Book Review: Neutral Buoyancy

Neutral Buoyancy - adventures in a liquid world
Tim Ecott, Penguin Books, 368 pages
Neutral Buoyancy
During the writing of this book, Tim Ecott interviewed the pioneers of diving. Hans and Lottie Hass of course, and Dottie Frazier-May the first female diving instructor. He also met Dickie Greenland, one of the few surviving wartime "human torpedoes". In dreadful weather conditions Lieutenant Greenland rode a small chariot into an Italian harbour and blew up enemy destroyers. Unable to exit the harbour he was captured, spending the rest of the war as a prisoner.
Ecott travelled to Florida to talk to an aquanaut - one of the few men to have lived underwater in the largely forgotten habitat experiments of the 60's. He even managed to find an underwater hotel to visit.
The book also tells of the more distant history of diving - such as Edmund Halley's diving bell patented in 1691 and the 17th century treasure seekers.
The sponge-divers' story certainly opened my eyes. I had believed sponge harvesting drastically reduced the number of sponges and damaged the environment. In fact sponge trimmings thrown back into the sea regenerate into new sponges, as do the sponge stumps left by the divers. And most of the sponges sold in the Mediterranean are imported from America.
The author wanted the book to inspire people to take up diving and act as advocates for the preservation of the marine environment. He hoped readers will discover something about diving they hadn't come across before. He has almost certainly succeeded in both his aims. His meticulously researched stories, interspersed with Ecott's own experiences - good and bad - has produced a delightful, and enlightening, read.

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