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ISSUE 72 NOVEMBER 2017

CONTENTS

54 UK Diving – Brixham’s best Reefs, wrecks and more

104 Travel Special Dragons of Komodo

70 Wrecked! River Garry

122 Photoquest Lens selection

78 Test Centre Scuba Pro G2

124 Postcards Divers’ tales from the clubs

83 Departure Lounge Travel news and offers

129 Next Month

88 Blue Planet II Exclusive preview for SCUBA

130 Greatest Dive Cuba – diving and dancing

96 The River Monster Jeremy Wade on his obsessions

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The man behind the mask

104

Komodo’s hidden gems

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We’d love to hear from you… BSAC has a team in Cheshire to support clubs and members. If you have a question, need advice and support, or simply have some feedback, please get in touch. GENERAL ENQUIRIES

MARKETING AND PR

p +44(0)151 350 6200 E info@bsac.com

p +44(0)151 350 6254 E marketing@bsac.com

MEMBERSHIP

BSAC, Telford’s Quay, South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 4FL. p 0151 350 6200 w bsac.com

p +44(0)151 350 6201 E membership@bsac.com

DIVING, SNORKELLING AND TRAINING p +44(0)151 350 6203 E drt@bsac.com

SHOP p +44(0)151 350 6202 E shop@bsac.com 8

Not a member yet? Discover club life at bsac.com/divewithus PHOTO©: JANE MORGAN


SCUBA HUB

The triumphant turtle A green turtle swims imperiously in front of a school of whitemouth jacks at Darwin Island in the Northern Galapagos. The photo was taken by SCUBA Editor Simon Rogerson on assignment earlier this year, in the face of a howling current. “I had to wedge myself into the reef, but the turtle seemed to be relishing his ability to swim right into it,” Simon says. “As a hatchling he would have had to survive a gauntlet of predators including these jacks, but he beat the odds and made it to full maturity. Now they can’t touch him.”

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SCUBA HUB gender swap very obvious by changing from the characteristic female salmon pink (with black and white patches on top at the rear) to a vivid blue and orange. Occasionally, you can spot an individual on the change. Ballan wrasse are much more subtle and there is no obvious colour difference. What prompts the change of sex? In cuckoo wrasse, it seems to depend on the proportion of males and females in a local population (hence ‘supply and demand’) so that if a territorial male with a harem of several females dies, one of those females changes sex to take over his role! The smaller corkwing may not do glamorous sex swaps but it’s probably my favourite wrasse. Wait patiently around any seaweed covered reef in the early summer and you are likely to be treated to the wonderful sight of a busy, fabulously coloured, male corkwing building his nest. This structure is far more intricate than I first imagined, with research showing that the house-proud corkwing uses several different types of seaweed for constructing

different parts of his nest to give the optimum protection for eggs deposited by visiting females. The male’s paternal devotion has another challenge to face. While the majority of male corkwings are homebuilders, a small proportion are ‘sneakers’ that look identical to females and use this as a deceptive cover to enter the nests of their conventional colleagues. Here, they surreptitiously fertilise some of the eggs and leave the care to the hoodwinked nest owner. What intrigues me most of all are the interactions between the wrasse species and this is where the two other small species, the goldsinny and rock cook, come to prominence. Along with the corkwing, they are well known cleaners of larger fish especially, ballan wrasse. Want to see a fish ‘cleaning station’ in action without leaving our shores? Well, just head for the wreck of the Louis Sheid at Thurlestone in Devon, or Drawna Rocks at Porthkerris in Cornwall (those are just the best ones I’ve come across) and settle down to watch! I also strongly suspect

there are much less well known interactions between the wrasse species such as co-operative foraging for food. Sadly, it’s that cleaning ability that makes the wrasse so attractive to the salmon-farming industry. In addition to them being wonderful animals in their own right, they are crucial in shaping the ecosystems of the rich habitats where we love to dive. Their territorial nature also makes them very vulnerable to being wiped out from heavily trapped locations. Please keep an eye on this issue, such as via the Devon Wildlife Trust web site, and do all you can to help.

Below: A territorial male cuckoo wrasse eyes up my camera Below left: A male corkwing wrasse with a piece of building material for his nest

Download the Sealife Tracker app from iTunes or The Play Store (for Android phones) and help monitor the spread of invasive species in British seas. The Sealife Tracker has been co-created by BSAC. www.bsac.com/ sealifetracker

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SCUBA HUB

SCUBA Hub Mersey Divers host the Duke of Cambridge The Duke of Cambridge stopped by at Mersey Divers’ branch to enjoy some diver’s stories while on a recent tour of Liverpool and the Wirral. The visit was made as part of the Duke’s role as President of BSAC. THE Duke was welcomed by BSAC Chairman Alex Warzynski and introduced to some of the Mersey Divers, including club stalwart Alistair Reynolds, who has been diving for 50 years and is still the branch’s lead Instructor. Alistair has trained thousands of people of all different ages and backgrounds to learn the sport over four decades.

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The Duke also met 13-year-old Frankie Wycherley, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, who spoke of how his passion for diving helps with his condition. Frankie explained why scuba diving is so important to him and said: “I really enjoy scuba diving because when you are underwater, I feel sheltered from the outside world. “It’s peaceful, calm and


SCUBA HUB

I feel like nothing can go wrong. When you are there, it feels like you are on another planet, in a different world.” The Duke met with Frankie’s fellow young divers and snorkellers; Hannah Williams, 16, Ellis Campbell, 11, and Jodie Purcell, 15. BSAC Chairman Alex Warzynski said: “We are really privileged to have The Duke of Cambridge as our President and as a keen scuba diver himself, he is the perfect person to help us champion the sport both in the UK and abroad.” The Duke toured Mersey Divers’ clubhouse, where members had put on an exhibition of interesting items found during historical dives. These included a cannon raised from the 1883 wreck of the SS City of Brussels which set a

record for the fastest Atlantic crossing in its heyday and sank in January 1883 after being struck by another vessel near the end of its voyage from New York to Liverpool, resulting in the tragic death of 10 of the 167 people on board. Mersey Divers Chairman Alan Jones said the Duke’s visit had a noticeable effect on his fellow members, who are now buzzing with enthusiasm. “It was never in anyone’s imagination that a member of the royal family would visit us,” Alan told SCUBA. “He showed a genuine interest and it has generated a lot of goodwill. My attitude is to strike while the iron is hot, and while people are offering their services we can maybe put up an extension to the clubhouse.”

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PHOTO©: TREVOR REES

PHOTO©: VICKY PAINTER

SCUBA HUB

SCUBA stars shine at splash-in jewel anemone set against a sunburst. It also won the best close-up category. Trevor has won a £1,650 voucher for a week on the Maldives liveaboard Carpe Diem, in addition to being awarded the Peter Scoones Trophy. Another SCUBA regular Kirsty Andrews won the Wide-Angle category with a portrait of a blue shark taken in blue oceanic waters 15 miles off Cornwall. She wins a made-to fit drysuit from sponsors O’Three. Runner up in this category was Ivan Donoghue’s meticulous split level photo of a sea cave.

PHOTO©: ROB BAILEY

PHOTO©: KIRSTY ANDREWS

PHOTO©: IVAN DONOGHUE

SEVERAL of SCUBA’s regular contributors won awards at the recent British and Irish Underwater Photography Championship. Organised by the British Society of Underwater Photographers in memory of Peter Scoones, one of its founding members, the competition is a major test of a photographer’s logistic, diving and photographic skills. The field was strong this year with 60 top class photographers and newcomers registering for the event. SCUBA’s Photoquest columnist Trevor Rees was named 2017 Champion after submitting an artful double explore of a

The compact section was won by Vicky Painter, who submitted an action shot of a grey seal that would have shamed the dSLR entrants. Vicky won a Red Sea holiday with Oyster Diving. Among the Highly Commended entrants was SCUBA regular Rob Bailey with his image of a pike. You can see the full list of photographers, images, sponsors and awards at www.biupc.org


SCUBA HUB

A tribute to Dr Sarah Kay Miller IT is with great sadness that St Ives Sub Aqua Club announces the sudden death of a dear friend and fellow diver Sarah Kay Miller while on holiday in Gozo during April, writes Gareth Leyshon. Sarah was well known in the Eastern Region, where she was the local ITS coordinator; her organisation skills where extensively used by both the ITS and the Eastern Region over many years. Within St Ives Sub-Aqua club, she was known to be a dedicated instructor and buddy who could always be relied upon to support club activities. She epitomised the very ethos of BSAC. Sarah was happiest when she was in the water enjoying long comfortable dives. Her great passion was underwater photography, which drew on her background in biology. Sarah meticulously recorded each and every dive by hand, logging weather, sea state, and marine life. Her log books are a detailed testament to the changing underwater world around the British Isles. After her undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol, Sarah learned to dive while completing her doctorate at Dundee University. Moving to the East of England, she joined Chelmsford and District Dive Club, and was always an active club member. Following a change of career from industry to teaching, she moved to Ipswich and joined Sunstar Dive Club,

finally joining St Ives Sub Aqua Club when she moved to teach at a new school locally. Her no-nonsense approach to life, her enthusiasm, intelligence, sense of humour – not to forget her baking – made her a popular member of any group. She will be greatly missed by all of those who knew her. She is survived by her partner, mother, brother and niece. Our thanks for the kind messages of sympathy from all her old friends and buddies.

Remembering Sarah I first met Sarah when I was appointed Eastern Region Coach and had soon persuaded her to become the local organiser. Sarah took the role on and diligently fulfilled the role in an exceptional way and beyond. She would find new venues when we needed them, ensuring the correct facilities were available at the right time and we had access to the pool when needed. Sarah was also a member of my branch when she worked and lived in Felixstowe. She was always helpful and took a leading part in training our new divers as well as joining us diving off Essex and Suffolk where the conditions could be described as challenging. Sarah will be sorely missed in the Region as she always had a smiling face and happy disposition. She also checked that the instructors were delivering to a high standard and took a full part in the debrief sessions. David Lock, BSAC Council

Meet your new National Instructors BSAC has announced two new National Instructors, who have succeeded in passing the grade for the

Tim Gort

club’s highest instructor qualification. The new NIs are Tim Gort and Will Schwarz. The National Instructor Exam assesses the candidates’ instructional skills over four days and 23 separate component elements. “To be a National Instructor takes perseverance and is the culmination of a number of years of preparation and commitment,” said National Diving Officer Sophie Heptonstall. “While this year we were not presented with such interesting weather challenges, the candidates nevertheless had to cope with some challenging situations with regards to one of the boats. “All candidates should be commended for their continual efforts over four days. I would like to congratulate this year’s

new National Instructors on their success and wish them well for their on-going post exam development.”

Will Schwarz

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SCUBA HUB Hebrides and even in a flooded mine system in the Welsh hills. This extra effort takes us to places few will ever experience and the journey itself can be as great as the destination. To be the first person (anywhere) is always an achievement. Some people say that through this extra investment we force ourselves into believing the final destination is better than it really is, that we delude ourselves into having a better experience at the end, simply to justify all that effort. That extra effort however, truly does make the experience sweeter, it Below: Hiking up to the highest snorkel in Great Britain

does make it more special. Because we understand and acknowledge that an uninspiring final destination can become special if the journey itself is transformative. Going underwater, whether it’s on your doorstep or at the top of a mountain, we all know to be an unnecessary effort in normal life. It’s much easier to sit at home and experience the world through a television. But ‘easy’ is not the same as ‘better’.

For more information on snorkelling with BSAC go to www.bsac.com/snorkelling Looking to introduce snorkelling into your club? Find out more at www.bsac.com/snorkellinginstructor

Above: Beautiful isolation – Cape Wrath

abundant life, being far from the reaches of most, and run beneath the dark Clo Mor sea cliffs which, at a towering 800 feet, are the highest in mainland Britain. Obligingly, it’s a gentle two-minute walk down the path from where the bus will drop you off. But this bus is the only vehicle on Cape Wrath, an old minibus that’s nowhere near road legal. So it’s just as well there are no roads on Cape Wrath. The single track end at the Lighthouse and the start is by a small slipway reached only by the Cape Wrath ferry …and by ferry I mean a small skiff with a single outboard and room for a dozen souls if you’re all happy to get friendly. And to reach the ferry port (actually a layby at the end of a single track road) it’s a long, but absolutely stunning drive north. From Gretna Green it’ll take you about seven hours if you don’t stop. I’ve snorkelled off the North coast of Orkney, round the Monach Isles on the far Western edge of the Outer

Below: Hitchhiking with a snorkel

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SCUBA CHAT

Bracknell helps the Guides Bracknell 434 Sub Aqua Club was approached by the leader of 1st Binfield Girl Guides and asked if we could give some of the Guides a try dive. We last did this about four years ago and were happy to oblige once more, so dates were found in our otherwise busy training schedule. Ahead of the planned event some of us went to the Guides’ club night to explain what a try dive entails and show them the kit they would be using. Then spread over two club nights our pool became exceptionally busy as as the guides were introduced to scuba. What was really great was the way so many of our club members became so enthusiastically involved in the whole exercise. There were seven instructors and a photographer who all spent almost three hours in the water over the two nights, multiple people lugging and assembling kit, and one person giving briefings, while yet others were talking to (possibly reassuring) the accompanying parents.

My role was liaising with the guide leader, allocating girls to instructors and requesting assistance with kit – all the rest followed with people stepping up and helping. I felt this really epitomises what a dive club is about. We managed to provide kit for all comers, including some borrowed from members to accommodate even the very small girls, who in some cases used 5-litre cylinders. Everything flowed along quite smoothly on both nights once we managed to get masks that fitted and showed the girls the best way to defog them. Never has spitting been so enthusiastically performed! Altogether 23 guides aged between 12 and 14 went into the water, and judging by their expressions as they finished their try dives each thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A couple of girls had admitted they were nervous going in, but that was quickly overcome. Quite a few of the girls became so relaxed and comfortable in the water, that the instructors had them turning somersaults and swimming through hoops. The girls were charged £5 each and all the money has been put into our annual charity fund, which this year is supporting Pilgrim Hearts and Diveability. Thanks to everyone at the club who was involved - it could not have happened without you. A really rewarding experience for everyone involved. Ruth Beattie, Bracknell 434 Sub Aqua Club

Raymond Woolley – the world’s oldest active diver? So, how do you help a 94-year-old celebrate his birthday? Will it be tea and cakes with his family, friends and carers, perhaps an afternoon watching Dave on TV or a thrilling game of bridge. No, you charter a boat from Viking divers, get your dive kit together, invite 22 friends and dive on the Zenobia shipwreck in Larnaca bay, Cyprus. Just a gentle dive a little deeper than the portside propellers at 36m with a dive time of over 40 minutes. After celebrating the achievement, prepare an application for Raymond Woolley, 94 years of age to be officially recognised as the oldest male scuba diver in the world. Advanced Diver and instructor Raymond Woolley has been diving for over 60 years. On his birthday – 28 August – this year he dived the Zenobia wreck in Larnaca bay, Cyprus with 22 members of BSAC 107(S) RAF Akrotiri. The younger supporter being Hannah Armstrong, a 12-year-old Ocean diver. As the club diving officer my only concern is ‘what’s next’? Dave Turner Diving officer BSAC 107(S) RAF Akrotiri

Lucky lass

Our daughter, Caitlin, recently qualified as a BSAC Dolphin Snorkeller at the age of seven. Her first open water snorkel was on Agincourt Reef, Queensland, on the Great Barrier Reef! Her third snorkel was with two dwarf minke whales. Perhaps we are biased, but Dave, a National Instructor, and Janine, an Advanced Instructor, are delighted to introduce her to the underwater world we love so much. Trouble is, how do we better that? Janine and Dave Sydenham Editor’s response: For a possible answer to your question, I refer you to Dave Turner’s letter about the remarkable Raymond Woolley. Just keep diving and inspiring your fellow divers; you have all the time in the world.

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COURSE

DIARY Develop your diving with BSAC Our Course Diary lists all the current Instructor and Skill Development Courses available for the next few months.

Become a BSAC Instructor! From Sports Diver, you can start training to become an instructor with BSAC. Your first step is the Instructor Foundation Course which qualifies you as an Assistant Diving Instructor. From here you can progress to Open Water Instructor and beyond… to Advanced and National Instructor. For the full list of BSAC Instructor grades and courses, go to www.bsac.com/instruct Skill Development Courses BSAC offers a wide range of special interest courses, designed to ensure you get the very best out of your diving. With each course usually one or two days long, our programme of Skill Development Courses (SDCs) are regularly held by Regional Coaching Teams, BSAC Centres and can also be staged in clubs. So, whether your interest is in rescue, wrecks, technical or photography, there is a BSAC specialist course for everybody. For the definitive list of all BSAC’s Skill Development Courses go to www.bsac.com/sdc

INSTRUCTOR TRAINING SCHEME NOVEMBER DATE COURSE

LOCATION

DETAILS

4

Instructor Foundation Course

North East / Hartlepool

www.bsac.com/ifc

4

SITCA

North East / Hartlepool

www.bsac.com/sitca

4

Combined Instructor Event

Malta

www.bsac.com/cie

11

Theory Instructor Exam

South East

www.bsac.com/tie

11

Instructor Foundation Course

East Midlands / Coalville

www.bsac.com/ifc

11

Theory Instructor Exam

Yorkshire

www.bsac.com/tie

12

Theory Instructor Exam

West Midlands

www.bsac.com/tie

18

Instructor Foundation Course

Eastern / Brentwood

www.bsac.com/ifc

18

Theory Instructor Exam

North West / Macclesfield

www.bsac.com/tie

19

Diving for All Instructor

Southern

www.bsac.com/dfa

25

Instructor Foundation Course

North West / Leigh

www.bsac.com/ifc

25

Instructor Foundation Course

West Midlands / Stroud

www.bsac.com/ifc

HOW TO BOOK: For Instructor courses and exams, you can book online at www.bsac.com/instructorexams. Alternatively, you can call Central Bookings on +44 (0)151 350 6205 or email bookings@bsac.com

PRACTICAL RESCUE MANAGEMENT Want to learn how to be an effective manager in a rescue situation? This one-day course teaches divers how to manage the resources at their disposal in order to make the most effective use of them in a rescue situation. Although the emphasis is on the development of rescue management skills, the course also provides an opportunity for further instruction in personal rescue skills. This course involves hypothetical scenarios to practice and test your management skills. It helps divers avoid pitfalls that untrained divers can fall into in a rescue situation.. What you’ll learn The Practical Rescue Management course has a mix of classroom-based and practical lessons, teaching you: • The rescue process – the nature of accidents, prevention, rescue scenarios and drawing out priorities. • Theory of rescue management including removing casualty to a point of safety, first aid priorities, summoning emergency services and evacuating casualty. • Practical rescue management – open water sessions concentrate on the management of a variety of different scenarios. • Helicopter operations People who attend this course get a lot out of it. The rescue scenarios involve all members of the group and the roles change round with each rescue. It does involve some acting on the victim’s part but this adds to the enjoyment of the day. At the end of the course you will go away with the confidence to take a leading role in a rescue situation, should it occur. You will also know what preparation is required to minimise risks and make diving safer for your group. Phil Alberts Diving Support Adviser (BSAC HQ)

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BSAC COURSES

SKILL DEVELOPMENT COURSES (SDCS) NOVEMBER DATE

COURSE

LOCATION

DETAILS

3

Accelerated Decompression Procedures

Wales / NDAC

www.bsac.com/wsdcs

3

Combined Twinset Diver and Accelerated Decompression Procedures

Wales / NDAC

www.bsac.com/wsdcs

3

Twinset Diver

Wales / NDAC

www.bsac.com/wsdcs

4

Advanced Diver Theory

East Midlands / Loughborough University

4

Combined Sports and Explorer Mixed Gas - CCR

South West / NDAC

www.bsac.com/swsdcs

4

Diver Coxswain Preparation

North West / Fleetwood

www.bsac.com/nwsdcs

4

Practical Rescue Management

Yorkshire / TBA

www.bsac.com/ysdcs

5

Oxygen Administration

Yorkshire / TBA

www.bsac.com/ysdcs

9

Inspiration / Evolution CCR

North West / Capernwray / NDAC

www.bsac.com/nwsdcs

11

AED Workshop

East Midlands / Notts

www.bsac.com/emsdcs

11

Compressor Operator

Southern / Southsea

www.bsac.com/ssdcs

11

Diver Training Day

South Scotland / Loch Fyne

11

Oxygen Administration

Ireland / Belfast

www.bsac.com/isdcs

12

Gas Blender / Mixed Gas Blender

Southern / Southsea

www.bsac.com/ssdcs

18

Sports Diver Theory

Wales / Cardiff

19

Diver Coxswain Theory Day

North West / MacclesďŹ eld

19

Oxygen Administration

Eastern / TBA

www.bsac.com/esdcs

25

First Aid for Divers

Yorkshire / TBA

www.bsac.com/ysdcs

25

Oxygen Administration

South East / Crawley

www.bsac.com/sesdcs

25

Technical Diving Introduction

North West / Chorley

www.bsac.com/nwsdcs

26

AED Workshop

Yorkshire / TBA

26

First Aid for Divers

South East / Crawley

www.bsac.com/trainingdays

www.bsac.com/trainingdays

www.bsac.com/trainingdays www.bsac.com/nwsdcs

www.bsac.com/ysdcs www.bsac.com/sesdcs

DECEMBER DATE

COURSE

LOCATION

DETAILS

2

Buoyancy and Trim Workshop

Southern / Vobster

www.bsac.com/ssdcs

3

AED & O2 Refresher

Eastern / TBA

www.bsac.com/esdcs

3

Gas Blender / Mixed Gas Blender

Wales / Swansea

www.bsac.com/wsdcs

6

Inspiration / Evolution CCR

North West / Capernwray / NDAC

7

Lifesaver Award

Ireland (Lisburn)

9

Diver Training Day

South Scotland / Loch Fyne

9

Oxygen Administration

Southern / Southsea

www.bsac.com/ssdcs

14

Combined Sports and Explorer Mixed Gas - CCR

North West / NDAC

www.bsac.com/nwsdcs

www.bsac.com/nwsdcs www.bsac.com/isdcs www.bsac.com/trainingdays

HOW TO BOOK: For Instructor courses and exams, you can book online at www.bsac.com/instructorexams. Alternatively, you can call Central Bookings on +44 (0)151 350 6205 or email bookings@bsac.com

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CLUB FOCUS Below: Doing his nails, Gerard Howard, Dave Harris, Chris James and Huw Hodges

That’s a good idea… Yes, it’s nice to pool share. The changes to the pool have been a worry. We used to charge members and instructors a pool fee, but over the last year or two numbers using the pool dropped so much that we scrapped the fees, hoping to encourage more members to come along. But the new pool isn’t really practical to learn in, so after the first few lessons we go over to Aberdare, and this has put people off. What are you going to do? We’ve talked about leaving the leisure centre, but the worry is that such a move would split the club and we wouldn’t be the club for all the valleys anymore. Recently we gained around eight new Ocean Diver trainees, which is just the boost the club needed. It’s has brought a new regeneration within the club.

Below: Jason Mold surfacing from a dive on the Breakwater Fort, Plymouth

Below: New members undergoing pool training with instructor Martin Webb (right) and Bleddyn Hill (far left)

Tell us about your members today? We have around 35 active members from all over the South Wales valleys: Ebbw Vale, Abergavenny, Tredegar, Merthyr Tydfil, Port Talbot… They are mostly men, but there are six women, including our Secretary. Where do you meet? The club has met every Thursday night at Ebbw Vale Pool for years, but the original 4m-deep pool was closed in 2013. The new leisure centre only has a 25m long 2m-deep pool, which is a little disappointing. We were asked for our views and we asked for another 4m-deep pool, but in the end health and safety and economics won. It was explained to us that a 2m deep pool would be much cheaper to heat and look after. The only good thing? Our pool fees did go down. When needed, we travel to Aberdare BSAC club and share their 4m pool to further the trainees’ skills and experience.

How do you find new members? We get many enquiries through our website and by word of mouth. Sometimes we put an advert in the local press or the local rugby club’s magazine. We do try dives as required. Our website is still very much active although needs a little updating. The company that hosts it has decided to change its charges and at the moment we are discussing the future of the website and maybe an alternative host. We also have a Facebook page so please come and give us a like. What training do you do? We have a very relaxed way of training; it’s all done at the student’s pace, we make it fun but safety comes first. We have six Assistant Diving instructors, four Open Water Instructors and an Advanced Instructor, who carry out our training. At present we have 10 Ocean Diver trainees, eight Sports Diver trainees, five Dive Leader trainees, and one Advanced Diver trainee. Our Training Officer Martin Webb deserves a special mention; he is so dedicated to the club it’s unbelievable. We also run SDCs within the club – boat handling is popular as we own two boats and have our own boat handling instructors. What kind of boats? Both are rigid-hulled inflatable boats: a 6m Humber with a brand new Evinrude 175hp engine, and 5.4m Sea Rider with a 90hp Evinrude engine. Both are fitted with VHF radios, GPS systems and echo sounders, flares, oxygen kits and small tool packs for running repairs. 33


CLUB FOCUS

Above: Seals at Smalls lighthouse Below: Jason hanging around off Plymouth Above: Anemones off the Smalls lighthouse, west Wales Left: Dive prep underway aboard the CEE King, Plymouth Below: Smalls lighthouse, with Allan Oakley, Jason Mold and Andy O’Neil Both boats are kept in a yacht club near Milford Haven in West Wales. Their care is all organised by our superb Equipment Officer engineer Jason Mold, who not only makes sure the boats are in tip top condition but also maintains all club equipment. What kind of diving do you do? All year round we dive regularly. It’s mostly single cylinder diving. We cater for everyone and anyone from the new starter on their training and qualifying dives to the Sports Divers looking to gain more skills and experience and up to the Advanced Divers who like to do the more adventurous type of dives. Sundays mainly consist of training dives at our local quarry, the National Dive and Activity Centre at Chepstow, which is about a one-hour drive from our home town. There we do depth progression dives, rescue skills plus all the other necessary dives needed to build the confidence and skill levels of our divers throughout all the diver grades. On Saturdays, weather permitting, we will organise dives in the sea. Where do you dive in the sea? The majority of our diving is done around the Pembrokeshire coast in West 34

Wales, especially Skomer Island. We visit on a weekly basis normally on Saturdays; sometimes it’s for the day and sometimes we stay for the weekend, it’s about two hours from home. As the boats are kept in West Wales, we rarely dive much around our local coastline of the Gower. Although we have done in the past, when a 60-80-minute drift dive in 6m somewhere between Worms Head, Port Eynon and Oxwich was just as pleasing as a 25m wall dive on Skomer. Describe some favourite dives… The North Wall of Skomer is amazing and you can choose your depth from 10m to 40m. In North Haven on Skomer some members made it their objective to look for seahorses. Weather permitting, we occasionally make it out to the Smalls lighthouse approximately 15 miles out of Milford Haven. The seals there are something else, so friendly. But it’s very tidal and very weather dependent. It’s quite a navigation exercise just to get there. Martins Haven is a fantastic shore dive. And there’s always the wreck of the Lucy between there and Skomer. The deck is at 35m and the seabed at 40-42m. It’s very tidal, always dark and somewhat eerie down there. You have to give it respect.

What are the underwater conditions like? Like the rest of the UK it is very weather dependent. Usually in summer we’ll get around 6-8m viz. It can be as much as 10-15m as we proved on a recent dive on the wreck of the Dakotian in Milford Haven. The conditions were perfect, the vis was perfect and whilst descending suddenly you could see how large that wreck is. Where do you go on holiday? Since 2005 the club has visited the Red Sea every two years or so, to enjoy a week’s diving aboard one of the amazing liveaboards there; the club has dived


CLUB FOCUS

SOCIAL MEDIA HELPS RECRUIT Social media can help your club attract new and retain existing members. Here’s how to get the most from it… 1. Don’t spread yourselves thinly over multiple platforms. Facebook and Twitter are still the most effective platforms for BSAC clubs 2. Take photos and / or video on every single dive trip or event you organise and share online 3. Encourage your members to share their diving photos and videos on your social media feeds 4. Create and share club videos. To get started, download the ‘Guide to creating a promotional scuba club video’ at www.bsac.com/vidguide 5. Ideally, monitor your social media accounts daily and post content at least 1-2 times per week. On average Britons spend one hour and 20 minutes each day managing social networks, so hopefully this can fit into the mix.

Above: Jason in the Red Sea Below: Surfacing from a dive off Tiran Island, Red Sea Right: Training at NDAC

the north wrecks and reefs, southern Red Sea and the Deep South. You really get spoilt on those liveaboards. This year to celebrate our 50th anniversary in October the club is again taking 13 divers on a six-day trip to Hurghada in Egypt, where they get the chance to do up to four dives a day. We were there in 2015, we flew into Sharm El Sheikh on the day when terrorists blew up an aircraft over the Sinai. Flights into and out of Sharm were cancelled and we were stuck there for two days extra but Regal Dive looked after us very well, we were put up in a five-star hotel until we could return home. Has the club been involved in any special projects? We are regularly asked to assist in river cleaning projects. An angling club on Abergavenny has asked us on many occasions to go in near the bridge and Below: Club divers enjoying a relaxing dive, Red Sea, Egypt

clean a section of the river of snags. We pull out all sorts, from shopping trolleys to road signs, scaffolding poles, road cones and bicycles. In fact we must be due for a clean-up dive again soon. An unusual one was being asked to look for a model submarine lost in a local lake. This was made harder by the deep mud and silt on the lake bed. The model was found and returned to its owner, who was overjoyed to have it back as it cost him £2,000 to build. On one occasion, we were asked by a new member if we could dive in a river to retrieve an engagement ring that he had thrown in after an argument. When we saw the pictures of the place, it was just under a weir and there was no way we could dive there as it was too dangerous with the river constantly running at a rate of knots. We didn’t see that guy again. Anything else you’d like to tell SCUBA magazine readers about? Looking forward, I don’t think we need to change the recipe. We make diving fun, we are a very sociable bunch, we welcome family members to pool nights to snorkel or swim or just socialise. We like to talk diving over a few beers. There are so many people to thank for the clubs success, too many to mention. We want to extend our thanks to all members young, old, experienced, new starters, instructors, dive leaders, the officers of the club, the founder members, former members, current members, everybody who has played a part in the success of the Heads of the Valleys Sub Aqua Club over the past 50 years a big thank you to you all. We want to encourage people to continue to support the club and also for people young and old to come and take part in a try dive to experience the underwater world. May the club continue to be successful.

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EXPEDITION DIVIING

Scotland aglow Dundee Sub Aqua Club member James Lynott pursued fluorescence diving in the UK with dogged determination and was rewarded with some beautiful sights

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EXPEDITION DIVING

ack in 2011, during an episode of the TV programme Britain’s Secret Seas, I was first introduced to the phenomenon of fluorescence diving. At that time I had only been diving for a couple of years, but I was already completley hooked on British diving and the incredible diversity of marine life in our waters. It was great to see a whole TV series dedicated to British seas but it was the fluorescence night dive at St Abbs that fascinated me. I quickly started to research the subject and soon found that fluorescence diving was becoming increasingly popular in tropical waters, where many dive centres offered these types of dives. Coral reefs, and a lot of the life found on them, display incredible fluorescence when exposed to UV or blue light. It was difficult however to find any reports or information about fluorescence in UK waters or other temperate seas. It was also difficult to get the required equipment back then, only a limited number of specialist suppliers overseas could provide the necessary lights and filters that I needed to get started. Only in the last couple of years has a greater range of equipment become available to buy here in the UK.

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Above: Brown crab fluorescing on the wreck of the Breda Above left: Fireworks anemone under normal light in Loch Long Left: Fireworks anemone fluorescing under blue light in Loch Fyne

Understanding I was really interested in the science behind biofluorescence and found some useful resources online that went into great detail to explain what is going on. To view biofluorescence you need blue light with wavelengths of roughly 420-470 nanometres. At these wavelengths, the fluorescent proteins – such as Green Fluorescence Protein (GFP) are excited and produce visible fluorescence. Ultraviolet light can be used (<400nm), and this type of diving is often called UV night diving, but it has been shown that blue light can produce much better visual results. Along with the blue light, a barrier filter is also needed. This yellow filter for your mask or camera blocks the blue light reflecting back from the

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EXPEDITION DIVIING

Above: Sunset on Loch Melfort before a night dive Right: Gas mantle sea squirt fluorescing in Loch Fyne Bottom: Lightbulb sea squirts fluorescing in Loch Fyne

subject and allows the fluorescence to be viewed more effectively. I was really keen to start trying this for myself and as I was also getting into underwater photography, I wanted to start trying to capture it on camera. Finally, a couple of years after first seeing the Secret Seas episode, I was able to get started. I tried a couple of cheaper torches and dichroic filters to begin with, gradually progressing to my current setup. The camera is the compact Canon G7x MkII in a Fantasea FG7XII housing with a 67mm yellow filter over the lens port, and two Light & Motion GoBe+ lights with NightSea heads (the 800 lumen standard heads are great for normal photography / video). The last couple of years have involved me persuading my regular dive buddies and other club members to do night dives, not an easy thing during winter in Scotland. Thankfully I have some very patient friends, and I have finally started to discover that there is a huge variety of life that does fluoresce in our seas, some of which was very surprising.

Experimenting All my dives so far have been at familiar sites in the sea lochs (Loch Fyne, Loch Long, Loch Melfort, and Loch Etive) and even a night dive on the wreck of the Breda near Oban. One of my first attempts in Scotland was in Loch Fyne, where during the day it was dark enough to try thanks to the murky freshwater layer at the surface cutting out all ambient light –

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Above: Fluorescing Devonshire cup coral on the wreck of the Breda

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EXPEDITION DIVIING a common feature of winter sea loch diving. There was something quite eerie about going along in complete darkness, only being able to see what was fluorescing. Alongside the brightly glowing tentacles of burrowing anemones on the sea floor and even a Yarrell’s blenny with glowing head fringes, what really surprised me on this first dive were the mouthparts and claws of squat lobsters fluorescing brightly, just poking out of crevices and burrows. I had suspected some anemones would fluoresce but had no idea squat lobsters or Yarrell’s blennies would. I was completely hooked after that dive and desperate to get out and try it as much as possible. I quickly realised that blue lights were not as effective as white ones to find your way around, and when combined with a yellow mask filter you can’t see the blue light either. So it’s good practice Right: Devonshire cup coral under normal light in Loch Etive Below: Drishaig reef, Loch Fyne before a night dive Bottom: Fluorescing hermit crab in Loch Etive Bottom right: Hermit crab under normal light in Loch Etive

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to carry a normal torch to help get your bearings every so often and then turn it off when viewing anything that is fluorescent.

Discovering There was one subject that I had been really keen to try to view in this way for some time and that was the fireworks anemone. I was able to try this out in winter 2016 on a couple of dives near the head of Loch Fyne, and I was not disappointed. These large anemones are impressive under normal circumstances, but viewed under blue light they really do look like fireworks in the darkness. Another really memorable dive was a recent night dive on the wreck of the Breda. The wreck is covered in Devonshire cup corals, which may not be particularly noticeable on a normal dive, but seeing their fluorescence peppering the wreck was really something. There were also dozens of cloak anemone hermit crabs scuttling about the deck with the crab and anemones glowing brightly. Being a bit obsessed with nudibranchs, one particularly nice surprise on this dive was a number of fluorescent Aeolidiella glauca. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first tried fluorescence diving in our seas but It seems that on every fluorescence dive I do now I spot something new, so I’m sure there is still plenty of natural fluorescence to discover.


LEARNING CURVE

On top of the world First Class Diver Preparation Events Chief Examiner Andy Hunt followed two groups of candidates this year who went about preparing for the First Class Diver Exam in two different ways here have been number of articles in SCUBA recently about BSAC First Class Diver (FCD) so I won’t bore you here with definitions. What I am excited to tell you is that BSAC’s top diving qualification is evolving to suit today’s divers. We have changed things to make the events more accessible to members by administering them in slightly less traditional ways. To achieve the grade you still need to pass a theory exam, write an expedition

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plan and pass the practical exam, two days of deeper adventurous dives and shallower project-oriented dives. But you can gear up to it in different ways. Following attendance at the introductory workshop held at the Dive Conference each year, there are two main types of preparation events; a Project Preparation Event that is typically, but not always, shore-based and an Expedition Preparation Event that is boat-based. Other prep for the exam includes,

as always, completion of some Skill Development Courses and your own personal development, following the prep events. You can still take the traditional approach of developing your skills over a series of weekends, working with a group of like-minded, proactive candidates, or you can do it the new way, by attending a week-long combined prep and exam event. This summer one group of candidates went on each track.


Above: E49 – looking towards the bow Below: Team shot at the bus shelter

PHOTO©: ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDY PROCTOR

Left: Posing for photographs on E49

Approach one: Staged prep – multiple weekends

Weekend candidate’s view by Linda Ritson

At one level this is a fairly traditional approach. Over the years many groups from around the BSAC world pop up and work together to enrol for FCD exams, following dates in the official Programme of Events. Last year a group based in the East Midlands attended the Project Prep at Stoney Cove and then requested a series of events off the South Coast, including a practical exam that suited their diaries. I was impressed by their engagement, which is exactly what we expect of FCDs, and set about figuring out how to make it happen. A single point of contact was established in the group to streamline communications. Dates were chosen well in advance, boats secured and the candidates took responsibility for covering the costs for the event, with the advantage that they got a guaranteed event; it wasn’t going to be cancelled for lack of interest. They had control of costs, which actually led to them figuring out simple ways of working together saving significantly. The series of multiple diving weekends (roughly one a month) gave them plenty of time to go away in between and work on any weak areas.

On completing my Advanced Instructor Examination, I was assured by a friendly NI that the First Class Diver qualification was just as easy: “AI without the teaching,” he said. So, believing him, I booked onto a Project Prep event. I felt quite daunted and a little stressed not knowing anyone there or what to expect. However, it soon became apparent that I’d met like-minded people and started a journey. A group of us who attended, like many before us, decided to form our own prep group. We spent a year diving and preparing together. We booked the boats for prep events and some plain diving weekends, which gave us the chance to dive and drive the boat a couple of times before our exam, and for the skipper to get to know us and understand what we were doing. By my second prep event I felt very different; I knew all the candidates by name and I’d had time to get my head around what to expect. We ran through most elements of FCD and noting the areas we needed to think about. I recall discovering that the textbook method of parbuckling a casualty into a hard boat wasn’t always the best option. 45


LEARNING CURVE

Above: E49 memorial plaque Below: E and H class subs in dock

Above: The stern of the SS Jane

Above: Rebreather on the E49 Below: Decompression stop on the trapeze

For me this was a journey of selfdevelopment. Over the course of a year I have re-considered every aspect of my kit and its configuration, even down to whether my fins were rigid enough for efficient helicopter turns and finning backwards. I have come to the point of justifying everything I carry and where I carry it. My personal skills have progressed: I learned about and practiced survey techniques, photogrammetry, marine biology surveys and how to produce useful reports. My diving has gained a purpose because of the background reading and learning that I have done along the way. Even my dive logs have improved. FCD was also a journey of realisation in how to plan and organise trips. I now structure all branch trips in the same way as a FCD expedition, even down to briefing sheets and boat seating plans. “One of the most enjoyable branch trips in a long time” is a quote following a recent club expedition, which I ascribe 46

to the implementation of planning and management I picked up on my journey to FCD.

Approach two: Combined prep – one week, intensive training and exam Joint Services Sub Aqua Dive Centre, a BSAC forces centre, tested a combined event format for FCD in Cyprus in 2016. This led to a pilot event on MV Halton in July. The teaching vehicle was an expedition to Shetland with the aim of diving SS Oceanic (Shetland’s Titanic). While the boat was booked centrally, and the framework of the expedition and project put in place by the instructor team, the detail and day-to-day running of the expeditions and projects were gradually handed over to the students so that by the time of their exam they were making the critical decisions under the watchful eye of the team and the skipper. The first four days of the event were pure prep, starting on day one

with shakedown dives on some classic Shetland wrecks, with instructors focusing on personal diving skills and dive-leading elements of the exam. On the second dive, project elements were introduced included experimenting with photogrammetry. On day two, the team moved north to Out Skerries to dive on the protected wreck Wrangels Palais, and to conduct a more traditional survey of a cannon site, with a view to updating the Canmore database in return for permission to dive the site. After this we headed north to an unknown mark on the chart in Balta Sound. Out came the cameras and sketch pads; an impromptu wreck survey of the wreck, a large mobile digger from the 1940s, was undertaken. We concluded the day with a simulated rescue of a technical diver. We were now strategically positioned at the top of Shetland, in prime position to dive the submarine E49 on day three. We built around this a team dive (including deployment of a trapeze), delivery of


LEARNING CURVE

Above: The SS Jane Top right: Resident crab on E49 Right: Cannon site survey

a photographic competition (to meet a request for a specific photograph of the E49) and a mini-project to assess of the change in position of the periscope over the last 13 years or so. With improving weather and better light for photographs we dived the E49 a second time, checking out seamanship skills using the inflatable boat to deploy and recover divers. Afterwards we ran a large-boat exercise to work on practical position-fixing skills. Heading to Cullivoe for the night, we would be ready to dive the steamship Jane in the morning. By now some candidates had decided they would postpone sitting the exam and so the instructor team split to cater for both groups. Day four was a little more relaxed, working through personal development plans for those who had decided to carry on preparation. Over the two days of the exam, we dived Out Stack (the full stop at the end of the UK) and a random location in Yell Sound to deliver a secret project, with a final dive on the Glen Isla in 45m,

clocking up a fair few decompression stops in the process. Suffice to say the candidates had to make a big call to dive Out Stack and get the boat in the right position to get home.

Combined event candidate’s view by Adrian Cadman For a long time I have wanted to achieve the highest diving grade within the organisation that I have been a part of for more than 30 years, but what would I gain from this prestigious award? I’d dived for a long time, I’d done some fantastic diving, become an instructor, and the pinnacle to date had been qualifying as an instructor trainer, in both snorkelling and scuba. I even became regional coach for the West Midlands. But I wanted to reach the top of the game and to do some adventurous diving to boot. So what was stopping me? Time, in a nutshell. With a family to keep happy, it is always a tightrope I walk, even

though my wife and daughter are very understanding. When the opportunity came about to do a combined prep course and FCD exam, back to back over a week, I thought that could really work. And when I heard it was in Shetland it was a definite must. Even though I would still recommend doing a few other prep events first, the combined event worked a treat. Our team bonded well and the diving was fantastic. The instructors encouraged us all through the prep. Weak areas were discussed and they helped to set the scene for the exam. To be frank it was like being away on a dive expedition and the fact we were on an exam was almost 49


LEARNING CURVE forgotten, except for the instructors’ continual probing. Our skipper, Bob Anderson, was also extremely understanding and was a complete star, although he did dish out a fair share of sarcasm, not only to the candidates! Personally, I really enjoyed diving submarine E49 in 25m viz at 35m. A really memorable moment was when a retired police officer came to find us to tell us his tales of imposing fines on divers for raising parts of the war grave and what he has done in order to give the lost servicemen the remembrance they so much deserved.

Above and right: Divers arrive at E49 Below: A local crab welcomes divers to the wreck

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So was it the right decision to spend money on a trip to the most northern point in the UK. And to take a course and exam, using a week of my hard-earned holiday? Too right it was, and I passed. So, where to now? Well it’s time to complete my expedition plan, hopefully it will give me the pass needed to become a FCD. And then… I intend to do some adventurous diving with a group of people in the same position, perhaps even National Instructor, who knows? So, the advantages for the candidates on the combined event were that they got to

dive somewhere they had wanted to go for some time and work up to their FCD exam at the same time, at a similar cost to a club trip. In 2018 a combined event is planned in support of the Scapa 100 project in November in Orkney, when you can get some of the best visibility of the year. We will also be testing the ‘request your own event’ approach again to see if this continues to work better than the conventional pre-programmed approach. Why not take the plunge and register your interest on the BSAC website – www.bsac.com/fcd


TAKING CONTROL

The apex of doom Instructor David Ashmore found himself at the sharp end of an unexpected attack while leading a group of new divers. With mask flooded and second stage damaged, he had to think quickly… ack in 2014 I was working as a fulltime dive instructor in Kho Tao – an island in the gulf of Thailand that is known for its dive schools, and also attracts qualified divers from all over the world. People visit for the laidback ambience, the beaches and to dive with the abundant wildlife, often longing for a lucky break and a chance encounter with one of the ever elusive whale sharks.

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On the day in question I was leading a group of novices on a gentle tour of a familiar sheltered cove, just a few metres below the surface. Swimming at the head of the group, facing back towards them, I was keeping a close watch on my customers with occasional glances over my shoulder to make sure I was heading in the right direction and not about to bump into another group of divers.

Everything was going well; my divers were relaxed and enjoying the beautiful scenery when all of a sudden, out of the blue, a heavy blow hit me in the side of the face. My first reaction was that I thought my mask had been broken – it had almost completely flooded immediately. Not such a big problem there. Almost on auto-pilot, I cleared it with the air I had in my lungs, but the big problem


INCIDENT ANALYSIS BY SARAH CONNER BSAC Advanced Diver and Advanced Instructor

came when I went to breathe again... water poured in through the regulator and I inhaled half-a-lungful of seawater! I was confused, spluttering disorientated and still blinking droplets of water out my eyes and now I couldn’t work out what was happening - I could feel my mouthpiece in my mouth but when I reached up, to hit the purge button, the regulator was gone! And judging from the feel of it and the growing cloud of blood, so was a decent chunk of my upper lip. I regularly teach rescue scenarios, and two key lessons I try to instil into my students are firstly – when you feel panic start to rise, stop, breathe, think and then act. Secondly - always be absolutely confident on your equipment rigging and position. Practice locating your alternate source again and again - you never know when you will need it and you don’t want to be searching in panic for it in the dark. Thanks to these two mantras, I was able to stay calm, locating my alternate first

Sarah Conner is an Advanced Instructor and former BSAC regional coach. In addition to being an accredited HSE commercial and cave diver, she is qualified to use hypoxic trimix on open and closed circuit.

time and successfully switching over. Had I not, I would have almost certainly aspirated more water and things would have become a lot worse, a lot faster. Having somewhat regained my composure, I spotted the culprit just a couple of metres below me and realised what had happened – I’d been hit by an overly-territorial titan triggerfish. These fish, with their armoured faces and fused teeth, pack a hefty wallop but not usually before giving a couple of warning passes. I’d just been unlucky on that day and it sucker-punched me from out of the blind spot formed by my mask’s skirt. The triggerfish continued its attack, this time targeting my fins, and with it distracted for the moment, I signalled to the group to ascend with me. We surfaced a little too spread out for comfort so I called the group to close up but one diver, after all of the drama below, began to panic. They’d surfaced a few metres from the rest of us, and unable to locate their inflator hose they began to sink back down and began gasping for air. As I tried to make my way to them, I shouted over and over, “Ditch your weights! Undo your belt!” For a moment, it looked as if they were beyond hearing, but in the last moment, they caught on – they stopped searching in vain for the inflator controls and reached down to the buckle and in a matter of seconds, they were floating safely. I performed a surface tow on the diver who was still in some distress, and as a group, we left the triggerfish behind and safely made it back to the boat. I was duly whisked off to the neighbouring island for some thirty odd stitches and a course of antibiotics, and thanks to the skills of the plastic surgeon I’m as handsome as ever. We never found the missing weight belt. Part of me hopes that it gave that grumpy old triggerfish a clonk on the head on the way down, but I’m grateful at least that we were over rocky ground and not delicate coral at the time. Do you have an instructive drama in which you took control of a difficult diving situation? If so, we’d love to publish your story on these pages. We now pay £75 for every story published. For more details and a briefing, email the Editor at simon@scubamagazine.co.uk

Well done for getting your panicked diver to ditch his weights; it can feel counter intuitive to a lot of people, whose instinct is to hang on grimly to every item of kit. When leading a new group of divers – even certified divers – I recommend having a group buddy check to ensure everyone can locate not just their own inflators, weightbelts and redundant second stages, but those of their buddy. It can be especially important when new divers are using hired or unfamiliar kit. Most dive centres do give a ‘discover local diving’ brief as part of the first dives for groups or buddy pairs. In addition to local conditions, an orientation highlighting hazardous marine life will help divers be prepared for potential dangers such as scorpionfish, blue ring octopus, sharks or fire coral. Most marine creatures offer no threat if you give them their space and keep your mitts to yourself, but during breeding season the titan triggerfish becomes highly territorial, defending their eggs and nest site with hardwired ferocity. It is best to avoid aggravating a triggerfish by not going near their nests during egg-laying seasons and looking out for signs of stress in this fish at any time. Triggerfish have been seen to roll on their side before an attack, and give a good stare before the charge. If you see any sign of aggravation, the best tactic is to back off. A triggerfish sees its territory as a cone extending up to the surface from its nest area, so swimming up is sometimes not a good escape plan! Divers who have been attacked and then swim upwards can get their fins bitten… or worse. I have heard the triggerfish’s conical territory called the “apex of doom” by local guides, as the attack can worsen as the diver gets closer to the surface. If you are unlucky enough to be attacked by a triggerfish, however inviting the surface might seem it’s much safer to swim horizontally through the water away from it. Once the attack has abated, you can start to slowly ascend. Help us to keep diving safe – you should report any diving incident in confidence to the BSAC Incident Report www.bsac.com/incidents (All incidents used in the report are anonymous).

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UK DIVING

The

Brixham Academy Anita Sherwood of Worcester BSAC offers a guide to sites around Devon’s diving hotspot, the small fishing town of Brixham

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UK DIVING

Above: A velvet crab and plumose anemones on the Morris Rogue Reef

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Left: Daisy anemones cloak the rock face on the Morris Rogue reef Bretagne Lord Stewart Hopeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Nose

Emsstrom Tucker Rock Ore Stone Morris Rogue

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UK DIVING Morris Rogue REEF WRECK GPS: 50°27.190N 00 3°30.218W SLACK WATER: Neaps: Dive at any state of the tide on neaps, or two hours before and four hours after high water at Torbay on spring tides DISTANCE: 6km from Brixham DEPTH: approx 13m TERRAIN: Rocky island surrounded by shell and silt

Right: Squid eggs attached to a scrap of old rope Below: Inside the Ore stone tunnel

This is quite a rogue dive. One could be forgiven for expecting a disappointing kelp city, yet it is a hidden gem; surprisingly brilliant. Morris Rogue is a submerged island of rock starting at around five metres with only a sparse dusting of kelp. The rock at this level is covered in a tapestry of daisy anemones (Cereus pedunculatus) interspersed with hydroids and sponges. If you head into deeper water, you’ll drop down sloping walls and ledges. These are covered in a fantastic display of sedentary life ranging from every colour variety of plumose anemone to sponges and sea squirts. Here it is crab kingdom and spider and velvet crabs are plentiful – look for them tip-toeing around the base of the plumose anemones, hiding in the mini forests. Dropping down further you’ll hit the seabed at

13m where it is quite silty, so be careful with your fin strokes to avoid spoiling the visibility. On the seabed is a scattering of all kinds of shells ranging from razors to old scallop shells. Here hermit crabs can usually be found scurrying in all directions. Navigation on this dive is quite easy, just keep your left shoulder to the reef and you should circle the Morris Rogue rock. There are lots of critters to discover along the way from nudibranchs to cat sharks (dogfish to older divers). If you enjoy marine life you’re in for a treat as you’ll have plenty of bottom time on this dive.

Ore Stone REEF WRECK GPS: Landward entrance 50°27.438N 00 3°28.329W Seaward entrance 50°27.394N 00 3°28.252W SLACK WATER: Dive two hours before or four hours after high water Torbay, or drift dive off slack. The sea needs to be calm to safely enter the tunnel DISTANCE: 7km from Brixham DEPTH: 3-12m The highlight of the Ore Stone is the submerged tunnel heading through the south side of the island, possibly with an inquisitive seal lurking nearby. Starting on the landward side directly under the tunnel, first you can check out the cave just around the cliff wall by heading south, as a slight detour. Then, it only takes five minutes to swim through the tunnel which is 3-6m deep but it is quite fun and has some pretty displays of anemones and sponges. Once out of the tunnel there is a short swim-through directly on your right as you exit. From here you could follow the cliff around keeping the wall on your right shoulder passing many tall narrow gullies filled with anemones. Just out from the shelter of the island in 12m the current quickly picks up so make sure you have good boat cover and are equipped with a dSMB. The seabed here is covered in daisy anemones and makes for a wonderful drift dive.

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UK DIVING Lord Stewart REEF WRECK GPS: 50°29.611N 003°16.979W SLACK WATER: Dive two hours before or four hours after high water Torbay DISTANCE: 20km from Brixham DEPTH: 32-38m SIZE OF WRECK: 76m long SANK: 16 September 1918

Below: A cargo winch on the decks of the Lord Stewart

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Towards the end of the First World War this collier was empty of cargo and on its way back to Wales from France. Although the Lord Stewart had a Royal Navy protection escort, the ship was fired on by UB104 captained by the notorious Oberleutnant Bieber. The ship took a direct torpedo hit below the waterline and sank in four minutes. Fortunately, 20 of the crew managed to reach boats before the ship went down, but sadly one crew member did not get out in time. Bieber (aged 28) had sunk 35 ships during the First World War, many in the local area. Two days later his sub struck a mine in the North Sea. This intact, upright, merchant steamship is a memorable dive. As you descend, the light slowly fades and its time to switch your torch on. The features of this wreck are quite distinctive, so if you have done your homework, it is easy to

identify where you are. Go armed with a decent line cutter as it’s also a favourite with fishermen and monofilament line and trawler nets get caught on the superstructure. The most interesting area is along the deck. From amidships, the collapsed funnel lies across the bridge behind what was once the wheelhouse. Heading to the bow, the wreck seems to disappear but dropping down over the side you quickly find the deck again and two holds filled with lots of silt. This is where the torpedo struck, leaving a mess on the port side. Passing over recognisable features of cargo winches and bollards, you soon find the unmistakable anchor chain passing though the hawse pipes at the bow. Drop down over the side to find two huge anchors in the same position since 1918. Back at the funnel, the journey to the stern is straightforward, passing two further holds, up a ladder absolutely covered in dead men’s fingers to the gun mount and drop over the end. Out of the gloom appears a huge four-bladed propeller partly obscured by the towering rudder. Words cannot describe the overwhelming scale. If wrecks are not entirely your thing, there is a full crew of sea life to be found: plumose, anemones, hydroids; sea fans all in great numbers, plus the resident shoals of bib.


UK DIVING

Right: The shear sided walls of Eastern Blackstone reef Below: Eastern Blackstone rock with Scabbacome Head beyond

Eastern Blackstone REEF WRECK GPS: 50°20.204N 00 3°31.269W SLACK WATER: Dive two hours before or four hours after high water Torbay DISTANCE: 12km from Brixham DEPTH: 0-21m TERRAIN: Cliff wall dropping down onto boulders Eastern Blackstone is an enjoyable dive along a fine cliff wall. To get the most from this site start on the landward (east) side of the Eastern Blackstone and then head along to finish the dive passing through

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the two rocky islands to the seaward side. The kelpy shallows quickly drop away to walls dominated by jewel anemones displaying a palette of bright artists colours. The walls here are jagged and dramatic, so savour the moment as you descend. The ledges near the bottom change again to a more diverse intricate web of sponges and anemones. Under the shadow of the mighty cliff wall is a craggy rocky bottom where shrimps hide in the crevices and congers lurk undercover. If you’re really lucky you may discover a bull huss concealed underneath a boulder.


UK DIVING The Bull REEF WRECK GPS: 50°20.597N 00 3°29.206W SLACK WATER: Dive two hours before or four hours after high water Torbay DISTANCE: 10.5km from Brixham DEPTH: 21-50m TERRAIN: Sheer cliff wall, terraces down to small ledges The Bull is a pinnacle of rock that rises some 29m from the seabed. On the seaward side, the drop is sheer and is quite unbelievable to watch as the echo sounder struggles to show the sudden depth change. It is important to make sure the shot

Below: The damaged four-bladed propellor on the Bretagne

snags on top of the reef to prevent a direct descent to 50m. The best area for diving is the eastern side of the rock. Each cliff wall is dominated by a different variety of life. One wall can be plumose anemones but around the next corner it could be dead men’s fingers. On the larger ledges there are some extraordinary sized sea fans, undisturbed by fishing trawls. The tiny ledges on the cliff walls hide a whole host of critters from short-spined sea scorpions to butterfish.

Below: A shortspined sea scorpion rests on dead men’s fingers Below left: Plumose anemones on The Bull

Bretagne REEF WRECK GPS: 50°29.510N 003°22.680W SLACK WATER: Dive two hours before or four hours after high water Torbay DISTANCE: 15km from Brixham DEPTH: 23-28m SIZE OF WRECK: 71m long SANK: 10 August 1918 This loaded collier was sailing from Wales to France during the First World War. The conditions were appalling in thick morning fog when a French ship Renée Marthe appeared out of nowhere and ploughed straight into the starboard side of the Bretagne. The French vessel reversed away with little damage but the same could not be said for the Bretagne. The crew abandoned the ship safely, except for one who went below decks to retrieve his savings, which proved to be his downfall. The Bretagne is a relatively intact and upright ship for her age, standing around 7m high. The sea life on her is superb with particularly unusual examples of horizontal sea fans tiered down the 65


UK DIVING follow the hull to the seabed to admire the rectangular-shaped anchor, held firmly in the hawse. Here in good visibility you can just about recognise the shape of the bulbous bow disappearing into the silt. Back up on the forecastle, you can now start your travels along the deck where the main interest lies. The forecastle has a hydraulic anchor winch and chain leading back to the hawse. Then moving onto the bridge, you can follow the deck railings coated in amazing displays of plumose anemones. The bridge is quite distinctive with its traditional barrel crows nest but some of the wooden decking on the platform is missing along with the radar scanner. Here the framework is quite spectacular, decorated with the usual squidgy life and patrolled by shoals of bib. Along the route to the stern you will pass a pair of distinctive white-domed microwave radar housings, the funnel and ventilation for the engine below and the mizzenmast with a ladder leading to it. The mast was covered in several dark inky patches that looked like holes but on closer examination I discovered a number of topknots. Approximately 10m in from the end of the stern follow the hull as it drops ever more steeply to the seabed. At this point you will come upon the enormous five-bladed propeller and rudder. The area is dark, half shaded by the large projecting stern but a torch easily picks out these indisputably impressive features.

Essentials LAUNCH SITE: Brixham has a concrete slipway (above) suitable for cars on Berry Head Road (50°23.982 N 003°30.339W, TQ5 9AF), however on springs it is not possible to launch a boat for one hour either side of low water. There is a fee to launch (contact the Harbour Master on 01803 853 321), and you’ll need to park in the pay and display car park. GAS FILLS: Brixham Dive Shack: Unit 13, St Mary’s Yard, Horsepool St, Brixham TQ5 9LD (07512 680 026 or 01803 850 444, by prior arrangement) VENTURE SPORTS: 371 Torquay Road, Paignton TQ3 2BT (01803 523 023) DIVERS DOWN: 139 Babbacombe Road, Babbacombe, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 3SR (01803 327 111) CAMPING: Widdicombe Farm Touring Park off the A380 at Compton, Torquay, TQ3 1ST (01803 558 325) takes RIBs but is adults only. ACCOMMODATION: Try the Sea Tang Guest House, 67 Berry Head Road, Brixham, TQ5 9AA (01803 854 651). EATS AND TREATS: The rural Drum Inn in Cockington (TQ2 6XA), 2.5 miles from campsite, has an extensive menu (01803 690 264).

Above: The west cardinal – one of four marking the recent shipping hazard of the Emsstrom Below: A view along the decks of the Emsstrom showing the plumose coated railings

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WRECKED

Above: The remains of the prop Below right: The two cylinders of the engine block Bottom right: More large pollock guarding the wreck thick. The engine has toppled from this plate to lie in its current position on the port side of the wreck. Aft from here the prop shaft can be seen. Following this will lead you to the remainder of the stern. After around 10 meters the prop shaft and the hull break cleanly revealing the coarse sand and gravel seabed. Moving slightly to the port side of the wreck a pair of large deck winches can be seen. These winches lie right next to the main body of the flattened hull and are easy to find and orientate yourself around. The remains of the stern are further away and in poor viz may be difficult to see. Ten metres aft of the winches is an upturned piece of hull housing part of the prop shaft and leading to the rudder. Moving back towards the starboard side of the wreck the remains of the very stern of the ship and some broken plates can be seen. The remains of the stern rise around three metres off the seafloor. Attached to this is the remains of the propeller. All the blades have been cut off and only the boss now remains. Turning back towards the main body of wreckage you will have to recross 10 metres of sparse broken wreckage before regaining the main section of wreck. Average viz is usually around 8m on the wreck so it may be 72


WRECKED worth retracing your route to get back to the main section. Once back there, look under the hull plates and you will have a very good chance of finding a large ling, cod or conger eel. If you are really lucky you may see a wolfish. On the starboard side of the wreck, the gap underneath the hull

A fearsome storm Built in 1893 by Workman Clark, the steamship River Garry was launched down a slipway in Belfast. Ten years later, in November 1893 and while steaming from Leith to London with a cargo of coal, she was caught in the furious grip of hurricane force winds. It must have been terrifying as the ship succumbed to the storm and sank only a mile from shore. All aboard were lost and the wreck was generally forgotten about until the 1940s, when the need for steel was great and the wreck was salvaged for the metal. Interestingly the salvage was carried out by by Marine Quest skipper Iain Easingwood’s great grandfather. The wreck was once again forgotten about until 1990. I was invited to dive it shortly after its re discovery. I remember being amazed at seeing lots of brass portholes trapped under steel plates. The bell was later recovered in a slightly crushed state. The previous 1940s salvage had no interest in brass. That was no longer the case.

plates is home to more big fish. From here you should see a large structure looming in the distance. This is the single remaining boiler of two and is the only other structure on the wreck that reaches 4m off the seafloor. This boiler is relatively intact and more large pollock fin around it. Ballan wrasse live in the larger apertures

and Yarrell’s blennies make their home in the smaller pipes. If you stop and have a close look you should see some of the blennies emerge from their pipes, sticking their heads out to look at you. Moving back to the centre line of the wreck, forward of the boiler, you can see the large mounting brackets on which the boilers sat. There are four in all and you can see the smashed remains of the second boiler to the starboard side of the forward pair of brackets. In front of this is the forward break in the main hull section. Looking underneath the plates will give you another opportunity to find the wreck’s big fish. Much like at the stern section, the route to the bow requires following the debris trail, veering slightly starboard as you fin forward.

Above: The hull plates are encrusted with life and shelter the larger fish Above right: Dead men’s fingers on the boiler stand Below: The winch bow is home to a mean looking crab

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WRECKED You will pass broken plates and spars, broken hawse pipes, winches and then eventually come to the bow where you will see the ship’s large Admiralty pattern forward anchor. Nearby three smaller anchors lie fused together on the seafloor. Because of the spread-out nature of this wreck the diver will be a long way away from the shot line. It’s a good place to end the dive send up a delayed surface-marker buoy to make your ascent. The River Garry may be a well-salvaged, flattened wreck, but it is covered in marine life and home to some very large fish. The mechanics of the vessel are also on show, which makes it an interesting and extremely scenic wreck dive.

Left: Intact boiler Above: Deck winch near the stern Below right: Remains of the rudder

Essentials DEPTH RANGE: The wreck lies between 25m and 27m FINDING THE WRECK: The site is a mile offshore from Torness power station at N55º59.840 W002º25.070 (WGS84). TIDAL INFORMATION: Dive the River Garry on slack water 2 1/2 hours after high and low water. GAS: Air and nitrox is available from the Edinburgh Diving Centre, 1 Watson Crescent, Edinburgh EH11 1HD (0131 229 4838) or Marine Quest in Eyemouth (for contacts, see below). Dunbar no longer has a dive centre or air station. RIB LAUNCHING: Dunbar harbour has a good slipway but the harbour dries at low tide, so avoid two hours either side of low tide for launching. ACCOMMODATION: If you stay in Dunbar there are a few hotels and B&Bs or Eyemouth is a fairly large border town and has a range of B&B and hotel accommodation. Contact the Scottish tourist board (www.visitscotland.com) for details. If diving with Marine Quest you can stay in their Harbourside accommodation in Eyemouth (Jim and Iain, 01890 752 444). Caravans can be hired at Scoutscroft Holiday and Diving Centre (01890 771 338). Further dive related accommodation can be found in nearby St Abbs including Rock House (01890 771 945), Divestay (01890 751 316) and in Coldingham at Priory View (Paul and Dawn, 01890 771 525). EATS AND TREATS: In Eyemouth try Oblo, or the Marine Quest café at the harbourside accommodation; there are also plenty of fish and chip restaurants and takeaways and some nice ice cream shops too. Dunbar has a range of fast food, Chinese, chip shops and Indian restaurants. BLOWN OUT: Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is only 50 miles from Eyemouth and 25 miles from Dunbar. Berwick upon Tweed is six miles to the south. The south-east coast of Scotland is filled with fantastic beaches and historic castles; you can walk along the shore at Aberlady Bay at low tide and see the wrecked XT craft midget submarines. CHARTER BOATS: Marine Quest is based in Eyemouth at The Harbourside, 33 Harbour Road, Eyemouth, Berwickshire, Scotland TD14 5HY (marinequest. co.uk, contact Jim and Iain Easingwood on 01890 752 444 or 07780 823 884).

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BLUE PLANET New tech – rebreathers, drones and whale-cams Many SCUBA readers will remember the original Blue Planet, a visionary piece of television. The corporation was no stranger to ambitious series, but the scope of BPI was such that its name has gone down in the annals of television history. A generation of the finest cameramen were dispatched on a four-year mission to record some of the most spectacular and insightful marine behaviour ever committed to film. People still invoke its name when talking about blue chip natural history filmmaking. Now, 20 years after work started on that landmark series, the BBC is about to televise the long awaited sequel. So why now, and why the long wait? According to Executive Producer James Honeybourne, the time is right because scientific discoveries and new technologies have given filmmakers a completely fresh perspective on life beneath the waves. “It is amazing how much filming has moved on since the original Blue Planet series.” he says. “We have harnessed new technology to tell stories – some never seen before – in completely new ways. Our underwater teams can now dive for much longer than conventional scuba ever allowed. Rebreather diving gives our teams time to sit silently and watch, with no bubbles or disturbance underwater, and really get to know new creatures and their behaviours.” The new series has also benefitted from breakthroughs in camera technology – modern digital cameras can function to high standards in very low light, so for the first time the armchair diver can see

bioluminescence bursting around the mobula rays as they feed on plankton at night. The orcas of Norway have always been a bugbear for photographers because they come into the fjords during the winter when the light is very poor. But the footage captured for the first episode is jaw-dropping stuff, with different perspectives offered by aerial footage shot from HD camera drones, from divers and even from the whales themselves. With special permission, the teams were permitted to attach suction cameras to the orcas, which remain in place for a few hours before they lose pressure, detach and float to the surface. So you get to see an orca’s perspective of its family members attacking a school of herring as it rushes to join the feast. Viewed alongside David Attenborough’s commentary and the stirring music of Hans Zimmer, the effect is profound. Producer Mark Brownlow explains how the series is going to be presented: “The introductory episode is going to introduce the audience to the central premise of the series, which is that you’re going to see things you’ve never seen before. Through a series of new discoveries in the programme you’ll realise that everything within the ocean has a relationship with everything else. Then we follow with five habitat-based programmes, each giving the audience a distinctive experience. “In each of the habitat based episodes we try to give a snapshot of the context of the modern ocean, but in the final episode, Our Blue Planet – the Future, we really get into the substance of the major issues impacting the world’s oceans today.”

The episodes: a guide to One Ocean The opening episode takes the viewer on a journey from the tropics to the poles, showcasing an array of beautifully filmed animal behaviour. Some of the settings will be familiar to divers: not far from Hurghada in the Red Sea, a baby dolphin learns how to rub against a gorgonian coral, which is thought to have medicinal properties. In the Great Barrier Reef a tuskfish shows great adaptive intelligence, using a particular coral head as an anvil to open clams. The centrepiece sequence sees giant trevally launching themselves out of the water to swallow birds from the air. This behaviour had never been been filmed, and sequence director Miles Bardon embarked on a major expedition to the Seychelles literally on the strength of a fisherman’s story. This scene was singled out for praise by Sir David Attenborough, who said the intelligence required to calculate the bird’s speed and trajectory from underwater indicate that giant trevally are more intelligent than anyone had previously suspected. PHOTO©: ALEX VAIL

Above: A tuskfish uses a coral head as an anvil for opening a clam Below: Humpback whales feeding in episode four: Green Seas

PHOTO©: JOE PLATKO

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BLUE PLANET The Deep Series producer Mark Brownlow describes this as the “science fiction episode”. The crew use manned submersibles to capture scenes from the abyssal zone, including scenes of marauding Humboldt squid hunting in the depths below the Galapagos Islands. Episode producer Orla Doherty spent more than 1,000 hours in the submersible, filming phenomena such as brine pools, bizarre ‘lakes’ at the bottom of the see that present a death trap to passing creatures. Her team even managed to film an eruption of giant bubbles from a methane volcano, an event never previously witnessed. There

are deep sequences of sperm whales and sixgill sharks in the Azores and weird octopus off the Antarctic Peninsula, where the team was the first to descend in a manned submersible to 1,000 metres.

Coral Reefs As with the original Blue Planet, it was inevitable that an episode would be given over to coral reefs, which are home to a quarter of all marine species. The episode opens with a cheeky green turtle in Borneo using trickery to jump a cleaning station queue. The programme is a whistle stop tour of some of the world’s great coral reefs, taking in Egypt, the Maldives, French Polynesia and Indonesia, where they film the hookjawed Bobbit worm, a true creature of nightmares. In a key sequence a grouper communicates with an octopus to flush a reef fish out into open water. “Not only is this behaviour challenging our understanding of what a fish knows,

but it’s also making scientists rethink the definition of animal intelligence,” says researcher Yoland Bosiger.

Big Blue As with the original, BPII has an episode devoted to the vast desert that of the open ocean, with its teams spending the equivalent of two months underwater. The list of filming locations for this episode is huge, and involves a roll call of megafauna, including sperm whales hunting in the abyss (filmed with suction cameras) and whale sharks journeying to birthing zones. SCUBA’s Sarah Conner was involved in the filming of a key sequence involving lanternfish and mobula rays off Costa Rica. Lanternfish are deep sea dwellers, but were thought to venture to the surface at certain times of the year to spawn, when they are hunted by a raft of predators. The team used a research vessel with a helicopter to watch for signs of a ‘boiling sea’ of lanternfish and their predators, PHOTO©: JASON ISLEY

PHOTO©: JOE PLAKTO

Above: Sunlight breaks through a kelp canopy Above right: The cheeky green turtle in Sipadan, Borneo Below: A methane volcano in the Gulf of Mexico

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BLUE PLANET yellowfin tuna and spinner dolphins. “The big surprise was that mobula rays also join the feeding frenzy,” says Sarah.

the complex colour language used by the female cuttlefish to signify their willingness to mate.

Green Seas

Coasts

An exploration of kelp forests, prairies of sea grass, gardens of seaweed and mangrove communities. This is an important area to cover, as about half of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton; the sea’s plant life is essential to large communities of animals. You see octopus trying to escape from pyjama sharks in kelp forests, while in tropical seagrass tiger sharks play a game of cat and mouse with green turtles. One of the most impressive scenes features a spawning aggregation of 10kg giant cuttlefish, the biggest of their species, off South Australia. The sequence decodes

This episode tells the story of how wildlife survives in the ever changing world where water meets land. It shows a puffin making a 60-mile flight with one precious beak full of food for its pufflings, only to run the gauntlet of aggressive skuas as it nears land. Meanwhile in the Galapagos, the team film the efforts of sea lions attempting to catch 60kg tuna – the sea lions cannot catch them by speed alone so they work as a team, herding the great fish into the shallows to be trapped and devoured. In a more intimate setting, the crew filmed a tiny fish that bridges the two worlds, the Pacific leaping blenny, in Guam.

Our Blue Planet In the final episode, Sir David Attenborough examines the impact of human life on life in the oceans. At the premiere, he highlighted some of the scenes from this episode when asked about the health of the oceans, using the example of albatross parents unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic because their feeding grounds are so polluted. Sir David also examines the phenomenon of manmade noise drowning out the natural sounds animals use to communicate and navigate in the sea, sometimes with tragic consequences. But there are also stories of hope, notably the resurgence of herring stocks in Norway. Today, the recovered herring form the basis of one of the greatest spectacles in the ocean as hundreds of humpback whales and orca gather for the feast.

PHOTO©: RACHEL BUTLER

PHOTO©: ESPEN REKDAL PHOTO©: ROGER MUNNS

Blue Planet II at BSAC Conference Above: The fangtooth has the largest teeth relative to body size of any fish Top right: A Galapagos sealion attacking a tuna Above right: A scientist uses a hydrophone to record the sounds of the reef

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Blue Planet producers Rachel Butler and John Ruthven have been lined up as speakers at the BSAC Diving Conference, to run alongside the Dive Show. They will speak about their experiences filming the series, explaining the work that went into capturing some of the sequences described in this feature. Open to all members, the conference will take place on Saturday, 21 October at The Vox, NEC, Birmingham and promises a packed programme, including an impressive list of guest speakers. It is being hosted by another Blue Planet II producer and BSAC member, Sarah Conner. Conference tickets are available at £27.50. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.bsac.com/conference2017


DIVING TALES

My

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life as a fish Jeremy Wade, known to many as the intrepid presenter of ITV’s series, reveals his little-known scuba background don’t recall ever being so fixated on the bottom-right corner of the computer display. Is that an 8 or a 9? Because if it’s 19˚C that’s bad. Or it could be. That’s the thing with cold-blooded animals: predicting their behaviour is not an exact science. Normally if I get it wrong, it’s academic: better luck next time. But get it wrong with a Nile crocodile, and there might not be a next time. I’m in Botswana, in the Okavango River, which famously evaporates before it reaches the sea, ending its course in a swampy delta in the Kalahari desert. We’re here to film tigerfish, which roam the delta in packs, like silvery two-footlong piranhas. Nobody has done it before – it’s all about their reptilian neighbours. You just don’t get in the water anywhere

I

near Nile crocodiles. But cameraman Brad Bestelink grew up here, and he discovered a few years ago that it can be done – if you follow very strict protocols. Since the crocs are part of the scenery here, and hence part of our story, we’re trying to film them too. It’s the end of what passes for winter in southern Africa. The crocs should still be a bit dozy, but when the water warms up they will become much more active. The switch from one mode to the other happens when water temperature exceeds 18 degrees. Right now, we’re right on that threshold, even though the nights are still surprisingly chilly. There have even been moments when the second digit has flickered up a notch. But it’s not just diving by numbers: even at 18 degrees a croc

can be active, if it has had time to crawl out and sunbathe. So it’s wise, in such borderline conditions, to finish diving good and early in the day. The thing to avoid at all times is being silhouetted above a crocodile. So our dives start with a negative entry from our alloy boat, straight down to the bottom in the deepest part of the river, well away from the overgrown banks where the crocs like to lurk. Also, the motor should have scared anything from the put-in point. I am armed with a pointed metal rod about a metre long, but this is mainly to stick in the sandy bottom, to stop the current tumbling me downstream. For much of the year the visibility is nearzero, and diving is out of the question. It’s an environment where predators see

Left: Jeremy sometimes uses a rebreather for getting closer to his beloved ‘monsters’ Below: With a Nile crocodile in the Okavango delta

PHOTO©: BRAD BESTLINK / ICON FILMS

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DIVING TALES PHOTO©: ROBERTO RINALDI / ICON FILMS

in the dark, with their super-sensitivity to scent and vibration. But at this stage in the annual cycle the water is like weak tea: everything close is clear, but outside a fivemetre radius it suddenly gets dark.

A trick of the light? Drifting with the current is a strange experience at first: you find yourself going down a series of steps, but your maximum depth stays the same. It’s like being in one of those drawings by MC Escher – until you work out what’s going on. It’s the underwater equivalent of wind-blown sand dunes, with the bottom imperceptibly shallowing before each ridge. Approaching a drop-off the other day I saw a shape like a log: brown against lighter brown. Five seconds and I’d be on top of it. As my stick ploughed an audible line in the sand, the shape flexed and kicked away to my left, too quickly for my eyes to fix a clear image. Although fish-like in its movement, it was too big to be even the biggest catfish here, and anything but torpid. My first croc. Today we’re working along the river’s edge, where the flow is much slacker. It’s

a landscape of thick weed mats, deep shadow, and dark tree roots. A couple of times I’ve done a wide-eyed double-take, but it’s just been some trick of the light. What I wasn’t expecting was to find it in plain sight – but here it is, still as a statue in a patch of dappled sunlight. Its body angles up at 45 degrees, pointing towards the water’s edge, with

its head just below the surface – perfect for ambushing anything coming to the river for a drink. As per our plan, Brad and I approach from either side, as I try to make sense of my thoughts, to describe the moment. My full-face mask has a microphone hard-wired to a recorder on my back, and I have through-water comms to the surface – but the boat observes strict radio silence because crocs seem to be sensitive to sound from underwater speakers, such as the ones over my ears.

Top: With the incredibly rare oarfish in the Mediterranean 98


DIVING TALES

Above: A croc’s eye view with the help of a full face mask Below right: Nocturnal walkabout with a giant Pacific octopus

In the beginning As an angler from boyhood I have spent a lot of time looking at current lines on the surface of rivers. From this I try to visualize the underwater topography. And from this I try to work out where the fish will be. For this last step it has become a habit to imagine that I am a fish. Where can I station myself so I won’t burn energy battling the current? Will this also be a good place to intercept passing

PHOTO©: FLORIAN GRANER / ICON FILMS

What to say? Fragments of thoughts tumble through my head: the vibration sensors embedded in its armour; the Australian words of wisdom about the croc you can’t see being the one you’ve got to worry about (but did they ever see one this close?); the crushing power of its jaws, like a truck parking on top of you. Received wisdom says I need facts and figures. But then again – and this is true – sometimes breathless gibberish is the best way to convey the intensity of a moment. What is certain, as I gently lift the tip of the crocodile’s tail, is that somewhere in the back of my mind I am pondering, not for the first time, how exactly it was that I ended up doing this kind of thing for a living…

food? (Chances are it will be.) Where will I feel safe? It was my interest in fish that led me to diving, joining BSAC’s Swindon branch in 1993. But although I was dying to get underwater, I felt ambivalent about it. Rivers and lakes were magical places to me, and some part of me didn’t want to demystify them. Something about going beneath the surface and actually seeing what was under there seemed almost sacrilegious. My fears were unfounded. It quickly became clear that anyone actually wanting to dive in fresh water (other than for training, when the sea was too rough)

was seen as something of a deviant. Nobody wanted to see ‘brown fish in brown water’. So I joined the mainstream, took advantage of the excellent training on offer, and spent time bouncing out to wrecks off the South Coast in the club RIB. For many years, though, my diving was sporadic, while I worked odd jobs (including flipping burgers at Vobster) and channelled my spare time and resources into a series of shoestring fishing expeditions. Most of these were to rainforests, the Congo and the Amazon – which was how I ended up, via a very convoluted route, making TV programmes. 101


Above: A hawksbill turtle rests on a ledge at Castle Rock Inset: An indigenous Komodo dragon 104


TRAVEL SPECIAL

Above: A giant frogfish amid the sponges Top: A manta ray passes just under the support boat Above right: Bobtail squid poking out of the sand

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o me, Komodo Island has always evoked thoughts of adventure with stories of man-eating dragons roaming the land and mysterious creatures in the deep, and has always been on my bucket list. It is situated a few hundred miles to the east of Bali and part of the arc of islands that make up the nation of Indonesia. This part of the sea is a kaleidoscope of colour and life, all fed by supercharged currents that can make diving a challenge. I was well aware of Komodo’s infamous currents, and to be honest the prospect of getting caught in a ripping current while handling a camera was far from appealing. In the end, the promise of abundant sea life and beautiful scenery won out, and on a recent trip to Bali I took the opportunity to head east and join the liveaboard Sea Safari 7, for a five-night voyage.

T

Most diving around Komodo departs from the port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. The airport is small but very modern. Once a small fishing village, Labuan Bajo is now a bustling hub for those wanting to explore the nearby islands. The town itself has relatively little to offer bar a few restaurants and various fixers and travel agents vying for business. The crew of our boat were on the dockside to greet us and take us to our home for the next five nights, Sea Safari 7, a traditional wooden sailing vessel. These ‘pinisi’ style vessels may lack the steel hulls of the modern Egyptian liveaboards, but in terms of space and amenities, they are generally superior. Sea Safari 7 has a safety system called ENOS, a ‘lost diver’ location device. Each diver has a small cylindrical beacon which can be activated on the surface, at which point receiver alerts the crew, giving the precise co-ordinates of the diver’s location.


TRAVEL SPECIAL Below: The small ornate ghost pipeďŹ sh can be a highlight of any dive, if you can spot one!

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TRAVEL SPECIAL Cannibals and ladybugs

Below: Dragon shrimp on a whip coral Below right: Reef scene with juvenile fish Bottom: Trevally hunt near the surface at Crystal Rock

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The diving on my charter centred around two islands, Komodo and Rinca. Our check dive was at Sebayur in the north of Rinca. The water was a warm 28°C and the reef appeared to be in great condition, with more fish than I have seen in a long time. The next day we moved south to Horseshoe Bay, known locally as Nusa Kode. I had been warned that water temperatures in Komodo can vary greatly – the north side of the islands is usually about 28°C, but the south side is subject to deep water upwellings and can get decidedly chilly – sometimes as low as 20°C. Anyway, we were pleasantly surprised when we jumped it to find it was a balmy 23°C. Our first site was Cannibal Rock, named after an early visit when a komodo dragons was seen eating a smaller cousin. In this cooler water the viz dropped to about

15m, but it was still clear enough to admire the schools of jacks and butterflyfish along the reef wall. Our dive guide Risal knew a spot where you could find strange little critters known as ‘ladybugs’; in fact they are not related to garden beetles, but are a type of isopod – a very small, flea-like invertebrate. After only a few minutes searching he was desperately trying to point them out, but I didn’t realise how small they were. Barely over a millimetre in size I had to get out my trusty magnifying glass to see anything at all and it isn’t until you photograph them with a super macro converter that you see how amazing they are. I wonder if land fleas were this colourful we would appreciate them more? Back on board, someone spotted what looked like a Komodo dragon on a nearby beach. We took a skiff over to have a closer look and it wasn’t just one but three dragons at the water’s edge. We


TRAVEL SPECIAL Below: Giant fan corals dwarf divers as they swim by

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Below: A tiny ‘ladybug’ sits on the arm of the crinoid at Cannibal Rock Below right: Bobtail squid also come out in the day Bottom: Komodo’s pristine reefs teem with life

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were advised not to get out of the boat at this point for our safety. I had read stories about a Japanese tourist who decided to attempt a selfie with one of these giant lizards; it didn’t end well. At about six feet long, these medium sized dragons with toxic drool dripping from their mouths can certainly move, as we witnessed when a rival strayed into their territory and was chased down the beach. At this point I was very glad to be in the confines of the boat! I am used to coming across large creatures in the ocean but it was exhilarating to see these wild, prehistoric reptiles up close. Night dives in Asia should never be missed as they are full of interesting critters, and the dives in Komodo did not disappoint with octopus galore; squid of all types; stargazers; skeleton shrimp and, a first for me, dragon shrimp. One downside of diving at night in such a rich marine habitat is

the abundance of invertebrates, especially freeswimming worms that are attracted by your lights. Even thinking about it here is making me wince a little with only my hood to protect me from getting a worm in the ear. Tickly.

Komodo’s angels We could easily have stayed around Horseshoe Bay for the week but it was time to try Komodo Island itself. The next day was all about mantas, with two dives at Manta Alley. I don’t usually get too excited about diving in one location to see just one creature but it’s hard not to when it is such magnificent animals as these. Manta Alley consists of three rocks protruding from the sea in the centre of a channel that gets pounded by a powerful current. It has several cleaning stations where the mantas tend to


TRAVEL SPECIAL congregate. Our first dive was a disappointment, consisting of 50 minutes swimming around the cleaning stations with nothing to show for our effort. But as we got back on the tender there was a huge splash behind us as two mantas breached the water! Glee had quickly overtaken disappointment, but I wished I had remembered my snorkel as we all jumped back in to get a glimpse of the giant rays. I’m rubbish at duck diving, so ended up just bobbing about on the surface watching the majestic mantas below me. On the second dive we decided to stay nearer the surface and sure enough, saw more mantas. We realised the current had picked up a little as we were pushed down a narrow channel right into the path off two large mantas effortlessly holding position while cleaner fish picked off parasites. I found a spot to hide out of the current to watch these beautiful fish, but soon decided to swim out to get a closer look. This move used up lots of gas as the current was really picking up, but it was worth it for the close-up experience. The current soon pushed me back and once I had caught my breath I kept repeating the exercise for as long as my gas lasted.

Above: A juvenile flathead on the sand Above right: Skeleton shrimp sits on a hydroid waiting for its dinner

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TRAVEL SPECIAL Calling shotgun The next day brought us to Castle Rock. A deepwater seamount to the north of Komodo, the site is famed not only for its abundance of oceangoing fish and sharks but also for its currents. It is a popular site, and there were several liveaboards moored up around with divers below. We descended following Risal into the blue and as the bubbles cleared we could see why everyone was there. The reef itself seemed to be moving with clouds of fish. Above the deep-water drop-off were schools of elongate surgeonfish in greater numbers than I’ve ever seen before, with a huge batfish sitting above them. Swimming between were small groups of intimidating looking silvery jacks and large white and black tip reef sharks hoping to pick up a morning snack. We seemed to hit this site on what passes for slack water in Komodo, so the currents we had been expecting were negligible. We were free to

swim among the fish, but it also meant the schools were scattered over a large distance. The reef itself seemed extremely healthy, with a beautiful array of colourful corals and clouds of anthias everywhere. We hit 35 metres, and I soon remembered how short a time you get at this depth; so even though it was stunning down here it was soon time to ascend. Our next dive, incorporating the sites Cauldron and Shotgun was a guaranteed fast drift. Situated between the two islands, water is forced through at speed. The approach to Cauldron was via a deep-water reef; on the sand below us we could see dozens of sleeping white tip sharks and larger sharks swimming above them. As the reef shallowed we approached the entrance of the Cauldron. We could feel the current pick up and its heightened pace also became evident on the topography – much of the rich colourful soft

Below: Colourful corals at Shotgun Below left: Surgeonfish school at Castle Rock Bottom left: Our liveaboard, Sea Safari 7

Essentials GETTING THERE: You can’t fly directly to Labuan Bajo but it is serviced from many other airports in Asia. Saeed flew Cathay Pacific to Bali (www.cathaypacific.com) £700 and then Lion Air to Flores £60 + baggage (www.lionair.co.id). Garuda Indonesia offer regular flights from Jakarta £200 (www.garuda-indonesia.com) LIVEABOARD: Saeed dived with Sea Safari Cruises (www.seasafaricruises. com) on a five night ‘Best of Komodo’ trip costing $2,000 doubling to $4,000 for 10 nights. Komodo park fees are $30 per trip, with an additional charge of $15 per day while inside the park (not all days will be inside the park). Nitrox is charged per dive when needed. WHAT TO TAKE: If you are spending significant time on land on Flores, you should consult your medical centre for the latest advice on anti-malarial drugs. Otherwise, you need to take typical tropical clothing, a good sun hat and insect repellent. In terms of wetsuit, we recommend a 7mm wetsuit for the south and a thin suit for the northern sites. EATS AND TREATS: The liveaboards tend to serve upmarket Indonesian style food – so you can expect fragrant curries, marinated meats, sambals and rice dishes, with plenty of fresh salads and fruit platters. Beer drinkers will enjoy the ubiquitous Binteng, but if anyone offers you local wine or brandy, our advice is to run a mile! 119


PHOTO QUEST

Choosing the ideal lens Wide angle or macro? That is the question. For the answer, we refer you to SCUBA’s photo buddy team, Charles Erb and Trevor Rees thread of discussion often heard between diver-photographers is what lens to fit before a dive. It feels as if fitting a macro lens will inevitably lead to sighting a whale shark on the dive! Unlike their above-water counterparts, underwater photographers cannot change their primary lens during a dive. The decision of which lens to use limits the choice of subjects which can be captured and some careful consideration, if not some agonising, is needed before setting up the camera. On one hand, a wide angle lens will capture the whole scene during the dive, whereas a macro (close-up) lens is ideal for a single small subject. This means that committing to

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one type of lens rules out taking certain types of photo, and yet if there are not the right subjects or conditions for that set up, this can lead to a frustrating dive. It may seem that a camera with a zoom lens has the advantage of simply being able to zoom in and out, as conditions require. However, it’s not as easy as that, because most of these lenses do not have the ultra-wide ‘fisheye’ field of view required to get close enough to capture a wide-angle scene. What’s more, they often are not able to focus closely enough for some macro subjects. This is why many underwater shooters choose cameras with interchangeable lenses, but then suffer from lens angst. Fixed-lens camera

users may feel a little smug at this point, because they can use secondary, ‘wet’ lenses which can be added or removed during the dive. Prior to the dive in which I shot this male anthias, Pseudanthias squamipinnis, I had noticed that the visibility was not great, with a lot of particles suspended in the water. Thus, I chose a close-up rather than wide angle set-up. I made this decision because with close-up images, I am not trying to capture subjects very far from the lens and therefore I am less likely to get backscatter or poor contrast. Attempting wide-angle shots in these conditions might well lead to disappointment.

Where: Male anthias basslet by Charles Erb, Marsa Shagra, Egypt Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikkor 105mm lens, twin strobes, f/8, 1/100s, ISO400

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PHOTO QUEST I have tried to capture the plucky character of this little fish in the photo, which was moving very rapidly around the coral head and making swift, darting swims upwards in the water column. I wanted to isolate him from his background, so got myself low and shot up against the water to provide a blue

background. This male was among many orange females, and I used a relatively large aperture so that the fish in the background are out of focus. These small fish do not allow the camera to get close enough in order to fill the frame on my macro lens of choice (the Nikkor 60mm), so for this shot I chose a

longer 105mm telephoto lens, which did allow me to fill the frame with the fish – but from a greater distance. I felt this was a safe choice because I could be certain of seeing suitably-sized fish, but I was aware that this lens choice would rule out larger subjects such as sharks or turtles shoud the opportuity present itself. CE Where: Shoal of anthias by Trevor Rees, Marsa Nakari, Egypt Camera: Nikon D600 with Sigma 15mm lens + Kenko 1.4X teleconverter, dual Sea & Sea YS110 strobes, f/14, 1/160s, ISO 800

was diving a similar site to Charles, but on that occasion, I had seen that the visibility was excellent and so chose a wide angle setup. With the fisheye lens on my camera, I could get very close to the coral head to capture the surrounding shoal of gold female anthias from only a few centimetres away. By using a small aperture, I ensured that I had sufficient depth of field to keep both the fish and the background in focus. The shutter

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speed was chosen to ensure that the water rendered as a pleasing blue colour and my strobe output was adjusted to light the coral and fish evenly. Shots like this are very appealing and can be used to evoke the overall impression of the reef; my non-diving friends enjoy these photos, as they can understand what it was like to swim along the reef. However, with a wideangle lens on my camera, I need to know

that the water will be clear enough for all this detail to be visible. I also need to know that I will have suitable subjects available (either a pleasant scene such as this, or else a single large subject) – this type of setup is not capable of capturing an image of a single small subject. It is on occasions such as this that I am jealous of compact camera users who can use wet lenses which can be fitted or removed underwater! TR

How to select the optimum lens Know your site – find out what the topology of the site is like and what subjects to expect. Are you expecting tiny nudibranchs or impressive turtles and rays? Ask about diving conditions – the amount of sunlight, time of day and weather conditions will strongly affect how hard or easy the photography will be. The age-old question, “how’s the viz?” will inevitably be asked!

Wide angle photography needs good light and good water quality; in dim light and / or poor viz, details further from the camera have less contrast and the image will have less impact A close-up lens is a good ‘default’ choice because you can nearly always find a suitable subject and it is easier to compensate for less than perfect conditions

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BSAC SCUBA magazine - issue 72, November 2017  

BSAC SCUBA magazine - issue 72, November 2017

BSAC SCUBA magazine - issue 72, November 2017  

BSAC SCUBA magazine - issue 72, November 2017

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