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Publisher's Summary

On May 29, 1914, the passenger liner Empress of Ireland was struck by the freighter Storstad and sank in 15 minutes, taking more than 1,000 victims with her. It remains one of the largest losses of life ever in a maritime accident.

At more than a 100 feet deep in the frigid Gulf of St. Lawrence, diving the Empress is like trying to navigate an unfamiliar 60-story building lying on its side at a 45-degree angle, in pitch blackness with only a flashlight. In Dark Descent, Kevin McMurray takes us deep into the bowels of the lost ship, first to relive her tragic death and then to join the divers who have probed the wreck's secrets. It's an adventure from which some divers don't return.

©2004 Kevin F. McMurray; (P)2005 AMI

Critic Reviews

"The book is impressively researched...and, for those who love the lure of the deep water and the mysteries of shipwrecks, this specialized history will be a pleasure." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Overall
  • William
  • Chantilly, VA, USA
  • 11-23-06

Poor Descent

This story of the Empress of Ireland is captivating for content, but poorly presented here. The narrator, reading this like headline news, makes this almost impossible to listen to. The story of the wreck is very interesting, but the writer seemed unable to tell the story without exaggeration or hyperbole.

As a diver, I understand the dangers in technical diving and the lure of dangerous wrecks. Wreck divers are highly trained and dedicated to safety. The story of many of these divers is just the opposite. Poorly trained, ignoring basic safety rules, there is a reason many of these die or get hurt in exploring the Empress. The Empress of Ireland has caused numerous deaths both in the sinking and through the mistakes of divers since. However, the author tries to make a dive to 140 feet seem like it is climbing Mount Everest. There are many times in listening to this book I had to remind myself that these divers were not free diving the Titanic but rather a relatively shallow wreck. In fact sport divers routinely make dives to these depths. What makes the Empress so dangerous is the extreme cold, the currents and limited visibility. The real story is the tragedy of ill equipped divers putting themselves in situations they for which they were unprepared. Yes they die, due in large part to their own stupidity.

Attempting to build these people into heroes sets a bad example to anyone who is thinking of joining a very rewarding sport.

There are many tales written by divers that do not resort to aggrandizing stupidity. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

unfortunately abridged

This is an interesting story and probably worth listening to. This reminds me of the reason I usually do NOT listen to abridged books. It is difficult to tell if the author presented the material in a choppy manner or if it was improperly chopped up by the abridgement,causing a lack of continuity. I have listened to the narrator before and he is good. However his style was wrong for this book. If you have not already listened to them then listen to Dragon Sea (good) or Shadow divers(excellent). Save this one for last or better yet find it unabridged or get the book and read it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Tragedy & idiotism

Would you consider the audio edition of Dark Descent to be better than the print version?


What was one of the most memorable moments of Dark Descent?

The description of how the Empress of Ireland went down in just a few minutes

What about Michael Prichard’s performance did you like?

Couldn't specify.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?


Any additional comments?

It was exciting to hear about the tragedy of the Empress of Ireland and how unexpectedly and extremely quickly it all happened. The fact that such a huge "underwater world" is still buried down there but is accessible to divers really moved my phantasy. However, I was astonished to hear about the actions of the divers portrayed in the book. Respect for the diver who died in 1914, but the actions of all the others described in the book (both the ones who died and the ones who survived) are a proof of their recklessness and complete lack of common sense. No wonder there have been so many fatalities and these should not be blamed on the circumstances.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Good book, great story.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, actually because I am a diver I have recommended this book to the rest of my dive club. it's a very interesting book with a great story line. the main problem is the narrator makes the story some what dry.

What other book might you compare Dark Descent to and why?

The last dive. Simular content and subject, very goodx narration.

What three words best describe Michael Prichard’s voice?

Dry, dry, dry!

Did Dark Descent inspire you to do anything?

yes, go and dive the shipwrecks

  • Overall

Great Story

I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't wait to get home each evening to continue listening to the adventure. Similar story to Shadow Divers.

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  • Gary
  • 05-01-11

A tale of adventure

A fascinating tale of early scuba diving adventures. A bit of a dull narrative but well worth a listening to.