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Great Scuba Reads

Following a tweet we received earlier this week, we were asked for our top novels around scuba diving as the main theme. After much discussion we arrived at some favourites.



In Neutral Buoyancy, BBC journalist Tim Ecott recounts his ongoing adventures in the “liquid world” of scuba diving–from battling rip-tides off the Dorset coast to exploring the shark-rich waters of the Caribbean–musing along the way on the history and meaning of man’s fascination with diving, and reflecting on how his underwater experience has reshaped his life. Four days after my mother’s funeral I went scuba diving for the first time … Surfacing from a dive … I often think it strange that this mind-cleansing, emotionally charged experience is one that my mother never knew I had. It is something akin to the sense of regret I feel that she never met my daughter, born a few years after her passing. How odd that something so wonderful was not part of our shared experience. The launch hype surrounding this book pushed it as scuba diving’s answer to Nick Hornby’s bestselling homage to football fandom, Fever Pitch, but even allowing for a hearty dose of wishful thinking on the publisher’s part, there are two key similarities. Ecott, like Hornby, succeeds in explaining his passion in a way that speaks directly to the wannabe or even to the merely curious–lightly humorous; strong on characters; cross-references to popular culture (James Bond puts in an appearance); natural history in the TV prime-time style, rooted in personal experience. And just as Hornby’s football fandom carries him back to the same sense of wonder and certainty of purpose that intoxicated him as a young boy, so Ecott portrays a link between diving and dissolving the anxieties and fearfulness of adulthood. Check out Neutral Buoyancy here.



A true story of death and survival in the world’s most dangerous sport, cave diving. Two friends plunge 900 ft deep into the water of the Komali Springs in South Africa, to raise the body of a diver who had perished there a decade before. Only one returns. Unquenchable heroism and complex human relationships amid the perils of extreme sport. On New Year’s Day, 2005, David Shaw travelled halfway around the world on a journey that took him to a steep crater in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, a site known locally as Boesmansgat: Bushman’s Hole. His destination was nearly 900 feet below the surface. On 8 January, he stepped into the water. He wore and carried on him some of the most advanced diving equipment ever developed. Mounted to a helmet on his head was a video camera. David Shaw was about to attempt what had never been done before, and he wanted the world to see. He descended. About fifteen feet below the surface was a fissure in the dolomite bottom of the basin, barely wide enough to admit him and his equipment and the aluminum tanks slung under his shoulders. He slipped through the opening, and disappeared from sight, leaving behind the world of light and life. Then, a second diver descended through the same crack in the stone. This was Don Shirley, Shaw’s friend and frequent dive partner, one of the few people in the world qualified to follow where Shaw was about to go. In the community of extreme diving, Don Shirley was a master among masters. Twenty-five minutes later, one of the men was dead. The other was in mortal peril, and would spend the next 10 hours struggling to survive, existing literally from breath to breath. What happened that day at Bushman’s Hole is the stuff of nightmarish drama, juxtaposing classic elements of suspense with an extreme environment beyond most people’s comprehension. But it’s also a compelling human story of friendship, heroism, unswerving ambition and of coming to terms with loss and tragedy. Check out Raising The Dead here.



The Royal Navy Clearance Divers, not the SAS, are the British mystery unit of the Falklands War of 1982. They did not even appear in the first edition of the Official History — now put right. It is fair to say that without them it is highly likely that the British would have lost the war. But this is more than a book about the Falklands War. It tells the story of some of the bravest and most professional men in the Royal Navy. The gripping accounts are spiced with `black’ humour of the sort that only men engaged in a dangerous profession can really appreciate. Read this book and you will learn why. You will want to turn every page. Check out Diver here.



On a foggy July evening in 1956, the Italian cruise liner Andrea Doria, bound for New York, was struck broadside by another vessel. In eleven hours, she would sink nearly 250 feet to the murky Atlantic Ocean floor. Thanks to a daring rescue operation, only 51 of more than 1,700 people died in the tragedy. But the Andrea Doria is still taking lives. Considered the Mt. Everest of diving, the Andrea Doria is the ultimate deepwater wreck challenge. Over the years, a small but fanatical group of extreme scuba divers have investigated the Andrea Doria, pushing themselves to the very limits of human endurance to explore her — and not all have returned. Diver Kevin McMurray takes you inside this elite club with a hard, honest look at those who go deeper, farther, and closer to the edge than others would ever dream. Deep Descent is the riveting true story of the human spirit overcoming human frailty and of fearsome, mortal risks traded for a hard-core adrenaline rush. Chronicling these adventures in his page-turning narrative and in dozens of dramatic photos, McMurray draws us deeper into the cold heart of the unforgiving sea, giving us a powerful vision of a place to which few will ever have the skills — or the courage — to go. Check out Deep Descent: The Andrea Doria here.



Lost Wife, Saw Barracuda – True Stories of a Sharm El Sheikh Scuba Diving Instructor – By John Kean Ever thought about jacking it all in, moving abroad and starting a new life in Sharm El Sheikh? Sharm has been one of the world’s best kept secrets. It only hits the news in times of mishap but behind the scenes of this hugely popular and vibrant city are hundreds of ex-pats living the dream of a life in the sun. John Kean’s hilarious new book, ‘Lost Wife, Saw Barracuda – True Stories of a Sharm El Sheikh Scuba Diving Instructor’ is the first and only, inside fly-on-the-wall look at the ups and downs of swapping the rat race for an alternative lifestyle in Sharm. This extremely rare diving book can be enjoyed by divers and non-divers alike. It is frank, honest and gripping in sometimes epic proportions, but the humour and magnetic appeal of Sharm El Sheikh shines through every time in this beautifully written story. Over a decade, this mild-mannered, ex-stockbroker has been chased by aggressive sharks, had a 737 airliner drop from the sky into his dive site, broken four bones, been arrested three times, been caught in an earthquake and finally, blown up by terrorists. On the plus side, Sharm’s outstanding natural appeal, year round sun and amazingly talented and friendly community of Egyptian and ex-pat residents has made this place a home from home, free of the stresses of everyday life in Europe. Unlike other fly on the wall or ‘inside’ books, John actually takes you along with him for the ride. His accounts are genuine, highly informative and very funny. Turning tragedy and mishap into comedy is the book’s strength and you’ll find a laugh on nearly every page. Pleasingly, he avoids hype, bravado and the typical scaremongering of an ignorant readership in what is often perceived as a potentially dangerous pastime. Alternatively he shatters media-inflated diving misconceptions such as ‘shark infested waters’ and in doing so loses no dramatic effect. The story is a highly entertaining and gripping read in its own right. John tells us exactly how dive instructors become dive instructors. The one constant running through the book is a five chapters, come and go intrusion of student divers in training. It features Victoria, who’s an attractive but air-headed New Age hippy girl requiring, ‘much encouragement if not the odd light kick up the arse’. Highlighting the ups and downs of learning to dive this progressive section is almost a dive course in disguise, but heavily upstaged by the comical antics of five highly entertaining characters coming to terms with neutral buoyancy, hangovers and Egyptian taxi drivers. The legendary exploits of the latter are awarded an entire chapter where we’re introduced to, Airbag, Sharm’s worst driver and in contrast, Joseph, who takes up the offer of a job swap, gives John his taxi and becomes a scuba diver for the day! The most dramatic chapter of Lost Wife, Saw Barracuda is the vivid, minute-by-minute account of dive staff and ex-pat involvement during the Sharm bombings in July 2005. This rare civilian insight of a grand scale terrorist attack shows the human cost of those caught up and the tremendous resolve of unlikely rescuers in preventing further loss of life. John had the unenviable distinction of being the first to arrive at the scene of the main explosion spending several hours among the dead and injured giving first aid, transporting victims to hospital by Jeep and assisting the police. Despite occasional tragedy, Lost Wife, Saw Barracuda is a positive book that will thrill and entertain, portray diving as an engaging and enjoyable sport and show readers the brighter side of the extremely popular and fun-loving city of Sharm El Sheikh. Anyone can read and enjoy this wonderfully funny story. It’s a must read if you’ve ever been even remotely near water! Check out Lost Wife, saw Barrcuda here.