Jeff Goodman reviews The Underwater Eye: How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy by Margaret Cohen
It’s not that long ago that humans started to explore the underwater world in person rather than only being able to observe from what we saw at the surface or brought up in fishing nets. We progressed from basic underwater diving barrels to modern day scuba in a very short time and during that time, we invented cameras that could function underwater and record all we saw. Stunning and rapid advances in technology that enabled us all to explore and share the underwater world.
It is important, and enjoyable, to explore those advances and to gain the knowledge of the progression of our inventions, up to the present day, and Margaret Cohen’s comprehensive research and skilful writing makes this book a fascinating read.
Today everyone can have access to underwater cameras and the scuba/diving equipment needed to use them. We take it all for granted. But it was, we are informed, all hard earned for us by a few extraordinary people with a great passion for exploration and invention, as well as a love of the underwater world.
The Underwater Eye is a very well written and researched book that takes us comprehensively through this remarkable journey. Since the early days of underwater exploration and film making where it was exploitation of wrecks as well as recording the unknown wonders of marine life that drove us forward, we now use underwater filming in many other forms such as education, entertainment, science and art. It is an exciting and thrilling environment to be filming in and this book captures all that excitement in both its text and wonderful historic images.
The book covers, in detail, the filming of our fantastic marine life as well as looking at the issues of pollution, over fishing and habitat loss. It is here that underwater cameras and filming can help to let the world see what is happening to our oceans and ‘The Underwater Eye’ can be part of our ocean’s protection.
As well as being available as an e-book, it is the hardback version that I prefer to be on my book shelf or resting on the side table, to be revisited and appreciated in quiet moments.
Published by Princeton University Press | 21st June 2022 | Hardback | £28
For more information, please contact Alyssa_Sanford@press.princeton.edu
Margaret Cohen is the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization at Stanford University, where she teaches in the Department of English. Her books include the award-winning The Novel and the Sea and The Sentimental Education of the Novel (both Princeton), as well as Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution. She is also the coeditor of The Aesthetics of the Undersea and general editor of A Cultural History of the Sea. She lives in Stanford, California.
British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive
British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.
Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.
Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.
Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.
At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.
Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.
He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.
Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy.
‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure.
‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave.
‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.’
Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.
A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.
Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.
His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.
Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.
Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’
Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.
Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.
Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.
The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.
All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)
Film Review: Thirteen Lives
Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.
On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.
The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.
I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.
Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.
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