Essential skills for 00 agents – Scuba Diving

Scuba Diver

We only have to wait until Ian Fleming’s second James Bond novel, Live And Let Die, to find 007 scuba diving, when Bond is on the tail Mr Big. Ian Fleming was fascinated by the underwater world and sea life, probably the reason it features prominently in two Bond novels.

Fleming had met underwater pioneer Jacque Cousteau and covered the salvage of a Greco-Roman galley off Marseilles dating from around 250 BC for a short series published in the Sunday Times in 1953. He was also fond of snorkelling on the reef at Goldeneye in Jamaica, where he holidayed every winter while writing the next James Bond thriller.

James Bond next dons a wetsuit in Thunderball, first when examining the underside of the Disco Volante, Emilio Largo’s hydrofoil, and later to find the sunken bomber and finding the stolen atomic bombs and an underwater battle between the US Navy and SPECTRE.

In the films we first encounter James Bond wearing diving gear in Goldfinger, when he emerges from the water with a duck on his head and unzips his dry suit to reveal an immaculate white tuxedo beneath. But it is the following film, Thunderball, when he really takes to the submarine world, although has several gadgets unavailable to the literary Bond; and diving reappears in both For Your Eyes Only and Licence To Kill.

SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and consists of the diving tank, which usually contains high-pressure air although more advanced divers may choose different gas mixes.

Although diving had been possible previously by pumping air from the surface to the diver who wore a heavyweight helmet and diving suit, scuba diving was only made possible by the invention of the aqualung by Jacque Cousteau and Emile Gagnan.

The design included an open circuit demand valve, which provides the diver with air on the in-breath but expels the out-breath into the water. Most modern scuba equipment remains based on this same configuration, although better manufacturing techniques and materials have resulted in equipment being safer and more durable, while at the same time being lighter.

If you would like to learn how to scuba dive you should see if you have a dive club in your area; alternatively, you might like to wait until your summer holiday and book a diving course while away.

The biggest dive organization is in the world is the US based PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) which has accredited dive centres on all continents; its detractors often refer to it as Put Another Dollar In thanks to its ceaseless promotion of new courses, but the PADI Open Water qualification will teach you all the basics in a series of theory and practical exercises in a week.

Other major dive organisations in Europe include BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) and CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques).

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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