Raising the Dead

Bookshelf: Raising the Dead

Raising the Dead – Phillip Finch

I was totally obsessed with the Dave Shaw and Boesmansgat story when it happened in 2004. Boesmansgat is a water-filled sink hole on a farm in the Northern Cape, approximately 270 metres deep. An amateur diver, Deon Dreyer, lost his life there in 1994. His body was never recovered, but ten years later Dave Shaw, a highly experienced record-setting cave diver, encountered Dreyer’s still-grieving parents and decided to mount an expedition to recover the body.

Raising the Dead
Raising the Dead – Phillip Finch

The series of events that followed couldn’t have been dreamed up by a Hollywood scriptwriter. I remember as this unfolded in 2004, reading the news daily for updates. The video recording of Shaw’s final dive is available here, but I warn you it’s upsetting.

The kind of diving that is required to descend to depths of 100 metres and more is hazardous, requiring intense training, a calm mind, and complex equipment. The slightest over-exertion at depth can lead to lethal gas buildup, convulsions, and death. Hours and hours of decompression are required. The actual time spent at depth is of the order of a couple of minutes. Most of the time on the dive is spent ascending, slowly. It’s lonely, and tests one to the limit. Finch details the preparation, explains the technicalities in accessible terms, and paints full pictures of the characters of the people involved in the expedition and support team.

Tony and I both read this book in almost one sitting. The mindset of deep technical divers is quite different to that of recreational scuba divers, partly by necessity (they have far more complex equipment and greater dangers to contend with) and partly because many of them are involved in the sport in order to push limits – their own, and their equipment. (Being risk-averse, I prefer to operate well within my limits most of the time!) This book made me grateful that none of my loved ones are into this very extreme sport – I couldn’t bear waiting for news while my family member was on a 12 hour dive to insane depths, in a completely isolated location.

The book is available here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here. If you want to read it on your Kindle, go here.

It was also published under the title Diving Into Darkness. Highly, highly recommended, even if you’re sure you’ll never put on a rebreather or enter a water-filled cave. My father (definitely not a scuba diver) read it too, and found it gripping.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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