The Universe Below

  • Publish Date: 1997-04-17
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: William J Broad

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The deep sea is teeming with life, most of which has gone unseen by human eyes. Scientists are beginning to explore this fascinating realm of unusual sea creatures and volatile volcanos, using once-secret military technology now freed up by the end of the Cold War. See the timeline for a short history of this. In the Universe Below, William Broad takes a fresh look at this recent surge of exploration and discovery, and brings his readers along on some of his journeys into the deep.

In 1993, author William Broad joined scientists on a two-week expedition off the Oregon/Washington coast. Their aim was to examine the Juan de Fuca Ridge and to study how volcanic heat spawns life on the ocean floor. The crew voyaged 250 miles off-shore on a 210-feet long carrier ship, The Atlantis II, which each day lowered three members 1.5 miles into the deep via Alvin, a 25-feet long submersible vessel.
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Links Meet Alvin
Garden of Eden
Chimneys of the Deep Sea
A Brief Chronology of Sea Exploration

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Pulitzer Prize winner William J. Broad takes us on an epic journey to the planet's last and most exotic frontier -- the depths of the sea. The Universe Below examines how we are illuminating its dark recesses in a rush of discovery, uncovering hidden worlds of alien creatures, living fossils, lost treasures, precious metals, and perhaps even the place where life itself first arose billions of years ago.

Broad takes us on breathtaking dives and expeditions -- to the Azores, to the Titanic,., to hot springs teeming with bizarre life, to icy fissures aswarm with gulper eels, vampire squids, and gelatinous beasts longer than a city bus. We meet legendary explorers at the forefront of deep research and go with them as they probe the ancient mysteries of the deep. This universe below encompasses the vast majority of the Earth's habitable space and nurtures perhaps ten times as many species of life as are known on land. Broad shows that the abyss also holds millions of humanity's lost artworks and treasures -- more than all the world's museums combined. Yet, remarkably, human eyes up to now have glimpsed perhaps only a billionth of this unfamiliar realm, a place of crushing pressure and eternal darkness.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork, including hundreds of talks and interviews, Broad takes us to the cutting edge of the exploratory surge and reveals how it is powered by a wave of once-secret technologies. At a cost of untold billions, the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and othercold-war contestants forged these marvels to spy and fight and plunder the deep. Today, these wonders and the poeple who made and ran them are catalyzing an unprecedented speedup in civilian efforts to illuminate the inky depths.

Broad shows how the rush into the deep is revealing not only great mysteries and riches but great dangers as well, including the deadly radioactive debris of the cold war. Deep pollution, mining, and fishing threaten this frontier with ecological upset and species extinction. We will either destroy the sea through ignorance or save it, and ourselves, with the kinds of knowledge we are now gaining in the exploratory speedup.

The Universe Below is an unforgettable journey to the universe in our own backyard.

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