Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor
by Jay Williams & Raymond Abrashkin
Review by Paul Haggerty
Wildside Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B01N0I95Q9
Date: 23 November 2016
Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor is the fifth volume of the Danny Dunn series. It is the first volume to be written exclusively by Jay Williams, although Raymond Abrashkin, who passed away shortly after the last book was published, continues to be listed as the co-author for the remainder of the series.
I particularly enjoyed the first chapter of the book, in which Danny Dunn and Irene Miller burst into Professor Bulfinch's lab with recordings of fish sounds and a theory of fish language which, if decoded, would allow people to talk to fish. Instead of dismissing the youngsters, the professor sits them down and gives them an important lesson in the scientific method, the understanding of which really needs to be better taught to the public today. And while the teenagers are sorting, decoding, and parsing all the various kinds of sounds into what categories they think they belong, the professor's own experiment, unfortunately having been forgotten, is ruined. And as the professor has to go to the airport to pick up a colleague, he asks Danny and Irene to properly dispose of the experimental remains.
In doing so, Danny and Irene discover that the experimental plastic the professor has been developing is not that easy to get rid of and they begin to experiment on its properties. In this regard this makes this one of the few cases in the series were Danny is not the one to cause the accidental discovery that drives the plot. But just to maintain the tradition, he does get to make a mess of the lab while experimenting with the experiment.
So, the wondrous invention of the book is created, a plastic that is totally transparent, yet stronger than steel. And the professor's friend, Dr. A.J. Grimes provides the application due to his need to create a submarine (mesoscaphe for the pedantic) capable of serving as a deep-sea research lab. And thanks to time compression through careful editing, the Sea Urchin is built and ready for testing within mere paragraphs. Naturally, as the series has Danny Dunn in all the titles, Danny and his friends are invited to travel to Mexico to see the maiden voyage and, if all goes well, get a short cruise as well. All, as their parents are assured, in perfect safety. Well, that's the plan, anyway.
Jay Williams did some serious research with multiple experts, and it shows in some fairly in-depth discussions of the internal workings of the Sea Urchin, and how deep sea research is done. But, in the end, this is a YA adventure story, and we come to the exciting life and death struggle in good time. Through nobody's fault (although Danny is naturally involved), the Sea Urchin becomes stranded in the dark, deep beneath the sea, unable to find it's way home, as power and oxygen dwindle. How will the explorers make it to safety? Well, that would be telling. But Danny and friends weren't playing around with fish language for nothing.
For the history buff, the first real mesoscaphe, the prosaically named Mesoscaphe, and made merely of mundane steel, was launched in 1964, four years after this book's publication.