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Anatoly M. Sagalevich with Paul T. Isley III. Foreword by James Cameron. Redondo Beach California: Botanical Press, 2009. Illus. Map. Index. 295 pp. $65

Captain Don Walsh is a retired submarine officer. He made the deepest dive, to the deepest spot in the world, in the Bathyscaphe TRIESTE in 1960 with Jacque Picard. His subsequent career centered on Deep Submergence and his PhD is in that field.

Other than a few scientific papers, little has appeared in western literature about Soviet and Russian operations using manned submersibles. Published in Russian in 2002, The Deep is the only book in English that describes projects, operations and technologies used since the early 1970’s. Author, Dr. Anatoly Sagalevich, has been closely involved in this work for nearly four decades. For many years he has been Head of the Laboratory for Manned Submersibles at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow. In addition to running the deep submergence program, he has been an active pilot with over 3000 deep ocean dives to his credit. His experience of four decades covers almost the entire history of Soviet/Russian deep ocean work. While the Soviets built perhaps a dozen other manned vehicles, most were rather crude and rarely used. By comparison the subs operated by Shirshov have been quite active, making thousands of dives worldwide.

While normal book reviews are supposed to have an impartial ‘third person’ voice, I want to interject my personal experiences with the Soviet/Russian programs. Therefore my review of this book also involves personal experience.

In 1980, I had been retired from the Navy for about six years when I met “Tolya” Sagalevich at an ocean trade show in Washington DC. Having been in deep submergence work in the Navy since 1959 and later as a consultant, I was very much interested in what the Soviets had been doing in this area.

He invited me to his institute as a guest of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and I eagerly accepted. My first trip was in 1981 where I met his team at Moscow and also visited one of their field sites on the Black Sea. At that time they were operating two Canadian-built PISCES (6000 foot depth capable) and two rather primitive Russian-built vehicles, ARGUS (1000 feet) and OSMOTR (2000 feet).

By the end of the l 980’s I had made two additional trips to the USSR as Talya’s guest. In the mid-80’s, I learned about a program to replace the PISCES subs with two Finnish-built MIR vehicles. They would have a maximum operational depth of 20,000 feet and carry a three-person crew. Put into service in 1989, they are now the most productive deep diving scientific platforms in the world. In fact there are only three other manned submersibles that can dive this deep.

In this book, Sagalevich provides a personal narrative of his experiences from joining the Institute in 1970 until 2008 when the book went to press. Chapters are organized around the evolution of Soviet/Russian deep ocean capabilities, description of technology development and stories of specific diving operations. Emphasis is on the more than 3000 dives made by the MIRS.

Among the interesting diving operations discussed, are the first dive made at the North Pole; the deepest freshwater dive in the world to the floor of Lake Baikal; nearly I 00 dives to the wrecks of RMS TITANIC and a half dozen to the WWII German battleship BISMARCK, and numerous trips to hot water vents on the deep seafloor in the Atlantic and Pacific. An interesting fact here … the MIR team claims that they have spent more time on board the TITANIC than did Captain Smith.

There is not much discussion in the book about Cold War use of Russian submersibles to support military requirements. However, as was the case in the US, most Soviet operations were also for this purpose. While Sagalevich does not say much about this, one of the most interesting chapters is about the operations at the Norwegian Sea to the wreck site of the lost ( 1989) nuclear submarine KOSOMOLETS. Over the years, the MIRS made six expeditions there operating at a depth of about 5,500 feet. The intricate means to mitigate the possibility of radiation leakage makes fascinating reading.

Printed on heavy stock, this is a co.flee table size book, loaded with images and drawings. An impressive map on the inside covers shows the world-ranging diving operation of the MIRS and their mother ship Akademik Keldysh. Talya’s colleague Paul Isley has done a magnificent job of organizing and publishing the English edition.

Tolya and I still work together, 29 years after we first met. In years past, I have had the pleasure of diving with him to the Titanic, Bismarck and hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic. At the age of 71 he is still at it and will lead 2010 dive operations at all three of these sites. The book is done but his story continues …


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