United States
United Kingdom
World English
Go to Usborne.com


How to buy this book

Buy this book at Usborne Books and More or in local bookstores.


Click on the links to visit the recommended websites.


Internet safety

Children, make sure you follow these three simple rules when using the internet:

  1. Always ask an adult's permission before using the internet.
  2. Never give out personal information, such as your name, address, school or telephone number.
  3. If a website asks you to type in your name or email address, check with an adult first.

For more tips, see Internet safety for children.

Adults - we recommend that children are supervised while on the internet. The content of a website may change at any time and Usborne Publishing is not responsible for content on sites other than its own.

For more on internet safety, see Internet advice for adults.

Using a tablet or smartphone?

Websites with interactive content may not work on your tablet or smartphone, but you can view them on a computer. Find out more…

About this book

True Stories

  • Ten thrilling true stories of survival against all the odds, perfect for readers who prefer real life to fiction.
  • From shark attacks and blazing airships to exploding spacecraft and sinking submarines, these are real-life stories of people who have stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale.
  • Each gripping story is illustrated with maps and line drawings and the Usborne Quicklinks website directs readers to carefully selected websites to find further information, photos and videos online.

Read an extract


Dive to disaster

Just off the coast of New Hampshire, USA, the submarine Squalus (pronounced Skway-lus) sailed briskly along the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. It was 8:40am, on May 23, 1939. Brand new, Squalus was undergoing sea-trials before she was delivered to the US Navy.

As she cut through the choppy sea, her captain, 35-year-old Lieutenant Oliver Naquin, stood face to the wind and spray on the conning tower. The previous 19 test dives he had carried out with his ship had all gone to plan, but the next procedure would test both the 56 men in his crew, and their vessel, to the limit. Squalus was about to carry out a practice crash-dive, an emergency procedure where a submarine under attack on the surface submerges as quickly as possible.

Naquin called down to his radio operator, ordering him to report their position to the submarine’s home port of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. When he was satisfied all was well, he took one final breath of salty sea air then hit a button on the bridge which sounded the crash dive alarm. As a klaxon reverberated around the narrow ship, he hurried below to the control room, closing the upper and lower tower hatches as he climbed down into the depths of the submarine.

Inside the control room, men stood alert by dials and instruments, immersed in the intricate sequence of events that would take his submarine smoothly under the water.

Naquin called out a series of well-rehearsed commands:
“Secure all vents.”
“Rig sub for diving.”
“Flood main ballast tanks one and two.”
“Open valves – bow buoyancy tanks.”
“Main tanks three to seven – stand by.”

Everything was going like clockwork. Standing next to Naquin was his chief officer Lieutenant Walter Doyle. His eyes were glued to an instrument panel known as the “Christmas tree”. As all outside vents and hatches were closed, a set of indicator lights changed from red to green to show that the ship was sealed against the sea.

Naquin caught Doyle’s eye and smiled briskly. The ship’s ballast tanks rapidly filled with water, and Squalus swiftly sank to 15m (50ft). On the surface, less than a minute after Naquin had sounded the alarm, all was calm. It was as if the submarine had never been there.

Squalus settled underwater and Naquin and Doyle congratulated themselves on a successful operation. But then a strange fluttering in Naquin’s ears made him startle, and he realized immediately that something terrible was happening to his ship.

An instant later, a terrified sailor looked up from an intercom and shouted, “The engine room is flooding!” Naquin gave the order to surface immediately. Compressed air hissed into the flooded ballast tanks and the stricken submarine began to rise. Her bow broke the surface, but tons of water were now cascading into the rear of the ship. The weight in her stern dragged her sharply down, and Squalus was swallowed by the sea.

Inside was mayhem. In flickering light, tools, fittings, even torpedoes, unhinged by the steep angle of the dive, rained down on hapless sailors. Those who had not anchored themselves in a secure perch, tumbled along the ship and into bulkheads that separated each compartment. In the flooding rear section of the submarine, soaking men struggled to escape before heavy, steel, watertight doors were slammed shut to block off the rising torrent.

Help with links

Problem with a link?

Websites do occasionally experience problems. If a link isn't working we recommend leaving it a while and trying again. If the site is still down the following day please report the problem using our contact form. We will fix the problem as soon as possible, or find an alternative link.

Can't see any links?

If this is the first time you have used Usborne Quicklinks and you can't see ANY links, you may need to adjust your web browser settings. To find out how to do this, see Help & Advice.

Missing link?

The links in Usborne Quicklinks may vary slightly from those described in your book because when a website closes down, or we find a better site, we update the links in Quicklinks. (If we remove any of your favourite sites let us know!)

PDF links

To view and print out files in .pdf format, you need the free Adobe Reader software. Download Adobe Reader.

Sound files

Sound files should play on a computer, tablet or smartphone. If you have difficulty, make sure you have the most up-to-date version of your web browser, or on a desktop computer, download the latest version of Adobe Flash Player (see Technical help).

Midi files

To hear midi files, you need a free program such as Windows Media Player, Real Player or Quicktime. Make sure your speakers are switched on! For more about these programs, see Technical help.

Other titles you may be interested in

© Copyright 2020 Usborne Publishing. Web design & Development by Semantic