It might be stamps, works of art or obsolete technology, but regardless of what it is the chances are that someone, somewhere, has a passion for collecting it.
For some people it’s an appreciation of the perceived beauty or craftsmanship of an item: Others regard their collections as long-term investments that – they hope – will increase in value. Some restrict themselves to specific categories of "collectibles", while others are more broad-ranging in their tastes. For some, collecting becomes an obsession. For others, it’s a fascinating and usually harmless hobby.
Take a close look at most popular activities and the chances are that they have all developed their own subculture involving "collectibles". Diving is no exception.
A friend of mine, for example, collects standard diving helmets that he’s gathered from around the world. Rescued from use as doorstops or novelty plant-pots, he’s lovingly restored each of them to working condition and gets as much joy out of diving with them as he does from the knowledge that he’s helping to preserve a part of diving’s history.
Equally driven are those people who scour second-hand bookshops for out of print copies of books on diving’s early days or back issues of old diving magazines. Others "collect" wrecks, spending months of research pinpointing the site of a sunken vessel in order to be the first to dive it. Some collect bottles on river bottoms and research the history or ancient sharks' teeth from the seafloor.
In short, it doesn’t matter what it is, if it involves diving then it’s almost certain that somebody collects it.
Sadly, however, collecting is not always a harmless pastime. There are still those divers who insist on bringing back seemingly trivial mementos from each of their dives. Ignoring the environmental significance of removing even the smallest fragment of coral or shell from the ocean, they remain oblivious to the maxim, “Take only memories. Leave only bubbles”.
Diving since 1961 — with a background in military, commercial, recreational and technical diving — David Strike has dived extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and the organiser of the biennial OZTeK Diving Conference.