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  • Below the Edge of Darkness

  • A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea
  • Written by: Edith Widder
  • Narrated by: Allyson Ryan
  • Length: 11 hrs and 56 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Below the Edge of Darkness

Written by: Edith Widder
Narrated by: Allyson Ryan
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Publisher's Summary

A pioneering marine biologist takes us down into the deep ocean to understand bioluminescence - the language of light that helps life communicate in the darkness - and what it tells us about the future of life on Earth in this “thrilling blend of hard science and high adventure” (The New York Times Book Review).

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by Booklist

“Edith Wilder's story is one of hardscrabble optimism, two-fisted exploration, and groundbreaking research. She’s done things I dream of doing.” (James Cameron)

Edith Widder’s childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist was almost derailed in college, when complications from a surgery gone wrong caused temporary blindness. A new reality of shifting shadows drew her fascination to the power of light - as well as the importance of optimism. 

As her vision cleared, Widder found the intersection of her two passions in oceanic bioluminescence, a little-explored scientific field within Earth’s last great unknown frontier: the deep ocean. With little promise of funding or employment, she leaped at the first opportunity to train as a submersible pilot and dove into the darkness. 

Widder’s first journey into the deep ocean, in a diving suit that resembled a suit of armor, took her to a depth of 800 feet. She turned off the lights and witnessed breathtaking underwater fireworks: explosions of bioluminescent activity. Concerns about her future career vanished. She only wanted to know one thing: Why was there so much light down there? 

Below the Edge of Darkness takes listeners deep into our planet’s oceans as Widder pursues her questions about one of the most important and widely used forms of communication in nature. In the process, she reveals hidden worlds and a dazzling menagerie of behaviors and animals, from microbes to leviathans, many never before seen or, like the legendary giant squid, never before filmed in their deep-sea lairs. Alongside Widder, we experience life-and-death equipment malfunctions and witness breakthroughs in technology and understanding, all set against a growing awareness of the deteriorating health of our largest and least understood ecosystem. 

A thrilling adventure story as well as a scientific revelation, Below the Edge of Darkness reckons with the complicated and sometimes dangerous realities of exploration. Widder shows us how when we push our boundaries and expand our worlds, discovery and wonder follow. These are the ultimate keys to the ocean’s salvation - and thus to our future on this planet.

©2021 Edith Widder, PhD (P)2021 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“Gripping...Widder’s voice is in turns jaunty, precise and nerdily quippy.... The prose glints.... Widder [has] worked hard to bring the abyss to light. It is our duty, as clumsy land-bound dwellers of a water planet, to look, and to remember.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Edith Widder’s story is one of hardscrabble optimism, two-fisted exploration, and groundbreaking research. She’s done things I dream of doing. I’d have wrapped my submersible, the Deepsea Challenger, in bacon if it would have lured the elusive giant squid from the depths. In Below the Edge of Darkness, Widder tells you how she did it.” (James Cameron) 

“My experience of exploring the deep ocean and its alien life with Edie Widder was fabulous. She enthralls us with many such stories in her book. I recommend it.” (Ray Dalio)

What listeners say about Below the Edge of Darkness

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Knowledgeable, and super interesting

Great book, if you love bioluminescence, as well as riveting stories of deep sea exploration, this is the book for you. Written scientifically, but understandable for all levels of audiences!

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  • JohninMaine
  • 2022-01-26

Glad I gave it a try - it was a real pleasure

I know (knew) nothing about the subject matter but I liked the sample audio so I gave this audiobook a try. Wow, I really enjoyed it! The writing is quite good, entertaining, informative and well paced. She brings the reader behind the scenes to where scientists struggle with mechanical failures, lightning strikes, grant funding, and the occasional complete failure of Plan A. Still, her scientific zeal for exploring & understanding life in the deepest depths of the ocean keeps her going.

For me this was the perfect nonfiction experience: a book that brings me into a world I knew nothing about and tells an interesting (and true) story. Very enjoyable.

The narrator, Allyson Ryan, did an excellent job too. She brought the prose to life and also the moments of humor. Just right, I thought.

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  • Alex Mercier
  • 2022-09-27

Interesting and entertaining.

From her life changing medical situation to deep sea submarine exploration, this is a memoir of the incredible adventures and life of marine biologist Edith Widder. There is not a dull moment to be had!

Narrator was also solid enough to keep me engaged.