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On the Bottom


In a collision with a steamship, City of Rome, on the night of September 25, 1925, the U.S. Navy Submarine S-51 sank in 132 feet of water, taking 33 ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of On the Bottom

Overall customer rating: 4.500

On the Bottom

by Calliope on Dec 26, 2008

Thrilling account of the recovery of a Navy sub sunk in Long Island Sound.


In the finest naval traditions

by TM1SS on Jul 20, 2007

What is it that drives a man who has just burrowed out of a collapsed tunnel in turbid depths to turn right around and go back for a second face-off with the unrestrained violence of the Atlantic? It is the fortitude of this sailor and others like him that supply the thrust of Commander Edward Ellsberg?s recounting of the efforts of a team of all-volunteer United States Navy hardhat divers to raise the fractured hull of a submarine lying on the floor of New England?s continental shelf. Ellsberg, the officer-in-charge of the salvage operation and a diver himself, begins by schooling the reader in the inherent hazards of deep-sea diving, in language that paints a clear picture for even the most uninformed layperson; he then takes his audience through the painstaking procedures associated with raising the S-51 along with the trapped remains of her officers and crew, the victims of a surface collision with a passenger steamship. In his book, published in 1928 three years after the sub?s ramming, Ellsberg leaves neither a line untended nor a hook unmoused as he proceeds to describe, in exacting detail, the tedious but necessary rigging undertaken by his men. And therein lies the problem with this otherwise compelling piece of storytelling: within those areas of the text that describe and give the reader a sense of the agonizingly slow progress of the diving team?what at times seems like one step forward then two steps back?the lack of an appendix with drawings and diagrams of the rigging hardware makes for, at times, a difficult read that might leave readers frustrated by their inability to clearly visualize what is unfamiliar to most, notwithstanding a two-page glossary and the inclusion of 25 black & white photos of various stages of the operation. Nevertheless, beyond the scope of the technical, Ellsberg has the ability to engage the reader through the drama of his depictions of courageous men doing their jobs under conditions of great physical and mental stress, and there is plenty of that to keep the pages turning. 'On the Bottom' is the definitive story of the spirit of navy ?can do,? the ability of sailors to transcend a succession of failures and achieve the ?impossible??a testament to the power of the confidence, trust, and mutual respect between Ellsberg and his divers.

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