Under Pressure: Living Life and Avoiding Death on a Nuclear Submarine

Hanover Square: Harlequin. Jun. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781335996244. $28.99. HIST
First-time author Humphreys pens a colorfully entertaining account of the five years he spent as a submariner in the Royal Navy during the Cold War. Assigned to one of Britain’s elite Polaris nuclear submarines at age 18, Humphreys found himself enduring three-month patrols on secret missions to locate and track Russian submarines operating in the North Atlantic. With frank honesty and good humor, the author describes the challenges of adjusting to life beneath the sea, chief among them the cramped quarters and lack of fresh air and sunlight. Skillfully summarizing technical issues such as sonar operations and nuclear fission for civilian readers, Humphreys also delves into personal experiences with bullying by other crew members, the physical and emotional toll taken by shifting watches, and the ever-present risk of catastrophic mechanical and systems failures. Humphreys also touches candidly on his struggle to reconcile his day-to-day duties with the horrible purpose for which the Polaris submarines were designed.
VERDICT For the vast majority of people who will never experience life in a submarine, Humphreys’s work delivers an engaging glimpse into what they’re missing out on
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