The very title of ultra-deep diver Mark Ellyatt's memoirs, Ocean
Gladiator, will raise the hackles of some potential readers.
Still, Ellyatt's exploits and the scars that go with them would
seem to entitle him as much as any diver to make that claim.
Besides, he doesn't seem to care much what others think, and the
book shows that he is willing to expose his failings alongside
his qualities, of which false modesty is not one.
divEr readers will remember many of his tales, told here with
much additional detail, from early deep air-diving experiences
to the farcical Baden deep wreck expedition in the Channel
Islands, when Ellyatt as cameraman completed the dive while the
would-be record-breakers barely made the starting gate.
He recalls scary experiences in an abandoned Lake District mine;
the 260m dive that left him thinking he would never dive again;
and the 313m dive a year later on which he proved to himself
that he could break a world record without needing to be
Ellyatt is like some character in a cartoon world in which
everything that can go wrong does. He keeps getting battered but
always comes back for more. He suffers many bends in the course
of this book, for example, but a dose of self-administered
oxygen and a pint are often all that's needed to get him back on
His physical and mental reserves clearly run deep. "A lifetime
of pain for a moment of glory," he thinks to himself on one deep
dive, muddling up the saying, but he isn't far wrong.
We know that many tekkie divers suffer bends regularly and keep
very quiet about them, but Mark Ellyatt believes in sharing his
misfortunes. Even when you know the outcome of certain
adventures, his harrowing accounts are always exciting to read.
Ocean Gladiator also gives the writer the chance to lash out at
all those who have crossed him - inept chamber operatives, venal
skippers, rival deep divers, armchair chatline experts, doped-up
instructors and, especially, the designers of barely tested
decompression software who, he feels, have used him as a guinea
pig. He rarely names names but they know who they are, as will
many of you.
Everywhere Ellyatt dives, he records with relish the wild,
unsavoury side of life. I can't see the tourist boards of
Barbados, the Bahamas, Thailand, the Philippines or Dubai among
others rushing to use quotes from this book for publicity
It would have helped if Ocean Gladiator had maybe been better
paragraphed, but Ellyatt has such a colourful turn of phrase and
natural style that after a while you forget about such niceties
and just enjoy the ride. Most divers will learn something from
this book. Whether you swallow it whole is up to you.
Ocean Gladiator by Mark Ellyatt (Emily Eight Publications, ISBN
9780955154409). Softback, 340pp, £12.99