Subterranea: Discovering the Earth’s Extraordinary Hidden Depth – Chris Fitch

Subterranea is the literary equivalent of ‘I came for X and I stayed for Y’; in this specific case, I asked for it because of the blurb & cover combo, and I stayed because of the contents. Speleology–and anything speleology-adjacent, really–is not an uncharted territory for me, but so far I never had the chance to explore the underground world in such detail.

What did I find down there?

Let me show you.

**

Subterranea peels back the outer layer of the earth and reveals the fascinating hidden underground spaces that you cannot see from above the ground. These places include the poisonous caves in Mexico, full of deadly hydrogen sulphide, where the toughest fish in the world manage to survive; the magnificent Roman sunken palace that was lost beneath the streets of Constantinople for centuries; the Door to Hell’ that was accidentally created by Soviet gas explorers in the 1970s and has been on fire for nearly half a century; and the drug-smuggling tunnels between Mexico and the USA.
 
Lavishly illustrated and packed with maps and photographs of little-explored locations, Subterranea is the unique, untold, and utterly unforgettable story of our planet from the inside.

240 pages
Travel
Timber Press
Goodreads

**

Cover: What a great pick. There are many nice pictures featured in Subterranea, but this Yucatan Cenote is so eye-catching.

Yay!

  • Subterranea is a +200 pages long travel through the depths of the Earth, courtesy of Chris Fitch. After donning a rock-climbing helmet, Chris takes us on a worldwide tour featuring both natural and artificial caves, with an eye for the lesser-known ones. The concept behind this book is interesting, it’s well thought-out, and the execution is good, too. Structure-wise, I appreciate how every chapter starts with an anecdote or a historical event; those are literary hooks, and Chris knows how to use them.
  • Stunning pictures, just as I expected them to be. I’ll admit I’ve been more taken by the natural locations rather than the modern ones but regardless, all the images are crisp and full of details. They tell a story, which is the main point of photography. Bravo!
  • Maps add to the experience, and they make my geography nerd heart swell. Once again I prefer the natural ones, but it’s been cool to see tunnels and caves superimposed on town maps. Plus, it’s a good touch; as a reader, I feel like I’m seeing the big picture rather than focusing on a small spot.

Special mention:

  • Guatemala Sinkholes. I’d be hard pressed to think about a scarier natural event. 
  • Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan. Breathtaking pictures paired with a cool desert legend. Setting the gas alight, really?
  • Coober Pedy, Australia. It’s an underground town! I’m already packing my stuff, y’all.
  • Basilica Cistern, Turkey. The head of Medusa turned upside down, I love it.
  • Cueva de Villa Luz, México. What a cool picture! The sulphuric acid gives the water a milky appearance.
  • Waitomo Caves, New Zealand. Glow worms. No, I’m not kidding. 

Nay!

  • I have some minor issues with the writing itself. There are a few run-on sentences and a little too many adverbs for my tastes.

TL;DR
4 stars on GR. It was an enjoyable read!

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