The Knife

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Bob HalsteadMy previous underwater camera, trusty companion for 22 years of diving deeper for longer, weighed over 15kg out of the water. In its prime it was coupled to a pair of huge Ikelite 150 strobes with rechargeable battery packs. Its mass stabilised my photographs. Its solid metal housing chipped shark teeth. It had momentum. I could use it to assert my presence in a chum of divers. It could stop a submarine. I felt safe.

Now I have gone digital and have a camera that weighs nothing and has tiny strobes that light up the planet but that could be swallowed whole by a Goby.

First I thought being light was a good idea. Airlines are becoming paranoid about baggage and aggressive in their collection of fees for any excess. By going digital I would cheat them of hundreds of dollars every year! But now I am feeling vulnerable. Divers kick sand in my face. I need a weapon.

So I immediately thought of buying a knife. PADI tells us that the Divers Knife is a “general tool and safety device. In the latter case, you use it in the unlikely, but possible, situation that you’re entangled and need to free yourself. It is not a weapon.”

But they can’t fool me.

Then I started to look at the dive knives on offer. It was a shock. Some were so small that if you took a good grab at one with big hands like mine you would slice off your fingers. That is if they were sharp, but sharpness is not a feature of most dive knives. If you think it is, I suggest you get yours out and sharpen a pencil with it. See?

I was advised that you did not need a knife, dive SCISSORS (shears?) would do. Huh! You try ripping the guts out of a Giant Hammerhead with dive scissors, or cutting nylon line for that matter.

Something has gone very wrong so I decided to go back to basics and remember the diving of my youth. At that time the best dive knife in the world was Scubapro’s “The Knife”. It was huge, 30cm long, with an imitation bone handle and a massive 19cm blade that tapered to a sharp point. That is the point. The weight and sharp point meant you could stab things. Cutting was not as important as penetration.

Ok I saw Lloyd Bridges slicing regulator hoses in Sea Hunt, but that was just a film gimmick. Yes, the primary function was to eliminate the bad guys, but sharks were dispatched with ruthless efficiency with a stab through the brain or belly, as were the evil marine archaeologists trying to steal your gold treasure from a recently discovered historic shipwreck.

Josie with Scubapro's The Knife , and a toy.

Josie with Scubapro's The Knife , and a toy.

But The Knife is not manufactured anymore. They are rare, and can cost a fortune on eBay. Others divers too, seeking security, have worked out their real value. Scubapro do have a replacement – the “K6” that possesses a 14cm blade and looks like it might be useful, but the romance of The Knife has set me lusting for one. I must admit I am tempted by Spyderco’s black bladed, “The Warrior”, perfect name for a start. I quote, “possessing the same differential hardness properties of a clay-tempered Samurai sword”. Oh, glory! And only $450.00!

The Knife is, of course, much too big to attach to one’s BCD. It requires a leg. In the old days male divers would strap their dive knife to their leg and “forget” to take it off for work the next day. This enabled them to explain, “Oh Yes, I was Deep Sea Diving yesterday” to the swooning secretaries.

Interestingly, “The Knife” and equivalent large dive knives seem these days to be mainly worn by women. They are usually very able and experienced divers and I have dived with a couple recently on two different trips. They know what a dive knife is for, and it is not for cutting the vegetables.

So what is it for? Sorry, and I mean this, but sharks are just not what they used to be. Firstly they are getting rare from overfishing, and are virtually impossible to see in the wild without baiting or calling with a bottle rub, and secondly, they have become scared of divers – and who can blame them.

You see I do not want protection against sharks. I want protection against people. Especially I want protection from the sort of diver that inhabits the reef today policing your every move. Specifically those sanctimonious politically correct ignoramuses that attempt to make sure you do not touch a coral (the “Touch Me and I Die” brigade), nor move an ignorant subject from obscurity to a position on the reef where it can pose for a decent photograph and become famous, and those fools who come waving their finger in front of your face if you take more than three flash photographs of a particular fish.

Then there are those that stir up the silt just as you have your perfectly posed subject, swim into your wide angle shot with their legs bicycling, or swim beneath you on a wall cascading bubbles around you.

Then there are the dive guides that check your air supply to try to make you go up when you still have 10 bar or 150psi left, hand signal indecipherably in front of your mask, or show you your five millionth Lionfish and insist you visit their invisible pygmy Seahorse.

When I get my knife I’ll be able to whip it out and scare the living daylights out of them. I’ll become a dangerous marine animal and be included in dive courses – “If a diver waves his/her large dive knife at you it means danger, Stay Away!”

PADI says, “It is not a weapon. A knife is important safety equipment. You don’t carry it as a weapon, but it can hurt people if you’re careless. Own and use it responsibly, respect it and keep it away from children.”

I say, “The dive knife should be huge, is definitely a weapon, and should be used to keep obnoxious divers and children well away from you.”

www.halsteaddiving.com

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15 comments for “The Knife

  1. July 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Hilarious! Thanks for writing this, gave me a great laugh!!!

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  2. Allan Freilich
    July 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Yeah, Bob
    Now we’re talkin’!

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  3. bret gilliam
    July 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Bob,

    I, too, was enthralled with the old Scubapro product “The Knife”. Although I can’t ever recall using the giant thing underwater, it sent a clear message to the ladies that there were absolutely no questions as to my “endowment” since no one could possibly possess such a daunting weapon unless they were clearly the “alpha male” in any dive group. One look at that “sword” and it was usually suggested to simply skip the dive and head directly to the hot tub. Jim Bowie would have been proud of both the knife and what happened in the hot tub! Remember the Alamo… and Phallus Maximus the Diving Gladiator!

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  4. Doug
    July 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Great article! I have what must be a later, modernized version of “The Knife”; its blade is only 18 cm, overall length 32 cm, but with a big chrome knob on the end of the black rubber handle. I used it occasionally for cutting my buddy out of kelp (she was more of a hazard than diving alone…), but mostly for stabbing urchins so the garibaldi could get at their flesh without getiing stabbed, as I did, once in a while. The Knife is not politically correct, anymore, and I certainly empathize with Bob’s lament about the “holier-than-thou” divemaster/guides who are bent on being what they think is politically and ecologically correct. The time for blaming someone else for one’s own stupidity is truly upon us.

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  5. July 22, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Bob, I loved this article. Years ago I often watched our guests wear their big knives to lunch. You hit all of the great points. I did not ever know about this really funny side of yours — it is always a pleasure to see more great things about such wonderful friends. I especially loved Josie’s expression and handling of the two knives. Sorry I don’t get to see you guys more often.

    Enjoy the journey,
    Cathy

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  6. Clark Gutterman
    August 15, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    The true purpose of the dive knife is “SHARK PROTECTION”. You slice your buddy’s leg and swim the opposite direction. Works every time.

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  7. Harvey S. Cohen
    August 16, 2012 at 1:22 am

    I do a few day-boat dives out of Belmar, NJ, which is just slightly better than not diving. Virtually all the other divers carry SPEAR GUNS, usually supplemented by two or three small-to-medium knives. It really puts a premium on what they call “situational awareness”.

    BTW, is that *blood* on the knife in Josie’s left hand??

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  8. September 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    “Ikelite 150 strobes with rechargeable battery packs. Its mass stabilised my photographs”

    I am also a photographer and can vouch for Ikelite strobes , they certainly create the right kind of lighting effect, especially under water.

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  9. ozarkdiver
    October 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Yep, I have an old sword (It might be a Dacor?) stowed away in my gear. It has a snub-nose, so while it’ll get the attention of the “reef police”, it won’t end anyone’s dive.

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  10. Gary
    November 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Bob:
    I have felt the same way as you about knives. Aqualung has produced a replica of their master knife circa 1970. I used to have one in 1970. It will stop a submarine if required!

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  11. David
    December 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    As it was explained to me 20 years ago when I forst started diving, for shark protection, only a small knife is necessary. When confronted by an aggressive shark, simply cut your buddy, and drop his weight belt.

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  12. February 15, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Great Knife I Have a new one in the box with booklet its been in my display case since new and I’m thinking about selling it presently its on display at Scubapro and will be returned shortly

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  13. April 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Bob,

    The new divers knife is actually so small.

    Interesting mention that the large old ones cost $450 in ebay.. that s news to me.

    But, yeah you must have a weapon underwater – as you never know who you may meet :)

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  14. Bruno
    December 14, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Bob, you made my day!

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  15. Michael McKeever
    April 19, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    I have a special request. I too am a huge fan of Scubapro’s “The Knife”. I bought one when they first came out and still have it; it is truly a great knife. However, the scabbard has now got a broken loop at the top – as age will do that to any of them. Try as I might, I have not been able to find a satisfactory solution to fixing it. ANY ideas would be most welcome. Thanks for the help and Aloha!

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