Appeared in DIVER March 2006


Ocean Gladiator, Book by Mark Ellyatt, Emily Eight Publications

The very title of ultra-deep diver Mark Ellyatts memoirs, Ocean Gladiator, will raise the hackles of some potential readers. Still, Ellyatts exploits and the scars that go with them would seem to entitle him as much as any diver to make that claim.
Besides, he doesnt 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 rescued.
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 thats needed to get him back on his feet.
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 isnt 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 cant see the tourist boards of Barbados, the Bahamas, Thailand, the Philippines or Dubai among others rushing to use quotes from this book for publicity purposes.
It would have helped if Ocean Gladiator had been better paragraphed and proof-read, 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.
Steve Weinman
Ocean Gladiator by Mark Ellyatt (Emily Eight Publications, ISBN 9780955154409). Softback, 340pp,£12.99