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A Timeless Classic in a League of its Own
on 7 April 2014
This is something of a belated review for Shipwrecks from the Egyptian Red Sea because I obtained my hardback copy at a dive show in London signed by the great man himself back in 2010. At the time it was rightly voted Book of the Year by Diver Magazine and in my view set a new standard in dive book publication. I was interested in it because I live and work in the Red Sea as a dive professional where shipwrecks are high on the itineraries of visiting safari boat divers.
It was very clear from the first few pages that the research into this book was extensive and obtained over many years from a variety of sources stretching way beyond basic internet browsing. Many of the wrecks featured are British and depending on the type of ship or nature of its demise the records could be scattered all over the UK from Southampton to Kew and up to Glasgow covering Board of Trade enquiries or ship's registration details. Many of these records can only be obtained in person by visiting government archives, climbing twisty old staircases and delving through thick faded journals and dusty copies of 100 year old court hearings where details of collisions, sinkings, disciplinary action and other records are stored for eternity. In other words, Ned has well and truly left no stone unturned and his attention to detail and obvious enthusiasm for research shines through in every chapter.
That said, there is still a very good balance between detail and the human interest story for each ship. Not everyone likes to read pages of technicalities about the ships engines or structural dimensions and pleasingly this book provides just the main items of interest. Each chapter is a short story about the ship and its history, how it met its demise and what it's like to scuba dive on it. Every wreck is unique and so is its story with some that were bombed and others that collided. As a result the book is a collection of interesting accounts each with an appeal in their own right. Some of the more famous wrecks receive greater attention and coverage such is their attraction and interest to the diving industry.
The book is a quality hardback, professionally published and beautifully designed with photography that compliments the written content. By far one of it's best features are the illustrations by marine artist Rico Oldfield. These depict each wreck exactly as you would see them underwater.
Who would like this book? Red Sea wreck safari trips will set you back almost 1000 quid with flights. You would be mad not to add another twelve quid or so for this book which will probably give you ten times more information than the dive guide on the boat. Information about wrecks is sometimes sketchy. Much of it is simply made up or inflated to give greater dramatic effect in a dive briefing. Ned Middleton's book sets the record straight and lays down in print enough factual information to greatly enhance the pleasure and excitment that a diver will get when swimming through the historic icon shipwrecks of the Egyptian Red Sea. It is also great armchair reading if you are not a diver allowing you a glimpse of maritime history spanning over 150 years.
My only criticism is that it weighs around a kilogram so I suggest that if you don't want to leave your fins at home when flying off to Egypt then read it before you travel!