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on 12 May 2016
In the early 2000’s I was a project manager and support diver for a number of deep diving record attempts. They were all-intensive and close-knit affairs involving members of our fast-growing Red Sea technical diving community. The thrill of putting teams together and going where nobody had been before made us feel adventurous, excited and very much alive. Our part in helping these amazing sportsmen into the record books often developed and defined how deep projects were carried out. Few manuals or test cases existed for what we were trying to achieve; most of the time we just made it up as we went along.

It was around this time that our team got news of Dave Shaw and his tragic death in South Africa. None of us knew Dave. Many of the world’s leading big name divers at that time were very public or high-profile with their activities. Unlike the professional divers we were, Dave Shaw had a ‘normal job’ and diving was his hobby. As a result few outside or even inside the diving industry would know his name or appreciate the level of his achievements.

As a re-breather diver Dave Shaw was further removed from the glare of the world stage then dominated by the exploits of the open circuit record-chasing deep divers. Upon hearing the news I duly noted that re-breathers were probably dangerous at great depths and that Dave Shaw must have been operating well outside his qualifications and experience. His name would crop up from time to time and then as books and TV documentaries entered the fray he became the subject of folklore which invariably meant that many would know his name without actually knowing very much about him personally.

Until this week … I was one of those people.

I have generally steered away from diving ‘death’ books because a great deal of them are sensational, inaccurate and instrumental in separating me from my would-be customers – scuba diving students. With a title like ‘Raising the Dead’ I didn’t expect anything different but following the insistence of a recent tech diving student I downloaded a Kindle copy and began reading.

Phillip Finch has done a great job in putting the record straight and for me his biggest achievement in this book is turning hearsay and rumour into unequivocal fact. It is one thing to conduct extensive research and interviews but another in presenting the finds. With an eye for deep diving exploits I found this story very honest, balanced and widely-encompassing; each area covered was highly relevant either directly or indirectly to exactly why Dave Shaw attempted his fateful dive.

An area of concern for me was Dave Shaw’s diving experience which appeared short on logged dives but rich in content, attitude and preparation. Has a diver been diving 20 years or just 1 year 20 times? Is it all about number crunching or what you learn each and every time you venture underwater? It’s a question the author leaves for the reader but not everyone is the same and we have to remember that Dave Shaw’s deep diving activities won the respect and admiration of the country’s leading cave diving instructor long before he perished.

Raising the Dead author, Phillip Finch also passed away a little later in 2012 but he left the deep diving community with a valuable book that shows the skill, preparation, passion and discipline that goes with our often misunderstood sport. Hindsight is always a wonderful thing and despite a number of procedures that could have been handled differently I feel that having read this book the project that Don Shirley and Dave Shaw undertook was approached and carried out as professionally and humanely as was possible. I hope that will be remembered too by others.

My sincerest thanks and good wishes to the Shaw family and to Don and Andre Shirley and their diving team for allowing we the readers into their lives. When most people suffer mishap at work very few will know about it. In the technical deep diving community everybody knows about it whether we like it or not. I hope they draw strength from the fact that this literary intrusion puts the record straight, serves to enhance the knowledge bank of technical diving and ultimately makes the sport safer.

This is not a ‘death’ book it is a 'life' book. It is also a great story well told and despite what might be an obvious and tragic outcome there is an unlikely and moving twist at the very end proving that not everything ended in failure.

John Kean
Diver and Author
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on 26 November 2012
I don't swim and the very thought of diving is anathema to me. As for diving deep in caves - horror of horrors. I like to go high in the mountains and battle with that kind of breathing difficulty with plenty of thin fresh air. So I lifted this book off the shelf with something less than enthusiasm.

I was soon caught up in the diving world of the amateur 'sports' divers pushing the boundaries. In this case pushing just too far. There is a startling set of statistics near the end of this book 'The number of people who survive dives to 250 metres without injuries is about 10%, and at least half have lost their lives'. Here you will read of some of the real men who make that awful statistic. It is startling to realise that climbers enter the 'death zone' when more than 7,000 metres above sea level but when men go down into water the 'death zone' is no more than 250 metres below.

This book educated me in the basic science of diving and that was a revelation to me. I learned about the different breathing systems and gas mixes,their merits and risks. Also the awful pressure that a very few metres of water can place on the human body. It took me into the world of the obsessive quest of going deeper and deeper. In some ways this is the mirror image of climbers pressing on to the summit of Everest way past the time when they should have turned back. Most high moutaineering deaths occur on the descent due to exposure, fatigue, exhaustion but for these divers the real danger is in the ascent. It only takes a few minutes to sink deep into the water but many hours to return safely to the surface, pausing repeatedly to decompress every few metres of ascent, with the threat of hypothermia caused by long inactive hours under water breathing gas. So many different ways to cause death.

More than that this is a story of bonding and friendship of like-minded men; unproclaimed achievement, but above all, great personal tragedy for the families of those associated with the events in Bushman's hole in South Africa. It is a frightening book but very rewarding to read.
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on 16 August 2017
A poignant story about the passions and perils of extreme diving.

Following the true story on one man from novice to master diver, and his journey from sport to cave diving, this book really draws you into its world and leaves you gasping for breath at the end.

The tragic, but at the same time heroic tale of an understated passion for a way of life about which many people have no clue, this book provides a powerful and engaging insight into lives less ordinary.
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on 1 January 2011
This is a truly excellent book, both factually 'in-depth' as well as narratively exciting. Experienced rebreather diver or complete novice this book describes an apocryphal episode in extreme sport diving history. It sets out a definitive horizon for rebreather diving (using current technology) based on something no one either understood or expected - Carbon Dioxide exchange within the lungs at depth.

Having dived both the BioMarine MK15.5 and Inspiration myself; and having read the book in part to identify what it was that caused Dave Shaw to lose his life in this way I - have one question for the author: At the very end of the book, reference is made to two contributing factors: Hypercapnia and the assembly of the MK15.5 rebreather. The latter leads one to ask how this might have happened. I therefore back tracked to where Dave purchased the MK15.5 in the expectation that (as with any commercially sold rebreather) he would have been trained on its specifics. Alas no. The rebreather had been purchased from a collector and no account is given of any subsequent training. Specifically, such training would have described a critical assembly sequence for the lexan lidded scrubber unit - spacer and then open cell (absorbent foam filter). This would also have been shown in the MK15.5 USN manual.

So what happened here? Did Dave S teach himself? Did Don Shirley help him? Why did Dave not go to someone such as Kevin Denlay in Oz for IANTD certification prior to using it at all?
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on 5 August 2011
As a diver I did enjoy the book, its well written and covers the topic well and in enough depth that someone with no knowledge of the sport would understand, albeit the vast depth achieved seems to be mentioned almost in passing, which may leave the uneducated to suspect all divers routinely achieve depths of 270 m's.
The names of the 2 divers in question, Dave Shaw and Don Shirley often caused me confusion as to who was who in the earlier stages, probably cause of the same starting letter, however it was a grim read.
I'm well aware of the story, divers pushing the limits of their sport find lost diver and choose to set about recovering him, and in the process become victims too, but its all the other little references throughout the book of divers dying that would make anyones 'non diving' friend truly question the mentallity of someone that pursues the sport of cave diving.
As I've said it is a bit grim, but tense and engrossing, it truly shows the capability of the human body and mind to endure. Well worth picking up a copy.
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on 13 April 2010
" Raising The Dead " is a real life disaster. I read a novel where the central characters' parents died in a cave diving accident in a place called Bushman's Hole. A little research about this place led me to this book which is a true story about an attempt to recover a body in Bushman's Hole. I found it very easy to read, even the technical descriptions of diving, of which I had little knowledge. Although the book is about a tragedy, there is so much respect and courage in this book and I just couldn't put it down.
A recommended read for anyone who likes a bit of adventure.
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on 26 February 2017
Excellent book, gives a really good insight into the world of cave diving, something I have fancied doing for a while.
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on 21 September 2017
Awesome book
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on 30 June 2014
Some harrowing stories. A must for any recreational diver. Serves well as a reminder that even the best diver can make the simplistic of fatal errors.
We'll written.
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on 14 December 2010
Utterly brilliant. Not difficult to see why this is so highly rated. This is a terrific read with a fast paced narrative that draws you in from the first page. I was a bit busy when I started it so it took me a couple of days to finish it. I suspect most people will read it in a single sitting. You just dont want to put it down. Tragic, moving and a great read.
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