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13 True Adventure Books For Aspiring Tech Divers
By: Candice Landau
I have a confession to make: I am a hopeless wreck diving romantic.
I have limited wreck diving experience. Nevertheless, I have read many books that pertain to diving real wrecks, to exploring caves, and to plunging to depths that only the boldest will go.
Whether or not I consider diving deep wrecks like the ones I read about, there is something about the very real possibility that with enough training I too may be able to descend into a world that no Hollywood producer could accurately capture; a portal to the past. I get to feel the adrenaline, the pressure, my heartbeat.
Until then, the books will have to suffice. Below I have listed a number of stories that enticed me into the realm of technical diving. While this is by no means a comprehensive list (or just a list for technically-oriented divers), it is a list of the books I have read and loved. If you prefer to listen to them on Audible, many are available there too.
And, if you have any others you’d like to share, go ahead and add them in the comments below. I know I’d definitely appreciate the extra motivation as I continue down my own tech diving path.
No list of books about scuba diving in any shape or form is complete without mentioning Shadow Divers. If by some rare chance you have not yet read it, buy it now and clear your schedule. This was my introduction to the world of deep wreck diving, and what an entry…
Shadow Divers tells the true story of the hunt for the identity of a World War II German U-boat. Not only does this tale plumb harrowing depths but it includes characters that loom larger than life.
For a good overview of technical diving and the adventure (and risks) associated with it, read this one. but beware, it’s a nail-biter. Even non-divers love it as it is as much a suspense story as it is a story of mental, personal and physical struggle. As with all the books on this list, you can find it on Amazon. It goes well with the next book on our list, The Last Dive.
Pair this book with The Last Dive: A Father and Son’s Fatal Descent into the Ocean’s Depths
Cousteau’s book isn’t on this list because of who he was. Rather, it is because Silent World accurately captures what it feels like to discover the secrets of the ocean for the first time. If you happen to fall into the category of “obsessed diver,” as I do, you’ll find yourself propelled right along with him. You’ll journey through the history of diving, utterly absorbed and fascinated. You’ll wish you had a time machine at your disposal. Personally, I loved feeling like I was at the beginning of it all.
There’s something special, too, about understanding the origins of modern equipment. For example, how the regulator came to be and how lucky we are to have buoyancy devices, lights and protocols. Overall, a surprisingly easy read given it was published in 1953.
Another of my favorites. Deep Descent chronicles the history of diving the Andrea Doria, the “Mount Everest” of shipwrecks. This is a gripping read as the history surrounding the ship is fascinating. This is especially true regarding those who have lived and died diving it.
One of the best things about McMurray’s books is that, because he is a technical diver himself, he knows exactly how to write to have them appeal to the hardcore wreck diver as well as the non-diving adventure book aficionado. For a trip back to another era, and insight into the minds of those who partake in extreme wreck diving, read Deep Descent.
Pair Dark Descent with Dark Descent. Both written by Kevin F. McMurray, you’ll find yourself instantly absorbed in the story of the wreck known as the Empress of Ireland. A less-well-known wreck, it’s just as interesting a read. Perhaps even more so because you may know little or nothing of the exploits that have taken place on this one. Another Atlantic ocean wreck diving book, this one is a great adventure story that will introduce you to many of the well-known characters who feature prominently in shipwreck diving. Before long you’ll know the whole cast.
If you’re more interested in the mindset that accompanies extreme cave diving, I recommend starting here. While others might suggest you first read Exley’s Caverns Measureless to Man, I think this is a better place to begin. It will give you a lighter overview of the sport, but one that is full of lessons and warnings. Plus, the story is riveting.
In Diving Into Darkness, you’ll follow David Shaw and Don Shirley on a hair-raising dive to more than 275 m/900 ft. The site was a place known as Boesmansgat in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. Although there is a tragic ending, this is still a story of survival and fighting for life against all odds.
Pair this book with Fatally Flawed: The Quest to Be Deepest.
As a woman, I have to say it was wonderfully refreshing to read a diving book by another woman. For a different viewpoint on what happened in Diving Into Darkness, as well as insight into what it’s like to be a woman participating in a male-dominated sport, this one is well worth the read.
If you’re interested in the mindset and motivations that accompany those who set records, there isn’t a better choice. No other author goes into the mental reasoning in as much depth as Verna van Schaik does. By the end of this book, you’ll come to realize that extreme scuba diving may be as much of a mental exercise as it is physical. Very inspiring!
Even if you have no interest in diving caves, Sheck Exley’s Caverns Measureless to Man is well worth your time. A pioneer of cave diving techniques, Exley and his dive buddies also established many of the practices we have come to know as rules in both sport and technical diving. Exley’s feats are more astonishing when you consider the gear used in the early days of diving much of it was jury rigged to suit his needs as a consequence of close encounters or fatalities. Today it is difficult to imagine diving doubles without a wing or SPG. Back then it was the norm. For a trip back in time and a good dose of history, read Caverns Measureless to Man.
This is a fascinating read if you’re a history buff. Where Divers Dare chronicles the search for the last undiscovered German U-boat in diveable waters off the east coast of the United States. This is a good book for anyone who enjoys hunting down the true story of an event. This is because what is said to have happened is not always what happened. If you’re not a history fanatic you may find this a little slow-going. Nevertheless, stick it through. It is really was worth the time.
Yes, another scuba diving, treasure-hunting adventure story! Dragon Sea is particularly interesting. It brings together two very different worlds. These are the world of the historian and preservationist, and that of the treasure hunter. Plus, this one, for once, does not take place in East Coast waters. This time you’ll be jetting off to the South China Sea. Here you will deal with a marine salvage operation of epic proportions. If you like having an ethical conundrum on your hands, this one will give you something to think about.
For a more personal account of what it’s like to dive a challenging and renowned wreck like the Andrea Doria It’s especially relevant if you’re no longer in your prime. Setting the Hook is a good option.
Just as Verna van Schaik examines her own motivations for diving in Fatally Flawed, so too does Peter M. Hunt in Setting the Hook. He provides a highly relatable read for those who can no longer partake in such risky activities.
In the end, it’s a story of challenge and of accepting the progression of time and one’s own changing abilities.
How about a different take on adventure? The author of Submerged is the founder of the National Park Service’s underwater archaeology program. He is an excellent storyteller. Lenihan will take you on a journey. It’s one few others have had the luck or the training to pursue.
As an experienced diver, Lenihan’s knack for writing about the things that happen to him is second to none. So, whether you’re looking for a good story, or are interested in archaeology and shipwrecks, this is one quality book that you won’t regret immersing yourself in.
If you like your underwater exploration and history mixed with a good dose of adventure and thoughtful contemplation, then Neutral Buoyancy is the book for you. Once you’ve made your way through Ecott’s adventures and historical anecdotes, you’ll have a much better understanding of even your own fascination with the world below. If you’re serious about diving, this is a must read, in much the same fashion as Cousteau’s Silent World is.
If you read Shadow Divers you’ll be familiar with the father son duo who are the protagonists of The Last Dive. This is the unofficial story of their entry into the world of cave and wreck diving, and the story of their obsession with the sport as a whole, culminating finally in their deaths, a consequence of their relationship and the bravado common amongst elite divers as they were becoming. Although the outcome is known from the start, the story of how and why they got to where they did is what makes this book an interesting read.
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