"The Complete Goggler" by Guy Gilpatrick
An underwater literary classic and for early free divers too.
A postcard view of an old fortification on the quay at Antibes. Likely before Gilpatric's time but it captures a sense of the place I think.
It was the 1930's in post WW I Europe, France was rebuilding and about to descend into another tumult. Guy Gilpatric, an American, not in Paris but in Antibes on the Côte d'Azur, proceeded to explore a new realm, free diving. Equipment was crude and participants were few. Guy, an acknowledged author wrote some introductory pieces to the sport of "goggling" in his regular contributions to the "Saturday Evening Post." His musings eventually amassed into a book, "The Complete Goggler" first published in 1938. Skin Diver Magazine way back in 1957 published an expanded version of the book with "new" images of the sport and a forward by James Dugan. I received a copy of the later in 1975 as a discard from a very kind librarian at my alma mater, Ft. Lauderdale High School. She was probably impressed by the number of times I had checked it out in my years there. I subsequently found and bought copies for some of my close diving buddies. Since that time the book has become a fairly scare and valuable collectors item.
It is interesting that Gilpatrics work influenced my early free diving as a teen in a big way. I spent numerous hours free diving with a mask alone, I opted to spare myself the goggle ordeal, sorry Guy. Still, having to control buoyancy, I focused on relaxation pre-breathing, then exhaling roughly half a lung of air and then doing a pop up followed by feet first descent at speed or by a jackknife. It worked. Then playing around with different hand strokes and faring shapes while focusing on minimal exertion and relaxation to aid bottom time. It was a rich and rewarding experience launched by a discarded but highly valued old book.
Excerpts from the "Compleat Goggler" text follow.
The cover page of the book showing Guy in his element
"The Complete Goggler, Being the First and Only Exhaustive Treatise on the Art of Goggle Fishing That most Noble and Excellent Sport Perfected and Popularized by Guy Gilpatric in the Mediterranean Sea Though Long Practiced Elsewhere by Other Benighted Sava"
As a teenager, this impressed me probably as much as anything in the book. Free diving without fins or proper mask and spearing without any means of propulsion other than a well coordinated kick, stroke and thrust. I was intrigued by the feet first entry and timing of the exhalation of air to reduce buoyancy. Weight, we don't need no stink'n weights!? I had quit spearfishing before this time but could still appreciate an arcane art when I saw it.
It was a new time for a very old, new activity. As with kitesurfing, innovation was rampant in the secluded areas in which the discipline was practiced. Here is a nifty speargun AND compressed air breathing apparatus. Wonder how SCUBA diving would have suffered if developments continued directly along these lines?
The goggles. The only ones you could equalize were the ones with the squeeze bulbs shown at the bottom from Japan. Ama divers had developed this provision long in the past to my knowledge and yet Guy wasn't all that crazy about them. Here's what he had to say about mask squeeze "At depths exceeding twenty feet, you will notice that your goggle rims cut into you uncomfortably and that your eyes within them feel as though they were being sucked out. Down around forty feet, this "suction" may deform your eyeballs, hinder your vision and cause you to miss your fish." He left out that part about acute headaches and perhaps losing your vision in extremes and with regular repetition! I want the ones with exposed aluminum rims, who needs soft rubber? I think my eyes would start to be squeezed out around 5 ft and 40 ft.? Amazing, core divers back in the day.
Some more home crafted gear. I was so taken by this that I made a similar side mounted knife carrier as a teen using a steak knife, kids!
The weapon of choice. Note no surgical or other drive bands, just a handle. He did use rubber bands for retaining the point cable. Just needed bigger rubber bands, soon. The detachable point with keyway is well conceived. It isn't so far different in concept from some contemporary points.
Thank you Guy for your contribution to free diving. I understand Skin Diver eventually gave copies of the book away with subscriptions and even threw some away sad to say given the lack of interest at the time. The book was said to be in the library onboard Cousteau's Calypso and in Hemingway's library. Got mine fortunately and it actually influenced my perspective on free diving growing up along with other books like Robert Marx's "Always Another Adventure" (e.g. Big Anthony striding around at depth on the bottom off Little Tobago on a breath). More about the book and author here.
Guy was even credited as launching the prolific underwater career of Hans Hass:
Nous sommes en été 1937 à Juan les Pins, Hans Hass, bachelier autrichien de 18 ans, tente d’oublier un chagrin d’amour. En se promenant, solitaire, sur le Cap d’Antibes, il rencontre Guy Gilpatric, le père de la chasse sous-marine. Bon nageur, le jeune viennois devient disciple de l’américain et s’achète immédiatement des lunettes chez un opticien de Cannes et un harpon chez le forgeron Martin à Antibes. Il garde un souvenir ému de la décharge électrique qu’il reçut de sa première proie : une raie torpille ! Mais bientôt il devient un chasseur expérimenté."
Poor machine translation:
"Hans HASS We are in summer 1937 in Juan les Pins, Hans Hass, Austrian bachelor of 18 attempts forget a heartache. Walking, alone, on the Cap d'Antibes, he met Guy Gilpatric, the father of spearfishing. Good swimmer, the young Viennese becomes disciple of the US and immediately buy glasses at a Cannes optician and a harpoon at the blacksmith Martin in Antibes. He has fond memories of the landfill electric he received his first prey: a torpedo ray! But soon it becomes a experienced hunter."
An advert for the second edition of the book in Skin Diver Magazine.
Guy was a prolific writer, with several successful works to his credit. One even made it to the big screen staring Humphrey Bogart acting with his normal screen foils of the time.
He also wrote a number of episodes for various TV series.
Guy's gone but not forgotten. Thanks for the inspired work!
Last edited by RickI; 05-10-2016 at 09:58 AM.