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The Darkness Below by Rod Macdonald is a gripping account of one man's adventures as a technical sports diver with a lifelong fascination for wrecks around the coasts of Scotland, and far beyond them. Rod Macdonald began diving in the early 1980s, and he published his first book on diving, "Dive Scapa Flow" in 1990: it is now in its fourth edition. More books followed, and he has also been involved in a number of TV productions, including programmes for Timewatch and Equinox.
Rod wrote his first account of his diving adventures in "Into The Abyss", published in 2003. It proved extremely popular and covered a period during which advances in diving revolved around the switch from standard air diving to commercial mixed gases in the 1990s. For the most part "The Darkness Below" picks up the story where the first book left off. The author does not assume that readers will have read his earlier work, and the first few chapters of the latest book offers a condensed, but still extremely readable, summary of how he became part of a band of technical divers known as the Stonehaven Snorkellers Deep Cave Rescue Team, a tongue in cheek name coined because they do not carry snorkels and seldom go into caves.
The individual chapters that make up "The Darkness Below" are largely self contained, but the unifying theme is the push to achieve greater and greater depths (mainly because this allows more shipwrecks to be dived), and the technical advances that have allowed that to happen, especially the move from open-circuit diving to closed-circuit rebreather diving. En route we share many of the author's adventures, including diving the infamous Corryvreckan Whirlpool. We also join him as he dives HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, Royal Navy battleships sunk off Malaya on 10 December 1941; and a range of wrecks in Norwegian fjords. But time and again we come back to Scottish waters and especially the east coast of Angus and Aberdeenshire. As we share the author's dives we learn a great deal about the joys and risks of diving wrecks: and increasingly we become involved in the real stories of many of those involved in the ships whose wrecks are being dived. As the author notes in his postscript, "Each shipwreck has a traumatic story attached to it": and those are stories which, thanks to divers, can in some cases now be told for the first time.