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Jeff T Bauer is a cave diver and scuba instructor living in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife, adult children, and an alarming number of rescued Chihuahuas.
on March 27, 2013 :
The Cavern Kings by Jeff Bauer is an interesting book that looks into the world of diving- specifically cave and cavern diving. As a diver myself, I find myself drawn to the water and (judging by this book) the author seems to feel the same pull.
The story begins in the small town of Wakulla, Florida. Josh is a scuba instructor working at Wakulla Skuba alongside his friend, mentor and boss, Kathy. Together they run the busy, little store and take interested visitors out to see the wonders of the sea. His best friends, Frank and Jon, always join him when they take a class out diving. The three friends learnt to dive together and have gone on every dive together since.
Once a year, they have a celebration in honour of the anniversary of becoming 'legal' divers (basically, getting their certification). Each summer, they choose a spot to dive in the Key. However, this year their plans are complicated by their work schedules. Josh works full-time at the dive shop, Frank is a sales associate and Jon is a computer programmer. Between their three jobs, they find it hard to make time for their annual celebratory dive.
Instead, they come up with the idea to dive closer to home, during the weekends. They're surrounded by natural springs to dive, but never tried them as the open ocean was more alluring. So, they head of to Blue Springs in Marianna, where they come across their first cave. None of them have any experience diving caves, which they soon realise they definitely need if they want to go anywhere near caverns or caves. During their amateur, first cave dive, they discover the allure of overhead diving, as well as the dangers.
And thus we get the plot. The three decide to take a cavern diving course during their weekends off. Their tutor, Drew, was recommended through Kathy and is said to be one of the best. Their small group is joined by one other for the class, Astrid- a Swedish woman with just as much passion for diving as them. Josh is your typical lovably, good guy, Frank is the over-confident prankster and Jon is the quiet voice of reason. With Astrid, they add a kind, though a little intimidating, personality to their mix.
This is more of a slow-read. Most of the book is description, with very little dialogue. But the description is so perfectly accurate of what you experience during diving, that I wouldn't call the slow-pace or basic plot a flaw. In fact the opposite. This is a love letter to diving, focusing more on the sensations and the way divers interact and view the underwater environment. It also acts as a cautionary tale, making sure non-divers and divers alike are all aware of the dangers involved, especially if you're a new diver or diving a new area or skill. Diving has an extraordinary amount of certifications because you need to study each specific skill thoroughly. None of them can be added on to another. Cave and cavern diving bring numerous more dangers. On an average open-water dive, the deeper you get, the more light will fade, the higher the pressure gets, the colder the water is, the more air you breathe. If you're in an area with few landmarks, getting lost can be surprisingly easy. In a cavern or cave, you add the threat that an overhead environment brings. There is no longer a direct line to the surface. Sunlight is completely cut off. That mixed with the lengths and widths that tunnel systems can be, poses an extreme danger in and of itself. All it takes is getting a little lost or stuck in a narrow tunnel. Then it's just a matter of running out of the small amount of air you carry on your back.
Keeping track of time and air is crucial in diving. Underwater, time flows differently. You can check your dive computer and find you've been down an hour, when only 10 minutes seem to have passed. Not being able to see the light changing, makes it hard to tell how much time has passed. This book covers the many aspects of diving, from training, experiencing the first dive, becoming qualified, the first 'legal' dive, the experiences you have with the environment and the loss and tragedies that can and do occur. Sometimes, no matter how safe you are, things can still go wrong. Diving rules are built from the mistakes and misfortunes of others. You can never be too careful, especially when there's a hundred feet of water and solid rock between you and another air source.
Some of the writing can be a little rudimentary, but the book pulls you past the occasional occurrence.
A lovely mix of fiction and non-fiction and an enjoyable book that the diver in me can't help but love.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
(reviewed 82 days after purchase)
on Jan. 26, 2013 :
I liked the book. Found it to be an interesting read and kept my interest, and as I don't know much about diving, I found it kept my interest. Would I recommend it... most definitely!
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on Jan. 21, 2013 :
The Cavern Kings is a fictional story of three friends who discover their passion for diving the caverns and sinks of northern Florida. Author Jeff Bauer is a licensed NACD (National Association for Cave Diving) cave diving instructor as well as a board member and past president of the NACD, a prestigious organization dedicated to cave diving safety established in 1969, and listing cave diving legend Sheck Exley as a charter director.
Many potential readers of this book are probably divers already familiar with the special demands and requirements of cavern and cave diving. For those who are not, diving in "overhead" environments -- i.e. those where a diver cannot just ascend to the surface if something goes wrong, such as underwater caves -- requires special training and certification. Caverns are somewhere inbetween open water and caves as divers can still see daylight and find their way to safety. This is what "Cavern Kings" is about, how three divers go through the cavern diving certification process. It isn't a smooth ride for them.
Although "Cavern Kings" is billed as a work of fiction, it's fiction that stays very close to reality. We get to know the three protagonists in detail. Josh, the main character who's a dive master and works in a dive shop. Jon, the smart but cautious computer genius. And Frank, the brash salesman and natural athlete who knows everything better and considers himself a ladies' man. We also get to know Kathy, owner of the dive shop where Josh works, and Josh's girlfriend who very much opposes his diving.
The story opens with a close call during a certification dive when a student diver bolts toward the surface. Josh intervenes and all is well, but the incident sets the tone of the book: bad things can happen underwater if you don't respect your limits and don't follow the rules. The three friends find that out themselves when they have a close call of their own in a spring. Frank's adventurous nature results in a situation that nearly ends fatal. It's time for a cavern class, the three decide.
Though Josh's boss and mentor, his girlfriend, and his family are all less than enthused about their plans, the trio goes ahead for a cavern class with cave instructor Drew, who turns out to be a tough taskmaster. We get to know additional characters. There's Asrid, an attractive cavern class fellow student and tech diver from Sweden. And Allen, a gruff paraplegic who hangs out around the dive shop and, unexpectedly, ends up helping Josh correct his finning form and technique. The class and instructor are demanding and things nearly end in disaster when brash Frank appears to break the rules yet again, jeopardizing the entire group's cavern certifications. Turns out it was susceptibility to nitrogen narcosis that affected Frank and not bad judgement, and so the group gets another chance. They pass.
In the meantime, relationships get more complicated. Josh's girlfriend reveals why their relationship can't continue if Josh continues to dive. There's a story behind that. And we find out that Kathy, Drew and Allan have a cave diving past, one that ended in tragedy in a sinkhole in Mexico decades ago, with blame and estrangement to follow.
The three newly minted cavern divers, though, can't wait to get back in the water and do some cavern exploring on their own. A dive at Emerald Sink, though not without its challenges, turns out exhilarating. But on the second dive at the same location, disaster strikes and there's a fatality. The survivors are devastated and try to fathom what went wrong. Who's to blame? How can life go on? The wrenching aftermath of the tragedy is a case study in self assessment, and also brings out the best and worst in friends and families
While events cannot be undone, eventually the real cause of the accident is found. None of the three were at fault. They had followed the rules. The problem was elsewhere, and finding the solution also solved the riddle as to what had happened long ago in that cave in Mexico. Kathy, Drew and Allen, with the anger and painful grudges gone, become friends again. And with his girlfriend gone, for Josh there may even be a relationship with the lovely Asrid in the works.
"The Cavern Kings" is self-published and available both as a paperback and in electronic form. While self-published efforts often lack polish in spelling, grammar and organization, Bauer did not fall into that trap. The book is error-free and meticulously edited. At times dialog and action get bogged down a bit in obvious and extraneous detail, but overall this is a page turner. It's also both a work of fiction and at the same time practically a walk through a cavern diving class. It's quite obvious that the author is a cave instructor himself; there's plenty of advice and valuable detail in this book.
While "The Cavern Kings" isn't for everyone, in addition to being entertained, anyone interested in diving and cave/cavern diving can learn a lot from this book. For serious aspiring caverners and cavers, it should be mandatory reading.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)
on Jan. 16, 2013 :
This is a great book, but probably would appeal a bit more more to a diver. It is a must read for anyone interested in diving in an underwater cave. It does a great job of letting the reader know the lure, and problems involved with diving in underwater caves.
(reviewed 35 days after purchase)
on Jan. 14, 2013 :
I just finished reading "The Cavern Kings" by Jeff Bauer and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm a scuba diver but not certified for caverns or caves. After reading this book, I think I'll just stay an open water diver! I've read information about the caves and caverns in Florida and was curious about the diving. Jeff did a great job describing the Florida cavern/cave system. He did a wonderful job creating the characters and making them come alive in the book. From beginning to end, Jeff showed his expertise in how a person needs to be trained to dive caverns. If someone is considering going into a cavern or cave without proper training, he needs to read this book....it might save his life.
My only complaint about the book was it started off a bit slow. By page 40 I was hooked. Some of the outcomes in the book were predictable. I think the element of surprise would have made the book even better.
I hope Jeff writes a sequel to this book. I liked his characters and would love to see their progression through life. Just don't let Josh take Elsie back!
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)
on Jan. 10, 2013 :
Great book! This is an awesome read for any adventurer, whatever your sport may be!
As a Floridian and former dive shop employee, I can say that this book really describes life in the other side of the counter :)
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Dec. 21, 2012 :
The action of this work quickly draws the reader in, and moves at a pace guaranteed to make you want to keep reading. Once started, I just had to read it all the way through!
The diving details are sufficient that a cave diver will enjoy this book, yet not so detailed that a novice diver or non-diver would be overwhelmed. I really enjoyed the author's descriptions of north Florida, and could envision myself diving alongside Frank, Josh, Jon and Astrid. The author has captured the essence of cave diving, the attraction it holds for those divers drawn to it, and the stark realities and risks of diving into underwater caves. I hope Jeff will write a sequel to this, and definitely recommend this to all my friends.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)
on Dec. 20, 2012 :
This was my first eBook and I absolutely loved it.
Author Jeff Bauer obviously knows the subject matter and he also apparently knows something about writing as this book has some surprises.
I really enjoyed Jeff making me feel like I knew the book's characters and that I was right there with them. His vivid descriptions of the people and places (and even wonderful Florida food) gives you the sense that you're right there in his story.
I did not want the book to end, (although he wrapped it up nicely), and look forward to reading more about these divers he's created in his next story.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)
on Dec. 13, 2012 :
This book is very quick to draw you into the action. It has enough detail to be a good read for experienced cave divers and at the same time will appeal to those who do not even dive. It gives some very good and true information about the sport while keeping a very interesting story line. The characters will come to life and you will feel their excitement, fear, pain, and loss. You will not want to put this book down, so make sure to have sufficient time.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)