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So, let me start off with a little background: I wanted to dive deep shipwrecks from day 1. And dive deep in general. I was completely fascinated with the idea before I even walked into the dive shop and signed up for my OW class. I had read a little bit about it- the Outside magazine article about Dave Shaw, and the book “Shadow Divers” pretty much sealed my fate. I had no idea what I was getting into, or how to get there, but…..somehow I just *knew* this was for me. And I read voraciously, in my typical obsessive manner. One thing that came up a lot was the wreck of the Andrea Doria on the East Coast. Much of what we now call “technical diving” was born in two places- the Florida caves and the East Coast wrecks- in particular, the Doria. Back in the ‘80’s, Divers were learning lessons about what worked, and what didn’t the hard way, and many of them paid the price with their lives. People started to call the Doria the “Mount Everest” of wreck diving. And for a while, that was basically true. A huge, intact luxury liner lying on its side in 240’ of cold, dark water, packed full of china and goodies free for the taking, for anyone with the guts and skill to bring them back…..I’m pretty sure I would have been all over that, had I found myself nearby at that time……
In any case, quite a few of the books about diving that I read were about diving the Doria, either totally or partially. Some are excellent- Shadow Divers and The Last Dive come to mind. Some were just OK- Deep Descent, Fatal Depth, and a few others I don’t recall. All worth reading, in their own way, but they got a bit repetitive……..
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself diving deep wrecks just like I dreamed of doing. And participating in online diving forums. The way I went about training rubbed a lot of the old school divers the wrong way- I moved fast, I skipped open circuit trimix in favor of rebreather training….anyway, one thing I heard a lot was “back when I was learning to do this stuff on the Doria, we didn’t blah blah blah….” And I just tuned a lot of it out. Why wouldn’t I? Hell, I had a couple of dives on the Governor under my belt at that point- every bit as deep and treacherous as the Doria, but a much smaller list of people who had successfully dived it….. ( not an apples-to-apples comparison, to be honest- in the 80’s, there was no trimix, no rebreathers, no can lights, or lots of the stuff we both take for granted and consider mandatory for deep diving today. Plus, the penetrations these guys were puling off were astounding. It’s amazing that many more people didn’t perish on that wreck back then). These days, the wreck has largely collapsed, and the epic penetrations of the past are no longer possible. At any rate, more than a few of us West Coast wreck divers roll our eyes and sigh when we hear some crusty old barnacle start talking about the Doria….even though we all know what happened there back in the day.
So, when some guy from Whidbey Island showed up on my local dive forum talking about giving a presentation about the Andrea Doria, I thought "yawn. Some joker read the same books I did, went out and got a trimix card, dived the wreck a few times, and wrote a book. Big deal." Oh, how wrong I was.
A few weeks ago, I was up at my friend Ron's dive shop- Adventures Down Under, in Bellingham, messing with gear and talking about......needlepoint? No, wait- we were talking about diving that day. I remember, because that's unusual for us. Anyway, I noticed a copy of "Setting the Hook" by Peter M Hunt sitting on the counter. "Oh, have you read this?" I asked, slightly surprised. Ron smiled, picked the book up, and flipped to the chapter that talks about diving "with Ron Akeson, of Adventures Down Under..." "Yeah, I did his tech training!" Said Ron. "He's a good guy. Dived the Doria on air, back in the day." "Oh." I said. "Well, that's not how I thought things were."
So, anyway, wandering through the Dive Expo last Sunday, I stopped by the Whidbey Island Dive booth to say hi to Jan, and Jan turned around and introduced me to Peter, the author. We talked for a few minutes, and I bought a copy of his book. "I hope you enjoy it!" he said. "I'm sure I will, I've read most of the Doria books!" I said. Peter smiled and said "this one's a little different."
He was right. Well, no- he was wrong. It's a LOT different. It's far superior to any book I've read about the Doria. I read it in 3 sittings. It would have been 2, but life got in the way. I won't give anything away, but I will say that it's a very personal narrative about his experiences diving the wreck in the early 80s as a broke college kid, his later life here in the Northwest, and contrasting old school wreck diving with modern techniques- with some history and background that all weaves together quite seamlessly to form a compelling read. I enjoyed it immensely. Buy this book, you won't be sorry.