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Technology & Engineering Marine & Naval

Deep, Dark and Dangerous

The Story of British Columbia’s World-Class Undersea Tech Industry

by (author) Vickie Jensen

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Marine & Naval, General, Submarines
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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How British Columbia became an international hotspot for submarines, submersibles, Newtsuits, underwater robotics, Arctic sonar and a host of other cutting-edge undersea technologies.

In Deep, Dark and Dangerous, maritime historian Vickie Jensen explores the fascinating story of British Columbia’s rise to become a world leader in the underwater tech industry. She profiles both trailblazing innovators and newcomers to the field, and traces BC’s colourful history and bright future as a front runner in the world of subsea technology innovation.

This little-known saga began in the early 1960s. Two commercial hard-hat divers from the Vancouver area, Don Sorte and Al Trice, realized that they needed a small manned submersible with robot arms for deep-sea work. They couldn’t find one to buy, so they decided to partner with machinist Mack Thomson and build their own. Experts told them it would be suicidal to try a home-made version, but just over two years and $100,000 later, their Pisces I was successfully making two-thousand-foot dives. They formed International Hydrodynamics, which went on to build fourteen submersibles and produce a generation of experts that would launch an entire industry of subsea companies in BC.

During the same period, Phil Nuytten went from opening Vancouver’s first scuba shop as a teenager to becoming a commercial diver and starting his undersea construction company at age twenty-five. Now, Nuytten is best known for his atmospheric diving suits, Newtsuit and Exosuit, along with a series of submersibles for scientific research.

Drawing on her background in documenting both history and industry, Jensen uncovers the stories of over forty subsea pioneers, both historical and current, and details the innovations that are responsible for BC’s remarkable and continuing subsea reputation. Written with colour and flair, this is a fascinating and exciting story that anyone can enjoy.

About the author

Vickie Jensen has built her writing career around the importance of documenting and validating work. As editor of Westcoast Mariner magazine she travelled on coastal tugs, charter yachts, dredges, ferries and water taxis for nearly four years, interviewing skippers, crews and owners about maritime work. She is the author of Saltwater Women at Work and Working nese Waters, and coauthor of the children's book Build Your Own Underwater Robot and Other Wet Projects. Her interest in writing about work extends to dry land, as well. Vickie spent several months with a Nisgda Totem Pole Carving crew, a collaboration that resulted in Totem Pole Carving. Bringing a Log to Life and the children's book Carving a Totem Pole. For three decades, she and her husband Jay Powell have worked with First Nations elders to produce more than thirty schoolbooks, documenting a variety of Native languages spoken on the Northwest Coast. She is the author of nineteen publications including the textbook Underwater Robotics: Science, Design & Fabrication (MATE, 2010). She lives in Vancouver, BC.


Vickie Jensen's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"We know the surface of the moon and Mars better than the Earth because most of our world is hidden in permanent darkness under the oceans. Here is the remarkable tale of the pioneering Canadian inventors who took on a challenge as great as space exploration, involving deep diving subs, high pressure suits and robotics to explore our dark planet. Meet the innovative thinkers who led the way on a journey into truly deep space."

Bob McDonald, host of <i>Quirks & Quarks</i>

"British Columbia’s contributions to increasing human access to the final frontier in the deep are magnificently chronicled in this comprehensive account by one of the best maritime writers in the world, Vickie Jensen. What sets this book apart is how it rightly focuses on the people who did this work, and those who continue to explore and work in the depths. Masterfully told, powerfully written, and wonderfully illustrated, this is a must-have, must-read book."

James Delgado, maritime archaeologist, explorer, author, and former director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum

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