The unassuming grey-green cover of this slim volume doesn’t give much away regarding its contents, and I must admit that the serious-sounding title of Death in Number Two Shaft didn’t exactly draw me in at first glance. However, once I dove into the text I realized it was a plunge into the mind of a well-spoken and witty author, and his easy-going prose quickly had me hooked. The death of a dive buddy is the theme of the book, the guideline that keeps the narrative moving through an unexpectedly wide-ranging array of topics.
The book reads as partly a personal memoir, partly a dive travelogue about expeditions in Newfoundland, and partly a musing on the loss of a friend and the reasons why the titular accident happened in the first place. Somehow, the author manages to weave all of these threads together into a compelling narrative, which I enjoyed. I also appreciated his bravery for tackling a difficult and emotional subject: survivor’s guilt.
I think the book could perhaps be improved with a few pictures and a map of the Bell Island Mine and surroundings would aid visualisation. I also felt that the final quarter of the book seemed noticeably less polished, a few misplaced words jarred the flow a little in an otherwise eloquent writing style. These points notwithstanding, Death in Number Two Shaft easily kept my interest and was a relatively quick and diverting read.
I enjoyed the author’s inside look at what an exploratory diving expedition is all about. I also appreciated his thoughts on the reasons why people cave dive, or participate in other so-called ‘extreme’ endeavours. The author’s love of all things underwater really shows, as does his love of Newfoundland, a diving destination that seemingly should be on more divers’ radars.
For anyone seeking a book about diving that is a little bit different than most, I highly recommend it.
Find out more about Steve at www.techdivertraining.org.