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 synopsisIn 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 sailors to the ocean floor. This is the story of the men charged with doing the impossible--raising the thousand ton sub from the bottom of the sea. Added to this modern classic of true adventure are a foreword and afterword giving specifics of the accident and the aftermath, additional photographs, a publisher's preface, and appendices.Hide synopsis
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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
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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