FIFTY YEARS AGO, IN 1963, DIVER’s late publisher Bernard Eaton, then a Fleet Street journalist, took the reins of a small bi-monthly magazine called Triton.
Triton was the organ of the British Sub-Aqua Club, and had already been around for some years.
In fact there had been an even earlier incarnation called Neptune, but someone had clearly decided that the Greek version of the seagod’s name trumped the Roman.
hspace=5 The man behind the magazine, a youthful Bernard Eaton
Bernard’s friend, fellow-journalist and BSAC co-founder Peter Small had been editing Triton for the previous few months. He had agreed with the club to publish the title at his own expense, and in return wanted editorial freedom. This stipulation would prove important in later years.
He had asked Bernard to come in as his business partner and help with the workload.
In December 1962, Small and Hannes Keller set out to become the first divers to reach 1000ft (305m) in a bell in the open ocean. The attempt, which took place off California, was a big international news story – all the more so when it went tragically wrong.
hspace=5
Peter Small (left) with Hannes Keller
Peter Small did not survive the dive, and in the aftermath Bernard agreed to carry on his friend’s work as editor and publisher of Triton.
By the time of the November/December 1963 issue Eaton Publications was ready to relaunch Triton as a bigger, better and more internationally focused magazine – which is why we decided to run this 50th anniversary feature in the November 2013 issue of DIVER.
“The magazine has been called upon to keep pace not only with the tremendous growth of the club but also with developments in the fields of science, exploration and sport outside it,” wrote Bernard.
“The responsibility of producing such a journal became almost overwhelming in these circumstances.”
Many years later he wrote: “Peter’s ambition had been to turn the club’s tiny journal into a magazine of national and international repute, to widen its horizons, to promote the idea of diving with a purpose, encouraging divers to embrace all that the underwater world had to offer in terms of exploration, marine biology, archaeology, wreck discovery and surveying, photography and geology.
“Peter had wanted to achieve national bookstall sales. It was an ambition I wholeheartedly shared. So began, in 1963, when I became publisher of Triton, a love affair with a magazine.
“It was a thoroughly exciting and adventurous endeavour that was to bring us into contact with all the great names in the diving world.”
It was still quite a small world, however, as Bernard, who was not yet a diver himself, settled into his new role.
BSAC’s membership was about 3500, and the magazine was a modest affair – small format, fairly thin, printed in mono and, though bi-monthly, not always in the readers’ hands strictly on time.
But it was the go-to publication when the media needed information about this strange new sport of scuba-diving.
And a trawl through its pages in those early years of the 1960s provides a fascinating insight into a diving world totally different to today’s – which is why we’re sticking to those early years.
Blood-pressure warning: If you insist on applying 21st century political correctness retrospectively, please look away now!

HOLIDAY PLANNING
WHERE SHOULD UK divers go for a diving holiday The world of Triton in the 1960s was not exactly their oyster – in fact it was notably circumscribed.
A destinations article in 1964 mentions the possibilities of Ireland, the Channel Islands and Mediterranean Spain, France and Italy, but anything beyond that was pretty much terra incognita.
Only Tunisia and Malta (with one school apiece) offered any more exotic promise, though the following year Sardinia did get a mention.
Not exactly a holiday, but the year after came a report about the first British underwater expedition to the Red Sea, with testing of shark-repellant aerosols a high priority – presumably an underwater variation on fly-spray.
The divers also planned to collect rare seashells for the British Museum.
It wasn’t long before the first reader holiday offer was made. Sponsored by travel agent Pontinental, it provided two free trips to holiday villages in Majorca (worth 90 and 80 guineas respectively), where “skin-diving” was only one of the many attractions.
And by 1966 the magazine was offering cut-price (£107) 15-day trips to the Red Sea, which in those days meant Israel rather than Egypt, and the resort of Eilat. Judging by the follow-up article, it was a huge success for the 17 readers who went along. Coral reefs were all so new to everyone, and still unspoilt.
This was not however destined to become a recurring event, because Triton later decided that the travel agency was charging readers too much, and pulled out.
That same year the Far East was getting its first mention as a destination for UK divers, albeit in the form of an expedition to Pulau Tioman, Malaysia. The 17 divers had to make their way along 100 miles of lonely roads “with the ever present danger of ambush by hostile Indonesian infiltrators”.
“Teddy, Paddy, Jim and I saw a very pretty pufferfish and we were even able to touch it,” reported G A Hawkes.
That was as nothing to the Christmas ’66 cover, which showed a pufferfish being prodded with a bottle by a diver. Perhaps in those days they actually thought puffers inflated themselves for fun It’s late in the day, but sorry!
Gibraltar became the next destination of choice for Triton parties, a little closer to home and giving access to north Africa too. But that was pretty much it as far as venturing abroad went for the average UK diver in the 1960s.

NIGHT SWEATS
WE’RE USED to squeezing in an evening dive before dinner, and it’s easy to forget that night-diving was at one time a fairly outlandish concept. In a 1964 article two divers based in Jamaica said that “there is a widespread belief that diving in tropical waters at night is tantamount to suicide”.
Shean Jackson and Frank Mackey believed otherwise, defied convention and wanted to hear from anyone else who had dived after dark anywhere in the world. Non-believers were “unwittingly letting slip an unforgettable experience”, they said. Let’s hear it for the pioneers!

LADIES’ DAY
WHERE WERE THE WOMEN DIVERS, outside of the ad pages Joan Harrison had been instructing in Spain for some years but bemoaned the absence of other “teacher birds” both in the UK and abroad.
She reckoned women were better at dealing with bombastic students who believe that “a woman’s place is either in the kitchen or, if she is attractive, in her bikini decorating his part of the beach… when first he discovers that a woman is responsible for his safety drills and basic training, he flatly refuses to be taken into the swimming pool.”
This charmer could be shamed into submission, however, and would become “an apt pupil, determined at least to equal the efficiency of his woman teacher and to perish from cold rather than admit defeat”. This pride, she said, would reduce his basic training time by no less than 50% – from about a month to two weeks.
A few months later Peggy Cottrell, writing from the “bird’s eye point of view” applauded the fact that unlike chauvinistic sports such as cricket, football or rugger, diving “does not automatically downgrade a woman to second-class citizenship.
Referring to the then BSAC grades, she said she could, with application, become a first-class 2nd Class Diver – or even a 1st Class Diver proper”.
hspace=5 Soon the magazine was asking under the heading “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes… Alive”: “What’s a very pretty girl like Australia-born Kathy Troutt doing diving to 300ft or so”
To be fair it was really just having a go at depth records, which it rated in pointlessness alongside pole-squatting and marathon piano-playing, “the sort of folly that only hairy-chested” males were supposed to indulge in.
Still, Kathy could claim to be “the deepest-diving woman in Australia, if not the world”.
It was a case of deja vu when German diver Kitty Geissler outdid that feat a few years later by some 8m, like Troutt suffering a bad case of the “raptures” at depth. “It’s happened again! A pretty girl has risked her pretty little neck diving to a record depth on compressed air,” gasped the writer.
Seen in hindsight, the casual sexism of the times is usually unintentional. For example, in a 1967 article about fitness, the author Al Murray states: “The ability to enjoy any sport is vastly increased if a man is fit…”, implying that for women neither fitness nor enjoyment is of any consequence. Yet he was in fact the coach of, among others, Olympic Gold Medallist athlete Mary Rand.
Of course, the ’60s was the age of long-haired pop groups and much gender confusion. “Could you kindly settle an argument by informing me whether the diver on the cover of August 1965 is male or female” wrote a reader. The editorial staff were clearly uncertain: “We have not met the model concerned,” they replied cautiously. “However, on careful scrutiny, I think we can say that the answer is female.”
But the ladies carried on regardless, and in 1969 the first all-female BSAC club was formed at a girl’s school in Kirby Lonsdale. Or, as Triton would have it: “…an all-birds branch… 20 members strong (or weak, depending on how you look at it)… Watch it, fellas.”

SHOWTIME!
THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL WATERSPORTS SHOW was held at Alexandra Palace in London in 1964 and Triton supported the idea and took a stand, only to end up lambasting the event in its pages – “not an uproarious success” was the verdict.
Wrong venue, wrong week, poor transport arrangements and advertising were all held responsible, but Bernard Eaton squarely blamed “the deplorable lack of support given to the show by the trade”.
He had spoken to two divers who had travelled 700 miles to spend £2000 equipping 12 divers from top to toe on compressors and other gear, but they had taken their cash home again, wondering where all the equipment dealers had been.
The seeds of setting up a well-supported Dive Show specifically for divers may well have been sown in Bernard’s mind that weekend.

SPEAR PRESSURE
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Castro preparing for his ‘favourite sport’
THE NEW TRITON was “designed for the man who dives for a purpose, including the scientist and the spearfisherman, and also those who dive just for the love of it”. But spearfishing was certainly a major preoccupation. We see Fidel Castro, Cuba’s President, enjoying his favourite sport in the Bay of Pigs, where he “aims to create a fashionable resort for this activity”.
If you ever wondered what happened to all the big grouper that once populated the Mediterranean, the clues are in the regular UK competition reports in these pages.
British spearfishing came under BSAC control in 1967, bringing the 300 members of the Spearfishing Club of Great Britain into its orbit and individuals expected to join.
But even in the early ’60s, it’s possible to see the seeds of a debate taking place. A lively letters page in August 1964 headed “That Spearfishing Controversy” ended with an impassioned plea for the magazine not to report on contests or advertise spearguns – but it would be some years before the tide would fully turn.
And as it happened it would be the magazine that had once featured all those competitions that led the campaign to replace spearguns with cameras as divers’ weapon of choice.


SEA CREATURES
IN THAT FIRST ISSUE of 1963 a leading underwater photographer, Maurizio Sarra, was described as being attacked by a shark off the coast of Italy. He had found a rare grouper, photographed it and then harpooned it, but the blood must have attracted the shark, which went for his legs.
His last words were: “These sharks do bite well.”
“To my knowledge this is the first case of an underwater swimmer being attacked by a shark in the Mediterranean” said BSAC commentator Reg Vallintine.
Unlike today, sharks were seen very much as the enemy, and there were many reports on finding ways to repel or, better still, kill them. Many divers were, after all, involved in spearfishing, often competitively, and much as they might enjoy seeing large animals under water and even, like Sarra, photographing them, many would have no qualms about killing them for sport.
In 1969, when Damien Hirst was still only four, it was possible to find an article like “A Shark For Your Sideboard” – “do battle with a shark and come out the winner – you may want to keep the beast as a souvenir”.
George Skuse obliged by explaining in great detail how to narcotise and pickle it, along with a multitude of other more manageable sea creatures.
The real perils of the sea were only beginning to be appreciated. In 1968 it was reported that the blue-ringed octopus could be the world’s deadliest creature.
“Victims rarely notice the bite, but within 10 minutes symptoms of drunkenness occur,” said a report. “This progresses rapidly to a state of paralysis and then death.”

hspace=5 COMMERCIAL BREAKS
THE FIRST CASUALTY of good taste by modern standards are the adverts, of course. In the rare instances when a woman is not bikini-clad and kitted up to do more than drape herself over an aqualung she will still be described as “lovely”, while the menfolk trot around the seabed with crowbars tucked into their weightbelts and precious historical artefacts slung over their shoulders.
However, the advertisements of the 1960s reveal much about what it was that stimulated divers in those far-off days.

KITTING UP
WE TAKE THE buoyancy compensator for granted, but in the 1960s the idea of the underwater “life-jacket” had still to be fully accepted.
“Gone are the days when a diver wearing one of these was considered “soft” or “yellow”, noted Don Shiers in 1965, but though he called it “the diver’s best friend”, he clearly felt that even those who did wear a life-jacket tended to treat them with careless disdain.
Mike Busuttili (DIVER’s Webmaster today and the man who taught Bernard Eaton to dive) and photographer Geoff Harwood transferred from Diver International, a small magazine acquired in 1967, and together produced an early equipment test.
“Lifejackets have, in recent months, probably been the subject of more discussion, anguish and bitter disappointment than any other item of diving equipment,” it began.
The problem was that only “thinly disguised sailing or airline life-jackets” were offered by British suppliers, so divers had to buy imported models such as the Fenzy, which worked but at inflated prices. £30 was a lot of money then.
The test was of the Aqualift, a Beaufort jacket adapted by a BSAC member to be inflated from the diver’s tank instead of using the usual CO2, with a blow-off valve and the facility to breathe off the bag in an emergency. Sound familiar “We look on this as one of the rare, but welcome, examples of innovations in diving equipment to come from Britain,” concluded Mike.
The same year Michael Fletcher reported on radio enthusiast Gerry Jackson’s successful trials of his underwater short-wave diver-to-boat communication system in a Lancashire reservoir. “This, to the best of my knowledge, has until now never been achieved by amateur divers and radio enthusiasts,” he said.
Subjects for debate include weightbelt fastening – the effectiveness of the new-fangled Velcro was perhaps over-estimated – and there was guidance on saving half the price of a wetsuit by making your own, not something many readers would contemplate today.
If you wanted to get kitted out, however, it might surprise you that you could pop along to Moss Bros in the 1960s and it would supply not only suits but any diving gear you needed – including boats!
We’re familiar with heated undersuits for coldwater divers now, but in 1968 an early version was reported. Water was heated by an “isotopic source” and pumped through a network of tubes in a net garment worn under a wetsuit.
Mind you, the system had been developed by the US Atomic Energy Commission and the isotopic source was plutonium. “Radiation is so low that it is not dangerous to the carrier,” potential customers were reassured to learn.
And for the diver who wanted everything, how about the £53 Aquastar diving panelWith this you could fill your arm almost up to the elbow with precision instruments – watch, depth gauge, thermometer, compass and slide out decompression tables. Aren’t you glad it’s all-in-one now

SAFETY FIRST
DIVING IS NOT WITHOUT RISKS and, as many techniques in this field are relatively new, there is still much to be learnt,” wrote Royal Navy Surgeon Captain Stanley Miles in 1964, analysing 165 scuba-diving accidents that had occurred in the past five years, 45 of them fatal.
Eighteen of the deaths were attributed to “asphyxia”, many following loss of a mouthpiece, and eight to “anoxia”. The majority of these seemed to be attributable to “inexperienced use of closed or semi-closed breathing apparatus where the oxygen content of the breathing bag falls frequently due to cylinders becoming empty”. Human error and rebreathers is not a recent phenomenon.
Miles concluded that “however tedious, time-consuming and irksome the rules and regulations… strict adherence to them will reduce the accident rate by at least 50%”.
It was, after all, the Navy that had to treat the UK casualties in its hyperbaric chambers.
Another naval officer, Lt Cdr Jackie Warner, noted three years later that too often appropriate deco stops were not being made, and put this down to ignorance, carelessness and greed (often by professional divers).
Across the page a prescient reader, worried that the government would otherwise take over the licensing of divers, wrote: “Not a week goes by without reading in the National Press of amateur skin-divers getting into trouble.
“I would suggest that a small plastic-cased identity card should be… provided only to divers who have attained a particular level of experience, or members of the National Diving Committee have the power to confiscate this card and require the offending diver to attend an enquiry if he wishes to appeal against this action.”
Overseas recreational travel was still a relatively new phenomenon. Never mind taking a day off before flying, in 1968 a small news item reminded readers that being airborne within eight hours of diving could provoke a bend, even after proper deco procedures. A diver had flown home shortly after a 30m dive and niggles had ensued.
“He seemed to have been unaware of the danger of flying after diving and so, probably, are a lot of new members,” commented Dr John Betts.

WRECK-FINDERS
Wreck-diving was becoming an established pastime, particularly for coastal clubs such as Torbay. Derek Cockbill, writing in 1965, reported that the club had located and explored more than 20 wrecks such as the Maine in the past five years, mostly within 20 fathoms’ depth (36m), and went on to provide a useful guide to wreck-diving.
We also find Gavin Konstam diving HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow solo after his buddy “lost his breakfast”, and a review of an affordable (less than £100) Wreckfinder proton magnetometer, with a chance to win this desirable item.
In late 1967 a small news item warned against diving the James Eagan Layne in Whitsand Bay, as it was in extremely dangerous condition following salvage of the propeller and engine-room fitting. The mast, which projected above the surface, was also said to be insecure. The writer might have been surprised to know that half a century later the JEL would still be British divers’ favourite wreck.

TREASURE-HUNTERS
IT WAS ALL WIDE OPEN then, and it’s fun to look at pictures of a diver casually chipping away at a 30lb chunk of silver coins, part of what was the biggest hoard ever found in the Indian Ocean (all the more so when you know that the photographer is fellow treasure-diver, 2001 A Space Odyssey writer Arthur C Clarke).
The haul was off Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and provided an arresting cover for the first issue of the new improved Triton, launched 50 years ago to the month.

GREEN SHOOTS
THERE WERE ALREADY ELEMENTS of environmentalism in evidence. In 1969 three divers made a strong case for the introduction of underwater nature reserves around Britain, where none existed. They compared the situation with the Mediterranean, where the need had been found “almost too late” due to recreational pressures but where reserves were being established.
Club scientific officers were urged to come forward with proposals for reserves in their areas. Years later, with a few exceptions such as Lundy, we’re still waiting.
Keith Hiscock would be instrumental in setting up the reserve at Lundy and generally leading the conservation charge, but in 1968 he was still a zoology student. Along with Roger Howlett, he was already writing in Triton about Britain’s own corals and providing a map to show their distribution.
Dr David Bellamy, who remains on DIVER’s consultants list today, launched his marine pollution research Project Kelp in the magazine’s pages in 1967, in one of the first attempts to include reader-divers in a major scientific project.
It was quite a complicated ask, too, requiring scales, scissors, pillow-cases and a 1sq m frame to be carried so that participants could get to grips with the seaweed. And it proved a popular success, leading to another such venture in the North-east, Project Starfish.
Mutual distrust between net- and line-shedding fishermen and lobster and scallop-hunting divers could be traced through the pages of Triton in the early ’60s, although in 1966 it was reported that, thanks to a more rigid code of conduct, co-operation was starting to take the place of enmity.
The conclusion was perhaps premature, and the magazine would later have to campaign against organised scallop-fishing by divers, because of deteriorating relations with the fishing community.

STONEY’S HERITAGE
EARLY ON WE FIND a reminder of how long Stoney Cove in Leicestershire has been a popular inland site for training and practice for UK divers – in mid-1963 the Leicestershire lake was designated BSAC’s National Diving Site and described in the magazine as “almost too good to be true”.

DIVERS’ PLAYTIME
THE GAME OF OCTOPUSH, in which a “squid” is pushed around the bottom of a pool by teams of snorkellers, had been invented by Southsea Branch in 1954. But it wasn’t until 1969 that the first Open Octopush Championships were held there – a competition Southsea naturally won.
It wasn’t a game for the faint-hearted – “fouls such as deliberate grasping or removal of players’ equipment, kicking, pulling, punching, stabbing or shooting may result in the offender having to spend up to one minute of play out of the water”, stated the rules, but it is still played by dive clubs to this day.

hspace=5 TECHNICAL DIVING
A 1965 REPORT DESCRIBED how 16 divers from Jacques Cousteau’s team had successfully carried out a series of dives to 110m in the Mediterranean using oxy-helium (or Heliox), with air and pure oxygen for recompression.
There was a lot of attention to research into nitrogen narcosis, still very much an unknown quantity, including a report in early 1966 “that its effects are greater and occur at a shallower depth than we had previously supposed”.
In 1967 a lead article entitled “Diving On Liquid Air” raised eyebrows. It reported on the first successful dives to 60m in the USA and said the system would allow divers to stay submerged for six to eight hours using a single cylinder. “Cryogenic scuba” was based on storing air in the tanks at around -195°C.
A Miami diver called Jim Woodberry appeared to have overcome previous problems with the different vaporisation rates of oxygen and nitrogen, and the divers were effectively carrying surprisingly lightweight Thermos flasks on their backs.
So whatever happened to liquid-air diving

PHOTO DEVELOPMENT
EATON PUBLICATIONS ORGANISED Britain’s first International Festival of Underwater Film in 1965 and it attracted more than 700 photos, slides and cine films, and an illustrious judging panel including national newspaper editors, film and TV producers, as well as the magazine’s Art Editor Brian Croxford.
Features Editor Roger Bruce opened the festival with “a selection of colour slides shot in all the oceans of the world, pointing out similarities and differences and discussing features of special interest to divers”.
Of course, the colour winners were a bit wasted in the magazine’s black and white pages, but it liaised with Kodak to mount an exhibition in London. This was the start of something big, and the following year many celebrated photographers were attracted to enter.

BOATS
A 1967 REPORT on “High Speed Inflatables” recognised that dive clubs were starting to invest in their own boats instead of going out in a variety of hardboats that, at the time, were often not well-suited to divers’ requirements.
They weren’t RIBs in those days because they weren’t rigid-hulled inflatables – those would originate through Atlantic College in Pembroke in the 1970s – but models tested included Evinrude and Electrolux outboards and a Mark II Zodiac. The pioneering Zodiac brand name is still often used as a generic term for inflatable boat.