The Universe Below

William J Broad ( offers this fascinating history of oceanography. He points out the roll of the military in developing new technologies within that field. By 1957, the US Navy was searching for new weaponry to use in undersea warfare; a decade later, it had established a global network of deep microphones that spied on Soviet ships. A breakthrough came with the submersible Alvin in 1964; since then, development has included deep-diving small submarines, robots and laser line-scanners (which found pieces of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 in Long Island Sound).



Describing his foray into the deep, Broad details his dive in Alvin 1.5 miles down in the North Pacific (the first object seen on the ocean floor was a sneaker). The end of the Cold War freed hundreds of military devices and technologies to civilian and commercial interests, he notes, setting up a conflict between treasure seekers and marine archaeologists. Broad addresses the problem of radioactive wastes and other pollutants in the oceans, and discusses the 1994 U.N. Convention Law of the Sea and the search for minerals. He forcefully points out that we still do not know enough about mid-sea creatures and food chains in the deep, and he proposes an international oceanic sanctuary, off-limits to fishing, mining, development and recovery efforts.


Intensively researched, this is an illuminating, stimulating portrait of one of Earth’s last frontiers.


Check if this book of science and exploration is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at



436 pages in Fireside

First published 1997

ISBN  978-0684838526


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William J. Broad

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