David Shaw

David Shaw
Of all the divers, honoured on this site, David Shaw stands out in many regards.  Whereas the others logged thousands, if not tens of thousands of dives, David Shaw logged only 333 in his lifetime.  Despite that small total, David Shaw was one of the most accomplished deep cave divers in the world.  He is still only one of eight men to have dived below 800 feet on scuba - fewer than the number of men who have walked on the moon.

According to the record books, David Shaw holds the record for the deepest recreational dive on a rebreather, and the deepest cave dive on a rebreather, and deepest altitude dive on a rebreather.  But those bland facts hide a story that is both fascinating and harrowing, chronicled in spell-binding fashion by Philip Finch in his book, Diving Into Darkness (also published under the title Raising the Dead).

Shaw took up diving late in life.  But he became obsessed by it, progressing quickly into cave diving, deep trimix diving and rebreathers.  He often found himself seeking out fresh challenges to conquer.  On 28 October 2004, this quest took him to Boesmansgat (Bushman's Hole), South Africa where he set his world records with a dive to 888 feet.  During that dive, Shaw came across the remains of Deon Dreyer.  Dreyer had died 10 years previously helping to set up a deep dive at the site.  His name had resonance in the diving community, both because of a plaque in his memory at the entrance to Boesmansgat, but also because in cave diving deaths, the body is normally recovered.  Dreyer was the body that was never recovered.

After speaking with Dreyer's family, Shaw agreed to undertake an attempt to recover the body.  It would be fraught with difficulty; nothing like it had been done before, and the slightest effort at 888 feet was exhausting.  Ultimately, the recovery effort failed.  Shaw became entangled in the lines when Dreyer's body unexpectedly floated up as a result of the remains encased within the wetsuit having turned into adipocere.  Shaw died alongside Dreyer.

The following day, the entangled bodies of Shaw and Dreyer floated up to near the surface where they were recovered by the support divers.

"When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death - that is heroism."

- Robert Green Ingersoll

The photograph of David Shaw on this page was reproduced from David's personal website, www.deepcave.com.  We did not obtain permission to reproduce the photo, and were unsuccessful in trying to contact the people who now maintain that site.  We have put the photo on this site in the expectation that family and friends of David would not object, but we will of course remove it immediately if objection is raised.