After a month-long hiatus, it's time for another book review. I'm going to be a little lazy again and adapt a review I posted elsewhere a while ago. It's one of my favourite early diving tomes:
Small, Peter (1956) Your Guide to Underwater Adventure, London: Lutterworth Press.
Peter Small and Oscar Gugen, to whom this book is dedicated, co-founded the British Sub Aqua Club in 1953. Small became one of the first two divers to reach a depth of 1000ft in the open ocean in December 1962, but did not survive the dive.
Small's book makes a very enjoyable and comprehensible read for the beginning diver, not only because of the author's enthusiasm, but also because of his awareness of his audience. He was a journalist by trade. In his preface he writes:
"I have tried to write the sort of book, not which would be most useful to me now, but which I would like to have read when I first felt the urge to take up underwater swimming. (...) What has been left out has been my notions on advanced diving, detailed advice on specialized applications (archaeology, photography, etc) and, of course, the personal titbits of personal adventure, which, more often than not, do not leave one any the wiser."
I find this restraint admirable, and endearingly British, in one of the UK's diving pioneers. It's what a good teacher does too. He warns his readers about the risks of the sport, but he is also determined to share with others what makes diving fun. As the caption to one of his photographs says
"If underwater swimming is not fun, it's not anything". That photograph shows a family, including young children enjoying snorkeling. The very ordinariness of the scene makes a refreshing change from the female models and macho men in black that adorn some diving manuals.
The book certainly evokes a bygone age: "As with snorkling, you would be wise to get used to your aqualung in a swimming pool - but don't choose a peak hour in the middle of a hot day, or you will find yourself emulating the Pied Piper among a horde of curious spectators." I remember those days well, when I could go down with my fins, mask and snorkel to my local public swimming pool in the North East of England and nobody would bat an eyelid. Against Health and Safety regulations nowadays, of course.
Although the book targets the beginnner, it's a "must" for anybody researching British vintage diving equipment. There are full descriptions of the fins, masks, snorkels and suits commercially available in the UK at that time, including prices.
I'm not sure when or where I purchased the book as a first edition. I notice £3-25 on the flyleaf, so it must have been post-decimalisation, i.e. some time after 1968.
Small's book has the following blurb on its dust jacket: "This is a book for the serious beginner, going into careful details of equipment and technique, and explaining the Why as well as the How of things whenever possible. 'I have tried,' says Peter Small, 'to write the sort of book which I would like to have read when I first felt the urge to take up underwater swimming.' Do's and Don'ts of choosing equipment - and approximate prices - are examined and the steps in training are followed stage by stage. The author also describes some of the interesting things that can be done underwater, including photography, surveying, and archaeological exploration, and concludes with useful appendices giving details of where cylinders can be re-charged, holiday and training centres, a book list and films that are available for hire."