment plant on Deer Island. By 1999, the costly, overdue project was nearly complete, but one final task required five divers to travel 10 miles into a narrow tunnel deep underneath the harbor. In an accident that seems unavoidable in hindsight, two of the five died.

Swidey, a staff writer for the Boston Globe magazine and finalist for the National Magazine Award, tells his story with exhaustive research--and with passion. What makes Trapped Under the Sea stand out from other disaster narratives is Swidey's largely balanced analysis of the corporate and political pressures and the human ambitions that led to a series of bad decisions, with insights into organizational behavior and culture and the ways decisions can go tragically wrong. An arrogant engineer who misrepresented his experience, corporate jockeying, cost-cutting, the intense pressure of deadlines on a long-delayed, very expensive and very public project: that these factors are common in projects at every level makes them no less deadly--or preventable.

Swidey's focus beyond the accident, its roots to its aftermath, will leave the reader gripped, saddened and infuriated in equal measure. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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