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Tales of the Hunt

You know that a “standard” backmount rig is called Hogarthian? And lots know that it’s named after Bill “Hogarth” Main?

But did you that Bill Main doesn’t actually dive a “standard” rigging? Do you know why? Or where it came from?

When I was learning to be a cave instructor Bill Main came to talk to my fellow instructor candidates and me. Talked for about 8 hours (he keeps to himself and he’s difficult to get to talk, but then, once talking, it’s difficult to shut him up) about his experiences over the early years of cave diving. It was wonderful and I learned a ton about the evolution of our sport.

A couple of years ago we hosted Steve Forman, one of the earliest pioneers of the sport, here at XOC-Ha. For a week I got to listen to stories about the very earliest days of cave diving, about some of the earliest personalities and equipment and dives. Again, it was absolutely wondrous and I learned a ton. Some of the most tantalizing stories he told were of how some of the most commonly dived places got their names.

The other day I was bringing a guest to a bit of cave with a spooky name (the Dead Zone) which I dive all the time. I’ve heard a story about why it’s called that, but I don’t know the veracity of the origin.

One of the folks who has been living and diving and working here longest also happened to be getting in the water just then. So I asked whether they knew the truth of the matter.

They didn’t know why it’s called that. In fact, they’d never even heard the same story I had.

Dreamland Rollercoaster Swiss Siphon Bone Room Hostage Hall The Beguine Passage

Who named these places? Why? What was the context of their discovery? What was it like?

Our community is now into the, perhaps, third generation.

Most of the earliest pioneers are no longer diving for various reasons. The second generation, who had been mentored by the first, are now the venerable elders while some of them retire from as active a teaching schedule as they once had.

Now this third generation, who has evolved enormously from a bunch of hillbillies swimming around with a homemade lead-acid battery strapped to their hip and a couple of Clorox bottles strung under their armpits for buoyancy, is defining how we dive now, how the next generation will dive and how they will experience these places...

... but is forgetting its history. Is forgetting even the resources who know it.

We need an archivist. And a proper museum. To keep our history alive. The evolution of equipment. The evolution of diving and training practices. The names and lives of the divers that experimented and tinkered and created what we can now enjoy the luxuries earned by their contributions. The place names we see on the maps.

Or maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t matter. As a nihilist: does any of it really matter?

I grew up in Trenton, NJ. Originally Trent Town. To this day I have no idea who Trent might have been. And don’t really care.

--- Postscript: After writing this I was unable to help myself and looked up the history of Trenton. William Trent was the wealthiest landowner in the area and defaulted to being the first mayor or whatever. He had gotten very rich from the slave trade in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Fuck William Trent. Cave diving history is way better.

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