When I started to read this book I didn’t know how I was going to feel about this man who had spent most of his life taking living organisms from the sea for the purpose of enjoyment for human beings. I had always been against taking anything from the sea, and had turned down my own aquarium after my very first scuba experience. To my surprise, I couldn’t put this book down, clich?? though it may sound. David Powell enlightens you, not only to the underwater world, but also to the time, effort and diligence it takes to re create it.
David Powell was born in 1927 in South Africa and from a very early age he fell in love with fish and wanted the rest of the world to see what he saw in them. He was first inspired by Jacques Cousteau, by watching his films of the underwater world and he says that this was how chose the path he was going to take.
In this autobiography, he tells of his first diving experience, which was solo, with a tank and regulator bought before he had lessons, and how he created an underwater lamp from the simplest of car headlamps and a bucket! We explore the oceans with him, learn as we go of all the species he encountered, how to catch them (with whatever ingenious equipment he chose to make), and their Latin names too!
David takes you to the depths of each of his dives and you almost hold your own breath when he unravels his escapades of catching each species in their own individual way. One particular experience stuck in my mind as he explained when capturing rockfish the way the fish’s swim bladder works. It gives the fish neutral buoyancy when at the same depth, but when captured, will inevitably die unless it decompresses when reaching shallower depths. David overcame this hurdle by creating a decompression chamber for the fish made from a home pressure cooker. When this man wanted something, he made sure it was going to happen!
David has encountered many species of fish and has taken extreme care to create the best and safest environments for these different species to live together in the world of the Aquarium. Some of his most fascinating encounters are from capturing sharks, and in particular an experience with a Great White Shark that was taken back to the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco after it had been found by two fishermen. The way David recounts this experience is with compassion and tenderness, which wrenches your heart.
Not only does this book cover the amazing and interesting life of David Powell, with his extreme steadfastness and innocent charm, but he also takes you on a journey to some of the most interesting and exotic places on the earth, including the Sea of Cortez, Tahiti, Raratonga, and of course the bays of California. You will learn the best places to dive and the worst and learn about the culture of every place he has discovered.
David writes in a personal and inviting way, which lures you into his world with honesty and openness. He recounts the friends he had/has with warmth, remembering them and sharing with us their individual qualities reminding us that he couldn’t have done any of it on his own. Somehow I think he would have found a way.
He is a determined and diligent man who, from the start of his life decided what he wanted to do and didn’t stop until he had achieved it. Something that many people today are too scared to do.
David’s designs and innovations are stamped all over the biggest aquariums including the Steinhart Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. His purpose in life was to conserve marine life, and instead of feeling upset at the thought of fish and other sea animals being captured in tanks all over the world, after reading this, I felt pleased and safe that some of the most special and intriguing creatures this world has got, have a generous and gracious man looking after them. We can get as close as we want to the weirdest and most wonderful creatures, and with the help of David Powell, they will feel at home and you will not have to get wet to watch them!
This book is a special one. It injects some drive into you because he has so much himself, and proves to you that no matter what, if you really want something, you can have it, with patience, education and commitment. It is a fascinating book, told by a very knowledgeable and cool man, who does what we all want to be able to do-
Get paid to do what you love doing.
Published by University of California Press, Berkeley 94720 and Los Angeles, California
University of California Press, Ltd, London England.