I am partial to a freediving book, as I am partial to endless YouTube videos of people going up and down in endless blue and doing weird underwater stunts, to an extent which my wife doesn’t understand, so when the book ‘the Deep’ by journalist James Nestor came out I was at the front of the queue.
Firstly he deals with freediving as an outsider, a journo sent to cover a competition in Greece. There he sees what in a way is the seedier side of freediving, people pushing themselves to their limits. Blackouts and evacuations to hospital have the potential to give a bad reputation to what is statistically quite a safe sport, but through the people he meets there he is soon drawn into a wondrous world where competition is only a small part of why people feel driven to dive into a place where, for a minute or two at a time, they can forget they are human and be part of something different.
He goes on to learn from the experts, which includes not only how to dive, but how freedivers interact with the ocean environment and what some of them are achieving in research and conservation. Some of this isn’t necessarily conducted in a strict academic environment, he visits projects that are conducted and/or financed by informed but unqualified individuals rather than academic institutions. This is why he makes reference in the subtitle to ‘renegade science’ but in a way this makes it all the more interesting as individuals pursue interests that might be a little too off piste or dangerous for academics to risk their reputations, or even their lives; think diving unprotected with sharks or sperm whales. Whatever your views on this I am envious of the year he spent chasing down material for this book, and the things he learn’t along the way.
Well worth a read.