Aldridge: Undersea Hunting for Inexperienced Englishmen

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Aldridge: Undersea Hunting for Inexperienced Englishmen

Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:49 am

Another vintage British diving title up for review:
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Aldridge, James (1955) Undersea Hunting for Inexperienced Englishmen, London: George Allen & Unwin.

This book is something of a curiosity. First, its oddly worded title. Although the book apparently reaches out to an English audience, Aldridge himself was born in Australia and only left for England in 1938, when he was 20 years old. Then there is the fact that the author worked as a war correspondent based in the Middle East during World War II, mainly earning his living after the close of hostilities by writing novels. For a fuller literary biography, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Aldridge

The introduction to the book states that it "aims to show many ... enthusiasts how to have their underwater adventure, and how close it is to their grasp of only they will realise it. For instance, there are some hundred thousand Englishmen who visit the Mediterranean coast each year, and thus have the golden opportunity for trying it out, but pass it over in sheer ignorance of how easy it all is ... It is a book for the Englishman who can reach the Mediterranean, who can swim (even a little) and who can afford about ten or fifteen pounds worth of equipment (gun, mask, breathing tube, and flippers)."

Here are the chapter headings: Introduction; What it is all about; Equipment; How to wear and how to handle your equipment; Diving; Fish and where to meet them; Hunting, general; Hunting, particular; The variety of undersea experience; Additional equipment and maintenance of equipment; Underwater in England; List of Mediterranean fish; Recipes for Soup and Bouillabaisse. The author has illustrated the book with his own line drawings.

So why would this book be of interest? Well, I do recall leafing through it fifty years ago in my public library, when snorkelling dips in the Mediterranean were still a distant future prospect for me and most other Englishmen with similar financial resources; I eventually got round to it in the 1970s and I now own my own copy of Aldridge's little manual (it cost me £8 for my used copy). The book served both to inspire a dream and to trace the early beginnings of recreational diving for the inhabitants of the British Isles, when equipment was scarce and the British Sub-Aqua Club was in its infancy. To date, this is Aldridge's only underwater swimming title.

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