Under Pressure

Gareth Lock (2019)

In diving, human theory is as important as decompression theory.  

Behaviour is contextual: what we do always depends on multiple, complex factors.  Yet, we invariably attempt to understand a person’s actions by reducing them to the simplest terms.  In so doing, we throw out all the information we need to avoid finding ourselves facing the same dangers. 

Under Pressure captures that information through real experiences of divers and uses established science to analyse and explain how such situations evolve.  The commentary adds a depth of understanding of what lies under the errors we make.  Error frequently becomes the fixation for litigation and the placement of blame, this tends to push people to hide their mistakes and so we lose opportunities for learning.  The focus of this book is safety, and how we can improve all of our safety as divers by developing a culture where we can be open about our difficulties and mistakes … so that we can learn to do better.

Consider that our diving equipment has advanced massively in the last decade or so, compared to the technology of the 1950s, the development is exponential.  Well-serviced and maintained kit rarely fails, and when it does it is generally due to user error.  Right now, there is very little stopping us as individual divers from entering the most dangerous environments: caves, wrecks and deep dives.  In diving, the most likely point of failure is the human themselves, i.e. their skills in diving and their ability to self-regulate.  Arguably we need to address the gap between the technology and our understanding of the human diver.  We can do this by sharing stories and learning from each other’s discoveries.

From humorous to heart-stopping, the variety of case examples usefully illustrates scenarios to which any diver may relate.  Sharing these reflections allows the whole diving community insight into what goes through a person’s mind when under extreme pressure as a diver.  All human divers will see themselves somewhere in this book.

The examples also give revealing glimpses into the thought processes of people in situations from which some divers sadly never returned.  Sharing their reflections allows the diving community an insight into what goes through a person’s mind when under extreme pressure as a diver, and what influenced their decision making.  In addition, these examples show the humanity of some well-known names in diving, we all make mistakes, and the openness of more experienced divers in talking about their own mistakes is powerful to learning.

There are other diving books that recount dramatic tales.  But Under Pressure is the first to connect the accounts with scientific explanation, to guide informed behaviour change and help you to reduce the risks in your own diving.

Remarkably, this is a book about health and safety and a fascinating and enlightening read!