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Soak up diving`s centenary at super saturation

22 October 2008

The extraordinary true story of John Scott Haldane, the non-swimmer who pioneered modern diving techniques, will be brought to the public next week with special events organised and hosted by the University of Plymouth to mark the centenary of modern diving and glimpse into the future.

Through film, music, talks, exhibitions, demonstrations and award-winning photography the university's Super Saturation: A Celebration of the Centenary of Modern Diving through Science and the Arts events (Friday 31 October - 2 November) will delight, amaze and inform not just diving enthusiasts but people of all ages and backgrounds, thanks to the input of the acclaimed experts taking part.

It was in 1908 that J S Haldane's diving tables were adopted by the Admiralty, allowing divers to reach greater depths for the first time without suffering 'the bends'. But what makes Haldane's work even more remarkable is that while he made the pioneering dives to devise the tables - he was actually a non-swimmer! Hailed as one of the bravest serial experimenters ever, it was Haldane who also first put canaries into mines to warn of gas and his achievements will be recounted in a talk by prize-winning biographer Dr Martin Goodman (Saturday 1 November, 10am). Entitled Suffer and Survive: The Extraordinary Life of J S Haldane, it will be held in Theatre 2 of the Roland Levinsky Building and will be followed by the book signing.

"What Haldane achieved, particularly when you consider this was the early 1900s, is nothing short of incredible," said Dr Goodman, Lecturer in English and Creative Writing in the university's School of Humanities, who earlier this year won the prestigious British Medical Associationís Basis of Medicine book prize for the biography . "It is only fitting that we make such an achievement the focal point of a weekend of celebration of all things diving with a diverse range of events everyone can enjoy, not just enthusiasts."

Other speakers at the event will be Professor Philip James from Dundee, a world expert on hyperbaric medicine; Dr Maurice Cross recounting adventures from the golden age of diving, and Professor Michael Punt and Dr Martha Blassnig, who will showcase some of the finest early dive film on record.

Throughout the weekend, the Portland Square Building will host a display of the underwater photography of Richard Merritt, Lecturer in Computing at the university, who last year won a gold medal in the Royal Photographic Society's International Print Exhibition for his stunning shot of a hammerhead shark. This, and other incredible photos captured by Richard - who has been taking underwater photography for 30 years - will be on show, along with a special audio feed of composer David Dunn's music for hydrophones.

On the Saturday, the Crosspoint area of the Roland Levinsky Building will feature a host of dive-related stands, music and film streaming plus a special exhibition by the Devon and Cornwall Police and Coastguard unit as well as a display of historic diving equipment.

Diving in the South West features diving footage down the years, which has been put together by the South West Film and Television Archive, and the film theme continues with a special showing of Buster Keaton's 1924 diving-based film, The Navigator (Sunday 2 November, 4 - 6pm). Screened in the Jill Craigie Cinema, each showing will be accompanied by live improvised music by Half Moon Assemblage.

No celebration of 100 years of diving would be complete without the opportunity to take the plunge, so a dive boat will run out from Dartmouth on the Sunday morning (weather permitting), for qualified divers. There will be a separate charge for this event.

Tickets for the talks cost £5 each (£3 over 60s), while admission to the film is £5 (£3 over 60s). There is a special offer of £10 for all talks and film (£6 over 60s). All events are free of charge for university staff, students and Friends Plus. Tickets for the National Marine Aquarium concert are £10 each (free to university staff, students and Friends Plus).

For full details of all the events being held during the Super Saturation celebration, visit the Peninsula Arts website at  


Notes to Editors

For any further information contact the University of Plymouth Press Office on (01752) 588003.

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