Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 316
Although Cousteau's newer books are fascinating to read, they do not strike immediate fire as [The Silent World] does. The beginning paragraph, when the author and his friends unpack the first aqualung, captures the reader's attention at once, and the interest never wanes. Here is all the excitement of science fiction along with the reality of the here and now. Here is a high-spirited, adventure-packed, personal narrative of undersea salvage, scientific research, and exploration in the Mediterranean. With the aqualungs (of which Cousteau was co-inventor) he and his men dived nearly naked into pressures that have crushed submarines. Cousteau describes what it is like to be a "manfish" swimming with sharks, mantas, and octopuses. The dives made by the Undersea Research Group to locate and explore wrecks (some had sunk during World War II and one went down about 80 B.C.) taught them a lot about work at great depths. The Group also hunted unexploded mines after World War II. One of the most exciting chapters is "Cave Diving" in which Cousteau tells how they nearly lost their lives in penetrating the Fountain of Vaucluse. Another contains the accounts of Cousteau's audacious 50-fathom dive into the zone of rapture, where divers become like drunken gods because of the pressure, and of the 396-foot dive which took a brave companion's life. What began as curiosity about the unknown beneath the sea developed into serious oceanographic study, of which his later books are a result.
Young people who like sea stories or who have had some experience with snorkels and fins are intrigued with the descriptions of the underwater forms of life. Underwater exploration calls for close camaraderie among the divers, constant vigilance, physical fitness, and high courage. (pp. 33-4)
"Book Bait: 'The Silent World'," in Book Bait: Detailed Notes on Adult Books Popular with Young People, edited by Elinor Walker, third edition, American Library Association, 1979, pp. 33-5.
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