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Between the Devil and the Deep: One Man's Battle to Beat the Bends [9781800180291]

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Deep underwater lurks a mysterious man-made illness. It has gone by many names over the years - Satan's disease, diver's palsy, the chokes - but today, medics call it decompression sickness. You know it as the bends.

That's the devil British diver Martin Robson faces each time he plunges beneath the surface. In the winter of 2012, Robson was part of an expedition to Blue Lake in the mountainous borderlands of southern Russia, which sought to find a submerged cave system never seen by the human eye. On the final day of the expedition, Robson dived deeper into the lake than anyone had before, and as he returned from the bottom disaster struck: just 75 feet down, he was ambushed by the bends. Bubbles exploded in his spine and he was paralysed below the waist.

Robson knew that if he went up to the surface he would probably die before help arrived. Instead, he gambled on an underwater practice most doctors believe is a suicidal act. Trapped by the lake's icebox grip, unable to move his legs, and with a dwindling supply of breathing gas, he sank back into the deep. Soon, the only hope he had of saving his life would rest in the hands of a dramatic mercy mission organised at the highest levels of the Russian government.

Between the Devil and the Deep is the first book to tell the terrifying true story of what it feels like to get the bends by taking you inside the body and mind of a man who suffered the unthinkable. It also explores the grimly fascinating history of decompression sickness, the science behind what causes the disease, and the stories of the forgotten divers who pushed the limits of physical endurance to help find a solution.


Mark Cowan is a journalist with more than twenty years' experience in newspapers and television. He spent twelve years on the police beat charting the war on crime for a stable of tabloid, broadsheet and Sunday titles in Birmingham, and was also embedded with the British Army in war-torn Kosovo. Cowan has also worked on crime documentaries for the BBC and ITV.

Martin Robson is one of the world's leading instructors on technical, cave and rebreather diving. A former Royal Marine Commando, he has been cave diving for more than twenty years, leading explorations and tours of systems in France, North America and Mexico. In 2003, he discovered a new passageway in the Durzon cave, France, more than a mile into the cave and one hundred metres underwater. Only a handful of people have ventured there since.

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Mark Cowan
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