And here comes another new book that makes a good first impression, with its bright red frogfish perched on the sensibly laminated cover (sensibly, because it’s likely to get a fair bit of hard use if it’s taken on a dive-trip).
It’s written by Australia-based DIVER contributor Nigel Marsh, who referred to it in his A Tale of Two Muck Sites article in our March issue. The publisher announces Muck Diving as “the first complete guide to the subject”, and I have no reason to argue with that claim.
While the author stresses that muck-diving can be enjoyed anywhere that has silty, sandy environments, most of the diving in this weighty book takes place in its spiritual home – those areas covered by Diving in Southeast Asia, reviewed above, plus Australia and PNG.
In fact the two books make good companion-pieces. Both agree that the term “muck-diving” was coined by another erstwhile DIVER contributor, Bob Halstead, in PNG in the early 1970s.
And the pursuit has matured with digital photography, as so many divers seek unusual, exotic and compliant subjects to capture in pixels.
The first 30 pages or so are dedicated to the environments, history and techniques of muck-diving, its guides and photography.
The bulk of the book then ranges through the main groupings of muck critters, fish and reptiles (sea snakes), and it’s all pulled together with sections on destinations and operators, paving the way for you to take off in pursuit of those highly prized photos.
Nigel Marsh is a photo-journalist and he approaches his subject from a photographer’s point of view, which makes it very readable for divers.
His photos are not all “arty” depictions using black backgrounds or bokeh, but show the creatures as we see them in their naturally unattractive habitats – appropriate in this context.
The case is made for divers to make a stand against “critter-fiddling”, but I was interested to see that the author feels strongly that banning gloves as a way of preventing divers from touching anything is unwise.
He reckons we need gloves for our own protection in environments in which tiny but deadly dangers lurk well-camouflaged everywhere.
This is not an ID book – there are far too many strange species out there, with more being discovered all the time – but it does provide a valuable perspective on muck for any divers hooked on this fascinating branch of our sport. Recommended.
Review by Steve Weinman

New Holland
ISBN: 9781921517815
Softback, 352pp, £15.99