Down Below: Two New Books Shed Light on Underground Boston

Two gritty tales debut this month: Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey and The Race Underground by Doug Most.


Subway photograph from the 1898 Boston Transit Commission Annual Report

The city’s storied history lurks beneath our feet, as two authors remind us this month. In a 1999 attempt to finish a 10-mile sewage tunnel through the harbor, five divers went into the void, with no overhead lighting and only the oxygen they could carry. Boston Globe Magazine staffer Neil Swidey’s Trapped Under the Sea—which is drawing comparisons to The Perfect Storm—details the tragic turn of their mission. And in The Race Underground, Globe deputy managing editor Doug Most traces the dramatic—and often deadly—saga of Boston’s race against New York to build the nation’s first subway system. The feud pits two brothers against each other and includes cameos by the likes of Thomas Edison, Boss Tweed, and Honey Fitz. By now, everyone knows Boston won the battle—but since we’re still stuck with the Green Line, we may have lost the war.