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Between the Devil and the Deep

By Mark Cowan and Martin Robson

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The gruesome true story of the bends, seen through the eyes of a diver pitched into a natural hell; paralysed and trapped underwater with nowhere to go but sink back into the deep.

Publication date: Summer 2021
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About the book

'One of the best accounts ever written of deep-water diving and its staggering, haunting dangers' Robert Kurson, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers

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, southern Russia, which sought to find a submerged cave system never seen by the human eye. On the final day of the expedition, as Robson returned from diving deeper into the lake than anyone had before, disaster struck: just seventy-five feet down, he was ambushed by the bends.

Robson knew that if he continued up to the surface he would probably die before help arrived. Instead, he sank back into the water, gambling on an underwater practice most doctors believe is a suicidal act. 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, taking you inside the body and mind of a man who suffered the unthinkable. Writer Mark Cowan 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.

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