Having delivered my non-diving-related presentation to my London audience of schoolteachers and having submitted my equally non-diving-related article to a national voluntary organisation on a similar subject, I can no longer postpone Ron's invitation for me to write a review of one of the first and best examples of diving literature. Both first and second editions of the Carriers' tome have pride of place in my bookcase devoted to diving literature. Besides my lifelong interest in snorkelling, I have another reason to admire these books. Both are dedicated to "Charles Berlitz without whose interest and assistance this book would never have begun." I, and probably most others, associate Charles Berlitz with foreign language teaching, which is also how I earned my living before I retired from public education.
Rick & Barbara Carrier: (1955) Dive: The Complete Book of Skin Diving
, Wilfred Funk, Inc, New York. First Edition. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-5481.
Rick & Barbara Carrier: (1963) Dive: The Complete Book of Skin Diving
, Wilfred Funk, Inc, New York. Second Edition. Revised by Gene Parker. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 63-9014.
Contemporary critical reviews of the first edition often dwell on the use of the adjective "complete" in the title, e.g. "It had to happen sometime - and finally there's a 'complete book of skin diving.' And we really mean complete... Chock-full of underwater information. Dive
is also a treasure trove of photographs and diagrams. Whether you're a first-time frogman or a veteran hunter of the deep, you can't afford to miss this remarkable book (-Man's Magazine
)." But let's begin with the opening paragraph of the book's first chapter, How it All Began
: "In recent summers, vacationists finding their favorite secluded beaches suddenly swarming with bronzed young men armed with knives, spears and carbon dioxide guns, or being startled during a quiet swim by the sudden appearance in the water beside them of a 'man from Mars' complete with mask, flippers, and breathing apparatus, may have wondered what it is all about, and just how and why the sudden enthusiasm for skin diving developed." So, in 1955, "skin diving" was something of a new phenomenon bursting on to the scene in the same way as new technology has just as suddenly transformed our own lives in more recent times. In this new activity of underwater swimming we have a sense of an alien presence, the frogman as the "man from Mars", while the use of the lay word "flippers" instead of the technical term "swim fins" typifies a pioneering age when we deploy an old terminology with which we are familiar to describe anything new, in the same way as the French once gave potatoes, then a mysterious import from the New World, the name "pommes de terre", literally "earth apples."
My overall impression of the Carriers' book is also one of "completeness". How else can we describe a book giving such an authoritative account of diving history, the marine environment, aquatic fauna and flora, physiology, the panoply of commercial diving equipment, do-it-yourself projects, spearfishing, skin diving clubs and underwater photography? The book's first appendix is a glorious gift to the diving equipment historian, listing almost every item of gear that was available to the American recreational diver in the mid-1950s, not just regulators but also fins, masks, snorkels, suits, guns, all with the current pricing!
I have listed two editions of the book, the second appearing in 1963, revised by Gene Parker, who was responsible for several books and articles of his own on diving. In the second edition, Parker wisely resisted the temptation to rewrite the majority of the text, focusing instead on removing any mention of discontinued items of gear and substituting the then equivalent article. He also updated photographs of events such as spearfishing competitions. A light touch was all that was needed to relaunch the Carriers' classic work to an early-1960s audience.
I'll finish my brief review with a quotation from the closing paragraph of the book's final chapter The Unexplored Sea
: "Underwater exploration is a fascinating adventure which has really only just begun. Certainly it opens up potentialities for skin diving much more interesting and worthwhile than the mere enjoyment of underwater scenery or the sport of diving and spearing fish. The sea waits ... the possibilities ... are infinite." A truly forward-looking book as well as an indispensable source for anyone wanting to study the pioneer era of our wonderful sport.