Archaeologists make major breakthrough
It is not often that there is cause for all real wreck divers to praise the seemingly anti-sport-diver nautical archaeologists - and before they burst into print to say that they are not anti-sport-diver, let me hasten to add that then perhaps it is just their appalling publicity which makes them seem so.
However, we do seem to be standing on the brink of a seismic shift of position among the senior nauts - and all amateur divers will be grateful that the calumnies cast upon them about their underwater explorations will now cease.
What leads me to this heresy? You may well ask. But it is there in black-and-white for all those who care to turn to the editor- ial column of their International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, a column written by no less a powerful person than the Editor, Valerie Fenwick.
Not that our Val exactly comes out with a ringing endorsement of amateur divers, but she does write: "To the destructive forces of nature have been added increasing damage by fishing, coastal development, extraction of aggregates, and commercial salvage." She then adds: "The pickings of some sport divers who have been traditionally portrayed as the largest threat to historic shipwreck need to be seen in the context of such large scale threats."
Wow! You know what that sentence really means, don't you? It means, sorry lads, we got you wrong. All the time we thought you were damaging what we call our underwater cultural heritage, it was really those big bad guys. Please forgive us and go on telling us where the historic wrecks are, 'cos we'll never find them ourselves.
Hundred-year rule? We believe you
However, before all real divers start dancing in the streets at the news of the conversion of these nautical archaeologists, they should be warned that the UNESCO draft Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, which is now being discussed by various governments, contains some real blockers to happy sport diving.
The draft, for example, defines underwater cultural heritage as meaning "all traces of human existence underwater for at least 100 years", which would seem to allow diving on wrecks sunk after 1899. But of course it doesn't.
There are dodgy clauses to make a total ban on amateur wreck diving available at the stroke of a felt-tip. How about this? "Notwithstanding (the 100-year definition) a State Party may decide that certain traces of human existence constitute underwater cultural heritage even though they have been underwater for less than 100 years".
If you want to go on wreck diving, you should make sure the heads of your diving organisation are in there kicking those sorts of balls out of the ground.
Fashion victims dabble in scuba
It is not often, as all who read Beachcomber will know, that I stoop to studying fashion columns. These amazing predictions of what women must wear are written by dreadful Canary Wharf journesses, such a different breed to our loveable female real divers who, judging by their letters to me, scorn fashion and prefer the comfort of their battered old black wetsuits for sitting on the beach between dives.
However, I was recently lured into the study of current fashion by an article which was illustrated by photographs of young ladies toting various pieces of diving equipment. Breathless prose assured me that this season the high streets of Britain were selling "the sort of swimwear that could survive prickly mangrove swamps and shark-infested waters and still look sensational".
Bikinis, I was authoritatively assured, could be "any colour, but white". Day-glo colours were all the rage for the new "trikini - this consists of hipster bikini bottoms, a ruched vest for swimming and a tiny bra top for sunbathing."
Not quite the sort of thing for the real female diver. My confidence in my fashion informant waned the more I studied the illustrations. One young lady appeared to be entering the water with her handbag slung firmly over her shoulder; another had forgotten to add a bottle to her stab-jacket. I finally abandoned the weird world of fashion when I noted that not only was the model clutching a huge speargun, but she had three weights on her right side and none on her left.
No wonder the real British woman diver clings on to her old wetsuit in any colour so long as its black...
Will the diver-cox'n who managed to lose sight of the huge orange marker buoy used by his divers during a long drift off the Cornish coast send me as many crisp cracklies as there are noughtsn his latest prescription for glasses? Will he also remember to take the ones for general use with him in the boat and not confine his nautical equipment to those lenses used for extreme close-up work?
Will the members of his branch dive who found themselves watching a tiny speck going in the wrong direction after they surfaced make a note in their records that he is not to put to sea without a glasses check before diving. They should also donate a crunchie apiece to the Diver Lifeboat Fund as a kind of thank-you to the RIB crew of another club which found them.
Hands across the waters
I hear that after their recent experiences on decompression dives in the sunny state of Florida, some British divers from the equally sunny state of Dorset are seriously considering writing a new manual for their US counterparts entitled How To Get Yourself Seriously Bent Without Really Trying.
However, I deplore this institutionalised diving racism and suggest that the Dorset lads would be better employed sending the dive marshals over there complimentary copies of the best British diving manual in an effort to get them to mend their ways.
In the meantime, they should send me a donation of two crunchies for the Diver Lifeboat Fund for being so smug about their own no-doubt perfect diving.
Appeared in DIVER - September 1999