Sheck Exley

Sheck Exley
Perhaps no other diver holds the imagination of fellow divers as Sheck Exley.  No other diver is so instantly recognisable by simply using his first name: "Sheck".  In his book, Diving Into Darkness (also published under the title Raising the Dead), Philip Finch said "Exley's status in the sport is almost impossible to overstate."

Outside of diving, Sheck Exley was a quiet man.  A maths teacher by profession, few of his students had any idea of his diving accomplishments.

In the field of cave diving, Sheck Exley wrote the book, both figuratively and then literally, when he published Basic Cave Diving: A Blueprint for Survival.  He was the first man to log 1,000 cave dives, at the relatively tender age of 23.  He set, and then repeatedly broke, his own world records for cave penetration, finally settling with a mark of 10,939 feet into the Cathedral, Florida on 16 December 1989.  The title of his autobiography, borrowed from Coleridge, showed his true love: Caverns Measureless to Man.

However, Exley may be better remembered for his accomplishments as a deep diver.  He set the world depth record on various occasions, and at one stage his accomplishments were so far ahead of other deep divers that Bret Gilliam wrote in Deep Diving that "Exley could compete only with himself."  In 1988 he set a world record with a 780 feet dive.  In 1989 he broke that record with a dive to 867 feet.  Four years later he would nearly break that record with a dive to 863 feet.  He was one of only a handful of divers who survived a dive to 400 feet using only compressed air.

Ultimately, it would be another attempt to set a world depth record which would cost Exley his life.  On 6 April 1994, whilst trying to dive to over 1,000 feet with his friend and colleague, Jim Bowden, Sheck Exley died. 

"if he fails, at least [he] fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt