Three Miles Down

Bookshelf: Three Miles Down

Three Miles Down: A Hunt for Sunken Treasure – James Hamilton-Paterson

Three Miles Down
Three Miles Down

I struggled a bit with this book. James Hamilton-Paterson has a highly literary style, which I enjoyed in Seven Tenths. In this book, however, he has a more well-defined topic: a joint British/Russian expedition to search for the wrecks of a Japanese submarine, and a British passenger liner. The ultimate goal was to determine whether either of these ships was carrying gold (both were believed to be doing so) in order to mount a salvage operation.

As in Peter Matthiessen’s Blue Meridian, the ocean is revealed to be uncooperative and capricious, and most of the expedition is spent waiting and following dead-end leads. Hamilton-Paterson focuses on the personalities on board, and the dynamic between scientists and treasure hunters, Russians and British.

My favourite part of the book was a description of the voyage that Paterson had the opportunity to take on one of the Russian submersibles that were being used to follow leads picked up by the sonar on the seabed. He descends nearly five kilometres to the ocean floor, and describes both the journey and what he saw with reverence and recognition of the privilege that this experience was.

As with Seven Tenths, this book is a series of ruminations on man’s relationship to the ocean, and how the ocean mediates man’s relationship to his fellow man. It’s not the cracking adventure story I thought (and hoped) it would be – it’s ruminative, slow, meditative and ultimately inconclusive.

Buy the book here, or here if you are in South Africa.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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