The cover with its big "Diving with Sharks" title and the prominent picture of a great white shark suggests that this is a book about sharks, and it is, but that is not all it is. The smaller print says "and Other Adventure Dives," and then at the bottom, "includes practical advice for experienced divers." In fact, only about half of the editorial part of this excellent book is about sharks. The other half is about all sorts of other cool sea creatures and adventures like wreck diving, caverns, caves and places with strong currents. So be aware of that if all you seek is shark information.
The book's author, Jack Jackson, is one of the world's great adventurers. Though he started out as an industrial chemist, his soon directed his sights on traveling, mountaineering, writing and lecturing all over the globe. He made over 20 expeditions in the Sahara Desert, and over 160 treks and journeys into deserts, mountains, rainforests and seas around the world, and that includes places far, far off the beaten track.
The picture shown on his website is that of a grizzled graybeard, precisely what you'd expect a seasoned explorer to look like. Yet, despite his vast experience with things and places most of us can only dream of, Jackson never lectures or pontificates, nor is he excessively obsessed with arcane minutiae of whatever he sets his sights on. He is an eminently practical man who always sees the big picture, and one who truly knows how to present his adventures in large-format, compelling books with superb photography, many illustrations, sidebars, and whatever else it takes to really convey both the essence and the depth of a topic. When I first got into Scuba, his "Complete Diving Manual" was instrumental in giving me a good foundation and understanding of all aspects of diving. You wouldn't necessarily expect that from a world traveling explorer who also wrote on non-diving related adventures such as "The Asian Highway" and a book on choosing, using and maintaining go-anywhere 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
"Diving with Sharks" is divided into six sections. The first, and largest, is on sharks. Here, Jackson describes sharks, diving with sharks both in steel cages and among them, different kinds of sharks, and different locations. He covers Blue and Mako Sharks, Great Whites, Hammerheads, Raggedtooth Sharks and adds a section on shark feeding sites as well as aquarium shark dives for those who'd rather approach those magnificent creatures in the safety of a confined space. The large 8-1/2 x 11 format of the book and the heavy, glossy stock are used to the max with numerous excellent color photos. On each large two-page spread, you not only get to read Jackson's informative, firsthand descriptions, but you can also see exactly what it's like.
A smaller section entitled "Diving with Gentle Giants" covers Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks, and this wouldn't be a Jack Jackson book if the section did not include a superb illustration that shows the relative size of all those sharks and whale sharks, with a human diver and a Blue Whale providing perspective. Next comes a colorful, informative and again superbly illustrated pot-pourri on all sorts of sea creatures, from Dolphins to Mantas and other rays, turtles, jellifish, potato cod and even sea snakes.
Now Jackson moves on to diving in different kinds of environments. First underwater adventures in strong currents in places like Palau, Cozumel, Cocos Island, and the Philippines. Then it's on to wreck diving, with descriptions of a good dozen major wrecks and wreck sites around the world. In typical Jackson fashion, this includes sidebars on diving with scuba pioneer Hans Hass and an overview of extended range/technical diving. A final section is on closed overhead environments and this one, again, covers everything from generic information on cavern and cave diving to equipment to the description of half a dozen of the world's great overhead dives -- again accompanied by fantastic photography and extras like a superbly rendered cross section illustration of the Wookey Hole sump/cave system in England.
"Multimedia" glossies are often lightweight coffee table books with lots of pictures and little substance. Jackson never falls into that trap. He and his publishers are masters in using words, pictures, typefaces, photographs, illustrations and related graphics to make topics come to life and turn mere reading into a spell-binding experience.
-- C. H. Blickenstorfer