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Book Review: Diving Gozo & Comino – The essential guide to an underwater playground

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The Author

Richard Salter

Review by Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

First impressions of this book are good. It has lovely inviting front and back covers and is the right size to take on a trip with you. It is a paperback book, keeping the weight down for travel, but still uses high quality paper. Now, we have never dived Gozo or Comino, so are not going to be able to argue the accuracy of the dive site descriptions, but Richard is an instructor and guide on the island with masses of experience. The book had just gone to press when the famous Azure Window collapsed, and so some edits had to be made to correct this information, but it now has up to date information about diving this area.

The book covers 57 dive sites on Gozo and a further 14 on Comino, featuring both shore and boat dives that include caves, caverns, ship wrecks, reefs and sheltered bays. The first few pages cover some essential information about diving these islands, some history, useful phrases and where to visit when you are not underwater. Then the book gets into the nitty gritty of the dive sites themselves.

Most of the dive site descriptions include a detailed map, with a suggested route drawn on to assist those that will be diving without a guide. There is a written description of the dive and a useful details box to give depth, duration, visibility and difficulty level, as well as including tips like taking a torch on dives that have overhead environments, or to use an SMB in heavy boat traffic areas. There is usually a photo or two taken above water to show the topography and entry points for the dive site, and there are underwater photographs too. I would have liked to see more quality underwater photographs to show off the diving here and to whet my appetite.

Richard Salter

I was very pleased to see a section at the back about seahorse photography and their strict protection on these islands and there are additional pages on invasive species and seagrasses too. There is also a handy list of dive centres, emergency contact details and a wealth of other useful titbits that raise this publication above the standard dive guide. I was surprised to see the odd advert in the book though, but I guess a book like this might need a little extra funding to help publishing costs.

All in all, this is a well put together and good-looking guide book that will be a useful tool for anyone planning on diving Gozo and Comino. It is the sort of book that first timers, as well as those experienced in diving here, will want to have on their shelves… I would certainly love to put it to the test and dive some of the sites using the book as a guide.

Available now in paperback (ebook forthcoming) from Divedup.com, online and from retailers.

£16.95 / €19.95 / US $24.95 | ISBN 978-1-909455-16-0 | 176 pages | 234 x 156 mm

Scubaverse.com is currently running a competition where you can win a copy of ‘Diving Gozo & Comino – The essential guide to an underwater playground’. The competition ends at midnight next Tuesday 6th June. You can enter the competition to win a copy of Richard’s book here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Miscellaneous Blogs

Book Review: Last Man Off (2014)

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It was his first job after graduating as a Marine Biologist. Matt Lewis joined a deep sea fishing trawler, the MFV Sudurhavid, in Cape Town as an independent observer. His job was to sample whatever they caught on their long line – a three kilometre length of rope with thousands of baited hooks attached. In his own words he was ‘a university upstart recording the conduct of hardened fishermen.’ (p.6) He was also performing his work thousands of miles from land in the notoriously turbulent and cold Southern Ocean between Cape Town and the South Pole.

Matt vividly describes the daunting sea conditions; Force 8 winds and driving sleet, ten metre swells and sub zero sea water. In detail he recounts the exhausting monotony of eating, working and sleeping on a boat ‘rolling and pitching like a rodeo bull’. (p. 78). By any standards the working conditions were appalling as men were swept off their feet by ice-cold cascading water only to find themselves awash in the blood and guts of processed fish.

On 6th June 1998 the over laden MFV Sudurhavid began taking on water. Hatches and chutes designed to protect the workers and boat had been ‘modified’ to speed up the work. It allowed seawater from mountainous waves to penetrate the boat. Drains became clogged and pumps failed as the boat was pummelled by massive waves. Requests to cut loose the long line to help manoeuvring… warnings and then pleas to the captain and senior officers to stop fishing and seek shelter were ignored. A deteriorating situation rapidly got worse. Matt asks: ‘How could the most experienced men on the boat just ignore what was going on?’ (p. 92).

In a minute by minute, hour by hour account Matt Lewis describes the unfolding disaster. He provides a vivid account of the mounting chaos and selfish actions of individuals, the lack of leadership and how poorly prepared crew had to abandon ship in terrifying conditions. Thirty-eight men took to life rafts but many wouldn’t survive the bone chilling cold. Inside a flooded life raft Matt explained how he was ‘…balanced not on the floor of the raft, but on the corpses of colleagues, but I was too cold to care.’ (p. 159)

Few of us will have experienced the fury of a storm in the Southern Ocean. Probably even fewer of us have experience of deep sea fishing or survival in ice-cold water inside a life raft. However, the account by Matt Lewes will bring you uncomfortably close to the real thing. He acknowledges that his account of the sinking of the MFV Sudurhavid, years after the event, is a compendium of accounts from other survivors. However, this doesn’t detract from the impact it provides. The crew lists, pen portraits of crew members and numerous photographs makes their survival and deaths more poignant.

Accurately describing life and work inside a long line deep sea fishing trawler isn’t easy. Recounting the dramatic event of it sinking and harrowing events in a life raft is a personal challenge. It is one that Matt Lewis achieves with some skill. His provision of glossary of terms, boat plans and maps make the account both credible and readable. Furthermore, the forty colour photographs visually take you to these places. They bring people to life and acknowledge their death. Matt Lewis wanted his book to be an honest memorial to those on board the Sudurhavid when she foundered. It may not be the most comfortable reading but it is certainly worth the effort.


Last Man Off (2014)

  • by Matt Lewis
  • London: Viking
  • 229 pp
  • ISBN 9780241002780

Matt Lewis lives in rural Scotland near Aberdeen with his wife and children. His daughter, Camila, is named after the Chilean fishing boat, the Isla Camila, which saved his life.


Find out more about the reviewer, Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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Freediving Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast… Dive into the future with Blue Abyss

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The BiG Scuba duo, Gemma and Ian chat to John Vickers and Emma Farrell.  John is the Chief Executive Officer of Blue Abyss and believes passionately about connecting our marine evolutionary heritage and future space exploration.  Emma Farrell is one of the world’s leading freediving instructors, author of the book ‘One Breath, a Reflection on Freediving’ and owner of Go Freediving Limited and a freediving consultant for Blue Abyss.

Have a listen here:

Find out more at: www.blueabyss.uk


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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Competitions

Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1275 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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