A friend sent Submergence to me months ago, because it mentions Moby-Dick once and has a similarly orbital narrative. The book took me completely by surprise––the cover copy didn’t really pull me in (is that terrible to admit?) and I was in the middle of like four other books––but by the time I’d gotten to the third page, I was taken. There is so much about this book that I fell in love with, and I am so pleased to feature an excerpt of it over at BOMB. Especially this particular excerpt, that has so many of my favorite smaller moments.
Because in many ways the ocean is more hostile than space. Space flight is a journey outwards. You can see where you are going, which is why the crews in spaceships generally sit in swivel chairs facing a giant window or screen. Space is about weightlessness and speeds never before achieved by machines and which can scarcely be felt; the discharge of aerosol is enough to propel a vessel forward, a nudge of a pencil sets its course, and all the while the air inside of it presses against the void outside. Ocean flight is, by contrast, a journey inwards, towards blindness. It is about weight, the stopping of the craft on thermal layers, the pressure of water pushing in, and the discomfiting realization that most of the planet you call your own is hostile to you. There will never be a Neil Armstrong moment in the ocean. There is nothing to light the way, no prospect, no horizon; even encased in a metal suit the human body is too liquescent to contemplate stepping out onto the deep sea floor.