PETE ATKINSON ALWAYS SEEMED to me to be living the dream. When he contributed an article about the time I joined DIVER 20 years ago I was impressed by his easy writing style, and even more by his apparently easy lifestyle.
The British diver had bought an old timber yacht called Eila in 1982 and, unencumbered by any previous experience, sailed it from the UK to the South Pacific to spend his life navigating between islands.
He would dive as he went, more often than not unaccompanied (his partner Vicki dived but was ”less obsessive about it“), and taking underwater photographs.
As he had qualified as a marine zoologist at Bangor in Wales, where he also learnt to dive, he knew what he was looking at. He had a particular penchant for sharks, whales and dolphins.
Pete pursued this existence for some 20 years. To help make ends meet, because this was no rich man’s indulgence, he wrote articles and sold his photos to Getty Images (he received Best British Underwater Photographer awards twice in DIVER’s IMAGE competitions).
With 45,000 miles of Pacific under his belt, in 2004 he moved to Australia and then Thailand, settling into a more conventional land-based lifestyle with his photographer wife.
This new eBook is a bit of an oddity, because he wrote it during his voyaging years, based on early diaries and articles he had sold, took the photos on a film camera but is only now publishing the results. The 12 chapters include voyages through French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tonga and Beveridge Reef.
The pictures are good and very evocative, both topside and under water, but even better for me are the word-pictures the author paints of life in the Pacific, both the idyllic fantasy side and the less-salubrious aspects of eking out a living, whether for him or for the islanders.
The chapters largely stand alone as observational slices, and often end abruptly. Highlights include the chapter Bojangles, about a rare extended underwater encounter with a solitary spinner dolphin.
There are also two appendices, one about the boat, which yachties will appreciate, and another on the photography which, in this digital age, camera historians may enjoy but in terms of advice seems redundant.
In fact no compromises have been made in publishing a book that could have come out in the 1990s.
This makes it more of a curiosity than it might have been, but it certainly presents a fascinating picture of how our diving lives could be if we had the nerve to cut loose, as Pete Atkinson did 34 years ago.
Steve Weinman

Pete Atkinson
www.peteatkinson.com
eBook via iBooks, 242pp, US $9.99.
A limited number of hardback versions are available at £57.