My 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.
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.”