Kirsty Andrews raises a glass to the adventurous souls who cemented BSAC’s strong association with expedition diving.
When you hang up your fins for a final time, how will you be remembered? What will your contribution be to the grand canon of diving knowledge; to the collective endeavour and the history of our sport? These thoughts have occurred to me often recently, although I hope I won’t be hanging up my fins for a good time yet. Put like that, it sounds a grand ambition, but even on a small scale we can all put in our tuppence-worth.
It’s been a while since I instructed, but going back a little bit I’m proud to say that I helped launch many baby scuba divers; some of them I know became instructors themselves so there are possibly generations of divers finning about with my know-how in there somewhere. This is a pleasing and mostly not-worrying thought.
Perhaps you will be remembered as a club stalwart who single-handedly kept the boats on the water or the compressor operating, or the clubhouse bar fully stocked. Worthy pursuits indeed and essential to our collective club life.
But is there more in you? Could your diving exploits be more purposeful? I was led down this line of thought on a recent voyage to St Kilda. I felt lucky enough to be one of a relatively modest number of divers who has managed to make it out at all to this remote outpost of the United Kingdom, 40 nautical miles from the next nearest major landmass (Uist in the Outer Hebrides).
Is there more in you? Could your diving exploits be more purposeful?
I felt even luckier that other divers had gone before me, and had laid the groundwork for me to make the absolute most of my trip. I refer to the black and white grainy copy of ‘St Kilda – a submarine guide’ written by BSAC’s own Gordon Ridley a full four decades ago. I found this modest, ring-bound pamphlet to be a gold mine of information, listing no less than 185 dive sites with a paragraph each and in some cases, minimalist but enticing dive site diagrams.
St Kilda underwater - a (remote) scuba diving paradise
This labour of love was put together based on the notes taken over the course of Gordon’s five expeditions between 1975 and 1983, together with input from other cooperating divers’ trips over that time. The guide was put together as part of the newly formed BSAC Expedition Scheme, which Gordon was instrumental in starting - he also wrote several guides to Scottish diving that I’m aware of, and probably a lot more besides.
Of course, such a guide can only be a snapshot, influenced by prevailing conditions, the biases and vagaries of its creators. Indeed, some of the 185 sites were suggested but not yet dived by the team. Still, it was an invaluable starting point to feed my own enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge, both in advance planning and on the trip itself.
I do feel that there was perhaps a golden age of pioneering divers, where new sites were often being discovered, and that perhaps now we rely on that existing knowledge and are more modest in our ambitions. However, the ethos of BSAC remains, with expedition planning part of the qualification structure for our advanced qualifications (I’m still working on those myself…)
I love the idea of sharing my knowledge not just with my immediate buddies and club, but with a wider audience who in turn can take it further. I hope you too are inspired by the BSAC Expedition Schemers of years gone by, and look forward to hearing about the adventures you get up to and the dive sites you discover.
Article ‘Expeditionary party' by Kirsty Andrews first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 140 November 2023. Images in this online version may have been substituted from the original images in SCUBA magazine due to usage rights.