Page-turners: 7 new books for divers

Intact gun turret on the Norwegian gunboat Uller (René B Andersen)
Intact gun turret on the Norwegian gunboat Uller (René B Andersen)

Legends Beneath the Waves: Scandinavia Vol 1 & 2,
by René B Andersen & Andrew Marriott

This impressive pair of wreck books must take pride of place in our latest batch of titles destined for divers’ bookshelves.

René Andersen is a Danish tech/wreck diver and talented underwater photographer, while US diver Andrew Marriott is also a photographer as well as a gifted writer.

The latter penned two previous Legends Beneath The Waves titles, covering Truk Lagoon and the Philippines, and took care of all the background stories in Scandinavia, while Andersen is responsible for the diving descriptions, local knowledge and the iconic photography (he won the Wreck category of Underwater Photographer of the Year in 2019 with an amazing shot of HMS Audacious’s guns).  

The two divers stress that these richly illustrated volumes are not so much dive-guides as fulfilment of their shared desire to tell the stories of 60 Scandinavian shipwreck sites in an entertaining and informative way, accompanied by high-quality underwater and historical as well as artefact photos.

Volume 1 covers 32 wrecks, the other book 28. The wrecks cover a variety of eras though primarily the world wars, with notable concentrations at Jutland, the Baltic south and east of Sweden, further north between Sweden and Finland and many wrecks off Norway, particularly in Sognefjord.

I should say that I have only read the PDF versions of these books, but from the classy typography, attractive maps and frequently eye-popping underwater photography, which includes many imaginative diver/artefact set-ups, I would assume that if the paper and binding is of matching quality these are very attractive physical products.

Generous space is devoted to each wreck, with detailed and compellingly written histories followed by comprehensive dive-tours written in an appealingly relaxed style. If you’re a coldwater diver and haven’t dived a Scandinavian wreck recently, or ever, you’ll soon be itching to book your passage.

An extraordinary amount of work has gone into these books. With so much detailed information I might have liked to see an “at-a-glance” reference panel for each entry covering aspects such as depth, date, location, conditions, accessibility and so on. But that’s to quibble – Scandinavia is a great addition to the wreck-diving library.

Engine-room of the Margarethe Cords
Engine-room of the Margarethe Cords (René B Andersen)

RBA Publishing, ISBN: 9788797424407 / 9788797424414
Hardback,‎ 272pp, 21x28cm, 85 euros per set

A Diver’s Guide To The World: Remarkable Dive Travel Destinations Above And Beneath The Surface,
by Carrie Miller & Chris Taylor 

A Diver’s Guide To The World cover

In the old days of dive-travel reporting, we assumed that when divers went on holiday they went to dive, dive, dive, except on deco day. That perception has changed, at least so far as this new book suggests, with its easy mix of topside and underwater activities at a variety of international locations.

An attractive package, as we might expect from NatGeo, this colourful brick of a book might be a bit heavy for travellers who pack light but could be fun when planning your adventures.

Chris Taylor is an experienced professional diver with a soft spot for sharks and he met his partner, award-winning travel writer Carrie Miller, 10 years ago. She then became a scuba diver, and her 2019 book 100 Dives Of A Lifetime was a big hit (as I always say, bung a big number in the title and you can’t go wrong!)

Here the number isn’t in the title but it is 50 – that’s how many diving locations the couple visited and dived in 14 months (with 250 hours under water) to produce A Diver’s Guide.

The “diver“ in that title isn’t the reader, it’s the authors – this is a guide to their diving world. It’s partly because the locations are not all the usual suspects that it’s such an interesting read. The couple have thought about their approach, preferring small local operations and, despite what must have been a hefty carbon footprint, aiming to balance the “eco” with the ”tourism”.

All 50 locations in 37 countries seem to get their general stamp of approval (I wonder if they had to leave any disappointing locations out?). I also wondered to what extent the site selection was based on travel logistics and hosting practicalities. The emphasis is on Australasia, North America and the Coral Triangle (the couple appear to be based in New Zealand when they’re at home).

The five eclectic European locations embrace Alonissos and Orkney, St Malo and Croatia, though I did feel in the case of Gozo that the diving seemed almost secondary to its topside attractions. The unusual aspect of having a Med island where you can self-drive to shore-dive didn’t come over.

Similarly, I would argue that if you’re going to include an unusual destination such as Okinawa, its keynote dive the Monument at Yonaguni deserves more than a passing reference. But of course I realise that practical lines must be drawn.

The tone throughout is friendly, sensible and intelligent, and a few downsides of the chosen locations are acknowledged. The appendix is packed with helpful diver information, and the typography and maps are appealing. This is another gift for divers that’s likely to hit the mark.

National Geographic, ISBN: 9781426220920
Paperback, 352pp, 18x23cm, £17

A Field Guide To Coastal Fishes of Bermuda, Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea,
by Val Kells, Luiz A Rocha & Carole C Baldwin

A Field Guide To Coastal Fishes of Bermuda, Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea

Captioning your underwater photos from the Caribbean and points north, and in need of some ID assistance? Beautifully illustrated by the gifted Val Kells from the opening map onwards – no photos, it’s drawings all the way – this book opens with a Families section with 161 silhouettes, followed by Species depicting some 1,300 fish in colourful detail.

Kells and icthyologists Rocha and Baldwin, the expert US team that came up with this book, have already produced field guides to coastal fishes on both sides of the USA (Maine to Texas in 2011 and Alaska to California in 2016), so they are clearly on a mission.

The entry for each species typically consists of six or seven lines giving common and Latin species name, date first described, distinguishing features, habitat/distribution and biology – just about right. Then it all comes down to whether you, the diver, relate best to photos or classy graphics. 

I find photos more relatable but also feel they can sometimes mislead, while illustrations can seem too approximate in colouring but at the same time can take more account of variation.

NatGeo claims this guide to be the most comprehensive of its kind, including some juveniles and colour variants alongside the adults where it’s deemed necessary. I would happily use this guide to identify Caribbean and Atlantic fish species.

Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN: 9781421444680
Paperback, 576pp, 14x22cm, £22

The Forgotten Shipwreck: The Tragic Loss Of The Flag Theofano And Her 19 Crew In Solent Waters,
by Martin Woodward

Forgotten Shipwreck cover

Reviewed by Dominic L Miller, author of Salvamar & Salvamar II

The Forgotten Shipwreck is a short book that represents an enormous amount of diving work over the years. Respected Isle of Wight diver Martin Woodward’s motivation for writing it is to keep the story alive by recounting his theories on the circumstances surrounding the sinking. 

The harbour pilot had failed to locate the Greek-registered vessel on the evening in January 1990 when it was due to arrive in Southampton. Evidence of disaster came the next day with the discovery of a lifeboat, soon followed by the bodies of the captain and second officer washing ashore. Fourteen Greek, Egyptian and Maldivian sailors had gone down into the depths of the Solent with the bulk-carrier, and remain entombed in the inverted hull. 

As the cement cargo hardened and became one with the hold, salvage attempts became unaffordable for the owner and insurers. The wreck has been abandoned on the edge of a busy shipping-lane ever since, and recreational divers who frequent these waters might well use its marker buoys as waypoints.

Martin painstakingly takes the reader through the anatomy of a maritime loss, piecing together evidence sourced from sonar and video images and even blindly tracing along the contours of the hull. 

Written with seafaring authority, the book offers unique insight from a man who was out on the same waters just a few hours later on the night of the sinking, on an RNLI false alarm. He might have been in attendance, had the ship’s crew been able to broadcast a mayday signal. 

He was also the first diver to positively identify the wreck, still animated on the seabed by trapped pockets of air, following unsuccessful attempts by Royal Navy salvage divers. And judging by the sketches that both support and enrich the text, he appears to be quite the accomplished artist too.

I won’t pre-empt readers’ own discovery of the events that led up to the sudden capsizing of the Flag Theofano. There are elements of repetition in the book, but that would seem unavoidable as the author considers the wilder theories reported in the press at the time to bring the story to a logical conclusion.

I hope that the more copies Martin Woodward sells, the more he will be encouraged to share further tales from his years of shipwreck diving and maritime research. And each will serve to keep the memory of the crew of the Flag Theofano alive.

Coco Design Co Publishing, ISBN: 9780955291630
Paperback, 76pp, 15x21cm, £7.99

Dive Maldives: A Guide to the Maldives Archipelago,
by Tim Godfrey

Dive Maldives

This standard reference book has been around for decades (the last edition came out in 2007) but now a fourth edition is available from Dived Up. It carries information on more than 350 dive-sites, based on the author’s extensive personal researches (Godfrey had the idea for the book when he first started as a dive instructor and guide in the Maldives in 1986). 

Included is an overview of island and Indian Ocean maritime history and diveable shipwrecks, a diver information section and an index of fish, invertebrates and dive-sites. The atoll maps show more than 200 resorts, with the new edition bringing up to date the resort and island information, should you be planning a holiday in the atolls 

Dived Up Publications, ISBN 9781876410698,
Paperback, 194pp, 26x21cm, £35

Underwater Wonders of Türkiye,
edited by Mahmut Suner

Turkiye cover

The second edition of this online scuba guide to Türkiye (as we must learn to call the country now) is out, featuring 22 regional diving locations, each with many dive-sites, wrecks, including some new ones, and links to 15 underwater videos. 

Suner edits the attractive Turkish-language interactive magazine Triton and this guide, produced in similar mag style assisted by a number of other Turkish photo-journalist contributors, is great value if you’re planning a trip, because it’s in English and free! It’s packed with advice, and excellent underwater photography too. Check it out here

Also on Divernet: 9 Books For Divers This Christmas, 5 New Books For Divers6 New Books For Divers



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