Log Book

Christina Campbell

Born 1963, Edinburgh
Lives Clapham, London
Life and career The eldest of four, she enjoyed a happy childhood in Edinburgh, where her father ran the family meat distribution business. Studied English literature at St Andrew's University, where she also became involved in maritime archeology. She was a founder member of Starfish Enterprises, an elite group of technical divers which specialises in locating and diving deep wrecks. With them, she has dived many of the major wrecks, including the Lusitania and, last year, the Britannic. There, she became the deepest ever female wreck diver when she scootered alongside the immense bow at 118m. Other diving achievements include last year's pioneering dive on the Affray, a British submarine that lies at 80m in the English Channel. After moving to London, she started working for an international firm specialising in 'executive search', thus enabling her to add the word, 'head-hunter' to an already exotic CV. Her boyfriend is Chris Hutchison, another member of the Starfish team.
Passions Wrecks, skiing, walking - 'I'd like to do all the Monroes, [in Scotland] but it's difficult finding the time'. An avid reader, her favourite writer is Jane Austen.

What prompted you to take up diving?
I've always enjoyed swimming, and had a lot of fun as a youngster snorkelling around Scotland. Like a lot of people, I was raised watching Jacques Cousteau's documentaries on the television, and he was a big influence. I was involved with the swimming and life-saving scene, and diving was a natural progression.

Where did you train and when?
The BSAC club at St Andrew's University in 1983. It has always been a very high-profile club, and its divers are real achievers. I finally came to the decision to take the plunge one night after a lot of drinks with my friend, Peter Tevendale, who used to work as a shellfish diver. He now runs a pub in the Highlands. I was the worst novice of the group, very slow in the pool. What's more, anything to do with with compressors or steering boats still fills me with dread. I try to avoid them as much as possible. Thankfully there were other women diving with St Andrew's even then, because it was a university club, and there wasn't that old-fashioned mentality that existed elsewhere. Although things have changed throughout BSAC branches since then, there are still some die-hards who are happy to have their wives stay at home when they go diving.

What are your qualifications?
BSAC Advanced and Club Instructor, IANTD Trimix, postgraduate diploma in marine archeology. (I've got a degree in English literature as well - does that count?)

How many dives have you done?
Certainly more than 2,000. I logged a lot of maritime archeology dives around 1985 and '86, when I was a student. That dense phase of diving has stood me in good stead, mainly because I had tasks to perform underwater. It makes you think and focus on the job at hand, as well as your diving kit and the other usual considerations.

What is your best diving experience?
Being the first diver to find the letters on the side of the Lusitania in 1994. We knew the letters were quite big (each about 1ft high), and where they should have been on the wreck, but it was very difficult to make them out. We had to scrape away quite a bit of gunk. The Britannic was a relatively easy dive, thanks to the excellent visibility in the Ka Channel. The depth record was just a case of good luck, being the right woman in the right place. To see these huge liners is very satisfying for me ... just to feel that you are the first to explore this thing, like an early mountaineer conquering an unknown peak.

Deep diver: Christina diving the Britannic, where she achieved her record depth. Photograph by Nick Hope

What is your worst diving experience?
One of my friends, Lin Broadbridge, died during a dive on the wreck of the Merchant Royal near Weymouth, in 1994. I was with her at the time. She got lost, exactly what happened is still a mystery. It's particularly upsetting because she was a great friend, as well as being a leading diver at the time. Still, I am determined to keep on diving and push for more. Lin would have wanted me to keep diving, and all the members of Starfish Enterprises would want the others to continue if anything happened to them.

Where have you dived?
All around Scotland, including St Kilda, which has amazing visibility, the English Channel shipwrecks, and the Mediterranean. Also Palau, Chuuk, and Cocos Island, Costa Rica.

Who is your regular buddy?
Nick Hope, the leader of the 1998 Britannic expedition. It's a relaxed partnership and we have a good sense of what we are going to do underwater. It was great fun flying around the Britannic on a scooter with him.

Why do you dive?
I just love adventure sports. I'm an outdoor type and I love things like skiing and walking. If I had to give up diving I'd probably take up mountaineering. I'm in it for the adventure and exploration.

Where do you want to dive next?
We've done so many things that it's difficult to come up with fresh challenges. We've got our eyes on two or three little projects but I can't tell you anything specific or the copycats will be out again. I have to be very careful. I'd like to dive the Lusitania again, but we've been banned by the man who says he's the owner. There's a huge legal wrangle going on about it, and in the meantime all the people who dived it in '94 aren't allowed back. That's really all I can say about it for now.

What equipment do you own?
Two O'Three drysuits, ten regulators - Scubapro's are my favourite. Three twin-sets and various other tanks, and Custom Divers wings with the double bladder and Custom Divers torches.

Have you a dive tip that has helped you?
People should think about their equipment very carefully and pare it down. It pays to be more streamlined. Having an air-integrated computer avoids the need for cumbersome gauges, and gives you a single, easily-accessible point of reference for all your important information.

What is the most interesting underwater animal?
Probably the hammerhead shark. I saw them in big schools when I went to Cocos Island. It's frightening and exhilarating at the same time. You get down on to a rock and just wait there until they eventually appear. The anticipation really builds up until they appear from the blue and swim quite close until you breathe out. The shape of the head is unmistakable.

Which figure, living or dead, would you like to take diving, and why?
It would be nice to take a war poet like Siegfried Sassoon to dive a battleship wreck. I bet he would have been a good diver; and imagine what the writing would be like! We'd certainly have him writing articles for our team. In a way, wrecks are very poetic - they are the ghosts of the past, and evoke strong feelings. I'd also have loved to have dived with Jacques Cousteau or the captain of the Calypso, Falco, who was very cool. They had a team ethos just like ours, which is what divides Starfish from the herd.

Which five songs would you like to put on a liveaboard compilation tape?
Rolling Stones: Paint it Black
Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter
Pink Floyd: Welcome to the Machine (below)
Bob Dylan: Ballad of a Thin Man
Wreckless Eric: Whole Wide World.

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