What prompted you to write your book "Dive as Deep as you Dare"?
After reading a multitude of diving books over the years, I began to search for some original, back to basic diving adventures and it looked like I had read most of them already! Discussing this with my wife, over dinner one night, she suggested that maybe I could write one, well it got me thinking. As they say there is a potential book in all of us. As I reflected back, I realised I had some great stories to tell, and had met some great charismatic people along the way. As my old technical dive instructor Rich Bull would say, "There are old divers and bold divers but very few old, bold divers" and I thought I had better put pen to paper, whilst I could still remember the past 28 years I had spent progressing my diving passion.
How long did it take you to write?
I began writing the book on my laptop in January 2009, I had spent a few weeks earlier gathering together old log books, photos and casting my mind back to the early 80s when it all began. I spent that year tapping away on the key pad most evenings. The progress was slow at first but gathered speed as my memory found its way back to more recent events of the early 90s. It was a very thought provoking journey through my diving career. As I drew near to the final chapters I had in mind the title and cover photo, but none of the colour illustrations that made it to the final book. These were selected from a vast amount of random photos I had taken over time and were chosen as a direct reference to the stories in the book. I was very fortunate with these because I was the diver with the camera!
I finished the manuscript in February 2010 and spent the rest of the year finalising and proofing it. In November 2010 I printed 10 books as a pilot and sent them out to some good friends for some constructive feed back. This came back, in due course and after a bit of tweaking it was sent to print and the first few hundred copies rolled off the press in January 2011. With the first 70 copies sold generating some great feedback.
Which writers have influenced you?
I have been inspired and influenced by a number of writers, Peter Benchley who wrote THE DEEP, later to be made into the classic dive film. Goldfinder, by Keith Jessop (who salvaged the gold from the wreck of the Edinburgh) and Kevin F Mc Murray, Author of Deep Descent. True tales of life and death situations whilst diving the wreck of the Andrea Doria. Whether its fact or fiction it doesn't matter as long as it draws you in and has that magic to make you feel you are there with them on their adventures. That to me makes the difference between a good read and a great one.
Which is your favourite dive site and why?
One of my favourite dive sites is Scapa Flow. I have been visiting this location for 20 or so years and the variety of dives available will suit any diver. Yes, it's a bit of a trek and you need to take a week to do it justice, but the wrecks are classic and are at a reasonable depth, in a sheltered expanse of water so you are rarely disappointed, it certainly ticks all the boxes for me.
Where would you like to dive next?
At present we are in the depths of winter and I have spent the last few months in and out of a variety of quarries, as my eldest son progresses his BSAC diver training, ready for our dive trip to Egypt this April. I will be soaking up the rays in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada diving 3 times a day in clear Blue water. Fantastic!
What is your worst diving experience?
One of the worst diving experiences happened when I was diving in a 3 and was the second diver descending to a 45 meter wreck in Scotland. As I reached 28 meters I lost sight of the first diver, I could feel the pull of the current as I held tight on to the shot line. We appeared to be slightly early for the slack water we planned to dive in, if I lost my grip on the shot line I would be swept away and by the time I surfaced I would have been a quarter of a mile from the wreck and the boat cover!
I pulled myself closer to the shot line and became aware that my weight belt had slipped from my waist and was now making its way to rest across the back of my legs. I needed two hands to attempt to pull it back into place to re-secure it. I made a quick decision to abort the dive, get back to the surface and either sort the belt out and drop back down or return to the dive boat. As I ascended, weight belt hanging from my lower legs and 1 arm hooked around the shot line, I came upon the 3rd diver at 18 meters, he had rope coiled around his head, first stage and tank. The situation was dire, I managed to untangle the coils around his head but we were descending and there were now coils of loose rope floating all around us, I had to take evasive action to keep clear, in case we both got caught up. Within a split second I was at 15 meters and the tangled diver was disappearing from sight, pulling the rest of the coils of rope down with him. As I avoided the remainder of the rope from above, I made a very hard decision and headed for the surface to refit the weight belt and get back in the water to assist. On reaching the surface in a rough sea I felt the small buoy being pulled from my hands, this was the only thing now connecting me and the diver below. I knew he was descending deeper as the small buoy became harder to keep hold of.
I waved my arm and shouted as the dive boat made its slow turn towards me through the rough sea, it was taking ages and I could barely keep hold of the buoy that was my only means of locating the diver. I felt my stomach churn as the buoy was finally pulled from my hand, the dive boat came along side and I was pulled aboard weight belt in hand. I quickly brought the others up to speed on the situation, but it looked hopeless, the only buoy marking the wreck and diver was nowhere to be seen. The girls were crying and I felt as though I was about to throw up. It was a surreal situation and there was silence on the deck of the dive boat. We had half the divers in the water and half now in silence on the deck, peering out in to the rough grey sea, the silence was broken by a shout, "There they are!". It was my 2 other buddies, it turned out that the troubled diver had reached the sea bed, still partly tangled, to find the first dive waiting for both of us at the bottom and had managed to finish off untangling him and then safely made their way to the surface. It still evokes that feeling of despair even as I write this.
What's the biggest change in diving since you started?
Since I started diving the equipment has changed considerably. We used to dive in wetsuits, buoyancy aids like the old ABLJ that sat around your neck like some orange toilet seat. These have now been replaced by warm, made to measure drysuits, stab jackets and wings that can lift the average diver and 4 tanks with ease. My first drysuit leaked like a sieve and was only ever dry for the first 3 or 4 times I used it. Compressed air was the only choice gas, now there are Rebreathers, Trimix and Nitrox to choose from and a wide range of quality underwater lights with 100 watts of power. I made mine from a piece of plastic soil pipe, 3 alarm batteries and some old underwater torch, with a 50 watt display lamp wired in. It worked fantastically until it imploded at 65 meters deep in a quarry, the top of the torch went off with a sound like a shotgun right above my head, where the torch was mounted. That was the end of the dive and my home made torch ! These days new technology is available for anyone who wants to use it.
If you could dive with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
If I could dive with one person it would be Sheck Exley. He pioneered cave diving through the 70s 80s and 90s and if I was going to get deeply involved with cave diving I would want to dive with the best. He had logged over 1000 cave dives by the time he was just 23 and explored some of Florida's best underwater cave systems. Pioneering new techniques as he pushed the envelope in pursuit of his passion, over 29 years he logged more than 4000 cave dives. He lost his life in El Zacatan Mexico on 6th April 1994 aged 45. It's worth remembering you only have so much luck and I like to remind myself of that fact from time to time.
Dive as Deep as you Dare is available direct from Dave Blackmore: e-mail [email protected] and also from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0956811507/1286.
About Dave Blackmore
I was born in Bristol 1959 and lived in Clifton until my parents moved to Brislington when I was 7 years old. I attended Holymead Junior School and Brislington Comprehensive. I left at 16, with very basic qualifications and went into the Construction industry for a few years. It was hard work and I decided to get out of it and learn a trade as soon as I could.
I went back to college in 1980 and trained as a panel beater working for a small but successful body shop.
In 1981 I married my long term girlfriend Kay and we moved into our first house in 1982, by this time I had become keen on learning to dive and I joined BSAC club N0 3 in this year. We had our first Son in 1984 and the second in 1985. After being made redundant I left the repair industry and joined Swan National car rental, operating a hire service at British Aero Space in Bristol. During the Falklands war it was a very busy time for many of the people working at British Aero Space
With a young family the diving had to fit in with family life, it didn't prove too difficult as most of my dive pals had kids as well. There were a lot of shore dives and camping weekends, as this was the cheapest and easiest way of keeping a balance between the two.
By the 90s I had changed jobs, progressing my career and was now working for a National company called Northgate Vehicle Hire Plc as a General Sales Manager the work was good and paid well. I had my Saturdays off and was able to really crank up the diving!
Technology was evolving at a pace, fuelled by the need for safer diving practice, to reach deeper and deeper wrecks in the US. I signed up and did a mix gas course with my local dive guru, and now BBC safety diver, Rich Bull
There was no stopping me now and like most divers I had a regular dive buddy as keen as I was. We set about diving as many deep, quality wrecks, as possible. There was only one drawback; the price of the gas. We quickly sorted this by mixing it in my garage (with the aid of a mixed gas program from the United States).
All through the years I have been privileged in diving with some great people, on some truly great wrecks for example; The Hampshire, sunk off Marwick head in 65 meters. The Murray, in mid channel, sat upright in 68 meters. Blue Springs Florida. The Dinas Silica Mine, in South Wales. The Duke of Buccleugh, off the Brighton coast, sat in 58 meters, the list is endless.
I am now 51 and will be 52 at the end of this year, apart from some minor re-occurring skin bends, in both of my shoulders, and a few scary moments, I can only say it's been a blast with not a moment wasted. The family is now grown up, with my eldest Son joining me on our first dive holiday together in Egypt, my youngest off snowboarding in the French Alps and my wife and I planning our 30th wedding anniversary later this year.
Life is not a dress rehearsal, and I don't intend to sit back and put my slippers on just yet!!