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WIN A SUUNTO EON CORE DIVE COMPUTER AND AIR-INTEGRATED POD WORTH OVER £850!

HOW TO BREATHE EASY:

SEEKING THE SEAKING:

SIX MID-PRICED REGULATORS RATED AND REVIEWED IN THE GEAR GUIDE GROUP TEST

JASON BROWN DELVES INTO THE STORY BEHIND VOBSTER QUAY’S LATEST ATTRACTION

BEYOND BIONIC’S ACTION MAN ANDY TORBET TALKS DIVING, CLIMBING, SKYDIVING AND BEING ON KID’S TV

ISSUE 14 | APR 18 | £3.25

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Dive right in to The Fish & Ships Giveaway. A perfect view from both sides of the isle.

If you’re of the mindset that there’s nothing more beautiful than a reef-encrusted relic 80 feet under the waterline, have we got a contest for you. It’s The Fish & Ships Dive Trip Giveaway… 6 days and 3 dives amid the wrecks and reefs of The Florida Keys, including airfare, accommodations and car rental. How’s that for a bottom line? For complete details and to sign up, go to fla-keys.com/diving.


EDITOR’S NOTE Torbet back on the telly

INSPIRING YOUNG DIVERS It is great to see Andy Torbet back on our TV screens, fronting Children’s BBC series Beyond Bionic, in which the Scottish action man takes on all manner of challenges using an array of high-tech gadgets in an attempt to compete against some of nature’s most-impressive creatures. Not all of the animals Andy goes head-to-head with are underwater, but already he has swum with seals and mako sharks, and I am sure there will be more to come in future episodes. My son Luke is a huge fan, and if Andy’s exploits can open up our underwater world to more kids, then that is great news, and dovetails nicely with our The Next Generation section. It debuted last month and already I am being inundated with photographs and information from proud parents and proactive dive centres keen to shout about their younger dive stars. We want to showcase these keen kids and talented teens, so remember to email us on: nextgen@scubadivermag.com with details of your ‘next generation’. On a completely different track, what on earth is going on with the weather? As I write this Editor’s note, it is mid-March and the country is still shivering under a thick blanket of snow and ice from the second ‘beast from the east’. Aren’t we supposed to be in Spring by now, with Summer waiting in the wings? However, it was refreshing to see that you cannot stop hardcore divers from diving, and when I ventured across the country to Stoney Cove for a trydive on a rEvo closed-circuit rebreather on a Mares demo day, even though there were constant snow flurries and it was bitterly cold, the bottom car park was nearly full. Everyone was in high spirits, laughing and joking as they stood there in full dive kit under a dusting of snow in sub-zero temperatures, and while many people might think this is completely insane behaviour, I prefer to think that it shows just how resilient our hardy British divers truly are. Snow, ice, blizzards, freezing rain - bring it on! Although having said that, I would quite like to see blue skies, bright sunshine and warmer temperatures too, so roll on the Summer!

MARK EVANS, Editor-in-Chief

EDITOR IN CHIEF

Mark Evans Tel: 0800 0 69 81 40 ext 700 Email: mark.evans@scubadivermag.com

DESIGN

Matt Griffiths Email: matt@griffital.uk

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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. is a registered trademark of Rork Media.

ISSN 2514-2054

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WIN A SUUNTO EON CORE DIVE COMPUTER AND AIR-INTEGRATED POD WORTH OVER £850!

HOW TO BREATHE EASY:

SEEKING THE SEAKING:

SIX MID-PRICED REGULATORS RATED AND REVIEWED IN THE GEAR GUIDE GROUP TEST

JASON BROWN DELVES INTO THE STORY BEHIND VOBSTER QUAY’S LATEST ATTRACTION

ON THE COVER

BEYOND BIONIC’S ACTION MAN ANDY TORBET TALKS DIVING, CLIMBING, SKYDIVING AND BEING ON KID’S TV

ISSUE 14 | APR 18 | £3.25

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‣ The Next Generation ‣ Portland ‣ Grand Turk ‣ Egypt WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

PHOTOGRAPHER: MARTIN HARTLEY

23/03/2018 13:10

REGULAR COLUMNS

FEATURES

USS Lexington discovered over 3,000m down, and a fruitless search for a missing diver off Dover.

Jason Brown heads down to his local inland dive site - Vobster Quay - to check out the latest sunken attraction, a Sea King helicopter, which as he discovers boasts an illustrious past.

8 News

30 Dive like a Pro

A panel of training agency experts offer advice on the essential skills you need to develop.

40 Competition: Suunto EON Core Win a Suunto EON Core and air-integrated POD worth more than £850 in our prize draw.

62 Our-World UW Scholar

Mae Dorricott finally becomes a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

106 The Commercial Diver

Warren ‘Sal’ Salliss gives the floor to a young student on his latest commercial course.

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24 Somerset

34 Indonesia

Jeremy and Amanda Cuff were in Bali shortly before Mt Agung decided to cause havoc with the island’s tourist industry, but as things are now getting back on track, we join them in Tulamben and Nusa Penida.

42 THE NEXT GENERATION

Part two of Luke Evans’ quest to become a PADI Junior Open Water Diver, this time completing his open water dives in the Florida Keys, plus, another case study and an inspiring story of a diving family.

50 Egypt

The Egyptian Red Sea is a hotspot for European divers, being just a five hour flight away, enjoying year-round warm temperatures, and offering some superlative wrecks, walls and reefs. We pick ten ‘must-dive’ sites.

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CONTENTS

58 ABOVE 18m: Portland

Portland Harbour boasts an array of dive sites, which are usually accessible even when the weather conditions blow out other offshore dives, and here we explore the Countess of Erne.

GEAR GUIDE 90 What’s New

New products recently released or coming soon, including Fourth Element swimwear, and the Aqua Lung i100 dive computer.

74 HOUSE REEF: Kri Eco Resort

92 Group Test

76 Q&A: Andy Torbet

100 Test Extra

Each month, we focus on a particular house reef somewhere around the world. In the spotlight for April is the local dive site of the Kri Eco Resort in Raja Ampat.

Adventurer, tech diver, climber and skydiver Ant Torbet chats to Scuba Diver about what got him into diving in the first place, why he is drawn to technical diving, and what it is like being on children’s TV.

84 TECHNICAL Q&A: Malta

Stuart Philpott ventures into deep water off the island of Malta to explore another World War Two casualty, this time the German S-31 Schnelboot.

WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

The Scuba Diver Test Team heads to Vivian Quarry in Snowdonia to test a selection of mid-priced regulators (£275-£400).

The Mares Dragon SLS BCD gets the once-over from Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans.

102 Long Term Test

The Scuba Diver Test Team gets to grips with a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Santi Diving Flex 360 and Fourth Element X-Core.

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NEWS

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

USS LEXINGTON FOUND 76 YEARS AFTER

BEING SUNK IN WWII Researchers showcase stunning images of the iconic US aircraft carrier Lady Lex, which is in amazingly good condition considering the length of time it has been on the seabed Photographs courtesy of Paul G Allen Wreckage from the USS Lexington was discovered on 4 March 2018 by the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G Allen. The Lexington was found 3,000m below the surface, resting on the floor of the Coral Sea, more than 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. “To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honour,” Mr Allen said. “As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice.” As one of the first US aircraft carriers ever built, the Lexington became known as ‘Lady Lex’ and went down with 35 aircraft on board. “Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during World War Two,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Mr Allen. “Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work together with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue. We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.” The USS Lexington was originally commissioned as a battlecruiser, but was launched as an aircraft carrier in 1925. She took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942) along with the USS Yorktown against three Japanese carriers. This was the first carrier versus carrier battle in history and was the first time Japanese forces suffered a permanent setback in its advances on New Guinea and Australia. However, the US lost the Lexington and 216 of its distinguished crew. The Lexington had been hit by multiple torpedoes and bombs on 8 May but it was a secondary explosion causing uncontrolled fires that finally warranted the call to abandon ship. The USS Phelps delivered the final torpedoes that sank the crippled Lady Lex, the first aircraft carrier casualty in history. With other US ships standing by, 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued, including the captain and his dog Wags, the ship’s ever-present mascot. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese

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Navy sank USS Lexington (CV-2), USS Sims (DD-409) and USS Neosho (AO-23) and damaged the USS Yorktown. The Japanese lost one light carrier (Shōhō) and suffered significant damage to a fleet carrier (Shōkaku). “As we look back on our Navy throughout its history, we see evidence of an incredible amount of heroism and sacrifice. The actions of sailors from our past inspire us today,” said Sam Cox, Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command and retired US Navy Rear Adm. “So many ships, so many battles, so many acts of valour help inform what we do now.” The Battle of the Coral Sea was notable not only for stopping a Japanese advance but because it was the first naval engagement in history where opposing ships never came within sight of each other. This battle ushered in a new form of naval warfare via carrier-based airplanes. One month later, the US Navy surprised Japanese forces at the Battle of Midway, and turned the tide of the war in the Pacific for good.

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DIVING DS N E I WITH FR MALDIVES INDONESIA EGYPT S PA I N NEW: Euro-Divers in Lanzerote!

OMAN M AU R I T I U S JA PA N C R O AT I A

Based on some initial success with his M/Y Octopus, Mr Allen acquired and retrofitted the 76-metre R/V Petrel with state-of-the-art subsea equipment capable of diving to 6,000m. Since its deployment in early 2017, the ship was active in several missions in the Philippine Sea before its transition to the Coral Sea off the Australian Coast. Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of the USS Indianapolis (August 2017), USS Ward (November 2017), USS Astoria (February 2015), Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian World War Two destroyer Artigliere (March 2017). His team was also responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honour of its heroic service. Mr Allen’s expedition team was permanently transferred to the newly acquired and retrofitted R/V Petrel in 2016 with a specific mission around research, exploration and survey of historic warships and other important artefacts.

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ALL YOU NEED IS CHOICES AND WE HAVE THEM! M O R E I N F O R M AT I O N AND BOOKINGS:

www.euro-divers.com 09


INDUSTRY NEWS DEEPBLU INTRODUCES DIVE BOOKING FEATURE

THINK DIFFERENT

BECOME DIFFERENT

Today, Deepblu has announced brand new ways for divers to discover their next destination on Planet Deepblu. With the company’s latest release, divers can now book, manage, and communicate with dive businesses before, during, and after their trip, all in one place. On Planet Deepblu, virtually all popular global dive locations are placed on a fully interactive interface, allowing users to browse ratings, navigate reviews, and find out more about dive spots than previously available. Now, dive businesses have this tool at their disposal for free. With tens of thousands of divers already having dive sites at their fingertips, Deepblu has pushed the envelope even further, and will now offer fully interactive dive trip planning and communication between diver and business on the platform. Businesses can now present their services, be seen, and run specials that make them stand out. Trip categories, dive experiences, amenities, and extras can be offered with the click of a button, and potential customers can message each business with the knowledge that they’re on a secure platform designed specifically to cater to the needs of divers. “Planet Deepblu’s goal is to help divers simplify their dive trip planning and booking process so they can spend less time planning their dives and have more time on enjoying their dive experiences. The initial roll out of dive experiences is focused on the North American market with service providers concentrated in the Caribbean, Florida Keys, and Mexico, which will eventually expand to all dive destinations worldwide,” said James Tsuei, CEO of Deepblu. The new, expanded Planet Deepblu allows divers to select dates, find pricing, set up, and book all in one place. As it has been from the start, divers can locate their favorite dive countries, regions, and spots through the platform, and now when they see businesses in their chosen area they will have easy access to services offered. If you’re a beginner looking for a certification course, an advanced diver seeking a new cave dive, or anything in-between, you’re sure to find it on Planet Deepblu. www.deepblu.com

Search called off for diver missing from the Dover coast diveRAIDuk.com

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An extensive search for a Faversham diver who was last seen going diving at 11.30am on Monday 12 March between Walmer and St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe has been called off. The Dover, Dungeness and Walmer RNLI lifeboats, two Coastguard helicopters and the Langdon and Deal Coastguard Rescue Teams scoured the coastline and surrounding waters on the Monday looking for father-of-three Ben Moss, until the search was called off due to darkness falling. The search was resumed the next day, but called off as darkness fell on Tuesday 13 March. Specialist police dive teams from the Metropolitan Police were called in to assist Kent Police on Wednesday 14 March, but despite the search area being saturated, as we went to press he had not been found.

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OUT WITH THE OLD DOWN WITH THE NEW

EON Steel and POD

EON Core and POD

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Sugested retail price £849

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SPRING TRADE IN SUUNTO EON STEEL and EON CORE EXPLORE MORE This Spring, trade in your old computer and have the choice of buying an EON Steel and POD, or an EON Core and POD for a reduced price. For more information visit your nearest Suunto Authorised Dealer. Valid from 1st March 2018 to 31st May 2018 Trade in computer must be functioning www.suunto.com

Follow us on

For more information call 01420 587272 Discover Moves at www.movescount.com @SuuntoDivingUK and at www.facebook.com/SuuntoDivingUK


INDUSTRY NEWS Megalodon tooth stolen from World Heritage Site in Australia Authorities in Australia suspect that a fossilised 8cm tooth belonging to a long-extinct giant shark which has gone missing from a remote national park has been deliberately targeted by thieves. The stolen megalodon tooth, which was one of two located in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Coast, was in a semi-secret location and attached to a rock. Unlike the other tooth, which is visited by tourists, the position of this one was known only by a small group of people, and had actually been physically covered up with natural features to hide it. Arvid Hogstrom, from Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation, commented: “The worst part is they took the better specimen, which was not so well known.” He also said that while the monetary value of the tooth was not known, it ‘would not be very high’ as fossils of teeth from the megalodon, which could grow up to 18 metres in length and weigh up to 100 tonnes have been found across the world, including in Europe, Africa and the Americas.

BID TO FIND STOLEN HERCULES AND SOLVE A 50-YEAR-OLD MYSTERY

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF DEEPER DORSET

A group of divers from Dorset are raising funds to embark on a thorough search of the English Channel in a bid to locate a Hercules aircraft which was stolen and then ditched by a homesick USAF mechanic desperate to see his wife in Virginia. The full facts about the incident and subsequent aftermath are still shrouded in mystery, but the official report states that on 23 May 1969, 23-year-old Vietnam veteran Sergeant Paul Meyer – who had been refused leave shortly beforehand – spent an evening drinking, and then, after escaping from police custody, impersonated a captain, ordered a Hercules C-130E transport aircraft to be refuelled and took off from Mildenhall in Suffolk in a bid to get home to the US. Meyer had a private pilots licence, but nothing that would have given him the experience to fly a complicated four-engined military cargo plane, so it is a miracle he even managed to get the aircraft off the runway in the first place. Tragically, the aircraft disappeared from radar in the middle of the English Channel, shortly after his last recorded words to his wife – who he had made contact with via radio – were ‘leave me alone for five minutes. I’ve got trouble’. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the Hercules fall out of the sky before exploding on impact with the water, and part of the undercarriage was later recovered floating on the surface. However, whether the plane crashed due to pilot error, or was shot down, remains a mystery. Now, the Deeper Dorset group aims to use complex sonar equipment to seek out the remaining wreckage of the Hercules, map it using 3D photogrammetry techniques, and hopefully find some answers for Meyer’s family. According to a spokesman for the group, after studying official records as well as tidal movements and weather conditions at the time, they believe they have five good potential sites within a tensquare-mile section of the Channel, some 30 miles off Portland Bill. The group has launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise £6,000 and is aiming to start sonar scans of the seabed later in the year. To donate, check out: www.deeperdorset.co.uk

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Aquanauts Grenada True Blue & Grand Anse, Grenada Phone: +1 (473) 444 1126 sales@aquanautsgrenada.com www.aquanautsgrenada.com

Dive Grenada Mt Cinnamon Hotel, Grenada Phone: +1 (473) 444 1092 info@divegrenada.com www.divegrenada.com

Lumbadive PADI 5 star Harvey Vale, Tyrell Bay, Carriacou Phone: +1 (473) 443 8566 dive@lumbadive.com www.lumbadive.com

Deefer Diving Carriacou Hillsborough, Carriacou Phone: +1 (473) 443 7882 info@deeferdiving.com www.deeferdiving.com

Eco Dive - Grenada Coyaba Beach Resort, Grenada Phone: +1 (473) 444 7777 dive@ecodiveandtrek.com www.ecodiveandtrek.com

Scuba Tech Calabash Hotel, Grenada Phone: +1 (473) 439 4346 info@scubatech-grenada.com www.scubatech-grenada.com

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INDUSTRY NEWS Dive

diving holidays worldwide

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Samoa creates SHARK SANCTUARY Samoa has declared its waters as a shark sanctuary, joining other Pacific countries to conserve marine life. The announcement was made by the prime minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Aiono Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, at a ministerial shark symposium in Apia, Samoa’s capital, officially banning all commercial fishing, sale and trade for all sharks and rays. “Samoa has joined the positions of other shark conservation Pacific islands by designating our national waters a shark sanctuary, safe for all sharks and rays,” Tuilaepa told the Samoa Observer. “Not only will the complete ban of commercial fishing, sale and trade for all sharks and rays in our waters provide much needed relief declining populations, it will also help prevent further degradation to the health of our oceans,” he added. The prime minister explained that sharks are a significant species to Pacific heritage and play an important role in ‘healthy ocean ecosystems’. Samoa is the eighth Pacific country to create a shark sanctuary. Palau, another Pacific island nation, established the first shark sanctuary in 2009. “We will not sit idly by while the demand for shark products robs us our future generations of these culturally, ecologically and economically valuable species. Let us together continue to safeguard these imperiled species for our future generation.” Tuilaepa told the publication.

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A scuba diver who found the wreck of the first British merchant ship to be sunk during World War One has hopes of safeguarding it as a home for marine life. Amateur diver Steve Dover, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was diving off the Hallaniyat Islands back in 1998 when he discovered the 6,000-tonne City of Winchester, which had become a man-made reef for dozens of species. In August 1914, the ship was shelled by a German ship off the coast of Oman. According to a BBC report, ‘a recent dive revealed the depletion of fish life and Mr Dover is now appealing to the government of Oman to set up a 25-mile no fishing zone around the shipwreck to allow stocks to regenerate’.

Tech diving in Bunaken with Oasis Explorers % OFFLiveaboards 25Luxury Liveaboards Bali | Komodo | Layang Layang Lembeh & Manado | N Sulawesi Philippines | Dumaguete Sangat Is. | Siladan | Thailand Special Liveaboard Itineraries Raja Ampat | Ambon | Banda Sea Derawan Is. | N Andaman Sea

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Diving in Bunaken is famed for the warm, tropical waters, vertical coral walls and panoramic visibility, but most of the dive sites have yet to be explored deeper than recreational scuba diving limits. Situated in the heart of the Bunaken Marine Park in Indonesia, Oasis Explorers is a newly launched technical training facility located at the luxury dive resort, Bunaken Oasis. As the only fully-equipped technical diving facility in the Bunaken Marine Park, Oasis Explorers has state-of-the-art equipment, experienced surface support and technically-trained PADI and TDI instructors, with a range of courses available for those with a taste for adventure. In addition to open-circuit scuba and trimix gases, closed-circuit rebreathers are also an option as the most-innovative equipment for longer, deeper dives. Also at the forefront of this new venture, Oasis Explorers will be working on opportunities in North Sulawesi for more-detailed scientific surveys, environmental awareness for deep-water marine species and the first comprehensive mapping project beyond recreational depths. For a tech-diving expedition unlike anywhere else, experience the adventure of true exploration together with the luxury of Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort. To plan your adventure, enquire at: tech@bunakenoasis.com

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COMMERCIAL DIVER TRAINING LTD

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INDUSTRY NEWS BSAC ‘have a go’ tech event open for all

The only assessment organisation approved by the Health and Safety Executive to undertake all commercial air diving qualifications in England and Wales HSE Professional Scuba, HSE Surface Supplied, HSE Offshore Top Up Careers in archaeological, media and scientific diving all start with the HSE Professional SCUBA

To find out more, why not visit us for Aptitude Day? Experience a Surface Supplied Dive, view the Facilities and meet the Training Team Please visit the website for more details 2017 / 2018 Course Dates available www.commercialdivertraining.co.uk info@commercialdivertraining.co.uk 01726 817128 | 07900 844141

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Following the recent success of its new rebreather ‘have a go’ events, BSAC is now opening up its Try Tech events to non-members. Following events at Stoney Cove and Vobster last year, and Capernwray last month, the next Try Tech will be expanded to four days over the Bank Holiday on 25-28 May at the National Diving and Activity Centre at Chepstow. The weekend is for divers from all agencies to find out more about rebreather diving - from the units themselves and how they work, to the costs and training required, and giving it a go themselves with one of the BSAC Tech Team. Plus, already-trained CCR divers can have a go on other units. Rebreather units available for the sessions include AP, Poseidon, Liberty and Red Bare. The event is an opportunity for like-minded divers to get together and discuss all things technical, enjoy BBQs and evening tech talks. You can also take part in fourday technical training courses with BSAC. Divers can sign up for anything between half-day taster sessions up to four days for the technical training courses. For more on Try Tech NDAC’s weekend programme and to book a session or SDC online, go to: www.bsac.com/trytechndac. The event is open to BSAC members and non-members who are Sports Diver (or equivalent) or above.

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It’s Better than Better in The Bahamas Shark Photography Trip Nassau and Bimini March 2019 from £3595

Return Flights 10 nights Accommodation 8 days of Shark Diving & Night Dives reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk +44 (0) 207 644 8252

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Hosted by Nick & Caroline Robertson-Brown

bahamas.com


INDUSTRY NEWS DIVERS FLOCKING TO THE SOUTHERN RED SEA A CAMERA BUILT FOR A LIFE UNDER WATER

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Diving holiday specialist Regaldive has noticed a surge in demand for their southern Red Sea programme of Marsa Alam, Shams Alam and Hamata, as divers flock to the impressive marine parks of the south. Divers are also reporting that access to liveaboards embarking from Port Ghalib - only ten minutes transfer from the airport - has never been easier. The surge in popularity is due to the increased number of flights to Marsa Alam there has never been a better time to visit. Here’s a selection of southern Red Sea resorts you can book through Regaldive: Marsa Alam is the gateway to the southern Red Sea. Diving is a combination of shore diving and dayboat trips to sites including the legendary Elphinstone Reef - famous for shark sightings - and Sha’ab Samadai, otherwise known as Dolphin House. Trips start from £559pp, including flights, transfers and seven nights half board. Divers staying at Shams Alam have easy access to Dolphin House, Elphinstone and Sha’ab Sharm. Exhilarating drift dives offer the chance to see large schools of jacks and barracuda as well as patrolling reef sharks, hammerheads and tuna. Trips start from £678pp, including flights, transfers and seven nights B&B. The legendary Fury Shoal is right on Hamata’s doorstep, the most-southerly resort in the Egyptian Red Sea. There are over 80 types of coral to discover in this region, all in excellent condition and inhabited by a rich variety of marine species. Trips start from £685pp, including flights, transfers and seven nights soft all-inclusive. Many world-famous dive sites are now accessible thanks to the increased availability of liveaboards operating out of Marsa Alam, including Rocky, Zabargad and St Johns. Trips from Port Ghalib start from £887pp, including flights, transfers, seven nights full board and six days diving. www.regaldive.co.uk

EMPEROR DIVERS AWARDED FEEFO GOLD TRUSTED SERVICE 2018 Feefo, the global ratings and reviews provider of genuine guest feedback, has awarded the Red Sea, Maldives and Indonesia diving company the top-rated ‘Gold Trusted Service Award 2018’ once more. “The accreditation is awarded based on the feedback received directly from guests, making this an award our whole team can be proud of,” explains General Manager Luke Atkinson. “Many thanks to all the guests who took the time to write such constructive reviews, and to Team Emperor who consistently provides that ‘Gold’ service across the company’s liveaboards and dive resorts.” www.emperordivers.com

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Kieran Hatton

CCR Trimix Instructor

Vikki Batten

Martin Robson

Richie Stevenson

Edoardo Pavia

PADI Rebreather Consultant

Cameraman & Explorer

Paul Vincent Toomer Co-Owner, RAID

Cave Explorer

Deep Wreck Explorer

Ian France

CCR Cave Instructor

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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’ve been stationed out in Vietnam with work for a year, and while here I’ve been enjoying all the natural pursuits the country has to offer – among them, diving in inland lakes as well as off the coast, caving, longboating up the river, etc. Recently I had what I thought was just a cold/cough, with the usual symptoms of fever, shivers, muscle pains and a sore throat. It went after four or five days, but someone mentioned a condition called Weil’s disease, and that it was common here and I might have picked it up from the water? Is this possible and what should I do to find out if I’ve got it? A: There are very few notable Adolfs in history: Adolf Fick, who invented the contact lens in 1888; and, er, the other one. Oh, and Adolf Weil, a German physician who first described ‘an acute infectious disease with enlargement of spleen, jaundice and nephritis’ in 1886. Initially therefore called ‘infectious jaundice’, this bacterial illness, now known as leptospirosis, is usually acquired via water contaminated with animal urine coming into contact with eyes or unhealed breaks in the skin. Surfers, rowers, farmers and sewage workers are examples of your at-risk groups; leptospirosis has even been seen in golfers who have become infected while retrieving balls from stagnant pools. Thankfully it’s rare, as it’s a pig to diagnose (much like decompression illness, in this respect). Symptoms vary from none at all to almost anything, but typically an initial flu-like illness resolves before a second phase of meningitis, liver damage and renal failure kicks in. Diagnosis is via blood tests and cultures but can be hit and miss unless there is access to a lab with sophisticated equipment. High doses of antibiotics are required to deal with the bacteria, but handily doxycycline is a good prophylactic (in addition to its similar function as an antimalarial). As usual, the golden rule is to try to stop yourself getting it in the first place, so avoid any rat-infested swimming pools if you can.

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Q: I am a 32-year-old novice diver but my club has asked me to get in touch as I have been suffering with panic attacks since a work-related incident last year. I start hyperventilating and get palpitations, which last a few minutes, although I’m getting better at controlling them with breathing exercises (the old paper bag trick works!). I’m supposed to be going on a dive trip soon with my boyfriend (who is a diving instructor), but I’m worried about what might happen if I get a panic attack underwater. Can you enlighten me - is it safe? A: I don’t think there’s a diver among us who, if they’re honest, hasn’t felt that rising sense of anxiety and the accompanying adrenaline surge from time to time. What matters is how one deals with it, and recognition is key, to prevent a full-on panic attack (which, to answer your query, is inherently unsafe in the water). I think you need to ensure your boyfriend keeps a very close eye on you so that he can assist as soon as you start to feel anxious. Clearly you need to tackle the root cause of the panic attacks, but what do you do if one does occur underwater? Hyperventilation blows off carbon dioxide, and makes the blood less acidic and more alkaline. These conditions cause calcium in the blood to bind to a protein called albumin, lowering the free calcium level and causing ‘tetany’ - where muscles start spasming involuntarily. Not surprisingly, this causes further panic, more rapid breathing, and a vicious circle develops. The brown paper bag trick works by making you rebreathe your exhaled air, which is high in carbon dioxide, so raising the calcium level and restoring normal muscle function. Sadly, there’s no waterproof equivalent as yet, so a diver has to be able to slow their breathing and keep the panic at bay while making a controlled ascent to the surface. A bit of honest self-assessment is required, and any uncertainty over your ability to cope with panic underwater would necessitate a delay to diving until the issue is resolved. Do you have a question for Dr Firth? Email: divingdoctor@scubadivermag. com and we’ll pass it on.

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Diver Paul Duckworth explores the Sea King’s expansive cabin area

Veteran of some of the most-significant military campaigns in recent history, Vobster’s new Sea King helicopter has a fascinating story to tell. Jason Brown reveals the illustrious past of ZA299… Photographs by Jason Brown, Tony Osborne and PO(Phot) Sean Clee/MOD

I

nland sites offer a great opportunity to keep the gills moist without the ever-constant threat of bad weather blowing out your dive. Wherever you live in the UK, there’s a good chance you’re not too far from one of these dependable diving microcosms – whether it’s Capernwray in Lancashire, NDAC near Chepstow or good old Stoney Cove in the very heart of England, there’s no excuse for not getting wet regardless of what the weather gods see fit to throw at you. Every weekend you’ll find these little bastions of British diving packed with divers keen to get their freshwater diving fix. They offer a strangely eclectic mix of diving experiences – where else can you visit Lord Lucan and Shergar, explore the remains of an Elizabethan ‘Gresham ship’ or get completely freaked out by a deranged carnival jester peering menacingly at you through the silty gloom? Such ‘attractions’ are par for the course at many of the UK’s popular inland sites. Of course, diving attractions don’t get much cooler than something that’s got an ex-military background. It’s not unusual to find veterans of campaigns across the globe gracing lake beds throughout the UK – Capernwray has its Dickens-class minesweeper that saw service during World War Two, Stoney has its armoured personnel carrier and NDAC boasts both an Alvis Stalwart amphibious vehicle and an Alvis Saracen troop carrier. But what we really love is something with wings – or, to be more precise – rotors! Joining the ranks of the submerged ex-military elite is Vobster Quay’s latest addition – an ex-Royal Navy Westland Sea King helicopter. This new attraction joins Vobster Quay’s other erstwhile military veteran, a GKN Sankey FV432 armoured personnel carrier.


A DISTINGUISHED CAREER

Access to the tail section is very restricted - look but don’t enter! Wide open doors on both sides of the fuselage make entry and exit to the interior very easy

Royal Marine Commandos sheltering from downwash during exercises in Norway. Image PO(Phot) Sean Clee/MOD

The cockpit has been stripped bare but a few enticing control levers remain

The Sea King helicopter was a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter manufactured in the UK by Westland Helicopters (now AugustaWestland) of Yeovil. Dating back to the late 1950s, the Sea King was originally developed by the US military to counter the growing threat of Soviet submarines. Its unique hullshaped belly and sponson-mounted floats made it the world’s very first truly amphibious helicopter capable of landing and taking off on water. The UK version of the Sea King was adapted with the fitment of Rolls-Royce Gnome engines and a fully computerised flight control system. Vobster’s Sea King - registration number ZA299 - is an HC4 (Mk 4) Commando variant, a medium-lift support helicopter formerly operated by the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Force (CHF). Affectionately known as ‘The Jungly’ by the Royal Marine Commandos, the HC4 served as the backbone of the Commando Helicopter Force for many years. Like most things ex-military, ZA299 is so much more than the sum of its parts – dig deeper and you’ll discover a fascinating and distinguished history that spans over 30 years of service with the Royal Navy. ZA299 took to the air for the very first time on 10 September 1981 under the control of Westland test pilot JC Teasdale. Delivered to RNAS Culdrose and then assigned to 846 Naval Air Squadron in November of the same year, it wouldn’t be long before ZA299 saw action for the very first time when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. Shipped down to the South Atlantic on board the Royal Navy’s taskforce flagship HMS Hermes, ZA299 was later attached to both the SS Canberra troop transport and MV Europic Ferry to aid in the unloading of essential supplies. With Argentinian Air Force jets attacking the fleet anchored in ‘Bomb Alley’ San Carlos Water, ZA299 proved her worth and made a considerable contribution to the eventual liberation of the islands. ZA299 would later go on to see service in other campaigns across the globe. In 1993, she would travel to the former Yugoslavia as part of ‘Operation Grapple’ - UK defence operations in support of the UNPROFOR peacekeeping missions. She’d also see service in both Iraq and Afghanistan, providing essential support to coalition forces in both campaigns. Leaving Kandahar for the last time in June 2008, ZA299 returned to the UK from her very last tour of front-line duty. Her final assignment came in 2010 with 845 Naval Air Squadron. Finally, in 2014, the Royal Navy began the process of replacing its aging fleet of Sea Kings with the AugustaWestland AW101 Merlin HC3 helicopter.


Cabling and hoses still line the walls of the skeletal interior

The Sea King arrives on site at Vobster Quay Removing any remaining snag hazards

THE LONG ROAD TO VOBSTER

Lift bags were used to float the fuselage into place

Thanks to the great work of the Royal Engineers, ZA299 is sat neatly upright at a depth of 24m

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Arriving on site on a cold morning back in January 2018, this latest addition to Vobster’s collection of diving curio came about in a most-unexpected way. As site manager Tim Clements points out, it’s a story all about the diving network. “A Vobster diver who works for Vector Aerospace near Gosport approached us regarding some helicopter fuselages that they had for disposal. I was immediately excited by the idea. Following a more in-depth chat at the Birmingham Dive Show, we went away scratching heads to work out the feasibility of taking ownership of one of the fuselages and the responsibility for its removal from Gosport before the deadline.” Getting a Sea King helicopter from Gosport to Vobster may sound straightforward, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. “Aircraft are great because they are light - but dive attractions are good if they are also big and it’s the big bit that causes problems for transport. Over a certain size and the entire route has to be assessed for bridges, overhead wires and trees by qualified hauliers – and that’s just to get the load to our front door. Once on site, the lifting and diving operations needed to be safe and co-ordinated – that’s a job for experts and luckily, we have a great relationship with the British Army’s 22 and 26 Royal Engineer dive teams, who stepped in to help.” By their very nature, helicopter fuselages are a mass of internal fittings, cabling and, of course, residual contaminants that need to be dealt with before any new dive attraction hits the water. Fortunately for Vobster, Vector Aerospace had done most of the work for them. “The fuselage arrived as a carcass pre-stripped of instrumentation and fittings. With the engines and gearboxes gone, the residual contaminants were gone too – our Sea King arrived very clean. All we had to do was ensure that there were no snag hazards that could trap divers. Having dealt with all the hanging and protruding stuff, the yellow paint came out for some internal ‘exit arrows’ to aid navigation in bad viz. The exits were large and clear so we were good to go – the Royal Engineers then took over and dropped it into the lake precisely where we wanted it.”

“Its unique hull-shaped belly and sponson-mounted floats made it the world’s very first truly amphibious helicopter capable of landing and taking off on water”

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“…it’s hard not to be tempted to venture inside – with wide open doors on either side, exploration of the inner area is suitable for most divers comfortable within an overhead environment”

Can’t find the exit? There’s even a large opening in the roof where the Rolls Royce engines once lived!

Royal Marine Commandos board ZA299 back in her service days

DUCK DIVING THE SEA KING

With the Sea King sat safely upright on the lake bed, there was no shortage of divers wanting to be among the very first to visit ZA299 in her new home. With long-time buddy Paul Duckworth along to provide the essential ‘eye candy’ for my photos, we grabbed our gear and headed to Vobster Quay to explore this new wreck for ourselves. Finding Vobster’s new dive attraction wasn’t difficult at all. Dropping into the water at the slipway, we headed down the track towards the shallow entrance to the infamous Vobster tunnel, slipped over the top of it and then descended down a silty slope on the opposite side towards a gloomy shadow in the distance. Within a matter of minutes of entering the water, we’d arrived – ZA299 appeared side-on right in front of us. Sat at a depth of around 24m, it now lives within close proximity of a number of other popular attractions, including the old quarry Crushing Works and the deeper of Vobster’s two Wheelhouses. “We put a lot of thought into how divers like to ‘bimble’ around Vobster,” muses Tim Clements. “The opportunity to put a big object right in the middle of the lake opens up several interesting route combinations, but keeps it both accessible and convenient for training courses.” Arrows point towards the exit should you become disorientated

Measuring a good 20 metres in length, ZA299 is quite an impressive sight. After a quick circuit taking in her exterior, it’s hard not to be tempted to venture inside – with wide open doors on either side, exploration of the inner area is suitable for most divers comfortable within an overhead environment. Try to avoid kicking up the bottom on your way in, though - the fine silt in this part of the lake can reduce visibility pretty quickly. Once inside, there’s plenty to look at despite the skeletal appearance. The cockpit still features a central control panel and more than a few mysterious handles Dive a piece of military and pulleys just crying out to be history at Vobster Quay! twiddled. With two open doors, a big square hole in the roof and a series of small windows strategically placed along her side – not to mention a very open cockpit – there’s plenty of light to aid your vision. That said, a good torch will enhance your exploration of this distinguished addition to Vobster’s lake-bed residents. n


DEEPBLU: EXPERIENCED APP,

FOR DIVERS OF ALL LEVELS

F

rom its beginnings in a small office in 2016, Deepblu has become a force in the diving world which allows divers to find the best dives with the finest operators in whichever spot they’d like to jet off to on this huge planet, so it’s only fitting that the app has evolved a section which is a dive planning platform, called Planet Deepblu. It all started with one idea, an accessible dive computer that was safe, reliable, and had a good user interface. This was combined with the concept of the Deepblu app, which makes it easy to seamlessly upload your dive logs to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology. Once this happens, users can choose to keep it private, or they can set it at public and share dives, media, and their stories with the diving community and the world around them. Some get promoted to the Featured section, the part of Deepblu where editors pick exclusive content and feature it alongside news collected from other websites, as well as original content written in-house. Planet Deepblu is an interactive world map that, in the words of the company, is designed to help you ‘discover your next dive’. It features dive countries, dive regions and dive spots fuelled by user-generated content. When logs, videos, photos, and other information are shared with a tagged location, they’re automatically added to the map in their home among the thousands of other dive sites available for browsing. From there, users can rate dive sites, write reviews, and even get in touch with dive businesses. Planet Deepblu’s latest feature allows for direct discussion with dive businesses all over the world, which allows users and businesses to make travel arrangements together. No matter what stretch of land and sea you might be visiting, the app and website can put you in touch with an affiliated dive operator in the region and allow you to figure out all of the details before you even leave home. To better assist in your choice of destination, the team at Deepblu has added dive country bios to multiple sites around the world. Looking for a wreck dive during the dry season in your nation of choice? Find out on Planet Deepblu, where you can discover dive site features, climate, when to go, languages spoken, health and safety tips, costs, and other things to be aware of before you get your bags packed. Planet Deepblu is for the planet of divers and is the ultimate tool for those who want to know before they go. User-generated reviews and unbiased content allow for a clearer picture than ever available before, so you know that, while the platform is free, you’ll be spending your money wisely when you arrive at your destination. Surprises are great in some instances, but typically, during travel isn’t one of them. While striving to create an environment in which divers can find their next favorite spot, Deepblu is making an effort to travel around the globe, listening to and connecting with divers to find out what they need in their particular region. One such diver is Bryan Horne, the Founder of Dive Curaçao, who the team met recently on a trip to Curaçao. Bryan discovered Curaçao in the winter of 2006-2007. He says, “it’s never the same scene twice since arriving here. A whaleshark, spinner dolphins, a giant manta ray, sea turtles, even a humpback whale have all wandered into my path over the years.

Deepblu travels the world in search of ideas from the best dive operators in the business


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Tars Geerts of Deepblu takes a time out to test the waters himself

Bryan Horne, of Substation Curacao and the Dive Task Force, talks to James Tsuei of Deepblu

That’s the beauty of diving around Curaçao - its natural biodiversity.” Dive Curaçao is a business which promotes diving in the region and works with conservationists for the sole purpose of keeping the seas clean and healthy so that future generations may enjoy its natural beauty. “Some people have a midlife crisis, I like to think of discovering my love and passion for diving as my midlife awareness,” Bryan says. “That one day, on a beach in Mexico when I had a crazy idea surface to learn to scuba dive, that idea changed everything from that day forward!” …and change it did, for him and those around him. In addition to having dived all over the world, Bryan is also part of a select team that operates the world’s only research submarine that also provides leisure tours, dubbed Substation Curaçao. They frequently descend 300m under the sea to have a peak around and provide their clients with a ‘bucket list’ experience. As impressive as these once-in-a-lifetime deep-sea exploration tours are, the conservation efforts that Substation Curaçao facilitates for many international marine biologists and researchers are equally impressive. Using the Curasub, they monitor the deeper reefs to find out what influence factors like climate change, acidification, pollution and invasive species have on ecosystems in greater depths, which is an aspect that keeps researchers occupied. Simultaneously, they are trying to find out in what way the deeper reefs might affect the recovery capacity of the shallow reefs. But it’s not all deep-reef observation. A handful of passionate dive operators on Curaçao have teamed up to form the Curaçao Hospitality and Tourism Association (CHATA) Dive Task Force, which is committed to safe and sustainable tourism. The members of the Dive Task Force engage in education and outreach programs to help visitors have the best experience possible while at the same time taking care of their host country. The members of this group, who of course compete like any business, also work together for the greater good by hosting beach clean-ups, dive and music festivals, and other programmes that raise awareness to give back to land and sea. All of this comes back to what matters to the traveller… comfort. When good people are coming together to make sure that the seas we dive in are healthy, everyone benefits during their next dive. Deepblu is excited to continue learning, travelling, and contributing to the world around them. The company will continue to take every suggestion seriously, interact with divers, dive businesses, and dive pros, and strive to make sure that every dive holiday is the best dive holiday. With quality business partners like Bryan all over the world, Planet Deepblu is a platform which will continue to grow in a direction that helps meet the needs of more divers every day. n ADVERTISING FEATURE


DIVE LIKE A PRO This month, our expert group of industry professionals look at the core skills that every diver should aim to hone and improve to develop their diving ability PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS

C

ore skills. We hear that term a lot in diving circles, but just what does it mean? We asked our team of diving experts from all of the main training agencies for their take on this terminology, and what they consider ‘core skills’ that should be the focus of every diver, regardless of their certification level. BSAC Chief Executive Mary Tetley said: “Core skills are not just the concern of the new diver, they should be regularly practised by all divers to ensure that they can be performed safely and effectively when needed. “Practice builds ‘muscle memory’ when it comes to key diving skills, and the aim should be to make them almost second nature. Effort put into regularly fine-tuning core skills will pay dividends when in open water. “Honing buoyancy skills, for example, means a diver can focus on other aspects of their diving, secure in the knowledge that their buoyancy and trim is tuned in and that they can dive safely in a range of conditions and circumstances. Strong buoyancy and trim skills greatly improves the diving experience, helps to reduce gas consumption and makes time underwater all the more comfortable and enjoyable. So time spent practising at an inland site, in the pool or at the start of a dive is certainly well spent. “Your core diving skills can also be a life-saver, either your own or that of your buddy, and practising them regularly means you are more likely to respond instinctively in what could be a chaotic situation. Regularly going through out-of-gas, controlled buoyant lift, rescue breaths and towing scenarios can help to make your reactions instinctive in an emergency situation. Panic is a major factor in the incident pit and if your response is well rehearsed, you are more likely to be able to take control of a situation. “And it doesn’t matter what level of diving experience you are at, it is also important to revisit those basic skills that set you up as a diver. Mask clearing, reg retrieval and free flow can all be overlooked as your diving gets more diverse, but they remain the bedrock of diving skills, whatever depth you are at.” GUE instructor trainer John Kendall said: “There are several vital skills that every diver should have. Some are easier than others to attain, though. The major skill that every diver needs to have is self-awareness, and with that self-criticism. Being able to correctly analyse your own skill level, preparedness and capability before, during and after a dive is vital. “After this, the core skills needed are buoyancy control, breathing control and body position control. These all link together to form the fundamental platform that a diver needs to be competent, confident and comfortable in the water. I have heard far too many instructors over the years saying things along the lines of ‘Don’t worry too much about buoyancy, that will come with time’ – unfortunately, they are wrong. Buoyancy, just like mask clearing, is a skill that needs to be correctly taught and then practiced. “Heavily linked into buoyancy control is what we call trim. Trim is the body’s orientation in the water. If when you kick your feet are low, then you will push yourself upwards, and this leads to divers not correctly setting their buoyancy, which is fine when they kick, but if they have to stop, then they sink. A test to try yourself is simply to stop moving your feet and see what happens to your depth. “Finally, breathing control is a core part of buoyancy as well. You should be breathing in and out around the middle of your lungs. A good test is to just stop in the water. Inhale fully and see what happens, then exhale fully and see. Ideally you should move

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Kitting up ready for a shallow shore dive

Inland sites are the perfect place to hone your skills

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Buoyancy and trim are essential core skills

Launching a DSMB should be second nature

Tech diver displaying good trim

What topics would you like to see put to our panel of experts? Email your suggestions to: mark@scubadivermag.com

up slowly on a full inhale and sink slowly on a full exhale. If you find that you move rapidly in either direction, then you need to adjust the gas in your wing/BCD until you are back in the middle of your lungs.” Garry Dallas, Director of Training for RAID (UK and Malta), explained: “It doesn’t matter what car you drive, how fast it will go, brake or its cornering ability. To safely get you from A to B requires good driving skills… Awareness… If we just remove the ‘r’ from driving, awareness works the same in diving and is the most-intrinsic core skill a diver could have, the one at the top that governs everything else. “Awareness isn’t just the ability to judge your distance from something or someone as you might think. We can break this down into three categories: Personal, global and domino effect. “Personal awareness focuses on your mental state of mind before, during and after the dive; gas management and observation; confirmed dive plan; reserves; equipment working; your skills, including finning and trim on the dive. “Global awareness is a spherical metering between the diver and everything around them, including your team mates. A 360-degree radius in every direction at any depth of water column. “Domino effect awareness basically looks at the knock-on effect that not being aware in the first two instances has a consequential effect in the future moments. For example, poor finning technique could reduce the visibility for the diver behind or damage something, not sticking to a dive plan could leave your

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team not knowing what to do and when. Not looking after your equipment or servicing it may cause a premature failure on the dive. Being dehydrated could make you feel nauseous or anxious, leading to other things. Poor trim will, in essence, have a knockon effect on your buoyancy, your breathing rate (SAC/RVM) and your ability to think clearly. Every diver feels the advantages of good trim - you relax, you can hover and you can deploy a DSMB easily and without stress. Keeping yourself sharp on a dive by defining these attributes will make you a better diver, make you safer and enjoy it more.” Mark Powell, Business Development Manager for TDI/SDI, said: “Every year there are a burst of diving incidents around the start of the season due to divers jumping in for their first dive of the year and having problems with their equipment, or being rusty on their diving skills. Unfortunately, some of these incidents are fatal. Make sure you don’t become a statistic by carrying out an ‘Annual Service’ before your first of the year. “Many divers dive all year round. They will book sea dives throughout the year in the knowledge that some will be blown out by the weather, but in some cases they will be lucky and get a great dive with potentially good visibility due to the lower levels of plankton in the cold water. For other divers, inland sites provide an opportunity to keep their skills sharp during the winter. On the other hand, there are some divers for which there is a definite ‘diving season’. They are unlikely to dive before May and the first or second May Bank Holidays are often the first planned

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dives. Others leave it until June, when the sea has warmed up even more and the May bloom has dropped off to plan their first sea dives. These divers will then start cutting down their diving in late-September or October and will hang up their kit for six months until the diving season starts again. For these divers, this six-month lay-off means that skills levels have lost their edge, equipment has been unused and the diver is not considered ‘dive fit’. It is all too easy for the first dive trip of the year to creep up on us. One minute it’s New Year and the next it’s the day before our first dive trip. For these divers, an annual service before they restart diving is a good idea and there are a few simple steps that can be taken to ensure that the re-start of your diving activities is safe, incident-free and enjoyable. “Most of us service our equipment every now and again (I did say most, not all) but how many of us put our diving skills through an annual MOT. If you dive regularly then your skills stay sharp, but if you last dived in September then you are probably a bit rusty. Before jumping into the sea for a real dive then try some practice dives. “If you are a member of a club with access to a pool, then make use of it. Your local dive shop probably has pool evenings where you can go along and practice. A month or so before your first ‘real’ dive trip, you might want to think about a trip to an inland site. Most people have an inland site within an hour or two drive and these are an ideal spot to brush off the winter cobwebs.” Emma Hewitt, PADI Regional Manager for Southern UK and Ireland and a PADI Master Instructor, said: “Being able to safely, easily and swiftly deploy a DSMB is a vital skill. In so many parts of the world there are strong currents and boat traffic in diving areas, therefore the use of a DSMB is imperative. Honing this skill and being able to comfortably execute it at any given time will mean increased safety for all divers in the group.” PADI Course Director and Regional Training Consultant Emily Petley-Jones explained: “Your open water diver training will have got you well versed with skills you need to dive safely, though buoyancy is one particular skill where practice makes perfect. If you have not been diving for some time, or are diving in new equipment or exposure protection, the chances are your buoyancy and trim will need some tweaking. Depending on where you are planning on diving and the conditions, you should plan to take a few minutes to get your buoyancy and trim correct. This could either be done in a swimming pool or a shallow location, so if you need to adjust your weights or the position of your cylinder, you can do so quickly without disturbing the environment or missing parts of the actual dive. Keep in mind that if you are going from a freshwater swimming pool to the ocean you will need a little extra weight for the salt water. Do take a moment to perform a buoyancy check to ensure that you are not excessively weighted or underweight, and adapt your weights to ensure you have the correct amount for the dive. As you descend and are close to the Open circuit or CCR, skills need to be kept fresh and relevant

Buddy team set off on a shore dive

bottom, establish neutral buoyancy and adopt your normal horizontal diving position. Take a moment to really visualise your body position in the water. It may be that there are minor trim adjustments you can make, for example if your weightbelt has moved and you are leaning to one side, move this back so it is balanced.” Matt Clements, PADI Regional Manager for UK North and Malta and a PADI Master Instructor, said: “All diving skills are important and you should be comfortable with all the basics before moving on. This is why skills are broken down into small and progressively complex steps when you are learning to dive. Buoyancy is a core skill to get right, a lot of time and energy goes into this, but don’t forget that buoyancy is more than just being neutral. Know how to and don’t be afraid to ditch your weights, being able to maintain positive buoyancy at the surface is vital, a near-miss could become an incident if you are fighting to stay afloat. Make sure that you are a comfortable, confident diver, get some extra time in with your instructor, take a few Speciality courses.” Vikki Batten, PADI’s Training Supervisor and a PADI Examiner, said: “Body position (known as trim) in the water is sometimes seen as less important than buoyancy control, but really the two are interdependent. Think about the direction you are moving and whether you are making it easier or harder for yourself. Here is an example that happens frequently with divers who have some experience: If you are slightly negatively buoyant, it’s common to end up in a slightly feet down, torso up position then when fin you will tend to ascend slightly with each fin kick. Eventually you will ascend enough to be positively buoyant so you will exhaust some of the air from your BCD and sink, repeating the cycle again and making for an exhausting dive. If you haven’t yet mastered effortless buoyancy control, then get yourself back in a pool or shallow water and make sure you practice both buoyancy control and trim where you can crash and burn without damage to yourself or the environment. If you can’t stop finning (that includes arm flapping) and just ‘be’, you need more practice. Once you can do this in simple situations, expand your practice to include ascents, descents, and more complex skills (e.g. launching a DSMB). n

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Balinese-s


Man-made artificial reefs are marine life hotspots

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GIVING INDO PEACEFULNESS A CHANCE Jeremy and Amanda Cuff explore two very-different areas in Bali – Tulamben, and the small island of Nusa Penida

Photographs by Jeremy and Amanda Cuff / www.ja-universe.com Welcoming Bali architecture

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round five years ago, I made a solo dive trip to the Indonesian island of Bali, staying in Tulamben. I thought it was great and knew my wife Amanda would love the place too, so we vowed to make a family dive trip happen there at some point in the future. We just had to do it… Winding the clock forward to early 2017, the idea of a visit came into sharper focus and seemed a much-more-realistic proposition for us. In the time that had passed, our son Zac had become both a teenager and a PADI Junior Advanced Diver with around 100 dives under his belt, which meant he could participate in most of the dives offered. We all fancied the idea of it, so we made a plan, settling on a two-centre dive trip staying firstly in Tulamben followed by a crack at seeing the mola mola at the more-challenging dive sites of Nusa Penida. Though it may seem like a travel writer’s cliché, Bali is often described as a haven of peacefulness and tranquility; the kind of place where you can cast aside the stresses of modern life, get off the treadmill and recharge your batteries. It certainly has that aspect, but there are several other facets too, depending on what you’re looking for. You can go for the partying, commercialism and surfing hotspots of the south coast centred around Kuta and Seminyak, or you can immerse yourself in the spiritual and artistic worlds in areas such as the cultural hub of Ubud, and among the numerous temples. Outdoor fanatics can revel in the excellent trekking possibilities, such as Mt Agung (more of which later), and other areas such as Mt Batur and the West Bali National Park. Others will gravitate towards secluded spas and hideaways, and of course, scuba diving. Our particular angle was a combination of scuba diving and hideaways, with a short, sharp shock of the bustling commercial hub of Kuta for a single night at the end before heading home.


TULAMBEN

The village of Tulamben is a renowned area for diving on the northeast of the island. Thanks to the busy roads, it can take up to three hours to reach from the airport in the transfer minibus, but it’s very much worth it when you get there. As a backdrop to the area, there’s the brooding volcanic menace of Mt Agung, which dominates this part of Bali. It was possible to trek Mt Agung until recently, as shortly after our visit in August, it decided to ‘wake up’ again. During the time of writing this feature in November, quite a lot changed; the activity levels of Agung appeared to be reducing, but on the weekend of 25/26 November, the volcano begun what many feared would be a major eruption. Areas considered to be in the greatest danger were evacuated, including Tulamben, but all is getting back to normal. The area around Tulamben is especially renowned for its fascinating ‘muck diving’ and the Liberty wreck. The term ‘muck diving’ could be considered somewhat of a misnomer, as it’s really sand diving, and in this case ‘black sand diving’. To me, black sand creates a different timbre to the water, making it seem more mysterious than the white sand variety; a darkness with secrets to unlock. As well as shore diving – most resorts have a ‘house reef’ - most dive sites are no more than ten minutes away by boat. The dive guides know the local sites like the back of their hands, and without their help most visitors would find but a fraction of the stuff. One of the great things about diving these black sand slopes is that small and non-descript-looking bommies on closer inspection turn out to be hives of activity that are so good you could spend whole dives there, with a myriad of creatures cleaning and being cleaned, hunting and

“One wreck that most certainly isn’t artificial (and one of the best known in the whole of the Far East) is the Liberty wreck” Amanda checks out a coral-encrusted sculpture

The Liberty shipwreck is perfect for photographers

TWO FISH DIVERS

We are a PADI five-star operator with dive resorts/centres across Indonesia and over 15 years of experience. Our Amed resort offers a 15-minute trip to the wreck in Tulamben, and our Lembongan resort offers a 20-minute trip to the mantas of Nusa Penida. Staying in Kuta/Seminyak or around Sanur? Take day-trips to Tulamben and Nusa Penida from our Sanur dive centre. www.twofishdivers.com

being hunted, eating and being eaten. Things to look out for include various shrimp, ornate ghost pipefish, moray eels and ribbon eels. It’s also worth spending time out on the black sand itself, where you can discover all sorts of critters, such as half-buried scorpionfish and snake eels waiting for something edible to swim within striking range, plus hermit crabs, decorator crabs, flounder, cuttlefish, octopus and roaming groups of the bizarre shrimpfish (razorfish). Of the bigger things, skittish stingrays (a kind of the blue-spotted variety) can commonly be seen gliding across these expanses. Around Tulamben, the local dive operations have placed artificial reefs and wrecks at some sites, with a view to attracting additional life for the benefit of both divers and the environment. These are always worth spending time around, where predators such as eels, scorpionfish, lionfish and frogfish can often be found feasting on the more-concentrated amounts of prey. At Tulamben itself there’s an underwater sculpture garden featuring various statues (such as Hindu gods) and an aeroplane wreck for added interest and novelty, though the actual structure had deteriorated since my visit five years ago. One wreck that most certainly isn’t artificial (and one of the best known in the whole of the Far East) is the Liberty wreck. This huge wreck is often the reason why divers visit the area and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s also unusual in that it can be done as a shore dive, though many resorts do it from a boat, which is easier. Close by is a cluster of dive centres and lodges ensuring that the wreck is often extremely busy with divers, which can be frustrating if you’re a photographer shooting wide angle. Trying to find an area or vista that you want to photograph without bubbles, arms, legs and fins everywhere can become a yearning on this wreck, but it is possible if you’re patient. As the wreck is around 120 metres in length, ideally several dives are the optimum here in order to fully explore it. We managed three dives on the wreck,

Vast shoals of fish are often encountered

at different times of day including an early morning dip to see the resident bumphead parrotfish that bunch together at first light before scattering off for the day. We also encountered several turtles, and were told that schools of barracuda can sometimes be seen. Deep dives of around 35m are also possible if that’s your interest, but depth isn’t essential here.

NUSA PENIDA

Nusa Penida itself is an island located off the east of Bali, in the channel between Bali and Lombok. It’s best known for the phenomenally powerful movements of water between the islands and the seasonal gatherings of the weird and wonderful mola mola. To dive there, we based ourselves in the bustling ‘dive friendly’ town of Padangbai. Our primary reason for visiting was to get the chance of encountering the aforementioned mola mola, which Amanda really wanted to see. We gave ourselves three dives a day over three days in which to make the dream come true.


Mola mola (or sunfish), of which there are more than one species, are known from most of the world’s seas, though they are rarely seen on dives. This area of Bali, however, is a hotspot for them and quite a diving industry has grown up around the sightings. Bali’s molas are a seasonal gathering, with the optimum time being July to October. Our visit coincided with this time window, but in the earlier part of the season. We visited Crystal Bay four times over the three diving days, which might be better described as Crazy Bay. It can be ‘crazy’ for two reasons; one is the potential strength of the currents out in the channel between Nusa Penida and its small neighbours Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, and two, the phenomenal amount of dive boats and divers in the water. Amanda hated the first dive there (and I doubt that anyone actually enjoyed it) as the current was fierce, making it unpleasant and air consuming as we attempted to hold ourselves in position and hang on while trying to scan the blue water for mola mola. Some divers wouldn’t do the later dive there that day after the exertions of the first dive, though that was a mistake, as the current was much more manageable then. On our second dive day, we visited another location off Nusa Penida called Toyapakeh. It was a pleasant enough site with a sloping reef, and at the time of our dive, a mild-ish current. We cruised the reef while looking out into the blue, but nothing much was happening. As we got into the second half of the dive I was beginning to think that our luck was out. Then, somewhere below us on the slope, there was a strange shape that jarred. It took a few moments to mentally process it, but when the penny dropped, I knew what it was. It was a mola mola, a big one. I signalled to Amanda and Zac, to make sure they’d seen it and then dropped down towards it, to around the 35m mark. This strange and improbable fish was being cleaned by a few bannerfish, which is usually the reason they visit the reefs and walls. I approached slowly and carefully, but knew that it wouldn’t stick around for long, so there wouldn’t be many chances to capture images. The encounter was fairly brief but brilliant, as it circled us before heading back into the blue. After the dive everyone was buzzing; a heady mix of relief, euphoria, smiles, punching the air and whoops, and all the divers saw it. From what we heard, we had the only mola mola sighting that day, and possibly over the three days in which we dived the area. We felt happy and fortunate. As I’ve dedicated most of this section of the feature to our successful mola mola quest, I musn’t

Returning from another Tulamben dive

Manta ray cruising past at Nuda Penida

The dive guides are invaluable

Cylinders racked up to go diving Turtles are a common sight

forget to squeeze in some other important mentions, such as the presence of manta rays. On each diving day, we travelled along the wild southern coastline of Nusa Penida to a site called Manta Point. Like Crystal Bay, it’s usually very busy with dive boats, but the mantas are virtually guaranteed. In fact, you might even see the two species of manta, the reef manta and the giant manta; we were fortunate and saw both. Other impressive lifeforms from the Nusa Penida sites we visited include turtles and some alarmingly large sea snakes. A few words must also be said about currents. As touched on earlier, the general area of the Lombok Channel (including Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan) are affected by incredibly powerful movements of water, and on the dives themselves, especially at Crystal Bay, it’s vital to ‘read’ the current and ensure that you don’t get into a situation from which you can’t get back to sheltered water, and be swept away into the channel. Overall, we had a great time in Bali. We enjoyed the place, we enjoyed the people and we enjoyed the diving. And we’d given peacefulness and tranquility a chance. In fact, the wider world could learn a lot from Bali – highly recommended by us on many levels. n

“…it’s vital to ‘read’ the current and ensure that you don’t get into a situation from which you can’t get back to sheltered water, and be swept away into the channel”


TULAMBEN - NUSA PENIDA THE BEST OF BOTH - HASSLE FREE DIVE SAFARI Our Amed Resort - 15 mins to Tulamben Our Lembongan Resort - 20 mins to Nusa Penida Our Sanur dive center - day trips to both Tulamben & Nusa Penida

Enjoy 5* dive service with one operator with more than 15 years experience in the area

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14 nights safari with 7nts/6days/12dives in both Amed AND Lembongan Transfers included, based on 2 sharing

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AND POD WORTH OVER £850! Scuba Diver has teamed up with dive computer specialists Suunto to offer one lucky reader the chance to win an EON Core dive computer (£599) and POD air-integration unit (£260), together worth more than £850! To be in with a chance of winning this awesome air-integrated dive computer, simply log on to: www.scubadivermag.com/competition and fill in your details. It’s that simple! NB: The closing date is 21 May 2018. The editor’s decision is final.

Suunto diving – a potted history Suunto – which comes from the Finnish word meaning ‘direction’ and is pronounced ‘Soon-Toh’ - was created in 1936 in Finland, when championship-level orienteer and keen outdoor enthusiast Tuomas Vohlonen invented the mass-production method for the liquid-filled compass. The world’s first diving compass came in 1965, and this was followed in 1987 by the SME-ML, the company’s first dive computer. In 1997, the Spyder was the world’s first wristwatch dive computer, and in 2004 Suunto unveiled the D9, a wristwatch dive computer that combined advanced features with a digital compass and wireless air integration. 2009 saw the launch of the Hel02, which was the company’s first full mixed gas capability computer, and this was followed in 2013 by the DX, the world’s first rebreather-compatible wristwatch dive computer. More recently, in 2015, Suunto launched its next-generation dive computer, the fully customisable colour-screen EON Steel, and that has now been joined by the EON Core.

www.suunto.com


Suunto EON Core

The Suunto EON Core is the ‘baby brother’ of the Suunto 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 10-20 hours per charge depending on usage, and it can connect to multiple PODS for air integration.


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.

www.familydivers.com

"HONEY, I THINK I FOUND WHAT WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR..."

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Patti Snyder describes the moment that she discovered Kids Sea Camp, and explains how it completely changed the life of her family

n the spring of 2010, I sat at my computer late one night, searching for family vacations. Sam was five, and we recently had adopted our son, Hunter, also five, from China. My husband, Andy, and I were avid divers. While Andy’s diving background was drysuit diving in the cold waters off the coast of Scotland, I preferred warmer climates. As avid cave divers together, we loved diving the springs in Florida. Having kids meant that cave diving was in the past for us. While we enjoyed the beach and boating, our passion has always been scuba diving, so we started searching for the perfect family vacation. Unfortunately, we thought, kids and scuba diving would not go together very well. As I sat at my computer, hopeful, I entered various words into the search engines online: ‘family diving’, ‘kids scuba diving’, ‘family vacations’. Kids Sea Camp popped right up, and I turned to my husband and said, “Honey, I think I found what we have been looking for!” I read everything I found about Kids Sea Camp and its founder, Margo Peyton. If you Google either of those phrases, there are pages of great stories and information, and it’s all positive. I called right away, and Margo answered the phone. We spoke at length as I had many concerns because Hunter couldn’t swim and he couldn’t speak English, and Sam, who is ADHD, is not one to sit through a course. Maybe it was selfish on our part, but I just knew we had to go. Margo assured me it would all work out, and we booked our first of many trips, to Buddy Dive in Bonaire for June 2010. At this point, Hunter was not too enamoured with the ocean as his first water event occurred at home, when he fell in the pool and sank to the bottom. This soon was remedied with swim lessons, and by spring, he had donned a wetsuit and was playing in the waves in St Augustine, Florida. When we arrived at Buddy Dive, we were apprehensive. What was I thinking going off diving while my two five-year-old kids were left with the Kids Sea Camp and Buddy Dive staff? My fears were allayed when I watched the kids feeding beautiful parrotfish off the dock. They were laughing and

CASE STUDY

SEREN CRAWFORD, AGE 12, PORTSMOUTH, HAMPSHIRE Seren Crawford got interested in diving because both of her parents dive, and she has been around divers all of her life, often joining the family on various dive club trips. She learned to swim when she was three, and was spending more time under the water than on top! She began snorkelling at four, and her first big animal encounter was with a manatee at Crystal River in Florida when she was just five. She learned to dive with Andark Diving in Southampton, gaining her PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification, and completed her SSI Drysuit Diver course at Wraysbury Dive Centre. She has also got her RYA Powerboat Level I and Level II qualifications. Most of her diving have been along the South Coast, with Swanage Pier being a noted favourite, though she recently dived wth sharks for the first time in the Living Seas Aquarium at Epcot in Disneyworld, Florida. Asked what she loves about diving, and where she wants to dive, Seren replied: “I like seeing all the different creatures underwater and the feeling of being weightless. I’d like to go shark diving in the Bahamas, and see great whites in Mexico – I only have to watch TV programmes like Blue Planet II and I more places to add to my ‘to-dive’ list!”


having the time of their life. By the end of the week, these two five-year-olds were making new friends, learning about fish and even managed giant strides off the dock in SASY gear. They loved their instructors and learned how to set up and use their SASY gear. We have never looked back. Over the past eight years, all of our family vacations have been with Kids Sea Camp. There were challenges along the way. The hardest part for Sam was completing the book work for his Junior Open Water class. But you put Sam in a wetsuit and scuba gear and the little diver in him takes right over. Sam and Hunter love zero gravity, and that little kid that once sank to the bottom of the pool is now a varsity swimmer and triathlete. They want to experience life to the fullest, and nothing holds them back. We have taken them diving at Kids Sea Camp Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Utila, St Lucia, St Vincent and, coming up this month, Belize, and then our first liveaboard, Kids Sea Camp in Socorro Islands, is planned for this December. Some of those KSC places have seen our faces more than once. Each time we go, we reconnect with families we have met before and meet new ones. We have watched as our kids (and other families’ kids) have transitioned from SASY to SEALs to JOW to AOW divers. We are all divers and watching our kids become divers is a bond we get to share. I am really the lucky one. I have three men in my life that share my passion for the sea. Not all of the places Margo researches for Kids Sea Camp pass her muster, because it takes a special family-friendly place, a special family-friendly PADI dive instructor and special local family-owned operation for her to feel safe entrusting ‘her kids’ in the underwater world. Margo is a PADI instructor whose whole life is dedicated to keeping kids safe while teaching them about the ocean. All of the resorts are PADI five-star dive centres. Then there are the extras that are included, like private boats, kids dive gear, private instructors and even Margo and Tom. There are other things to do, like zip-lining, chocolate tasting, spas, jungle biking, beach volleyball, fire dancers, sunset cruises and cultural excursions.

Kids Sea Camp is more than just diving. Learning underwater sign language (yes, there is a useful course on that), learning to use Sealife cameras, learning about coral reef restoration and understanding our impact and role as responsible divers. Then there is the tradition of family poetry writing. Inspired by the Sealife camera prizes, Andy sets out to write about this magical journey at each destination, the highlights of the week, the precious moments captured in the smiles on our sons’ faces each day. The overwhelming joy felt and expressed in those poems, as each trip has created lasting memories and brought entire groups to tears as Andy sat and read his poems while choking back emotions. You see, it was wreck diving off the coast of North Carolina that brought us together 28 years ago, and it’s Kids Sea Camp that rekindles that with the perfect family dive vacation. n

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.


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.

www.familydivers.com

FIRST RUNG ON THE LADDER Pool dives and theory in the bag right here in the UK, Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans’ son Luke was all set for his open water dives in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys

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Photographs by Penney Evans

s Luke was nearing his tenth birthday and bugging us about doing his Junior Open Water Diver course, our initial idea was to do a referral in the UK and then conduct his open water dives in the Egyptian Red Sea, but with one thing or another, weeks became months, and we could just never co-ordinate the trip. Then, as was mentioned last month, with the DEMA trade show being held in Orlando at the end of 2017, and Team Scuba Diver already deciding to combine a family trip with the work excursion, it made sense to tie Luke’s JOW in with this holiday. As it happened, my wife Penney used to be the centre manager at Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Centre (www.captainslate.com) in Key Largo, and with many of the dive sites in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park being 6-8m or less, it was the perfect combo for a novice diver. A few emails to Slate and it was all arranged – to say Luke was excited is a bit of an understatement! He blasted through his pool work and theory on the referral with Robin Hood Watersports (see last issue) and was busy scouring the internet for what marine life he was going to see on his open water dives.

T R PATWO THE FLORIDA KEYS

Slate has recently relocated his dive centre – now known as Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures - from Key Largo to Marathon, a short distance further south down the famous Highway One. Captain Slate’s is one of the oldest established dive centres in the Keys, and runs a fleet of boats offering snorkelling trips, recreational dive trips, a wide range of courses from PADI, SDI/TDI, NAUI and SEI, and specialty trips including the world-famous Creature Feature. Slate can even conduct your wedding - above or below water! Slate is a larger-than-life character, a living legend in the US diving community, who has been diving for more than 50 years, and he was delighted to welcome his old staff member back, complete with dinky diver in tow. He had secured PADI Course Director and Public Safety Diver consultant Kevin Angelilli as Luke’s instructor, and as with Chris Waites at RoHo, our son instantly bonded with Kevin and listened intently to every instruction. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was established way back in 1963 – becoming the first undersea park in the United States – to protect and preserve a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental US. The Park – and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. Many of the dive sites are less than 12-14m deep, and the majority of the morewell-known sites are 6-8m. All of the sites are absolutely teeming with marine life, including shoals of grunts and snapper, angelfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, sergeant majors, stingrays, moray eels, barracuda, turtles and nurse sharks. The perfect spot for a newbie diver to take their first fin-strokes enroute to becoming a qualified diver. Luke and Kevin ploughed through his four open water dives over two days, visiting reefs with names like Pleasure Reef and Coral Reef, and despite the visibility not being up to its usual standard in the wake of some big storms, he excitedly rang me every night to fill me in on what he had seen. The highlights were definitely the turtles and the nurse sharks! As can be seen by the looks on his face as he was presented with his temporary cert card by Kevin and Slate, Luke was immensely proud to have become a PADI Junior Open Water Diver shortly after his 11th birthday, and he is busy planning his next diving adventure. He fancies the Red Sea for his Junior Advanced Open Water Diver course, but said he isn’t going to be a ‘warm-water diver only’, so as soon as spring finally gets here, we’ll be breaking in his new drysuit for some proper UK diving. I asked him what he wants to see, and his answer was ‘shipwrecks and sharks’. That’s my boy! n


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Life’s short. Make every dive count.


UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

This issue, Phil Medcalf – one of Duxy’s partners-incrime at Blue Duck Photography – offers hints and advice on how to get to know your subject

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Bluebelly blenny (Alloblennius pictus)

Photographs by Phil Medcalf

hile underwater photography includes wrecks, reefscapes and divers, the most-popular subject is almost certainly marine life. Understanding the behaviour and ecology of marine creatures makes it much easier to find your intended subject - and gives you a greater chance of getting the image you want. The first step in getting underwater images of marine life is to decide what you want to photograph. You may have seen an image that you want to replicate, or perhaps you’ve never seen a good image of a creature and want to make your mark by getting one. Maybe you have a passion for a particular species, or group of marine animals. Once you’ve set yourself a goal, you need to start planning how you are going to encounter the creature in question. This starts with going to the right part of the world. For example, if you are keen on photographing as many different nudibranchs as possible, then a trip to an Indo-Pacific diving destination will be more productive than going to the Caribbean. While some photographers are happy to decide what they will photograph once they get to their destination and will look at dive destinations based on diversity, others will pay large sums and travel great distances to photograph one particular prestigious marine animal. The great hammerheads of Bimini in the Bahamas draw people from around the world. One should bear in mind that just because a location has the animals you want to photograph doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the pictures you would like. Visibility, sea conditions and in the case of cage diving with great white sharks, large quantities of other fish drawn by bait can conspire to make photography difficult. Choosing the right time of year can be important as some marine life is seasonal in its distribution.

Sohal surgeonfish (Acanthurus shoal)

Blue dragon nudibranch (Pteraeodlidia ianthina)


Blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena sp.)

For example, manta ray populations in the Maldives move with the changing direction of the monsoons to follow the plankton that they feed on. If you are planning a resort-based trip to the Maldives, choosing when you go to match the appropriate direction monsoon will prevent you missing out on seeing mantas. The mobility of a liveaboard of course gives you greater opportunity to photograph these amazing creatures by not tying you down to one atoll. Weather and in particular water temperature can be a factor, a period of unusually cold water temperatures in somewhere like the Northern Red Sea may lead to an influx of creatures normally found in cooler water. Once you have decided on a general destination and the time of year to go, what dive sites you go to can have a great impact on your chances of successfully getting the shots you would like. As an individual, choosing a liveaboard itinerary or what resort to stay at is often the most control of where you dive on a trip you have. But shore diving independently or chartering a boat can let you exercise more control. A good photographic itinerary will likely include recurrent dives at sites with good biodiversity and a range of habitat. Most Northern Red Sea photo workshops will include time at dive sites such as the Barge at Gubal Island, Shark and Yolanda Reefs, and Jackson Reef. These sites all have varied habitat accessible in one dive, allowing you to go from outer reef wall, to inner sandy lagoons.

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Once you are in the water then locating your intended subject and achieving the shot depends on observing and understanding the environment and creatures around you. Marine creatures have reasons for being where they are, such as shelter, food, mating or guarding their eggs. Knowing these will greatly increase your likelihood of finding your chosen subject. Some animals will only be present at particular depths, while others will range throughout the recreational diving limits. Certain areas with proximity to deep water are known for giving sightings of unusual creatures, such as rare sharks and rays. What food a creature relies on is one of the most-useful things to know. Green turtles and dugongs, for example, are often found in seagrass beds because that is their main food supply. The eye-catching harlequin filefish feeds on specific coral types and its presence is an indicator that a coral reef

BLUE DUCK PHOTOGRAPHY

Last year, Phil founded a new company with his wife Anne and Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield. Blue Duck Photography Ltd puts together Duxy’s years of experience within both underwater photography retail and running overseas workshops with Anne and Phil’s knowledge of teaching skills to adults, competitive underwater photography and UK diving. Between the three of them they have every base covered when it comes to underwater photography. Blue Duck run workshops and courses in underwater photography, photoediting and videography hosted by dive centres and clubs, as well as organised by themselves. Beside training they are a retailer selling a range of underwater photography equipment based on a strong principle of giving the best advice and providing the customer with the equipment that meets their needs and budget. They can be contacted by email: info@blueduckphoto.com

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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY is in good health. Knowing what the coral it feeds on looks like will give you a chance of finding one of these rarely seen little fish. Creatures will co-exist with other animals for shelter, such as anemones, corals, crinoids and sea urchins. These creatures are often adapted to be camouflaged among their host and may have colours to match. Keen macro photographers often see these animals as a challenge to photograph and will spend a lot of time achieving an image. Once you locate your subject, understanding their behaviour will help you get the best shot. Take care to approach your subject slowly with gentle, smooth movements. Be aware that some marine life will retreat from shadows or bright lights. Focusing lights with red LEDs or filters can be useful, as some creatures don’t see them, but this is not true in all cases. Remember to breathe gently, especially when exhaling. Take the time to allow your subject to get used to your presence and decide that you aren’t a threat. Partner shrimps and gobies will quickly disappear into their shared hole if you approach too quickly. Christmas tree worms will disappear at a slight disturbance in the water. Camouflaged ambush predators such as frogfish, scorpionfish and stonefish can be difficult to spot, but will rarely change position, making them in a way a good subject. The flip side of this that their camouflage makes them a difficult subject to make stand out as an image. Placing yourself such that you have a contrasting background behind them such as blue water is a good technique to make them stand out. Creatures often live or hunt in co-existence with different species. Trumpetfish in the Caribbean will hunt in groups with other fish and remarkably will change their colouration to match the other fish they are with. Single spadefish will often be found with green turtles in the Maldives, so if you see a spadefish on its own look around it and you may find a turtle nearby. Squat lobster (Galathea sp.)

Shortfin lionfish (Dendrochirus brachypterus)

Cleaning stations are ideal places to get images of larger marine creatures. Fish like mantas, sharks, moray eels and barracuda will stay still while wrasse clean parasites from even inside their mouths and gills. Cleaner fish often use coral outcrops as sign posts to their ‘customers’ and will stay in the same territory. If you see an animal being cleaned, it’s likely others will come for the same service. Territorial behaviour often works in the underwater photographer’s favour. Many marine creatures will stick to the same area and guard this aggressively. Sohal surgeonfish in the Red Sea will approach photographers very closely when their space is entered. This gives great opportunity for images, but be mindful that you are annoying the fish by being there so try to take a few images and move on to another rather than harass one and distract it from its normal activity. Varying the time of day or night that you dive will increase your chances of getting a shot of something unusual. Dawn and dusk dives not only increase your opportunity to see interesting behaviour as the night and day creatures interact, but also light at these times can be more interesting to photograph. A significant proportion of understanding behaviour is gained from spending time in the water watching the marine life. Most marine life ID guides contain only limited information about the behaviour of creatures as they are mainly aimed at just helping you put a name to what you have seen. Repeatedly diving the same site will give you the chance to observe creatures closely and learn their habits. In essence, do your homework and learn about your subject. If you can, plan ahead as to what you want to photograph, what shots you want and how you are going to get close enough. Once in the water have patience, observe and move slowly. The more care and time you spend on getting your images, the better they will become. n

BIOGRAPHY: PHIL MEDCALF

Phil learnt to dive in 1991 while studying at the University of Sunderland and began taking pictures underwater a few years later with a budget 35mm camera and housing. He moved to digital photography in 2006 and began to get serious about shooting underwater images soon after this. He and his wife Anne have been regulars on photography workshops run by Scuba Diver’s regular photography writer Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield since his first trip in 2010. Over the years, they’ve developed from keen amateurs to semi-professional photographers who combine working as nurses with runningBlue Duck Photography Ltd alongside Duxy. Throughout his life, Phil has had a passion for the sea and marine life, and he tries to show this in his photography, talks that he does for dive clubs, and his blogging.

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Red Sea walls are dramatic and full of colour and life


Red Sea aficionado Mark Evans has dived the length and breadth of Egypt over the past 20-odd years, and here he showcases ten of the ‘must dive’ sites/areas Photographs by Mark Evans

T

he Egyptian Red Sea is a hotspot for European divers for several reasons. One, while only a five-hour flight away, it has a great yearround climate. Two, it boasts some of the best diving in the world. Three, it represents exceptionally good value for money, both land-based trips and liveaboards. There are resorts and marinas scattered throughout Egypt, from Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula, to El Gouna, Hurghada, Safaga, El Quseir and Marsa Alam. Dayboats and liveaboards can deliver you to fantastic reefs, exhilarating drift dives, awesome shipwrecks and mind-blowing walls, all smothered in colourful coral growth and myriad species of marine life. Here we showcase ten hotspots to add to your bucket list.

Manta ray cruises by off Daedalous Reef Carnatic

Giannis D

Turtle relaxing at Ras Mohammed

Numidia


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Red anemone on Woodhosue Reef

RAS MOHAMMED

Named by Jacques Cousteau as one of this ‘top ten dives’, Ras Mohammed’s Shark and Yolanda Reefs, which lie right at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, are truly world class. A sheer wall drops into the abyss, and while these are covered in marine life and a draw in their own right, the place comes into its own in July and August, when vast shoals of fish, including snapper, unicornfish, batfish and barracuda, swarm in the deep waters off the wall, making a veritable ‘fish soup’.

SS THISTLEGORM

Giannis D - Of all the wrecks on Abu Nuhas, the Japanese-built, Greek-owned freighter Giannis D is by far the most-popular. The ship was carrying a cargo of lumber and hit the reef in 1983 going at full speed – a fact made obvious when you see the twisted prop, which mangled itself as it ground into the coral – and now it is split into three distinct sections. The midships is smashed beyond all recognition, and the bow, which lies on its port side, is an impressive size and the mast is always surrounded by reef fish. However, it is the stern section which really makes this wreck special. It is fully intact from just before the rear superstructure, which means if you are appropriately trained, you can penetrate deep into the engine room, crew’s quarters and bridge. Carnatic - While the other three wrecks all went down in the 70s or 80s, the Carnatic is far, far older. She was a sleek 90-metre steam-andsail-powered passenger and mail ship which hit the reef in 1869, eventually sinking and taking some five passengers and 26 crew down with her. The Carnatic now lies on her port side in 26m. Coral growth is profuse because she has been down almost 150 years, and she is almost part of the reef now. Much of the wooden decking has fallen away, revealing the holds and the four-cylinder steam engine and boilers. Chrisoula K/Marcus - The third-most-visited wreck on Sha’ab Abu Nuhas is the Marcus, which is sometimes known as the Chrisoula K. Regardless of its true name, what is known without a doubt is that this was another Greek-owned freighter which ran aground and sank in 1981 while carrying a vast cargo of Italian floor tiles, which gives the wreck its nickname ‘tile wreck’. Kimon M - The fourth wreck on Abu Nuhas is probably the most-infrequently visited, which is a shame, as it is still a great dive. This German-built freighter was carrying 4,500-tons of lentils – hence its nickname, the ‘lentil wreck’ – when it drove hard onto the reef at full speed in 1978, destroying the bow section. It stayed on the reef top, before the weather conditions eventually took their toll and it slid off the reef into 30-32m of water.

THE BROTHERS

The Brothers Islands – Big Brother and Small Brother – are located some 60 miles offshore from the Egyptian mainland, and are es-

It would be hard to write about the best dive sites or areas in the Red Sea without mentioning the Thistlegorm. Sunk by German bombers in October 1941, this veritable underwater museum can vie for the title of ‘world’s best shipwreck’ with any rival from around the world, thanks to its cargo holds being chock-full of Allied military supplies, including motorcycles, Bren carriers, aircraft wings, trucks, trailers, rubber boots, Lee Enfield rifles, and ammunition of all shapes and sizes. Measuring over 128 metres in length and lying mostly intact and upright in 30-32m, it has suffered over the years from some careless mooring and pilfering divers, but it is still a force to be reckoned with.

SHA’AB ABU NUHAS

Sha’ab Abu Nuhas is an unassuming reef which would probably not even merit a mention on any diver’s hit-list if it wasn’t for the fact that it lies close to the major shipping lane to the Suez Canal, and thus it has claimed more than its fair share of ‘victims’ over the years. Lionfish Fleet of dayboats ready for the off Giant moray


Napoleon wrasse

Frogfish

Giannis D

Shells on the Thistlegorm

sentially two gigantic pinnacles rising out of the depths. Swept by sometimes fierce currents, they are alive with soft coral growth, and a hotspot for sharks, particularly grey reef, thresher, oceanic whitetip and hammerhead. Big Brother also boasts two shipwrecks, the Numidia and the Aida II, which perch impossibly upright embedded into the sheer reef wall. The Numidia, in particular, is worthy of a couple of dives alone to give you the time to savour the sight of a massive ship disappearing to well beyond recreational diving depths.

DAEDALOUS

This massive circular reef, like the Brothers, rises up from abyssal depths in the middle of the Red Sea and is swept by occasionally very strong currents. It doesn’t have the vivid colours of the two siblings, but there are some giant hard coral formations, and the reef is renowned for shoals of scalloped hammerheads cruising off its sheer walls, along with tuna and trevally, and occasional visits from manta rays, silky sharks, thresher sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks.

SALEM EXPRESS

The Salem Express is a tragic dive site, a 100-metre-long roll-on/roll-off ferry that was returning to the Egyptian port of Safaga with hundreds of pilgrims coming from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia when it collided with the Hyndman Reefs in the early hours of 17 December 1991. The ship was badly damaged, quickly took on water and sank within minutes, with enormous loss of life. Now lying on its starboard side in 29m, the Salem Express is slowly being colonised by marine life and due to its sheer size, makes an impressive, if somewhat eerie, dive, but there are still many reminders of the tragedy that occurred on that cold winter night and so divers are asked to treat the wreck with respect and not penetrate into the interior.

ROCKY ISLAND AND ZABARGAD

Rocky Island and nearby Zabargad are often included in offshore marine park itineraries alongside the

Anthias swarm on Small Brother

Brothers and Daedalous. Again, they both lie far out in the Red Sea, but while Rocky is reminiscent of Small Brother – being a desolate chunk of rock poking out of the sea and surrounded by deep, current-ripped waters – Zabargad is a full-blown island, punctuated by turquoise bays, sandy beaches and an impressive 235 metre hill at its centre. Zabargad means ‘topaz’ in Arabic, and you can still find evidence of the island community that mined the semi-precious stones here. As well as coral reefs and walls, there is the wreck of a USSR surveillance ship that sank in the 1970s and now lies upright in just 24m.

ELPHINSTONE

This torpedo-shaped, current-swept reef lies a few miles offshore from the southern Egyptian mainland, and was a favoured haunt of liveaboards for many years, mainly down to the regular sightings of oceanic whitetip sharks at the right time of year, but it is now also visited by large RIBs from the shore-based resorts. The oceanics still show up, and occasionally you see dolphins and other sharks, but it is not the adrenaline rush it used to be, though it is still well worth a visit.

FURY SHOALS

Fury Shoals is a collection of some 20 or more reefs spread over a 30km stretch, and sites such as Sha’ab Claudio and Sha’ab Maksur, which benefit from prodigious coral growth, sheer walls, shallow reefs, plenty of marine life and occasional screaming drifts, have ensured that this area features heavily on Deep South liveaboard itineraries. The reefs are also visited from some of the land-based operations these days.

ST JOHN’S

Along with Fury Shoals, St John’s has become a regular fixture on Deep South liveaboard safaris, and is often referred to as having the healthiest coral reefs in the whole of Egypt. Whether that claim holds is up for debate, however there is no denying that the corals are extremely colourful and vibrant, and they are home to a multitude of reef fish, which in turn can bring in the predators from the blue. A famous site in this area are the caves, which comprise a network of tunnels and swim-throughs, and are lit up in an ethereal manner by sunlight shining through holes and cracks above. n


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Lighthearted profile of dive centres or clubs from all over the United Kingdom. This month, we look at Whitley Bay's Deep Blue Pirates.

Who is in

CHARGE?

Name: Robyn Black (but father Pete thinks he is) Rank: Both Instructor Trainers Date of first certification: 2001 Number of dives to date: Coming up on 2,000 WHAT’S YOUR STORY? I started diving aged 13 in the Caribbean and quickly got hooked, diving in the UK as well as on family holidays. I then studied Marine Biology at university and became an instructor. I have worked in Egypt, the Maldives and Cyprus but came home to help my Dad run Deep Blue Pirates – back where it all started!

Q&A with Robyn Q: How would you describe your team at your dive centre? A: An eclectic bunch of pirates! Our instructors and Divemasters vary in their teaching style but are all friendly and passionate about every single student they have. Q: What is your most-embarrassing teaching moment? A: My hair after every dive! Q: What is your favourite place to dive in the UK? A: You can’t beat a good day diving Longstone Ends at the Farne Islands. Q: What is your favourite place to dive abroad? A: Tough question. The Gili Islands in Indonesia are always nice for a relaxing dive. Q: If you could change one thing about diving, what would it be? A: People’s perception of diving; that everything in the ocean is going to either eat you or attack you! Q: Who is the worst air-guzzler in your team? A: We don’t really have an air guzzler, but David Lindsay refuses to get out of the water until he has had an 80-minute dive. Q: Who is the biggest wimp out of the lot of you, and give a recent example? A: Probably me. I regularly have several undersuits and a heated vest on under my drysuit. Q: Who attracts the most attention, good or bad? A: Got to be Lewis Brown – he is a gentle giant, but daft as a brush. Q: If you could teach a celebrity to dive, who would it be and why? A: Peter Kay, because it would be hilarious! Q: What’s been the biggest fear factor in your diving career to date? A: I was struck down with sinus problems and thought my diving was over. But thanks to a great surgeon I am back in the water with (fingers crossed) no more issues.


ABOUT our club

Deep Blue Pirates formed in 2008 as a dive club linked to Deep Blue Dive in Whitley Bay, but quickly progressed to take on diver training as well. Now they have a fantastic club scene with weekly club nights at the dive centre, plus monthly get-togethers, holidays and camping weekends. They offer a full range of RAID training from trydive through to instructor level and technical diving. Owned by father-and-daughter team Pete and Robyn Black, Deep Blue Pirates has a laid-back dive club feel, yet has great on-site facilities and offers diver training to a high level.

Why you should

JOIN OUR CLUB CLUB NIGHTS Our famous ‘Tea & Tank Thursday’ involves a reduced price air fill, a free cuppa and a slice of homemade cake! Call in from 6pm until 9pm for a chat and a browse, or jump in the pool and practice. Everyone is welcome (our club is non-agency specific), with all staff members available for advice if needed. We normally go to the pub afterwards as well. We also have a monthly get together, everything from bowling to beach cleans! BRITISH DIVING TRIPS We dive all year round at the Farne Islands and St Abbs. Our boats are advertised on Facebook and all divers are welcome (although sometimes places are limited), we can also offer equipment hire and training on the boats. The Farne Islands are perfect in late-summer/autumn to see the grey seals in the water. St Abbs is beautiful all year round, often with dolphins playing around the boat at the surface interval. FOREIGN DIVE TRIPS We run several trips throughout the year, including Egypt, Malta and Tenerife. Our trips cater for all level of divers, and training courses are offered on the trips. TRAINING FACILITIES We have an onsite-heated swimming pool for confined water training plus a well-stocked equipment store and a classroom area. Our team of experienced instructors and Divemasters are always on-hand to help students out and guide them, even when they are not doing a course. We are firm believers that time in the water is the best way to learn, so we don’t have limited pool sessions on courses, or restricted dive times at open water.

DIVE CENTRE factfile Contact details Tel: 07539 941314 Email: info@deepbluepirates.net Website: www.deepbluepirates.net Opening hours Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. Saturday and Sunday we are normally diving! Monday and Thursday open until 9pm for club nights. Courses available From trydive through to instructor-level training available. We are a RAID Instructor Trainer centre and also offer technical courses to 50m. Rental kit and brand We have a wide range of rental kit available (plus an equipment store at Seahouses for divers at the Farne Islands) from several brands.

All regulators are Apeks and cold- water certified. Shop We partner with Deep Blue Dive (www.deepbluedive.com) in Whitley Bay to offer a huge range of dive equipment from most leading manufacturers, in one of the largest dive showrooms in the UK. Gas mixes Unfortunately, we do not currently offer gas blending, but we can fill up to 300 bar cylinders with air. Servicing We offer a wide range of servicing - Apeks/ Aqua Lung, Mares, Scubapro, Suunto, Atomic and Seac. Plus drysuit repairs and not forgetting BCD servicing.


18m

ABOVE Portland Harbour is home to several wreck dives, and this issue, Stuart Philpott explores one of the most-popular, the Countess of Erne Photographs by Stuart Philpott

Tompot blenny


T

he Countess is probably the most-popular dive site in Portland Harbour. Being located inside of the breakwater, the wreck is well protected from wind and waves. Features include an easily accessible deck area and cargo holds, all sitting at a shallow depth suitable for most experience levels (going inside the holds, even though there are no major restrictions, could be classed as more advanced). I dug out my pile of old red BSAC logbooks from yonks ago and found that the Countess was my very first Portland harbour site, entered as dive no.43 in the Philpott archives. Since then I have returned more times than I can remember, occasionally for work but usually with friends and just for fun. For reasons mentioned above, this wreck is a firm favourite with recreational and tech diver training, as well as for pleasure diving. I searched the internet and found that nearly every dive club/centre south of Watford has mentioned the Countess on their websites in either past or future events. Personally, the wreck brings back some great memories of descending all the way down the stern to explore the rudder, scouring around the breakwater boulders searching for blackfaced blennies and dipping up and down through the cargo holds. There’s only one major negative I can think of, and that’s the amount of fine, easily disturbed silt. If I was to give the Countess a rating of one to ten on my siltometer scale, the wreck would consistently score a high eight or nine.

The Countess of Erne has many holes in its superstructure

ARRIVAL AT THE SITE

The Portland harbour dive sites, including the Countess, are offered by nearly every dive centre and charter boat operating around Weymouth and Portland. From Weymouth there are several charter boats for hire, and the Old Harbour Dive School pay a visit to the wreck weekly - £17 for a RIB dive, or £20 for a hardboat trip. Follow the main Portland beach road (A354) onto the causeway. Carry on past the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre car park, turn left at the next roundabout and then follow the signs to Portland Marina. Alternatively, carry on to the next roundabout and turn left. O’Three drysuits and Underwater Explorers can be seen from the road (this is a convenient stop for gas top ups and any dive kit issues) and then follow the signs to the marina. Portland marina was used throughout the 2012 Olympics. They offer the full range of boat services and facilities, including Skin Deep dive centre and The Boat That Rocks bar/restaurant. Skin Deep offer regular shuttles to the harbour dive sites as well as venturing further offshore. Cost is £18 for a dive on the Countess, and don’t forget to say hi to Oona! Car parking is free. Carry on into Castletown where the Aquasport Hotel and Dive Beyond reside. The café cooks up a great full English breakfast as well as more healthy options. Dive Beyond is owned by wellknown PADI Course Director Dale Spree, who is a great character and has been diving around Portland forever. Dale offers Countess dives virtually every weekend, cost is £18 pp. The car park fee is about £3 for four hours. There are also some free spaces available along the roadside. Machinery is still visible on the wreck

DIVE BRIEFING

“The hull is full of large holes (there seems to be more appearing each year) so divers can also practice their buoyancy skills” Cuttlefish

The Countess of Erne was an iron-hulled paddle steamer built in Dublin by Walpole, Webb and Bewley and launched in 1868. At 74 metres long with a beam of nearly nine metres and weighing 830 tons, she must have looked a grand sight in her heyday sporting twin funnels and distinctive paddle wheels amidships. Owned by the London and Northwest Railway and used as a passenger ferry, she sailed from Holyhead to Dublin carrying a maximum of 700 passengers, 100 in upper class and the remainder in second and third class seating. There were also three cargo holds with a capacity of 700 tons. After 21 years of service, the Countess was auctioned in Liverpool and sold to the Bristol Steam Navigation Company. A short time later she was sold on for scrap. All the fittings and fixtures were stripped from below decks, including topside railings, funnels, masts and cabins, leaving just a lifeless hulk. What remained of the Countess spent the next 30 years as a portable coal storage facility moored at various ports. On the night of 16 September 1935, she broke free of her moorings in Portland harbour, drifted onto the breakwater and sank. The Countess now lies upright on a sand and silt seabed at a maximum depth of 16m just a few metres away from the breakwater in a parallel orientation, her deck 8-10m from the surface.


THE COUNTESS OF ERNE, PORTLAND HARBOUR

Marine growth covers the hull

WHAT TO EXPECT TYPE OF ‘DIVE’ Boat dive.

DEPTH

16m to the seabed, though the deck area is around 8-10m.

MARINE LIFE/WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

“Finning towards the stern there are some overhead deck cross members (some have collapsed) and then it’s either delving into the cargo holds or continue along the deck” THE DIVE

Most dives begin at the bow where the shotline is attached. This is a reasonably open area with the capstan being the most-prominent feature. The bow is still intact and retains its bow shape. Finning towards the stern there are some overhead deck cross members (some have collapsed) and then it’s either delving into the cargo holds or continue along the deck. Usually I stay at deck level, occasionally going in and out of the cargo holds all the way to the stern and then turn around and work my way back to the shotline. If I’m feeling particularly adventurous I will explore the breakwater boulders on the return leg, scouting for marine life. The silty conditions remind me of driving in fog, it can be quite eerie. There is plenty of ambient light filtering down, so I personally don’t think it’s a necessity to carry a torch as the beam just reflects off the particles. The darker overhead areas only penetrate for several metres and the entry/exits are always visible. The internal cabin walls have all corroded away or collapsed, so it’s mainly a wide-open space with enough room for two divers to fin along side by side. There are some deck support pillars and ladders to negotiate but very few snagging wires or tight squeeze areas. The hull is full of large holes (there seems to be more appearing each year) so divers can also practice their buoyancy skills. Apart from the rudder there’s not much to see on the seabed. Slightly off the wreck there are bits and pieces of metal but nothing substantial, so my advice is to stick closely to the hull. In low visibility conditions, it’s rare but still possible for divers to lose contact with the wreck and drift into the harbour entrance where shipping regularly passes by. Sometimes there can be a current but it’s not usually strong enough to hinder diving activities and the flow helps clear away any silt. Marine life sightings can be quite varied. Usually I see spider crabs and velvet swimmers clinging to the bollards or camouflaged in the flora growing over the decks. Wrasse and pollock are always flitting about. Dead man’s fingers and sea squirts adorn the hull. There are even nudibranchs. On occasion, I have even seen cuttlefish, triggerfish and shoals of sea bass. The only time I go off piste is to explore the breakwater boulders. I have found the odd lobster, velvet swimming crabs, gobies, tompot blennies and rare black-faced blennies. For recreational dives I use a single 12-litre filled with either air or nitrox. This should easily provide enough gas for a 45 minute to an hour dive. Always carry a delayed SMB just in case. n

Spider and velvet swimming crabs, pollock, wrasse, blennies, dead man’s fingers, nudibranchs, cuttlefish.

VISIBILITY

Can vary dramatically – one a good day, you could get near double-digits, but generally four to five metres is more the norm. Beware disturbing the silt, which can reduce vis in a second.

SEABED

Sand and silt, which is easily kicked up by a careless fin stroke.

HAZARDS

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Care must be taken not to kick up the silt

Windlass on the Countess

Black-faced blenny


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SCHOLARSHIP DIARY

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

DEVELOPING INTO AN INSTRUCTOR PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAE DORRICOTT AND LUKE INMAN

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hrow back to 2012, where 18-year-old Mae first touched Mexican soil. It was on the Yucatan Peninsula where I first embarked on my journey to becoming a diving professional, undertaking my PADI Divemaster. Five years later, I had returned, but this time to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula, to join the Cortez Expeditions team for more diving and adventure! The Sea of Cortez was continually jaw-dropping as masses of marine fauna visited the waters, confirming any knowledge I had of how plentiful this sea is. The gulf is thriving with life, and I wished I had superpowered X-ray vision to see all the marine creatures in their three-dimensional world, swimming in the underwater mountain range of this special body of water. This area is famous for humpback whales, schools of mobula rays and whalesharks. But my highlight were the sea lions. And I think my host, Luke Inman, would agree. He recently was awarded Runner-up in the Underwater Photographer of the Year for his gorgeous book The Sea Lions of Los Islotes, which is an insight into the sea lions that live on the island just out from La Paz. I think it’s fair to say that Luke has an affinity for these enchanting creatures who dive, swirl and cheekily tug on your fins. They are so easy to fall in love with. It was a joy to dive this site with Luke, as he knows the sea lions well after diving here for 15 years.

Mae Dorricott

However, that was enough of the fun diving. Down to business. The main reason for my time in La Paz was for the PADI Instructor Development Course with Luke to embark on my next journey up the diving professional ladder. To be totally honest, I never saw myself becoming an instructor at the beginning of my Scholarship year. As still a young girl settling into the diving industry, I thought that I wasn’t ready to impart wisdom nor take on the responsibility of teaching others how to dive. But after the year I have had as the European Rolex Scholar, I’ve been exposed to such an array of diving experiences that I felt that I was capable of becoming a part of the instructing community, not only to teach diving but share a love for exploring the undersea world. It was an intense two weeks being whipped into shape in terms of theory and practicality. But I had an awesome buddy, Shea, who was the best peer to embark on this journey with and to help each other out. We soon found out that one person’s weakness was the other’s strength and as a team was able to complete the IDC! Luke was also a fabulous mentor, imparting all of his wisdom as an instructor for over 20 years. Another adventure in Mexico helping me carve a path in the underwater world - who knows what next time will bring. n

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Queen angelfish exploring the reef


The wonderous walls of Gavin Anderson enjoys a slower pace of life on the island of Grand Turk, and discovers that awesome wall diving lies just a short distance off the shoreline Photographs by Gavin Anderson


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Grand Turk has plenty of colour topside

GRAND TURK TOPSIDE

In between dives or on afternoons off, there are loads of things to do around the island. In the 18th and 19th century, Grand Turk and Salt Cay were leading the world in salt production. Known for its purity and quality, the island’s salt was shipped all over the world. A visit to the White Gold building, next to the island’s main salt pans, will take you through a small exhibition. Another place worth a visit is the island’s museum, where there are some great exhibits on pioneer divers, such as Jeremiah Denis Murphy, who hunted for shipwrecks and treasure over 150 years ago here. Murphy, originally from Co Cork, Ireland, famously raised gold bullion worth $60,000 from the wreck of the Royal Mail steamship Rhone in the British Virgin Islands. The Rhone’s bell, which he salvaged, ended up in the Anglican church on South Caicos! There are also exhibits on the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest shipwreck found in all the Americas, and sections on freediving pioneers Jacques Mayol and Tanya Streeter, who both set records freediving off the Turks and Caicos. Mayol, who was the first freediver to descend to 100m, resided at Belle Sound on South Caicos for many years. The famous film Big Blue was inspired by his life story and philosophy. The lighthouse on Grand Turk is worth a tour, as is - just for sheer hilarity - the Grand Turk Cruise Centre, where you can see hundreds and thousands of tourists lying on a beach looking at their cruse ship while they slowly get rum-punched! Nassau grouper

Donkeys are a common sight on Grand Turk

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t doesn’t take long to get into island mode when you touch down on Grand Turk. Driving from the airport, you’ll find your taxi giving way to donkeys, while egrets strut their stuff alongside the dusty main road and, in the distance, flamingos and pelicans fly by. As you reach the main streets of Duke and Queen, you’ll discover beautiful colonial-style buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th century, reflecting the Bermudian style of the Salt-raking era - you’ll really feel like you’ve arrived on an island full of natural beauty, history and a real slow pace of life. Grant Turk hasn’t changed much in years, and thankfully the diving remains world class. Just a skip and a hop off the shore, you’ll find what is the third largest barrier reef in the world and a whole load of excellent dive sites. The dive centres, like most of the accommodation on the island, are located on Duke Street, all just a short walk from each other. Right at the start of the street is Grand Turk Divers. Front of house Chris, who helps rescue island dogs and other animals in her spare time, was very friendly and efficient and, as I soon was to find out, complemented the Divemasters, Jason and Andre, and Smitty, the boss, very well, all being extremely laid back and chilled, like a perfect island-style cocktail! Smitty is a diving legend in the Turks. For over 40 years he’s been taking people diving round the island. I really enjoyed being able to dive with him during my week. I quickly discovered how easy diving on Grand Turk is. I’d landed at 9am and by 11.30am I found myself wandering a few yards from the dive centre

“There are a number of friendly Nassau grouper. I enjoyed the company of one for an entire dive - it was a bit like being on a walk with the dog!”

Time to go diving!

over the road, on to the beach and into one of their three shade-covered boats. Just five minutes later we were right over the wall. Most of the dive sites along the wall have areas of sand close to the wall perfect to drop the anchor on, and for beginner divers or those just arriving to get their buoyancy sorted out. Most sites feature coral bommies and the main reef at the top of the wall slopes gradually down from about 10m-15m before dropping straight down to 6,000 feet. Cruising along the wall was an awesome feeling. One never knew what might turn up, from spotted eagle rays, blacktip and reef sharks, to hawksbill and green sea turtles. From late-January to April, humpback whales migrate right past the walls of Grand Turk and it is possible to jump in and snorkel with them - now that would be something! The Turks and Caicos government established the Columbus Landfall National


“I did venture down to 30m on occasion following queen angelfish, which tended to play hide and seek with me in and out of the mostcolourful areas of the wall” Caribbean reef sharks are often seen off Grand Turk’s walls

Queen angelfish

Park here back in 1992. It has really help protect fish numbers and you can tell it’s working. There are a number of friendly Nassau grouper. I enjoyed the company of one for an entire dive - it was a bit like being on a walk with the dog! I also enjoyed some dives alongside some very friendly hawksbill turtles, which seemed to enjoy hanging out with me too. During my first dive I quickly discovered the top of the wall was the best place to explore. You could swim with schools of yellowtails grunts and horse-eye jacks, along with all the usual Caribbean reef, such as the damsels, parrot, trigger, file, angel and pufferfish, while keeping one eye out into the blue for the bigger stuff. As well as being great for fish spotting, there were some great corals to check out, including giant star and brain and, just off the reef top down on the first section of wall, there were some amazing plate corals, gorgonians and beautiful encrusting yellow and orange sponges. The barrel sponges were a good size and during the week at sites more shaded from the sun, I found large areas of black coral no deeper than 20m. I did venture down to 30m on occasion following queen angelfish, which tended to play hide and seek with me in and out of the most-colourful areas of the wall. It was here I also got some close encounters with both Caribbean and blacktip reef sharks as they patrolled up and down the wall. From day one, I noticed Smitty and the other Divemasters were carrying long spears with them. I wondered if they had some over-interested sharks but no, it was to control lionfish numbers. Invasive lionfish, which have had a real negative effect in other places throughout the Caribbean, are almost absent here, such is the dedication of the Grand Turk Divemasters and it’s really helping keep the fish numbers healthy. In Provo, the Divemasters have stopped spearing due to insurance worries as the local sharks had started to become over-interested in the Divemasters and their sticks. Something great has happened though and, despite lionfish numbers still being a problem here, there is hope as the sharks have now learnt to prey naturally on the lionfish, as have the larger grouper.

TURKS HEAD INNE

The Turks Head Inne is a stunning boutique hotel with five luxury suites, two garden rooms, a bunk room to sleep six, bar and restaurant. Built around 1830 as the original home of the island’s salt overseer, it later served as the British Governor’s guest house and the American Consulate. It opened as the first hotel in 1840 under the name Turks Head Hotel, the guesthouse was later renamed the Turks Head Mansion before becoming the Turks Head Inne. I chose to stay in the very comfortable bunkhouse for $75 per night. Garden rooms come in at $125. Other hotels offer packages with diving which work out between $200-$300 per night. www.turksheadinne.com

Throughout my week on the great Grand Turk wall, I enjoyed several sites with scenic features, such as McDonald’s, where we ventured through its magnificent arch, and Tunnels and Rolling Hills, both with lovely swim-throughs. However, one of my favourite sites was Fish Pond. Here we had a bit of a current on top of the reef and a large school of horse-eye jacks circled us while close by a group of huge barracuda looked on. I also enjoyed exploring along the wall here past fantastic fields of deepwater gorgonians with sprinklings of colourful orange elephant ear sponges. We also saw eagle rays and more sharks here. Just up from Fish Pond is the Aquarium, where the reef ridges rise and fall, creating several sand canyons. On the ridges there were lots of healthy brain corals, sea rods and sponges. If you’re into smaller creatures, such as nudibranchs, frogfish and seahorses, Mama Nature is a good place. Smitty took me here to look for a pair of seahorses. We found a brilliant yellow female and a pregnant brown male fastened at the bottom of a pretty purple seafan. Grand Turk Divers, as do most of the dive centres, run trips to Salt Cay, Gibbs Cay and South Caicos. Salt Cay has good shallow reefs and walls, Gibbs Cay is great for stingrays (a bit like Stingray City on Grand Cayman), and South Caicos is a good place for the advanced diver looking to explore deeper walls and the chance of large animal encounters. Sadly, our weather broke and diving had to be cancelled, so I have several reasons to come back here as I didn’t see any humpback whales - it was just a little too early in the season. n Turtles also like Grand Turk’s waters

Turks Head Inne


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FREEDIVING CORNWALL Cornwall on breath-hold Top British freediver Georgina Miller extols the virtues of the Cornish coastline as the perfect location to learn how to freedive Photographs by Daan Verhoeven

I

’m remembering a day out last summer with really good friends. We jumped off the back of the boat into absolutely crystal-clear blue water. It could have been the tropics - aside from the temperature! We were close to one of Cornwall’s most-picturesque beaches, but on the seaward side of an island of rock. Sticking close to the high cliffs, we had a beautiful calm day. Black, pink and green whorls of colour from the serpentine rocks rose up above and below us to a carpet of white sand at the bottom. The rock walls became more fractured and soon opened up into deep gullies, and the entrance of caves appeared from the deeper parts. Shoals of white bait were hanging around the entrances, making it difficult to see the shape of the caves behind. We freedived down into them, exploring, coming across a friendly seal, and some weird-shaped rocks that I later found out were cannon, possibly from a Dutch shipwreck from the 1700s, according to the coins and buckles that have been discovered there. I think we must have forgotten about the cold as we spent around two hours swimming along through the gullies, around the beds of kelp and shy fish, feeling amazed at the marine architecture. We were then picked up by our amazing skipper Mike, who I’m sure has eyes in the back of his head. He is able to spot a bunch of freedivers in blue or black hoods, while keeping an eye on the horizon for dolphins, basking sharks or a myriad of other wildlife that he knows we would love to see. Retiring into a very comfortable boat for a bit of lunch and a hot cup of tea, we were off to a different site for more exploring. This is one of the many reasons I love freediving in Cornwall. When you imagine freediving, it conjures associations of warm, clear blue water - not something that you would associate with the UK - but Cornish waters have a surprise.

AQUACITY FREEDIVING

Aquacity Freediving is located at Porthkerris Dive Centre, which has five-star facilities. There is on-site accommodation, classrooms, a pool and the diving is right off the beach. Coming out to a hot shower and a warm cup of tea at the cafe will seal the deal. Aquacity Freediving stocks a good range of Mares equipment and provides you with the latest cold-water specific gear for your course. The team teach SSI, PADI and AIDA courses from beginner to instructor level. www.aquacityfreediving.com

Heading to the surface through the kelp Shadowed by the support boat

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Exploring on breath hold

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DeeperBlue.com is the World’s Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. We’ve been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.

Georgina plays with a friendly seal

“Or, nearly as fun, all of the above but already wearing a wetsuit to keep out the rain, laughing at your mates for looking a bit like a distinctly un-zen- like, soggy visitor to a fetish club in a rubber suit” Getting ready to dive

Freediving is the sport of diving underwater on a single breath. It is not just about competitive diving, where you hold your breath for as long as you can, or see how deep that you can swim, although that is certainly a big draw, it is also a lovely way to explore the underwater world and interact with wildlife. Taking a freedive course with a qualified instructor is really important. It is a very safe sport when people are properly trained and always diving with a buddy. In my opinion, learning to freedive in the environment that you will later be exploring is really important. Not only do you learn the techniques and science behind freediving, but how to plan a dive properly, take in environmental factors, train to dive safely, without incident, and how to rescue in the unlikely event that you need it. Freediving has its roots in yoga, meditation and breathing techniques. It goes way beyond a duck dive and snorkel. Many freedivers would argue that it is a good life skill, learning to face your fears, control your breath, still your mind, calm your heart, relax and focus. Picture yourself sitting on a Cornish beach in summer time, listening to the gentle roll of the sea, feeling the sun on your face, feeling clean air in your lungs. Or, nearly as fun, all of the above but already wearing a wetsuit to keep out the rain, laughing at your mates for looking a bit like a distinctly un-zen- like, soggy visitor to a fetish club in a rubber suit. WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

Dwarfed by a jellyfish

Up close and personal with a blue shark

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FREEDIVING CORNWALL All humans share something in common with our aquatic friends the dolphins and seals - the mammalian dive reflex. When your face comes into contact with water, your heart rate will slow, and this conserves valuable oxygen for when you hold your breath. Your blood will also move into your core, protecting your lungs and vital organs. Your body already knows how to hold its breath. People have been freediving for millennia, looking for food and exploration - it is a really natural thing to do. Many freedivers find that yoga and meditation will help with their underwater practice. We learn proper breathing techniques and hydro-dynamism, freedom of movement underwater with efficient movement, again to conserve oxygen and make the dive last longer. This is one of the reasons that freediving appeals to so many, you are unhindered by heavy equipment and truly free to explore. So why learn to dive in Cornwall? As a peninsular we have miles and miles of coastline to explore, which delivers so many different environments. The coast has wonderful long beaches, attracting surfers, but many are also drawn to the rocky shores of the south coast for its wildlife and shipwrecks. We are lucky here at Porthkerris to be sheltered on the most part from the prevailing westerly winds, on the edge of a marine conservation zone - the famous Manacles. Catching the Gulfstream, the water here is more temperate. For this reason, it attracts a huge amount of marine life. The reef is so pretty, really colourful and bright - it will surprise many with its almost-tropical bright colours. The shipwrecks are world-famous, although often fairly broken up by the wild winter storms. We are lucky to have many resident and visiting cetaceans as well - whales and dolphins. Seeing them breach and swim past the dive boat is always breath-taking. Cornwall is

Georgina glides through a gully

also home to the Atlantic grey seal, who can sometimes be very curious and approach to nibble a fin. Freedivers make no sound as they explore underwater, so it means that you can get really close to wildlife. Another fascinating visitor to these waters is the beautiful blue shark, and the very best way to get close to them is freedivng. We also have access to deep water by boat for the more-experienced freedivers who want to go a bit deeper. The depth diving here is in many ways easier than the cold lakes of the UK, as the thermoclines are less pronounced and it is a lot less dark. Although we do have more water movement, making the windows to go deep freediving with a line a bit smaller, on a good day it can be world class. I think there is a little something for everyone here. Learning to freedive in Cornwall can provide a lovely sheltered environment for beginners to hone techniques, learn to plan dives and watch for good conditions. The wildlife is spectacular, the historic wreck dives fascinating, and the deep diving challengingly brilliant. I think something that really appeals to me is that all of this is a very real habitat. Nothing here is fabricated or manufactured for diver training - it is alive, visceral and mercurial in its changes. Learning to freedive here in the sea will really give you an understanding of why our oceans are so vital, for both the planet and as food for your soul. I have met some of my closest friends through freediving - it is a fantastic community to be a part of. n

“The depth diving here is in many ways easier than the cold lakes of the UK, as the thermoclines are less pronounced and it is a lot less dark� There is much to see freediving from the shoreline


THERE ARE LOTS OF HAND SIGNALS IN DIVING WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR HEART, THIS SHOULDN’T BE ONE OF THEM Book an appointment with a healthcare professional or diving doctor and check that your heart is up to it.

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Kri Eco-Resort Monthly series in which we focus on a particular house reef, this issue visiting ‘the richest house reef in the world’, which lies in front of the Kri Eco Resort in Raja Ampat Photographs by Aaron Gekoski, Corinne Bourbeillon, Frits Meyst, Roger Steene and Scotty Graham

I

n Raja Ampat, the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ and thus the most species-rich marine area in the world, lies the Kri Eco Resort. The house reef begins at a depth of 1m and is very easy for divers to reach via the resort main jetty in just a few steps. The house reef is also very interesting for snorkellers - at high tide they can even snorkel from their bungalow to the reef edge - because right under the jetty, from the water surface up to 5m deep, there is already a multitude of different animals to discover and lots of fish action going on. The jetty poles are not only nicely overgrown, as a protective habitat they also attract numerous fish. Over the years, this area has developed itself into a unique artificial reef. This, in combination with the reef plateau, which extends to the right and left of the jetty and drops as a steep slope to approximately 45m, makes it into a Garden of Eden underwater. Between the poles, which are overgrown with soft corals, gorgonians and tunicates, you can almost always encounter a big school of mackerel and snapper. Batfish, angelfish, butterflyfish and rabbitfish, sweetlips, soldierfish, big porcupine and smaller pufferfish are also common species which are found under and around the jetty. Those who take the time to look better can also spot stonefish, scorpionfish, frogfish and ghost pipefish. On top of that there is a multitude of critters, such as mantis shrimp, nudibranchs and the occasional blue-ringed octopus or flamboyant cuttlefish. This makes these reefs ideal for doing a night dive. Or, when the tide is high, some

night snorkelling on top of the reef plateau along the main jetty. Every evening, when the sun disappears below the horizon, the main star of the show starts to become active looking for food on top of the reef plateau, the famous Raja Ampat bamboo shark. This shark is also known as the ‘walking shark’ as it uses its four pectoral fins to walk on the substrate in shallow water, searching for shells and crabs. Kri Eco house reef also offers the possibility to encounter big marine animals - blacktip reef sharks are always swimming around while patrolling the reefs, as well as herds of grazing bumphead parrotfish. Even wobbegongs are not uncommon around the jetty. Green turtles and hawksbill turtles are regular visitors who hang out on top of the reef to rest and eat, or swim by in the blue along the reef. And thanks to the unique location of Kri Island in the middle of the Dampier Strait, the house reef of the Kri Eco Resort also offers opportunities to encounter big pelagic animals - occasionally manta rays and eagle rays pass by, as well as dolphins and pilot whales. All of this is to be discovered under and around the resort jetty between the reef plateau and 15m depth. As most of the dives on the house reef are done unguided (buddy team mandatory), this offers the option to do long and relaxed dives. As the grounds and reefs in front of both Kri Eco resort and its neighboring resort, Sorido Bay, are private and only accessible for resort guests, this guarantees that most of the time you won’t see any other divers underwater. n www.Papua-Diving.com


Andy looking like he is about to go and jump out of a perfectly good airplane


Andy has been an avid climber for many years

Relaxing in the middle of a challenging climb

Q: You are renowned for being a bit of an Action Man - have you always been an adventurer? A: I grew up in the Scottish Highlands so being outdoors, climbing trees, swimming in rivers was normal. I started snorkeling at 12 and diving at 14. I started climbing at 13 and I’ve been hillwalking and camping since I was very young. So I suppose I’ve always liked the outdoors. But I’m not into adventure for its own sake, or for pleasure. I prefer to have a reason, a mission, to go to work. So whether it’s filming, scientific or archaeological research, or experimenting with new technologies, that ticks all the boxes - I’m afraid climbing a mountain ‘because it’s there’ isn’t enough for me. Q: Talking of Action Man, isn’t it true that you actually voiced said iconic action figure? A: Yes. The BBC did a special for Action Man’s 50th Anniversary where he went out and discovered his own history. It was all real apart from Action Man himself, who was stop-motion animation. They needed someone to be the voice for the toy and called me up and asked if I was free. Clearly I said yes - regardless of when it was, I’d make sure I was free! I even bought a new Action Man T-shirt to wear to the voice recording in Cardiff. Andy when he was filming for Operation Iceberg for the BBC

Andy got to play with all manner of cool gadgets

Q: You are currently on CBBC in Beyond Bionic. How did you land such a great gig, travelling the world and playing with loads of cool gadgets? A: It was my idea. I actually wrote it up eight years ago now. It took me that long to build up enough of a reputation as a TV presenter and also my credibility as a diver, freediver, climber, skydiver, scientist and zoologist, etc, to convince someone to put up the money. It was hard work too. Almost eight months of near non-stop filming around the world and away from the family. But the results have been worth it - it’s been a huge success already.

Action Man, skydiver, technical diver, climber, presenter and all-round nice bloke Andy Torbet is rapidly carving a niche for himself as the man the TV companies go to when they need someone to do something most people would find absolutely crazy. Scuba Diver sat down to find out what drives his adventurous lifestyle. Photographs courtesy of Andy Torbet


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Q: You are a regular on The One Show and have done a few other TV programmes aimed at adults, but this is your first series focused on children. What was the attraction of filming for younger viewers? A: Yeah, I’ve done 18 adult series now over the last six years with things like Coast, The One Show and special series for BBC History and BBC Science (the highlight being one of the Britannic, where I got to dive the ship in 2016, the 100th anniversary of the sinking). CBBC approached me about doing something for kids that would really stand out. This was an opportunity to deal in the sorts of stunts you normally only see on Top Gear, but mix it with science, technology and natural history. There is also something worthwhile in doing kids telly. It’s seen by many as lesser than adult stuff, but the exact opposite should be true. Surely we should be spending more time, money and effort on making great factual content for our kids than we do on ourselves.

Andy in his element hanging precariously over a vast drop

Q: A side-effect of being a CBBC presenter is that you have now become a hot topic of conversation among Mums in playgrounds the length and breadth of the country. Has your friend and fellow CBBC presenter Steve Backshall given you any tips on how to deal with this attention? A: It’s not bad attention, so I don’t think there’s a need to ‘deal with it’. To be honest, I seem to remember Steve getting approached more by Dads when we went to the pub. They were usually looking for a photo with him to show the kids the next morning. Q: Back to underwater – how did you get into diving in the first place? A: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into the underwater world. Apparently, when I was three I’d watch any underwater wildlife programmes - The Man from Atlantis or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - and swim around the house in my pants. Then when I was 12, I joined the Aberdeen BSAC club. I had a paper-round which covered the costs but I was only a snorkel member, as you weren’t allowed to dive until you were 14 back then. I’d snorkel above the divers on shore dives around the Aberdeen coast. It was freezing. Then I continued this and became a qualified diver, then an Army Diver, where I commanded the Army’s Underwater Bomb Disposal Team, then a commercial diving supervisor and now I still manage to make diving part of my professional life. Andy is a passionate CCR and technical diver

An armoured-up Andy returns from another exploratory dive

...and about to leap off the airplane

Off to go skydiving...


Q: You are a qualified technical diver and CCR diver - when did you first get drawn to technical diving? A: I can’t remember when I first dived a twinset or nitrox, but we did a lot of twinset and fullface mask work in the Army Dive Teams. I started doing deep trimix stuff in the early 2000s then, after a weekend with Martyn Farr, pretty much self-taught cave diving from 2006. I took up my first CCR, not counting the ones we’d played with in the military, in 2008. I think the first time I went past 100m on OC was 2008, and with a rebreather was 2010. I now rarely dive open circuit unless the job requires it, or CCR is logistically not possible.

Andy has got the Action Man stare down pat

Q: For you personally, what is the attraction of technical diving? A: Exploration. It’s the single biggest draw about diving for me. New species, undiscovered shipwrecks, flooded landscapes, forgotten mine complexes, unmapped cave systems - that’s what attracts me. Andy often ventures into caves and flooded mines

Andy is also a competent freediver

Q: What has been your worst moment while diving? A: Turning up to a job having forgotten my fins. I’m usually an absolute admin-ninja, so this was worse than my diving helmet filling with water while walking around the seabed at 50m off Fort William, or blowing myself off my feet with a broco underwater cutting torch. Q: On the flip side, what has been your best moment while diving? A: The minutes as I drop through the water column towards a new shipwreck (or what we think might be a shipwreck), swimming through a mine-passage for the first time since it was abandoned, exploring a seabed, river bed, lake bed or cave system where no one had been. It’s the most-thrilling experience to know no one has ever seen this and to not know what you might find.

When did he ever take notice of a sign like this?

Q: What’s next for Andy Torbet? Will we be seeing a team-up with aforementioned CBBC fave Mr Backshall, Deadly 60 v Beyond Bionic? A: Steve is mega-busy with a bunch of his own projects which will see him flat out for the next year or more on filming expeditions. I’ve got some irons in the fire with a couple of channels, and there is Beyond Bionic series two to try and get commissioned. I’m also doing a Masters in Archaeology in my spare time, and I’m setting up a couple of non-TV scientific underwater expeditions. TV is great, but it’s not all I want to do. I am at heart a diver and explorer. Of course, I’m also training for a big climbing trip and am entering the World Speed Skydiving Championship again this year. And I really should take the family on holiday at some point. n


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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

Ilkeston and Kimberley Sub Aqua Club Congratulations go to Gary Lampon, who has recently qualified as a Regional Instructor following a lot of hard work and commitment. A fundraising evening being held in Awsworth, Nottinghamshire in support of the St Abbs Lifeboat. Tickets are £5 and a fun night is expected, including stand up bingo, raffle, auction and buffet. More details can be found on the club’s Facebook page.

BSAC has joined forces with environment charity Surfers Against Sewage to call for the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme in England to stem the tide of discarded drink containers. With plans to introduce the deposit scheme in Scotland already in place, campaigners are now working to get a similar scheme introduced in England. Under the programme, based on schemes in Scandinavia, customers would pay a surcharge that would be reimbursed when they return the container to the shop. The surcharge would cover all disposable drink containers – plastic, metal and glass. On behalf of a coalition of water-based organisations, including BSAC, Surfers Against Sewage has now written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling for the urgent introduction of the scheme. You can read the letter by visiting the website: bsac.com/ bottledepositscheme Such a scheme, the coalition believe, would make a significant impact on both the marine environment and the safety of sea users. “These systems work well in other countries, with return rates of well over 90 percent in some cases, and we recognise the other benefits beyond the litter agenda, notably around resource efficiency, improving recycling rates and reducing climate emissions,” explained Surfers Against Sewage Director, Hugo Tagholm. “However, our primary interest is still in litter reduction, particularly in the areas we rely on for recreation, including our beaches, rivers and lakes, countryside paths, cycle ways and trails and other open spaces where beverage containers are often discarded.” BSAC Chief Executive Mary Tetley said the bottle deposit scheme would make a real difference to the marine environment by reducing the amount of litter finding its way into the water. “As divers, we see firsthand the impact of litter on the marine environment, not only in our seas but on the beach and coastline. To reduce marine litter, we must find ways to ensure our waste is disposed of correctly and a bottle deposit scheme can help to make this happen,” she said. The Surfers Against Sewage Bottle Deposit campaign is supported by BSAC, RYA, Surfing England, the Outdoor Swimming Association, Fathoms Free, Blue Marine Foundation, the Marine Conservation Society and British yachting team, Land Rover BAR. www.bsac.com

82

North Riding Sub Aqua Club This active club based in Whitby has three members who have gained licences from Historic England to dive a German Imperial Navy UC-70 mine-laying submarine wrecked in local waters. These licences mean they can not only dive this wreck but also take other divers down to explore too. Whiston and Prescot Sub Aqua Club Kevin Jones has achieved his O2-EDFA Instructor qualification, and received his certificate from the club’s Diving Officer Mark Jackson. It’s always great to see new divers developing. Paul Bond has passed his Elementary Diver exam and we’re sure he’s already got the diving bug. 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: admin@saa.org.uk www.saa.org.uk

GUE-UK had a good time at the Great Northern Dive Show, with plenty of visitors talking to us and also enjoying the wonders of our 3D modelling projects. This was a perfect time as GUE have now globally launched their 3D Photogrammetry Class. This is a four-day programme that teaches the basics of capturing photographs as a team and then processing these images into incredible digital 3D scale models. The class has been primarily developed by the UK’s own John Kendall, and is based on more than four years of 3D Photogrammetry projects, such as the Mars Wreck in Sweden, and the Aeolian Islands wrecks in Sicily. For more information, email: john@gue.com www.gue.com

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The fantastic growth of SDI is not just limited to the UK. The rest of the world has seen a fantastic increase in uptake for SDI. We are the fastest-growing recreational agency in the world at the moment. In January and February, over 40 dive centres outside the US crossed over to SDI. This includes centres in Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Taiwan, Thailand and the UK, so we must be doing something right. If you would like to see what SDI is all about, get in touch with the UK regional office. What can you do to help keep our oceans clean? Take a look at the latest blog post on the SDI blog to see what practical steps we can take as divers to protect the oceans: www.tdisdi.com/keeping-our-oceans-clean/ Bristol Channel Diving are running a TDI Oxygen Equipment Service Technician course in June. This course is aimed at those who wish to prepare their equipment for use with nitrox, and/or oxygen service; or just wish to have the ability to do so should the need arise, perhaps while on an expedition. It is also suitable for people who are in more remote locations and may have no other cost-effective method of preparing their equipment. It is aimed at people who are in the dive industry, or who wish to move into this field. To find out more, contact Bristol Channel Diving. www.tdisdi.com

Scuba Schools International is excited to announce the new range of Mermaid Student and Instructor Courses. For those with a lifelong dream of being a mermaid, this can now become reality! SSI has built a whole range of courses from the age of six to adults with Introduction, Confined, Ocean, and Modelling courses along with Instructor Training, all maintaining SSI’s high industry standards. The goal of SSI is to create safe, comfortable and all-round happy mermaids of all ages. Swimming with a mermaid’s tail is both a creative expression and a great way to work out. The experience of teaching both SSI’s Swimming and Freediving courses does not only guarantee highest quality of training and technique, but also fun and safety. The following programmes are available: Try Mermaid: Experience the feeling of being a mermaid, without committing to a full course. Mermaid: Learn all about being a mermaid in both confined water and pool environments. Ocean Mermaid: Take your confined water environment experience to the ocean and learn more about the sea and your underwater friends. Mermaid Model: Acquire the skills on how to achieve the perfect photos to always remember your mermaid experiences. Mermaid Instructor: Share your love for being a mermaid with everyone by teaching a comprehensive course to create safe, comfortable mermaids. www.divessi.com

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Throughout 2017, PADI Course Directors worked tirelessly putting Divemasters through their paces in order to attain the coveted PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor rating. The Frequent Trainer Programme recognises those Course Directors for their efforts and awards them silver, gold or platinum Course Director rating. Alongside the Frequent Trainer Programme, PADI Pros are awarded Elite status for their efforts in certifying divers throughout 2017. This programme recognises PADI instructors for reaching milestones based on the number of certifications issued during the calendar year (50, 100, 150, 200 or 300). “Congratulations to the PADI Pros who achieved Elite status during 2017. This is an outstanding achievement and a testament to your hard work and commitment to PADI. As an Elite Instructor, you are able to promote your success by showing your Elite Instructor e-badge on your Social Media pages,” said Mark Spiers, Vice President Training, Sales and Field Services, PADI EMEA. PADI Divemaster Florine Quirion becomes a PADI AmbassaDiver PADI Divemaster Florine was born in the hometown of Jules Verne, the author of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Florine developed a serious travelling and scuba diving addiction after a childhood along the Atlantic Ocean. With hundreds of dives from Thailand to Mexico, and from Scotland to Argentina, Florine shares her best tips about diving and travelling the world without breaking the bank on her dive travel blog, worldadventuredivers.com. If you’re passionate about diving and would like to apply to become a PADI Ambassadiver, submit your story here: https://www.padi.com/ambassadivers/apply www.padi.com

The RAID LearnToScuba App has been purely developed to support the RAID online learning experience, both online and offline, for the entire range of courses that RAID offers. • All the courses that the agency has to offer, RAID has 88 courses that can be completed via our App. As soon as we launch a new course, it is immediately available in the App. • View all courses you have active and completed. • Download all user course manuals you need to complete your courses offline. • Download a choice of documents and save to your mobile device. • Instructor Skills Sign off – any paid-up RAID Instructor may login to the member’s App and sign off completed in water skills, even offline! However, the RAID App will only allow RAID instructors who are qualified to teach a course to sign off skills online or offline. This is part of the pro-active quality control. • Student counter sign-off (pro-active quality control). Members counter-sign the in-water skill sign off confirming, in real time, they have completed the relevant skill to their satisfaction. • View all your logged dives. • Log new dives online and offline. Offline logged dives are auto synced as soon as you are online again. • Provide e-cards for all your courses, without charge. • Auto-sync with the member’s online profile. Is there any other App on the market today that can do the following while online or offline that incorporates pro-active quality control learning developed for scuba dive training and it is free of charge? www.diveraid.com

83


There is still much to see on the Schnelboot

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A

t the end of last year, I managed to scoop an exclusive on Malta’s new tech wrecks. Using side-scan sonar, the hand-picked team discovered more than 100 sites with only 30 percent of the coastal waters surveyed. I spoke to the project leader, Dr Timmy Gambin, who invited me on a 3D mapping dive of a German World War Two Junkers 88 bomber lying at a depth of around 60m. The plane was in surprisingly good condition considering its age, with wings, engines, tail section, fuselage and machine guns on display. Back in his office at the university campus, Dr Gambin showed me some video footage of other exciting new finds, which when released will undoubtedly make Malta a ‘must do’ destination for any serious tech divers. Having experienced this awesome teaser-taster, I was keen to return and carry on with my tour of Malta’s new tech discoveries, but alas politics and egos seem to be hindering the release of the first batch of 16 wreck sites, meaning the exact co-ordinates are still being withheld and dive centres have not been authorised to visit the sites. Dr Gambin said there would be an official release date announced ‘a few weeks’ after I contacted him in December, but here I am still waiting. My flights, courtesy of Air Malta, were already booked, so I had to find some tech wreck alternatives pdq. The Junkers 88 was my very first German World War Two wreck, so I wondered if Malta could offer any more dive sites with a similar pedigree. I had already had dealings with Alan and Viv Whitehead, the owners of Techwise based at St Julian’s, and was impressed with their set up and range of services offered. Alan suggested if I wanted to see more German metal, the S-31 Schnellboot would probably do the job. The wreck was originally discovered back in September 2000, so I checked out some videos uploaded on YouTube just to see what the site has to offer. The deepish maximum depth of 67m had discouraged most of the trophy hunters (but not all), so there were still some interesting features left to photograph. I was well and truly hooked. Alan arranged a dive boat, courtesy of Jeffrey Pappalardo, and prepped the gas mixes. The Schnellboot, aka E-Boat, was as a fast motor torpedo boat (MTB) used to attack and destroy Allied shipping during World War Two. S-31 was built by Lürssen at Bremen-Vegesack, Germany, and launched in 1939. The hull was constructed of an aluminium framework with a mahogany wood outer skin and measured 33 metres long with a five-metre beam, and weighed approximately 100

The Schnellboot in its prime

supporting divers

Stuart Philpott follows up his exclusive technical dive on a Junkers 88 off Malta with a visit to another of the island’s World War Two German wartime casualties, the S-312 Schellboot Photographs by Stuart Philpott An oil can makes a nice photo prop

The crew of the Schnellboot

“With the mahogany outer skin completely rotted away, I could clearly see all the internal workings of the steering mechanism”

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“The deep blue hues of the Mediterranean Sea made a welcome change from the UK’s emerald green tinge”

The prop has seen better days The whole wreck is covered in encrusting marine growth

tons. Powered by three Daimler Benz, 16-cylinder, MB502 diesel engines delivering around 1,320 bhp each gave the boat a very respectable top speed of 38 knots and an operational range of 1,500 km (a derivative of the same engine was used to power the Hindenburg-class airships). Later Schnellboot versions were fitted with the MB501 20-cylinder 2,000 bhp engines, which increased top speed to 44 knots. Armament included two torpedo tubes with four torpedoes, one 20mm mounted gun and several smaller-calibre machine guns. S-30 through to S-37 were originally bound for China, but at the outbreak of World War Two, the boats were impounded and reassigned to the Kriegsmarine (German Navy). Under the command of Lt Heinrich Haag, S-31 saw plenty of action. In the North Sea, as part of Two Flotilla, the MTB severely damaged British destroyer HMS Kelly. Two Flotilla moved to Ostend in August 1940, and during an Allied raid which blew up the torpedo storage facility, four boats - including S-31 - were caught in the explosion. After repair work had been completed, S-31 was transferred to Three Flotilla under the command of Friedrich Kemnade. The white hull was repainted with a blue/grey camouflage on a white background and a flying fish insignia added. While on a mission in the Baltic Sea, S-31 and S-59 successfully attacked the Russian destroyer Storozevoj. British forces operating from Malta were causing severe disruptions to Rommel’s supply lines in North Africa, so Schnellboots S-31, S-34, S-35, S55 and S-61 were redeployed to a base at Augusta on the east coast of Sicily and tasked with laying minefields off the Maltese coast. On 9 May 1942, a Luftwaffe reconnaissance plane spotted HMS Welshman heading up the Mediterranean towards Malta. The Abdiel-class minelayer was loaded with vital supplies, including ammunition, food, medicines, new Spitfire engines and ground support crews. At 10pm on 9 May, seven Schnellboots were ordered to engage. They had planned a two-pronged assault, with four boats - S-54 through to S-58 - waiting for the incoming warship up the coast, while the other three boats -S-31, S-34 and S61 - laid a surprise minefield outside Valetta Harbour. The minelaying was

Ready for the off from Divewise

completed at around 4am on 10 May, but just as they were leaving the area to rendezvous with the other four MTBs, S-31 exploded - probably hitting a mine that had just been laid! The blast sank the boat and killed 13 of the crew, which technically makes the dive site a war grave. Normally Schnellboots carried a crew of 24, but on this operation, there were 26, including two Italian military observers. Both survived, as did the CO, Lt Heinrich Haag. Alan blended a trimix back gas of 18/45 and two stage cylinders of 32 percent and 72 percent O2 for my dive. Lee Stevens and Steve Scerri got lumbered with looking after me and doubled up as my models. Just to make my pictures more interesting, Lee had chosen to use OC and Steve had fired up his JJ CCR. We planned for a 20-minute bottom time with just over an hour of deco stops. Visiting Malta in January had never really crossed my mind, but most days I awoke to warm sunshine and slight seas. Water temperature hovered around 16 degrees C, so I borrowed an Otter membrane drysuit from Alan’s extensive kit store. Visibility still averaged 20-30 metres and there were hardly any other divers at the sites, which made my job easier. I had packed a couple of pairs of shorts and flip-flops which, in hindsight, was probably a tad over-zealous. The evenings were cooler than expected, so next time around I will bring a few warmer tops.

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The wreck is in remarkable condition

A torpedo still lies within the port-side tube

The next morning, the deep blue hues of the Mediterranean Sea made a welcome change from the UK’s emerald green tinge. I drifted onto the shotline, descended to 3m for a bubble check and then carried on down. I caught sight of the wreck sitting upright on fine sand at about 45m. The Schnellboot is only a small site, so a 20-minute bottom time would hopefully give me ample time to get my pictures and have a nose around. We dropped onto the bow at a maximum depth of 67m. I could see the twitching antennae of a massive lobster poking out from the skeletal aluminium framework. The bow somehow reminded me of a great white shark’s mouth, jaws open wide. I took a few shots with Lee posing to one side and then ascended over the bow and finned along at deck level. Steve pointed to an oil can which had obviously been found by someone else and left in plain view on the starboard rail, but I wasn’t complaining as it made a nice bonus composition. The starboard side 21-inch torpedo tube had broken away and lay half-buried in the sand. The port side tube was still firmly attached, and with the rear door open, I could see the torpedo still inside. This time I got Steve to hover off to one side just to give some size perspective. We paused to look at the armoured bridge that had now collapsed inside the hull. Lee surprised a massive grouper that instantly scarpered off into the blue. There was considerable damage amidships, so I guess this is where the mine had exploded. I stopped by the 20mm gun mounting but alas there was no gun to be seen. Alan said it had been removed and now lay in the sand, but there was no spare time to conduct a search. We found three cases of live 20mm ammunition scattered over the deck. The wooden boxes had rotted away leaving just the shells all fused together into a cube. I fired off a few shots of Lee looking at shells

Lt Heinrich Haag

and a couple more of him next to the gun mounting. I had seen a navigation lamp on the YouTube video, but couldn’t find any sign of it on the wreck. This was the only planned shot I missed. On reaching the stern I descended a couple of metres back to the seabed. I wanted to get a shot of all three propellers, but the rudders stuck out too far and made it impossible for me to get a clean shot. I got down as low as I could and then realised the bottom composition was made of fine silt, which had already started to plume thanks to my misplaced fin kick. I made do with a shot of Lee looking at the starboard side propeller, then moved backwards to get a wide-angle composition of the entire stern. With the mahogany outer skin completely rotted away, I could clearly see all the internal workings of the steering mechanism. Lee gave me the thumbs-up signal, so we steadily made our way back to the shotline and began our descent. The 20-minute bottom had gone far too quickly. There never seems to be any time for me to savour the atmosphere when I’m always looking through a camera viewfinder, but I felt content knowing we had completed our plan and returned to the surface safely and on schedule. The S-31 Schnellboot was a memorable dive, especially as I had researched her background beforehand. Admittedly, Maltese historian Joseph-Stephen Bonanno had done all the hard work for me. Joseph contacted Lt Heinrich Haag’s daughter, who gave him the full story, including copies of photographs. Haag survived the war and joined the Bundesmarine in 1956, retiring as a Kapitän zur See. Check out Joseph’s website page for more details. I think knowing a wreck’s history somehow makes it come alive, and gives it more character. I thought about the crew and what they must have gone through. I’m not sure whether all the bodies were recovered after the explosion, or if they are still lying in the wreckage somewhere, but this is worth considering. I’ve heard some techies complain that the site is too small for a decent exploratory dive, but I thought there was more than enough to keep me occupied. I’ve even made plans for a return visit to search for the 20mm gun. My thanks to Lee, Steve, Alan and Viv from Techwise for looking after (tolerating) me. During my meeting with Dr Gambin, he mentioned finding the remains of a Messerschmitt ME109 fighter plane, so my quest for German World War Two wrecks may well continue! n

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DiveLogs have just added a smaller A6-sized micro slate to their custom dive slate service. The potential applications for a bespoke dive slate like these are endless - from underwater surveys, scuba instructor checklists, decompression tables and schedules, personalised slates, to underwater maps and charts. Each slate is made from tough 5mm thick matt-white plastic, which can then be printed on both sides in full colour with vibrant UV stable inks. There are now three different sizes (A6, A5 and A4) with multiple layout options, with and without pencils. An amazing feature of this service is the minimum order quantity of just one slate. Prices start from £8.95 inc VAT, and there are discounted prices for larger quantities, starting at just ten of the same design. www.divelogs.com


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BARE ULTRAWARMTH GLOVES (SRP: £49.95 - 3mm / £54.95 - 5mm)

MARES QUAD AIR (SRP: £318)

The Quad Air has a monster display with jumbo-size digits, and features hoseless tank data integration for up to three transmitters (priced at £182 each). The three-row layout comprises all relevant data, including tank pressure, and there are two customisable fields for ancillary information. The four buttons provide an intuitive user interface, and users have the option to view dive time including seconds. There is also a runaway deco alarm, it is multi-gas capable, and there is a decompression dive planner with user-adjustable surface interval. It features a long battery life, and when it does run out, it is user-replaceable. www.mares.com

The BARE Ultrawarmth gloves have a double-glued and blind-stitched four-panel design to improve overall stretch by reducing the number of seams, making the glove easier to don and doff. The anatomically correct pre-curved fingers reduce hand fatigue and improve overall dexterity, and for added warmth it incorporates the low-loft Celliant Infrared Technology with full-stretch Elastek, and has Glideskin-in wrists to act as a line of defence from water entry. www.baresports.com


Gear Guide

THIS ISSUE: REGULATORS FROM £275-£400

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.

MID-RANGE REGULATORS (FROM £275-£400) This issue, we again look at one of the most vital pieces of the modern divers’ kit bag - regulators, or more specifically, middle-of-the-price-range regs. Without a solid, reliable reg, you aren’t going anywhere underwater, as this is your true lifesupport system. As many of our readers dive in the UK, and some all year round, we always test regulators in February and March, when water temperatures are at their lowest in the inland sites - much to the chagrin of the Test Team members. We push the units to their max by extensively purging them underwater and topside, over-breathing them underwater to simulate a panic situation, breathing them in every orientation, working any Venturi and/or cracking resistance controls, and various other trials - if they can handle this over-the-top usage, they can handle a normal diving situation. A large array of manufacturers produce regulators, and our aim here at Scuba Diver is to give you the widest selection in each review. Now that Sherwood Scuba and Halcyon are back in the UK market after an extended hiatus period, we have a good array from these two manufacturers, along with Apeks, Aqua Lung, Zeagle, and Mares. Scubapro and Atomic Aquatics are missing as they had nothing in this price bracket.

ON TEST THIS MONTH: • APEKS XL4 • AQUA LUNG CORE SUPREME • HALCYON H50D/AURA • MARES ABYSS 52 • SHERWOOD BLIZZARD PRO • ZEAGLE ONYX II

Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis

www.viviandivecentre.com

Date tested: 22/3/18 Water temp: 4 degrees C


APEKS XL4 | SRP: £339 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 XL4 is their newest regulator - based on the tried-and-tested DS4, it was designed from the outset to be a very lightweight, travel-friendly unit, but crucially, also cold-water rated. The body of the second stage is reminiscent of the lightweight Flight reg, except this has a large purge on the front, and an easy-to-operate venturi lever. This over-balanced diaphragm reg features an innovative over-moulded first-stage endcap, one high-pressure port, four low-pressure ports and comes with a braided hose. It can even be swapped from left-hand to right-hand orientation. The XL4 is a nice-looking regulator, with subtle styling that is matched by a stunning cold-water performance in all orientations. The first stage is chunky but quite compact, while the second stage is extremely small and lightweight - you almost don’t feel it in your mouth. The Comfo-Bite mouthpiece is also very comfortable. The large purge is easy to locate and depress, and the Venturi, while fairly small, can be operated even with thick gloves. The wide exhaust tee disperses exhaled bubbles well clear of your face. www.apeksdiving.com/uk

BEST VALUE

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 923g | HOSE: braided | VENTURI: yes VERDICT: Neat little regulator, the perfect blend of cold-water performance and travel-friendly weight. Excellent price as well, making this a real all-round contender.

SCORE

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AQUA LUNG CORE SUPREME | SRP: £294 Aqua Lung has been making diving equipment for 75 years, and their regulators have always been solid units, but they have really come on in recent years - the Core Supreme is a belting little unit for under £300. It has a chrome-coated brass balanced diaphragm first stage with two high-pressure ports and four low-pressure ports, which is paired with a balanced demand valve equipped with a Venturi control and a large purge button. The Core Supreme is a decent-looking regulator that delivers a smooth breathe, doesn’t break the scales when it comes to weight, and at under £300, represents excellent value for money. The large purge is easy to locate and operate even with thick gloves, and the same goes for the venturi lever. The exhaust is fairly compact, but the routing is sound and it disperses exhaled bubbles efficiently. The first stage is pretty small, which helps keep the weight down, and with its shiny chrome and polyurethane protector it certainly looks eye-catching. It is equipped with Aqua Lung’s patented Auto Closure Device, or ACD, which prevents any accidental water ingress if you accidentally submerged it without putting the cover back on the DIN or Yoke fitting. www.aqualung.com/uk

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 874g | HOSE: rubber | VENTURI?: yes VERDICT: Eye-catching regulator with a great all-round performance, large purge, comfortable mouthpiece and efficient exhaust. A bargain for under £300.

SCORE

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HALCYON H-59D/AURA | SRP: £277.28 Halcyon Dive Systems came to the fore for its robust backplate-and-wing and lighting set-ups, and its connection with the GUE/ DIR fraternity, and then it entered the regulator arena. Now anyone who knows their regulators will recognise a certain similarity with Scubapro, but fair play to Halcyon, if you are going to launch regs, why not utilise time-proven technology and work with a well-known brand. The first stages and second stages are available separately, so you can mix and match to your specification, but for this review we paired the balanced and environmentally sealed diaphragm H-50D with the Aura second stage. The 300bar DIN H-50D has two high-pressure ports and four low-pressure ports, while the simple and straightforward Aura features a large purge and a venturi control lever. That blue ‘H’ holds a special place in the hearts of many technical divers, and coming in at under £280, this combo is excellent value for money. The H-50D and Aura provides a nice breathe in all orientations, the purge works well, the mouthpiece is comfortable and the small exhaust does a decent job of venting your bubbles away from your face. It is a no-frills regulator that just gets the job done well. Good to see Halcyon back in the UK. www.halcyon.net

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.08kg | HOSE: rubber | VENTURI: yes VERDICT: Halcyon is beloved by certain branches within the tech fraternity, and this robust, well-made and capable regulator is sure to find plenty of fans. Great value.

SCORE

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REGULATORS

Quality Beneath The Surface

T3 The ultimate; lightweight and corrosion free, designed with the travel diver in mind.

ST1 The world’s first “Green” regulator.

M1 Extreme Performance without compromise.

B2 The perfect combination of comfort, performance, and style.

Z3 Exclusive Atomic features at a mid-range price.

Atomic Aquatics Europe GmbH www.atomicaquatics.co.uk


MARES ABYSS 52 | SRP: £363 Mares has long been producing quality regulators, and the Abyss has been in the line up for many years. That distinctive all-metal second stage, which features a superflex braided hose, Vortex Aided Design (an air bypass tube helps create a swirling vortex that keep the diaphragm down during inhalation, to ensure easy breathing at any depth) and mesh grid to reduce the impact of water flow, is now paired with the MR52 (MR stands for Military Regulator). This has numerous neat features, including two low-pressure ports that have Dynamic Flow Control, providing a consistent flow of air at any depth to both the primary and octopus second stages, as well as a deep channel on the front which increases the cold-water performance by increasing the flow of water across the regulator. The Mares Abyss has always faired well in our group tests, with the Test Team members liking the fact that there are no external controls, it just breathes great straight out of the box. Paired with the MR52 it is a formidable combo. All of those fancy design points listed above really do work, and it provided a great breathe regardless of orientation or work load. The purge was powerful and easy to operate, and the mouthpiece is well-shaped and comfortable. www.mares.com

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.08kg | HOSE: braided | VENTURI: no VERDICT: Mares has paired a veteran second stage with an innovative first stage, providing great all-round performance at a good price.

SCORE

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SHERWOOD BLIZZARD PRO | SRP: £399 Sherwood has been missing from the UK market for several years, but now that they are being distributed by Fathom Diving, so expect to see more of this long-established global brand. The chunky environmentally sealed piston first stage looks quite ‘old-school’ in design, and is equipped with two high-pressure ports and four low-pressure ports. The second stage has had a serious makeover from when I last saw it, and is now quite eye-catching, being different from anything else on the market. The purge is effectively the entire front of the regulator. The venturi lever is a decent size and easily accessible to a gloved hand. The Sherwood Blizzard has been around for many years, and now it is back in Pro form with a funky new look to the second stage. Compared with some of its rivals, this reg has quite a dated design, despite the reworked second stage, but it certainly looks better than it used to, and I like the fact they have tried to be different instead of following conventional thinking. The mouthpiece is comfortable, the purge efficient and the venturi easy to use, but it breathed a little wet in certain orientations. It provided plenty of air when breathed hard, and the exhaust kept the bubbles to the side of your head. www.fathomdiving.com

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.12kg | HOSE: rubber | VENTURI?: yes VERDICT: Sherwood Scuba are back in the UK market, and the Blizzard has returned in Pro form, blending old-school design with funky new looks.

SCORE

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ZEAGLE ONYX II | SRP: £395 Zeagle is a US brand that has built up a strong following for its robust, well-made BCDs, and it looks set to follow suit with its regulators. The Onyx II blends an environmentally sealed balanced diaphragm brass first stage equipped with two high-pressure ports and five low-pressure ports with a thermoplastic second stage via a flexible braided hose. This was the only reg in this price bracket to feature both a venturi lever and a cracking resistance control. The Zeagle Onyx II is a great-looking regulator, benefitting from a stylish metal insert into the front of the second stage around the large, soft purge. The first stage, with its black finish, neatly sets it off. In the water, it breathed effortlessly in any orientation, and the venturi and cracking resistance control really made a difference to the air flow, allowing us to finetune it. The mouthpiece is very comfortable, and the exhaust sends exhaled bubbles up the side of your head. This is one of the more-expensive regulators on test, but it has plenty of features of merit, and it has a fantastic performance to match its eye-catching good looks. www.zeagle.com

VERDICT

It was great to have the Sherwood Scuba and Halcyon brands back in the mix, as it makes it a true ‘group test’ once you have a decent number of products to put head-to-head. The water was brutally cold at 4 degrees C, and we did put the test units through the ringer, but as with the budget regs, all of these regulators did the job, with some of them really standing out from the crowd. The Best Value award was a tough one this month, as there were three prospective candidates - the Apeks XL4, the Aqua Lung Core Supreme and the Halcyon H-50D/Aura. All three put in a strong performance, and it was very difficult to separate them, as they all had plus points, but in the end, the Apeks XL4 garnered more votes and took the Best Value Award. Its blend of supreme cold-water performance combined with a light weight making it ideal for travel got the thumbs up. The Choice award was more straightforward. The triedand-tested Mares Abyss 52 was a great regulator, but the Zeagle Onyx II looked great and put in a fantastic performance, so it took the title.

CHOICE

TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.09g | HOSE: braided | VENTURI: yes VERDICT: The Onyx II is a great-looking regulator thats neat design points are matched by a fantastic performance. The only reg with venturi and cracking resistance controls.

SCORE

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Test Extra

MARES DRAGON SLS | SRP: £452 Mark Evans: I have dived various Mares BCDs over the years, and the Dragon SLS has to be one of the most comfortable. This is, in part, down to the wide padded shoulder straps and the richly cushioned backpad, which help support and distribute the weight of the cylinder. The jacket-style BCD wraps around you so much, it almost gives you ‘a hug’, but this makes you feel very secure and stable in its embrace, and both on land and in the water, there is minimal tank movement. The ‘Dragon’ winglets nestle alongside the cylinder, making the whole unit very streamlined, but also providing space for the high-lift aircell to expand. The BCD is constructed from durable Cordura 420, which means it is not exactly lightweight - a Large weighs in at 4.5kg - but it feels very robust and able to cope with anything. There are five stainless steel D-rings for attaching accessories, and two zippered pockets, which are not huge (the space for the integrated weight pockets intrudes somewhat), but big enough for a back-up torch or a small spool. There are also metal grommets for fastening a BCD knife, and a nifty whistle integrated into the upper chest strap clip. The SLS integrated weight system is easy to use, and once installed properly, the pockets are very secure. The lock-in-place system is very efficient - once they are ‘home’, you get a green visual confirmation to show they are correctly in-situ. The big handles do stick out a bit from the front of the jacket, but on the flipside, are easy to grab hold of when you need to jettison the weight pockets. There are also two non-dumpable trim pockets cleverly hidden from sight under the Dragon winglets. The pull dump toggles are chunky and easy to locate and use even wearing thick gloves, and the dump valves are efficient, venting rapidly when necessary. A worthy addition to the Mares BCD range. It is available in sizes XS, S, M, L and XL. www.mares.com


e c n e i r

e p iX

R U TO

Presenting the Aqua Lung iXperience Tour, your chance to dive the Aqua Lung range of computers! The tour runs across six dates and venues and is a unique opportunity to discover and test Aqua Lung dive computers in real situations! There’s no need to book, simply visit the Aqua Lung tent at the water’s edge and collect a computer*.

TOUR DATES

Capernwray . 14 & 15 April Stoney Cove . 21 & 22 April Vobster . 5 & 6 May Wraysbury . 12 & 13 May NDAC . 19 & 20 May The Delph . 26 & 27 May

www.aqualung.com/uk

i100

i200

WIN WIN WIN! Test a computer at any event and you’ll be entered into a draw to win one of six Reveal mask and Aquilon snorkel sets worth over £70!**

i300C

i450T

* Aqua Lung equipment rental is free / Product availabilty will vary due to demand Entry fee to dive location not included / Proof of dive qualification or instructor supervision required ** Winner drawn at the end of each event and contacted the following Monday


Long Term Test APEKS RK3 Mark Evans: Blackburn-based Apeks Marine Equipment are well known for their high-performing regulators (including this month’s end-of-term XL4), but also produce other quality dive kit, including various technical and recreational wings - and the acclaimed RK3 fins. These fins have been extremely popular since they were first launched, scoring highly in our group test last year. They were designed in collaboration with the US military and are renowned for outstanding performance and reliability. They are made from rugged thermoplastic rubber and have a chunky spring heel strap for easy donning and doffing. The original black version was first joined by a snazzy white version, and now you can get them in subtle grey, vivid yellow or, as on test here, bright orange. www.apeksdiving.com/uk

SUUNTO EON CORE NEW ARRIVAL

INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2018 Suggested retail price: £120 Number of dives: 0 Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins

AQUASKETCH MINNO 1 Mark Evans: The Aquasketch Minno 1 ‘rolling slate’ has come along on a few dives now, and as ably demonstrated by dive buddy Gary Johnson, it is quite small and compact and sits nicely on the forearm, out of the way until you need to use it. The pencil, which is attached via a length of rubber bungee, fastens securely to the top of the Minno 1 with a piece of Velcro, so you won’t find it annoyingly floating up into your vision all the time as you swim along. However, it is easy to detach when you do want to make a note of something INFORMATION during the dive. Arrival date: February 2018 The webbing strap is long and Suggested retail price: £35 chunky enough to easily go Number of dives: 2 around a drysuit. Time in water: 1 hrs 35 mins www.aquasketch.co.uk

Mark Evans: When the EON Steel came out, it was a game-changer for Suunto. With its sleek metal casing and vivid colour TFT screen, it was light years away from their previous dot-matrix display wrist units. Now the Steel has a baby brother in the EON Core, a more-compact sibling which benefits from the same colour screen but this time mounted in a composite body. In our group test, our reviewers actually preferred the INFORMATION Core over the Steel, liking how Arrival date: March 2018 its appears to be ‘all-screen’, Suggested retail price: £599 yet with easily accessible Number of dives: 4 buttons on the side. Time in water: 3 hrs 35 mins www.suunto.com

SANTI DIVING FLEX 360 Mark Evans: The Flex 360 has been put to good use in recent weeks. When the country was plunged into an Arctic winter, with snow drifts a good two metres plus around my home in Shropshire, the frozen conditions were ideal for a spot of sledging - and the Flex 360 was my chosen tool to keep nice and warm while out on the slopes. I simply donned some waterproof trousers and my Fourth Element Cyclone waterproof jacket over the Santi undersuit and I was good to go. Even afINFORMATION ter hours outside in sub-zero Arrival date: January 2018 temperatures, I was still as Suggested retail price: £419 warm as toast. This is truly Number of dives: 11 multi-functional divewear! Time in water: 10 hrs 10 mins www.santidiving.com


FOURTH ELEMENT X-CORE Mark Evans: When the temperatures plummeted across the country and certain areas ended up under thick layers of snow, I was tempted to press the X-Core into action for some additional thermal protection under my Santi Flex 306 undersuit when i joined my son to go sledging, but you know what - even though it was -4 degrees C with a windchill down to -12 degrees C, I was too warm with it on! I was lovely and warm to start with, but after a couple of walks back up a steep, snow-covered hill, I was overheating and had to strip it off. It really is amazing how much of your body heat this little vest absorbs and then fires back at your core. Mind you, not INFORMATION complaining - with another Arrival date: November 2017 group regulator test in the Suggested retail price: £99.50 offing, I will be glad to be Number of dives: 15 warm! Time in water: 14 hrs 18 mins www.fourthelement.com

SHEARWATER RESEARCH NERD 2 Mark Evans: I am really becoming quite fond of the Shearwater Research NERD 2 now, and being able to see all of my essential dive data with just a glance of my eyes makes life so easy. The unit is very compact, yet the buttons on either side are very easy to locate and operate even wearing thick neoprene gloves. However, while I would have no issue diving with the NERD 2 from the shore or out of a hardboat, I would be a little more reticent about taking one diving from a RIB, or in a zodiac from a liveaboard, purely because of the way all of the BCDs and regulators get slung in a pile on top of one another at the end of a dive. Not sure I would want nearly £1,500 INFORMATION worth of dive computer being Arrival date: December 2017 crushed under cylinders, Suggested retail price: £1,427 or the errant feet of divers Number of dives: 6 scrambling on board. Time in water: 5 hrs 15 mins www.shearwater.com

AQUA LUNG OUTLAW Mark Evans: One of the neat features of the Outlaw - and its soon-to-be-launched bigger brother the Rogue - is the way the shoulder straps and the waist straps attach to the backplate. A unique clip arrangement means that fixing a strap on is simply a matter of pushing it into place. The swivelling clip then holds it robustly in place, and the only way to get it off is to employ the use of a tool - or a handy spoon - to release the clip. There are numerous benefits, but the two I want to highlight are one, when you need to pack it up as small as possible, it can be really compact when all the straps are removed, and two, if you need larger shoulder or waist straps, you can swap them out quickly and easily. www.aqualung.com/uk

INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2017 Suggested retail price: £338 Number of dives: 19 Time in water: 18 hrs 15 mins

APEKS XL4 END OF TERM

Mark Evans: I am a big fan of Apeks equipment, particularly their regulators, and the XL4 is right up there with the mighty MTX-R. It effortlessly combines the light weight and portability of the Apeks Flight with the smooth breathe and cold-water capabilities of their XTX range. The body is very reminiscent of the Flight, with a wide exhaust tee, but the large purge is more like the XTX regs. It has performed faultlessly in all conditions, and at under £340 represents great value for money. If you are in the market for an all-round regulator that INFORMATION you can dive in the UK and Arrival date: October 2017 haul abroad with you, this Suggested retail price: £338 could be the answer to all Number of dives: 21 of your prayers. Time in water: 19 hrs 55 mins www.apeksdiving.com/uk


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Sialden Island, Bunaken National Park, Manado, North Sulawesi, 95011 T: +628114300641 | E: info@siladen.com W: www.siladen.com Siladen Resort & Spa is an exclusive boutique dive resort located on a lush tropical island in the heart of the Bunaken National Marine Park.

MEXICO PRO DIVE INTERNATIONAL

Head Office: Carretera Federal, Parcela 4 MZA 293 Lote 2 Local 5-6, Ejido Norte, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, 77712, Mexico T: +52 (1) 984 745 0763 E: info@prodiveinternational.com W: www.prodiveinternational.com World-class diving: Cozumel, cenotes, bull sharks, Whaleshark & Sailfish safaris, Live-Aboards Socorro/ Guadalupe, located at 4-5* Resorts Riviera Maya & Cozumel, PADI CDC, Stay&Dive packages, FREE NITROX.

104

MALDIVES LILY BEACH RESORT & SPA

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Mosta Road, St Pauls Bay, SPB3114, Malta T: 0035621571111 | E: dive@maltaqua.com W: www.maltaqua.com A Multi agency centre providing training for BSAC, PADI, RAID, TDI & IANTD. Dive excursions or tank hire for qualified divers. Courses for complete beginners.

DIVE DEEP BLUE MALTA

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PHILIPPINES EVOLUTION

Bounty Beach, Malapascua Island, Daan Bantayan, Cebu, 6013, Philippines T: +63(0)917 631 2179 | E: info@evolution.com.ph

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THAILAND SAIREE COTTAGE DIVING 5* IDC CENTRE 1/10 Moo Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Suratthani, 84360, Thailand T: +66872650859 E: info@idckohtaothailand.com W: www.idckohtaothailand.com One of the Best PADI Diving Instructor IDC Courses on Koh Tao, Thailand. For more information please visit: www.idckohtaothailand.com or www.saireecottagediving.com/instructordevelopment-course-idc-koh-tao-saireecottage-diving-koh-tao. Professional Underwater Photography: https://www.instagram.com/peachsnapsphotography/

UNITED KINGDOM DEEP BLUE DIVE

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OYSTER DIVING

Maritime House, Basin Road North, Hove, BN41 1WR, UK T: 0800 699 0243 W: www.oysterdiving.com www.oysterdivingshop.com The UK’s premier PADI scuba diving and travel centre. Equipment sales, PADI courses from beginner to Instructor and holidays around the world.

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THE COMMERCIAL DIVER Warren ‘Sal’ Salliss is a Director of Commercial Diver Training Ltd, based in Cornwall, and here he offers an insight into the commercial diving arena, and how the company aims to ensure that all students leave equipped with the necessary skills to take on this competitive environment. www.commercialdivertraining.co.uk

WHEN THE TEMPERATURES DROP - IT’S SNOW JOKE PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF COMMERCIAL DIVER TRAINING LTD

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or a fleeting moment I honestly thought that better weather was at last around the corner… Wrong! After a brief Christmas break, we were back in the thick of it annual moorings work, emergency ships’ hull inspections, TV work and getting ready for the first course to kick off! But what has made our dive life harder has been the weather, or shall I say temperature - it doesn’t matter what you wear, it’s never enough some days! The temperatures have made compressors hard to start, boat engines have refused to start, pipes fractured and divers shiver. Then… we had snow, and trying to motivate trainee divers to spend hours in the water has been tough. During the first week of February, our first course of the year turned up, all 12 of them! A broad mix of society, ages and nationalities. We thought this month we’d let one of the students contribute, so here is a perspective from the other side of ‘Dive control’. My name is Toby, I’m currently aged 20, but I was 19 when I first began this course. Before I came on to the course, I had just finished my A-levels. I had a fairly mixed range of grades, none were anything particularly special. I had some vague ideas of getting a degree in Politics, but by the time I’d finished my A-levels I was getting pretty sick of academic work, and had no intention of going to university. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I definitely knew I couldn’t do a desk job for the next 50 years. At the time the only other thing I had going for me at the time was that I was also a PADI Divemaster. I had been diving recreationally since I was 12 years old, but this was the first time I started seriously considering diving as a career option. I worked in the Dominican Republic as a Divemaster for roughly two months, before I decided I’d had enough. Neither the hard work nor the long hours nor the fact that I was a long way from home bothered me in the slightest, what made me quit was that after two months of work I hadn’t made enough money to live, and was still relying on my parents. I found this unacceptable. I came home with my tail between my legs, and at this point decided that I needed to do something more challenging. One of my friends suggested I look into com-

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The freezing temperatures meant training conditions were tough

mercial diving as a career. At first I thought the only place I could get training in commercial diving was in Scotland, however after actually visiting both the other providers and CDT, I decided CDT offered far better value for my money and better facilities and so now, at the time of writing, I’m several weeks into the course. What struck me immediately was the great differences between commercial and recreational diving. For one thing, the work really is more challenging, as we’re still expected to dive in conditions that recreational divers wouldn’t dare, which suits me fine. Secondly, commercial divers actually seem to place much more emphasis on ensuring safety, which surprised me as I had heard horror stories about saturation divers whose operations had gone drastically wrong. I’m now quite optimistic about the future, if only because I feel I’ve dodged a bullet by not going to university, which would have been expensive, pointless and would have led to a boringly predictable, monotonous life behind a desk. It’s often said ‘the worst day diving is still better than the best day in the office’, and I fully agree with this sentiment. I’m not sure where I will be going or what I’ll be doing after I leave - I’ve been reliably informed that they’re looking for divers in Scotland, but at least now I feel I have a marketable skill to offer, and in a way, I quite like not knowing what’s going to happen next. I have seen this young lad’s confidence grow throughout his course. Personally, one of the reasons I love the diving world is that sense of belonging among like-minded people who aren’t satisfied with a ‘normal’ every day existence, we all want adventure – and as a commercial diver you get paid for it too! If you think this is for you, why not come for a no-obligation visit – it’s free, and you can have a dive in full commercial gear. For more information, call me on 07770 598346 or email: info@commercialdivertraining.co.uk n

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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

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Scuba Diver UK April 18 - Issue 14  

Scuba Diver UK April 18 - Issue 14  

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