Scuba Diver #46

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#46 | £1






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Pascal van Erp, Don Silcock, Al Hornsby, Jeffrey Glenn

As I write this, we are still in the depths of lockdown, so all diving has been curtailed as we stay at home to aid the battle against COVID-19. However, certain elements of the diving fraternity have been extremely busy - the last several weeks have seen volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue organisation out and about the length and breadth of the country assisting seals, whales and, in one instance, a young orca that were stranded or otherwise in peril. The Marine Mammal Medic course is one of the most-rewarding endeavours you can do as a diver. It teaches you the techniques and knowledge necessary to be able to assist in an animal rescue situation in the future, and with seemingly more and more incidents occurring around the UK these days, they need all the MMMs they can get. Keep an eye out for Marine Mammal Medic courses being run as soon as we are out of lockdown and heading back towards some sort of normality. Talking of normality, there is light at the end of the tunnel. As I write this, over 6.5 million people have had their first vaccinations against COVID-19, which is close to ten percent of the population. More and more vaccination centres are opening up, and as time goes on, the operations will get slicker and smoother, and able to process more people. Yes, there is some concern about the South African and Brazilian variants, but trying to remain positive, it is heartening to see swathes of the mostvulnerable getting the vaccination, and this should lead on to the lockdown being slowly eased as we progress through spring.

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#46 | £1









8 News

20 Big animal encounters

Divers are urged to join Fish Free February, new chief executive for the Mary Rose, virtual tours of the National Marine Aquarium, the Diving Emergency Medical Responder from The Diver Medic, further exploration of thew Karlsruhe wreck, and BOOT Dusseldorf cancelled.

Underwater photographer Don Silcock explains why he is so addicted to the thrill of diving in the company of big animals all around the world, including whales, dolphins, sharks and even crocodiles.

26 Q&A: Pascal van Erp

18 DAN Europe Medical Q&A

The team from DAN Europe answer diving-related medical queries, including about COVID-19.

We talk to Pascal van Erp, the founder of what is now known as Ghost Diving, and uncover how he got started recovering lost ghost fishing nets, what led him to GUE for his technical diving training, and find out how the purchase of the organiation’s first dedicated dive boat, the Mako, will assist with future operations.

50 Divers Alert Network

32 Underwater Photography

Cristian Pellegrini looks at the ultimate fitness workout programme for divers.

66 Wreck Hunter

Underwater photography guru Martyn Guess continues on from his piece about shooting seals, this time urging divers to experiment with blackand-white images.

Mike Haigh discusses the recovery of smaller objects from historic sites.






36 Backplate-and-wing vs jacket-style BCD

58 What’s New

Scuba Diver editor-in-chief Mark Evans looks at the ‘chassis’ of your diving equipment, the BCD, and examines the pros and cons of en-vogue backplate-and-wing systems against more-traditional jacket-style BCDs, as well as showcasing a third option that might suit recreational divers with no aspirations of tech diving - the back-inflate BCD.

42 Thailand

Well-travelled photojournalist Al Hornsby takes readers on a whistlestop tour of some of Thailand’s most-famous diving areas, which are home to everything from weird-and-wonderful macro critters to mantas and whalesharks.

52 Stage cylinder management protocols

RAID technical diving instructor trainer and cave instructor Jeffrey Glenn discusses stage cylinder management protocols that he teaches during his agency’s Cave 2 programme, and how they can be a useful rule for all cave and wreck divers.


First look at new products on the market, including the Hollis F1 LT fins in new colours, hoodies from Santi and Fourth Element, Scubapro’s MK19 EVO BT / G260 Carbon BT regulator, and the Thermovalve from Santi which combines a drysuit inflator and a connector for a heated undersuit.

60 Test Extra

Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans rates and reviews the heated glove system from underwater heating specialists Thermalution, and finds that they do indeed work just as well wet as they do dry - even though he didn’t intend to!


Each month, we bring together the latest industry news from right here in the UK, as well as all over our water planet. To find out the most up-to-date news and views, check out the website or follow us on our various social media (@scubadivermag)



here are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices. Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year, an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90 percent of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein. Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a


simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the wellbeing of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.


“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the wellbeing of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.” To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge, visit:



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NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE APPOINTED FOR PORTMOUTH’S MARY ROSE The Board of the Mary Rose Trust has confirmed that Helen Bonser-Wilton, Chief Executive, will be leaving the Mary Rose Trust at the end of March 2021. Helen is taking up an exciting new role as Chief Executive of the Leeds Castle Foundation in Kent. The Board is enormously grateful to Helen for all that she has achieved during her five and a half years at the Mary Rose – which was raised in 1982 after years of hard graft by a plethora of commercial and recreational divers – and wishes her every success for the future. The Board ran a thorough internal recruitment process over the Christmas/New Year period and is delighted to confirm that Dominic Jones, current Chief Operating Officer, has been appointed as the new Chief Executive, with effect from end March 2021. Dominic was recruited to the Mary Rose two years ago and brings an excellent background in commercial visitor attractions (Disney, Merlin) and creative visitor experience development. During his time at the Mary Rose, he has driven an excellent commercial and operational performance and worked closely with Helen to create the new Portsmouth Historic Dockyard joint venture with the National Museum of

the Royal Navy, which launched successfully in August 2020. In light of the current national lockdown restrictions, the museum is closed to visitors. The Mary Rose continues to take every step necessary to ensure the museum is safe for visitors and staff, and looks forward to welcoming visitors again when it can re-open. In the meantime, you can visit the Virtual Museum at Mary Rose at

NATIONAL MARINE AQUARIUM LAUNCHES VIRTUAL FAMILY TOURS The National Marine Aquarium has come up with a way to keep families entertained at home and keep its Ocean Discovery Rangers busy through winter – by offering personalised tours of the aquarium’s tanks, which in turn will help boost funds for conservation and education during the latest lockdown. Virtual visitors are invited to take a one-hour tour with the Ocean Discovery Rangers, exploring the whole ocean, from the rocky shores of the coast in Devon, all the way to the colourful corals of the Great Barrier Reef. Virtual visitors will also get VIP access to the top of the Atlantic Ocean Exhibit, and the chance to meet some of the National Marine Aquarium’s most-popular residents, including a cheeky turtle called Friday. The virtual tour, which is available daily between 3pm and 4pm and costs £79.99, includes all three zones of the aquarium, with the first covering local coasts and rockpool shallows and marine life that’s found slightly off the UK shore; the second exhibit houses the inhabitants of the Atlantic Ocean, where some of the aquarium’s biggest animals live – including the sharks – and the third region covers the tropical reefs, with familiar favourites Nemo and Dory. Heading up the Ocean Discovery Rangers are Freyja Thomson and Lottie Hawkins. Freyja primarily works in the National Marine Aquarium communicating with the public the importance of the ocean and helping to create an ocean


literate society. Through her work Freyja helps to create and deliver fun, engaging shows, workshops and interactions that the public engagement team of Ocean Discovery Rangers help to run. Lottie’s role combines her love for the ocean and the incredible wildlife it supports, with her passion for working with people in the hope of creating an ocean literate generation who will protect the future of our Blue Planet. Living in the UK, no one is ever further than 70 miles from sea, although these virtual guides and lessons mean distance is not an issue, with tours even available to international guests. 2021 sees the start of the UN Decade of the Ocean and the virtual tours are aimed to get the UK off to a flying start.


THE DIVER MEDIC INTRODUCES DEMR COURSE The Diver Medic has launched the Diving Emergency Medical Responder course, written and approved by Chantelle Newman. Chantelle said: “The Diver Medic brand continues to grow, both on social media and again in training hundreds of divers around the world each year. Safety and saving lives comes from having knowledge and a comprehensive amount of knowledge comes from having the right training. That is why we have developed a course suitable for every diver, or even surface support officer out there. “Welcome to the most comprehensive international diving accident, illness, and emergency medicine course to date. We are proud to bring you a course that instils confidence and understanding of the subject your instructor may not have had the knowledge and skills to teach you unless they were DEMR trained themselves.” She continued: “Our main objective is to ensure divers get the right treatment in the event of an accident or diving emergency, whether inland or in a remote location. The Diver Medic is agency neutral. Our mission is to support all agencies in the quest for better medical training and safety for all divers.


This qualification is for people who have a specific responsibility at work, or in voluntary and community activities, to provide prehospital care to patients requiring emergency care/treatment. For example, Liveaboard crew, Skippers, Captains, Dive Boat Crew, Dive Schools, Instructors, DiveMasters, Course Directors, CoastGuard, RNLI, Police Divers, Public Safety Divers, Tenders, Scientific Divers, Military Divers, Recreation, Technical, Cave, CCR Divers, Freediver, Surface support staff, Freediver competition crew, Lifeguards, ThemePark Divers, Aquarium staff, Explorers, Nurses, Doctors, EMS… The list is endless!


• Learners must be at least 18 years old on the first day of training. • CPR and AED certified, basic understanding of First Aid Training


Would you like to become a TDM Diving Emergency Medical Responder Instructor? In that case, you will need to apply to The Diver Medic, email: info@ with your resume and an introductory letter explaining why they should consider you as one of their Instructors.


TV favourite Richard Hammond will be back on our screens at the end of the month in The Great Escapist, and in one of the first episodes, he has a close encounter with a whaleshark. Left on a Panamanian desert island with Mythbusters’ Tory Belleci, the duo were tasked with building a raft to get themselves back to the mainland, but true to form, halfway through the journey, they had issues and the raft fell about, leaving them in the water. Hammond scrambled into the crew’s boat after he saw a shark ‘like a school bus’, but later realised the enormous fish was a harmless whaleshark. The Great Escapist launches on Amazon Prime Video on 29 January.



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Research is continuing on the wreck of the Karlsruhe, which was discovered lying on the bottom of the Baltic Sea last year by Tomasz Stachura and the Baltictech team. As reported before, the 66-metre, 897-ton SS Karlsruhe was the last ship to live Pilawa (the port of Koenigsberg) in 1945 before the Russian occupation of East Prussia as part of Operation Hannibal – the largest marine evacuation in history, which also involved the legendary Gustloff, Goya and Steuben, which saw some two million refugees transported to the west. On that last voyage, she set off on 12 April with 150 soldiers of the ‘Herman Gornig’ regiment, 25 railroad workers and 888 refugees on board. Together with the crew there was a total of 1,083 people. The ship also took 360 tons of ‘returnable goods’ in uneven chests; and military vehicles. A convoy consisting of four freighters and three minesweepers was formed right before the Hel Peninsula. This convoy left the roadstead of Hel on 12 April in the evening, but on the morning of 13 April, she was detected by Soviet planes that attacked the Karlsruhe and sank it. The ship went down within three minutes with its entire cargo, and only some 100 people were saved.


The final resting place was unknown, until the Baltictech team discovered it in September. The Baltictech team has now conducted two expeditions to the wreck site – in December, they returned aboard the research vessel Mintaka I and used electronic gadgetry to thoroughly explore the seabed around the Karlsruhe. Some 550 metres away from the Karlsruhe, a ‘second’ wreck was discovered, though whether this is linked to the events of 13 April 1945 is yet to be determined. The exploration also showed that there was a huge debris field around the Karlsruhe, especially around the bow area. Ten chests and other artefacts were discovered on the seabed. The next full diving expedition is due to take place in spring 2021.



The team behind the Düsseldorf Boot show have decided to cancel the 2021 event due to the ongoing pandemic and the associated worldwide lockdown measures. The next Boot, as scheduled in the trade fair calendar, will open its doors from 22 to 30 January 2022. “Under the given circumstances, an implementation on the planned date in April is no longer guaranteed,” says Wolfram N. Diener, CEO of Messe Düsseldorf. “The continuing high level of infection and the fact that the end of the lockdown is not foreseeable for the time being make a resumption of trade fair operations at the end of April appear increasingly unrealistic. We have reassessed the situation with our partners and jointly decided to cancel Boot 2021 early. Our priority is the health and planning security of our exhibitors, visitors and service providers. All activities will now be focused on the successful staging of Boot 2022.” The aim, he said, is to return to the concept of boot Düsseldorf both as an event for all water sports enthusiasts and as a business and networking platform for the international trade audience. For 2022, he added, work is also underway on a hybrid trade fair experience that will, among other things, enable digital participation in seminars and events at boot Düsseldorf. Boot 2022 will start with the registration portal for interested companies in May this year.

DRIFTWOOD SPARS BREWERY SPONSORS FATHOMS FREE The Driftwood Spars Brewery in Cornwall is sponsoring the Fathoms Free organisation, with the aim of buying an ROV to assist with the retrieval of ghost fishing nets. Anyone buying some of the awardwinning brewery’s Cove small-batch beers can savour the taste while safe in the knowledge that part of the profits will be donated to Fathoms Free. The funds raised will be going towards a remote operated vehicle, which will assist with the locating and retrieval of ghost fishing nets. It will also allow the organisation to document what they find in 4K video, thus raising awareness with the general public through their social media. You can buy them online from, or from their iconic pub in St Agnes (when it reopens).



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More than 40 Kids Sea Camps and counting

Woody Tinsley, rests after a long day of training at a Kids Sea Camp

A Kids Sea Camp Story by Woody Tinsley One of the most common questions asked of me by families is How did I connect with Kids Sea Camp (KSC)? It’s actually a fascinating story that encompasses a series of fortuitous events. I started diving in 1998 and still considered myself a rookie diver in 2004 when I first bumped into KSC. I just happened to be on my first dive vacation in Curacao, and as I tried to book some diving at Ocean Encounters, I was told that there was a big family dive event going on and they were fully booked for the next 4 weeks. I liked kids, but KSC had completely taken over the resort, restaurants and the dive shop! I dove with another operator, but watched from a distance thinking how much fun KSC divers were having, and how cool it would be to bring my future kids on a Kids Sea Camp adventure. Fast forward two years, and I was spending a great deal of time fossil shark tooth diving. I had written two articles for Shark Diver Magazine and also became a PADI


Scuba Instructor. After writing my articles, I was invited to give a presentation at the annual Boston Sea Rovers Clinic (years later I would be accepted into their ranks, which was the proudest personal accomplishment of my life.) I threw together a Power Point presentation about ethical souvenir buying; you know No dead seahorses, sharks in jars, etc., and I created it to read like a nursery rhyme. Cristina Zenato attended, famous “shark whisperer”. She was The Shark Lady and instructor at UNEXSO in The Bahamas. Christina loved my presentation and invited me down to be a staff member at UNEXSO’s first Kids Sea Camp event. I couldn't believe it! My future kids had also been born, but were

not old enough to participate just yet.

My first Kids Sea Camp: I departed the U.S. for my first KSC adventure in 2007 on my own. Christina put me in charge of the PADI Seal Team. I was on an island paradise and teaching Aqua Missions to kids in a pool. Now if you know me, you know I'm not a “pool” guy, but honestly it was the most rewarding and fun week of my life (until later when I brought my own kids). On that trip I certified five little Seals including Natasha and Nay Nay, two 9-year-old locals girls who won the Kids Sea Camp scholarship that summer. At the end of the week, before the KSC poetry and Junkanoo


celebration, I won my first Sealife camera in the talent show, pulling off an especially fantastic lip sync rendition of the Thriller dance. My first KSC week was amazing, but truth be told, it actually took Margo until Thursday to ask me to come to work for Kids Sea Camp! I’ve been to 40+ kids Sea Camp events over the last 14 years My favorite KSC adventures are the ones I've shared with my own 2 kids Rowen and Bryson Belle, and one of the most memorable ever was at Buddy Dive in Bonaire in July of 2019. Owners Paul & Michelle Coolen, along with Margo & Tom Peyton, helped me put together a special Woody family moment in the middle of KSC. I brought along my mom Barbara, girlfriend Sally, and her two kids Olivia and Mason. I planned to ask Sally to marry me underwater during the camp. Sally was just certified so I took her on our first couples dive just off the house reef. My mom had not been diving in 2 years, so Margo's son & instructor Robbie Peyton helped


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W W W. FA M I LY D I V E R S . C O M

(Marriage proposal) had the whole family underwater with my mom and it was so fantastic. I wrote on my slate to Sally "the question", and only hoped she would circle the YES instead of the NO, and she did.

with her and Rowen too. Both Sally's kids had just completed the Jr. Open Water course and this was their first dive. Margo jumped in to shoot photos with Tom and on July 25th, 2019, I proposed to my now wife Sally Tinsley at Kids Sea Camp, Buddy Dive underwater. I popped “the question” using a slate. and only hoped she would circle the YES instead of the NO, which she did. Sharing that moment with the family was fantastic! Why I love Kids Sea Camp I’ve watched my children grow up at Kids Sea Camp. I have also been delighted to introduce over 600 kids to our underwater world and certified them at Kids Sea Camps. According to a statistic I made up, one out of every three Kids Sea Camp divers will have been certified by me in the year 2035. I have loved watching kids from all around the globe grow as divers, and I am always inspired

at how much diving has impacted their lives in such a positive way. Some of my first Zombie Apocalypse Diver Students are now instructors, including Addie Benz, Lilly Blakey, Jen Peyton, Rob

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Peyton, Ryan Seltz, Max Lavinsky, and Grant Smith. My own family is the #1 reason I love Kids Sea Camp.You and I all know why Margo Peyton started her company.The exhilarating feeling of diving with your kids at any age is untouchable.Then when you add in parrotfish, flounder and brain coral, the things you and I take for granted become exciting again when you experience them through your children's eyes.That intentionally sunk rowboat, used to make an artificial reef, is like diving the Titanic to them. Sharing this sport with my own children and hearing them talk about diving with such zeal melts my heart every time. I love Kids Sea Camp because I am a part of something much greater than myself. It allows me to share life in a way I never imagined was possible, with my family and yours. So what’s next for my Kids Sea Camp story? To be honest I have no idea. I hope it involves years of fun with Family Dive Adventures

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at Kids Sea Camps all over the world, and I hope I will see you there! Join me in Dominica, Palau, Bonaire, and Fiji in 2021. From Margo and Tom Peyton It is unquestionable that Woody Tinsley has made our company and our lives better. Kids Sea Camp would not be the wonderful fun-loving company of today without Woody’s larger than life influence. Woody reminds us every day to laugh out loud at the bizarre world we live in, to embrace and love each other without limits, and to be gentle and kind as much as you possible with everyone you meet. Thank you, Lord, Doctor, Woody Tinsley, for the years of pouring your heart and soul into making Kids Sea Camp that much better.


Q: In June 2020, I had COVID-19, can I still dive and if yes, is there anything I should be concerned about? A: If you have had no permanent effects to your body and health, then yes, you can. However, you need to be 100 percent certain that you have no permanent consequences. Your treating specialist and a diving medical specialist must do that for you. The COVID-19 virus can cause permanent damage to a number of organ systems even if the actual symptom course is moderate in nature. For example, the lungs are not infrequently affected and this is known as post-COVID fibrosis. The damage caused, if present, will significantly predispose divers to serious gas embolism, so it is necessary to ensure that this is not present. Any examining doctor will need to check if there are any residual effects from the infection and this may include tests, such as CT scans, pulmonary function tests, etc. Whether an individual will need a CT scan or not to eliminate risk depends very much on where and how badly the infection ‘hit’ the sufferer’s body. There is need for a level of expertise to do this and many doctors do not possess it, so one must go to an appropriate specialist. Also, following the above tests and examinations, what is essential is to go to a diving medical specialist, who will review the detailed medical report from the treating physician who managed the COVID illness, or the specialist who did the post-infection health review detailed above, and he/ she will do the required checks to ensure that the individual has no relevant long-term sequelae to the infection that are particularly relevant to diving risk – most specialists lack knowledge on diving physics, physiology and medicine hence the need to involve also a diving medical specialist or referee - and so be able to issue an unrestricted Fitness to Dive certificate you need to be able to have the comfort that you can dive safely. Therefore, the only solution for you – if you want to go diving – is to go to the closest place where the required expertise is available and get the tests done and also obtain a FTD certification. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be done remotely as you will need to be seen and examined directly for a valid certificate to be issued. Please do remember that similar requirements are needed for breath-hold diving. Q: I’m a new diver and wanted to know if I will be able to dive with a gastric band? A: Gastric banding is a surgical treatment for obesity and is


one of the commonest and least-invasive form of bariatric surgery. Basically, the procedure constricts the stomach so that a person feels full after eating less food than usual. It is normally carried out under anaesthesia as a day case using keyhole surgery techniques where a number of small incisions are made to install the device. It is our experience that divers who have had uncomplicated bariatric surgery should not be at any increased risk for gastrointestinal barotrauma because the band is not inflated with air but with saline and so not affected by atmospheric pressure changes. As an individual new to diving, one must not only consider the operation in isolation but, after full healing has taken place, the candidate diver needs to be fully assessed by a diving medical physician or referee holistically, that is, besides ensuring that the surgery was uncomplicated and healed fully without long term sequelae, ensure that the diver is fit and healthy enough to dive with an acceptable level of safety. It is believed that, after gastric banding, sufficient healing and recovery has occurred after a six-week wait by which time one can resume strenuous activity as well as diving. Q: I am a disabled diver with cognitive problems, can I get insurance? A: First of all, any diver with any long-term medical condition must have a valid and current fitness to dive certification issued by an approved diving medical referee or diving medical specialist. Do understand that even eminent medical specialists and consultants, if not specifically trained in diving physics, physiology and medicine, will probably underestimate (and in some cases overestimate) the relevance of any medical condition to diving health and safety. It will be the diving medical specialist or referee who will indicate in their fitness to dive certificate if they foresee any concerns the diver and his dive companions should plan for and if any restrictions apply. The insurance company will require a copy of this FTD certificate and decide on if to insure the diver or not. DAN Europe’s insurance, IDA, once a diver provides a valid FTD certificate, has regularly provided full cover and benefits to divers with disability subject only to the restrictions required by the diving medical specialist in their FTD certificate and of course subject to the laws of the country the diver is diving in. MQ created in collaboration with IDA, International Diving Assurance Ltd., one of DAN Europe’s subsidiaries.


Escape your bubble.

There’s a whole world waiting just below the surface in The Florida Keys, and we can’t wait to share it with you. With the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S., hundreds of wrecks and thousands of species – all within a 2,900 square-nautical-mile protected marine sanctuary – it’s never too soon to start planning your escape. For the latest protocols on health and safety in The Florida Keys, please visit our website.

Underwater photographer Don Silcock explains why he is so addicted to the thrill of diving in the company of big animals all around the world PHOTOGRAPHS BY DON SILCOCK

There really is something quite unique about an eyeball-to-eyeball underwater encounter with a big animal. Basically, you are but a temporary visitor to their domain – one they may not be the absolute master of, but they are far more in control than you can ever hope to be



cuba diving and underwater photography has evolved incredibly over the last ten years or so, to the point where there are now dedicated specialities, niches and genres in all sorts of areas from technical diving to super-macro photography. For me personally, the area that gets my juices flowing the most is what is typically referred to as ‘big animals’ and is somewhat loosely defined as in-water encounters with the large and potentially dangerous creatures of the sea. My initial experience of big animals was here in Australia back in 2004 when I did my first great white shark trip to South Australia’s Neptune Islands. I can still remember how scared I was on that trip, so much so that I could not sleep properly for days before we left Port Lincoln!


I am a technical person by nature and have to understand how things work. So never having been on a white shark trip before, my mind was going over and over what could go wrong and what I might be able to do about it… For example – I knew that we would be in cage at the back of the boat using a hookah system. Which meant that we must be tied on to the boat, so ‘what if’ a great white bit through the rope and towed us away? Yes, I know stupid… but if you don’t know, you don’t know! Since that rather inauspicious beginning, I have gone on to dive with and photograph tiger, great hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks in the Bahamas and bull, ragged tooth and oceanic blacktip sharks in South Africa. Plus, humpback whales in Tonga and Japan, sperm whales in the Azores, grey whales in Mexico, whalesharks in Mexico and Mozambique, together with oceanic mantas and America crocodiles in Mexico. COVID-19 allowing, I am signed up for beluga whales in Canada, more crocodiles in Mexico, southern right whales in Argentina and blue whales in Timor Leste this year. I think you get the picture big animals are addictive…


Big underwater animals are almost always open-water, pelagic creatures that are on the move and are of no fixed abode



Hammerhead shark

There really is something quite unique about an eyeball-toeyeball underwater encounter with a big animal. Basically, you are but a temporary visitor to their domain – one they may not be the absolute master of, but they are far more in control than you can ever hope to be. So, the first thing to understand is that the encounter very much takes place on the animals’ terms. You can (and I have…) travel half-way around the world, at not inconsiderable expense, to get the opportunity to be in the water with the specific animal, only to discover they just are not interested in any kind of interaction. The second thing about big animals is that no matter how big the animal actually is, the ocean is much, much bigger and, because it’s a three-dimensional medium, there are multiple directions for them to disappear into that endless blue! But all that said, when the creature does interact with you, it’s hard to describe the sheer intensity of the experience – a unique mixture of acute fear, incredible excitement and absolute wonder. Or as a male friend of mine once said, ‘it’s a bit like having sex with your boss’s wife…’ - no first-hand experience of that by the way! Ragged tooth shark



Oceanic whitetip shark

Mother and calf


In more normal times, Don is based from Bali in Indonesia, but is currently hunkered down in Sydney… His website has extensive location guides, articles and images on some of the best diving locations in the Indo-Pacific region and ‘big animal’ experiences globally.

Humpback whale


Big underwater animals are almost always open-water, pelagic creatures that are on the move and are of no fixed abode. In some cases, such as whalesharks, they are in a constant state of migration from one rich source of food to another. Or, like the humpback and grey whales, they have rich summer feeding grounds in the polar ice caps and winter breeding grounds in sheltered archipelagos or bays like Tonga and Baja in Mexico, which they migrate between – journeys that involve distances of epic proportions. Sometimes there are populations of specific creatures that frequent certain areas at specific times of the year, usually to mate - such as the ragged tooth and tiger sharks in South Africa. Or occasionally there are resident populations, like the American crocodiles of Chinchorro in Mexico, but you can only get there


for a few months each year because of weather constraints. The bottom line is that it’s usually complicated… but the common factors are that there will typically be some form of limitation on the number of people allowed in the water at any one time, and there will often be logistical restrictions like the availability of good operators or boats. All of which means that demand usually exceeds supply, and the available capacity is often booked up well in advance by specialist underwater encounter tour companies, or well-known underwater photographers who lead trips to the location. There is very little chance of organizing an independent trip to most of the locations at the optimum times to be there and personally, I decide when and where I want to go well over a year in advance, pay my deposits and then save up for the balances!


My initial experience of big animals was here in Australia back in 2004 when I did my first great white shark trip to South Australia’s Neptune Islands

Great white shark


The fairly high cost and specialised nature of big animal trips means that they really are not for everybody, but if you do sign up and go on one, be prepared to meet some remarkably interesting people. I have personally had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with everything from multi-millionaires to truly addicted adrenaline junkies on my trips, with the full spectrum of personalities in between. For example, on one shark trip to the Bahamas, a guy I struck up an on-going discussion with over the course of the week together explained how he did an ‘adventure’ every month. Then let slip that his next one was a high-altitude supersonic flight in a special Russian Cold War-era fighterbomber… He also shared with me how he had relocated from London to Monaco to avoid the traffic! Sperm whales Manta ray



One final word of warning as I wind up this intro into big animals… If you are reading this article, it’s likely that you have more than a passing interest in signing up for such a trip. It’s also probable that you also have a personal ‘bucket list’ of aggregations and special destinations that you really want to do. So did I… and I thought that four to five trips would do it. But it really does not work like that, because each trip you go on will lead to interesting discussions about places the other participants have been to – usually over an adult beverage, or two! The bottom line being that the more trips you do, the longer that bucket list will get. Like I said, big animals are addictive… n



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Q&A: PASCAL VAN ERP Scuba Diver chats to Pascal van Erp, world-renowned Dutch technical diver who was the founder of what is now known as Ghost Diving, dedicated to the removal of ghost fishing nets PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PASCAL VAN ERP / WWW.GHOSTDIVING.ORG

Q: As is the norm with these Q&As, let’s start at the beginning – how did you first get into diving? A: Adventurous as I was, always very involved in outdoor activities and sports, I started diving lessons in 2005, mainly inspired by the adventures of Jacques Yves Cousteau. A year later, I already took the first targeted step towards much more advanced North Sea diving, which in terms of conditions cannot be compared with diving in most of the other seas and oceans. The North Sea is where the environmental problems caused by lost fishing gear came to my attention and I never let go. When I look back, I realize that this all developed in a short amount of time, that’s kind of in my nature. Q: You are highly regarded as a GUE-trained technical diver. What was it about technical diving that attracted you to this discipline? A: As I progressed in diving and gained more experience, especially in the North Sea, I encountered several situations that I did not like. It was often the individual ways in which people solved issues related to safety and task performance that in my experience were not at all, or not enough, in line with the possibilities that exist by operating as a team. Whether it was exploring a shipwreck or performing a specific task, many dive organizations were person-oriented, very self-sufficient, ignoring the possibilities and even the need for a solid team. In 2009, I finally found what I was looking for in GUE and just focused on their approach: Make sure you can handle your dives mentally and physically and learn how you can make it easier for yourself with the help of standardization and muscle memory. Most importantly, do everything as a team. The basis of standard equipment and procedures is the absolute way to ensure safety and task efficiency. Just look at military (special) forces all over the world, it has been a proven concept for a long time. Much later, other diving organizations adopted this standardization and team approach too.


Q: You are obviously very well known for Ghost Diving, but what other diving do you do when you are not retrieving ghost fishing nets? A: Every now and then I do some wreck and reef dives but most of my dives these days are focused on marine conservation. Even my hobby vacation diving often ends in cleaning up marine debris, and of course, fishing gear. In addition to this and Ghost Diving, we are regularly asked to use our approach and skills for other organizations and their goals. For example, we carried out various assignments with our voluntary teams for larger nature conservation organizations such as Greenpeace. In some cases, this involved surveys and cleaning up lost fishing gear, but also scientific research, sampling and other environment-related inspections were among our diving objectives. It is probably already clear: my dives should have a purpose and that cannot be challenging enough as far as I am concerned. Q: Talking of Ghost Diving, how did the non-profit organisation come into being? A: Back to 2007, the time when we increasingly dedicated our North Sea dives to cleaning up lost fishing gear. It started to stand out among environmental organizations, and we were offered funds in exchange for cooperation in projects. A good deal for us, we did what we did anyway, but now our costs Pascal also gets involved in scientific diving


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Pascal briefing the team

A Ghost Diving team at work on a huge net

would be covered by external partners. In 2012 I got the idea to internationalize our activities and I started looking for more information on this topic and other initiatives that may already exist in the world. This turned out to be very limited and we started a foundation called ‘Ghost Fishing’ with its own website that bundled all existing information, news articles and similar initiatives. With this we wanted to help everyone who, like me, was looking for more information on this subject. At the same time, we were still operating as an organized technical diving team, but now under the same recognizable name. We gained a good reputation through our work and soon we were approached by diving teams all over the world interested in our concept. We started setting up local groups in many other countries and called them ‘chapters’. Our shared goal is to remove lost fishing gear and make the world aware of issues caused by this so-called ‘ghost fishing gear’. Parallel to all this, in 2013, with the collaboration of our diving organization another initiative called ‘Healthy Seas’ was born. This initiative focused on the recycling and upcycling aspect with the help of two different material sources; our diving teams together with the fishing industry who returned their end-of-life fishing nets to us. This also became a great success and soon many commercial partners that had


an interest in these materials were involved into marine conservation. Suddenly we had more funding on top of a good destination for our salvaged fishing nets. A win-win situation. After almost a decade of working on this topic, we realized that the phenomenon ‘ghost fishing’ became more known worldwide. Exactly what we wanted to achieve; people became more aware of what goes on underwater. This also made us look at ourselves, an organization that bears the name of a phenomenon (ghost fishing) that described a specific problem was no longer desirable for several reasons. Firstly, because the term was now really used everywhere and it was no longer about our organization, secondly because we felt that we now should focus on the solution instead of the problem. ‘Ghost Diving’ was born, we renamed ourselves by replacing only one word and with this we immediately took away the questions around us from some outsiders who wondered what exactly we were doing as an organization, ‘are you fishermen...?’. All chapters involved in our global mission followed us, and we all transitioned at the same time to a partly new, but more appropriate, identity. Just as you would expect from a real team. Q: Tell us a bit more about the process divers go through when it comes to retrieving a ‘ghost net’ from the seabed? It must be an operation fraught with potential dangers. A: Well, it sure is. To be honest, we rather try to discourage people from removing fishing nets because after years of being active in this work, we know that for many of the people we take with us, it is too much task loading and they drop out immediately or after a few dives. In addition to the long list of things to take into account in the field of safety, there are also weather and underwater conditions that can make the work more dangerous. Add to that the fact that visibility



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is often reduced to almost-zero because we move objects that have been underwater for a long time already. A notorious saying in our briefings is ‘visibility is optional’, indicating that you better expect the worst scenario down there. In brief, if you are still very focused on your ‘diving skills’ during this work, prepare yourself for a catastrophic experience. Q: What ‘training’, as such, do the Ghost Diving team go through before heading off on these net-removal operations? A: Glad you ask. As the topic becomes more widely known, divers are also showing an interest in getting involved. We understand this, but remain realistic to them: This work is not just another way to enjoy yourself underwater. A fishing net can kill a human in the same way it does an animal. When divers want to join our net removals, we first set the requirement that they must be a technically trained diver. The reason is that in most cases they are familiar with diving in teams and in terms of equipment, procedures and standards, they are also ready to be seamlessly integrated into our teams. We are not going to teach you any of this, it is your foundation to start. If you want to do the work we do safely, contact an experienced team anywhere in the world and become part of that team. Dive with them, train with them and get to know them. After that, you perform this type of work very regularly, experience many different situations together and learn with and from your team. Remember that a solid team must be forged through training together and getting to know each other to operate smooth and safely, this is a process. Only this way can we guarantee that people can blindly ‘read’ and trust each other in all possible situations. We do not believe in courses as they are designed for teaching diving skills or equipment, not for this kind of dangerous work. That is why we hold our breath every time we see promotions of courses to become ‘certified’ in removing fishing nets. It just does not work like that. We have standard operating procedures and new divers are trained internally by our core teams after spending enough time with them as a member of the team. This takes place both above and below water and even maritime safety drills will be part of this cycle. After all, we work at sea!

Pascal dealing with monofilament netting


Some of the nets can be massive... ...and this is why removal operations can be so dangerous

Q: How can people get involved with Ghost Diving, either fundraising for your next operations, or actually getting involved at the sharp end of ghost net removal? A: I just realized that I might have come across as a bit demotivating, but that should not stop anyone. For anyone who sees all the above as a great challenge, do not hesitate to contact us. For the rest, we also have good news, as we also plan to include recreational divers in our projects for certain tasks who will, of course, use modified, much-lighter procedures. Keep a close eye on our website and social media about these plans. Do you want to support us in a different way or as a non-diving volunteer? Please contact us too. Q: We recently ran a news story about the organisation purchasing its first boat, the Mako. Tell us how having this vessel in your arsenal will assist in your operations. A: We adopted Mako from Scotland, where she served as a dive charter from Anstruther for several years. With having our own vessel, we can significantly increase the number of diving trips per year, which means that our organizations will operate more efficiently in the North Sea in the Netherlands. But we can even expand our projects to Belgium, Germany and possibly the United Kingdom in collaboration with other local teams. More than that, we can expand our awareness raising and educational events by organizing small workshops on board. The possibilities are endless, we are ready.


Q: As usual with our Q&As, what is your most-memorable dive? A: Vema Seamount, without a doubt. In the autumn of 2019, we ran a project with Greenpeace Germany and Africa to map the state of this sea mountain. At the summit we went looking for lost fishing gear but only found it a little bit, we spent the rest of the time doing scientific research that varied from taking kelp and underwater samples to audio recordings of cetaceans. Because this seamount is located 1,000km offshore northwest of Cape Town (South Africa), the area has hardly been dived and that was clearly visible by the rich flora and fauna that we found on site. Every dive was a gift, we literally dived into the unknown.

Pascal (right)

Q: On the flipside, what is your worst diving experience? A: I cannot really name a specific dive but for myself, the dives where we could not reach our goal for whatever reason, are not satisfying. The worst are those where a mistake is made, one that could have been avoided by just following our plan and procedures. I am quite a perfectionist in this area. The Ghost Diving team work in murky green water...

...and clear blue water, wherever there are nets

Q: What does the future hold for Pascal van Erp, Healthy Seas and Ghost Diving? A: With Healthy Seas, we work very hard to find more and more solutions for the materials we collect with divers and fishermen. This is not an easy process, but every year we make bigger steps in this with very nice partnerships. The main concern for us is to ensure that the materials are removed from underwater, everything that is possible with these materials afterwards is the next step forward. For a few years now I have been working as a diving and maritime coordinator for this organization and it is very satisfying to bring all parties together and to produce something beautiful and good out of it. With Ghost Diving we, of course, like to expand further, but only with safety as a starting point. We prefer quality over quantity. Any lost fishing net can (and will) do a lot of damage to nature and should preferably be removed. But never at the expense of a human life. If you do this properly it is a fantastic and very challenging way to dive. For me personally? I think I have already said enough about myself - I will continue to do what I am doing because this is my ultimate passion. I am fortunate to have been able to turn my hobby into my job by working for Healthy Seas and volunteering for the Ghost Diving organization. I have nothing more to wish. n


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PHOTOGRAPHY Following his last article on photographing seals, Martyn Guess provides some insight into, and also tips on, black and white photography underwater PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTYN GUESS


s I haven’t been able to dive and take pictures as much as I would normally have been doing, due to the lockdown and pandemic, I have spent a lot of my spare time looking at my catalogue of images trying to find new images to process. As part of this exercise, I have looked at re-processing quite a few older images and also converting many to black and white, a genre I really like. As a result of spending hours converting images, I thought I would try and enthuse the readers of my articles to think more about black and white for their underwater images. With all the beautiful colours we see underwater, you might think why he is going to talk about black and white photography. The simple reason is that while we see things in colour, black and white can often produce a far more impactful image (See Image 1). Textures and compositional lines, contrast and shapes can all look much better without colour. You can still use techniques for composition like rule of thirds, as well as looking for good contrast and light and shadows. There is something really appealing about black and white images, they can be very moody, engaging and also very striking (image 2). There is simply something magical about this genre. Remember that when photography first came about, all the images produced were in monochrome and so the genre has been around much longer than colour! Colour can sometimes be a distraction, it can be lifeless, particularly for example insipid background water columns underwater. Render the same image in black and white and it can take on another dimension (image 3). We are often lucky underwater with the quality of the light and shadows, particularly at dusk and dawn. At these times it can be difficult to take powerful colourful images, because

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Diver and Stanier 8F Locomotive Thistlegorm wreck Red Sea. This image is much more impactful in B&W


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Moray being cleaned by shrimp works well in B&W creating a spooky look which grabs the viewers’ attention

Moody image of diver in Southern Red Sea caves

of the strong contrast between light and dark, but these are excellent tools to use in black and white images. Also, on grey overcast days, when we lose so much light underwater, consider shooting in black and white and you will be surprised how different your images look. Maybe change your normal settings and purposely look to overexpose or underexpose, changing settings gradually to see what turns out best for you. The dark shades can never really be too dark as they make the lighter and white shades stand out and this will really help your images to pop. So, don’t be afraid in post processing to push the sliders to check out the effect on your images. Experienced black and white photographers see their potential images without colour. They look for deep shadows and contrast and the grey grades between black and white, light and dark. This is something you have to train yourself to see and it is certainly worthwhile looking for a suitable scene underwater to try out and practice. I know a lot of underwater photographers, me included, who often come across a great scene or a great moment of action but their normal colour shot does not work. It could be an odd colour cast or perhaps the camera settings were not quite right, or the direction with the sun was wrong and the fantastic opportunity just doesn’t produce an image with the wow factor they wanted. If you are savvy you will try a black and white conversion in post processing and chances are that the picture takes on a different perspective and the impact of the moment is restored (image 4). There are quite a few things which contribute to black and

white images. There has to be a reason for the image not to be in colour. Think about the shot and if you can’t come up with a reason for it not to be in colour then maybe simply its not meant to be anything other than in colour. Black and white pictures can look great, but they don’t always so don’t change just for the hell of it. You can get used to the types of images that will work simply by clicking on the black and white tab in post processing to see what they look like as you scroll through your collection of images. Another way is to use your cameras menu to switch to monochrome or black and white and when you shoot, all the pictures will appear without any colour.


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Martyn has been diving for over 30 years and taking underwater images for nearly as long. He is a well-known and successful underwater photographer with many successes in National and International competitions and regularly makes presentations to Camera and Photography clubs and Dive shows as well as The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSOUP) and other underwater photography groups. Today he shares his passion and knowledge - As well as teaching personalized underwater photography courses he leads overseas workshop trips for Scuba Travel and his articles regularly appear in Scuba Diver Magazine.

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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY You then don’t have to visualize the black and white image it is there for you to see. If your camera is also set to take Raw files (which I seriously recommend you do) you will taking images with as much information as your camera can provide so when you process the images they will appear as colour so you haven’t lost any of the information in the photo file. You then have to convert back to black and white to see what you saw in the cameras LCD when you were taking the shot. If you subsequently prefer the colour image, then you have all the file information and you are not losing any flexibility. In film days we simply wouldn’t be able to do this as when shooting in black and white, specific film was used which would not render any colour at all. The famous photographer Ansel Adams reportedly said that he got so used to black and white that ‘I can get a far greater sense of colour through a well planned and executed black and white image than I ever achieved with color photography’. There are various elements which make a good black and white image. Contrast – an image with high contrast provides impact. Which is what you want if your images are to stand out. Shadows can become part of the subject itself and also a major part of the composition leading the eye into the frame. Shadows often have a significant part to play in a black and white image – be careful and look at the image carefully as you might need to adjust the composition. Texture can really be shown off well with black and white. If I come across a potential subject that has course texture such as a shark (see image 5), then high contrast and good lighting with black and white can transform how the texture is viewed. Composition - think carefully about composition. There can be a big difference between an image with colour that needs to be composed so that the colours work together. In black and white there is not this complication, but darker almost black parts of the image will appear much stronger and effect the way the image is composed. Black and white shows off the texture of the shark’s skin


There are a number of ways that you can make black and white images. I use a piece of software called Silver EFEX pro2 by NIK Collection. It is relatively inexpensive. It is easy to set up your Lightroom so that you can move in the development module from LR to Silver EFEX Black and white can work well for abstract high and back. There contrast images – skin of a puffer fish are loads of presets to flick through, easy tutorials and the software can be bought cost effectively with a suite of other NIK software processing tools such as noise reduction and sharpening. In Lightroom the easiest way to convert images to black and white is to toggle B&W at the top of the basic panel or just press V on your keyboard. You can also convert to B&W by reducing saturation or depending on camera by changing the profile under camera calibration to monochrome. The best way to convert however is to use the HSL panel and click on B&W and adjust individual colours in the black and white mix. Be careful though as big adjustments can add noise to the image. Think about increasing contrast and reducing brightness to enhance the difference between the light and dark tones in your image. You can also look at reducing contrast and lightening shadows to provide a more underexposed look. Remember that black and white photography removes any distraction potentially created by colour. This can help the viewer to focus on other key elements of the image such as the subject itself, as well as shapes and patterns. Black and white can be excellent for abstract images. Find a suitable patterned subject underwater and maybe just use one strobe to the side of the camera to cast shadows across the frame which will help to add to the impact of the image (image 6). I really recommend that you search out black and white images from other photographers and check out what you particularly like and then try to emulate that particular style next time you are underwater or converting library images. n

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22/09/2020 07:10

Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans looks at the pros and cons of backplate-and-wing vs jacket-style BCDs, and also a third variant that combines the two PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS


buoyancy compensating device, or BCD, is a core essential of your dive kit – without one, you’d have nothing to mount your cylinders on! However, when it comes to choosing a BCD, there are a whole host of options available out there – let me tell you, things have changed a lot from when I first started diving in a Fenzy ABLJ horse-collar with oral inflator. I remember nearly getting excommunicated from our local dive club when my uncle and I turned up with ABLJs with power inflators. And you’d have thought we had committed some sort of cardinal sin when we progressed on to a stab jacket, or stabiliser jacket, which was the name given to what are now referred to as jacket-style BCDs. Jacket-style BCDs are still immensely popular, but backplate-and-wing set-ups, as favoured by technical divers, are definitely en vogue at the moment for recreational divers, so join me as we look at the pros and cons of both systems. I’ll also be telling you about a third option which could tick all of the boxes of what you want in a recreational BCD. A BCD is the chassis on which your diving system is mounted. Not only does it hold your cylinder, or cylinders, but it also provides you with a means of controlling your buoyancy via its power inflator and bladder. It needs to be able to support you on the surface both before and after your


dives, and underwater, it has to enable you to achieve neutral buoyancy throughout your dive. Stripped bare, those are the core functions of a BCD – things like integrated weight pockets, trim weight pockets, pull dumps, storage pockets, D-rings, etc, are all just add-ons which are nice to have, but are not essential. Let’s talk bladder shape and location first, as this is one of the main differences between jacket-style BCDs and backplate-and-wings. With a jacket-style BCD, the bladder sits here at the back but extends around the sides, so it effectively gives you a comforting hug as you inflate it. A major benefit of this is that at the surface when it is inflated, it holds you in a nice upright position, keeping your head well clear of the surface. Underwater, if you are correctly weighted, you will not have too much gas in the jacket, so when you get into a nice, flat position, what gas is in there will sit on either side of your cylinder. Throughout the dive, this gas will migrate around the bladder depending on your body position – if you turn on your side slightly, say you were looking under an overhang, for instance, the gas will move to this side of the jacket. Now, it is a delicate balancing act maintaining this position, as if you turn too far, the weight of the cylinder will make you turn turtle on to your back, but with a bit of practice, you should be able to hold this position before going back into your normal diving position. You can usually get a feel for the gas moving around in the jacket, but beware, I have


Stripped bare, those are the core functions of a BCD – thing like integrated weight pockets, trim weight pockets, pull dumps, storage pockets, D-rings, etc, are all just add-ons which are nice to have, but are not essential

dived in some jacket-style BCDs where instead of gas movement being progressive, it will just suddenly move enmasse, and this can be quite unsettling as you try to make small adjustments to your body position. With a backplate-and-wing, the bladder – which will either be a round doughnut, or a horseshoe-shape – is just mounted on your back. This makes it far more streamlined than a jacket-style BCD for when you are moving through the water on your dive, as there is just no bulk around the front of you. Another benefit is that the location of the bladder automatically puts you into a nice, horizontal trim position, which is what all divers want to achieve anyway. You won’t be able to turn on your side and hold position as easily as you would in a jacket-style BCD, as the bladder is constantly trying to get you flat again, but if you are correctly weighted, it can be done. On the surface, a backplate-and-wing can take a little getting used to, especially if you’ve been diving jackets


before. Where a jacket-style BCD will hold you upright at the surface, a backplate-and-wing tends to push you forwards if you put too much gas into the bladder. This can be dealt with by not putting too much gas in, and then kind of leaning back slightly. It will never hold you as clear of the surface as a jacket-style BCD, but with practice you can still easily float around on the surface in a relaxed fashion. Let’s talk fit and adjustment now. A jacket-style BCD generally has a hard plastic back section which holds the cambands to secure it on to the cylinder. These often have a grab handle built into the top, which is useful for when you are lifting your gear about. However, some forgo this plastic section and rely on the cylinder to provide the strength and support. The one defining feature of jacket-style BCDs is the generous use of padding – expect a padded backpad, padding on the shoulders, and so on. This makes them extremely comfortable whether you are in a rash vest, wetsuit or drysuit. Most jacket-style BCDs then have a cummerbund, and two chest straps. Like the shoulder straps, these can be quickly and easily slackened or tightened, so you can obtain a good fit when you put it on. A backplate-and-wing generally forgoes a lot of these elements. The core of the set-up is the backplate itself, which can be made from aluminium or stainless steel. Aluminium is lighter, so better for travelling with, but you will still need to add weights to counteract the buoyancy of your


Luke in his jacket-style BCD

exposure protection, whereas stainless-steel is heavy, so you will be able to reduce, or in some cases, not need, any lead. The downside is that it is heavy for travelling with. If you are wearing a drysuit or wetsuit, a backplate can be reasonably comfortable as you have some cushioning between you and the metal, but it is nowhere near as comfy as a well-padded jacket-style BCD. However, there are some backplates now that have removeable pads that make a massive difference to the comfort level. The backplate is then threaded with one piece of webbing, which makes up the waist strap and the shoulder straps, and a short second piece of webbing provides the crotch strap to stop the set-up riding up. Again, there are pros and cons to this one-piece webbing approach. A much-touted benefit is that apart from the waist buckle – usually in the style of an old-school weightbelt release – there are no clips or anything that can potentially break. These so-called ‘failure points’ are avoided at all costs by tech divers, but I have to be honest, in literally thousands of dives, I have seen maybe two pinchclips break, and in both instances it was right at the point where the diver stood up and the weight of the cylinder and lead weights was loaded on to the clips. A couple of well-placed zip ties later to hold the pinch-clip in place and they were off into the water for their dive. The downside of this webbing set-up is that there is no quick adjustment of the shoulder straps, and you have to wriggle to get into them. With practice, this is not too much of a chore, but I still find it a royal pain in the backside, especially if I am changing between drysuit and wetsuit and have to slacken or tighten the webbing up. Some backplates allow a degree of movement when you undo the waist strap, and this helps a lot, but personally, I still like straps I can just grab hold of to pull down and tighten up, as on a jacket-style BCD. On the comfort side of

Let’s talk bladder shape and location first, as this is one of the main differences between jacketstyle BCDs and backplate-andwings WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

things, the webbing is not as comfy as well-padded shoulder straps on a jacket-style BCD, but some backplateand-wings now feature neoprene padding that slides over the webbing, and this does make a difference. However, it is worth noting that there are backplate-andwing style BCDs out there that don’t have, well, a backplate, such as my trusty Dive Rite Transpac II harness, paired with a small travel wing. The Transpac II has no backplate, instead, once it is securely attached to a cylinder with its two cambands, the cylinder itself provides the rigidity.


This makes it more lightweight than a backplate-and-wing, so better for travelling with, but also, having a thick padded backpad makes it just as comfortable as a jacket-style BCD. Also, it has comfy jacket-style shoulder straps with pinch-clip adjusters. For me, it is the perfect blend of both designs. Right, so that’s bladders, backplates and straps covered. Let’s move on to pockets and other accessories. With a jacket-style BCD, you usually get at least two pockets, either zipper or Velcro closing, for storing things like back-up torches, mesh bags for collecting rubbish you find on your dive, or a DSMB and spool. When selecting a jacket-style BCD, put it on, inflate it fully and then see if you can still access the pockets – it is amazing how many out there have crappy little pockets that you just cannot get into when the jacket has any gas in it. Ridiculous. You’ll also have a number of D-rings, either metal or plastic, that you can attach things to, but beware you don’t end up with too much dangling off you, otherwise you look like a Christmas tree. On a backplate-and-wing, they are spartan to say the least when it comes to extras. You are not going to find any accessory pockets, let’s put it that way. There will be an array of metal D-rings, but as I said, you can then end up looking a right mess with stuff hanging everywhere. Yes, you can bungee and fasten torches and DSMBs on to your webbing, but frankly this is bit of a Heath Robinson solution. I’ve mentioned them before, but you might want to consider a pair of tech shorts, such as those by Apeks, Scubapro or Fourth Element. These have pockets so you can stash your DSMB and spool, your torch, back-up mask and so on, safely away. You are streamlined, nothing is dangling, job done. Let’s talk weights. Thankfully, weightbelts are going the way of the dodo, and most jacket-style BCDs these days have integrated weight pockets, and in some instances nondumpable trim weight pockets on the back. While a basic backplate-and-wing has none of these, most companies offer weight pouches and pockets that can be retro-fitted, and these make a backplate-and-wing far more user-friendly in my opinion. The manufacturers obviously think so too, as many line-ups now feature a backplate-and-wing already decked out with these pockets from the get-go. One big difference between a jacket-style BCD and a backplate-and-wing is how they can grow with you as your diving progresses – or not, as the case may be. A jacket-style BCD is ideal for what it is intended for, but that’s it. Apart from rare cases, such as AP Diving’s Commando, for instance, which is capable of holding a twinset, a jacket-style BCD is for single-cylinder recreational diving only. If you head into technical diving down the line, you are going to have to buy a whole new rig. With a backplate-and-wing, you can get one for your recreational diving to start with, but if you are then tempted by tech, as it is a modular system, it can grow with you. In a matter of minutes, you can replace the single-cylinder wing with a larger wing designed to support a twinset and stage cylinders, but retain your existing backplate and harness set-up. The other benefit of a backplate-and-wing is that it can grow with you as you, well, grow. Children grow at a prodigious rate these days, and rather than go through several jacket-style BCDs as they move through their teens and into adulthood, get them a backplate-and-wing and all you need to do is adjust the webbing harness as they get bigger. Sorted. My son Luke started in an Aqua Lung Pro QD BCD, and while


this extra-small adult jacket still fits him at the moment, he has already progressed on to a Mares backplate-and-wing, which should see him right for many years to come. As with all diving equipment, whether you opt for a jacketstyle BCD or a backplate-and-wing is all down to personal choice. Both do the job they were intended for, and both have their pros and cons, as I have discussed. But, for recreational divers, there is a third option that sits between the two. The back-inflate BCD, such as the Aqua Lung Rogue, Scubapro Hydros Pro, the Atomic Aquatics BC2, or the Dive Rite Hydro Lite. These have adjustable shoulder and chest straps, integrated weights and even pockets in some cases, much the same as a jacket-style BCD, but the difference is that the bladder is only on the back, so more like a backplate-and-wing. You get the buoyancy benefits underwater of a backplate-and-wing, but the ease of adjustment and fit of a jacket-style BCD, plus, they are generally quite lightweight, so ideal for the travelling diver. If you are diving recreationally on a single cylinder, and not planning on venturing down the technical diving route, then a back-inflate BCD could be just what you are looking for. n

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28/01/2021 14:38

Al Hornsby takes you on a whistlestop tour of some of Thailand’s best diving areas PHOTOGRAPHS BY AL HORNSBY


n the world of exotic diving, Thailand stands out, with an amazingly diverse array of dive locations and marine life. It also has great topside excursions, romantic getaways… and among the planet’s most-hedonistic nightlife. Thailand’s long, mountainous peninsula, where most diving is located, separates the Gulf of Thailand to the east, from the Andaman Sea to the west. The coastlines are dotted with thousands of jungle-covered, whitesand fringed islands, which rise up steeply out of clear, tropical waters rich with coral reefs. For an article like this, choosing ‘the best’ of Thailand’s dive sites or areas has proven a wonderfully difficult task - there are simply so many to choose from. We’ll start in the country’s southwest, in the area around Krabi Province, where Koh Lanta (‘Koh’ is Thai for island) edges the Andaman Sea. From there, we’ll head northwards up the coast to Koh Phi Phi, with its two main islands and scores of deserted islets. Then, moving to the northwest some 46km, we’ll reach Phuket, not only one of Thailand’s exotic hotspots, but also the epi-centre of Thailand diving, with dayboats and liveaboards reaching sites in virtually every direction. To finish up, we’ll head across the peninsula to the offshore island of Koh Tao, known for its remarkable collection of unique dives and its extensive dive training community.



Reached by a flight to the town of Krabi and a boat ride, Koh Lanta Yai is a 25km-long island facing the open sea. The mountainous, jungled island has intricate cave systems, waterfalls, lovely stretches of white sand beach and unusually pristine dive sites – besides the island’s several dive operators, there are only a few liveaboards that include Koh Lanta’s dives in their itineraries. An hour of smooth-water motoring takes you to a great site off Koh Ha Noi where the island’s cliffs form a steep underwater wall in very clear water, the slope covered in soft corals, sea whips, sponges and anemones. Large schools of blue-striped snapper, Oriental sweetlips, lionfish and angelfish congregate at the slope’s end, on a sand bottom at about 20m, where a jumble of large limestone rocks creates swim-throughs. These lead into a cave system filled with cave sweeper, the scene softly lit by shafts of light shimmering down from a 2m round hole at the top. Ascending, there is a tunnel that reaches a beautiful, shallow, sand-bottomed cavern. Some 40km south from Koh Lanta are two famed dive sites, sometimes visited by liveaboards from Phuket to the North, but which are comfortable dayboat trips from Koh Lanta. Hin Daeng (‘Red Rock’) is a solitary outcrop that barely breaks the surface, named for its thick covering of vibrant, red soft corals.




Around the wreck are stingrays in the sand, and giant grouper, sweetlips and several species of snapper congregate about the deck and superstructure

Topside is just as dramatic

Vibrant soft corals

Besides the dominant reds, there are also orange and bright, yellow species, and many sponges, gorgonians and anemones. The beauty aside, Hin Daeng is also famous for its large marine creatures, including silvertip, grey reef and leopard sharks, and mantas are regularly seen – plus, the occasional whaleshark. Just 500 metres away, Hin Mouang is a series of five pinnacles on a 200-metre-long, submerged ridge, with the shallowest point at 8m. With vertical walls dropping to 70m, it is said to have the deepest drop-off in Thai waters. It has even more life than does Hin Daeng, and there are many soft corals, carpets of anemones and delicate hard corals, all jampacked onto every available surface. Besides the numerous colourful tropicals and large stingrays, there are also many pelagic species seen here, including dog-tooth tuna, barracuda and sharks.


Also reached by a flight to Krabi, plus a one-and-a-half hour ferry ride (or two-hour ferry from Phuket to the north), the Phi Phi Islands number in the hundreds, but only one, Phi Phi Don, is inhabited. The main activities around Phi Phi are diving, snorkelling, rock-climbing and beach-combing, with dayboats available to many of the small islets. Its dive sites range from calm-water, critter photography


sites to some dramatic, big-animal spots. The two, mostregarded sites are at Koh Bida Nok and Koh Bida Nai. Koh Bida Nok is a small island with a granite cliff face, its mountainous underwater terrain formed by huge boulders, ledges and overhangs. The diving is from the surface to 30m, with little current. The rocky faces are covered with large sea fans, sea whips and soft corals, and there are many fish, including ghost pipefish, seahorses and colourful reef tropicals. Leopard sharks are commonly seen, and mantas and whalesharks frequent the area in the February-April season. A few hundred metres away, Koh Bida Nai, averaging 20m of depth, is a small islet that also features rock faces and granite boulders. It has an exquisite swim-through filled with glassy sweeper, and around the coral bottom are many scorpionfish and lionfish. Large pelagics are frequently seen, and unusual bamboo sharks can be found. The site is also known for cuttlefish and squid, which can often be closely approached and photographed.


Mention Phuket, which is easily reached by many international air carriers, and exotic thoughts come to mind; gilded Buddhist temples, white-sand beaches, mountainous jungles, Thai food, of course, and a party scene like none


Anemones smother the reef in certain places

Sail Rock in the Similan Islands



other. As to sporting options, there are many… such as hikes to jungle waterfalls, golfing, surfing, elephant-trekking and mountain biking. But, for divers, there’s much more Thailand’s most-exotic feature is undoubtedly the incredible life that exists beneath the surface of the calm, warm waters of the Andaman Sea, and Phuket is the major access point. With many PADI dive operators and dive charter boats, reaching both local sites and more distant dive areas (on multi-day liveaboard trips) is easy. And, there is an incredible range of world-class diving to choose from, with a remarkable density of marine life.


The most popular day-dives out of Phuket are conducted around several island groups within approximately one to two hours by boat. One of the most popular sites is Anemone Reef, a submerged pinnacle in a marine sanctuary some 30km east of Phuket. Its rocky ledges from 5m-7m down are covered in anemones with clownfish, and soft corals; in the deeper areas, there are many, large gorgonian fans. Dives are to a maximum of 25m; moderate currents can be experienced. A fun wreck dive, the King’s Cruiser, an 85-metre-long sunken car ferry, is just a kilometre away. Another nearby site is Hin Musang (Shark Point), a line of three main pinnacles, one of which breaks the surface. With an average depth of 20m and a maximum of 24m, it has lots of marine life, including sponges, gorgonians and big fish, such as trevally, barracuda and schooling snapper. A brilliant, soft coral-covered arch is a special spot, and a sandy bottom with a number of resident leopard sharks gives the site its name. One of the most-dramatic local sites is off Koh Racha Noi. With a maximum depth of 30m, the island’s northern





The density and scope of the life that surrounds this lonely, ocean pinnacle is remarkable

Manta ray

Thailand’s waters are crystal-clear and inviting

point has huge boulders and pinnacles, with lots of fish and a number of sharkspecies, especially nurse, leopard sharks and grey reefs. The southern tip is deeper, averaging 25m and exceeding 40m, with lots of soft corals on the boulders, and there is an old wooden shipwreck. The site features occasional sightings of mantas and whalesharks in season; currents can be moderately strong at times.


Phuket’s most-famed diving is from its large fleet of liveaboards, which run trips of typically two to six days. Along with the southern routes that visit Kohl Lanta and Phi Phi sites already described, the northern routes reach Thailand’s most-famous diving, in the Similan and Surin Islands.


Some 90km northwest of Phuket are the Similans, nine larger islands and many smaller rock outcroppings that form the Mu Koh Similan Marine National Park. These beautiful, junglecovered isles are breathtaking – both above and below the waterline. The water typically is very clear, with visibility reaching 30 metres. They offer many popular sites, some 26 being regularly dived. On the south tip of Koh Similan, Beacon Point has large scattered boulders and profuse hard corals, and reaches 40m in depth. There are whitetip sharks and many schooling fish, plus many pelagic species. In sandy areas there are numerous stingrays, including blue-spotted ribbon-tailed rays, blackblotched rays and Jenkins rays. The Sattakut


Located some 200 metres south of Koh Payan, Boulder City is a submerged jumble of huge, smooth-sided boulders and swim-throughs. The rock is decorated with many fans, soft corals and encrusting sponges. Reaching 30m in depth, it is an exciting dive, with eagle rays and mantas. There is a resident school of bumphead parrotfish, and dog-tooth tuna and Napoleon wrasse are frequently seen. Just south of Koh Similan is Hin Pousar (Elephant Rock), where several rounded rocks extending above the surface form one of the Similans’ favourite sites, which cannot be fully explored even over several dives. The boulders rise from the bottom nearly 50m down, their sheer sides covered with purple and white soft corals, and create meandering passageways, with every wall splashed with colour from sponges, corals and seafans. Schools of fusilier, sweetlips and batfish swirl about, and black grouper are plentiful. Currents can be strong at times.


Some 100km to the north of the Similans are the remote Surin Islands, forming the Mu Surin Marine National Park. The Surins feature perhaps the single, most-dramatic dive site in Thailand – remote Richelieu Rock, at the park’s southeast corner, which is a rough spire that just breaks the surface. Rising from a gravel bottom at 30m, the crag is small enough to be easily circumnavigated in less than 30 minutes, with a gradual spiral upwards to the tip providing a perfect, not-a moment-wasted, dive plan. The density and scope of the life that surrounds this lonely, ocean pinnacle is remarkable. There are three-metre-long giant guitarfish; huge schools of trevally, cobia, snapper, blackfin barracuda and batfish; lionfish of several species; numerous species of clownfish; cuttlefish; nurse and leopard sharks; yellow-margin and reticulated morays; mantis shrimp and more. And, if this remarkable place needed anything else, in the February and April season whalesharks may frequently be seen.



Gigantic gorgonian sea fan

throughout the Pacific theatre, and after the war became a part of the Thai Navy. Sunk as a dive site in 2011, it rests with its bow at 26m, and the bridge at 18m. With two guns, the most dramatic is its 76mm bow cannon. Around the wreck are stingrays in the sand, and giant grouper, sweetlips and several species of snapper congregate about the deck and superstructure. Penetrations are possible for those with the appropriate certifications. Perhaps the island’s most-remarkable dive is a long, submerged pinnacle off the northwest tip of the island, Chumphong Pinnacle. Rising up from a 40m sand/rubble bottom to within 14m of the surface, the site is a huge panorama of mountainous ridges and spires extending outward in every direction. The surfaces of the rocks are decorated with large gorgonians, black coral bushes and sponges, and seemingly hectares of slopes are completely covered with huge, emerald, gold and violet-colored anemones, with massive schools of bright yellowband fusilier swirling above them. There are also many large brownmarbled grouper, coral cod and groups of giant sweetlips.


On the opposite side of the Thai peninsula, Koh Tao sits in the Gulf of Thailand, some 74km offshore. Reached by a onehour, ferry-ride from the international airport at Koh Samui, Koh Tao’s granite-boulder geology and steep mountainsides create an incredible landscape for hikers and climbers, but its biggest recreational draw is its diving and snorkelling. Like many other Thai islands, it has a reputation for fun and partying – it’s one of the monthly ‘Full Moon Party’ islands – but, overall, it has a clean, laid-back atmosphere. It has also become one of the top training sites in the diving world, especially known as one of diving’s most-prolific professionallevel training locations. Perhaps not as well-known are its unique dive sites, such as Sail Rock, an iceberg-shaped, life-covered pinnacle, with surrounding additional submerged peaks, that rises steeply from a 45m sand bottom. While it is famed for its winding, well-lit chimney that extends from 18m to within 5m of the surface, its special magic is the profuse collection of marine life. There are several species of large grouper, huge schools of resident longfin spadefish, yellowfin pickhandle and bluelined barracuda, and vast shoals of yellowtail scad, all milling around the gigantic spire. Whalesharks are also regularly seen. Not far offshore on the west side of Koh Tao is the 48-metre-long US Navy LCI (landing craft, infantry) Sattakut, which saw considerable action during World War Two



All in all, Thailand, with its remarkable dive sites and marine life, and its wide array of holiday options both above and below the waterline, should undoubtedly be considered a must visit on every diver’s wish list. n


Face to Face – Up Close with Mother Nature is a collection of Al Hornsby’s most-exciting underwater and topside wildlife encounters, as captured through his camera and words. With forwards by two longtime friends and dive buddies, Jean-Michel Cousteau and Amos Nachoum, the colour and B&W images feature sharks, whales, crocodiles, grizzly bears, leopards, cobras and many more of nature’s most lovely and exciting creatures. The accompanying text, Al’s firstperson impressions of the encounters that led to the images, share his feelings and emotions during those oft-times intense, face-to-face moments. Available at WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

Barefoot luxury in the heart of Indonesia

Bunaken National Marine Park I had a fantastic time at Siladen Resort. The resort itself is a quiet and idyllic oasis, the food was outstanding, but it’s the fishes that will have me coming back. The dive crew were some of the friendliest folk I have met. Always smiling, and so happy. I can’t wait to dive there again. Dr. Richard Smith

w w w.s i l a d e n.c o m

DIVERS ALERT NETWORK: EUROPE DAN Europe is an international non-profit medical and research organisation dedicated to the safety and health of divers. WWW.DANEUROPE.ORG

FIT DIVER ACTIVATION AND WORKOUT Cristian Pellegrini looks at the ultimate fitness workout programme for divers


ow much time and money do you invest in choosing and purchasing the right dive equipment? Now ask yourself – ‘are you really making the most of it’? Most of us tend to forget what actually is the most-important piece of our dive equipment - ourselves. In fact, your experience in and out of the water would be greatly enhanced if you were to improve strength, resistance, and flexibility. Again, ask yourself - would you be ready to effectively face a sudden change in weather or sea conditions (e.g. strong currents), or manage an emergency (e.g. transport of an injured buddy), or quickly respond to an equipment failure, using the necessary aerobic and anaerobic capacity, and with the right timing? Would you be ready to sustain an unexpected physical effort, or to control your emotional state? Were there times when even managing simple activities such as transporting your equipment, perhaps on unstable soil (e.g. on a boat during poor weather conditions and perhaps rough seas) represented a challenge for you? Then it’s high time you trained! The following is a training programme aimed at improving or maintaining a proper state of physical fitness that will also enhance your performances in diving, reduce the risk of injury or accident, better react to emergencies or sudden changes of certain conditions, or simply enjoy diving at its best!


Matteo Del Principio is a qualified professional strength and conditioning coach with extensive experience in basketball championships (A1, A2 and B Basket Leagues). In 2016 and 2017, he was professional strength and conditioning coach for National Youth Teams (FIP - Italian Basketball Federation) and completed an internship in NBA with the Atlanta Hawks team. He has also been Professional S&C Coach of several motorcycling riders in the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships.



This will result in an improvement in joint mobility and proprioception, as well as co-ordination, reactivity and ultimately strength, speed and power


It’s all about expectations. Through our training programme, we intend to: • Increase joint mobility • Increase joint stabilisation • Improve general strength and body proprioception - the ability to control your body through postural rebalancing We will try to reach our target through a series of four routines (functional primitive movements) specifically designed and built for the needs of divers, at any level. Whether you are an athlete or not, this workout can serve as a useful tool for optimally training all the structural components, generating a safe and effective body movement. Not only muscles will be involved, but also joints, tendons, ligaments - the connective tissue that constitutes the bands giving life to the muscle chains - as well as the nervous system. This will result in an improvement in joint mobility and proprioception, as well as co-ordination, reactivity and ultimately strength, speed and power.

By reducing or increasing the holding time you can put an emphasis on cardiovascular fitness or postural rebalancing and global myofascial release. Progressively increasing the amplitude of movements will act on the recovery or maintenance of the full range of motion in joints. Increasing the number of repetitions of the exercises will increase the general strength, and a multi-articular and proprioceptive strengthening/stabilisation. We hope that this programme - DrdQBWUVO6M - combined with general cardiovascular training, will positively influence your underwater activity! n

ADJUST THE PROGRAMME TO FIT YOUR NEEDS This functional training system can be carried out just with your body weight, or using loads - such as diving equipment itself. Routines consist of a sequence of postures of global stretching, mixed with dynamic, multi-articular stretching and movements to enhance general strength. In the video, the static positions (marked in white) will be maintained for about seven seconds, while the strength series (marked in orange) consist of eight repetitions. Depending on your needs, you can vary the holding time, the width of movement, or the number of repetitions.






Jeffrey Glenn, RAID Cave 2 Instructor / RAID Instructor Trainer, discusses stage cylinder management protocols that he teaches during the agency’s Cave 2 programme PHOTOGRAPHS BY SJ BENNETT, MIKKO PAASI AND JOHN CAFARO



We design, manufacture and retail scuba and rebreather equipment. We have fully equipped test and certification labs, and can pressure test large items in our vacuum chambers, as well as run fully automated leak test and dive simulations down to 400m. Our EMC and EMF lab is filled with state-ofthe-art equipment for testing electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic fields. We also have a large in-house laser for cutting and engraving on plastics and metals.


see a lot of columnists usually starting their article with some inspirational quote they borrowed from the internet. Here’s mine: ‘Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go’ - T.S. Eliot It’s a relevant quote, particularly since this article will discuss stage cylinder management protocols that RAID recommend during their Cave 2 programme. Stage cave diving is a superb way for divers to go further, deeper and longer while, in some cases, also giving themselves a larger margin of safety. Because a diver can only carry a certain amount of gas on the back, a stage cylinder, filled with the appropriate gas for the dive mission, is the best way to help meet their dive teams’ objectives. As safety is paramount in any dive mission, and as gas is such a treasured commodity, the ability to increase the availability of gas by utilising stages adds both conservatism and a broader range of protection. If the planned dive then has varying depths and decompression requirements, each stage cylinder or decompression cylinder must have the correct mixture suitable to that depth in separate cylinders. The team must ensure they follow previously learned standard procedures for gas analysis, cylinder marking, and gas switches. Proper protocols and techniques are revised, adapted and refined during Cave 2 training and beyond to safely take advantage of the benefits of diving with stage cylinders. What I’d like to discuss with you in this article is RAID’s approach to gas management on their Cave 2 programmes and why we recommend the practices that we do. Understanding these practices, and the ability to execute them safely, is an absolute necessary component of our Cave 2 training.


The most-common method of utilising a stage during a cave dive is to partially breathe the stage to a predetermined pressure, drop it safely and securely to the guideline, then recover and resume breathing the stage cylinder as you make your way to the exit. The question is ‘how do I determine what will be the ‘drop pressure’ of my stage cylinder?’ The more-traditional approach is applying the Rule of Thirds directly to their stage cylinders – this method dictates that you use 1/3 of your total volume for penetration while reserving 2/3 for the return journey to the exit and for any emergencies e.g. loss of gas, loss of line or entanglement. Example – our 11-litre stage cylinder has 210bar of gas. 210bar / 3 = 70bar 70bar penetration gas / 70bar exit gas / 70bar reserve gas Drop pressure = 140bar This approach is very simple to calculate, but it can cause grave problems in the event of an emergency deeper into the cave. If this was to occur, both divers would need to manage multiple cylinders and carry them to the exit, possibly as one diver only is able to have access and breathe from the reserve gas. This potentially could seriously complicate and slow the exit. A much-safer approach, and RAID’s preferred technique for Stage Cave diving, is the Half + 15bar. This approach dictates that the stage is used only during penetration and exit, and NOT as a reserve gas. The diver will breathe their stage down to a half + 15bar. The 15 bar is considered ‘switching gas’, meaning its gas needed to switch from or to a stage cylinder. Gas used while the team determine where to safely clip of the cylinders on the guideline. Gas used while retrieving the cylinders and cleaning up while heading to the exit. This gas is not to be considered as a reserve gas. Example – Your 11-litre stage cylinder has 210bar of gas 210bar / 2 = 105bar 105bar + 15bar = 120bar Drop pressure = 120bar 210bar – 120bar = 90bar Stage Penetration Gas = 90bar



COMPUTERS • O2 CELLS • GAS ANALYSERS CABLES & CONNECTORS • REBREATHER PARTS PATHFINDER STROBES • SENSORS TOOLS • SOLENOIDS The divers reserve gas is now carried within their primary cylinders. This reserve gas is accounted for and retained in the back-mounted or side-mounted cylinders of each diver in the event of an emergency. This reserve gas is now with the diver at all times. To calculate what is the reserve, the volume of gas equal to 1/3 of the stage cylinders starting pressure, and should be subtracted from the starting pressure of the primary cylinders. Example – Back Mounted Diver using double 11-litre cylinders Your primary cylinders have 210bar of gas Your stage cylinder has 210 bar of gas Stage: 210bar / 3 = 70bar 70bar must be left for Reserve gas in the Primary cylinders. 70bar divided over the two primary cylinders = 35bar Primary Cylinders: 210bar - 35bar = 175bar The diver has 175bar of Usable gas To simplify the calculation, and to add more conservatism, round down to make the number divisible by three 165bar / 3 = 55bar - The diver has 55bar of penetration gas once they switch to their primary cylinders Starting pressure 210bar – 55bar = 155bar Turn Pressure = 155bar Example – Side Mounted Diver Your primary cylinders have 210bar of gas Your stage cylinder has 210 bars of gas Stage: 210bar / 3 = 70bar Primary Cylinders: 210bar - 70bar = 140 70bar must be left for Reserve gas in the Primary cylinders Divided between the two side mount cylinders = 35bar 210bar – 35bar = 175bar of usable gas Calculate Thirds (round down for conservatism and ease of calculation) 165bar / 3 = 55bar penetration gas (Rounding down represents another 10bar of safety or ‘contingency gas’) Starting Pressure = 210bar – 55bar = 155bar Turn Pressure = 155 bar Using stages can make your cave diving a happier experience


To make it even more simple in either configuration, I would round it down even further to 50 bars. Why? Because, at the furthest point of my penetration, I like having things as simple as possible, plus, it’s easier for me to track my linear distance in 10bar increments as well. 50 bar penetration gas 50 bar return gas 110 bar reserve gas Turn Pressure – 160bar The beauty of this approach is that all the RESERVE Gas is available in the primary cylinders, using the configuration the diver at this level has chosen and is comfortable in. This reserve gas is now accessible to two divers simultaneously. With the Reserve gas now located in the primary cylinders, divers - in an emergency situation - can then breathe the stage down, ditch the stage if needed, and exit as efficiently and streamlined as possible. Cave diving can offer spectacular views


• Stage cylinder: a single rigged cylinder used during a dive. • Decompression cylinder: a rigged stage cylinder with a specific gas mixture used for decompression purposes only. • Safety cylinder: a stage cylinder deployed only for emergency use. • Stage diving: Using stage cylinders with primary cylinders to extend dive time in regard to depth or penetration distance. • Back gas: The gas in the primary cylinders. • Reserve gas: Your emergency gas. Gas left in your primary cylinders in the event of an emergency for you or your teammate. • Switching gas: Gas used while switching between stages and back gas. • Drop pressure: Pre-planned gas pressure at which the stage cylinder will be removed. • Turn pressure: Pre-planned gas pressure where the dive is turned, and the team return to the exit or previously dropped stage cylinders. 55

view all products online USING MULTIPLE STAGES

If the dives mission then requires multiple stages for penetration purposes, then another volume of reserve gas from each stage is required. This reserve is deducted, again, from the primary cylinders’ gas supply to then calculate its thirds. This method would continue until you reach the point where the volume of reserve gas needed to be subtracted from the primary cylinders, exceeds the overall volume of gas within the diver’s primary gas supply. In this case, you would either increase the size of your primary cylinders or introduce safety cylinders to your mission. A Safety cylinder is a marked, labelled and full cylinder with the appropriate gas. These safety cylinders are placed in advance, within the cave system at strategic locations, offering another emergency supply of gas if needed. Be mindful though, that using multiple stages throughout a cave dive will greatly decrease a divers’ swimming efficiency, so if an emergency exit were to occur, gas calculations would dictate for one stage to be depleted and dropped, before picking up a safety cylinder to continue the exit. A better tool possibly for extended range stage cave diving, would be a CCR, a Closed-Circuit Rebreather. But I’ll leave that discussion for my next article.


The two approaches discussed of managing your stage bottle will equate to quite similar penetration distances, however, if the worst-case scenario of a catastrophic gas loss was to occur at maximum penetration distance, then the rule of thirds team would arrive back to the stages with their primary cylinders almost depleted while the half + 15bar team would arrive back to their stages with almost 50 bars of usable gas left in their primary cylinders. Though both methods of stage gas management do work, and will both result in magical cave diving experiences, one is definitively more conservative and hence, for RAID, a much safer and recommended strategy for all RAID Cave 2 classes. As a cave diver, the additional gas reserves using the half+ method, allow more time to sort out any issues if Murphy was to make an appearance. That time gives a definite peace of mind, knowing you have enough reserves, and for me, is priceless in overhead environments and could be the difference in any decision-making process whilst under stress during an emergency. As an active RAID Cave 2 Instructor, that additional gas my students arrive back into the cenote with Stage cylinder near a line jump


CYLINDER ANALYSING AND LABELLING. A RAID REVIEW! RAID’s General Standards require every diver planning to breathe cylinders filled with any breathing gas, including Nitrox and Trimix to personally witness their gas being analysed before taking them in the water. Because part of their teammates gas is considered reserve gas, it is strongly advised they witness all the team’s cylinders being analysed, labelled and the planned fill pressure checked off. Diving Cylinders must have the following data, written clearly, on a piece of tape applied on the neck of the cylinder, close to the valve: • O2 percentage • Date analysed • Tank Pressure in BAR / PSI • Name of Diver • Lastly, in the CENTRE, in LARGE TEXT, the MOD (Max Operating Depth) of the gas in metres / feet which delivers an acceptable Oxygen partial Pressure agreed upon during the dive planning process.

also allows me plenty of time for the opportunity to complete skill development drills like lost line, entanglement and line repair without having to exit the water. The more in-water time we can spend with our students refining our skills and polishing our techniques is so important at this level. Having additional gas after a Cave 2 training dive simply facilitates our goal to safely develop skilled cave divers.


I’d like to finally add here, that another aspect of RAID Cave training is to ensure protection of our cave systems. During RAID Cave 2 training, we emphasise the importance of stage bottle positioning by selecting drop points very carefully. Our intention is purely, to ‘Respect the Cave’. To avoid damage to the caves fragile features as well as avoiding damage to our guideline.


In summary, I hope I’ve explained ‘why’ RAID recommend the Half plus 15 method during your RAID Cave 2 programme. It’s crystal clear that it’s for the added safety and time that this method allows. And, since I started with a quote from a great man, I’ll end here with one as well. As a new Cave 2 diver, calculations required can look a little daunting but as our Director of Training Steve Lewis has said: ‘These are Sacrosanct figures! They’re there all the time. Do this once, then you’ve done this forever’. n


There are many moments like this in the future.


What’s New


Santi has added to its apresdivewear line with the Harbour hoodie. This is made from soft-tothe-touch knitted fabric in vividly contrasting red and black. It has a drawstring hood with silicone trim for a better fit, has zippered pockets on the front, and is finished with ribbing at the lower edge of the torso and sleeves. The Harbour hoodie is made from 100 percent cotton and comes in five sizes.


With a casual style, backed up by outstanding thermal protection and tested in some of the most-extreme conditions on the planet, the Arctic hoodie is technology disguised as everyday clothing. The two-layer construction with the Arctic’s wind-resistant outer and high-density fleece inner, create the perfect garment for colder temperatures. Layer it with a waterproof jacket and the Arctic hoodie can take you from the street to the dive site without missing a beat, even if that dive site is at the edge of an ice-floe. Machine washable and warm even when wet, this hoodie is ready for anything.

SANTI 303 THERMOVALVE (SRP: £230) The Santi 303 Thermovalve has a fully rotating head, as opposed to the swivel original. This innovative solution in thermovalve design technology replaces the standard inlet valve, as unlike a connector, it has two functions at the same time - an inlet valve and an integrated connector. Its great advantage is placing the cable with the E / O connector in the down position, with the possibility of turning the head by 270 degrees, which allows for trouble-free connection of the battery cable both in the position of the connector to the right and left. It includes two electrical connectors on opposite sides of the cable - a connector to connect with a battery adapted to work in water (E/O cord), and a waterproof connector to connect heating system products from Santi. The total length of the cable, including plugs, is approximately 55cm.



HOLLIS F1 LT (SRP: £139.95) Combining lightweight construction with purpose-driven design, the Hollis F1 LT fin is a superlative option for tackling tight, confined dives where every kick counts. The lightweight SEBS compound is moulded into a vented design for hydrodynamic kicking that offers tons of efficiency per square inch. A rigid, yet lightweight flex ups the efficiency and extends the amount of power and thrust per kick, meaning you save energy and can dive longer without becoming fatigued. In addition, the short-bladed design is engineered specifically for tight, technical dives where you could otherwise be bumping into obstructions, wreck walls or narrow cavern walls. And because they’re crafted for the deepest, darkest spaces, the F1 LT comes in a variety of colours – including the new white and yellow variants - that’ll stand out to your diving partner in low-light and silty conditions. Plus, easy-to-use spring heel straps with an easy-grip heel tab make the F1 LTs exceptionally easy to don and doff, especially in turbulent waters boatside or in roiling, chaotic surf. Available in a variety of sizes, the F1 LT’s tight, light construction makes them perfect for travel or carrying in a satchel to your favourite shore dive, cenote or forgotten reef.

SCUBAPRO MK19 EVO BT / G260 CARBON BT (SRP: £845) Scubapro has introduced its new MK19 EVO BT/G260 Carbon BT regulator system, exemplifying the ultimate in modern lightweight regulator design and durable engineering excellence. The new regulator system features Scubapro’s new balanced diaphragm first stage, the MK19 EVO BT, finished in a special ultra-durable Black Tech coating, along with an upgraded version of Scubapro’s most-popular tech-diving second stage, the G260, featuring a lightweight, ultra-durable carbon fibre front cover. The new MK19 EVO BT is Scubapro’s premium environmentally sealed first stage. An engineering marvel, it improves the proven cold-water performance of the MK17 EVO and pairs it with the swivel turret of the MK25 EVO that features four High-Flow LP ports, plus one axial Super High-Flow LP port for convenient LP hose routing. The MK19 EVO BT is completely sealed off from the elements, helping ensure trouble-free operation no matter how frigid, silty or murky the water gets, creating the best-in-class first stage regulator for cold water and harsh diving conditions. While retaining its large diaphragm, internal metal components and high-flow exhaust valve for excellent breathing sensitivity, enhanced performance and resistance to freezing, the new G260 Carbon BT second stage ratchets up its ruggedness and durability with the addition of a carbon fibre front cover. Lightweight and extremely durable, if dropped or struck against a hard object, carbon fibre can resist substantial shocks without damage. Both the MK19 EVO BT and the G260 Carbon BT feature a premium Black Tech DLC (DiamondLike Carbon) coating on their metal parts. This upscale coating not only lends a technical look to the system, it also protects against scratches and the ravages of salt water and corrosion.



THERMALUTION HEATED GLOVE SYSTEM (SRP: £415 FOR FULL STAND-ALONE SET) Mark Evans: Exposure protection for diving in cold waters has certainly developed over the years. Gone are the days of thick ‘woolly bear’ undersuits and 7mm non-compressed neoprene drysuits - and the tonnes of lead need to sink you. No, now you have technologically advanced undersuits, base layers, trilaminate and compressed neoprene drysuits, which all serve to keep you warm and toasty. But perhaps the biggest innovation in recent years is the plethora of dryglove systems on the market. There is nothing worse than having frozen digits, and so the advent of drygloves, which keep your hands nice and warm, with all the increased dexterity that affords, have become a regular sight at inland and coastal sites in this country and beyond. What could be better than a dryglove, I hear you ask. Well, how about a heated glove within your dryglove? There are a few heated glove systems out there, including one from Santi, which we reviewed a few months ago. Now Thermalution, who brought you the heated vest which could be used under a wetsuit or a drysuit, and full heated undersuits, have now released a heated glove system. Many heated gloves are just on or off, but the Thermalution gloves offer three heat settings. The gloves are switched on and off, and you can move up and down the heat settings, via a nifty magnetic switch arrangement, which allows you to make adjustments on the fly even while you are diving. You simply cross your hands, which puts the magnet on one hand on to the control on the other. Vibrations signal heat changes and on/off. It takes a little bit of practice to get your hands into the right position, but you soon get the hang of it. These would be perfect underneath a dryglove system, but as they can be used wet, they can even be used under a wet glove – say you are diving in the Med in the winter in a thick semi-dry with hood and gloves. Now you can add an extra degree of warmth to your hands. However, I would say the majority of the time, these will be used under drygloves, so I paired them up with the KUBI dryglove system fitted to my Otter Atlantic drysuit. One thing to bear in mind, that I immediately discovered, is that if you are wearing the Thermalution gloves on their own underneath your dryglove, and your drygloves are quite tight, be careful not to snag a hole on your glove from the magnet on the Thermalution. If your drygloves are quite loose, this probably wouldn’t be such an issue. If you are wearing a pair of normal dryglove inner-gloves over the top of them – they are extremely thin, so this is not an issue - that removes the potential threat from the edges of the magnet. You can get these as standalone products, with their own batteries which mount on your forearms, or you can add them on to existing Thermalution undersuits (some



they can just be added into the system, others will require new batteries – if in doubt, contact the Thermalution team). I was using the standalone variant. These come with batteries and holders which fasten securely around your forearm. A power cable then snakes down to your wrist, where it connects via a wet connector to the cable on the gloves. I tried various routing options – one time I had the cable from the battery poking out of my drysuit seal, so that I could just connect the glove, slide on my dryglove and I was ready to dive. This works fine, but I ended up with excess cable within my dryglove, which was a bit of a pain. The next time I opted to have the glove cable go under my drysuit seal, so the wet connector and all of the battery cable were tucked inside the arm of my drysuit. Everyone will have their own method, but this second style worked best for me. I also found it was easier to put on the gloves, connect them to the battery packs and then don my drysuit. This was less faff than fishing out the power cable from the battery, connecting it to the glove and then trying to push it back under my drysuit wrist seal. In use, I found the ability to switch them on and off, and toggle up and down the heat settings, during the dive was a huge bonus. I whacked them on full heat to start with, and I actually had to dial it down slightly as my hands were getting too warm – something I never thought I would say when diving in the UK! Due to a mishap with one of my drygloves – when I had put a tiny pinhole in it after snagging it on the glove




magnet – I am also able to confirm that the heated gloves work well when wet! My entire dryglove flooded minutes after entering the water, but the heating elements in the glove meant that I was still able to complete the dive. Alas, because the cable from the glove to the battery goes under your drysuit wrist seal, water also tracked up here and so by the time I exited the water, I had a rather damp arm… Still, that’s a good reason to have a spare undersuit with you! As I found with the Thermalution vest, these gloves are multi-purpose. I have put them on to take the dog for a walk when the temperatures have been hovering around freezing – nothing beats the feeling of toasty warm hands when you are crunching through the frost in the morning. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I haven’t been able to test them out on my mountain bike yet, but I imagine they will be awesome for keeping my hands warm when out on the trails in Wales. Heated glove systems in general are not cheap, but if you are doing lots of cold-water diving, then nothing comes close to keeping your hands warm and with full dexterity. And with the forearm battery mounts, as we’ve said, with the Thermalutions, you can use these for all sorts of other activities too. The Thermalution gloves are depth-rated to 100m, so will be fine for the vast majority of technical divers out there. They come in four sizes – small, medium, large and extra-large.



Game Changer

They said the only way to stay warm when diving was with a wetsuit. Then we developed Chillproof and changed the thermal protection market with a revolutionary tri-laminate fabric essentially re-inventing the 3mm wetsuit. Now after years of development and testing we have created Titanium Chillproof, the next level of watersports protection. SHARKSKIN Titanium Chillproof features a new fabric that will revolutionise the way you dive.

Ryan Roberts Cave diving in Tulum, Mexico - 9 days of diving in 25 degrees c with an average of 3 hours underwater each day. “SHARKSKIN Chillproof Titanium kept me warm and very comfortable compared to my colleagues diving 5mm neoprene. Titanium Chillproof is a game changer!”

Powered by titanium nanotechnology to enhance warmth, increase circulation and improved metabolic function. Titanium Chillproof thermal properties are equivalent to 4.5mm to 5mm neoprene due to unique titanium nanotechnology that captures the bodies far infrared radiation to generate and retain your bodies heat. Neutrally buoyant, windproof, breathable, flexible, lightweight and antimicrobial – Titanium Chillproof is a Game Changer!



Legendary Egyptian dive guide Sonia Goggel explains why you need to dive the Red Sea as soon as possible.


We chat to Dive Rite’s Jared Hires about expeditions, developing dive kit and having a world-renowned cave-diving Dad.


Andy Torbet has to keep himself in tip-top shape for his adventurous lifestyle, and he offers some advice on getting dive-fit.


Al Hornsby takes us on a whistlestop tour of some of his greatest creature dives in Africa, including with the crocodiles of Botswana.


Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans saddles up for some serious scooter fun in the ripping channel currents in the Maldives.


Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans looks back at some of his favourite bits of equipment from last year.







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THE RECOVERY OF OBJECTS FROM HISTORIC SITES – PART TWO, SMALLER OBJECTS In this month’s instalment, Project Director Mike Haigh focuses his attention on recovering smaller historical items from the seabed


n my last article, we looked at methods that are used to raise large objects from the seabed. In this article, we will be addressing the issues raised when transporting smaller items - items which may be made of glass, wood, ceramic material, metal or a combination of these. Before we look at the techniques that can be used, we first need to address some key principles around the recovery of finds. The first, the raising of artefacts, must be included in any project’s research design, so that the process can be planned well in advance. Secondly, you need to be aware that the removal of such objects will be governed by the regulations in the country in which you are operating. Finally, before any items are raised, conservation premises and equipment need to be arranged, along with an eventual home for the objects. Do not assume that some museum will happily take your items. The actual removal of artefacts from their adopted seabed home is normally quite straightforward, but can present challenges. On an early fourth century BC wreck off the Italian island of Panarea, the cargo of black-gloss ware was partly enclosed in a volcanic crust. Some objects had to be removed with the crust, often by careful chiselling, and then re-excavated in the laboratory. On the Giglio Etruscan wreck, many artefacts were encased in pitch. Part of the cargo, it had oozed over many items on board as the ship foundered and sank. Hardened by time, the divers became adept at chipping around the objects it had encased. They were then raised to the surface and removed from the pitch by the conservation team. An object which has spent a lot of time waterlogged will have lost integrity and will fall to pieces unless supported. Larger objects need to be splinted and bandaged, small objects can be placed in boxes with sand all around and the lid tightly fitted over the sand. One material that presents problems is cast iron, which is of course what cannon balls were made of. Even after extensive washing in fresh water (in some cases for over 12 months) most will break up when exposed to air. This is because corrosive salts penetrate the interior of the object causing it to break up on drying. The Mary Rose project has successfully preserved


many cannon balls from the site, but only by using very expensive processes. Most small finds can be relatively easily transported to the surface. But before that they must be recorded. Everything needs to be numbered and given a brief description on a label inside the box and another attached to the outside. Everything needs to be itemised, registered and related to context, both the box and its contents. You need to plan for re-excavation in a workshop or lab. Everything needs to be kept wet, cool and in the shade. Most objects will need desalination. The find’s register entry should look like a passport with all actions entered as things go along. Do not clean up any finds as you may destroy some valuable information. More of a challenge are ‘footprints’, a stain left by a now-vanished metal object. This cannot be lifted and will require extra-thorough recording on site. In the context of small finds, I will also bring up the topic of wood sampling, with the potential to tell us what type of wood the ship was built from and where this wood came from, which could provide us with a geographical location for the origin of the vessel. This takes us into the world of wood anatomy. From a practical point of view, the samples need only need be 2–3 cm cubed. As long as the wood is in a reasonable condition, most laboratories will be able to work with this. Waterlogged wood should be kept wet, out of direct sunlight and cool. Sealed bags with some fresh or salt water and as little air as possible will do the trick. Then wrap the bag in bubble wrap to prevent movement in the box in which it will be stored, appropriately labelled, of course. If keeping the samples cool is a challenge, alcohol can be used instead of water. A bottle with a cork in it? Don’t be tempted – if the contents are not poisonous, they are usually completely changed in appearance, colour or taste and disgusting to drink. In addition, old bottle glass is extremely fragile and can be impossible to stabilise. Next time, we will look at methods that are used when initially surveying a site.


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LUNA MINI TORCH | @apeksdiving

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