The holiday to Aotearoa New Zealand at the beginning of 2020 was eye-opening in terms of appreciating the wonders of Mother Nature. One experience in particular was breathtaking – a brief encounter with a sperm whale in Kaikoura. My subsequent enthusiastic research about sperm whales led me to James Nestor, his website mrjamesnestor and his book “Deep”.

In a nutshell

“Deep” is a carefully crafted journey to the oceans, a non-fiction book covering multiple perspectives: sports, scientific discoveries, culture and politics, and the author’s personal journey of facing the fear of the depth. From Greece to Honduras, from how the human body reacts underwater to why sharks might be the most misunderstood animals, Nestor unveils his learnings as he discovers the amazing world of the oceans.

Picture from of photojournalist Brian Skerry

Overall impression

From the beginning to the Epilogue I was captivated by this 200+ pages book – so captivated that I read it in just two sittings! It is a dense collection of intertwined stories linked to the oceans that comprise a lot of ocean-related knowledge and also many interesting people that Nestor meets during his two-year journey. Yep, I’m very excited about this book!

“Deep” around the world – selection of the published editions. Image from

Descending to the depths

One of my favourite aspects of this book is its narrative structure. The names of the chapters represent the depths explored in that chapter, so the reader is descending step-by-step from the surface to -35,850 feet (approx. 11,000 meters). Each depth comes with different challenges, new stories or continuation of already started ones, and additional insights on how much there is still to be discovered.

The Big Blue Unknown

Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet’s surface, yet it is estimated that only 20% of it was explored and observed (NOAA, 2018). The seafloor of the oceans (below 6,000 m / 20,000 ft) is especially difficult to be studied, and because of the harsh conditions it was assumed that nothing lived there – it is also called the hadal zone (hades means hell in Greek). But when unmanned robots reached the hadal zone it was observed that there is actually an abundance of live on the seafloor, including “albino shrimps the size of a house cat” … mind-blowing!

This is just a simple example of what you can find out when reading “Deep”. Even if the book was published 6 years ago, in 2014, I personally found so many fascinating learnings things about the oceans and their ecosystems.

Image from

Further reading

If you are interested in reading more about whales check out

Regarding James Nestor, in May 2020 he published another book – “Breath”. This time he explored ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, the smoggy streets of Sao Paulo … “Breath” is already on my reading list! For more information check out the website of the book, you can find many resources there.


Reading “Deep” was a surprisingly engaging experience, as non-fiction books are not always my cup of tea. James Nestor created more than just a book about the oceans, but “a seamless blend of memoir, maritime history and underwater travelogue” (Sunday Business Post). Don’t take my word for granted, read it and you’ll see what I’m talking about 🙂

‘Till next time … happy reading!


Cover picture from

8 thoughts on “Freediving, renegade science and what the ocean tells us about ourselves: Deep by James Nestor (book review)

  1. This sounds exciting, the ocean is fascinating and mysterious, I’ve been hooked ever since I read The Silent Landscape a book about the HMS Challenger and its scientific voyage to discover the secrets of the oceans. I’m excited to check this Deep out!


    1. For me, “Deep” was the first book I read about oceans in the recent years, and I was fascinated about it! I’ll check out “The Silent Landscape”, thanks for mentioning it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for redirecting me here, this sounds like such an incredible read! I have always been fascinated by the ocean and life underwater, and although I don’t read non-fiction regularly, my go to is always books that explore science-related topics. This is a perfect fit, and I have added it to my TBR 🙂 Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you found this book interesting! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
      I remember that I read it at the beginning of the lockdown, when I was more happier that I can at least “travel” by reading the stories from Deep 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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