Technical diving books
Technical diving books
Although there are quite a few technical diving books out there, many of them are really starting to show their age, and are much less relevant than they once were. These are mainly books that define and outline what technical diving is. Although many of the principles still apply, they just look and feel out of date.
I’ve tried to remain contemporary, but it’s not that straightforward. Books on tech diving are not exactly published every week. The older books that are included are still hugely relevant. It would have been weird to have left them out. For example, Brett Gilliam’s book is a great window into the kind of diving that is very badly frowned upon now, plus it’s intended to warn you against deep diving on air. Sheck Exley’s books are in there because, well you know, he founded the rules of cave diving.
Of all the technical diving books, my personal favourite is Phillip Finch’s Raising the Dead. It’s very well written and I found it difficult to put down even after reading it for a 3rd time. You obviously have your favourites too. If you’re indignant with rage because your favourite technical diving books are not listed, please let me know.
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General tech diving books
Prominent author of all things scuba-related, Simon Pridmore has turned his attention to the birth and evolution of technical diving. With help from some key people involved in the sport. He has managed to turn the story of how tech diving came to be, into a compelling story. Well worth a read.
Books on decompression theory and physiology
If you teach technical diving, you need this book. If you’re learning tech diving, you need this book.
It’s the standard reference for anything relating to decompression theory and basic diving physiology.
Wouldn’t it be great if somebody decided to collaborate with the world’s leading decompression researchers to distil their research into plain English, and then write a book about it..
This book will make you think again about how you can reduce decompression stress.
Another in-depth look at our current understanding of decompression theory. A little more current than Mark Powell’s book.
Contains a lot of information about the algorithms, and up to date information about the use of oxygen to reduce post-dive no-fly time.
Your Brain on Diving: New insights into the function of the human brain underwater- Klaus M. Stiefel
Dr. Klaus M. Stiefel is a biologist and technical diver who has collated the latest research about how the brain is impaired during diving. This includes information on narcosis, and apnea diving.
A special edition published in Medicina, it’s not specific to diving, but as it was published in 2023, it has a lot of up to date information on the benefits of hyperbaric medicine for patients.
Books about Rebreather Diving
This book is based on US Navy testing of rebreather scrubbers. How they work, what happens when they don’t work, and what parameters determine how effectively they remove carbon dioxide. It’s a must-read for all rebreather divers.
This book provides a history of rebreather diving, and outlines the technology in an accessible way, whether you are thinking of starting rebreather diving, or you already dive on one.
Closed Circuit | Open Sourced: Logic for the Design, Assembly, and Operations of an Integrated Life System- Michael Lombardi
A seriously detailed look at all aspects of rebreather design and operation. Absolutely worth reading if you dive on a rebreather
Books about famous diving locations or stories
The story of Dave Shaw is both a cautionary tale, a fascinating insight into deep diving, and a compelling, sad story.
I thought this book was brilliantly written, and couldn’t put it down even on the 2nd and 3rd read.
The story of the Thai cave rescue, as written by one of the two men that found the group of boys. Much more diving oriented than the endless other books that tell the story of this epic rescue.
This account of the Thai cave rescue was used as the basis of Ron Howard’s film Thirteen Lives. The author John Volanthen, was the first diver to find the boys, and, along with his buddy Rick Stanton, was instrumental in rescuing them.
Another perspective of the Thai cave rescue, written two of the men involved. Dr Richard Harris was the doctor that sedated the boys before they were brought out of the cave. Craig Challen is an accomplished cave diver that cave dives regularly with Richard Harris back in Australia. Both were awarded Australian of the year in 2019 for their efforts.
The story of the U-869 from the perspective of other people that were directly involved. Let’d just say that they dispute some of the events and attrubutions that were outlined in Shadow Divers.
The story of two cave divers attempts to explore two cave systems- Cheve Cave in southern Mexico, and Krubera in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. This is the story of American Bill Stone, and Ukrainian Alexander Klimchouk.
Both men spent months underground, almost two miles deep, and had to deal with huge drops, high waterfalls, belly crawling in confined spaces, and complete darkness, all whilst being very far from any hope of rescue.
A sad true story about the fatal dive of father and son Chris and Chrissy Rouse, who were trying to identify the same U-boat as depicted in Shadow divers.
A sobering read for any diver.
Any book on the Andrea Doria is a magnet to a tech diver. Peter Hunt dived the Doria a lot in the 80s. This book documents his journey to dive it one last time, 20 years later.
It includes some good background about the sinking.
A similar story to Shadow divers but far less known. This is the story of the U-550, the last unfound diveable wreck on the east coast of the United States. The wreck was discovered in 2012, and a group of divers did a series of dives in order to identify it and investigate it’s last moments before sinking.
Books on incident analysis and human factors
A great book about understanding and incorporating human factors into the practice of diving. Numerous case studies of diving incidents are analysed, in order to learn lessons on how you can learn from them to improve your own diving.
A must-read for all divers and especially dive educators.
Not strictly a book dedicated to technical diving, but there are lessons to be drawn from these real life incidents for any diver.
It’s well written and some of the incidents are trimix and cave dives.
Steve’s take on the most important elements of technical diving. It’s more focused on the more physical aspects of diving procedures, and goes into detail on subjects than most other books either skirt around or just leave out.
Steve Lewis’s books are always a good read. This will get you thinking about risk, and offers solutions on how to manage it when undertaking more advanced tech dives.
Books on deep diving
A window into the craziness of deep air diving, which was commonly done before trimix was widely used.
Some pretty hair-curling stories to chat about over a beer or two.
A comprehensive guide to deep technical diving. It gives an overview of the skills, equipment, and techniques required for deep diving. The book covers selecting and configuring equipment, gas management, dive planning, decompression procedures for deep diving, and rescue protocols and procedures.
Books on gas blending and oxygen measurement
Cave diving books
This is a really good overview of cave diving from someone who’s been involved in the sport for decades.
It’s great reading for cave divers and those interested in taking it up.
If you’ve heard of the five rules of cave diving, Sheck Exley was the diver who developed them out of observations from his own diving.
Get the background from the horses mouth
Probably the most comprehensive history of cave diving available.
It documents the antics of the famous pioneers, and outlines the evolution of the sport in different parts of the world.
Guy Bryant recalls how it was do be a cave diver in the 1970s when there were no formal training courses. Training was informal, learning from others that were doing it. You made mistakes, hopefully you survived them and learned from them.
One of the more comprehensive books on sidemount. There aren’t many out there. It covers the history of sidemount and what it takes to learn it properly.
It also includes plenty of “how to” tips to help you get the most out of your own sidemount diving.
If we ignore the fact that a lot of development has occured since this book was written in terms of better wings on the market, this book is still packed with information about sidemount diving procedures and techniques. Many of them are just as relevant now as they were then.
Books on diving locations
A comprehensive guide to 19 challenging and rarely dived wrecks in lake Erie. It includes the stories behind their sinking, and descriptions of the depths, locations, and current condition of the wrecks. The wrecks in the great lakes are number one on my dive bucket list. This book just makes a trip need to happen.
This book documents the diving career of someone who explored a lot of the wrecks in the Pacific; Truk Lagoon, Palau, and the south China seas.
It also takes you through some diving in Scotland; HMS Hampshire, and the Corryvreckan Whirlpool.
Pretty much everything there is to know about the wrecks of Truk Lagoon. It was an invaluable source of information when I worked there.
The wrecks have degraded since he wrote the wreck descriptions, but that in no way detracts from the richness of the book.
Hailstorm over Truk Lagoon : operations against Truk by carrier Task Force 58, 17 and 18 February 1944, and the shipwrecks of World War II- Klaus Lindermann
Two people did all the research on the wrecks in Truk; Dan Bailey, and Klaus Lindermann. They were rivals in many ways. As with Dan’s book, the wreck descriptions are not as accurate as they continue to degrade.
Everything I said about Dan’s book applies equally to Klaus’s. A must read.
Whilst not as detailed as Dan Bailey or Klaus Lindermann’s books, the one thing this book has going for it is an accurate description as to the current state of the wrecks.
I found it really helpful when I worked in Truk. Great for reading up on a wreck just before diving it- handy on Kindle.
An old book now (first published in 1989), but I don’t know of any other books that outline the wrecks of North Carolina. In case you didn’t know, there are many wrecks there. Maybe a good place to start for gain information, before looking for more up to date info once you know which wrecks you want to dive.
Biographies and diving history
This book is a celebration of the life of a real dive explorer, photographer & videographer, conservationist, and technical diving pioneer.
That’s quite a resume, it’s not a surprise that he led a very interesting life. Read about it in-depth here.
John Scott Haldane was a fascinating character who led a full and extraordinary life. He is the father of decompression theory, developing the first dive tables in 1908.
To do this he put goats and family members into a recompression chamber. He even sent himself and his son JBS Haldane to the bottom of the North Sea for 30 mins to prove that his tables worked on anyone. Different times indeed.
The Heroic Age of Diving: America's Underwater Pioneers and the Great Wrecks of Lake Erie- Jerry Kuntz
This is a history of the developments in underwater technology, as applied to commercial applications such as underwater salvage, civil engineering, and warfare. It highlights the pioneers of underwater invention and the brave divers that put such technologies into practise.