'One of the finest memoirs published in recent years.' Dan Jones
'An utterly fascinating and wonderfully detailed insight into the
hidden world of the modern submarine.' James Holland A candid,
visceral, and incredibly entertaining account of what it's like to
live in one of the most extreme environments in the world. Imagine
a world without natural light, where you can barely stand up
straight for fear of knocking your head, where you have no idea of
where in the world you are or what time of day it is, where you
sleep in a coffin-sized bunk and sometimes eat a full roast for
breakfast. Now imagine sharing that world with 140 other sweaty
bodies, crammed into a 430ft x 33ft steel tube, 300ft underwater,
for up to 90 days at a time, with no possibility of escape. And to
top it off, a sizeable chunk of your living space is taken up by
the most formidably destructive nuclear weapons history has ever
known. This is the world of the submariner. This is life under
pressure. As a restless and adventurous 18-year-old, Richard
Humphreys joined the submarine service in 1985 and went on to serve
aboard the nuclear deterrent for five years at the end of the Cold
War. Nothing could have prepared him for life beneath the waves.
Aside from the claustrophobia and disorientation, there were the
prolonged periods of boredom, the constant dread of discovery by
the Soviets, and the smorgasbord of rank odours that only a group
of poorly-washed and flatulent submariners can unleash. But even in
this most pressurised of environments, the consolations were
unique: where else could you sit peacefully for hours listening to
whale song, or... Based on first-hand experience, Under Pressure is
the candid, visceral and incredibly entertaining account of what
it's like to live, work, sleep, eat - and stay sane - in one of the
most extreme man-made environments on the planet.
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Review This Product
Tue, 29 Oct 2019 | Review by: Breakaway R
A fascinating insight into another world.
This is a detailed and thoughtful account of the author’s life as a sub-mariner on board a Polaris submarine in the 1980s. His final line provides the key to this view into a little known, submerged world “the hardship was part of the joy.”
The sub-mariners who man our nuclear deterrent are an elite group – the best of the best – who, hidden away beneath the sea, train for and endlessly rehearse nuclear Armageddon.
Their mission is to remain in total isolation, to evade both friend and foe, never to seek and destroy, but to listen. The Silent Service indeed.
This is a world where some 143 men live for months at a time with no natural light and no knowledge of where they are, in cramped and squalid conditions, breathing only recycled air in one of the world’s most demanding environments. From brutal training through to missile launch Humphreys takes the reader into a life whose demands would be intolerable to most of us. He writes in a frank, engaging style – charting the tears and laughter, the stern straitjacket of duty and drill, and the claustrophobia and exhilaration of a sequestered life spent rehearsing a scenario the world as we know it would not survive.
Many of the technical details – revelatory to many I am sure, were lost on me, but what will remain with me is the author’s sometimes painful honesty and his firm grasp of the psychological and physical toll this strange, constrained world takes on those who live in it.
Their fleeting, compensatory pleasures are evocatively described – from copious amounts of alcohol and food to classical music and pornography, films, books and philosophy. The authors’ insistence on study as a means of keeping sane commands respect.
The nuclear sub-mariners’ mission is to keep us safe, and, whether you believe it or not, they live by it and are prepared to die for it. As a portrait alone of men living under extreme stress this would be a fascinating study, but as the author meticulously outlines the details of nuclear weapons deployment and the rationale behind it a piercing and considered insight is gained.
This book is well worth reading.
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review
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