Accident and Survival Stories

Joint UCT Diver Training
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas S. Tenorio/Released)

Today Boston Harbor is a beautiful body of water with a lot of human activity.



There is also a lot of wildlife activity in and around the waters of Boston Harbor.

Snowy Owl
Juvenile female Snowy Owl sitting on a snow covered hill.




There are many other beautiful images of both human and wildlife activity in and around the Harbor that I encourage you to look up on the internet.

Unfortunately Boston Harbor hasn’t been without its share of problems. The library read through continues in the 360’s (Social Problems & Social Services) and Boston Harbor had certainly become a “social problem!” At one point, Boston Harbor was the dirtiest body of water in the United States. It was literally filthy with human waste. The area sewage plant, at Deer Island, was run down and certainly not environmentally friendly. Raw sewage from the Boston area (an approximate 50 mile radius) was dumped into the Harbor making it unfit for humans or wildlife. Wildlife either died from the toxic environment or fled for safer shores. Conditions were unsanitary for humans to say the least. Used condoms and tampon covers that had been flushed down toilets floated in the waters and washed up on the shore.  The water had become so dark and mucky on the bottom that it was called Black Mayonaise.

Around 1982 a jogger was jogging along Boston Harbor and after his run literally found all sorts of human waste on his shoes. He had had enough and filed a lawsuit to force a clean up of the area. Because of this lawsuit, Boston Harbor was eventually cleaned up and became the beautiful place it is today. Although a successful project, this was no easy task to accomplish.

Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey is the true story of the clean up efforts that transformed Boston Harbor.


In this book, our heroes are commercial divers. Commercial divers are basically construction industry workers who work under water. The divers perform incredible construction miracles underwater. In this case, engineers came up with a never before attempted plan which commercial divers were responsible for building.


While there were renovations and upgrades to the sewage treatment plant on Deer Island, most of the harbor clean up changes and construction were to happen underwater.


Better initial filtering of raw sewage was implemented.When toilets in the Boston area are flushed, the waste travels to the Deer Island facility through a series of pipes. Once it arrives at the headworks it is sent through pumping stations which start a series of treatments:


The point at which the waste was sent being sent (before treatment) into the harbor was what caused much of the initial problems with contamination in Boston Harbor.

After upgrades to the Deer Island Treatment Plant, an unparalleled engineering plan began to take shape. The plan was to build an under water tunnel based on gravity which would start at  Deer Island and go approximately 400′ straight down into Boston Harbor. The wastewater is  released (treated and clean) and travels roughly 10 miles through a horizontal tunnel where it then is pushed through a series of risers and released out into Massachusetts Bay via under water diffuser heads. Solid waste is separated from the waste water and never enters the tunnel. The solid waste is treated and turned into sludge at Deer Island before being sent to processing factories where the sludge is turned into pellet fertilizer and sold commercially. During the process, methane gas is separated from the solid waste and routed back to the Deer Island facility where it is cleverly turned into electricity to run the facility. Because the waste water had been decontaminated and cleaned before being routed out to sea,  there is virtually no adverse affects to wildlife or humans. This system went a long way towards cleaning up Boston Harbor.


There are other underwater tunnels, but what makes this one unique is its 10 mile length and that it is the world’s largest dead end tunnel. The tunnel is an engineering miracle.

Trapped Under the Sea not only tells the story and history of the tunnel construction, it seeks to point out the services most of us take for granted come at great cost. It is a story about ingenuity and bravery of the people who create and build engineering marvels.

Unfortunately in Trapped Under the Sea  commercial divers are also the victims of corporate buck passing and denial of responsibility for mind blowing safety violations. All told, 5 people died during the many years of construction. Two died due to actual construction site accidents at Deer Island, one person died during an inspection of the tunnel, and two divers died due to inadequate equipment malfunction. When the two divers died in the tunnel, three others barely made it out alive. The three who made it out alive all developed PTSD . The story in Trapped Under the Sea could keep psychological experts busy for a very long time studying group dynamics.

These events set off a fight for justice for the two dead divers and the three living, but psychologically injured, divers. The whole process of seeking justice was mind boggling. Was this a criminal case? If so, how does one prosecute a criminal case when the crime scene is 400′ below sea level and 10 miles out under the sea? The actual crime scene couldn’t be examined. Was this a murder investigation, manslaughter, or just an unfortunate accident? These are just a few questions that had investigators reeling.

I found Trapped Under the Sea to be a very interesting story which I would recommend. It seems to have all the makings of a great movie as well.There is action adventure, suspense, drama, heroes, a little romance and a whole lot more.

There are many other true accident and survival stories available in the 360’s section of the Fulton County Public Library. I checked out several of them with equally unique and interesting stories. I’m not able in this post to go into all of these other stories. This time I will just show some of the other books and give a general idea of what they are about:


Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar is the story of a mining accident in Chile. Although it’s been my practice to review American social problems, this one is a little different since the US got involved in the rescue of 33 trapped miners.


The 33 is a DVD based on Deep Down DarkThis DVD does a nice job of getting all of the story’s  major details into the movie.

A couple other books are Coming Back Alive by Spike Walker and Survive! by Peter Deleo.

coming-back-alive  survive

My original idea for this post was to read about accident and survival stories in differing locations such as underwater, underground, on land, air, and sea. However, there is no way that I could accomplish all of that in one post. Therefore I encourage you to read some (or all) of these books for yourself. If you are someone that enjoys some action adventure and suspense these would be a good choice for you.  These are all the types of books that would make great movies (if they don’t already have a movie!).

Have you ever been to Boston Harbor? Did you know about the tunnel? Have you ever been a participant in a search and rescue operation (as either a rescuer or a victim)?