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August 2002 Vol. 17, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Three Magazines for Experienced Divers

inside information on the serious side of the sport

from the August, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

North American scuba divers have three general dive magazines at their disposal: Skin Diver and Scuba Diving, which are put out by two publishing giants, and Sport Diver, which is PADIs attempt to get a slice of the advertising market. Each of the three is driven by advertising that is apparently aimed at newer divers who want to travel for example, the May issue of Skin Diver has eight pages of advertisements from Grand Cayman alone.

Three much smaller magazines Advanced Diver, Immersed, and Fathoms publish on the fringes of the market. Each is aimed at a distinct niche within the diving field and each has its own merits. Advanced Diver and Immersed are rather crudely edited, littered with perverse punctuation and grammatical glitches. But reading them is like chatting with the most knowledgeable diver in your dive club or the biggest loudmouth on a liveaboard. Not exactly poetic, but plenty informative. Fathoms, on the other hand, is the closest thing to an underwater coffee table magazine since Ocean Realm (see sidebar).

Advanced Diver is, in the publications own words, designed for the Advanced Openwater Diver to the most extreme Technical Explorer. It publishes four times a year on what seems to be an irregular schedule. The most recent issue (#10, with no date and eighty-five pages) feaon tures articles on wreck and cave diving, deep diving in the Florida Keys, scientific analyses of new decompression models, and maintenance of Nitrox mixing equipment. Theres a Coral Sea travel spread written and photographed by legendary Bob Halstead, a report of a wild dolphin expedition shot by Dan Malone and Wes Skiles, and a historic piece entitled Technology and Guts.

“For serious traveling divers who
aren’t up to being techies,
Fathoms is a fine publication.”

Editor/Publisher Curt Bowen is a better writer than editor. His own articles (such as his recent review of JW Fishers side scan sonar) are meticulously crafted. But picture captions and other contributors text are inconsistent. For example, no one seems to know how to use apostrophes (conditions were good enough to capture a number of photos). If you can breeze right by these minor transgressions, youll get the inside scoop on esoteric diving not only from the text, but also from the advertisers.

Advanced Diver supports itself not by subscription income but by advertising. The #10 issue carries forty-five advertisers, primarily cave or deep dive operations such as Akumal Dive Shop or Scuba North in Traverse City, MI. Most equipment ads are from technical manufacturers youve probably never heard of (Ocean Management Systems, e.g.), with an occasional brand that crosses over from recreational to tech diving, like Zeagle.

Immersed is published by Bob Sterner and Bernie Chowdhury, author of the bestseller The Last Dive about the death of a fatherson team that had been exploring a newly discovered German U-boat 230 feet down. Immersed is a quarterly, in its seventh year of publication. Besides Chowdhury, Immersed has featured contributors such as underwater pioneer Ellsworth Boyd, the late free diving legend Jacques Mayol, and a stable of lesser names. It emphasizes underwater archeology, wreck diving, and cave diving. Regular departments include Technically Destined (dive sites for tech divers), Rigging for Success (equipment tips), Tech Direct (an info exchange for readers), Tech Spec (product reviews), and book reviews. More slick than Advanced Diver, Immersed could still use a better proofreader. But its not afraid to tackle controversial subject matter, such as UNESCOs plan to manage and preserve shipwrecks and underwater archeological sites. The reporting seems objective, fair, and balanced; no ones on a soapbox. Immerseds spring issue (sixty-six pages plus cover), is supported by larger and less technical advertisers than youll find in Advanced Diver; there are thirty-two ads for associations such as DAN and PADI, equipment like DUI dry suits, and techie dive shops or operators such as Divetech in Grand Cayman.

Fathoms is a different read altogether. Edited by longtime industry insider-gadflies Fred Garth and Brett Gilliam, veterans of Scuba Times and DeepTech, this quarterly has gorgeous photography and an edgy, conversational tone of unvarnished irreverence. In the winter/spring issue, only the third published to date, Garth and Gilliam advise, When reading Fathoms, be sure to bring a healthy sense of humor or well make you stand over there with the drooling zealots wearing buttons that say Save the Whales: Collect the Whole Set. Articles are as long as the subject merits, from a two-page interview with Jim Church to a sixteen- page fawning layout on Stan Waterman. Photo spreads from pros like Stuart and Michele Westmorland are chosen to offer unique perspectives, not the usual cliches. Underwater photography, such as a recent spread on digital cameras and accessories and a photo essay by Gilliam celebrating the color blue in all its hues and exuberance, gets more editorial attention than in the other two magazines. Travel articles also seek a unique slant, with titles like Yap: More than Mantas. Gilliam told Undercurrent that he will limit advertising, and the winter/ spring issue of Fathoms reflects that policy. Sixteen ads are clustered in the front and back, with manufacturers like Atomic Aquatics and Dive Alert competing for reader attention with dive operators like St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures and the Odyssey live-aboard in Truk Lagoon. Interestingly, all three magazines tout trips they sponsor, usually with a celebrity host, often the publisher.

Three Magazines for Experienced Divers

Fathoms uses less tech jargon than either Advanced Diver or Immersed, its printed on better quality paper, and its more professionally produced. For serious traveling divers who arent up to being techies, Fathoms is a fine publication.

PS: Yes, I know, Undercurrent too has had its problems with proofreading. So earlier this year we hired a professional, online, proofreading service and I think the bugs have nearly disappeared.

* * * * * *

Fathoms: Subscriptions are $30 for one year, $55 for two. Order tollfree at (888) 778-9073 or at www.fathomspub.com.

Advanced Diver: Subscriptions are $25 for four issues, $45 for eight. Order from PO Box 21222, Brandenton, FL 34204-1222 or at www.AdvancedDiverMagazine.com.

Immersed: Subscriptions are $19.95 for four issues plus one back issue. With a two-year subscription ($34.95) you get a choice of four back issues. Write to PO Box 638, Chester, NY 10918-9914, or click on www.immersed.com.

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