WIN A LIVEABOARD TRIP TO THE ICONIC EGYPTIAN RED SEA WORTH OVER €849!
PRE-SEASON KIT CHECKS:
WHY IT IS VITAL THAT YOUR GEAR GETS SOME CARE AND ATTENTION BEFORE DIVING
IANTD SUPREMO PHIL SHORT DISCUSSES HIS NUMEROUS GROUND-BREAKING EXPEDITIONS
FIRE AND ICE
Silfra, geothermal chimneys and snorkelling with whales ISSUE 13 | MAR 18 | £3.25
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EDITOR’S NOTE New Year, new sections
2018 SEES SOME CHANGES TO SCUBA DIVER
This very magazine – and associated website, newsletter, Social Media, etc – has been in existence for one whole year, and to kickstart the next 12 months, we thought it was about time we added in a few new sections. We have already outlined our intention to help keep young divers in the sport by giving free subscriptions to anyone under the age of 19, and now – inspired by our Q&A with Robert Thomas in the last issue - we are launching The Next Generation, a section of the magazine dedicated entirely to keen kids and talented teens. We want to showcase newly qualified youngsters who have taken their first steps into diving, those who have ventured further up the continued education ladder, or completed a specialty course. In fact, if they are under 18 and have done anything diving-related that you think deserves to be recognised, this is the place to do it! Email me at: email@example.com with details of your ‘next generation’ divers! In the meantime, turn to page 68 to read the inaugural helping of The Next Generation. Revitalising Above 18m, where we showcase a shallow-water dive site somewhere off the coast of the UK, has been a huge success, and now we are bringing back another old favourite – The Dive Files. This lighthearted editorial focus on a particular dive centre or club offers an insight into what they get up to both under the water and topside, and is a great way to attract new members and customers – email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like your dive centre or club to take part. First up to the starting blocks is PADI dive centre DiveStyle in Arborfield, near Reading, Berkshire, and their DiveStyle Pirate Dive Club. The third and final new section for Scuba Diver is The House Reef - and as the name suggests, it is a detailed focus on a particular house reef somewhere around this big blue ocean planet of ours. Many divers will have taken their first tentative steps into the underwater realm on a resort house reef, and these often unsung stars can sometimes be the highlight of many dive trips. In fact, in certain places around the world, the local house reef is celebrated as an iconic dive site in its own right, and so we thought it was about time they got a special dedicated section to champion their cause. The first house reef can be found on page 66.
MARK EVANS Editor-in-Chief
EDITOR IN CHIEF
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PUBLISHERS Rork Media Limited Tel: 0800 069 8140 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, England, WC2H 9JQ Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily the views of the publishers. Copyright for material published remains with Rork Media Limited. Use of material from Scuba Diver is strictly prohibited unless permission is given. All advertisements of which the creative content is in whole or in part the work of Rork Media Limited remain the copyright of Rork Media Limited.
WIN A LIVEABOARD TRIP TO THE ICONIC EGYPTIAN RED SEA WORTH OVER €849!
PRE-SEASON KIT CHECKS:
WHY IT IS VITAL THAT YOUR GEAR GETS SOME CARE AND ATTENTION BEFORE DIVING
IANTD SUPREMO PHIL SHORT DISCUSSES HIS NUMEROUS GROUND-BREAKING EXPEDITIONS
ON THE COVER
FIRE AND ICE
Silfra, geothermal chimneys and snorkelling with whales ISSUE 13 | MAR 18 | £3.25
Outer Hebrides ‣ The Next Generation ‣ Bonaire ‣ Above 18m
PHOTOGRAPHER: BYRON CONROY
Photo course with Stuart Philpott in Egypt, and awards for Deptherapy students.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans and Publishing Director Ross Arnold donned their thermals to head north to Iceland, home to the famed Silfra dive but also much, much more for the adventurous diver.
30 Dive like a Pro
A panel of training agency experts offer advice on getting your kit prepared for the 2018 season.
46 Competition: Liveaboard trip Win a liveaboard trip to the Egyptian Red Sea worth over €849 in our prize draw.
58 Our-World UW Scholar
Mae Dorricott joins a National Geographic expedition off the Baja Peninsula.
98 The Zen Diver
Tom Peyton offers up ten tips on how we can all help our ocean environment.
34 ABOVE 18m: Swanage
Stuatt Philpott ventures into Poole Bay to explore the remnants of some top-secret World War Two amphibious tanks which ended up on the seabed after a disastrous, tragic trial run.
The island of Bonaire has long held the title of ‘Shore-diving capital of the world’, and it really is one of those places that could have been purpose-built for divers. Join us to explore the must-dive hotspots.
56 HOUSE REEF: Wakatobi
First in a new series where, each month, we will focus on a particular house reef somewhere around the world. In the spotlight for March is the iconic house reef of Wakatobi.
Gavin Anderson joins a liveaboard and tries to get out to two remote dive sites off the west coast of Scotland. He fails dismally, but is amply rewarded with some awesome ‘Plan-B’ dives in the Outer Hebrides.
GEAR GUIDE 84 What’s New
New products recently released or coming soon, including new colour Apeks RK3 fins, and brandnew Fourth Element Xerotherm.
66 The Next Generation
86 Group Test
90 Test Extra
Another new section, this time aimed at children and teenagers. It is crammed full of inspiring case studies, dive-related articles and handy hints and advice.
After ticking Galapagos off his bucket list, Gavin Anderson set his sights on Southeast Asia and the fabled dive destination of Raja Ampat. Would it live up to his expectations?
78 TECHNICAL Q&A: Phil Short
IANTD supremo Phil Short is the man to go to when you want to explore somewhere exceptionally deep, or far inside some unexplored cave system. We chatted to him about his career, and what the future holds.
The Scuba Diver Test Team heads to Vivian Quarry in Snowdonia to test a selection of budget-priced regulators from Mares, Apeks and Scubapro.
The Fourth Element Argonaut 2.0 Stealth drysuit gets the once-over.
94 Long Term Test
The Scuba Diver Test Team gets to grips with a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Shearwater NERD 2, and Santi Diving Flex 360.
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 social media. www.scubadivermag.com/news | .com/scubadivermag | @scubadivermag
MODELLING WORKSHOP Your chance to join Scuba Diver stalwart STUART PHILPOTT for a photographic modelling workshop in the warm waters of the Red Sea, where he will reveal some of the tricks of the trade that have seen him get more than 75 magazine covers
Scuba Diver contributor Stuart Philpott has teamed up with Pharaoh Dive Club in the Egyptian Red Sea to craft a unique underwater photography modelling workshop where those taking part will get an insight into what is needed to take eye-catching cover shots, and work with experienced Miss Scuba UK underwater models at various underwater locations. Over the years, Stuart has become highly skilled at taking picture compositions featuring underwater models, either in the foreground, as the main subject for a front cover portrait, or placed somewhere in the frame to add perspective for a wide-angle scenic composition. Stuart has used his experience to design a fiveday workshop that completely focuses on the art of using models in underwater photography. He has compiled a series of presentations that will give photographers a unique insight into how to take underwater photographs using models in a variety of different composures and settings. Stuart will discuss how to set up the best compositions, the pitfalls he has encountered and useful tips he has learnt throughout the years. This will be accompanied by daily practical sessions at local shore diving sites, day boat diving and inflatable excursions. Femininity is a key feature when selling and promoting magazines, so Stuart and Pharaoh Dive Club have invited four experienced Miss Scuba UK underwater models to accompany the divers during the week-long course. Please note this is not a ‘glamour
The workshop runs from 23- 30 May 2018, and the package includes seven night’s accommodation at Roots in a Deluxe Chalet, ‘soft’ all-inclusive, return airport transfers, unlimited unguided diving on the house reef, two dives by inflatable boat, two dives by hard boat, and the guidance/assistance of Stuart Philpott, who will be working with divers in the water, including sessions with Miss Scuba UK models. Price: £1,125 per person sharing (flight not included). www.stuart.pharaohdiveclub.com
shoot’ - the idea is to use the models to complement and enhance underwater compositions. The plan is to practice new skills and pick up ideas from the group, as well as being prepped by Stuart. There will be daily image reviews with plenty of constructive critique and friendly banter. The schedule includes a freshwater swimming pool session using bubble curtains, different lighting effects, different colour kit set-ups, etc. There will also be a wreck photography day and a trip to The Rock and its famous anemones for some creative marine life/model compositions. Throughout the week, models will be using scuba, snorkelling gear, scooters, a variety of kit configurations as well as different swimsuits and wetsuits. Initially photographers will work and dive as pairs to refine their skills before spending some in-water time with the underwater models. To get the best results, participating photographers should be equipped with their own camera, strobes or some form of external lighting, wide-angle lenses and a laptop computer to download images and do some basic picture editing. Cameras can be compacts, mirrorless or DSLRs. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in a very special modelling workshop hosted by one of the UK’s leading underwater photographers/journalists, plus the added bonus of four experienced models to photograph. Anybody wishing to attend must provide a brief summary of their photography experience, including camera equipment they are using.
Stuart began diving in the late-1980s and became an instructor for PADI, BSAC, SSI and TDI agencies before turning his talents to underwater photography. In the early 2000s he moved to Taba Heights in Egypt and set up a dedicated video and photography centre, diving four times a day and taking 1,000s of digital images for customers participating in Discover Scubas, training courses or just recreational diving. He then managed a photo centre at Hout Bay in South Africa and got to explore the entire eastern coastline from Cape Town to Sodwana Bay. Several years later he moved to Silhouette Island in the Seychelles and worked as a guide/photographer at the five-star resort. In a nutshell, Stuart has been travelling the world diving and taking pictures for the past 30 years. To date, he has written and had published more than 350 articles, plus two guide books, and produced no less than 75 front covers! Stuart returned to the UK fulltime in 2011 and opened two small photography centres in Swanage and Portland, selling camera equipment and running regular underwater photo classes for groups and individuals, as well as overseas workshops to Egypt, Turkey, the US and the Bahamas. These custom-made workshops were designed for all levels from beginners using compacts right through to semi-pros using more-complex mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.
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Garry Dallas, RAID Director of Training UK and Malta, lost two good friends with the passing of divers Will Smith and Graham W Smith, and to mark the anniversary of their loss, he has decided to launch a scholarship in their memory. He said: “As a personal friend of Will Smith and Graham W Smith and knowing their passion for diving - shallow or deep, reefs, wrecks, pot holes and caves/mines - I decided to forge something meaningful in their honour.” He continued: “Many people enjoy diving, but not as many can say they share the same passion, enthusiasm, dedication and energy these two lovely guys brought into diving, not just for themselves but also the people around them. “I will dedicate my time to teach the two successful applicants over a foreseeable future and experience as much as they want to learn about diving, wherever it takes them. Giving something back, in the spirit and enthusiasm of those we miss.” He concluded: “This Scholarship is not in pursuit of monitory gain or reward, simply to remind us that we are what we can become and where you come from is not as important as where you are going.” The closing date for applications is 18 February 2018. For more information, message the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ Smiths-Academy-Scholarship
Huish Outdoors announces new distributor for Oceanic and Hollis in the UK and Ireland Since being acquired by Huish Outdoors LLC, the Oceanic and Hollis brands continue to gain momentum around the world, and now the company is announcing the resurgence of these two industry-leading brands in the UK and Ireland. Historically, the Oceanic and Hollis brands have been represented by Fathom Outdoors (previously Oceanic SW). Huish Outdoors would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all their loyal staff for their hard work and effort they have put into these brands over the years and their co-operation in supporting the dealer network during this transition period. Sales inquiries for Oceanic and Hollis will be managed by Justin Hanning, UK Sales Manager for the existing Huish brands of Atomic Aquatics, BARE, Stahlsac and Zeagle. Beginning 1 May 2018, Huish will support their UK and Ireland dealers with inventory availability from the distribution warehouse in Germany. Service inventory to support Oceanic and Hollis regulators will be available to ship from this distribution warehouse from 1 March 2018. For dealers with an immediate demand for product or service inventory, Huish have created a buying programme with minimum levels that will allow them to access inventory immediately from the US warehouse. “We are extremely excited to reintroduce these brands to the UK and Ireland markets under the Huish Outdoors portfolio. We are proud of the brands we own, and are committed to building them in these two very-important markets with well-supported dealer partners and our diversified and complimentary portfolio of products,” says Mike Huish, CEO of Huish Outdoors.
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INDUSTRY NEWS WORLD’S RAREST FISH FOUND OFF TASMANIA PHOTO CREDIT: ANTONIA COOPER VIA UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA
Divers in Tasmania have found a new population of what is believed to be the world’s rarest fish. Known for walking on the seabed, red handfish (Thymichthys politus) were previously only found in a 50 metre by 20 metre long reef in Frederick Henry Bay near Hobart in south-east Tasmania, with a single population of just 20-40 of the species identified. Seven divers confirmed the second site – a nearby similar-sized reef – which is estimated to be home to the same number of fish. The divers from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the citizen-science project Reef Life Survey (RLS) spent two days searching the reef after a member of the public reported seeing a red handfish in the area. “We were diving for approximately three and a half hours and at about the two-hour mark we were all looking at each other thinking this is not looking promising,” IMAS Technical Officer Antonia Cooper said. “My dive partner went to tell the other divers that we were going to start heading in and I was half-heartedly flicking algae around when, lo and behold, I found a red handfish.” “Finding a new population that is definitely distinct from the existing one is very exciting. It means there’s potentially a bigger gene-pool, and also that there are potentially other populations out there that we’ve yet to find,” she added. Rick Stuart-Smith, a University of Tasmania researcher with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, co-founded Reef Life Survey in 2007 with Professor Graham Edgar to collect data on global marine life. He said eight individuals in the new group were identified, and that this could offer hope that there might be other undiscovered populations out there. “Finding this second population is a huge relief as it effectively doubles how many we think are left on the planet,” Dr Stuart-Smith said. The future could be looking up for these odd little fish, as Stuart-Smith said researchers would “review the viability of a captive breeding programme for red handfish now that the known wild population was large enough to cope with the capture of a few breeding pairs.”
SeaKing touches down at Vobster Quay
BECOME DIFFERENT diveRAIDuk.com
Inland dive site Vobster Quay in Somerset has a new attraction – a SeaKing helicopter fuselage from Vector Aerospace. The helicopter is now safely installed in the lake as the latest diving feature and lies at 24m, between the two wheelhouses. It’s also close to the caravan, yacht Poppy and the Crushing Works. Vobster’s Tim Clements said: “Thanks to the expertise of AJ Brunt Haulage, Rileys Cranes and the hardworking lads from 22 and 26 Engineers, the SeaKing made its final journey in spectacular style. “Where she is sitting, in among existing attractions, it will make an excellent excursion, linking these together. We’re sure it will offer plenty of opportunity for underwater photographers, photogrammers and the ‘plane’ curious. For the ‘spotters’, we will try to dig up a bit of history on this particular airframe – watch this space!”. www.vobster.com
Photo by Charlie Jung
IT’S WHAT’S UNDERNEATH THAT COUNTS
THE ULTIMATE THERMAL BASELAYER Updated For 2018
The outstanding thermal performance of the Xerotherm is now available in men’s and women’s styles, redesigned to fit more cl closely with greater comfort. The extremely fast-wicking fabric maintains an insulating layer of air next to the skin and its lightweight, low bulk design ensures the Xerotherm baselayer can be used to boost the protection of any undergarment configuration. Available from dealers - Spring 2018.
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Deptherapy Ambassador Ben Lee wins Endeavour Fund Award Inspirational Deptherapy Member and Ambassador Ben Lee was one of three wounded ex-servicemen honoured to receive an Endeavour Fund Award in the presence of HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle. Scuba diver Ben Lee, a former Sapper in the Royal Engineers, who lost both his legs and suffered other catastrophic injuries while searching and disposing of IEDs in Afghanistan in 2011, was presented with The Recognising Achievement Award at a special Awards Ceremony at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. The Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund supports wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women and encourages them to rekindle their fighting spirit through sporting and adventurous endeavours. The Recognising Achievement Award is given to the individual, who in the judges’ opinion, has best utilised their endeavour experience to promote and catalyse their recovery. On receiving The Recognising Achievement Award, Ben said: “This has been an amazing journey and I am so honoured to have been selected to receive this Award among so many incredible individuals… but this Award isn’t about me. It is about Deptherapy and all my brothers and sisters in arms that the charity helps and supports. None of this would have been possible without the support of Richard Cullen (Founder and Chairman of Deptherapy), for whom I have the utmost respect.” “Deptherapy is a small charity, run entirely by volunteers. I personally don’t know how they do so much, with so little income. Richard and the Deptherapy Team have changed my life, just as they are changing the lives of many others,” he added. Ben was introduced to scuba diving through Deptherapy when he completed his PADI Open Water Diver course on a specialist training programme in Egypt in 2016. Since this initial course at Roots Red Sea, Ben has progressed rapidly through the PADI Continuing Education programme, subsequently completing his Advanced Open Water, Deep, Wreck, PPB and SMB Specialties, as well as his Rescue Diver course. Ben is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver and a trainee Divemaster.
GET PACKED AND BOOK YOUR DIVE TRIP WITH PLANET DEEPBLU As the fastest-growing online community for divers, Deepblu aims to redefine the diving lifestyle and the way people plan their dive trips. Planet Deepblu is an interactive map providing users with an intuitive and seamless experience as they research dive spots and connect with dive businesses all over the world. Their database of over 20,000 dive spots is growing every day and helps divers browse dive logs and photos to learn what it’s like to actually dive there. Users can explore hundreds of different dive experiences and find in-depth reviews on dive sites, shops, resorts, and more. Dive businesses are now able to feature their own enhanced business profiles, sharing where they operate and the services they offer. Deepblu’s recent update allows users to book a dive and communicate directly with dive businesses through the Deepblu app. www.deepblu.com/planet
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INDUSTRY NEWS New Cruise Director Internship Programme available!
PHOTO CREDIT: SIMON LORENZ
COMMERCIAL DIVER TRAINING LTD
Are you passionate about diving and dreaming about making it your professional career? Well now is your chance! Join blue o two for their brand-new Cruise Director Internship Programme (CDIP) and receive first-hand training in the high-end dive liveaboard industry from their experienced, professional Cruise Directors. CDIP is available in one or more of the following destinations: Indonesia, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Philippines, Red Sea, Solomon Islands or Truk Lagoon. The world-spanning fleet of blue o two, Master Liveaboards and Siren Fleet offer qualified dive professionals a unique opportunity to gain invaluable experience as a Cruise Director. The programme is for a period of 90 days and will allow you to dive daily in some of the most-amazing diving destinations around the world! Who is this programme for? Enthusiastic and eager divers, with a minimum qualification of Divemaster or equivalent, with great interpersonal and communication skills, who are service and customer-minded, with a good team spirit and a willingness to take charge, and dedicated to making every single cruise the best possible experience for their guests. The internship offers a period of 90 days on board one or two of blue o two’s vessels, including full board, and a complete training schedule from the Cruise Directors, as well as ‘learning by doing’. The Cruise Director Internship Programme costs US$3,000 and includes 24-hour training from some of the best dive crews in the business. http://www.blueotwo.com/Careers
WAOW liveaboard catches fire and sinks Yet another SE Asia liveaboard is no more – overnight on 31 January, the Water Adventure Ocean Wide vessel, better known as the WAOW, caught on fire and subsequently sank during a storm while moored up in Biak Harbour. Thankfully, there was no loss of life or physical injury. Owners Julia, Michel and Gérard put out a heartfelt press release, in which they offered their ‘sincere gratitude to our crew, their enthusiasm to provide the services we wished to offer on board, and the exemplary courage they have been demonstrating throughout this sad event’, and a big thank you to all the clients who had sailed on her. They also expressed special thanks and gratitude to Pinisi boat builder Hadji, their first employee Wulan, their former director Andrew, current director Reto, cameraman Steff, and behind-the-scenes wizard Stephane. Their final poignant comment was: “Like diamonds the WAOW is, at least in our memory, eternal. But life goes on, with new opportunities for each of us: seize them and enjoy them.”
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PHOTO CREDIT: GREENPEACE
PHOTO CREDIT: CHRISTIAN ASLUND / GREENPEACE
ACTOR JAVIER BARDEM DIVES ANTARCTIC SEAFLOOR IN RESEARCH SUBMARINE
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Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem recently visited the Antarctic seafloor in a two-person submarine to help call for the creation of a vast Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. After a two-hour dive to the seabed, at a depth of 270m near the Antarctic Peninsula, Javier Bardem described the ‘overwhelming variety of colours and life’ in the Antarctic. “It is an incredibly important mission to go down and document these species in all their colourful existence and to prove the importance of protecting this unique ocean,” said Bardem. Greenpeace is on a three-month expedition to the Antarctic to carry out scientific research, including seafloor submarine dives and sampling for plastic pollution, to highlight the urgent need for the creation of a 1.8 million square kilometre Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary to safeguard species like whales and penguins. Javier Bardem continued: “As soon as we reached the seafloor, I was completely amazed by the overwhelming variety of colours and life all around us. I’m not a biologist, but to find a pink, yellow and green world of corals and sponges at the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean was a real surprise to me.” The proposal for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary has been submitted by the EU and will be considered when the Antarctic Ocean Commission next convenes, in October 2018. Key findings from the footage gathered from the submarine dives will be shared with the Commission to establish localised protections as well as to strengthen this and other upcoming proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic. The petition to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary has already gathered over half a million signatures globally: http://protecttheantarctic.org “To me, an experience like this shows exactly why we need to show respect as human beings,” added Bardem. “It is an incredibly important mission to go down and document these species in all their colourful existence to prove the importance of protecting a unique ocean that also feeds all the bigger animals in the Antarctic”. John Hocevar, a Greenpeace US marine biologist who piloted the submarine, said: “Being in a two-person submarine with Javier Bardem was awesome. He was a very relaxed passenger, especially considering this was his first dive. He seemed completely awestruck by the whole experience and so was I.”
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Eco Dive - Grenada Coyaba Beach Resort, Grenada Phone: +1 (473) 444 7777 email@example.com www.ecodiveandtrek.com
Scuba Tech Calabash Hotel, Grenada Phone: +1 (473) 439 4346 firstname.lastname@example.org www.scubatech-grenada.com
MEDICAL Q&A Dr Oliver Firth has gained considerable experience in the field of diving and hyperbaric medicine since joining LDC in 2006. He is an Approved Medical Examiner of Divers for the UK HSE, and a medical referee for the UK Sport Diving Medical Committee. He is involved in the management of all types of diving-related illness, including recompression treatment, as well as providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy for non-diving conditions. He remains a passionate diver and has participated in various expeditions and conservation projects throughout the globe. Q: I am a regular blood donor and was wondering whether you could see any reasons I can’t dive? I really want to try diving and I asked the staff at my last donation session whether it was okay, but they didn’t really know. Assuming it is possible, is there a recommended time I should leave between giving blood and diving? A: Blood has been called the ‘river of life’ and has many functions besides being a vampire’s next meal. It transports gases, nutrients, waste products, cells and proteins all over the body, as well as being important to heat regulation. Each time they take an armful of your vintage claret, your circulating volume drops by about half a litre (470mls to be precise). The average human has a total blood volume of about five litres, so we’re talking less than 10 percent of that with each donation. The body responds by moving fluid from the tissues into the circulation, so that the volume loss is replaced within 24 hours (quicker if you drink lots of fluid). Even though the body makes about two million new red cells per second, it still takes up to eight weeks to replace all the cells that have been removed. This is why you are limited to three to four donations per year. The consequences of all this on diving are several. In the first 24 hours after a donation, you are more prone to fainting due to the reduction in your circulating volume and hence your blood pressure. (This is why you are force-fed water, tea, biscuits and preferably Guinness afterwards.) In essence, you are dehydrated. Divers get notoriously dehydrated anyway, through immersion, breathing dry compressed gas, being cold/shivering etc, so I would certainly advise no diving within 24 hours, preferably a bit longer to be on the safe side. There is no evidence that donating blood increases your susceptibility to narcosis or oxygen toxicity. Nitrogen is dissolved in the plasma, and for various reasons the plasma volume and delivery of blood to the tissues increases after a donation. Theoretically then, the risk of DCI might increase slightly, but so many other factors are involved that the effect is probably tiny and not worth worrying about.
Q: I’m a 60-something white-haired businessman and I also freely admit to being an overweight smoker who does no exercise. After a particularly stressful day at work I was driving home and felt a bit unusual. I pulled over and noticed my shirt was drenched. Then my chest became uncomfortable... One heart attack later, I was discharged from hospital on a jarful of pills and with instructions to chill out, diet, exercise and generally remove anything exciting from my life. This was two months ago. There’s no way I’m giving up diving, but my learned dive buddy reckons that these beta blockers I’ve been put on might be harbingers of diving doom. Can you enlighten me on their particular perils, please? A: Indeed I can. Beta receptors are distributed throughout the body, and among other things control heart rate and the strength of heart muscle contraction. Beta blockers (such as atenolol, carvedilol and in fact any other drug that ends in ‘-ol’) tend to slow the heart and reduce the force of contraction. Hence they are used to treat high-blood pressure and angina, and are often prescribed after heart attacks or heart failure to reduce said organ’s workload. These drugs could be problematic to a diver, however, for three reasons. Firstly, by blunting the heart’s ability to respond to sudden unexpected demands (eg. strong currents) – if the heart rate has an artificial brake on it, it won’t be able to pump harder when it needs to. Secondly, we know that simply immersing a human in water causes a large amount of blood to move from the peripheral to the central circulation, and the resulting back pressure on the lungs can cause leakage of fluid into the alveoli (airsacs), a risk thought to be elevated by beta blockers. And finally, blockage of beta receptors in the lungs may cause constriction of the airways. Ideally therefore, divers should avoid these drugs, if there are alternatives; if not, then the lowest effective dose should be used, and thorough testing carried out to ensure the above risks are minimised. Do you have a question for Dr Firth? Email: divingdoctor@scubadivermag. com and we’ll pass it on.
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SEEKING THE SEAKING
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Jason Brown goes in search of Vobster Quay’s latest sunken attraction We explore the popular dive site of the Countess of Erne in Portland Harbour Stuart Philpott heads into deeper waters off Malta to visit a wartime shipwreck
Dedicated fan Mark Evans checks out Egypt’s top diving hotspots After Mount Agung’s grumblings last year, we head to beautiful Bali The Test Team rate and review a range of regulators priced £275-£400
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DORSET DISASTER: Port Ghalib in the Marsa Alam region offers uncrowded, pristine dive sites away from the madding crowds, but MARK EVANS was most excited about exploring a shipwreck even further South which sank in mysterious circumstances Photographs by LUKE ATKINSON
ort Ghalib and Marsa Alam used to be considered the ‘Deep South’ in Egypt, but visiting divers have the opportunity to venture even further down the coast – hundreds of kilometres - to the mighty Fury Shoals, the reefs of St John’s and some cracking shore dives in between. The weather is warm and dry for the majority of the year, although it can be a bit windier being this far south, but the trade-off is the clear Red Sea waters tend to stay a couple of degrees warmer than around the Hurghada area. In winter, make sure you take a lightweight fleece or windbreaker for out on the boat or on an evening, and wear a 5mm wetsuit in the water. In summer, a rash vest is often enough for diving, and light loose clothes make for comfortable days and evenings. For shore-based diving, there are a good selection of hotels to choose from in Port Ghalib from three star to five star. Only ten minutes from Marsa Alam airport (RMF), locating yourself inside the port will give you access to a few bars and restaurants in the evening, although being this far south, it is still very chilled out and doesn’t boast the nightlife of Sharm or Hurghada. For divers, this is a great place to maximise what dive sites you can hit, as with Emperor Divers (www.emperordivers.com) boat diving directly from Port Ghalib, as well as offering a couple of shore trips
– more on that later – you can reduce transfers down to zero, so your time is spent diving, in your hotel or relaxing around port. I travelled to Egypt to check out both shore-based and liveaboard options, with the idea to do as many dives in the South as possible. I was able to join Emperor’s General Manager Luke Atkinson for some diving from both their daily centre and one of their impressive liveaboards.
First up was joining the daily boats at the Marina Lodge hotel diving base. Checked in and through the paperwork, it was a few steps until I was onboard the custom dive boat, ropes off and away to one of the marsas (bays) that appear North and South of Ghalib on the coast. We went to Ras El Torfa (aka Abu Syal), which is around an hour’s sail down the coast. It’s not a marsa, but the fringing reef juts out enough to provide safe mooring from the prevailing North winds and acts as a focal point for the mild current that runs down the coast. It was nice to see pristine corals, including one table coral that would comfortably seat 12 at a res-taurant, and plentiful marine life this close to the shore. As well as all the usual Red Sea reef dwellers, such as masked pufferfish, blue-spotted rays, angelfish,
STUART PHILPOTT explores the wreck of the M2 submarine, which was tragically lost with all hands in 1932 and now lies just 30m down in Lyme Bay Photographs by STUART PHILPOTT
watched diesel fuel blob up onto the mirror-calm surface. The boat skipper said this was a good indication that we had found the dive site. Seeping from her ruptured tanks, the small circular slicks were a poignant reminder of what lay on the seabed below. The M2 lies approximately five miles northwest off Portland Bill in Lyme Bay. This popular wreck is more than just a chunk of decaying metal. Her tragic story is steeped in disaster and despair. Protected by the Military Remains Act 1986, the experimental submarine has been designated as a war grave and should be treated with respect. While gathering background information at the submarine museum in Gosport, I made a surprising discovery. Inside a glass cabinet full of relics was a small, insignificant piece of wood. Scrawled in pencil was the message ‘Help. M2 gone down. No 2 hatch open’. This had been found washed up on the beach at Hallsands in Devon after the M2 sank with the loss of all hands, the words more than likely written by somebody trapped inside the stricken submarine. The sea has been my ‘office’ for the past 30 years, so I felt some kind of empathy with submariners and the dangers they face. But being trapped on the seabed with no hope of survival was not a thought I wanted to dwell on. Seeing this piece of wood had got me thinking more about the ‘human’ aspect, which entirely changed my perception of the wreck. The 90-metre-long M2 submarine sits upright on a relatively flat seabed at a maximum depth of 31m around the bow and 35m at the stern. She is totally intact, apart from losing her twin three-bladed, 1.78-metre diameter propellers to sal-
vage operators, and still looks like a proper submarine. There are some visible signs of corrosion on the outer surface but otherwise the M2 is in pretty good shape considering her age. I wanted to capture the wreck in all of its glory, but knew UK weather conditions were notoriously unpredictable. In past years, I have had pitch-black dives with less than an arm’s-length visibility and on better days up to four to five metres. To try and cover all possibilities, I made arrangements to dive over a series of three consecutive days in late-May. The long-range weather predictions and tidal flows looked favourable. I even added on an extra contingency day just to cover any unforeseen problems. The M2 was one of four M-class submarines fitted with a battleship-sized 12-inch gun as main armament. The idea was to launch surprise attacks, i.e. locate the enemy, quickly surface, fire off a few rounds and then submerge. The M2 was commissioned after the end of World War One on 14 February 1920. After four years of active service as a ‘test’ submarine, she was transferred to dry dock for a major refit. The Admiralty had devised an ingenious plan to turn her into the Navy’s first-ever Submarine Aircraft Carrier. The conversion took three whole years to complete. Her big gun was removed and a special hangar built in front of the conning tower. This was large enough to house a custom-designed Parnall Peto seaplane. The single-engine, two-seater biplane had folding wings (nine-metre wingspan) which allowed it to fit snugly inside the watertight compartment. Upon surfacing, the plane would be brought out from the hangar and positioned on a track in front of a compressed air-catapult system. This
GAVIN ANDERSON tries a spot of British wreck diving with a difference when he heads out to Gibraltar for a family holiday and squeezes a few days of in-water time into the itinerary Photographs by GAVIN ANDERSON
e were in a strong current, surrounded by hundreds of purple anthias which swarmed one way then the other. They contrasted brilliantly with the blue of the water and the silhouette of the wreck. Our visibility was pretty good, but the water wasn’t gin clear, the odd tuft of seaweed and various other particles flew past us from the direction we were heading. Purple, pink, yellow and white gorgonians covered every inch of the wreck, along with dense growths of green seaweeds and patches of vivid orange corals. Large groups of silvery sardines and various bream cruised by us, shimmering and reflecting in what little early morning sun reached down to us through the water. Down on the seafloor within the wreckage, various smaller fish including rainbow wrasse, blennies, scorpionfish and comber hunted for tiny fry and anything edible brought by the current. We were diving on the wreck of the SS Rossyln, a 3,679-ton, 340 feet long cargo ship which sunk off Gibraltar’s south harbour breakwater on the afternoon of 28 February 1916. She had just returned from Malta and was caught in a violent storm, which ripped her anchor free and smashed her against the breakwater wall. Before sinking, two government tugs managed to rescue all of her crew but the ship was lost. She now lies in 23m with some of her superstructure reaching up to 17m. Until recently, you could swim into her holds and penetrate large parts of the wreck, in fact it was hard to do one dive and see all of her at once. Now despite being a very large wreck, it is possible to navigate the whole of her when conditions allow - and you’re not battling a current as we were! The Rossyln is incredibly beautiful despite not being intact and is a magnet for fish and invertebrate life. The bow is the most-impressive part of the wreck. It took us about five good minutes to reach having dropped into the middle of the wreck. Looking up we could see what looked like a six-inch gun pointing out, but it’s actually part of a winch.
Wrecked in GIBRALTAR
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FIRE AND ICE Icelandâ€™s Silfra dive site is revered around the world, but as MARK EVANS found out, there is much more to this dramatic island than this singular iconic location Photographs by MARK EVANS AND BYRON CONROY
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“The Silfra dive actually takes you on a meandering journey through various ‘named’ areas – Silfra Cathedral, Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall and Silfra Lagoon – and believe me when I tell you that at every turn or corner you are confronted by ever-more-amazing vistas”
Prepping kit ready for the Silfra dive
alking from the car park in full dive kit, mask and fins in one hand, camera in the other, the excitement in our merry little band was palpable. As we neared the entry point, we caught tanta-lising glimpses of the dive site – a location I had seen countless images of, but was now finally going to dive for myself. Climbing down the metal stairs to the water’s edge and fitting my mask and fins into place, I took a giant stride into the impossibly clear water and, after getting over the shock of the intensely cold water hitting my face and creeping up inside my hood, the realisation struck me – I was finally diving in Silfra, Iceland’s world-famous dive site and one of the most-unique locations on the planet. Descending to 2m, our Magmadive guide Byron Conroy led the way, and then myself and buddy Ross Arnold followed. The visibility was simply mind-blowing. Bryon had told us it could exceed 100 metres, but nothing prepares you for just how clear the water really is – in fact, when you were looking at other divers 70-80 metres away, you only knew they were un-derwater when they exhaled and you saw the bubbles heading to the surface. Silfra is the name given to a fissure between two continental plates that lies in the Þingvellir Na-tional Park in south-western Iceland – although at the point where you can pose for a photo-graph touching both sides of the rift, you are not, as many claim, breaching the gap between America and Europe. The actual plates lie a kilometre or so apart, and the space between is filled with rubble, and it is in the midst of this vast debris field that Silfra lies. However, that much-imitated pose, arms spread wide between the rock walls, just has to be done – hence the cover shot! The Silfra dive actually takes you on a meandering journey through various ‘named’ areas – Silfra Cathedral, Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall and Silfra Lagoon – and believe me when I tell you that at every turn or corner you are confronted by ever-more-amazing vistas. The ridicu-lously clear water – after being filtered for hundreds of years, it is like the best mineral water you will ever taste! – reveals every detail of the rock formations, and I would advise you to just take your time and soak up the views. Remember to periodically turn around as well, as quite often some of the best scenes can lie behind you. Sections of Silfra seem almost otherworldly
The visibility in Silfra is phenomenal Mark and Ross after completing the iconic dive
You do not have to go deep to enjoy Silfra – in fact, the optimum maximum depth is probably no more than 10m. You can even sample Silfra snorkelling (albeit in the warmth of a drysuit). The final lagoon section before you exit the water is 3-4m, and it makes a fittingly otherworldly ending to an out-of-this-world experience. Quite often, I find that dive sites that get massively over-hyped just cannot live up to expecta-tions, but Silfra more than delivered on its promise. This is one of those dives that should be done by every diver, it is just that unique. Even if you are a dedicated warm-water-only diver, get your drysuit cert if only for this single dive – you will not regret it.
MORE THAN JUST SILFRA...
Silfra might be what everyone immediately thinks of when you say ‘diving’ and ‘Iceland’, but this country has far more to offer adventurous divers than this one dive site. Off the north of Iceland, in the Eyjafjordur fjord, lies Strytan, a towering stalagmite rising from some 60m below the surface that dates back a staggering 11,000 years to the Ice Age. The world’s only accessible geothermal chimney, this protected underwater monument comes to within several metres of the surface – normally, they are buried thousands of metres deep. Cre-ated by a combination of superheated rock and seawater, this bizarre, almost-menacing structure pumps out an amazing 100 litres of 72 degree freshwater every second, attracting huge shoals of cod and pollock into and around the thermocline it creates. Good buoyancy is a must, not only to avoid plummeting into the depths surrounding the structure, but also to prevent any damage to this unique relic of the past. While you are ‘up north’, ensure you visit the small museum run by Erlendur Bogasson, who was the first person to discover Strytan. There are interesting items he has recovered from the seabed and surrounding shoreline, archive images of the chimney itself, plus various other cu-riosities. Well worth a wander around while you have a warm drink after your dive. Also up in the north is the Nesgja fissure, which is best described in one respect as a ‘mini-Silfra’. Getting there is amusing – you park up next to the road, kit up near the van and then seemingly wander aimlessly through a field before suddenly the crack appears abruptly in front of you. It is extremely shallow, just a few metres deep, so we opted to just snorkel it, but if you want to haul your dive kit with you, then you are able to dive it as well. The main crack section is only about 100 metres long, and is characterised by vertical, angular and almost-uniform walls that could have been chiselled by hand. In most areas, the crack is a few metres
wide, other places it is barely wide enough for one diver at a time. The awesome vis – it can be more than 100 metres! – combined with the shallow depth makes for some amazing views. The 2 degree C water – which starts out as glacial meltwater from Europe’s largest glaci-er, Vatmajokull, some 150km south - takes some getting used to, but as in Silfra, stealing a crafty sip now and then delivers the freshest, tastiest water you will have ever sampled! For another unusual site, Bjarnagja – also known as ‘Barney’s Crack’ - is worth checking out. This inland fissure is located near the small town of Grindavik, on the southern part of the Rey-kjanes Peninsula to the southwest of Reykjavik. There are two old structures remaining, proba-bly from its days as a crab hatchery, and they provide a somewhat eerie backdrop as you kit up to dive and make your giant stride into the water. This site is sheltered by volcanic lava rocks, making it diveable in all weather conditions, and it is only some 20m deep, but like Strykan, you need to ensure decent buoyancy to avoid kicking up the dense silt on the bottom. The sheer sides are also covered in a coating of algae, so try to steer clear of them as well. There is a small cavern at one end, but otherwise the main attraction of this unusual dive site is the mix of salt and fresh waters – on the lower section, you are in seawater, and you can encounter flatfish, eels and crabs, as well as find anemones and sponges, but come up several metres through a dense thermocline and you are into insanely clear fresh water. n Bjarnagja, also known as ‘Barney’s Crack’
Mark and Ross exploring Silfra
MAGMADIVE Mark seemingly ‘flying’ in the ultra-clear waters of Sifra
Magmadive was set up to showcase the diving delights around Iceland, and so you can dive with them on day trips, three- and five-day mini-excursions, or full-on ten-day expeditions around the whole of the island. They run a fleet of 4x4 trucks and mini-vans – including awesome Mega-Trucks with enor-mous tyres and jacked-up suspension – to deliver you to the rich and varied dive sites of Ice-land. You can bring all your own kit with you, but Magmadive has a truly immense selection of rental equipment, including hundreds of drysuits, if you prefer to travel light. www.magmadive.is
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DIVE LIKE A PRO This issue, in a follow-on from last month’s focus on getting in shape for the diving season, our panel of industry experts discuss preparing your scuba equipment for 2018. PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
s we discussed last month, it is important you are fit and healthy when it comes to getting in the water for the coming dive season, but if your equipment is not up to scratch, it doesn’t matter how in-shape you are, you are going to have potentially life-threatening issues. The best way to avoid these occurring is to give your kit the once-over pre-season so you can deal with any problems you discover. Our agency gurus explain what to look out for. Mary Tetley, Chief Executive of BSAC, said: “When it comes to dive equipment, prevention is better than cure so the first piece of advice when it comes to preparing kit for the new season is to ensure it is packed away correctly before you hang up your fins for the winter. Zips cleaned and waxed, regs and BCDs rinsed, drysuits stored out of the way of little critters that may have a nibble… you want no surprises when the frosts thaw and you are ready to unfurl your kit for the new season ahead. “Before you set off for the first dive of the season, a little time working through a pre-season kit checklist will then ensure you are totally dive ready. Are all your cylinders in test and have your regs had their annual service? Pop these dates in your phone calendar and set a reminder so you are always ‘good to go’. “Next, lay out your kit so you can check for signs of winter deterioration. With your drysuit, look out for any holes and test for leaks, check zips to ensure they are not crusty or the rubber hasn’t hardened and get repaired if need be. Is your suit’s inflator valve smooth or is it starting to stick? If so, it could do with a service so speak to your local dive shop. Wrist and neck seals – especially if they are latex – can deteriorate so check these too… an unexpected in-rush of water on your first dive is never pleasant! “Check the inflator and dump valves on your BCD to make sure they are not sticking, and that the bladders retain gas when you inflate. Check the batteries in your dive computer and take a little time to unwind and re-spool your reel so there are no old kinks or knots that could jam when you deploy your DSMB for real. “Also, why not take a little time to re-evaluate your kit, to see if anything is in dire need of replacing; you may have a fondness for your old hood but it is really still fit for purpose
or are you hanging on to it out of sheer nostalgia? Don’t forget to check your spares kit and replenish… this little act now can save the day when you eventually get out on the dive boat. And finally, go for a test run! Get in the pool or inland site with your core kit and ensure it all works… and works for you.” TDI/SDI Business Development Manager Mark Powell said: “Most equipment problems do not start in the water. They start on land before the dive and we then take that problem into the water, where eventually it causes an issue. This is especially true at the start of the year. Equipment has been unused, left in a cold garage or storage area and may not have been cleaned or maintained after its last use six months ago. This means that the first dive of the year is a common time for equipment problems to occur. The good news is that most of these equipment problems can be avoided by some equipment maintenance and servicing. “Now is the time to check whether your cylinders and regulators need servicing. Most manufacturers recommend that their regulators should be serviced every year. In the UK cylinders will need hydrostatic testing every five years, a visual inspection every two-and-a-half years and oxygen cleaning every 15 months. If your cylinder didn’t get a test or inspection last year, then it will almost certainly need one this year and there is a chance it is already past its date. If you use nitrox in your cylinder then, unless you had it oxygen cleaned in the last half of last year, then it will soon need cleaning again. Now is the time to check the dates on your cylinders and take your cylinders and regulators down to your local dive centre to get all of this done. If you take your equipment to your local dive centre in February, March or April, you will get a warm smile, a cup of tea and a chat together with a quick turn around on your
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servicing. The reason for this is that most people leave their servicing until the last minute, so your dive centre will be glad that you brought your equipment in with plenty of time to spare. On the other hand, if you take your equipment in two weeks before Easter and ask for a quick turnaround on your servicing before your first dive trip at Easter then you will get a gruff response, no cup of tea and only a vague commitment on when it will be done by. That is because you are the tenth person that morning that has brought their equipment in for urgent servicing due to leaving it until the last minute. The only thing worse than this is turning up for your first dive of the year and discovering that your cylinder has been out of test since last November and the dive centre refuses to fill it. As soon as you have finished this article, go check your cylinders and book a trip to your local dive centre to get your cylinders tested. â€œFor the rest of your equipment it may not need to be serviced at your dive centre, there is plenty of maintenance you can do yourself. Check the strap and skirts of your diving mask to make sure they have not split or perished. Also check that the glass is securely fixed. If you look inside you may see some mould or other growth so you can take the opportunity to thoroughly clean the mask. Donâ€™t forget your back-up mark also in this process. Fin straps should also be checked. Straps do not spontaneously break but instead they slowly start to perish over time. if you start to see any damage then change the strap now
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before it breaks. This is also an ideal time to check your dive computer. If the battery is getting low then you can change it or if it is not user-changeable, you can take it to your dive centre when you get your cylinder and regulators tested and ask them to change the battery at the same time. Your BCD is also a critical piece of equipment. Over time, the low-pressure inflators can get a build up of salt or corrosion on them and make it harder to connect and disconnect the hose. The inflator button may get sticky and not release as easily. The string on the dump valves can become worn or even break. If you are happy to clean and maintain these items then now is the ideal time to do this. If you are unsure how to look after your kit then many agencies run an equipment course that is designed to show you how to look after your equipment. However, servicing of regulators and life support equipment should only be done by those with the training, knowledge and experience to do it safely.
“Drysuits should also be checked at the start of the year. Have a look at the wrist and neck seals and see if there is any damage or deterioration. Make sure that the zip is well lubricated and there are no loose or missing teeth. Check also that the dump valves and low pressure inflator are working properly and can be attached a removed easily. “After all of this has been done it is a good idea to check your equipment in a pool before jumping in for your first dive of the year. No one is perfect and even regulators or a BCD that has just been serviced may still have an issue. Finding this out in a pool is just an inconvenience and, if you have left enough time, can be easily resolved before your first dive trip. If you have left it until the last minute or have not checked the equipment before the first dive, then any problem will result in a cancelled dive or worse.” Tim Clements from IANTD said: “If you are the kind of diver that would check their car for an MOT by attempting a record lap of the Nurburgring, then you should stop reading now and jump into 100m without checking your gear. If, however, you have grain of common sense then there are a few sensible things you can do. “The first is to have a visual check over all your gear and identify anything actually broken! Then assemble carefully and test – positive / negative, breathing, clipping – a full function test. “Check what service intervals are due and service early with an accredited facility for your brand. You don’t want to be wondering if Nice Nobby who did it for nothing really has all the tools and test gear – it’s your life, make sure. If the service interval is due in the middle of the season, get it done early – you don’t want to lose dives. Don’t be cheap, it’s expensive in the long run. CCR cells, in particular. “Lastly, take it easy on those first few dives – maybe a practice lap before that first corner tussle…” Emma Hewitt, PADI Regional Manager for Southern UK and Ireland and a PADI Master Instructor, said: “After having not dived for the winter season, preparing for the new diving year will mean needing to service various pieces of equipment. To ensure safety for all upcoming dives do not skip on this servicing and ensure that the gear is taken to reputable, qualified service technicians to carry out the work. When you have all kit back and you are ready for your first dive of the year, be sure to make this a simple, shallow dive to
check all kit is working well and you are feeling comfortable.” Emily Petley-Jones, a PADI Examiner and ex-dive shop owner, said: “From the days I used to work in a dive shop, it was a surprisingly common occurrence that divers would come in to the shop with their kit and expect a service to be completed in time for their holiday… the next day. Servicing your life supporting equipment is something which should not be rushed, and keeping in mind the huge variety of all the different regulators and BCDs out there, it certainly is no guarantee that your dive centre will always have the correct service kits in stock. You should also allow time to test your regulators and BCD after they have been serviced before you go away anywhere.” Matt Clements, PADI Regional Manager for UK North and Malta and a PADI Master Instructor, said: “If your kit has been left over winter (or longer), then it’s worth checking it all over for damage, it might not have been completely dry or had some critters finding a home. I would look carefully at your suit and BCD checking the seals, zips and seams, make sure you lube/ wax/grease as needed. Check visible O-rings (first are they there still, second are they in good condition), press and depress inflators, etc - everything should move freely and feel solid. Clips and buckles should be rust free, give your torch a good clean/lube and battery charge, mask and fin straps also should all be in good condition. If you have an in-date cylinder with a known gas, then it would be good to do a complete assembly and check. If you are in doubt, take it to your local centre for a check/service before getting near the water.” Vikki Batten, PADI’s Training Supervisor and a keen UK diver, said: “As well as checking kit, don’t forget to check yourself. Don’t just rush into the same dives you were doing at the end of last season, a pool or shallow water is the best place to start and make sure you practice your skills – especially the ones you don’t like! The next step is a dive in full kit but in easy conditions and not to your full depth capacity. Simulated dives are a very underused tool, but really prepare you for the dives you want to be doing. If you were confidently diving to 30m last year, you should work back up to that over a few dives making sure to practice the same dive plan and teamwork, just shallower and in benign conditions. Once you are comfortable with these dives get yourself back in with a dive that is within your normal range, but not pushing anything. ‘Diving yourself up’ will make your diving more fun because you’ll be comfortable and safer because you are well rehearsed if anything does go wrong.” n
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ABOVE STUART PHILPOTT explores the remains of
some top-secret tanks lying on the bottom of Poole Bay Photographs by STUART PHILPOTT
idden beneath Poole Bay are the remains of some very unusual World War Two wrecks. Divers expect to find a sunken ship or the scatterings of a ditched aeroplane, but a squadron of armoured tanks? So, the obvious question is how did they get there in the first place? Were they just dumped as an artificial reef project, or was there a more-intriguing story? I have spent many years researching the history of the top-secret amphibious DD (duplex drive) Valentines tanks. My last outing with Bournemouth University’s Maritime Archaeology Dept took me on a completely different tack. The group of students, led by senior lecturer Dave Parham, spent two weeks searching for all seven tanks, and after finding them, carried out some extensive research on the rate of decay. If their results are accurate, the last remaining tank with turret and gun barrel still attached is making a last defiant stand against the elements. Sooner or later the distinctive shape will collapse into an unrecognisable pile of rusting metal plates. This will indeed be a sad day for the diving community.
ARRIVAL AT THE SITE
For close to 25 years I have been a regular visitor to all seven known sites, especially the popular permanently buoyed No.1 and No.2 tanks. No.3 – No.7 tanks are rarely visited mainly because there are no permanent marker buoys and they are difficult to find with a sounder. The actual size of a Valentines tank
is six metres long and nearly three metres wide, which is not much bigger than a Transit van, making it an extremely small target to find, even with known GPS co-ordinates! No.3, 4, 5 and 6 tanks are dotted around the Hook Sands area and are quite far apart. They are also ‘turret-less’ so don’t look as interesting. The elusive No.7 tank lies off Boscombe Pier, with the turret and barrel sitting on the seabed close by. The main dive site is located approximately 3.5 miles from Swanage Pier, so there are no long arduous boat rides to worry about. Journey times vary from 15-30 minutes each way depending on how fast the boat is travelling. Charter boats operating from Swanage and Poole offer regular runs out to the tanks throughout the year. At a maximum depth of 15-16m, depending on tides, they are not a difficult dive. Tidal flows can be quite strong, especially during springs, so dives are usually made at slack water, although a trickle of tide does help take away any kicked-up silt which is very useful if there is a large group of divers descending all at once.
The story begins in World War Two when Nicholas Straussler, a Hungarian-born engineer from London, came up with a hair -brained scheme to float a 17.5-ton Valentines tank. Using Archimedes principle as a basis, he designed and built a rubberised canvas screen that sealed tightly around the main body. When fully raised to a height of two-and-a-half metres, this displaced
The experimental tanks ended up being a tragic failure
Detailed studies of the tanks have been carried out over the years
enough water to float the armoured fighting vehicle. The addition of a three-bladed propeller transformed the tank into a cunningly disguised boat with a top speed of four-and-a-half knots in calm conditions (this is why the tanks were called ‘duplex drive’). The intention was to use Straussler’s wacky invention during the D-Day beach landings, whereby an unassuming boat would suddenly transform into an ‘all guns blazing’ tank, giving Allied troops the element of surprise against entrenched German forces. The war office rubber-stamped Straussler’s project ‘top secret’, keeping all tests and training behind heavily guarded barbed wire fences. But tragedy struck during a simulated assault on Studland Beach, codenamed Operation Smash 1. At dawn on 4 April 1944, two amphibious tank squadrons from the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards were launched from landing crafts several hundred metres offshore. Sea conditions rapidly deteriorated and waves began to crash over the top of the canvas screens. Bilge pumps couldn’t cope with the steady deluge and the tanks began to sink lower in the water. For safety, all crew members including the drivers were ordered up on decks. They stayed on course using auxiliary steering controls but eventually the screens collapsed, sending the tanks plummeting to the seabed. Some of the crew got trapped underneath the screens. In all, six men drowned and six tanks were lost (records show that a seven tank went down later). During the early 1990s, Royal Navy clearance divers blew the turrets off five of the Valentines tanks. I can only guess that the tanks were identified as shipping hazards, or the live 75mm shells stored inside were considered a danger for recreational divers. The sixth tank got decapitated by a fishing trawler’s boom, so moving forward to present day there is only one Valentines tank left with a turret and gun barrel still attached (although the gun barrel was damaged several years ago and is now much shorter). No.7 Boscombe tank was abandoned by its crew and left to drift away on the tide. Warships were ordered to destroy the tank before it ventured too close to the public beaches. Straussler’s D-Day design had to remain a secret at all costs. A ‘Valentines’ tank in its ‘normal’ guise
“The nutrient-rich tidal flow attracts a huge variety of marine life, including sightings of cuttlefish, john dory and thornback rays”
Elements of the tanks are still clearly recognisable
Researchers believe the tanks are deteriorating at quite a rate
DIVERS DOWN SWANAGE
Divers Down is the UK’s oldest diving establishment, operating on Swanage Pier for over 60 years. The centre has three purpose-built catamarans visiting all the area’s dive sites, and it offers air and nitrox, training and kit hire, while the shop can supply a large variety of equipment. www.diversdownswanage.co.uk
VALENTINES TANKS, POOLE BAY WHAT TO EXPECT TYPE OF ‘DIVE’ Boat dive.
Expect to get around 15-16m. Dives are normally conducted at slack water.
MARINE LIFE/WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR Massive shoal of stripy pouting, edible crabs, lobster, conger eels, tompot blennies.
Usually between five to ten metres, but the vis can deteriorate if the bottom is disturbed, so mind your fin strokes.
Silt and sand bottom.
Currents can run quite strong, so ensure dives are conducted around slack water.
The tanks driving out of the water after a successful trial
The tanks are home to many species of marine life
On descent a huge dark cloud materialises. This is a huge shoal of around 1,000 stripy pouting. Normally the shoal moves off the wreck when divers are around and then come back after they have departed. No.1 tank has the turret and gun barrel still attached. The propeller, BESA 7.92mm machine gun and brass fittings were plundered years ago, but the tank sits upright and is still pretty much in one piece. The turret hatches have been jemmied off, so it’s possible to peer inside and check out how small and cramped the conditions must have been, especially for a crew of four, which included a driver, gunner, wireless operator and commander. I have considered taking off my BCD and wriggling through the hatchway, but there is always a huge conger eel staring back at me! At the front on the starboard side (note the barrel always pointed towards the rear while the tanks were at sea) is an underwater guide rope that connects to No.2 tank. This is a good three- to four-minute fin along the shingle seabed. I find it easier to pull myself along the rope rather than finning. No.2 tank also sits upright with the upturned turret and barrel lying half-buried in the silt a few metres away. The body is mainly in one piece and looks very similar to a rubbish skip. The wheels and tracks are easily distinguishable. On good days, visibility can reach five to ten metres, but it only takes a few wayward fin kicks to create a silt cloud. The nutrient-rich tidal flow attracts a huge variety of marine life, including sightings of cuttlefish, john dory and thornback rays. Lobster, edible crabs and conger eels are always peering out from the caterpillar tracks, with armies of prawns scampering close by picking up any discarded scraps of food. Tompot blennies are often seen darting about the 60mm armoured plating and occasionally a shoal of seabass will fly past. I never get bored at this site. Having two tanks roped together makes the dive far more interesting and there’s plenty to keep me occupied for a whole hour. If the current picks up during the dive I often send up my delayed SMB and drift off the wreck, exploring the surrounding seabed. Plaice and sole are commonly sighted and a few hundred metres away there is the remains of a World War Two Spitfire, but the crash site is very small and easily missed.
“I have considered taking off my BCD and wriggling through the hatchway, but there is always a huge conger eel staring back at me!”
The top-secret Valentines tanks are one of the most-popular dives in Poole Bay. At a shallow depth of between 15-16m, the site is suitable for all levels of diver from Open Water upwards. It’s an uncomplicated historical wreck with an exceptional amount of marine life species. Most divers are taken to No.1 and No.2 tanks as they are already buoyed and easy to find. The site is usually classed as a warm-up dive at the beginning of the season, as a wreck intro or a shallower second dive. But some divers go back time and time again just to see the diversity of marine life. Please remember the tanks are, in effect, war graves and should be treated with respect. n
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Lighthearted profile of dive centres or clubs from all over the United Kingdom. First up is DiveStyle, from Arborfield, near Reading, Berkshire.
Who is in
Name: John Campbell Rank: Jedi – aka Staff Instructor Date of first certification: 2012 Number of dives to date: 1,386 WHAT’S YOUR STORY? First taste of scuba diving in the armed forces. Went for a beer one evening with a friend that owned DiveStyle. Several beers later, I bought a dive centre seemed like the right thing to do at the time!
Q&A with John Q: How would you describe your team at your dive centre? A: Top notch, it’s fantastic to have a team that genuinely get along and have lots of fun. Q: What is your most-embarrassing teaching moment? A: Walking around with a huge mask oyster stuck to my forehead. Q: What is your favourite place to dive in the UK? A: Porthkerris, just simply beautiful. Q: What is your favourite place to dive abroad? A: Malta, short hop, easy to get to and brilliant wreck diving. Q: If you could change one thing about diving, what would it be? A: People’s perception of UK diving, it is not dark and horrible, it is fantastic! Q: Who is the worst air-guzzler in your team? A: Steve Green, can suck a cylinder inside out in 20 minutes Q: Who is the biggest wimp out of the lot of you, and give a recent example? A: Dave O’Brien, will do anything to keep warm and I mean ANYTHING! Q: Who attracts the most attention, good or bad? A: I will have to put my hand up to that one, I am always causing mayhem. Tasha is a close second. Q: If you could teach a celebrity to dive, who would it be and why? A: Stephen Fry. I love QI and Blackadder! Q: What’s been the biggest fear factor in your diving career to date? A: Not diving, found I had a PFO and thought it was all over for my diving career!
Why you should
JOIN OUR CLUB CLUB NIGHTS The DiveStyle Pirate Club is a none-agency-specific club. All we are interested in is having a great time and going diving. We have a packed diving and social calendar every year. Regular catered club nights with some fantastic speakers - we have even been known to do the odd cinema evening with popcorn and all sorts of sweet stuff, while watching membersâ€™ diving videos. BRITISH DIVING TRIPS From St Abbs to Porthkerris, we have diving trips all over the country. The more varied, the better. FOREIGN DIVE TRIPS Malta, the Red Sea, Truk, South Africa and looking to plan mine diving in Croatia. We try to provide as much variety as possible. TRAINING FACILITIES On-site classroom with a lovely break-out area and full kitchen facilities. Lovely warm swimming pool and all the diving equipment you could ever imagine.
DIVE CENTRE factfile Contact details Tel: 01189 761729 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.divestyle.co.uk DiveStyle, Unit A, Bridge Farm, Arborfield, Wokingham, Reading, Berkshire, RG2 9HT Opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday Wednesday Saturday Sunday
10am-6pm 10am-8pm 10am-5pm Closed
Courses available Full range of PADI recreational courses Full range of PADI professional courses Full range of PADI Specialities Full range of PADI TecRec courses (OC and CCR) Full range of EFR courses, including EFR Instructor
Rental kit and brand We have Oceanic recreational equipment in our rental and school, but that is changing to Apeks this year. Technical rental (twins, etc) has Apeks, OMS, Hollis and Scubapro. Shop We have a 2,500 sq ft dive centre with a 1,000 sq ft shop floor just for retail. We are Otter approved, Fourth Element showroom, Apeks, Aqualung - in fact, you name it we do it! Gas mixes Air, nitrox and trimix. All partial pressure blended. In fact, we can blend just about any gas you might need. Servicing On-site Suunto service centre with same-day service. On-site Oceanic, Hollis, Scubapro and Apeks service centre. Off site we can arrange for servicing of Mares, Atomic, Zeagle, Tusa and any other manufacturer you may have lurking around in your cupboards.
When it comes to shore diving, Bonaire has got you well and truly covered - the whole island is set-up perfectly for you to ‘do your own thing’. MARK EVANS jumped in a pick-up truck and went exploring… Photographs by MARK EVANS
olourful sponges and encrusting corals caked every square inch of the wreck, providing a riot of vibrant tones every time my dual camera strobes flashed. I hadn’t dived on it for some ten years or so, but it was just as entertaining as I remembered, with myriad locations that could have been pur-pose-built for photographic purposes, including a large propeller, partially intact ship’s wheel, pulleys, ladders, walkways… you name it. The fact that it lies fully intact on its starboard side in just 30m is an added bonus - stick a tank of nitrox on your back, and you can spend plenty of your pre-cious bottom time in and around this 72-metre cargo vessel. My wife Penney and I were exploring the Hilma Hooker, one of the undoubted jewels in the crown of Bonaire diving, and were relishing the chance to jump into our Buddy Dive rental pick-up truck, load up with dive kit and cylinders and then head off on our own. We had timed our arrival to perfection. One buddy team of divers were in the process of de-kitting, while another three were just heading into the water enroute to the wreck. I figured that by the time we were in the water and to the Hilma Hooker, this trio would be a good halfway through their di-ve. As it happened, we were on the wreck some ten minutes after they disappeared beneath the sur-face, and we only saw them briefly on the Hooker itself before they headed back to shore. This meant that we had the entire vessel to ourselves for a good 45 minutes and could shoot away to our heart’s content.
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The prop on the Hilma Hooker French angelfish
The Bonaire National Marine Park was set up way back in 1979!
To explore Klein Bonaire, you need to board a boat
This is one of the great things about diving in Bonaire, complete and utter freedom to plan your own dives and conduct them at your own pace. The whole island is set-up for you to ‘do your own thing’, with shore diving sites along the western coastline all sheltered and well signposted - you just drive along and keep an eye out for football-sized stones painted bright yellow with the name of the dive site on. When you spot the one you want - or a nice quiet site with no other divers! - just pull over into the parking area, kit up and get in. Dive for however long you want, in whatever direction you want. No wonder the island is known as the ‘shore-diving capital of the world’! Entry and exit for nearly all of the sites is over dead and broken coral, so sturdy boots are a must, and just be aware that some locations are easier than others, so watch your footing and take your time. Dive sites of particular note – and bearing in mind there are more than 60 sites off Bonaire itself and another 20-odd off Klein Bonaire, you have plenty to choose from! – include the aforemen-tioned Hilma Hooker; Salt Pier, which has pilings smothered in marine growth but can only be dived when no cargo vessel is docked; Oil Slick Leap, where entering the water involves a giant stride from a height of several metres off the rocky shore; 1,000 Steps, where the actual 64 steps can feel more like a 1,000 at the end of a long dive; and Karpata, which boasts a true vertical wall dropping into the depths and has an ancient anchor embedded in the coral. Now photographers and experienced divers will be in their element, but this whole diving freedom lark is not just for the veterans. Perhaps you don’t feel that confident in your navigation if you are still a relative novice, but I have to say, Bonaire is the perfect place to build up your confidence. Most dives, you get in and then head off with the reef on your left or right shoulder, and then at half a tank, you just turn around and
put the reef on the opposite shoulder and swim back to your entry point. The trick is remembering exactly where you entered the water, as the reef can all start to look a bit ‘samey’, so my advice is to have a good look around on first getting on to the reef and locate a reference point in the form of an unusually shaped piece of coral. Buddy Dive Resort (www.buddydive.com) is well set up to assist in this whole diving freedom experience. They have a large fleet of well-maintained pick-up trucks for rental, and a dual-lane drive-thru gas station, where you can pull up, grab some full cylinders of nitrox or air, dump any empty ones, and get on your way again with the minimum of fuss. There are even gauges where you can simultaneously check the pressure in your tanks as well as the oxygen level in your nitrox mix. Now that’s thinking ahead – no one wants to arrive at a distant dive site and find they have a low fill!
“I personally much prefer doing my own thing when I am diving, but the Buddy Dive team are very relaxed and you never feel hurried or under the cosh with any of their dive guides/instructors”
FANCY SAMPLING BONAIRE WITH THE FAMILY IN TOW? Kid’s Sea Camp run a regular event at Buddy Dive Resort – check out: www.familydivers.com for more information and dates The ship’s wheel on the Hilma Hooker
The healthy reefs shelter many fish species
“They have a large fleet of well-maintained pick-up trucks for rental, and a dual-lane drive-thru gas station, where you can pull up, grab some full cylinders of nitrox or air, dump any empty ones, and get on your way again with the minimum of fuss” Kitting up ready to dive the Hilma Hooker
TAKING IT EASY
Dive briefing before a boat dive
If you just don’t want to go your own way, or just want to chill out on a boat with all your diving buddies, never fear, Buddy Dive Resort has got you covered on that front too. Dive centre manager Augusto Montebrun and his team run a fleet of five dive boats that can offer two-tank dive trips, single-tank jaunts and even night dives. A staff member gives a thorough briefing of the dive site, and then leads the divers along the reef, pointing out any interesting critters along the way. I personally much prefer doing my own thing when I am diving, but the Buddy Dive team are very relaxed and you never feel hurried or under the cosh with any of their dive guides/instructors, plus, they can often be the best when it comes to finding elusive prey like seahorses and frogfish! The dive sites around Klein Bonaire are also very pretty, and they can only be accessed via boat, so it is worth scheduling a day or two of boat diving into your holiday to experience this picturesque little island that lies a short distance from the main island. n
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Scuba Diver has teamed up with liveAboard.com to offer one lucky reader the chance to embark on either a one-week Sinai Classic itinerary or a Wreck-and-Reef safari with King Snefro Fleet, giving them the opportunity to explore some of the Egyptian Red Sea’s most-iconic dive sites. To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic trip, log on to: www.scubadivermag.com/competition and enter your contact details – it is that simple! The Sinai Classic sees divers head out from New Marina, El Wataneya in Sharm el Sheikh and visit fabled locations such as the Thistlegorm, Dunraven, Ras Mohammed National Park and the Straits of Tiran reefs Jackson, Gordon, Woodhouse and Thomas. The Wreck-and-Reef itinerary departs from New Marina, El Wataneya and also stops at the Thistlegorm, Dunraven and stunning reefs of Ras Mohammed National Park, but then crosses the Gulf of Suez to the Abu Nuhas wrecks – Giannis D, Carnatic, Kimon M and Chrisoula K/Marcus. NB: The closing date is 13th April 2018. The editor’s decision is final. The trip will be in a shared twin-berth cabin, and excludes flights, visa, Marine Park fees and any on-board extras. Trips available on confirmed sailings only. Currently, due to FCO advice, there are no direct flights from the UK operating into Sharm el Sheikh airport, however, there are plenty of direct flights available from various European cities with Turkish Airlines and Pegasus, or via Cairo with Egypt Air.
King Snefro Fleet
The King Snefro Fleet has been offering diving trips into the Egyptian Red Sea since 1986, and offers over 30 years of experience and intimate knowledge of the local area to ensure you get the very best from your diving holiday. The company now runs a fleet of six vessels – Snefro Pearl, Snefro Spirit, Snefro Love, Snefro Target, King Snefro 5 and King Snefro 6 – running itineraries that take in the northern Red Sea and the offshore marine parks of the Brothers in luxury and comfort. www.kingsnefrofleet.com
LiveAboard.com is the easiest place online to book your liveaboard diving holidays, and the company represents a vast fleet of more than 350 vessels from all over our water planet. Together, their team has over 22 years of experience in the travel industry. LiveAboard.com travel agents are passionate divers who have been to the destinations that they are selling, and they are on-hand to assist with any queries you might have – and if you find the same trip for a cheaper rate, liveAboard.com promise to either match it or beat it! You will get the best price guaranteed. www.liveaboard.com
GOING GREY IN STYLE: THE ART OF MONOCHROMES MARIO VITALINI is back in the hot-seat this month, and turns his attentions to creating evocative, thought-provoking and intriguing monochromatic shots PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIO VITALINI
s underwater photographers, our goal is to capture the vibrant colours beneath the sea. But on some dives or with certain subjects, you cannot escape the feeling that you are not quite doing it justice. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself turning increasingly to monochromes. On your next dive, take some time to think of the scene in front of you in terms of shapes, textures, light and shadows. There’s an undeniable beauty to be found in shades of black, white and grey. And in mastering monochromes, you can open up a whole new world of photographic opportunity.
Green turtle feeding on seagrass. By converting the shot to B&W, I was able to accentuate the contrast and deal with the problems caused by the clouds of sand
MORE THAN JUST BLACK AND WHITE
Monochromatic photography simply means that there is only one colour in the shot. Traditionally, this means black on a white background. But with modern digital editing tools, it’s very easy to replace black with any tone! Sepia and yellow tones give a photo an old-world vibe, while cyan and blue tones create a colder atmosphere. Monochrome edits can allow you much more artistic freedom in terms of exposure, as you can push the shadows and/or highlights to levels that would be unacceptable in a colour shot.
An almost-white background reinforces the shape of the dolphin
Increasing the contrast makes the shark stand out
Texture and sharpness are essential for B&W macro shots
IN CAMERA OR POST-PRODUCTION?
In the old days of film photography, you had to decide before you jumped if this was going to be a black and white dive. But thanks to digital, you can make the choice at any point – underwater or in the edit. Many cameras on the market today have a black and white mode. When selected, it will display and record a monochromatic JPG without any colour information. If your camera also records RAW files, this will retain all the colour information… in case you want to use it later. Personally, I shoot RAW and edit later, but this mode can be useful underwater for visualising the scene in monotones. In practice, most monochromatic images you see are actually colour shots that have been converted in post-production. Just as you normally process your colour images to get the most from them, black and white pictures benefit from some digital work. Editing software such as Photoshop and
Lightroom come with built-in B&W conversion modules. Go a step further with pre-set add-ons and filters that will convert your files into a whole host of different monotones. At the moment, I like Silver Efex Pro2 (currently free). In my opinion, it is one of the best black and white converters, as well as a great tool for creating more interesting monochromes, giving you complete control over all colour tones. I’d really encourage you to experiment with the treatments. A classic black and white conversion can sometimes look quite uninspiring, while more dramatic tonal changes can totally transform the mood or feeling of a photo. Try different levels of contrast. Think where you want the best detail to be, on the dark areas or on the highlights. Don’t be afraid to blow areas out! And why not introduce some digital noise. In monochrome, it can build the mood of your picture. You can even change the background colour completely from white to black or vice versa. This is an artistic process so go for it, with multiple versions of the same shot.
When converting to B&W, try different versions - I’m not too keen on the standard B&W, but playing with other tones gives better results
The opposite direction of the sunbeams and the diver’s torch creates strong diagonals and the B&W conversion accentuates the strong texture of the rocks inside this cavern
A good monochrome image requires a different mindset. You don’t have bright colours to make the photo stand out or to show an obvious focal point. Instead, the stand out elements are delivered by the play in the light and shadows, contrast, strong shapes and textures. This means that not every shot you take will work as a monochromatic image. As a general rule, available light wide-angle shots tend to be more suitable than macro. Wrecks are an ideal choice. The strong lines and shadows created by these man-made structures and the lack of colours serve to heighten the drama of the shipwreck. A monochromatic treatment can also be helpful to deal with a very-common problem in wreck photography - that is a lack of sharpness and contrast due to excessive distance between subject and camera. Even with a fish-eye lens, you sometimes find yourself simply too far away to get a good colour photo. Add a 20-30m depth and your images are dominated by a blue cast. If you love the composition, but hate the colour cast, try a monochrome. Increase the contrast to a level that would never be possible in a full-colour image, regain some of that lost sharpness and accentuate the shadows and highlights. At the end of the edit, you are more likely to have a photo you want to hang on your wall. Caverns are another environment that I love to work into monochrome, especially if the light comes from overhead openings. Black and white is a beautiful vehicle for sun beams penetrating the gloom. For strong sunbeams, remember to dive when the sun is high above and tuck yourself away in a dark place. Expose for the sunbeam and make sure that your composition includes the start and the finish of the beam. Monochrome marine life shots work on a ‘bigger is better’
Want to take your own shark shots? Join Mario on an escorted photo workshop, with award-winning tour operator Scuba Travel. Learn the secrets of shark photography on the exciting new Shark Quest photography itinerary this May, or master your macro skills in the Far East. There’s something for everyone. Mario’s workshops are open to all experience levels, but in particular anyone using a compact camera or mirrorless set-up. His prize-winning images prove it’s not the kit that makes the shot, but the photographer! If you need some help getting to grips with your camera underwater, Mario’s your man. His calm, patient approach is just what you need to improve your photos. Mario tailors the tips and techniques to your needs, both on the surface and underwater. Improve your skills in a relaxed, non-competitive environment. Dive, eat, sleep and shoot! Workshops in 2018 and 2019 are running in classic destinations such as the Red Sea, as well as far-flung photo hotspots like the Philippines, Caymans and Indonesia. www.scubatravel.com
My personal version of the dolphin image was a highly contrasted one
basis. I find turtles especially photogenic in black and white. The texture of their carapace and faces just looks amazing. As with all marine life, look for behaviours. Turtles eating are a great image. Mantas and sharks can be tricky subjects in colour. Sharks such as hammerheads are often that bit too deep to escape heavy blue casts. Pale bellies are easily overexposed. Monochrome can help deal with some of these exposure issues in the finished result. If you are shooting dolphins or manta, remember to include the surface in your photo for added level of depth and texture. Macro subjects are colourful in nature and that is a huge part of what makes them popular with underwater photographers. Let’s face it… would you be so obsessed with nudibranch photos if they only came in land-slug brown colours? Monochrome macro is all about the shape and texture. Think long and hard about your strobe position. Use the lighting to emphasise textures and craft areas of light and dark. Without these, the end result will look flat and underwhelming. Technically, the sharpness needs to be absolutely perfect. Make sure your critter is sitting on clean background. Feeling inspired to get creative with monochrome? I find it an evocative medium. It is less about recording what you saw, and more about creating drama or atmosphere. There’s more than one way to edit a shot. There’s no right or wrong. Ultimately, like all photography, whether you like the end result is going to be a personal matter, but when you get it works, monochrome is anything but drab. n
B&W wreck photography allows you to deal with the lack of definition caused by the amount of water you are forced to shoot through - end results can be striking
BIOGRAPHY MARIO VITALINI
For nearly 30 years, Mario has sailed the globe and dived the seas, working as a PADI instructor and dive guide. Today, he shares his passion for underwater photography. His students love his real-world expertise and patient approach. He has an extensive working knowledge of all underwater camera systems, having spent several years at the UK’s largest photo retailer. Mario’s images have won several awards and he has featured not once, but twice, among the top categories at the prestigious Underwater Photographer of the Year, including Most Promising British Underwater Photographer in 2015.
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INSIDE OCEAN : THE MISSING LINK DR RICHARD SMITH talks about the excitement of searching for, and finding, an amazingly rare fish off the coast of New Zealand Photographs by DR RICHARD SMITH / OCEANREALMIMAGES.COM
Sydney pygmy pipehorses are only found around the central east coast
’m used to hunting for tiny and amazingly well-camouflaged creatures, having worked for so long with pygmy seahorses. However, after 45 minutes shivering and staring at an algae-covered wall for a five-centimetre animal in heavy surge, even I was starting to go cross-eyed. My quarry had been discovered for the first time only a couple of years ago, and hadn’t been seen alive for six months. I don’t give up easily, and New Zealand is too far to pop back to. As others in the group drifted off, I continued to scrutinise each algal frond for eyes or unusual movement. Finally, like a revelation, I caught my first glimpse of the elusive New Zealand pygmy pipehorse.
THE WEB OF LIFE
Despite all our technological advances, the tangled web of life is still not something we fully understand. We use clues picked up along the way to piece things together. For instance, as we continue to uncover the fossilised bones of dinosaurs, we have slowly deducted how they give rise to birds. In my research sphere of seahorses, we are currently in the midst of a whirlwind of discoveries that are helping to fill in the missing evolutionary links between the pipefishes and seahorses, the New Zealand pygmy pipehorse that I was hunting being a possible lynch pin in the saga. Pipefishes are typified by an elongated shape, straight body, and males brooding the eggs along the belly. Seahorses on the other hand have a very definitive angular shape, prehensile tail and a special pouch to brood their young. The New Zealand pygmy pipehorse seems to link these two. Neither straight nor angular, but with an elaborate pouch and a prehensile tail, pygmy pipehorses are among the closest living relatives of the seahorse.
The New Zealand pygmy pipehorse closely resembles its cousin, the seahorse
DR RICHARD SMITH
Richard Smith, a British underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Over the past decade, Richard’s photographs and marine life-focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard organises and leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment: www.OceanRealmImages.com A typical pygmy pipehorse, showing the prehensile tail, male brood pouch and angled head
A PLETHORA OF PYGMY PIPEHORSES
Excitingly, just as this species first appeared, a flurry of other pygmy pipehorses were discovered around the world. It turns out that a new seahorse, Hippocampus tyro from the Seychelles, is in fact a pygmy pipehorse. They’re so similar that it was hard to distinguish until the New Zealand species was examined. There have also been new species sighted off east Africa and Fiji. In 2004, just across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand, the Sydney pygmy pipehorse was discovered and named. However, it is so different from its Kiwi counterpart that the Kiwi likely represents a whole new branch of life. After 45 minutes scouring the swaying wall, my eyes suddenly uncrossed. There it was, the amazing fish I had travelled across the world to see. Grasped onto a swaying piece of algae, the impossibly well-camouflaged fish happily hunted for prey. Over the next few dives I managed to find three of these fish, including a bonded pair. It was amazing to be one of the privileged few people to have seen this animal alive. I watched in awe as they swam from place to place, just as they have done long before we even knew they were doing it. n A small short pouch pygmy piphorse sheltering beneath a seagrass frond
Sydney pygmy pipehorse named in 2004
Dive Agency News Each month, we invite all the main dive training agencies to showcase new courses, forthcoming events, staff changes and promotions, and so on. scubadivermag.com/agencynews
PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa are proud to announce the launch of the Adaptive Teaching Techniques course. PADI professionals have a long and successful history of working with divers with disabilities. The new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course is designed to build on that foundation by broadening awareness and exploring adaptive techniques to apply when training and diving with divers who have physical or mental challenges. This specialty course is unique in that it’s designed for PADI Divemasters or Master Freedivers and higher. There is a subset course – PADI Adaptive Support Diver - designed for divers who want to learn how they can best support dive buddies who have a physical or mental disability. The course has been long in the making, with input from experts in the field from around the world. PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa has been heavily involved in the promotion of the health and well-being benefits of scuba diving and works with a number of charities in this sector. At the end of 2017, PADI EMEA was proud to have been voted as one of Deptherapy’s ‘Best Corporate Sponsors’ in recognition of this work. PADI professionals who want to find out more about the Adaptive Teaching Techniques course can contact PADI at: firstname.lastname@example.org www.padi.com
RAID UK and Malta are pleased to announce new additions to the team. After a successful start to the year, including a fantastic weekend at the Great Northern Dive Show, there is a lot of development happening across the territory. Blue Duck Photography and RAID are pleased to announce their partnership for a revamp of the RAID underwater photography course. It will be available to all who are interested in underwater photography; with everything from the important features to consider when thinking about buying an underwater camera to using it effectively alongside all the important accessories now available. Plus, how to integrate camera and skills learnt out of the water with the correct emphasis on diving and environmental awareness. Barry McGill, from Indepth Technical, and Karl Kruger, from Bay Divers, have both recently joined RAID as technical instructors. Barry will be helping RAID UK and Malta by supporting our dive centres in Ireland. He is also at the Dive Ireland International Expo, Limerick on 3-4 March. Karl Kruger is an experienced former military diver and has dived extensively throughout the world following his passion for wreck diving and exploration. The latest RAID Instructor Trainer Programme also produced two new Instructor Trainers for the UK and Malta. Gen MacCallum and Kenny McGuire have both qualified as Open Circuit Instructor Trainers. www.diveraid.com
BSAC has formally responded to a proposed reduction of current hyperbaric oxygen services in England, from ten to eight. The NHS England proposal is driven by a reduction in hyperbaric treatment for non-diving-related conditions. The reduction could result in longer travel times, making decompression illness (DCI) treatment less-effective. BSAC argues this could increase the chance of long-term damage to patients, or in the worst cases lead to fatality. BSAC does not accept this increase in risk and is urging NHS England to reconsider. BSAC has now outlined its concerns directly to NHS England and has called for an increase in the number of chambers to ensure sufficient coverage across the UK. “The diving community is deeply concerned about the proposal. There is already a lack of coverage, in particular in the north of England. Reducing the number of chambers even further could lead to a delay in essential treatment for a diver with DCI.,” said BSAC’s Chief Executive Mary Tetley. Working with the British Hyperbaric Association, British Divers Safety Group (BDSG), Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC) and the London Chambers (London Hyperbaric and London Diving Chamber), BSAC hopes the detailed response will lead to a re-think. Read BSAC’s response at: bsac.com/nhsresponse. The public consultation is set to end on 16 March. Divers can contribute to the review by completing the consultation survey before the closing date. https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/reviewing-hyperbaric-oxygen-services/ www.bsac.com
January is a busy time for IANTD renewals and we are pleased that our regular team has remained pretty much unchanged. IANTD is proud of the consistency we have had over the past few years and our current list of instructors is now live. We are also proud to be core supporters of the European Scientific Diving Conference in Orkney from 9-14 April this year. IANTD instructors Kieran Hatton and Tim Clements will be talking about the new IANTD Scientific Diver qualification, plus the benefits of CCR for scientific diving. Citizen science lies at the heart of several excellent diving science initiatives – this is a great use for your diving skills. www.iantd.uk.com
Calne Divers Formed 26 January 2008, Calne Divers have just celebrated their tenth birthday. With an instructor team comprising of eight members, lots of new members and their first Junior Diver, this club continues to go from strength to strength. Congratulations on your tenth birthday and we look forward to the next decade! Aquarius Sub Aqua Club Congratulations to Mark Lewis, who gained his Diver Supervisor certificate. Well done on your hard work. Falmouth Diving Club This active club raised money for the DDRC and presented them with a cheque for £1,000 at the end of January. We’re sure this will go a long way to help the much-appreciated work the team at the DDRC do.
We held another great SDI crossover at NDAC in January. Immerse School of Diving in Telford have been offering TDI courses for a while but they are also now an SDI Facility and can offer the full range of SDI courses. Dive Services in South Wales are a new dive centre that are also going to be offering the full range of SDI courses, as well as providing boat and commercial diving services. Welcome to the SDI family, Pete, Mark and Katrina. Congratulations to Mark Culwick and Greg Parker who have achieved their TDI Inspiration CCR instructor rating, while Krzysztof Bialecki achieved his TDI SF2 instructor rating. Well done to all of you. More great news for SDI worldwide in that January was our most-successful month ever! More new dive centres, more market share, more translations and more SDI and TDI courses than ever. Thank you to all of the SDI/TDI family for helping us have the best month ever. www.tdisdi.com
Sub-Aqua Association The association’s AGM is being held in Liverpool on Saturday 21 April and will be followed by a masked dinner dance in the evening. Favourable accommodation rates have been negotiated with the Adelphi Hotel and we’d love to see SAA members for both the AGM and the evening. Entertainment will be provided by The White Ties. Tickets for the evening are available from Irene on: email@example.com Cheltenham Sub Aqua Club You may recall Cheltenham Sub Aqua Club raised money for Headway Gloucestershire in the Autumn of last year; a charity close to many of the members’ hearts. They undertook a sponsored 24-hour scubathon and auctioned lots to raise funds for this great cause. The club handed over the impressive sum of £8,200 earlier this month. WYPSAC Members of this club have been very busy recently. Ollie Scoones has passed his nitrox course, Jamie Beck and James Mulligan both passed their Club Instructor and first aid courses and Chloe Drummer has passed her nitrox course and also completed her Club Diver qualification. Well done to all involved. www.saa.org.uk
New monthly series in which we will focus on a particular HOUSE REEF, kicking off with the world-famous dive site in Wakatobi Text and photographs by WALT STEARNS
rriving guests receive a preview of what awaits on Wakatobi’s House Reef when their shuttle boat arrives at the resort’s jetty. Right below, cobalt blue waters transition abruptly to lighter shades of turquoise, amber and green as a vertical coral rampart rises from the depths to within scant metres from the surface. In between this deep blue boundary line and the gleam of the white sand on the beach lies a shallow realm of coral heads and seagrass flats, all remarkably healthy and quite dense in places. It’s something you wouldn’t expect so close to a resort. At the outer end of the shelf, the House Reef takes a near-vertical plunge some 75m before bottoming out. Along its face, a thriving array of sponges, hard and soft corals shelter a diverse population of invertebrates and fish, with the mixture of species changing as depth increases. Water clarity in the 30-metre-plus range allows ample ambient light to filter down, adding to the visual drama of the walls and undercut slopes. Passing by the outer end of the Jetty, on the way to the drop-off, it’s hard to not pause and have a peek under the structure to see what’s there. In addition to providing shade for schools of fish, the pier’s large concrete columns and beams are home to an assortment of shrimps and crabs. The wealth of macro subjects I have found nearby is seemingly innumerable. I’ve documented everything from the more-expected, like anemonefish -seven different species inside a 30-metre circle of the resort’s jetty - to the sublime, like leaf scorpionfish and pipehorses. With reef contours of this nature, it’s easy to perform multi-level dives with bottom times of 70 to 80 minutes without going into decompression. And time spent off-gassing in the shallows can often be the most-interesting part of the dive. Searching around the seagrass beds and branching coral colonies in the sunlit shallows have rendered subjects ranging from pyjama cardinalfish to robust, halimeda and ornate ghost pipefish.
Then there are of course the invertebrates, which include a bevy of nudibranch species. And when the sun goes down, the life on the bottom becomes a carnival of colour and small creatures of the weird and wonderful. Though it is easy for photographers to get caught up in their quest to capture many of the reef’s smaller residents, I often favour wide-angle photography. Unlike many near-shore sites, the coral formations on the shallows of Wakatobi’s House Reef are quite beautiful. Plus, not all of the House Reef’s marine life is small, and you are likely to encounter one or more of the resident adult-size green turtles cruising the reef by day, or sleeping beneath an overhang by night. While the pier makes a great entry point, the further you get away from it, the better the scenics get. The one thing you factor into your plan is the current, as it is generated by tide changes. For a few hours of the day currents flow north to south following the reef’s outer edge. Slack high or low tide provides an hour of no current, then conditions reverse as the flow turns to run south to north. During these tidal flows, the currents can be anywhere from mild to robust. The stronger flows can take place in the middle of each phase. Divers and snorkellers need not fight the current’s ebb and flow. In addition to the ‘pool’ being always open (the dive centre personnel have a watch between 6am and 10pm), Wakatobi also provides a taxi boat drop-off service for guests exploring the House Reef. On request, the dive centre’s staff will take you and a buddy to an up-current section on the reef aboard one of the resort’s skiffs for an incredible drift along the wall back to the resort’s jetty. With more than 40-plus named sites within easy access by the resort’s day boats, and the opportunity for dives of up to 70-minutes each, it would be easy to think of the House Reef as just an optional add-on for the afternoon. But don’t rule out the idea of making the House Reef an all-day adventure because, as house reefs go, this one is a cut above the rest. n
The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society is a non-profit, educational organisation whose mission is to promote educational activities associated with the underwater world. It has offered scholarships for over 35 years. owuscholarship.org
A POD OF ORCAS AND A CAPPUCCINO ON A WEDNESDAY MORNING PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAE DORRICOTT AND STEVE MORELLO
here is something special about sipping a coffee as the sun rises over the calm Sea of Cortez. Combine that with a pod of playful dolphins joining us at the bow, sides and stern of the boat as we rub our sleepy eyes - I doubt there are better ways to wake up. Most mornings aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion, a Linblad expedition cruising around the Baja Californian Peninsula, we woke up to dolphins and were torn to either go and have breakfast or stay watching them glide along with the bow wave of our boat. And you know you’re having a good morning when you can’t decide whether to follow the orcas on one side, humpbacks on the other or the pygmy sperm whale at the front. However, the decision was made and we ate our breakfast with those beautiful black and white orcas popping in and out of our view through the dining room window. Not to worry about missing out on the humpbacks. As we approached the towering rocks of Land’s End, south from San Jose del Cabo, entering the Pacific Ocean, we watched the sun set with a mother and calf breaching out of the water simultaneously. It was almost as if the mother was teaching her baby how to breach. The calf leaped and leaped again, at least 20 times, and I feel blessed to have seen a baby humpback learning how to become a magnificent whale!
The highlight of the trip was the reason for our expedition around the Baja Peninsula. As we pulled into Magdalena Bay, an estuary surrounded by bleached sand dunes and low-lying mangroves, you could see that this was a perfect hideaway. A protected nursery for a gentle giant, the grey whale. The mothers give birth in this sanctuary and prepare themselves and child to travel back up the east coast of the Americas. Before we had even anchored there were whales everywhere. We could see their spouts of breath shooting up in all directions of view. But it doesn’t stop there. The grey whales of Baja California are famous for a very unusual behaviour. They approach the boats in the lagoon and let people touch their noses and sometimes even scratch their tongue! No one really knows why they allow this. But for a long period, after they were heavily whaled, they turned aggressive to boats. Rightly so when almost whaled to extinction. However, for some reason they have forgiven us. Forgiven our species and once again reach out to us for attention and interaction. It was a privilege. When a mother was settled, she would gently push her baby towards the boats and our out-stretched hands. Why would such a creature tolerate so many of us patting her and her baby, I have no idea. But I am so humbled and thankful that they do. A giant of the ocean willingly breaching the interface of our terrestrially world. n
Itâ€™s Better than Better in The Bahamas Shark Photography Trip Nassau and Bimini March 2019 from ÂŁ3595
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AT THE MERCY OF THE WEATHER GODS
t was the middle of summer 2016 and having driven from east to west Scotland and then driven right up north through Skye, we were heading across on the ferry from Uig to Tarbert and it was pouring with rain! The rain wouldn’t have been so bad but the wind was blowing too. It had been blowing for a day or two and it was forecast to keep on blowing! It didn’t look very promising for our week’s liveaboard diving on the Gaelic Rose - and especially for our chances of heading down to dive the hardly ever dived Barra! It was a short drive to Scalpay from Tarbet, where we found the boat pulling into the slip. After loading our stuff onboard, we stowed our sleeping bags and dry stuff beneath deck in either the communal bunk area or one of three double cosy cabins and started to put our dive gear together on the bow deck. The rain even eased off and for about five minutes we glimpsed a corner of the sun! We all knew each other from previous trips - Mike Diver and Claire Hurren the organisers, then Greg Knapton, Nathan Jeffery, Chris Ferguson, Max Ruffert, Ruth Sharratt, Tara Wilson, Ben Couceiro and myself, a mixture of photographers, biologists and just very keen divers. The Gaelic Rose is very homely, cosy vessel with an excellent, well-appointed bow deck with plenty of room for storing gear and kitting up. Food onboard is always plentiful and was cooked on this Barra trip by the excellent Stevie, while our cheery skipper Ian Malcolm would do his very best to get us some great diving in somewhat inclement weather!
As a shakedown dive to check all our equipment was working and drysuits were dry, we headed up to dive off the sheltered north shore of Loch Seaforth. Loch Seaforth has an indescribable slate-green tone to its inland fjord fingers that probe a long way into Scalpay. In 1746, none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to come into the loch when he was looking to try and charter a boat to take him to France. I hope he had better weather then for as we quickly zipped up our drysuits, the wind was howling and it was chucking it down. Underwater you could say ‘atmospheric’. It was your typical ‘on the dark side’ sheltered loch dives. We did find a steep terraced wall with some nice ledges covered in sea squirts and sponges and we found various squat lobster, some Devonshire cup coral, feather stars, sea lemons, cloak anemone hermit crabs and colonial sea squirts to test out our cameras on. The next day the wind had eased ever so slightly and it had stopped raining, so we managed to go further than Loch Seaforth, venturing up to Gob Rubha Uisinish, on the east coast of Lewis. Here we enjoyed a gentle drift along a wall with lots of jewel anemones, hydroids, cushion starfish, well-camouflaged spider crabs, the odd ballan wrasse and a pair of female cuckoo wrasse. Visibility was much better but we did have a small amount of plankton and jellyfish. Our second dive was equally good at Stac A’ Chomraig, a little further up the coast. We dropped in on the stac and down a sheer wall which dropped quickly to around 30m. The wall was covered in dead man’s fingers, jewel anemones and sponges and looking up
The Outer Hebrides offers some fantastic diving, but as GAVIN ANDERSON found out, it is always a good idea to have a great plan B if the weather conditions deteriorate Photographs by GAVIN ANDERSON
Blue skies and calm seas welcome divers to the Outer Hebrides
Dead man’s fingers adorn the reef
Wrasse provided a splash of colour
Delicate cup coral
Idyllic scenes topside
“Barely a year later in mid-summer 2017, we found ourselves back in the Outer Hebrides on the same boat trying to get to St Kilda this time, not Barra” Plumose anemones
towards the surface and the soft green light filtering down, it was an awesome sight. That night as we sought the shelter and a safe anchorage in Loch Eireasort, we went ashore to the local pub where some of our group possibly over-indulged somewhat, perhaps drowning their sorrows on finding out we weren’t going to be going to Barra! Perhaps a good early Monday morning dive at Raerinish Head would soon sober them up. Here we found a nice wall again full of dead man’s fingers, and jewel anemones which dropped down to 25m, where lovely sand canyons led through large boulders and rocky outcrops. This terrain was great for cuckoo and ballan wrasse and a couple of nice ling. Unfortunately, in the afternoon the weather worsened and so we found a sheltered site at Eilean Thoraidh. Our vis at almost halved from our morning’s ten metres but there was still plenty to see along a wall which stepped down in stages and had several overhangs with nice plumose anemones. On the sandy bottom among patches of feather stars and sponges we found plenty of life, including a shy octopus and lovely anglerfish. On Tuesday morning we were full of anticipation as we were going to dive a place called Chicken Rock. On 7 June 1883, the armed paddle steamer HMS Lively was wrecked here. We weren’t hopeful of finding much as the wreck is scattered over a wide distance now, but somewhere in the kelp and boulders the two paddle wheels can still be seen. To be honest, none of us had dived here before, so the chances of us finding the wheels were slim, but we were just excited to dive this wild, exposed site. Luckily, our visibility wasn’t too bad and we plunged down through the kelp and on to a rocky reef full of ledges, then after a while some amazing gullies covered in life from jewel anemones and dead man’s fingers to plumose anemones and Devonshire cup corals to baitfish and a huge school of saithe. On the rocks and in the ledges we found scorpion and anglerfish, ballan and cuckoo wrasse and loads of nudibranchs. Awesome dive despite missing the paddle wheels! At last, the weather improved and as the seas flattened, we made a run over to the beautiful Shiant Islands. Unfortu-
nately although on the surface things looked promising, with loads of diving guillemots and huge rafts of puffins, our dive at Eilean Mhuire on the southeast point was a massive anti-climax with very poor visibility. However, at Garbh Eilean on the northwest point of the islands, we found a much-better dive through a narrow canyon cutting into the island, where we founds walls covered in jewel and dahlia anemones, tiny nudibranchs and in crevices, several Yarrell’s blennies. The next morning we dived Garbh Eilean again, but in more surge and less vis, so for our last dive in the Shiants we chose carefully and it was decided to try under Garbh Eilean Arch, which cuts through the island above water. Underwater the terrain rises from 16m to just 3-4m directly under the arch. Taking photos was a real challenge in such a high-energy site. There was lots to see from jewel anemones, gooseberry squirts, encrusting sponges and sheltering in various holes and cracks, conger eel and Yarrell’s blennies. By lunchtime we knew our brief weather window was over, so we made a dash for the shelter of Harris and overnighted in Tarbert. The next morning we headed back to Scalpay to dive off Eilean Glas Lighthouse and then Eilean Mor A’ Bhaighe, off Lewis, where we had reasonable dives over boulders covered in featherstars with some plumose anemones, and the steep walls which dropped away down on
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to sandy bottoms. On the Friday morning there was just time to finish our trip with a colourful drift dive through the Salpay Narrows past dead man’s fingers, anemones and the odd pollock, before catching the ferry back to Skye.
Who says UK marine life is not colourful?
Barely a year later in mid-summer 2017, we found ourselves back in the Outer Hebrides on the same boat trying to get to St Kilda this time, not Barra. It wasn’t quite the same group though. This time we had taken the ferry to Leverburgh on Harris on a Saturday, and true to form it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain - we wouldn’t be going to St Kilda! Our shakedown dive this time was on this cargo freighter SS Stassa, which sank in Loch Rodel on SE Harris with a cargo of timber after running aground on 19 July 1966. She is still in remarkable condition, lying on her starboard side with her stern totally intact on a sandy bottom at 20m. Despite the rather poor visibility, I did take my wide-angle lens and attempted to photograph what is a beautiful wreck. Swimming past her masts and crow’s nests alongside her wooden deck full of winches and over her railings and ladders, which were all covered in sea squirts with the odd group of colourful jewel anemones and cup corals - was really enjoyable. Loads of wrasse and pollock have made their home on the wreck, and she is a great dive. In the afternoon we dived at Rubha Vallerip, a peninsula on the southeast side of Harris. I took my close-up lens as it was obvious our visibility would still be down. As we cruised over a fantastic white sand bottom at 24m, where boulders were covered in Devonshire cup corals, jewel anemones, sponges and northern seafans, we found several octopus happily posing for us. Mike found a rare peachia anemone on the sand. Halfway through the dive as we came shallower we found a beautiful wall full of overhangs and covered in anemones in a variety of colours. We did our safety stop surrounded by exotic-looking compass jellyfish and free-swimming sand eels. Still buzzing from the previous day’s dive, we took advantage of a change in the wind direction and headed west, stopping at Holme Island, a must-do site in the Sound of Harris. Here we dived along a fantastic overhanging wall encrusted with sponges, anemones and dead man’s fingers. Mike found a rare Arachnanthus Sarsii anemone while I enjoyed photographing many different nudibranchs, including the all-white colopodarpis pusilla. In the afternoon we dived a great site called Soay Beag to the north of Taransay, where a stunning sheer wall covered in dead man’s fingers and plumose anemones provided home and shelter to group of rock cooks and goldsinny wrasse. At night we anchored in West Loch Tarbert and watched a lovely sunset. Next day we dived at Gob Na Surraig, a rocky point that juts out of the Lewis shore behind Scarp, where we hoped to find skate on the sand. Before hitting the bottom in 30m, we enjoyed a wall with lovely overhangs and huge boulders covered in anemones and in great vis we watched pollock, ballan and cuckoo wrasse, dogfish and lots of nudibranchs. We found skate eggs as the wall tapered off towards the sand but no skate sadly! At Gob Na H-Airde Mor close by, we enjoyed a similar equally exciting dive with loads of marine life. After a peaceful night in Loch Tamanavay we found ourselves off the north tip of Scarp at Kearstay in amazingly blue skies. With
just a slight swell we plunged into turquoise water and what must have been perhaps 20 metres visibility! Swimming over the most-fantastic seascape of rolling canyons and gullies, which stretched away into the distance, it was an awesome experience. Jewel anemones, sponges and dead man’s fingers covered the landscape and we cruised along with some of the largest groups of ballan, cuckoo and rock cook wrasse I’ve ever seen. In the afternoon we watched a pod of Risso’s dolphins playing in the slight swell then kitted up again for another great dive, this time at Huishinish Glorigson. Here we swam over thick kelp and down into amazing deep-sided gullies and past enormous boulders covered in dead man’s fingers. At 30m we found white sand, which made a brilliant backdrop to the beautiful scenic landscape all around us. That night we headed back to Leverburgh as the weather was sadly due to get worse again. In the morning, Ian tried to take us back to the west side of Harris, but the weather beat us and we had to turn around and settle for another dive off Holm Island not a bad Plan B! I really enjoyed my Outer Hebrides diving and appreciated all the planning of our host Mike Diver and skipper Ian Malcom, who did a great job attempting to get us to the very best sites according to the ever-changing weather conditions. I really hope I am able to get back on the Gaelic Rose perhaps this year and out to Barra or St Kilda - as they say, third time lucky! n Inquisitive seal
Octopus posing for the camera
The impressive wreck of the Stassa
Kitting up in glorious sunshine
“Swimming over the most-fantastic seascape of rolling canyons and gullies, which stretched away into the distance, it was an awesome experience”
THE TANK BY REBECCA PEARCE, DIVE OFFICER
SAND TIGER SHARK BEHAVIOURAL STUDY
ince October last year, Emma Patchett from the University of Liverpool has been conducting her third-year honours project at the Blue Planet Aquarium, studying dominance behaviours and social hierarchy in our sand tiger sharks. Her findings, along with many other student research projects taking place at the aquarium, help towards education and the development of husbandry protocols to improve the welfare of the animals. Hereâ€™s what Emma has found so far: Many animal species live in social groups as it provides numerous resource and safety benefits. Dominance behaviours are exhibited by individuals that live in groups in order to maintain social hierarchies, where the highest-ranking individuals are more assertive and the lower ranking individuals are more submissive. Most shark species live a solitary lifestyle, but sand tiger sharks have been found to live in social groups at certain times of year.
This has been replicated in the Caribbean reef tank at Blue Planet Aquarium, where five sand tiger sharks co-exist. I am interested in finding out whether there is an established social hierarchy among this sand tiger shark group, which could maintain the groupâ€™s stability. Animal husbandry strategies may need to be adjusted to account for the effect of dominance behaviours and so it is important to monitor hierarchies in captivity for animal welfare. For example, if one of the sharks is more assertive and begins to monopolise the food then the other sharks may eat less, and targeted feeding may need to be implemented to prevent malnourishment. To assess whether there is a social hierarchy in place, I have been monitoring the sand tiger sharks during their feed times and recording the number of submissive and assertive behaviours they each display. I have also been monitoring the order in which they feed, the order they enter into the feeding zone and the total duration
they each spend in the feeding zone. The male sand tiger sharks have recently begun displaying courting behaviours towards the females at the onset of mating season, which has been really interesting to observe as it provides another indicator of potential ranking and a social hierarchy. Final analysis of the data will not be completed until April, but thus far the results indicate there is a hierarchy in place. The females tend to eat first, so may be higher in status compared with the relatively smaller male sharks. Blue Planet Aquarium also have historic feed records which show that in the past the two females have consistently eaten more than the males, even though males do feed regularly and females do not constrain their feeding behaviour. The findings of this study are important to help improve their welfare and husbandry in captivity by developing appropriate feeding protocols. Further understanding of their complex social behaviours could also potentially help improve conservation strategies for sand tiger sharks in the wild. n
If you would like more information on diving with our sharks, please call us on (0151) 357 8800, or send us an email to: email@example.com 64
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THE NEXT GENERATION
Kids Sea Camp is the undoubted world leader when it comes to children and diving - more than 7,000 youth certifications and counting! - and founder Margo Peyton has painstakingly crafted a series of unique itineraries with unparalleled adventures, allowing families to bond, interact with local cultures, learn history, engage with wildlife and meet like-minded families from around the globe.
FROM THE EDITOR
Welcome to the first instalment of The Next Generation! We have already outlined our intention to help keep young divers in the sport by giving free subscriptions to anyone under the age of 19, and now we have launched a section of the magazine dedicated entirely to keen kids and talented teens. We want to showcase newly qualified youngsters who have taken their first steps into diving, those who have ventured further up the continued education ladder, or completed a specialty course. In fact, if they are under 18 and have done anything diving-related that you think deserves to be recognised, this is the place to do it! We want to see your photographs and hear your diving stories. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with details of your ‘next generation’ divers! In the meantime, enjoy the hints and advice, inspiring stories and great photographs over the next three pages. KIDS SEA CAMP For The Next Generation, Scuba Diver has teamed up with Kids Sea Camp, who have pioneered diving with children around the world, and are running various events through 2018 - check out the full breakdown of destinations in the box at the bottom of this page. Kids Sea Camp founder Margo Peyton is intensely passionate about introducing youngsters to the water realm we all love so much (a PADI MSDT, she averages over 200 student certifications a year and has even created a Kids Sea Camp Distinctive Specialty with PADI that focuses on teaching kids and parents how to dive together as better buddies and to be more-responsible divers), and she believes that we should refer to children and teenagers as ‘Generation Now’, as in her opinion ‘they are the voice of now, the change that needs to be now, and they are making a difference now’. I have had close links to Kids Sea Camp since my son Luke had his first experience of SASSY on a KSC trip to Grand Cayman, and then did his Bubblemaker on another KSC event in Bonaire, and now he has just become a PADI JOW Diver (see opposite), and a tie in with them for The Next Generation seemed the natural thing to do. MARK EVANS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SCUBA DIVER
KODY SEQUOYAH, AGE 13, REDDITCH, WORCESTERSHIRE Most children who end up becoming divers are following in the footsteps of their parents, or other relatives, but Kody Sequoyah has bucked that trend by being the only one in his family to scuba dive. According to proud mum Gill, “Kody has always been a bit of a water baby, and he loved swimming. One day, aged eight years old, we were in the local chip shop and he saw a small advert from our local scuba diving club promoting trydives and said he’d like to give it a go. “I contacted Darren Ellis at PADI five-star IDC centre Scuba School and arranged a Bubblemaker session. He said Kody was a natural, our boy loved it, and he has just gone from strength to strength ever since – SEAL team soon followed, and then his PADI Junior Open Water Diver.” Gill continued: “He is now 13, owns all of his own kit, and is a PADI Advanced Junior Open Water Diver with three Specialties – Drysuit Diver, DSMB Deployment, and Project AWARE – and he is doing his fourth, Shark Awareness, in April. He wants to do his Night Diver Specialty and his PADI Rescue Diver course, and is aiming to be a Master Scuba Diver. “He has dived in the sea in Northumbria, Devon and Dorset, and has also dived in Capernwray and Stoney Cove. He wants to be a marine biologist, but he loves scuba diving as a hobby as well.” Gill added: “No one in our family dives, so it is difficult at times to get him a buddy, and I am having to work 20 hours a week overtime to fund it all, but it is so worth it.”
Kids Sea Camp 2018 Summer Break Family Vacations ROATAN: Mayan Princess, June 16th – 23rd ST. LUCIA: Anse Chastanet, June 23rd – June 30th ST. LUCIA: Anse Chastanet, June 30th – July 7th BONAIRE: Buddy Dive Resort, July 7th – 14th GALAPAGOS: Galapagos Sky, July 15th – 22nd *private charter liveaboard*
PHILIPPINES: Pura Vida Homes; Dauin (7 nights) & Ocean Vida Cabilao (5 nights), July 10th – 22nd Fully escorted with Tom & Margo Peyton
PALAU: Sam’s Tours, and Palau Royal, July 21st – 31st (10 nights or 14-night option) July 21st – August 4th Kids Sea Camp Thanksgiving Family Vacation (NEW) BONAIRE: Buddy Dive Resort, November 17th – 24th New Years Trip 2018-19 Family Vacation (NEW) SOCORRO ISLAND: Rocio Del Mar Liveaboard, December 27th – January 4th, discover the little Galapagos.
RTE A P ON
FIRST RUNG ON THE LADDER EDITORINCHIEF MARK EVANS’ SON LUKE has grown up around dive equipment his entire life, and with a natural affinity for the sea, it was no surprise when he took to scuba diving. SASSY sessions at five were followed by Bubblemaker at eight, and SEAL Team at nine, which set him up nicely for his PADI Junior Open Water Diver course at age 11.
Photographs by MARK EVANS
t was only a matter of time before Luke followed in our footsteps. Both myself and my wife Penney are keen divers, and our son has been surrounded by diving paraphernalia since he was first born, so the chances that he would get into diving were extremely high. However, we vowed we would not force him into it, but we needn’t have worried – he showed a natural attraction to the sea and marine life from a very early age, and was snorkelling in the chilly waters off Anglesey on family holidays from the age of four! The natural progression saw him move on to SASSY (Surface Air Supplied Snorkelling for Youth) at five-and-a-half in the Cayman Islands, and then he racked up his PADI Bubblemaker trydive in the Blue Planet Aquarium three days after turning eight. He completed his SEAL Team Aquamissions aged nineand-a-half in Bonaire and right here in the UK, and then it was only a matter of months until he was eyeing up his PADI Junior Open Water Diver course for when he turned ten. The slight inconvenience of being made redundant out of the blue from Sport Diver after 18 long years in the hot seat and then having to set up Scuba Diver put a slight spanner in the works, and so it came to pass that he would actually get to log his PADI JOW Diver just after his 11th birthday – which still means he beat his good old dad by one full year, as I was 12 when I first took the plunge.
HECKMONDWIKE... TO FLORIDA?
The DEMA trade show was being held in Orlando at the end of last year, and so Team Scuba Diver had already decided we were combining it with a family trip. A short discussion later and we had Luke and his mum Penney staying on for a week longer, so while I was busy at DEMA, they would be diving in Key Largo in the Florida Keys. However, while that was his four open water dives sorted, we still needed to get his theory/pool dives out of the way – and after a quick call to Robin Hood Watersports (www.roho.co.uk), we were on our way to Yorkshire!
Hat’s off to Kieron McClintock at RoHo – he pulled out all the stops last minute to enable us to get Luke’s referral done and dusted the weekend before we flew out to the States. First up was a dash across the Pennines on the Friday evening to RoHo’s Heckmondwike HQ, and then Luke sat down with Kieron to run through his already-completed knowledge reviews. Once this was done, Luke got busy and sat his exam while the adults chilled out and talked ‘dive kit’. It was one tired boy who went to bed that night, and even though he was ultra-excited about getting in the pool at RoHo on the Saturday morning, he soon crashed – a hidden benefit of diving is that it seems to poop everyone out! Bright and early the next morning we were back at Robin Hood Watersports, and Luke was introduced to his instructor, Chris Waites. Chris had a cool, calm demeanour, and Luke instantly bonded with him – when we left them to get down to the serious business of diving, I don’t think we even warranted a casual glance. Finding an instructor who can relate to your child but retain their respect is vital, and will make your child’s route into diving so much smoother. A few hours later and we were back. Chris was congratulating Luke on being one of his fastest referrals ever – he said it was obvious Luke had done multiple Bubblemakers and SEAL Team Aquamissions, as he was already very comfortable in the water and with the basic skills and drills. This just hammers home how getting keen kids into the water as soon as possible really helps their journey to becoming competent divers. I kitted up and we all jumped in to snap a few illustrative photographs, and I am sure I must have been glowing with pride when I watched Luke effortlessly finning up and down the pool, playing with a Toypedo with Chris and then demonstrating some of his skills. So Luke now had his referral ticket and was ready for the main event – next stop, Key Largo and Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Centre for open water dives!
OUR MISSION: Kids Sea Camp’s mission is to inspire families to dive, travel and explore environmentally and culturally diversified destinations, and thus we have created family-friendly resort packages, activities and tours designed to provide safe, fun and educational vacations to children and their families.
TOP 20 TIPS FOR DIVING WITH KIDS 13 7 Margo Peyton is one of the founders of Kids Sea Camp, the undoubted world-leader when it comes to families and diving. Here she shares some hints and advice for parents and their children, but many of them have relevance to all divers, regardless of their age.
Have fun practicing your underwater sign language. Think about the questions you may want to ask your buddy, or the things you may need to say. Make sure you discuss this before the dive so your signs are the same and you understand each other. Parents and kids can have fun creating new signs.
Have some wet notes or slates to communicate with each other underwater for when hand signals just won’t do! Kids love to communicate.
Tell someone you are going diving and if it is from a boat or shore and when you will be back. Have an underwater noisemaker that makes a sound both you and your child are familiar with and is unique to you to get each other’s attention.
Always carry a surface marker when shore diving, and a DSMB always. This will not only let the boat know where you are when shore diving, but the DSMB lets the dive boat know where you are on a drift dive.
Make sure that your child knows he or she never has to dive if they are not
feeling up to it. Don’t force kids to dive if they don’t want to. Do a quick Q&A on how they are feeling.
Allow your certified child to set up and take down their own gear, it’s great practice and you should always observe and do buddy checks on every dive. It instils good habits.
Teach your child how to exit and enter off a dive boat properly. Giant strides or backwards roll offs, these entries should be practiced so they are comfortable.
Remember tanks come in many sizes. Don’t overweight your child with a big tank when a smaller one is available.
Make sure you have properly fitted dive gear. This is life-saving equipment and you want it to be in good shape, tested and working well before you dive. Check computers and depth gauges making sure all is functioning properly. Kids feel more confident diving with their own dive gear. Make sure they own their own pair of fins, mask and snorkel.
Remember kids grow, so make sure fins are not poorly fitted as they will cause blisters. Have your local dive shop check your gear each year and make sure it’s serviced.
Taking photos can be fun and memorable when diving with kids. I find it slows them down a little and gets them looking for critters, corals and other marine life.
When diving with kids, adult should not have anything else in the water with them that distracts them away from being a good buddy to their child. Only one buddy should have a camera, and if you’re the only buddy in the water with your child, it should not be you.
Remember diving is a dehydrating sport, so make sure you and your kids are drinking plenty of water.
Kids learn by watching their parents, they often watch closely what you do, how you dive, and will become a ‘little you’. So here is your chance to show proper buoyancy, and be a responsible diver with regard to corals and marine life. Don’t ever touch anything, hold anything or damage anything.
Be a courteous diver and teach your child to allow others to get in and out of water patently and orderly.
Discuss your dive with your kids when you return, compliment them on their diving skills and being a great buddy, talk about what you saw and look up critters you could not identify.
18 19 20
Log your dives and sign off on each other dives. Bundle your gear, rinse and take care of it. Plan your next dive or trip together and have fun doing so.
LILY LANCASTER, AGE 10, ATTLEBOROUGH, NORFOLK It seemed almost destiny that young Lily Lancaster was going to end up a diver. Her grandfather Peter, who has brought her up since she was just six months old, first got the diving bug back in 1993, when he clocked up his BSAC Sports Diver qualification. However, he then drifted out of the sport. Then, in early 2017, he had a holiday booked to Sandals in St Lucia, and with them offering free scuba diving as part of the all-inclusive package, he vowed to get back in the water, and duly completed a PADI Re-Activate session at Christal Seas Scuba. This got Peter well and truly back into diving – and also tempted his 27-year-old son Martin and granddaughter Lily, who both did trydives. Both uncle and niece took to it like ducks to water, with Martin getting his dive cert and Lily diving into the SEAL Team programme. Peter recalled: “Martin and I got up to Master Scuba Diver after various trips abroad, and Lily just kept pestering me ‘when can I go diving, when can I go diving’, so when we booked a holiday to Beaches in Jamaica, it seemed a prime opportunity for her to get qualified.” Lily did all of her pool training and theory/exams in the UK with Christal Seas Scuba in Norwich with Polly Wake and Trudi Innes when she turned ten on her birthday on 19 September 2017. She then completed her four open water dives and qualified as a PADI Junior Open Water Diver in Jamaica on 18 November 2017 when she was ten years and two months old. She also racked up another couple of dives after getting her cert, including one in more ‘British-like conditions’ with vis of less than four metres! Peter added: “I am now working towards my PADI Divemaster qualification, and Lily has set her sights on becoming an instructor as soon as she is old enough.”
Recreational & Technical Diving
Photo: Pete Bullen
APRIL - Short Breaks Apartment + Diving 3 nights + 4 guided dives 4 nights + 6 guided dives 4 nights + PADI Open Water training dives (referral) 4 nights + PADI Advanced Course 4 nights + PADI Wreck or Deep Specialty
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APRIL - Week Packages Apartment + Diving 7 nights + 6 guided dives £300 7 nights + 10 guided dives £400 7 nights + PADI Open Water Course £430 7 nights + BSAC Ocean Diver Course £470 7nights + PADI Advanced Course £340 7 nights + PADI Wreck or Deep Specialty £315 7 nights + unlimited tank hire £214
Prices based on 2 persons sharing a room Single occupancy fee £15 per night.
www.orca-diveclubs.com Mosta Road, St. Paul’s Bay, SPB 3114 Malta T: +356 21 571 111 or 21 572 558 E: email@example.com
*7 nights incl. 3 days boat diving (2 dives per day), airport transfer & visa.
Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures offer a full range of dive training and vacation services. The flagship programme is Kids Sea Camp, which has over 18 years of operation and has contributed to over 7,000 new diver certifications. We are experts in dive training for children and young adults.
TRAINING AGENCIES AND CHILDREN John Kendall from GUE said: “There are possibilities to gain HQ waivers for younger divers where applicable (normally when they are already known to the GUE community, and obviously with parental permission). Personally, I have taught a Rec 1 class to a 13-year-old, however, he struggled with some of the theory portions of the class, especially the calculations. “Otherwise, it is 14 years old - Discover Diving, Supervised Diver or Recreational Diver 1, 16 years old - Rec 2 (Rescue, Triox, Navigation), Fundamentals, and DPV1, and 18 years old - Rec 3 (Rec Trimix, Deco), Tech 1 (51m Trimix, Deco) and Cave 1.” Gary Asson, National Diving Officer for the Suba-Aqua Association, said: “The SAA takes the safety and enjoyment of all in our sport very seriously. This is reflected in section 2.5 of the diving officer’s responsibilities, Diving and Young People. This sets out how young people should be trained, and what they can do at what age. “10-11 year olds can participate in trydives, snorkel and scuba training in the pool, to a depth of 3m. 12-13 year olds can do full scuba training, to a depth of 15m, and can qualify to SAA Open Water/ CMAS 2* Diver. 14-17 year olds may build up experience, knowledge and skill to qualify as SAA Dive Leader. Once qualified, they can dive to 35m, and can lead divers qualified to SAA Club Diver level and above.” Mark Powell, business development manager for TDI/SDI, said: “Students between the ages of 10-14
may obtain an SDI Junior Open Water Scuba Diver certification, and then when they reach the age of 15, they may upgrade to an SDI Open Water Scuba Diver certification.” BSAC encourages a love for the marine environment from a very early age, with activities specifically designed for young children to enjoy with their families. Courses such as BSAC Beachcomber help young ones to discover the rock pool wonders of our coastline and parents can download the course materials for free. When it comes to getting youngsters safely into the water, BSAC Snorkelling – which is open to children from the age of six is the next step. BSAC Snorkelling is an ideal intro to the underwater environment and helps to develop in-water confidence. Their entry-level Ocean Diver course is open to children from the age of 12 and once qualified, under-14s can scuba dive to a maximum of 20m. Youngsters can then go on to the next BSAC
diver grade, Sports Diver, and can also participate in a range of Skill Development Courses to widen their knowledge. From the age of 16, young people can embark on BSAC’s instructor training courses to extend their experience. RAID allows training to start at ten years old for junior divers, with the use of training credits (the online training materials) varying from 10-11 year olds who will use a Junior Open Water credit (maximum depth 15m), and 12-15 year olds who will use the Open Water 20 qualification with various junior diver restrictions (maximum depth 20m). IANTD has long supported diving being available to as wide a range of people as possible, including youth. With this in mind, the IANTD recreational programmes are available from 12 onwards, including rebreather experience. However, the IANTD reputation is more firmly established for technical and advanced diving programmes. Here they accept students from 15. Scuba diving opportunities for children in the PADI system start from the age of eight years old, with the PADI Bubblemaker, a pool experience where kids try diving in shallow pool water. The PADI Seal Team is also available for children from eight years. This is a more in-depth programme which introduces a variety of skills to children over a series of Aquamissions, such as Creature ID Specialist, Safety Specialist and Night Specialist. The first full certification option for children is the Junior PADI Open Water course, which they can begin when they turn 10. After certification, 10 and 11 year olds have a maximum depth of 12m and must dive with a PADI Professional or Parent/Guardian. 12-14 year olds have a maximum depth of 18m after certification and must dive with an adult certified diver. However, diving education for children doesn’t end there! Junior PADI Open Water Divers can also go on to complete their Junior Adventure Diver along with many PADI Specialties, and when they turn 12, they can complete their Junior Advanced Open Water course and Junior Rescue Diver courses. n
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Since ticking the Galapagos off his diving bucket list, GAVIN ANDERSON had another target in mind â€“ Raja Ampat. Would this Indonesian icon live up to expectations? Photographs by GAVIN ANDERSON
Turtle flypast on the reef
these finds were just the Hors d’oeuvre to what day three was to bring. We had moved north in the sheltered Triton Bay northeast of Aiduma island and first thing on day three as the sun was rising out from the water we headed out in two groups in the Aggressor’s RIB tenders. Our excitement and anticipation was high as we were headed for one of several anchored fishing platforms, or bagans. For years, local Papuan fisherman on their bagans have believed the whalesharks that visit them attracted by their fishing activities are a good omen and bring them luck, so as a thank you they happily toss fish scraps into the water for them. The sharks visit the platforms daily apart from two or three days either side of a full moon. Mornings and evenings are the best time to see the sharks as they tend to move away by the middle of the day. When the sharks turned up, we nervously kept our distance, not wanting to interfere with their break-
aja Ampat - exquisite, mysterious, enchanting, with its hundreds of stunningly beautiful tropical islands, white sandy beaches, secret caves, ancient rock carvings and rare crimson bird of paradise, but most importantly, the most-pristine coral reefs left on our planet. This Indonesian paradise location had been on my bucket list for almost 15 years. Having at last reached the Galapagos Islands, I was ready to see Raja Ampat. As always to get a deal, I was going towards the end of the season, perhaps risking not getting the best conditions, but I was confident of some amazing diving. With the excellent help of Dive Worldwide, I booked the flights and in April last year flew off nearly halfway around the world, via Dubai and Jakarta, where I had a short overnight before going on to Ambon, where I spent a couple of days acclimatising before taking the last leg to Kaimana on the western side of Indonesian-owned Papua New Guinea, where I joined the Raja Ampat Aggressor liveaboard. Our itinerary was Triton Bay to Misool, the south part of Raja Ampat. I was excited - Triton Bay has been dubbed by some as ‘the next frontier of Indonesian diving’ and the ‘last best place’ to dive. It’s known for its nutrient-rich upwellings feeding fantastic soft coral gardens and is the place where whalesharks congregate under fishing platforms to feast on scraps from the local fishermen. On day one we dived around the northeast coast of Aiduma island at sites like Little Komodo and Bow Rainbow, where sheltering in among wispy white forests of soft corals we watched schools of anthias, fusiliers, damselfish and sweetlips. Our visibility was a little disappointing but macro life was great and with the help of our guides we found plenty to photograph. As well as the dedicated white wispy corals, we enjoyed huge rocky areas covered in orange, yellow and pink cauliflower-style corals. These were home to both pink and yellow pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, shrimps and various juvenile fish species. On our first night dive, we saw crocodilefish and the endemic Triton Bay walking shark! It was only five years ago that these amazing creatures were discovered by science. On day two we headed south to Dramai Rock, where we found undescribed dorid nudibranchs, soft coral cowries, octopus bubble shrimp and gobies, pipefish and bumphead parrotfish, and at Batu Jeruck - better known as Orange Rock due to the encrustations of orange soft corals - we found our first wobbegong shark, but all Angelfish graze across the reef
Whip coral and gorgonian provide vivid colours
Dolphins put on a display for the divers
Raja Ampat has some of the world’s healthiest reefs
Dive Worldwide is a dive-specialist tour operator that has been established for more than 17 years, and its team of friendly dive experts are dedicated to creating exceptional tailor-made and small group diving holidays to the world’s finest dive destinations. www.diveworldwide.com Whaleshark
Shore visit on the RIB
fast visit beneath the huge fishing nets, and we watched in awe as the sharks cruised in and then up towards the nets, fully opening their mouths to suck in vast quantities of water and tiny fish particles. Once they’d had a good mouthful they turned and swam off to let one of the other sharks in. Circling back and forth they came closer and closer to us and in time, we grew more confident to swim a little closer to them. I have been lucky to dive with up to three whalesharks at once in Mozambique but only for a few minutes. The experience of diving with these Triton Bay ‘bagans sharks’ was something I’ll never forget, something very special and in terms of whaleshark encounters, surely unsurpassable. And it wasn’t just whalesharks - on our second dive we were treated to a little sideshow as a pod of dolphins showed up to join in the feast. Swooping up from below they moved at lightning speed compared to the much-slower whalesharks, gathering up small silvery scraps in their beaks. It was only day three and we had lots to look forward to, hopefully more wobbegongs, pygmy seahorses and amazing reefs. Back on the boat some of us enjoyed a fantastic massage, some a few beers and some just soaked up an awesome sunset. Life on the Raja Ampat Aggressor was no hardship. Dinner was five courses and definitely five stars - fresh seafood, steaks and delicious desserts. After dinner we had some informal lectures, information on shark biology and in particular walking sharks, as well as teasers for other Aggressor trips so we could see where we were going to be heading next! For us that was towards Misool, but due to unseasonal stormy weather it wouldn’t be via the planned route to the west where we hoped to dive some really special sites, but the more-normal route via Momon island. Momon Island offered us drift dives over a more hard coral landscape underwater with batfish, schools of jacks, moorish idols, sweetlips and occasional splashes of soft corals, gorgeous angelfish, staghorn and table coals. On reaching Misool we were greeted to the most-amazing sunset, a good omen for the diving to come. Raja Ampat translates into Four Kings, and comes from a local mythology about a woman who finds seven eggs. Four of them hatched and became kings of the four biggest islands (Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo), while the other three become a ghost, a woman, and a stone. Misool is the most-beautiful place, a real divers’ paradise
with some of the best coral reef diving in the world. Known for its amazing soft corals, shallow mangroves with saltwater crocodiles, mantas and pelagic species, alongside a host of amazing small critters from ghost pipefish to harlequin shrimp and pygmy seahorses and gorgeous flasher wrasse, it is a very special place. Conservation has been very important in Misool. A no-takezone created in 2005 was expanded in 2010 to some 465 square miles in 2010 by the great work of the owners of Misool Eco Resort. From its creation in 2005, it has taken many years, but Misool Eco Resort is now one of the top eco-resorts in the world - and award-winning too. We took an afternoon off to visit it. More than 150 villagers work in some capacity at or for the resort and a dozen men from the village have taken on the responsibility of becoming park rangers, patrolling the 1,220 sq km Misool Eco Resort No-Take Zone in two dedicated speedboats financed from private donations. Normally, Misool is great for either wide-angle or macro photography, but the unusual weather had reduced the normally excellent visibility so I just stuck to my trusted 60mm lens photographing hawkish nudibranch, crinoid shrimps, unusual cowries, coral shrimps, anemonefish, blennies and pygmy seahorses, Nudibranch
Pontoh’s pygmy seahorse
“I was excited - Triton Bay has been dubbed by some as ‘the next frontier of Indonesian diving’ and the ‘last best place’ to dive”
The Raja Ampat Aggressor
The Aggressor Fleet offers a wide range of luxury yachts in destinations all over the planet, delivering divers to some of the world’s best diving spots, including the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Southeast Asia and Pacific Ocean. www.aggressor.com Whaleshark under the bagans
“Here there are two large underwater windows that are a wide-angle photographer’s dream, especially when the surrounding reef is full of stunning soft corals and schooling fish” fire gobies and boxer crabs, and loads of other amazing reef fish. We dived at T-Bone Reef, the Dome and at night in Southern Bay, where we found all sorts of amazing critters, from the corallimorph decorator crab to tiny multi-coloured miniature squat lobster, weird nudibranchs and sleeping fish. The next morning we were up early and it was time for a wide-angle lens again at a site called Magic Mushroom. This had to be my favourite local dive of our trip. Close to Warakaket Island, it’s a site with everything from manta ray cleaning stations, vibrant soft corals, schooling snapper and trevally, sweetlips and butterflyfish, cruising whitetip reef sharks, turtles, a tasselled wobbegong, a friendly humphead wrasse, barramundi cod, large gorgonian fans, vibrantly coloured wire corals and amazing different landscapes from a wonderful wall to a sloping reef full of elephant ear sponges and pink soft corals. It was a high-energy, breath-taking spot. Following Magic Mountain I opted for more macro at a place called Gus Ridge and found mantis shrimp, wobbegong, crabs and leaf scorpionfish. We also dived Yillet Kecil and after sunset Romeo, where we encountered more walking sharks, sleeping unicorn and filefish. The next day it was back to Magic Mushroom for more sharks and Napoloean wrasse and tasselled wobbegongs, and the excitement continued as we dived another classic site straight afterwards, Bo Window. Here there are two large underwater windows that are a wide-angle photographer’s dream, especially when the surrounding reef is full of stunning soft corals and schooling fish. The island the dive site is on is fairly small and with mild current a complete circumnavigation on a single dive is possible. There’s a lovely wall that drops off to the sandy bottom at around 35m. Sadly, it started to rain when we dived Bo’s, but it was still an awesome dive and we were joined by a school of spadefish which weaved one way and then the next, keeping us company on our safety stop. At Nudi Rock the corals and scenery were equally breathtaking and we had close encounters with turtles, pufferfish and triggerfish. At night at Whale Rock we found giant frogfish and lobster and the next day at Grouper Net and then Plateau, we en-
joyed finding both normal pygmy seahorses and the stunningly marked Raja Ampat pygmy seahorse, some amazing nudibranchs, mantis shrimp, hairy spider crabs and wire coral shrimps. You’d think we’d just about seen it all when we jumped in at a site called Love Potion, but here my highlight was spending half the dive following and watching a feeding sea snake. It was just one of many highlights you can expect when you visit one of the last amazing frontier dive destinations left on our planet! It was time to leave Misool on day eight of our nine days of diving around the south part of Raja Ampat. Our last day as we headed back to Sorong would allow just two morning dives muck diving at a place called Algae Patch. Diving sand divers, tiny pipefish, brightly coloured nudibranchs of all shapes and sizes, ghost pipefish, mantis shrimp and shrimp gobies kept our file count on our memory sticks increasing right to the very end of an unforgettable trip. n Tasselled wobbegong
Napoleon at Magic Mountain Sunset over Raja Ampat
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Q&A : Phil Short
IANTD UK TRAINING DIRECTOR PHIL SHORT is the man to go to when you want to explore virgin cave systems, venture deep underwater to some long-forgotten shipwreck, or delve into some historical site lying hundreds of metres below the surface. Scuba Diver talked to the expedition expert about what drives his interests. Photographs by JANNE SUHONEN, BRETT SEYMOUR, GAVIN NEWMAN, ANDERS TORTENSSON and courtesy of PHIL SHORT
Q: You are renowned for some of your ground-breaking expeditions - have you always been an adventurer? A: As a young boy, play was anything and everything outdoors, swimming in the local river and making rafts, building tree houses and dens, and even digging tunnels (As a huge early life fan of The Great Escape, especially Steve McQueen… I still am!). This beginning lead to adventure sports holidays with abseiling, climbing, kayaking and, of course, caving. As a college student I had a Saturday job in the local camping and outdoors shop and we were asked to put a notice up for a talk at the local university, Cave Diving. Of course I went and sat enthralled by my now-friend Martyn Farr’s tales of exploration beneath the earth and left with an early copy of The Darkness Beckons, which I read and read again. And as they say, ‘the rest was history’. I was proud and honoured to feature in the recent newest edition of Martyn’s book with a description of Bill Stone’s J2 cave expedition in 2013, where I spent 45 days living underground and exploring virgin cave. Q: How did you get into diving in the first place? A: I started from a background of dry caving, or speleology, and fascinated by the submerged sections of cave where the roof dipped to meet the water, I joined the British Cave Diving Group as a trainee diver and searched out basic scuba training through a dive school in Poole, Dorset. The instructor of that course, Steve Axtell, was an inspiration and his teaching and enthusiasm birthed in me a love of diving that has never diminished, and I doubt ever will. Q: When did you first get drawn to technical diving? A: You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘the right tool for the job?’ Well, I never really thought of myself as a technical diver, just a passionate (obsessed) diver who would learn new skills, techniques and then practice them to safely achieve the dives I wanted to make to visit the parts of the underwater world that interested me most. I still dive single tank occasionally, when it is right for the dive - my wife and I did a 6m shore dive the morning after our sunset wedding in Grand Cayman and it was one of my life top dives! But to answer your question, I first moved into diving with gases other than air and multiple cylinder configurations in the mid-1990s.
Descending into the J2 cave sump
In the frozen wastelands of Norway
In the depths of Ojamo mine in Finland at the infamous Hell’s Gate
The J2 cave camp
Q: For you personally, what is the attraction of technical diving? A: Really this question is linked to the one above regarding my entry into ‘technical diving’. The real attraction, if you wish to call it that, is safety, using multiple cylinders to give redundancy, using various mixed gases to reduce or eliminate narcosis, and to lower decompression sickness risk. The benefits can be summed up in cave diving pioneer Check Exley’s book Blueprint for Survival, where he covers the vital rules to safely dive in flooded caves, such as three light sources, continuous guideline and most important of all… training! Once all that is achieved the benefit is to see places and things no one has seen before, a virgin newly discovered shipwreck or an unexplored cave. Those lures are genuinely why I do it. Q: You have logged thousands of hours on closed-circuit rebreathers. How much difference has this technology made to your expeditions? A: I have to say the difference has been immeasurable and I can illustrate that with one particular example from my career. On the J2 project in Southern Mexico, led by Bill Stone, my friend Marcin Gala and I were privileged to be the exploratory team beyond sump two and the first human beings ever to pass the 600-metre-long sump four to explore virgin dry cave beyond. Now to pass that 600-metre-long sump did not take just one dive, rather tens of dives transporting gear to camp beyond sump two and multiple dives to lay line and pass, survey and then transport gear to explore beyond in sump four. Of course, in modern cave diving, 600 metres is a short sump, but this 600-metre-long sump was over one kilometre of vertical descent and over ten kilometres of horizontal caving to reach! Rebreathers were the only way, as you can’t just nip back to the surface for a cylinder fill. It took a team of 55 people three months to achieve that exploration, with Marcin and I spending nine days beyond sump two alone on the final exploration.
Hard at work at the Antikythera site
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CHANNELING SYSTEM o p t imiz e s k ic k sta b il it y w it h co n t ro l le d co mfo r t
WAV E R I B T E C H N O LO G Y
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Checking out an ore cart at 70m in Langban Mine in Sweden
On the Aquarius site in Key Largo, Florida
Surfacing from a cold dive in Finland
In the Ressel system on the Suunto â€˜why I diveâ€™ shoot
Squeezing through a gap in Picos in Spain
Q: You have been involved in some seriously challenging expeditions around the world. What is it about putting yourself in these demanding situations that you obviously thrive on? A: The drive to explore. As Hillary was first to summit Everest, as Amundsen was first to reach the South Pole, and as Armstrong was first to stand on the moon, the spirit of human exploration fuels my passion to visit remote parts of our planet and often spend long periods of time cold or hot, wet, dirty, hungry and exhausted for the chance to explore. Q: What has been your worst moment while diving or on expedition? A: A sad, sad memory, but one I keep with me to remember and honour a friend. I was on an expedition to explore and map an undived mine some years back, and the expedition was one of the best for the camaraderie that makes expedition life so great. In the team were divers who have become lifelong friends, almost family and that means a lot.
One of the support divers sadly passed away due to undiagnosed medical reasons that led to an embolism and we all lost a great friend… It was so hard for me and us all. In our friend’s honour, the expedition continued, pulling us closer still to each other and led on to a second exped in the same mine some years later. I miss you my friend, you are remembered.
On the Tulsamerican B-24 recovery project
Q: On the flip side, what has been your best moment while diving or on expedition? A: This is the easiest question you have asked! The person next to you and the entire team on the dive, in the remote camp or underground. That camaraderie is golden and dispels fear, belittles fatigue and hunger, and fuels you with support, shared endeavour and, of course, banter! Q: Which expeditions or projects have been the most-memorable for you over the years? A: Probably the two stand-out projects for me of my career have been the Antikythera Shipwreck expedition and the J2 Cave expedition, although there have been so many wonderful expeditions over the years. What particularly stands out and makes Antikythera special is the fact that my business partner and wife, Gemma, and I were able to complete four seasons of the project together as she is a bottom diver and the team’s medic. What better than to be doing what you love with the person you love! Langban Mine in Sweden
The Antikythera team doing a Cousteau re-enactment
Q: What’s next for Phil Short? A: My wife and I set up a company two years ago called Dark Water Exploration Ltd (www.darkwaterexploration.com) to serve the scientific diving community and in those years we have worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, The US National Parks Service, the Greek Ephorate of Submerged Antiquities, Lund University Sweden and the US DPAA among others on Roman shipwrecks, wooden sailing ships, caves and a B-24 bomber and the next year is busy with continuations of some of these projects and the beginnings of some exciting new ones with these teams and others. On a lighter note, I’m actually 50 later this year, so looking for a great dive to pass that anniversary! n
APEKS RK3 FINS (SRP: £120)
The Apeks RK3 fins have been extremely popular since they were first launched, scoring highly in our recent group test and in Long Term Test. Designed in collaboration with the US military and renowned for outstanding performance and reliability, the RK3 is a rugged thermoplastic rubber fin with a chunky spring strap on the heel. The black originals were soon joined by some snazzy white versions, and now the RK3 is available in grey, yellow and orange. www.apeksdiving.com
SANTI DIVING PRIMALOFT SOCKS (SRP: £50)
Santi Diving Primaloft socks are made from the Primaloft Silver series insulation, and are characterized by an ergonomic shape and exceptional flexibility. They are lightweight, durable and breathable, and easy to wash and dry, and they come in sizes ranging from XXS to XXL. www.santidiving.com
MARES JUNO (SRP: £35)
FINNSUB FLY SPELEO (SRP: £545 WITHOUT WEIGHT POCKETS / £675 WITH WEIGHT POCKETS)
Finnsub have extended their sidemount range with the launch of the Fly Speleo. This two-layer wing comes in two sizes and two styles (valves/holes inside and outside) – valves inside are required by real explorers and cave divers, and valves inside are more common in the recreational market. It is equipped with a one-continuous piece of webbing harness, is designed to be perfectly streamlined even when full of air, and the soft weight pack can take up to 14kg of lead. www.finnsub.com
The Juno is a frameless single-lens mask with a soft, comfortable silicone skirt that incorporates a pivoting buckle for the strap. It is available in a wide range of colours – blue/white, lime/black, pink/clear, white/clear, white/black, white/blue, and red/black. For those with a wider face, then the Jupiter is the same style as the Juno but with an XL skirt for bigger faces. The Jupiter – also £35 - is available in black/white, blue/black, red/white and white/black. www.mares.com
OMS SMARTSTREAM HARNESS (SRP: £125-£199)
FOURTH ELEMENT XEROTHERM (SRP: TOPS AND LEGGINGS £89.90 EACH)
The SmartStream Harness has been developed to aid configuration challenges which may arise when donning a heavy rig. By pulling the waist straps forward, the shoulder straps secure to the diver’s shoulders and back. This unique OMS system allows the use of OMS Weight Pockets to be attached, or even extra space to hold a canister light. The Harness features threeand-a-half metres of 5cm nylon webbing and six 316 Stainless Steel D-Rings with weight stops included. One size fits all – you just cut the webbing to fit. The Smartstream webbing with stainless hardware is £125, with aluminium hardware it is £149, and with chemically resistant webbing it comes in at £199. www.omsdive.com
AQUALUNG PHAZER FINS (SRP: £86)
From beginner to expert, Aqua Lung’s Phazer fin, with its revolutionary composite wave rib technology, provides the perfect balance for divers to produce powerful kicks with easy but energy-maximizing movements. Designed and produced with a tri-material construction and an advanced canalisation system, everything about this fin is engineered to optimize the energy you load and release with every kick. The revolutionary side ribs are the heart of the Phazer. The elastomeric rubber sections of the ribs work together with the wave-shaped structures, accumulating the energy of every kick that is released during the kick cycle. The effect is a solid, powerful yet easy kick, suitable for beginners as well as for expert divers. It is equipped with a new bungee strap and heel-pad for quick and easy donning and doffing. www.aqualung.com/uk
When the Fourth Element Xerotherm came out some 17 years ago, it revolutionised drysuit diving. Here was lightweight, fast-wicking, machine-washable base layer unlike anything else seen on the market – and now it has been given a makeover for 2018. And ladies rejoice, as there is now a women’s version! Like its predecessor, the new Xerotherm comprises of a longsleeved top and leggings, and is again made from Polartec Powerstretch, which was originally developed for NASA. It is designed to be worn on its own under a neoprene drysuit, or layered up under other undersuits with trilaminates. The top has flat seams and a long body to ensure no separation between the top and leggings, and there are thumb loops on the sleeves to keep them in place while donning a drysuit. The leggings have a high waistband for a good overlap with the top, and the unique foot pocket design ensure the leggings do not ride up. You can also get a Xerotherm sleeveless vest for £46.50, and Xerotherm socks for £19.90. www.fourthelement.com
THIS ISSUE: REGULATORS UNDER £275
Each month, the SCUBA DIVER test team assembles to rate and review a selection of dive equipment from a range of manufacturers. Products are split into price categories and are then evaluated for performance, comfort, ease of use, build quality, looks and value for money. The Test Team comprises Editor in Chief Mark Evans and a squad of volunteers, whose dive experience ranges from a couple of hundred dives to well over 6,000.
BUDGET REGULATORS This issue, we look at one of the most vital pieces of the modern divers’ kit bag - regulators, or more specifically, budget regs. Without a solid, reliable reg, you aren’t going anywhere underwater. A large array of manufacturers produce regulators, and our aim here at Scuba Diver is to give you the widest selection in each review. Alas, the budget bracket is a little slim on the ground due to major distribution changes with the likes of Oceanic, Hollis, and Sherwood Scuba.
ON TEST THIS MONTH: • APEKS ATX40 • MARES PRESTIGE 15X • SCUBAPRO MK11/C370
Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis
Date tested: 15/2/18 Water temp: 6 degrees C
APEKS ATX40 | SRP: £236 Blackburn-based Apeks Marine Equipment has been around for over 40 years, and since that time the company’s regulators have found a special place in the heart’s and kit bags - of many British divers. The ATX40 has been around for seemingly eons, and is perhaps best described as the ‘Land Rover Defender of regs’, utilitarian in looks, but gets the job done. It has everything you could want in a cold-water regulator - environmentally sealed over-balanced first stage, large purge button, chunky venturi lever, four low-pressure ports and two high-pressure ports. There is no getting away from the fact that the ATX40 is looking a little dated these days, and aesthetics are becoming increasingly important, a fact Apeks have recognised when you look at the MTX-R and XTX200, for instance, which are serious lookers as well as top performers. That said, it is still a solid little regulator, which breathes well even under duress, refused to freeflow even when pushed to extremes, and is equipped with a super-comfortable Comfo-Bite mouthpiece. The huge purge is efficient and easy to locate and operate even with thick gloves on, and the same applies to the venturi lever. This particular test unit was a little wet upside down, which is not the norm for Apeks, but still a great little reg. www.apeksdiving.com/uk
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.1kg | HOSE: rubber | VENTURI: yes VERDICT: Looking rather dated, especially the second stage, against its rivals, but still a solid-performing regulator with a fine pedigree - and you can’t fault that price.
MARES PRESTIGE 15X | SRP: £263 Mares products have always had a sense of style as well as a sense of purpose, and the Prestige regulator continues that trend. The 15x first stage is extremely compact, yet still offers four low-pressure ports and two high-pressure ports, while the second stage looks are simple yet effective, and strangely reminiscent of another high-end regulator brand. As with the majority of Mares regs, there is no venturi or cracking resistance control, instead it is equipped with Mares’ Vortex Assisted Design (VAD) technology, a nifty bit of engineering that allows for easy breathing at all depths. It is also the only reg in this price bracket to come with a super-flexible braided hose. The Prestige 15x is a cracking little regulator, which has some neat design features. The small first stage, while being dinky, has well planned ports, which are orientated for the ideal hose routing, and with the Superflex braided hose, there is minimum resistance when you are moving your head. The VAD technology in the second stage does the trick, and it provided a smooth breathe even when we put it through all manner of exercises. The technopolymer body of the second stage is extremely lightweight, and combined with the comfortable mouthpiece, there was little chance of jaw fatigue. Good regulator with some nice touches. www.mares.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 772g | HOSE: braided | VENTURI?: no VERDICT: Eye-catching regulator with some neat design flourishes that do aid the performance, all wrapped up in a lightweight package equipped with a braided hose.
SCUBAPRO MK11/C370 | SRP: £229 Scubapro has been churning out high-quality dive gear for over 50 years, and the MK11/C370 certainly slots into the roll-call well. The tried-and-tested air-balanced diaphragm MK11 has a compact chrome-plated brass body and boasts four low-pressure ports and two high-pressure ports. The C370 second stage body is made from fibreglass reinforced nylon and now features a balanced valve (a major change from the C350 predecessor) and new exhaust tee. It retains its good looks, though - when SubGear was still in existence, the earlier incarnation of this was their regulator for the next price bracket up. It is the only reg in this price segment to feature both a venturi lever and a cracking resistance control. The MK11/C350 was a nice little unit, with good looks matched to a decent performance, but the C370 has upped the ante, and the performance is now noticeably improved. Scubapro has managed to retain the high-end good looks of the second stage while providing an even-smoother breathe. It was nice and dry in all positions, coped admirably with whatever we threw at it, and the venturi - and in particular, the cracking resistance control - really did make a difference to the breathe. Nice large purge, comfy mouthpiece, neat first stage and awesome price point. www.scubapro.com
It was a real shame we didn’t have any regulators from Hollis, Oceanic or Sherwood Scuba, as without them, this particular price bracket ends up as being quite a small ‘group test’, but the three that we did get all put in a solid performance, and all of the test team said they would quite happily take any of these regulators diving as a primary reg. The Apeks ATX still represents a durable, robust product, and while it is never going to win any beauty pageants, it remains a great little regulator that comes in at an excellent price. The Scubapro MK11/C370 is a fabulous little unit, which breathes extremely well, has a wallet-friendly price, yet manages to look like it belongs in the next price bracket up. For this combination of looks and performance, it nabbed the Best Value award. The Mares Prestige was a bit of a revelation. It is quite subtle in its styling, with gloosy inserts in the second stage, but has enough flair to still capture your attention, and in the water it performed very well, and it manages to come in at a good price point to boot. This garnered it the Choice award.
BEST VALUE TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.23g | HOSE: rubber | VENTURI: yes VERDICT: The MK11/C370 pairing at under £230 is excellent value for money, and with its flashy metal second-stage inserts, it looks to be worth far more than that price tag.
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FOURTH ELEMENT ARGONAUT 2.0 STEALTH | SRP: £1,895 Mark Evans: Fourth Element have carved out a niche for themselves in exposure protection, starting intially with undersuits, branching out into wetsuits, and then rounding out their offerings with the Argonaut drysuit. I first dived the original Argonaut trilaminate, and was impressed back then by the fit, freedom of movement and build quality of the suit, which was given some added Fourth Element style points, including the distinctive logo in the centre of the inflator and the shoulder dump valves, and some other subtle additions to make it stand out from the crowd. This was soon followed by the innovative Argonaut Kevlar, and I was smitten by this suit. The Kevlar material was ultra-thin and just didn’t feel like it should be waterproof, but it was - and yet it meant the whole drysuit weighed about the same as a 5mm wetsuit. It was, by far, the most-comfortable drysuit I have ever dived in - there was no restriction to movement, I could get in or out of it with zero-effort, and best of all, the Kevlar material looked super-cool with its ‘special forces’ grey/ green finish. The Argonaut then went through a bit of a makeover, and the 2.0 version - which was based on a new pattern - was released. Initially this was in the Kevlar, Flex trilaminate, or a combination of both in a unique Hybrid version, but now there is a new kid in town - Stealth. Now hand’s down that wins top prize for a cool name for a drysuit fabric! The range now comprises the Argonaut 2.0 in Flex trilaminate, a Hybrid combining Flex trilaminate with the Stealth material, or a full Argonaut 2.0 Stealth - and the latter is the one I have on test here. I was looking forward to seeing the difference between both the Argonaut and the Argonaut 2.0 ‘cuts’, as well as seeing how the Stealth material could measure up to the Kevlar. At £1,895, it is a top-end suit, but for your hardearned cash, you get a little drawstring care package with talc and zip lubricant, comfort/supportinserts for your boots, a low-pressure inflator hose, a changing mat and, best of all, a nifty storage drybag - no more worrying about water leaking out all over your car during the journey home! I ventured up to our usual test site, Vivian Dive Centre, in Llanberis, Snowdonia, to dive the Argonaut. The sun was shining, but the air temperature was only -2 degrees C when we set off towards North Wales, and it had only risen to 3 degrees C on our arrival. The water temperature was just 5 degrees C, so perfect conditions in which to trial-dive a drysuit - any leaks would be immediately apparent!
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FOURTH ELEMENT ARGONAUT 2.0 STEALTH | SRP: £1,895 The first thing I noticed about the drysuit was how easy it was to get on - it matched the previous Kevlar version in that respect. It felt a little heavier than its predecessor, but nothing noticeable - this is still a very lightweight drysuit. Once fully zipped into the drysuit, the next thing that became clear was how easy it was to move around in. The Stealth material may be a little thicker than the Kevlar, but it has a nice amount of stretch to it, and this means that there is zero restriction to movement - bending around at the water’s edge trying out the range of flexibility, I am sure passing walkers thought I was doing some crazy outdoor fitness session! This flexibility translates well underwater too, and dive buddy Gary Johnson said he was getting fed up of me contorting into all manner of positions during our dive. It is supremely comfortable, and gliding around in a nice trim position was truly effortless. It just didn’t feel like I had a drysuit on. The dual thigh pockets are spacious, and have a smaller internal pocket perfect for small slates, etc, and with D-rings and bungee cords tucked inside, you have plenty of options on how to secure your precious accessories so they don’t get lost. There are also small zippered pockets on the ‘flaps’ of the main pockets, which are handy for a back-up torch. The boots on this Argonaut were the same as on the previous incarnations I had dived, and they are very comfortable - especially with the support insert soles fitted - and with the supple neoprene ‘ankles’, you can make minor movements for delicate positioning with ease. I also like the Velcro straps which go over the top of the instep and help prevent air migration into the boots. I mourned the death of the Argonaut Kevlar, but I have to say that the Fourth Element Argonaut 2.0 Stealth is a worthy successor to its crown. If you are in the market for a stylish, flexible, lightweight, yet durable drysuit, this is well worth checking out. www.fourthelement.com
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Long Term Test SUUNTO EON CORE
APEKS XL4 NEW ARRIVAL
Mark Evans: The EON Core is the ‘baby brother’ of the EON Steel, and shares the same vivid colour TFT screen, but where the control buttons on the Steel were mounted on the front in the metal body, here they are on the side of a composite frame. The Core runs Suunto’s proven Fused RGBM algorithm, and has air, nitrox, trimix, gauge and even CCR (fixed point) modes, meaning you will struggle to outgrow this unit. It has a rechargeable lithium -ion battery, which gives INFORMATION 10-20 hours per charge deArrival date: March 2018 pending on usage, and it can Suggested retail price: £599 connect to multiple PODS for Number of dives: 2 air integration. Time in water: 1 hrs 35 mins www.suunto.com
AQUASKETCH MINNO 1
Mark Evans: We all know that having a slate underwater is useful, and handy when you need to make note of something, or pass on a message to your buddy that requires more than hand signals, but sometimes carrying one can be a pain in the rear. That is where the Minno 1 excels, as it is just neatly sat on your wrist, and is out of the way until you need it. The chunky dials on the side for scrolling through the no-lessthan-ten-feet of writing sheet are easy to use even when INFORMATION wearing gloves, as is the Arrival date: February 2018 included pencil, meaning Suggested retail price: £35 this is not just for Number of dives: 2 warm-water divers. Time in water: 1 hrs 35 mins www.aquasketch.co.uk
Mark Evans: So far the XL4 has only been used in temperate water, either right here in the UK or in the seriously cold waters of Iceland, and it has been downright impressive in its performance, but I will soon be heading for assignments in Spain and Fiji, and that will enable me to tap into its secondary talent, that of being a lightweight travel regulator. Having a lighter unit for travelling is handy, but many people cannot justify having two regs - one for the UK, and one for abroad - so having a combo regulator that can cover both angles like the XL4 is a major bonus. www.apeksdiving.com/uk
INFORMATION Arrival date: October 2017 Suggested retail price: £338 Number of dives: 16 Time in water: 15 hrs 25 mins
SANTI DIVING FLEX 360 Mark Evans: The Flex 360 got its first real run-out for Long Term Test when I donned it for our annual regulator Group Tests. I deliberately do these in February, when the waters of Vivian Quarry are cold, but on the flipside it means it is decidedly on the chilly side for the test team. The perfect testing ground for the Flex 360! It is thinner and less bulky than my go-to undersuit, but I was pleasantly surprised at how warm it still is. Paired up with the X-Core, I was easily able to complete dives of a INFORMATION decent duration before I felt Arrival date: January 2018 the first signs of cold creeping Suggested retail price: £419 in. A good sign for the coming Number of dives: 11 season. Time in water: 10 hrs 10 mins www.santidiving.com
FOURTH ELEMENT X-CORE Mark Evans: The X-Core is the perfect base-layer to keep your torso warm when diving, but it is so lightweight and comfortable that it has a multitude of other uses outside of the diving world. I have already drafted it into service for a few extremely cold, wintry dog walks, and it came in equally useful as a base layer under my cycling top when I went mountain biking in low single-digit temperatures. The X-Core kept me nice and warm while I was getting the bike off the back of the car and preparing to set off on the ride, but didn’t make me overheat once I started to build up my body heat as I made some serious climbs. I am sure it will also INFORMATION come in handy to keep me Arrival date: November 2017 toasty when I am out on the Suggested retail price: £99.50 RIB and the sun is not Number of dives: 13 coming out to play. Time in water: 12 hrs 15 mins www.fourthelement.com
SHEARWATER RESEARCH NERD 2
AQUA LUNG OUTLAW Mark Evans: As with the Apeks XL4, the Aqua Lung Outlaw has seen all of its testing dives so far conducted right here in the UK or on our long-weekend trip to Iceland. It has coped admirably with cold-water diving and all that that entails - drysuits, additional weight, etc but it will be interesting to see the Outlaw in its natural environment, warmer waters where the diver is in a wetsuit, carrying less weight and able to really appreciate the strippedback design of the BCD. I do like how it packs down INFORMATION to virtually nothing, which Arrival date: February 2017 will be useful in the face Suggested retail price: £338 of ever-decreasing weight Number of dives: 16 allowances! Time in water: 15 hrs 35 mins www.aqualung.com/uk
ANCHOR DIVE LIGHTS SERIES 3K END OF TERM
Mark Evans: The obvious candidates for purchasing a NERD 2 are underwater photographers, as it is just so handy having all of your essential dive data available with just a shift of your eyes - there is no glancing at your wrist, or fishing around for a console, while you are in the midst of stalking some rare subject matter, for example. However, I can also see regular divers seeing the benefits of having their dive data right in front INFORMATION of their eyes, it just requires Arrival date: December 2017 a brain shift from the norm Suggested retail price: £1,427 of computers being wrist or Number of dives: 4 console-mounted. Time in water: 3 hrs 25 mins www.shearwater.com
Mark Evans: I will be very sad to see this dive torch head back to the manufacturer, as it has been a trusty companion on dives both in this country and abroad. In its handheld guise, it has a phenomenal beam and an awesome burn time, even on full power - it truly does bely the size of the unit just how bright and penetrating the light is. In UK conditions, it sliced through floating detritus with ease, yet was small enough to be almost forgettable on the back of your hand. Then there was the ability to INFORMATION turn it into an umbilical torch, Arrival date: July 2017 which was a handy feature Suggested retail price: £695 when you needed a longer Number of dives: 42 burn time or more power. Time in water: 41 hrs 25 mins www.anchordivelights.com
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THE ZEN DIVER
Tom Peyton, Vice President of Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures, is called ‘the Zen Diver’ by his wife, and here he offers some hints on how to use diving to create the ultimate ‘chill-out zone’ www.familydivers.com
ZEN AND CLIMATE CHANGE
“AS A BEE GATHERING NECTAR DOES NOT HARM OR DISTURB THE COLOUR AND FRAGRANCE OF THE FLOWER; SO DO THE WISE MOVE THROUGH THE WORLD” - BUDDHA PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF KIDS SEA CAMP
he quote from Buddha can be viewed from many perspectives. I view the saying as simply do no harm as you walk through this journey called life. Do not disturb the essence of life. As with most articles I write, the idea is simple, the practice is hard. So many thoughts and emotions get in the way of seeing the flower for what it is and allowing it to just be. Naturally, most people want to cut the flower, put it in a vase and bring it to a loved one. A wise person would bring the loved one to the flower and let it continue through its life cycle. An even-wiser person would build a flower garden so the colour and fragrance overwhelms the senses and the mere thought of any disturbance would be criminal. Do not harm. So how does this pertain to us divers and climate change? The quote really could be a mantra for managing the human existence on Earth. Drink from the nectar of this wonderful world, but do not destroy the garden the planet creates. We divers can be paradoxical of thoughtfulness and mindless neglect. How often do your fins accidentally come into contact with the reef? How many resorts still use bottled water without a valid means of recycling? How many divers still eat fish that are on the brink of extinction on a sushi night out? Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment practice key to Zen. For us divers, you could say a dive is a Zen metaphor; living one breath, one bubble at a time. But what the hell does this have to do with climate change? Well, build your garden of flowers and enjoy the fragrance but do not disturb the blossom’s essence. But how? How can divers worry about climate change even though we have some mindless practices that we know are affecting our planet? Well, we change - one bubble at a time and one day at a time. You can’t change your practice without goals. Protect our oceans and beaches from pollution
Help keep our coral reefs healthy
Here are 10 tips that can minimise your effect on our oceans: 1. Eat less fish and more veggies. I know this is a tough one, but reducing your consumption of any kind of meat is better for the planet. Plus, eating more veggies reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and the chance of diabetes. That’s right, not only is it good for the planet, it’s good for you! 2. Buy locally grown food. Takes a lot less energy to get it to market. 3. Reduce your use of plastics - get cloth grocery bags instead of the store’s plastic, get reusable glass water bottles instead of plastic ones. 4. Recycle everything you can - glass, paper, cardboard, metal and, of course, plastic. Here’s the real key, make sure everyone buys into it - our company has a goal to be paperless by the end of 2018. And every member of our household recycles. 5. Plant trees (duh, right?) But be sure they are native to the area you live. 6. Transportation (another duh) - ride a bike or walk as much as you can. 7. Replace your current home appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher) with a high-efficiency model. 8. Support coral-reef restoration at every resort. That means give them your money, your time, or both. 9. Pick island destinations where they practice healthy reef protection. Bonaire has a national marine park around the entire island. Palau is one of the first countries in the world to ban shark finning. The Philippines has more than 700 marine sanctuaries, including Apo Island. 10. When flying, try to always fly direct. Planes use a lot of fuel taking off and landing. Simple answer: Be the bee and don’t kill the nectar-producing flower we all need to survive. n
An experience without equal “The diving and snorkelling at Wakatobi is outstanding, that’s well known. But also important is the excellent customer service of every staff member. Wakatobi can teach customer service to any industry or organization. You feel at home the first day, and it just gets better every day after that.” ~Steve and Cindy Moore