LET THERE BE LIGHT
MEET THE PRESIDENT
TWIN-CENTRE STAY IN THE HEART OF THE PHILIPPINES TRULY DELIVERS THE GOODS
PRIMARY AND BACK-UP DIVE TORCHES ARE RATED AND REVIEWED BY THE TEST TEAM
WHY VANUATU’S ENORMOUS MILITARY WRECK NEEDS TO BE ON YOUR ‘MUST-DIVE’ LIST
RED SEA WHY EGYPT MAKES THE PERFECT FAMILY DIVE DESTINATION
BEHIND THE SCENES – THE CONSTRUCTION OF A LUXURY LIVEABOARD ISSUE 28 | JUNE 19 | £3.25
‣ Shoot Like A Pro: Maintenance ‣ Cylinder transport
! l e v e L t x e N e h t Take SelFIes to Above,
“Join us as we continue our worldwide mission of exploration in new exotic locations, like Oman, Socorro and Guadalupe, Mexico, Djibouti, and Sudan!” –Wayne B. Brown, Chairman & CEO, Aggressor Adventures®
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EDITOR’S NOTE PROUD PARENT TIME FOR TEAM SCUBA DIVER The last couple of months have allowed for some serious ‘proud parent’ moments for the Scuba Diver team. First, myself and wife Penney headed out to Roots Red Sea in Egypt with our 12-year-old son Luke in tow for a family diving trip (see page 22 for the full story). I had been wanting to get Luke diving in the Red Sea ever since he first started snorkelling in the decidedly more-chilly waters off Anglesey when he was just four, and while he’d snorkelled in Egypt when we headed out for Christmas a few years back, this was going to be his first foray underwater in these diverse waters. Part of the reason for going out was for Luke to complete his PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Diver course (which will be featured in a future The Next Generation section), but we also took this opportunity to get some quality in-water time as a family, as this represented the first time we’d all go diving together. I have to say, that initial dive on day one, as we all swam along the reef together, carved an indelible memory that I will savour for a long time to come. Hot on the heels of Luke’s latest dive certification, Publishing Director Ross Arnold and wife Gemma’s son Ryan - the day after his 13th birthday - began his diving career, doing the pool session for his RAID 20 qualification with Severntec Diving in Shrewsbury. He will be completing the open-water portion of the course in July when the entire Scuba Diver clan heads out to Malta and Gozo for more family diving, equipment testing and some fun in the Mediterranean sun. Being able to go diving with your children is one of the best things about this activity. It isn’t something you have to give up once youngsters arrive, you can get them involved at a very young age - through snorkelling - and then as they get into double figures, they can go for a full certification and you can embark on underwater adventures together, which believe me, is one of the best experiences ever.
Mark Evans Editor-in-Chief
EDITOR IN CHIEF
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WHERE IT ALL BEGINS WWW.EGYPT.TRAVEL
HURGHADA RED SEA THIS IS A FRIENDLY LOCAL
ASK YOUR TRAVEL AGENT
LET THERE BE LIGHT
MEET THE PRESIDENT
TWIN-CENTRE STAY IN THE HEART OF THE PHILIPPINES TRULY DELIVERS THE GOODS
PRIMARY AND BACK-UP DIVE TORCHES ARE RATED AND REVIEWED BY THE TEST TEAM
WHY VANUATU’S ENORMOUS MILITARY WRECK NEEDS TO BE ON YOUR ‘MUST-DIVE’ LIST
ON THE COVER REMARKABLE RED SEA WHY EGYPT MAKES THE PERFECT FAMILY DIVE DESTINATION
BEHIND THE SCENES – THE CONSTRUCTION OF A LUXURY LIVEABOARD ISSUE 28 | JUNE 19 | £3.25
‣ Shoot Like A Pro: Maintenance ‣ Cylinder transport
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF: MARK EVANS
Plastic threat has been ‘underestimated’, Deptherapy gets Trusted Charity Mark, an inflatable fun park at NDAC, and a campaign between Blue O Two and Bite-Back.
30 Dive Like A Pro
Martin Sampson discusses the ascent stage of a dive, and explains various methods in which to approach this important part of your dive.
66 Underwater Photography
Mark Evans heads off to the rustic Roots Red Sea for a spot of family diving with wife Penney and 12-year-old son Luke, and for the younger Evans to clock up his Junior Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
34 The Philippines
Richard Stevens and Hailey Elizabeth of Black Manta Photography embark on a fantastic two-centre stay, first at Magic Island in Moalboal, followed by Magic Oceans in Bohol.
42 ABOVE 18m: Wales
Paul Duxfield looks at topside dive-related images and creative fish/marine life photographs.
Mark Evans stays closer to home, and ventures off with Dutton’s Divers from Vivian Dive Centre to go and play with the seals at Puffin Island off Anglesey, North Wales - alas, British conditions didn’t play ball...
98 OWUSS Scholarship
48 Socorro Vortex
An introduction to the 2019 Our-World Underwater Scholar, Kim Hildebrandt, who hails from Germany.
We go behind the scenes of the construction of new luxury liveaboard Socorro Vortex, and talk to the man behind the project, Jorge Hauser, about his vision and seeing it come to fruition.
54 THE NEW GENERATION
82 What’s New
The Beuchat Focea Junior wetsuit, and why snorkelling is a great way to get kids in the water. Plus, a Case Study on 12-year-old Dylan Croft.
58 Gran Canaria
Christian Skauge explores the underwater delights of Gran Canaria, encountering all manner of marine life, including angel sharks.
70 Shoot Like A Pro
We take a look at new products to market, including the Mares Ultra Adj regulator, Fourth Element’s summer Life range, Diveotion’s Test Pressure Limiting Device, Beuchat’s Powerjet fins, and Waterhaul sunglasses.
84 Group Test
Our panel of photo pros tackle the topic of what routine maintenance/ care they carry out to their photo kit both pre- and post-dive trip.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans and the Test Team head to Vivian Dive Centre in North Wales to focus on primary and back-up dive lights.
74 DAN Europe: Transporting cylinders
94 Long Term Test
This month, the DAN team discuss methods and rules relating to transporting cylinders both by land and through the air.
76 TECHNICAL: Vanuatu
Neil Bennett extols the virtues of the gigantic President Coolidge shipwreck lying off the Pacific island of Vanuatu.
The Scuba Diver Test Team rate and review a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Apeks VX1 mask, Shearwater Research Teric computer, Finnsub 20D and Comfort harness, Otter Watersports Atlantic drysuit, and Mares Epic Adj 82X regulator.
Each month, we bring together the latest industry news from right here in the UK, as well as all over our water planet. To find out the most up-to-date news and views, check out the website or follow us on our various social media (@scubadivermag) www.scubadivermag.com/news
SHEER SCALE OF PLASTIC POLLUTION HAS BEEN
‘UNDERESTIMATED’ PHOTOGRAPHS BY SILKE STUCKENBROCK
he scourge of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans has become a mainstream ‘hot topic’ since Sir David Attenborough devoted an episode of Blue Planet II to this subject, but now scientists are concerned that the scale of plastic debris is being underestimated worldwide. Dr Jennifer Lavers, from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, has been leading studies of Australia’s remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands and has estimated the beaches are smothered with more than 414 million pieces of plastic. In the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the research team calculated there was more than 238 tonnes of plastic, including a staggering 977,000 shoes – mostly flipflops – and some 373,000 toothbrushes. As staggering as these figures are, what is most shocking is that they believe their findings are actually conservative, and that potentially some 93 percent of plastic pollution is out of sight under the sand.
Dr Laver, who has avoided plastic in her own life for the past ten years, said she hopes that her findings will bring home to people that prevention is far better than cure when it comes to plastics. “In over a decade, I’ve never used a plastic toothbrush, and I don’t use plastic bags of any shape, size or source. It’s no longer a conscious decision – it’s just part of my day-to-day life. At first, it’s hard, and you have to think about it, but then you don’t think about it anymore. I just don’t use plastic anymore. I just don’t.” n
DEPTHERAPY AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS TRUSTED CHARITY MARK
DS N E I R DIVING WITH F
NEW: Faarufushi Maldives
INDONESIA THAILAND EGYPT S PA I N
NEW: Roses, Costa Brava
Scuba Diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy is delighted to announce that it has been awarded the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Trusted Charity Mark. In an unprecedented award, Deptherapy is the first volunteer-managed and run charity ever to receive this Mark. The award of the Trusted Charity Mark follows several months of rigorous and complex assessment in a process that is normally reserved for larger charities managed and operated by paid employees. In order to receive the Mark, Deptherapy had to meet the criteria in 11 areas of the quality standard including Governance, Leadership and Management, and Working with Others. The Assessor praised the ‘robust leadership’ of Deptherapy’s close-knit Trustee Board, which ‘ensures that the charity is led with transparency and integrity’. He also said that the charity ‘has developed a very strong reputation as a world leader in adaptive scuba diving techniques and has developed clear and robust policies and procedures to ensure that the organisation is efficiently run’. Daimon Haywood, Vice Chairman and Trustee of Deptherapy, said: “Jim Lovell, the NASA astronaut said ‘There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen’. We are a charity built on a team that makes things happen. We have received the Trusted Charity Mark through sheer hard work and the dedication of an amazing team of volunteers who change lives.” Debra Lilley, who became President of Deptherapy in April 2019, said: “When I was invited to be President of Deptherapy, I first wanted to understand their governance; as a Chartered Director this is very important to me. Receiving the NCVO Trusted Charity Mark is official recognition of what I found: a charity run in a way others should absolutely aspire to match.” The award of the Trusted Charity Mark comes just a month before the charity undertakes its largest expedition yet to the Red Sea, with a team of 30 divers travelling to Roots in El Quseir to undertake Open Water Training and Continuing Education up to Adaptive Teaching and Divemaster level. The team will be joined on this trip by four people from outside the charity who will be undertaking the Deptherapy Education Pros’ Course. Also joining the group are three British instructors, one from Egypt and two from Saudi Arabia, together with photographer Dmitry Knyazev and Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans. www.deptherapy.co.uk
OMAN M AU R I T I U S JA PA N C R O AT I A
LET´S DO IT: DIVING WITH EURO-DIVERS! B O O K I N G A N D I N F O R M AT I O N :
9 12:00 22.01.19
NEW ECO-FRIENDLY LIVEABOARD JOINS DIVERSE TRAVEL SAILINGS Hereâ€™s a liveaboard with a different concept. Coralia is a new boat by Papua Explorers, renowned for exceptional service, quality and commitment to protecting nature, conserving the oceans and developing local communities in Raja Ampat. Built in Bira, Sulawesi, by the Konjo tribe who have been building ships for centuries, ancient techniques are blended with wisdom, modern design and safety features. This beautiful wooden sailing boat can cater for 16 guests in eight spacious cabins. All are tastefully decorated incorporating traditional design elements with modern comfort, air-conditioned and spacious private bathrooms, towels and hairdryer. The four luxurious Master cabins on the main and upper deck feature a private balcony, sun chair and outside sofa where you can drink in the tropical scenery, sunrise and sunset. Coralia has a spacious dining/lounge and plenty of outside space for relaxing or enjoying a gentle massage. This year she will be plying the waters around the world-renowned dive sites of Raja Ampat and in 2020 will be adding Komodo and transit trips through Ambon, Banda, the Forgotten Islands, Alor and Maumere. Specifically built for diving, the shaded dive deck has warm showers, changing room, gear storage and extra towels. All diving is done from two eight-metre fibreglass dinghies with outboards. There will usually be four dives a day, including some night dives. UW photographers are well-catered for with an airconditioned camera room. Nitrox is free of charge on Coralia and rental gear is available for a surcharge. This is free for Papua Explorer and returning guests. www.diversetravel.co.uk/indonesia/liveaboards/coralia
SEA OF CHANGE FOUNDATION SUPPORTS COMMUNITY REEF RESCUE Two years ago, to support marine conservation across the international community, the Sea of Change Foundation launched a new kind of fund to provide quick response to coral reef damage from anchor drops, vessel groundings, oil spills, and other localised, anthropogenic and acute impacts to coral reefs. This year, the Reef Rescue and Rapid Response Fund is supporting a reef clean-up by Lang Tengaah Turtle Watch on a small island off the coast of Malaysia. During the last monsoon season, jetties were destroyed leaving debris scattered across the reef that smashed into the coral during tidal surges causing irreparable damage. To avoid future damage, removing the debris before another storm was mission-critical. The Sea of Change Foundation is supporting that mission, and on one dive alone, divers removed eight two-metre long planks of wood, a large cement pillar base, 19 additional planks, and four tyres. This reef rescue will continue through July with the goal of not only removing all the storm debris, but working towards a long-term solution to the recurring problem. www.seaofchange.com
MALDIVES An incredible underwater adventure awaits Spec dive ial offer rs on fo Kure r du!
Kuredu* Komandoo Vakarufalhi Lily Beach Hurawalhi Innahura
New 3* diver island
"The best dive center in the Maldives 2018" awarded by a leading german dive magazine *Kuredu Island Resort - Special offer for divers including 2 dives per day accommodation in Garden Bungalow with half board - valid for a stay of min. 5 days www.kuredu.com
THAILAND’S ICONIC BAY FROM THE BEACH TO REMAINED CLOSED UNTIL 2021
The tranquil, picturesque bay on the island of Phi Phi Leh that was catapulted to fame after appearing in 2000 Hollywood hit The Beach is to remain closed until 2021. Maya Bay was closed last year after the authorities stated that the massive rise in the number of tourists – up to 5,000 a day at one point – was causing severe damage to the environment, in particular killing off most of the coral in the shallows. It was expected to be a temporary ban, but now it has been extended for a further two years in order for the eco-system to make a stronger recovery. The ban is obviously working – blacktip sharks have already been seen cruising around the bay. When – and if – the bay reopens for tourism, it is expected that the number of visitors allowed at any one time will be restricted, and boats will not be allowed to anchor within the bay itself.
THAI CAVE RESCUE DIVER FOUND AFTER GOING MISSING IN US CAVE SYSTEM
A key member of the British contingent of cave divers who saved the 12 football players and their coach last year in Thailand was found safe and well after being missing for 24 hours in a US cave system. And in typical style, after returning to the surface, Josh Bratchley MBE – who was described as being in ‘good health and good spirits’ - was checked over by medical personnel, but refused any further treatment and instead asked for a pizza! The elite British diver and meteorologist had been exploring the far reaches of Mill Pond Cave in Jackson County, Tennessee with a group of other UK divers for several days, but when they returned from a dive late on Tuesday 16 April, when he was apparently replacing a guideline, they found he was missing. The team conducted a number of searches on their own, but failed to locate him, so they called in the authorities. Specialist cave divers were flown in from Florida and Arkansas to assist with the search, and eventually Edd Sorenson located him just before 7pm on Wednesday 17 April – just shy of 24 hours after he went missing. He was found sheltering in an air pocket that had been identified during previous mapping of the system by Tennessee Tech University - thankfully he was aware of their locations. Sorenson said: “I could have got to him sooner, but I was looking at every nook and cranny, looking for a body. There were broken lines, and it was a very silty, dangerous low cave. We came up to the air pocket and, shockingly, there he was, calm as could be.” He added: “Josh just said ‘thank you, thank you. Who are you?”
T H E
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If you love easy shore diving, big coral gardens, macro critter hunting and the biodiversity that the Coral Triangle brings. Look no farther than Timor-Leste for you next diving adventure. Donâ€™t believe us, speak with an operator today to learn more. Aquatica Dive Resort www.aquaticadiveresort.com Atauro Dive Resort www.ataurodiveresort.com Compass Diving www.compassdiving.com Dive Timor www.divetimor.com Dreamers Dive Academy www.timordiveacademy.com
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ARE YOU READY FOR THE CHALLENGE OF THE ATLANTIS AQUA PARK? The National Diving and Activity Centre (NDAC) is expanding its plethora of action-packed activities with the opening of the gigantic inflatable Atlantis Aqua Park this weekend. The Atlantis Aqua Park is, quite simply, absolutely massive, and there are no less than five floating zones to choose from, which increase in intensity as you go through them. The Atlantis Aqua Park is a great attraction for all (anyone can give it a go over the age of eight), and will be open during school holiday periods throughout the year seven days a week, and weekends outside of the holidays. Prices range from £24 for one person, to £45 for two people, and £88 for four people. These prices are for a one-hour session, and include wetsuit hire, buoyancy aid and safety briefing. www.ndac.co.uk
SUPPORT BITE-BACK – AND WIN A BLUE O TWO HOLIDAY WORTH OVER £6,500! Two lucky people will be jetting off to the Bahamas next year to enjoy seven days diving on M/V Bahamas Master for just £10 – thanks to an exciting fundraising lottery developed by Blue O Two to benefit its charity partner Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation. Each £10 ticket sold via the Bite-Back website buys a chance to win two return flights, seven days liveaboard diving in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas, guaranteed shark encounters and memories that will last a lifetime. The prize, valued at over £6,500, brings the dream of diving in the Bahamas within the reach of a huge audience and, with tickets limited to just 1,500, the chance of winning is greater than most prize draws. Alyson Tyler, managing director for Blue O Two, said: “We love the fact that this lottery is a win/win for divers and shark conservation. Everyone who buys a ticket is in with a chance of winning this amazing prize and, at the same time, everyone who buys a ticket is helping to fund Bite-Back’s important campaigns to end the trade and consumption of shark products.” Due to its abundance of sharks, the Bahamas is a bucket-list destination for many divers. Within its protected waters, divers can look forward to encounters with bull, tiger, lemon, great hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks. Graham Buckingham, campaign director for Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation, said: “We hope the allure of winning this amazing prize is too big for divers to ignore. After all, two people are going to experience a holiday of a lifetime for the price of a pub lunch.” Tickets can only be purchased at: www.bite-back.com/shop The winner will be picked at random on 26 October 2019. All the terms and conditions can be found on both the Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation and Blue O Two websites.
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THE MARVEL UNIVERSE PUTS SCOTLAND ON THE BIG SCREEN
During the shooting of the blockbuster Marvel film Avengers: Endgame, St Abbs doubled as the fictional village of New Asgard. The Marvel film was released last week and St Abbs has subsequently become the focus for millions of fans of the film franchise, with numerous box office records being smashed on the first weekend alone. During filming in 2017, the independent St Abbs Lifeboat Station was rebranded as ‘New Asgard Lifeboat Station’ – only on the understanding that the Marvel film-makers dropped everything and cleared the way for the crew if the pagers went off during takes! Even Hollywood doesn’t stand in the way of a callout. As a bit of fun, Scottish Borders Council have had a couple of road signs made up, and today photographed two of the crew at local spots that appear in the film. Film-makers Marvel also made a generous donation to the lifeboat, which was much appreciated.
COCAINE FOUND IN SUFFOLK FRESHWATER SHRIMPS BY SCIENTISTS
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If you’ve ever wondered why shrimps always seem so active and skittish, maybe now we have the answer – researchers from King’s College in London have found cocaine in freshwater shrimps in Suffolk. The scientists, who were working alongside the University of Suffolk, were testing rivers for chemicals at 15 different locations across the county. Their report, which was published in Environment International, shows that cocaine was found in all the samples tested, while other drugs, such as ketamine, were also widely found in the shrimp. Banned pesticides and pharmaceuticals were also found in the shrimp collected. Professor Nic Bury, from the Univeristy of Suffolk, commented: “Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread across the UK and abroad, awaits further results. “Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and micro-plastic pollution, however, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution – such as drugs – on wildlife health needs much more focus in the UK.” Dr Leon Barron, from King’s College London, said: “Such regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising, and while we might expect to see these in urban areas, it isn’t something we would associate with smaller and more-rural catchment areas.”
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DAVID WILKINSON NAMED 2019 DAN/ROLEX DIVER OF THE YEAR Divers Alert Network and Rolex have announced that Dr David Wilkinson has been selected as the 2019 DAN/ Rolex Diver of the Year. The award was presented on Saturday 13 April at the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society 45th Annual Awards Programme in New York. Dr Wilkinson is a senior staff specialist in anaesthesiology and the medical director of the hyperbaric medicine unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. A researcher and educator, he is also a clinical lecturer at the University of Adelaide. He became captivated by hyperbaric medicine one day while working in the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s intensive care unit. When a colleague was taking a patient to the hyperbaric department, Wilkinson asked if he could accompany them, and he was completely fascinated by the chamber. “There was an element of frontier medicine about it,” he said. “It took my fancy.” He has since dedicated his career not only to diving medicine but to treating many of the ailments that can be improved with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. And rather than being content with the accepted limitations of hyperbaric medicine, Wilkinson has pushed the envelope, studying its effectiveness in treating even more conditions, including diabetes and the side effects of radiation therapy. An advanced nitrox and decompression diver, Wilkinson sits on the board of directors of the Australasian Diving Safety Foundation/DAN Asia-Pacific Foundation, an organisation dedicated to advancing dive safety throughout the Asia-Pacific region. www.DAN.org
SEARCH AND RESCUE DRONE TRIAL ANNOUNCED IN ESSEX
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 2019 Course Dates available www.commercialdivertraining.co.uk email@example.com 01726 817128 | 07900 844141
For the next 12 months, a new drone trial is taking flight to support vital search and rescue action around the coast of Essex, thanks to a partnership between Essex Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The year-long trial, which started on 29 April, will provide HM Coastguard Rescue Teams with more eyes in the sky to assist with search and rescue operations around the county’s coastline, supporting the vital work of their teams and the RNLI. From helping to search for casualties in hazardous locations and directing HM Coastguard and RNLI lifeboat crews to their locations to enable emergency services to risk assess situations before deploying rescue personnel to the scene, Essex Police’s Drone Unit will provide a range of operational benefits to the search and rescue teams. At the end of the year-long pilot, the impact that drones have had on coastal search and rescue activity in the region will be assessed, and that information will help inform the MCA and RNLI’s ongoing work to explore the role that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can play in future search and rescue activity. HM Coastguard Teams from Walton, Clacton, Mersea Island, South Woodham Ferrers, Southend and Canvey Island will be taking part in the trial, supported by a range of inshore and all-weather lifeboats and hovercraft strategically located at six RNLI lifeboat stations along that stretch of the Essex coastline.
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Dr Oliver Firth is a diving doctor with over 22 years of diving experience. He is an Approved Medical Examiner of Divers for the UK HSE and a medical referee for the UK Diving Medical Committee, performing many hundreds of diving medicals a year. As the senior doctor at London Diving Chamber for the last 13 years, he has supervised the treatment of hundreds of cases of decompression illness. He has now set up Hyperdive (www.hyperdive.co.uk) to continue his diving medical work with a global audience. With his accumulated experience, he has seen most things a diver might come across, but remains eager to hear from anyone with a medical conundrum they need a solution to! firstname.lastname@example.org Q: I’ve been a keen diver since my teenage years but now have chronic kidney problems from polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which was diagnosed about 10 years ago. I’m 27 and feel fit and well. I have an annual check up with my specialist and do take medication for high blood pressure. I would love to carry on diving, and eventually become an instructor. Would I pass an HSE medical with this condition? A: You might, or you might not, depending on how severe the ‘chronic kidney problems’ are. PKD is a very common genetically inherited disease, which affects over 7 million people worldwide. What happens in PKD is that fluid-filled cysts gradually form in the kidneys, which progressively destroy the normal kidney tissue. This will lead to high blood pressure, frequent infections, painful non-functioning kidneys, and ultimately to a need for dialysis or transplant. There is as yet no cure; various surgical treatments will alleviate pain, and early treatment of infections and high blood pressure will help make life bearable. One drug (called tolvaptan) is available that may slow the progression of cyst development, protecting kidney function and thus delaying the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, however, cysts can also form in other organs too, such as the liver, brain, pancreas, and, worryingly, testicles. About 50% of people will have end-stage renal failure by the age of 60. All sounds rather doom and gloom, I’m afraid. The good news is that because the cysts are fluid-filled, they are not subject to the pressure/volume changes that diving would exert on gas-filled spaces, so you can dive safely with early PKD. However, as the illness progresses, you become more
and more at risk of anaemia, fatigue and infections. And this is my concern about going pro – these latter problems are inevitable at some stage, and if you are considering a career in diving, then it may be short-lived. Q: I have recently been for a routine medical for my job. My doctor suspected that there may have been a problem so sent me for an ECG. The results for this came back and now he wants me to go for an ‘echo’ to see if I have an enlarged heart. Have you ever known anyone with an enlarged heart that would be safe to dive? I had a basic dive medical when I started about 5 years ago and my blood pressure was 120/70, which I understand is OK for a 33 year old male. My blood pressure was 136/80 on my last test three weeks ago. A: There are different forms of heart enlargement, but the principle can be explained by the old ‘hot water heating’ analogy. Imagine the water as blood, the pump as your heart, the pipes as your arteries and veins, and the water pressure as your blood pressure. If your pipes get furred up, then the pump has to work harder to keep up adequate water pressure, and to cope with this, your heart muscle enlarges. The heart sits in a stiff sac, so any heart muscle growth occurs inwards, reducing the amount of space within it for blood – so less is pumped with each beat. Exercise capacity therefore drops, and any sudden strain on the heart can push it into failure. Heart enlargement produces tell-tale signs on your ECG, and hence you need a echo test. It’s this test that will determine your fitness to dive.
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Richard Smith embarks on an epic roadtrip down the east coast of Australia with legendary marine life experts Ned and Anna DeLoach
ABOVE 18m: PORTLAND PARK
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TECHNICAL: BIKINI ATOLL
GEAR GUIDE: BACK-UP DIVE LIGHTS
Gareth Lock utilises a mind set acquired in the RAF to improve diving safety by applying human factors and non-technical skills to diving Mark Evans returns to Sudan for the first time since his mind-blowing inaugural visit back in 2006 - will it live up to his lofty expectations?
Stuart Philpott checks out phase two of the Portland Underwater Curiosity Park Tech-diving expert Aron Arngrimsson leads an expedition to the remote Bikini Atoll and explores the massive aircraft carrier USS Saratoga The Test Team heads to North Wales to rate and review dive torches, specifically those units designed as redundant means of illumination
Back to our When it came to a destination for a family diving holiday, Mark Evans set his sights on Egypt, and with Roots Red Sea, he found the perfect place to relax, enjoy great diving and make the most of some quality time with his wife and son PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK AND PENNEY EVANS
Penney with anthias on a coral head
Luke on the house reef Luke with his instructors Mansy and Fathy
You’re taking Luke to Egypt?” with a concerned expression was a common reaction we experienced when we mentioned plans for our Easter family diving holiday, and it regularly infuriated me. My wife Penney and I have taken our son to Egypt twice before – when he was just two, and again when he was eight – and personally I have been to the country more than 55 times over the past 20-odd years, so we know exactly what to expect, but ever since the direct flights to Sharm el Sheikh were put on hold and the mainstream media has seemingly delighted in blowing any minor incident in the whole region totally out of all proportion, Egypt has had to deal with many critics having bizarre misconceptions about what the country and its people are like. In many cases, I embark on a righteous crusade to educate them about Egypt, the Red Sea and its culture, but other times – as a glazed and confused expression settles across their faces – I just agree to disagree and move on. As for us, we are dedicated Egypt fans, and when it became time for a family diving holiday, it was the first place on our wishlist. Luke – now 12 – was a PADI Junior Open Water Diver, and he was set to chalk up his Junior Advanced course (which will be the subject of another article in The Next Generation in a future issue). He’d got his initial qualification in the UK and Florida Keys, but for his next foray underwater, there was no other place I wanted to take him than the Red Sea. We are very spoilt here in the UK. Literally on our doorstep – a mere five or so hour flight away – we have some of the most-diverse Indo-Pacific diving imaginable, a sublime
blend of vibrant coral reefs, myriad varieties of marine life, stunning walls and jaw-dropping shipwrecks. With an array of resorts and hotels running from El Gouna in the north all the way down to past Marsa Alam in the south, not to mention liveaboards embarking on exciting itineraries from Hurghada, Safaga and Port Ghalib, you have a wide range of options regardless of your budget or other requirements. While I would have loved to take Penney and Luke on a liveaboard, with him only being four-dives-in to his underwater adventures, we felt it might have been a little daunting, so I went for the next best thing – the friendly, welcoming, selfcontained resort of Roots Red Sea, which could be described as a ‘land-based liveaboard’ due to the compact nature of the place and the day-to-day set-up for food and diving. Ideally located a few kilometres north of the coastal town of El Quseir, it is just an hour and a half in a minibus from Hurghada, and an hour from Marsa Alam, so getting there is a piece of cake. Roots is split over two areas – a private beach with a dive centre and beach restaurant, and then a three-minute walk inland over the road is the main resort, where there are all of the accommodation options, a swimming pool, reception, dive centre, restaurant/bar and various chill-out areas. Operated by experienced British couple Steve and Clare Rattle, the first thing which hits you about Roots is its truly warm and welcoming feel. Rather than just being another ‘guest’, it is almost like staying with friends and family. Due to it being relatively small, it doesn’t take long to get to know any other people staying there, and the way in which the meals are provided – buffet-style eaten on long tables where everyone mingles together – helps to get the conversation flowing. On our first morning, we went and had a hearty breakfast, and then traipsed to the resort dive centre with all of our gear in mesh bags. While we filled in all of the usual paperwork and presented our C-cards, dive instructor Fathy Abu El Fadek Blue-spotted ray and lionfish
Luke and Penney on their first dive together
ROOTS RED SEA
A vast shoal of glassgish
Roots has a variety of rustic accommodation options, from cheapand-cheerful Eco Huts with a ceiling fan and shared bathrooms, to Deluxe Chalets with air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms, and finally spacious stone-built Boutique Rooms with full facilities. Whatever your budget, Roots Red Sea has got you covered. At the main resort, the rooms – and the reception, dive centre, swimming pool and restaurant - are all situated around the outside of a large sandy communal space with a volleyball court and several seating areas, meaning you are never more than a oneminute walk from anywhere. Breakfast and evening meals are served in the resort – apart from Tuesday evenings, when the night dive is followed by a beach barbecue – and lunches are taken in the alfresco restaurant down on the beach. If you want to get out and about, the team at Roots can also assist with a variety of excursions, from desert safaris, horse riding and quad tours to trips to Luxor, Cairo and the Pyramids. www.rootsredsea.com
and DMT Kirsty Hobson quickly and efficiently issued us with numbered plastic crates, noted down the brand of our various bits of kit, and then had them shuttled down to the beach dive centre ready for our first dives of the trip. I don’t think my dive gear has ever been so well treated! At the end of each day, it was all rinsed and then hung up to dry, before being stashed back in our box the next morning. At the end of the week, it received a thorough wash – including inside the BCD bladder. I am surprised it didn’t fall apart from the shock! We were also given a bottle of water each, inside a number neoprene sleeve. This was ours to use for the whole week, and there were refill stations throughout the main resort and down at the beach facilities, which obviously cuts down massively on any waste. If you have your own water bottles, you can bring them with you and slot them into one of the sleeves. The Roots dive team have a wide selection of dive sites at their disposal, and diagrams of all of them are prominently positioned on the wall, so you can plan your diving with
Easter egg and spoon race
Penney and the giant anemonefish
Kirsty gets Luke and friends decorating eggs
Luke was entranced by two large anemonefish who regularly hovered a couple of metres above their host anemone on an rocky ridge some 8m deep WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
There are many pufferfish lounging on the house reef
Luke loved the GMC truck
your instructor/guide. Many of them are shore dives, some are accessed via Pharaoh Dive Club’s own RIB based in El Quseir, and others utilise larger RIBs or hardboats if they are further offshore, such as the legendary Elphinstone reef or the tragic Salem Express shipwreck. Whatever your level of experience, you will find plenty to keep you occupied. For us, at least for a few days, we were going to be based close to home - a short wander later and we were down at the beach dive centre, where our crates of kit were stationed under a cylinder ready to be set up. A concrete path leads to a natural split in the reef, where you can dive through in a couple of metres and emerge on to the house reef. Now there are many ‘house reefs’ around the world, and in many cases, while they offer a convenient way to go diving, they can’t exactly be described as fabulous, not-to-be-missed dive sites in their own right. However, there are some notable exceptions, and the Roots House Reef definitely deserves to be on that list. Over the course of several days, we got to know this site intimately, and I can see why it is often showered with accolades. Once you head through the ‘cut’ in the fringing coral, you have several options. Directly in front of you is a large expanse of sand, which slopes off increasingly steeply the deeper you go. In the middle of this sandy desert is a clump of rocks, which were home to lionfish, pufferfish and damselfish, and were also the focus for mating squid, which were laying their eggs inside the nooks and crannies. A little further down the slope is a rudimentary statue now smothered in coral and encrusting marine growth. However, while it is fun cruising around this sandy area,
looking for flatfish and blue-spotted stingrays, the main action can be found on either side. To the north, the reef wall gradually increases in depth, with a couple of coral heads in 5m-8m that you can have a good mooch about, and plenty of marine life to be found. A stunning table coral protruding from one of these coral heads often sheltered large soldierfish and porcupine pufferfish, and big scorpionfish and lionfish staked a claim beneath any overhangs. The reef stays quite steep until you reach about 12m-15m and then the terrain changes, and it becomes more of a gradual slope disappearing off into the depths. By the time you reach the ‘corner’ and head off up the outside of the reef out of the bay, it vanishes well below recreational depths. However, you don’t need to venture too far, and we found the most-prolific marine life was within the bay area, especially in the top 10m. Luke was entranced by two large anemonefish who regularly hovered a couple of metres above their host anemone on an rocky ridge some 8m deep. Next to this is a carpet anemone, and if you looked closely, there were scores of bright orange ‘sexy shrimp’ hopping about and waving their abdomens furiously. All along the reef there were always triggerfish, parrotfish, boxfish, pufferfish, damselfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, wrasse, fusiliers, grouper, ‘Dad and lad’ selfie snapper and all the other typical Red Sea reef dwellers in attendance. To the south, shortly after coming through the ‘cut’, there is a natural coral amphitheatre brightly lit by shafts of sunlight, which was always filled with butterflyfish munching on jellyfish in the water column. This soon morphs into a sheer coral-encrusted wall, which as well as being popular with all the regular reef residents, is also adorned with nudibranchs, and many of the holes in the rock are home to various species of moray eel. Eventually the wall becomes a sloping reef
All I remember of the night dive is Luke zipping back and forth between us and his instructor Fathy like a frenetic human version of a flashlight fish!
Luke having some beach fun with other children
Setting up a diorama for photographs
more akin to the north, but around 18m-20m, there is a pinnacle swarming with life. Glassfish dart back and forth in mirrored shoals, while predatory lionfish and juvenile jacks stalk their next meal. In the midst of all of this, there is a bright red anemone tucked into the coral, complete with resident anemonefish, though these guys are much smaller than the two whoppers on the north wall. Still feisty, though! Most of our dives were spent on and around these main areas, as Luke went through his various Adventure Dives, and while he was obviously blown away by his first real diving experience in the Red Sea, there was plenty to keep Penney and I busy while he was running through skills and drills. The south wall was absolutely teeming with life on the night dive, and we were lucky enough to find a massive Spanish dancer crawling about in around 9m. All I remember of the night dive is Luke zipping back and forth between us and his instructor Fathy like a frenetic human version of a flashlight fish! However, we did venture further afield on occasion, and our final day saw us out in the Pharaoh Dive Club RIB exploring just outside the harbour at El Quseir. Luke was excited because it was the first time he’d rolled out of an inflatable, and while this was a highlight, underwater I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head at The Rock, a dive site where the reef was literally smothered in anemones, each with several attendant anemonefish. Sadly the vis wasn’t great due to the fact that all week the wind had blown up, so we didn’t get the full effect, but it was still an amazing sight to see so many anemones all together. I can see why it is considered a true rival to Ras Mohammed’s Anemone City dive site. Our final dive was along the fringing reef heading back towards the harbour, and I was overjoyed when halfway through the dive – which again was marred slightly by ropey wind-driven vis – I saw Fathy turn around and give Luke the unmistakable signal for ‘turtle’. Luke swam around the coral head and there, chilling on the bottom but just starting to make plans to head up for a quick breathe, was a monster green turtle. It dwarfed Luke, especially when it lazily swam
up from its reef perch and slowly, effortlessly, did a wide circle around our little group and disappeared up into the gloom. A fabulous way to end Luke’s first – but surely not last – week of diving in the Red Sea. While we all loved the diving side of things, this was a family holiday, and so we also enjoyed some pool time, playing the various games available for the sandy courtyard in the resort, including ladder ball, boules and so on, or just chilling on the beach. I got roped into assisting Luke with a set up of his construction vehicles for an authentic photograph. It was the Easter holidays, so DMT Kirsty found herself organising some fun and games for the handful of children who were in the resort, including egg-and-spoon races, eggpainting, egg hunts and more.
CONCLUSION Roots Red Sea offered the perfect tonic to manic life back home. Everything is laidback and done at your own pace. Steve and Clare run a tight ship, and they have a great team of staff at their disposal. Luke immediately felt at home, and enjoyed the freedom to go and do what he wanted, or wander back and forth between the beach facilities and the main resort. All of the staff were great with him, Penney and I were comfortable knowing he was safe and someone always had eyes on him, and we couldn’t have asked for better instructors than Fathy Abu El Fadel and Mohammed Mansy. But don’t just take my word for it – come and sample the Roots Red Sea experience for yourself, it will surely not be the last time you visit this little desert gem. n
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Martin Sampson explains why you should ensure that you make a controlled ascent after any dive PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTIN SAMPSON AND MARK EVANS
couple of days ago at a local dive site, I saw a pair of divers come to the surface in such a way as to make me wonder whether they thought that the dive had ended when they left the bottom. The creation of a large jacuzzi a few seconds before one of the diver’s heads broke the surface grabbed my attention first. That he arrived on the surface with BCD already inflated only confirmed my suspicions that this was not a perfect ascent. A couple of rapid 360s combined with a ‘where am I?’ expression on his face was followed up with a half-hearted ‘I’ve made it back alive so I must be okay’ signal. His buddy arrived on the surface a few seconds afterwards - I don’t think his ascent skills were any better. It’s true that for most of us, the descent and the exploration on the bottom is the exciting part of the dive. But in terms of what’s about to happen in your body, the ascent is where it’s at. Expanding air will be trying to escape from your BCD, drysuit, middle ears, sinuses, lungs, and even your teeth. Nitrogen bubbles may try to form in body tissues – and probably will in most cases. As well as having an awareness of the problems these can cause in the back of your mind, you will be controlling your posture in the water, maintaining contact with your buddy, monitoring your ascent rate, and venting air from your BCD and drysuit. For some divers, operating a surface marker buoy and performing decompression stops as well could be a task too far. The one device that can help enormously with an ascent (and
descent) is a shot-line; in other words a temporary anchor line that you can use as a visual and tactile datum. This gives you an immediate visual reference for both orientation and ascent rate and can help keep you together as a buddy pair. A shot-line needs to be set up before a dive and good dive boat skippers are well practised at providing them. The other device worth it’s weight in gold is a modern dive computer with a clear ascent rate display, and even clearer ascent rate warning. Before I ascend
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from any dive I like to pause for several seconds to think about it and stow equipment that I won’t need during the ascent. If I am planning to use a delayed SMB I’ll need even longer to get organised. I may want to adjust my buoyancy slightly as well. In other words I like to clear my head so that every ascent is a considered and relaxed event entirely separate from the rest of the dive. With deeper dives involving mandatory decompression stops, I believe this approach to be vital, especially as the duration of the ascent and decompression stops could be several times longer than the time spent on the bottom.
Expanding air will be trying to escape from your BCD, drysuit, middle ears, sinuses, lungs, and even your teeth TOP TIPS FOR SAFE ASCENTS
• Buoyancy control depends partly on your state of mind. Plan the dive thoroughly and eliminate any concerns that you may have before getting in the water. • Give yourself plenty of time to get back to your exit point or the shot-line. Especially on deeper dives, keep navigation simple and stay relaxed. • Don’t push your air supply to the limit. You may need more air than you think for the ascent, especially if your computer requires you to complete a decompression stop or you get an unexpected ‘reverse block’ that takes time to clear. • Aim to arrive at the exit point with time to spare to clear your head and get organised for the ascent. Check your air, bottom time, and position your computer so that you will be able to easily monitor your ascent rate. • If you are using a drysuit with an adjustable valve, you may have closed it during the dive. Open it so that it will dump enough air during the ascent, but not so much that you become negatively buoyant.
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Buoyancy control depends partly on your state of mind. Plan the dive thoroughly and eliminate any concerns that you may have before getting in the water.
• Check that your buddy has had enough time to get ready to ascend. • Check your buoyancy so that you can begin the ascent easily. Don’t dump air too soon as this will only cause you to fin harder to get the ascent going. • Aim to maintain an ascent rate just below the allowable maximum ascent rate for your computer or table. Especially from deeper dives you can ascend too slowly because inadequate elimination of nitrogen during the ascent could lengthen decompression stops. • Even if a mandatory stop is not required, aim to complete a safety stop of at least three minutes at 5m or at the stop depth given by your computer. Trim your buoyancy at the stop so that you can be totally relaxed and neutrally buoyant. • As you leave the safety stop, look up and also listen out for boat engines. If any doubt, raise your hand above your head just before you get to the surface. n
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Magic Richard Stevens and Hailey Elizabeth from Black Manta Photography are smitten by the Philippines, in particular the Magic Islands and Magic Oceans resorts and their surrounding dive sites, and here they explain why the location is a diving paradise PHOTOGRAPHS BY BLACK MANTA PHOTOGRAPHY / WWW.BLACKMANTAPHOTOGRAPHY.COM 34
Aerial shot of the pool
f you were to view the Philippines from the air, you would be blinded by the most neon of blues and fluorescents of green, with specs of brown and white the only giveaway to the collection of islands below. Our first trip the Philippines was in 2017, when we ventured far and wide across the archipelago, covering Tubbataha, Bohol and Malapascua. It’s long been the dive destination of the moment, alongside its neighbour Indonesia, offering some of the best diversity in the coral triangle. We desperately wanted to return to Bohol, to the friendly and homely dive resort at Magic Oceans, and we were lucky to be able to make it a twin-centre trip starting at their original, smaller resort in Moalboal, Magic Islands.
MAGIC ISLAND, MOALBOAL
Fourteen years have passed since Desiree and Arie took that tentative step in transitioning from the corporate world in Holland to owners of a dive resort on the southernmost tip of Moalboal, on the island of Cebu, Philippines. Talking to them about the changes they’ve implemented since day one, and how they learnt as they went along, is pretty awe-inspiring - it almost made us feel like we should be selling up in the UK and doing the same! What they have created is a ten-room, self-contained resort that offers not only a high quality of accommodation, but also a tightly knitted team across all areas from hospitality to dive guides. Along with Concheng (resort manager) and Jamie (dive centre manager), they have built a real family atmosphere that we just weren’t expecting, and for us is one of the standout attributes of the resort. This probably explains why their repeat customer rate is just so high, and why so many new customers are flocking to experience some of their magic. Talking of magic - let’s move over to the diving. The dive centre sits underneath the resort, and resembles something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Batman movie. It has that ‘secret cave’ feel about it, and being situated right on the water’s edge you couldn’t be closer to the three ‘Magic Islands’ branded boats moored out by the house reef if you tried!
Blenny on an anemone
Picture-postcard topside scenery
…there must be only a handful of dive sites in the world where you can be looking at a nudibranch the size of your little fingernail one moment, and spot a whaleshark cruising by in the shallows the next WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
The fleet of dive boats await
Some dive centres in the area are spoilt with stunning house reefs, or close proximity to amazing dive sites - Magic Islands, however, has both in abundance! The house reef is teeming with life from an array of nudibranchs in all shapes and sizes through to the many types of fish calling it home, and it’s impossible to venture across the house reef without coming face to face with a turtle. However, it will come as no surprise to the eagle-eyed diver that the resort logo is a mandarinfish. This is no ironic joke - oh no! As the sun starts to set and dusk draws close, these incredibly vibrant-coloured fish climb higher in their stag coral metropolis and become far more active. Then as the light is just starting to fade your patience is rewarded with pairs of mating mandarinfish, riding high from the coral - interlocked and spiralling to a climax before parting and heading back to the safety of the reef. We’d seen mandarinfish before, but never seen the mating process, nor had we seen them in these numbers - they were everywhere, then just like someone hitting a switch it stopped. The incredible thing is this happens every night like clockwork. In fact, we were so sure, we headed out in the shallow water ourselves one night unguided, and had the entire show to ourselves - a moment we won’t forget in a hurry.
Because of the location of Magic Islands, you are in easy reach of some of the best dive sites that Moalboal can offer. A short ride along the coast and you’ll find yourself at Panagsama - world famous for the sardine shoal that appears like clockwork every day on the same stretch of reef. Millions of fish swarming back and forth along the reef with a rhythmic and hypnotic sway is one of the mostmesmerising sights we’ve experienced, and the feeling of
Huge shoal of sardines at Panagsama
The reef wall has an abundance of hard and soft corals in some stunning colours, and appears to be the home of every frogfish in the Philippines - I think we saw more of them on the two dives at Pescador than we have in the rest of the Philippines combined! The inviting dive centre
being encompassed by the sardine ball to the extent that the surface light and any reference point around you disappears really does make you realise how insignificant we as a human race can be at times. Other highlights include the dive sites on the island of Pescador, which is just a short boat journey away. The reef wall has an abundance of hard and soft corals in some stunning colours, and appears to be the home of every frogfish in the Philippines - I think we saw more of them on the two dives at Pescador than we have in the rest of the Philippines combined! It will always stand out in memory as the dive site where we witnessed a male frogfish flirting and chasing his prospective female lover around the reef - unfortunately for him, she wasn’t entirely impressed! Another reason to visit the island of Pescador is to see the ‘skull’ on the west side of the island. Before you all get in a panic, this is nothing to do with anything sinister, oh no, it’s merely the shape a huge cathedral-sized cave takes when peering from the inside out. Top tip - venture here with a camera, but make sure you have a buddy or two with torches. Ask them to kindly position themselves in the ‘eyes’ of the skull - gives a great effect!
There are so many adulations we could add to describe Magic Islands, and our first visit to dive the waters of Moalboal was an absolute dream. The reefs are stunning, all adorned with some of the cutest critters around, from candy crabs to hairy squat lobster, and there must be only a handful of dive sites in the world where you can be looking at a nudibranch the size of your little fingernail one moment, and spot a whaleshark cruising by in the shallows the next. We were so lucky to have seemingly always be in the right place at the right time - either that, or this truly is one of the greatest places for underwater adventures!
MAGIC OCEANS, ANDA, BOHOL
Fish shoal under the jetty
After an amazing week at Magic Islands, it was bittersweet to head to Magic Oceans for the second part of our trip. However, on arrival, we were met with so many familiar faces who all greeted us like long-lost friends. From the resort manager, Eef, to the kitchen and office staff and dive guides, who all seemed to remember who we were and genuinely pleased to see us return. We headed straight to the bar for a refreshing drink and snack (one of our best memories from the last time was the tasty spring rolls we had on arrival). After a quick briefing and catch up, we were led to our room, one of the bungalows at the rear of the resort surrounding the pool. All the rooms at Magic Oceans are slightly larger than Magic Islands and have been decorated in a morecontemporary style, each with their own terrace and ensuite bathroom. Magic Oceans boasts 16 rooms, but the high standards and perfect layout of the resort tell you that Desiree and Arie took everything they learnt from growing Magic Islands over the years, putting only the best of their experiences into Magic Oceans. Created in 2014, Eef was integral in using his construction background to build the resort from an area full of trees and grass to the what you see today. After unpacking our bags for the next eight days, we took our dive gear down to the dive centre to get ready for the diving delights we had longed to return for. The dive centre
Dive boat on the edge of the reef
The so-called ‘sexy shrimp’
is of a very high standard – large, with plenty of open space, huge rinse tanks for dive gear and camera kit, walls covered in dive site maps and high-quality images of the residents on the reefs, but importantly for us, Magic Oceans has camera stations with high-pressure hoses for removing any water residue from your camera housing. Magic Oceans is equipped with three dive boats, but the difference compared to the vessels at Magic Islands is the size. The boats here are much larger and provide toilet facilities, areas for seating under cover from the sun as well as lots of space for soaking up some sun rays. There’s a large storage area for cameras and bags keeping everything safe and out of the way of divers kitting up for dives, too. All of the dive sites at Magic Oceans are magical, but there are a few real standouts for us that we loved so much we went twice! A recent addition to their itinerary, Secret Place offers the perfect site for muck diving, a relatively shallow sandy bottom is home to critters of all shapes, colours and sizes, from flamboyant cuttlefish to Ambon scorpionfish leaving us truly in awe.
But the star of the show was a beautiful and shy seahorse. It’s well known that seahorses don’t much like light or cameras in their faces, so on this dive we decided to backlight one with a softer light so as to not disturb or scare away. As it happened, a small current was sprinkling soft delicate grains of sand in the water column, catching the light and making it look like it was snowing. Sometimes you plan how a photo will turn out and if you get lucky, it meets your expectations, other times the experience itself is what makes you lucky, a small seahorse showing off its natural beauty just for us. Then there’s Wonderwall, situated in the most-beautiful cove and a short boat ride along the shoreline from the resort. This dive site was most likely the house reef of the longdeserted resort White Coco Beach, which now lies in ruins and acts as the perfect fishing spot for the locals. This wall dive offers stunning coral as well as a seafan filled with plenty of pygmy seahorse (we spotted five on one seafan), hairy squat lobster hide among large barrel sponges, pipefish swim in and out of the coral and tiny crabs have made anemones their home. There is so much to see on this dive, I don’t think we covered even half of it, even after two dives! If you’re looking for something really special, then there is Lamanok - the furthest away from Magic Oceans, and the most temperamental due to its location. Lamanok is situated on the corner of a reef wall where currents converge and depending on the wind, has some surface waves. You can have a great dive here or the visibility can ruin it - nevertheless, the scenery and small island outcrops sitting among the brightest turquoise ocean make for a stunning surface internal. The special thing about this dive site are the nudibranchs that gather there. Nowhere in the world have we witnessed the range in variety, colour and sizes of these Gastropod molluscs.
CONCLUSION The sun sets over a dive boat
We had the most-amazing two weeks at the Magic resorts, so much so, we have booked to go back in 2021 for a third time with a larger group. If you are looking for outstanding food and a stunning setting with lots of variety (muck, macro, wide angle), then both resorts offer plenty on their own, but it’s the combination of the two that makes for a seriously special trip! Our list of species is endless, from whaleshark, to the sardine ball at Panagsama, through to the amazing flamboyant cuttlefish - our eyes were hurting from seeing so much. Word of advice - bring plenty of memory cards for your camera, you’re going to need them! n
Mark Evans stayed close to home and ventured to Puffin Island off the North Wales coastline with Duttons Divers/Vivian Dive Centre with an eye to diving with the resident seals, however, things didn’t quite go to plan… PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
he entire water column in front of me – well, the metre or so I could actually see! – was literally pulsating with life. Countless planktonic critters were making the most of the warm, sunny weather, and had ‘bloomed’ into active life, which was great for them, but not so good for our hardy band of divers. We were off the back end of Puffin Island in Anglesey, North Wales, hoping to explore the craggy, rocky reef beneath the surface, and maybe encounter a friendly seal or two, but at the moment I had all on just keeping track of where my buddy was! Topside conditions could not have been moreperfect – blue skies, warm sunshine and low wind – but underwater ended up being a right-off and we canned the dive after 30 minutes or so of comedic navigation through a primordial soup. Welcome to the world of British diving, where you just don’t know what you are going to get!
Puffin Island, or Ynys Seiriol in Welsh, is an uninhabited island lying off the eastern tip of Anglesey, an island itself off the northwest coast of Wales. When you are driving along the A55 dual-carriageway and look across towards Anglesey and see Puffin Island, it doesn’t look that big, but when you are next to it in a RIB, it is quite impressive, with the highest point being some 59 metres above sea level. Its Welsh name, Ynys Seiriol, refers to Saint Seiriol, son of Owain Ddantgwyn, a 5th-century ruler of the Kingdom of Gwynedd, who initially founded a clas, or ecclesiastical settlement, at Penmon (the area of Anglesey facing Puffin Island), before in later life establishing a hermitage on the island – his remains are still thought to rest there. The remains of several buildings are visible on the island, including a 12th-century monastery, which has a Grade I heritage listing, and a 19th-century cottage. There is also a disused telegraph station on the north-eastern tip of the island. It is now privately owned by the Baron Hill estate, and is a Special Protection Area for wildlife, in particular its great
The entire water column in front of me – well, the metre or so I could actually see! – was literally pulsating with life
Puffin Island makes an imposing sight
Dead man’s fingers
cormorant colony of some 750 birds, which is over ten percent of the national population. Atlantic puffins – after which is gained its English name – were once prolific, with more than 2,000 pairs recorded, but after the brown rat was accidentally introduced to the island in the late-19th century, they were virtually wiped out. A campaign to eradicate the rats through poisoning began in 1988, and seems to have worked – there are now some 300 puffins breeding on the island.
To dive Puffin Island, you need to be in a boat. You can launch from somewhere along the northern coast of Anglesey, or down the Menai Straits. Duttons Divers/Vivian Dive Centre go out in their 7.8-metre Ballistic dive RIB Little Viv from Ty Calch, at the very southern end of the Menai Straits, looking out at the narrow Caernarfon Bar, a treacherous navigation hazard leading out into Caernarfon Bay. This means that to get to Puffin Island, you are treated to a picturesque run up the extremely scenic Straits, past Caernarfon Castle and National Trust property Plas Newydd, under the Britannia Bridge and Menai Suspension Bridge, and then past Bangor Pier and Beaumaris/Beaumaris Castle, before Clare giving a eventually getting to Puffin Island. When you are briefing finished, you get the reverse journey back. The weather was amazing when we went out in early May, and the blue skies and warm sunshine made for a comfortable, enjoyable cruise up and down the Straits. There are several companies that do specific RIB cruises in these waters, they are that impressive, so essentially you get a free RIB-ride built into your diving day on Little Viv! Clare barely visible through the plankton
DUTTONS DIVERS/VIVIAN DIVE CENTRE
PADI five star IDC Vivian Dive Centre is one of several companies that has started to offer an array of guided shore and RIB dives around North Wales, which are the perfect introduction to our waters, especially if someone has only ever dived abroad or at an inland site. Check out their schedule for shore dives such as Menai Suspension Bridge, Porth Dafarch, Ravenspoint and Newry Beach, and RIB dives like Puffin Island. Mini-bus transfers are included from Vivian Dive Centre in Llanberis, so you can even jump in for a quick freshwater dive on your return to rinse your kit! You also get biscuits and hot tea/coffee after the dives. www.viviandivecentre.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
ACTION SERIES Exposure’s Action series are designed for use above and below the water utilising a simple push switch control and colour coded battery management system. The optional, patented, TAP control feature allows hands free control for changing mode. This feature can be switched on or off depending on the user’s preference. Maximum outputs from 1000 Lumens up to 2500 Lumens. Varying beam angles from 9 degree spot beam to 100 degree video light. 16° BEAM 1000 LUMENS 1.5hrs RUNTIME
100° BEAM 1000 LUMENS 1.5hrs RUNTIME
104mm x Ø 32mm
9° BEAM 1000 LUMENS 1.5hrs RUNTIME
20° BEAM 2500 LUMENS 1hr RUNTIME
100° BEAM 2500 LUMENS 1hr RUNTIME
9° BEAM 1000 LUMENS 4.5hrs RUNTIME
113mm x Ø 47mm
PUFFIN ISLAND ANGLESEY, NORTH WALES TYPE OF DIVE Boat.
DEPTH Depends on site, but potentially down to 12m-15m. MARINE LIFE/WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR Grey seals, wrasse, mackerel, lobster, crabs, and if you are really lucky, an underwater sighting of a seabird. SEABED Rocky reef, covered in kelp, encrusting marine growth and dead man’s fingers. HAZARDS There is a lot of boat and jet ski traffic around Puffin Island, so use a DSMB or a surface marker buoy to stay safe.
Dead man’s fingers on the reef
There are numerous sites around Puffin Island, but our plan was to dive with some of the friendly grey seals which call the island and its waters home. They can be encountered all around the island, but the northern side is generally the optimum spot for interactions, so this was our target drop from the RIB. Here the reef can drop to 12m-15m in places, and is liberally covered in thick coatings of dead man’s fingers and healthy kelp. We rolled in close to the wall, into about 2m-3m of water, and at that point we all realised just how plankton-filled it was! We stuck with the plan, even though we knew the chances of seeing any seals was about nil – we saw them on the surface as we drove by in the RIB, I am sure they were laughing to one another about these daft bubble-blowers coming to see them in lousy vis! We ventured down to 10m-11m maximum, and by getting very close to the reef, I managed to get nearly a metre or so on some-sort of visibility. The dead man’s fingers which filled every gulley and cut were very impressive, and there were seastars everywhere bigger than my hand. I also found a solitary lobster poking out from under a ledge, and a few large edible crabs going about their business between the kelp stems. It was a shame that the visibility caused us to abort the dive sooner than the hour planned, but this brief visit was enough to persuade me that a return visit needs to be on the cards, as the reef in decent vis would be absolutely stunning. n
Racing down the Menai Straits
I am sure they were laughing to one another about these daft bubble-blowers coming to see them in lousy vis! WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
Solas Ă?ontach All handhelds are modular and can be upgraded to an umbilical & canister.
INTO THE VORTEX
Socorro Vortex with its fellow Pelagic Fleet member, Solmar V
There are liveaboards, and then there are luxury liveaboards, and the newly launched Socorro Vortex certainly falls into the latter category. We peek behind the scenes of the epic build of this fantastic vessel, and talk to its creator, Jorge Hauser PHOTOGRAPHS BY JORGE HAUSER, DANIEL NORWOOD AND MANUELA KIRSCHNER
ivers know that liveaboards give us the opportunity to reach some of the world’s greatest dive sites, and these days, you don’t have to ‘rough it’ anymore, with some vessels literally bringing five-star hotel fixtures, fittings and service on to the sea. One of the latest liveaboards to hit the open ocean definitely sits in the upper echelon – the Socorro Vortex. The Vortex (www.vortexliveaboard.com) is a 42.5-metre former Canadian coastguard vessel, which was originally built to withstand rough conditions and, while retaining that robust seagoing nature, has been refitted to offer truly first-class, luxury accommodations and living areas. Given that it will be operating off Guadalupe Island and the Socorros, both of which involve long sailings across open water, this distinctive hull design and twin MTU main engines will ensure that it makes short work of these voyages – it has a top speed of 22 knots, and a comfortable cruising speed of 14 knots. The Vortex has four luxury staterooms (San Benedicto, Clipperton, Clarion and Cerralvo), two junior suites (Socorro and Guadalupe) and one master suite (Roca) – it is capable of catering for 14 guests – along with a spacious lounge, dining salon/bar offering complimentary premium beer, wine and espresso, al fresco dining area and lounge, sundeck with stainless-steel Jacuzzi. There is complimentary high-speed internet, for those who can’t wait to get back to land to post their videos and photographs, and even a helipad for those who want to arrive in style! Diving-wise, there is complimentary nitrox, a large dive deck, and two spacious tenders.
The Vortex in dry dock
Mid-way through the build
Vortex and its tenders at Socorro
The master suite Roca
The bathrooms look like a fivestar hotel
The spacious lounge area
THE MAN BEHIND THE VORTEX
Al fresco dining on the Vortex The impressive bow of the Vortex
The SPOC being lowered into the water
The stunning Socorro Vortex is the brainchild of Jorge Cervera Hauser, an award-winning underwater photographer and videographer born and raised in Mexico City. He was introduced to the ocean and its pelagic inhabitants at an early age through his grandfather’s sport-fishing company, starting to dive aged 15, and became infatuated with his country’s native waters. He got a Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Communication in CDMX and a degree in Cinematography from Universidad de Madrid, and began working for major advertising agencies as a creative, and on TV networks as a field producer, until a dirt bike accident laid him up for six months. After his accident, he spent two months in South Africa as a contestant on Animal Planet’s Unearthed, which he won, having his documentary short broadcast worldwide. This prompted him to kickstart his own production company, Calypso Media, where he did corporate videos and TV commercials for companies like Kelloggs, Avon, AXA and the Mexican government. In 2011 he met a group of like-minded people, and together they formed www.pelagiclife.org, a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting open-ocean marine life in Mexico by creating visually stimulating content to inspire and raise awareness for sustainable tourism with pelagic species. This led him to produce an acclaimed documentary, Mexico Pelagico, which was later picked up and aired on Discovery Channel and by Netflix. His amazing photographs have been published by National Geographic, Wired and The Outdoor Journal. Riding on a wave of success, it was around this time that Jorge decided to try and make a living out of his love – the ocean – and in 2016 bought the iconic liveaboard Solmar V, a renowned vessel which pioneered diving in the Socorros and around Guadalupe. Since then the Pelagic Fleet (www. pelagicfleet.com) has expanded to include the Pelagic Safari, which offers daily shark diving trips and whale-watching expeditions out of Cabo San Lucas, and has now been rounded out by the Socorro Vortex.
I wanted to design a truly high-end boat that would match the quality of diving and natural wonders of the destination SELF-PROPELLED OCEAN CAGE (SPOC)
Filming great whites from the SPOC
Divers on the Socorro Vortex have also got the opportunity to charter the SPOC, a self-propelled cage that can fit a pilot in the back, and a diver/photographer in the front. Previously it has been used in several TV productions for research purposes, but last year it was issued with a commercial permit, opening it up to all guests. The SPOC can travel at five knots, allowing it to effortlessly keep up with a cruising white shark, and both the pilot and the diver wear full-face masks so they can communicate with one another and the boat. Before you start to worry what would happen if the SPOC lost all propulsion, it is slightly positive, so in case of malfunction, it would just remain on the surface waiting for pick-up.
We spoke to Jorge about the Vortex build, and what went into this epic endeavour.
Jorge freediving with humpbvack whales
Q: You already had the legendary Solmar V in your fleet. What was the rationale behind the creation of the Socorro Vortex? A: To build the dive boat Socorro deserved. More boats were coming in, which came with an increase in the offer that resulted in discounts from everyone wanting to fill their boats. Reluctant to fight a price war, I wanted to design a truly high-end boat that would match the quality of diving and natural wonders of the destination. To achieve this, I wanted luxury to be present both above and below the surface. Less divers equals less bubbles during a dive, and bigger, more comfortable spaces on board. Also, as an underwater photographer myself, and having so many photographers on the boats, I wanted to really design spaces for the lens aficionado, such as our individual camera/charge stations inside the salon, and the camera table and camera rinse tank outside. Q: It is certainly an impressive-looking vessel, and that Canadian coastguard hull and superstructure are very unlike most diving liveaboards out there. What attracted you to a boat that was constructed for the military? A: First of all, we wanted a boat that covered our needs in terms of navigation, size, speed, and interior spaces with the refit potential we needed. Before buying the Vortex, formerly Lestralaur, formerly James Sinclair, we actually put a deposit down for a big boat called the Pacific Provider, a steel hull, 51-metre former crab vessel that worked the Bering Sea on both the American and the Russian side. The Provider had an impressive stern platform that could carry an 18-metre Viking, with a brand new ten-ton crane - it was the perfect boat for exploratory trips while carrying around all sorts of toy, like Jorge is an acclaimed photographer
submersibles. As excited as we were with this boat, the size was an issue, and being over 500 gross tonnage comes with all sorts of special requirements and logistical nightmares. The original steel plate was one-inch thick, which is a lot, and even though the boat was in perfect condition to sail, from a safety certificate point of view, and based on the original, super-thick steel plates, we needed to replace over 60 percent of it. At this point I decided to call it off, and a year later we found what is now the Vortex. The most-impressive thing about our boat is the pristine condition of the hull and the high quality of the structural work, as well as its design as a patrol vessel, built for speed. These two are directly related to her military origins. Then, the previous owner had installed two super-powerful MTU engines 2,750hp each before he passed away. They are some of the most-fancy marine engines out there, and brand new. Q: The photographs of the finished interior look more like a land-based hotel. What was your main aim during the build of the Vortex? A: The most-important thing for me was to not deviate from the product we had designed. As a project like this progresses, everything starts taking more time and more money than what you had plannedâ€Ś considerably. In these situations, the easiest thing to do was to cut corners or downsizing on the quality of the equipment, materials, etc, but my aim always was to finish the same boat I had envisioned. This came at a cost, many cancelled trips and financial struggle, but I do think nothing worthy comes easy, and Iâ€™m very happy and proud of what we achieved.
The most-impressive thing about our boat is the pristine condition of the hull and the high quality of the structural work, as well as its design as a patrol vessel, built for speed Jorge Hauser
Q: Whenever you are involved in a major operation such as this, I am sure that things don’t always go to plan, but have you managed to create a real-life vessel that matches the vision you had in your mind’s eye? A: We did manage to match the vision, and it was thanks to surrounding myself with the best team. Doug Sharp on the early layout design stages, Tomás Fernández, the shipyard’s owner, and Nina Anguelova, our interior designer and architect during the refit, Rodo, our head of operations and our amazing
crew, they were all hard working during the final two months at the shipyard. Last but definitely not least, my very dear friend Peter Hughes, who was there by my side for the entire 16-month process. Without his advice, knowledge and support, none of this would’ve been possible. It took a lot of stubbornness and determination from all of us to get here. Q: You can tell from the finished vessel that this was a real labour-of-love for you. How long did the whole Vortex project take to come to fruition? A: It took us one year to find the right boat, three months to design the new layout, and 13 months to finish the refit, for a total of two years and four months. n
The Socorro Vortex at anchor
THE PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO THE UNDERWATER WORLD TEXT BY VIKKI BATTEN, TRAINING SUPERVISOR, PADI EMEA
f you are a diver who can’t wait to share the underwater world with your little buddy, one way to get them involved and make sure they have lots of fun is to get them snorkelling. Snorkelling has lots of benefits, even for kids old enough to scuba dive.
MINIMAL KIT REQUIRED
Plus, it’s not too expensive when they grow out of everything so quickly. Mask, snorkel, fins and a buoyancy device, which could be a wetsuit and/or snorkel vest. Snorkel vests are pretty cheap and will last a long time. Wetsuits, of course, protect against the cold and some stings as well. If they have very low body fat, kids may need both to enable them to float if they have a problem, such as cramp, or even just get tired.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
THERE ARE LESS RULES
You don’t have to keep reminding them not to hold their breath or ascend too quickly or to watch their SPG and that often makes it more fun for kids. Throw in some underwater toys and a bit of imagination and you’ll soon find them whizzing around screaming with delight and wearing themselves (and you) out. While they’re busy playing, they are also developing in-water skill and confidence. Snorkelling is not the boring little brother to scuba diving I was teaching a group of school children on a trip to Egypt some years ago when some of the younger children were fascinated hearing about the older students’ experiences night diving. The house reef was shallow and sheltered, so we took them on a night snorkel! It was amazing! They could see everything divers see on a night dive. They each had a torch and we could talk, which meant we could explain what they were seeing and the relationships between the critters. That was the Red Sea, but what about here in the UK? First of all, you need to drop your ‘been there, seen it, done it’ scuba diver attitude (Yep, I’ve got one of those too) and think like a kid. Kids are delighted by even the little things. A shallow bay in the summer (Lulworth Bay in Dorset is my favourite local site) is ideal for kids to spend time snorkelling and discovering the underwater world. It’s a bit like advanced
RECOGNISING AND CELEBRATING THE NEXT GENERATION OF SCUBA DIVERS The Next Generation section is aimed squarely at keen kids and talented teens, those youngsters who have embraced the underwater realm and are driving new blood into the diving fraternity. Tune in each month for Case Studies, reports, kit reviews and articles from our diving youth. Got a story to share about a young diver? - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in a future edition of The Next Generation!
rock pooling – they will be fascinated by anemones and starfish and seaweed and wrasse and anything else they see. Even an inland lake holds delights for a child, and I recall being pulled into the water by an excited child to show me what they and the Divemaster leading them had found. When I got there four boys were gazing underwater through their masks, excited squeals coming through their snorkels as the Divemaster raised his head and cocked an eyebrow at me. I looked down to see a dead and very rotten pike! Blurgh! Hey ho – as long as they enjoyed it! We did draw the line when they asked if they could take it home, explaining that we didn’t want to deny the other creatures in the lake the delicious treat of a dead pike – that, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would smell like! So how do you start? The PADI Discover Snorkelling has no minimum age and is a great way to get professional supervision. Why not ask your local dive centre if they can put on a snorkelling trip for families this summer? As always, with kids, more hands (and eyes) make light work - and keeping kids safe is the priority. If your kids are at least eight years old and ready to learn a few skills, the PADI Skin Diver course is ideal. It can be conducted in a pool and teaches kids the basic skills using a mask, snorkel, fins and buoyancy device. They will receive a certification card too to show their achievement! Finally, I kind of billed this article as a way to get into scuba diving, and snorkelling can certainly do that. It is certainly a great way to build up skills, confidence and a love of the water.
However, it doesn’t have to be a stepping stone to scuba, of course, it may lead to other watersports, be an activity you can do with the whole family, or even just stay as your child’s preferred way to interact with the underwater world. www.padi.com
CASE STUDY: DYLAN CROFT, 12, ST HELENS, MERSEYSIDE My first experience of diving was a trydive at a dive show in 2014, when I went with my grandparents. I liked the idea of being able to stay under the water for so long and was inspired by stories and photographs of the majestic sea-life my grandad used to talk about and show me. I did my first trydive in the sea in Gozo, Malta, in 2015 and I loved being able to swim with amazing aquatic life. I passed my PADI Bubblemaker in 2017, and was totally hooked, passing my PADI Junior Open Water Diver in 2018 while on holiday in Madeira. These dives were the best experience I had had after previously having problems with my equalising while diving at home, but the instructor I had was amazing and really helped me. After my successful dives in Madeira, I felt much more confident and passed my Drysuit Specialty in November 2018 at Capernwray with Liverpool City Divers, who were great. I then passed my PADI Full-Face Mask Specialty a couple of weeks later at Vivian Quarry with Dutton’s Divers. I wanted to try this as I like my full-face snorkelling mask and it kept me much warmer. I did my DPV with Clare Dutton in May, which was lots of fun to be so agile and move around without wasting energy.
I would definitely like to put one on my Christmas list! I also did my first boat dive recently at Puffin Island and was hoping for interactions with seals, but the visibility was extremely poor, but it was a good experience of getting in and out of a boat, and getting used to the conditions you can encounter while British diving. I was hoping to pass my Junior Advanced Open Water before I went to Gozo in July, so I could dive with my grandparents, who live there, but unfortunately, I have just broken my elbow while at scout camp, so my diving will have to be put on hold for a few months while my body heals. My aim is to become a Junior Master Scuba Diver, and I hope one day to become an instructor. I would love to dive on the Great Barrier Reef and in Egypt, and with whalesharks in Kenya.
WHAT’S NEW - BEUCHAT FOCEA JUNIOR | SRP: £175 If you are going to get children diving, or even snorkelling in this country, you need to get them into something which is going to keep them warm. Obviously, a drysuit is the warmest solution, but if you want to avoid the additional air-space issue, then a good-quality semi-dry or thicker wetsuit is the answer. Often children’s wetsuits are shorties, to make it easy to fit didn’t sizes and ages, or are simply 3mm or 5mm suits. Some, like the Mares Scuba Ranger (see the January 2019 issue of The Next Generation), combine a 5mm long-john with a 5mm hooded jacket to provide plenty of warmth. Beuchat have done a junior version of their acclaimed Focea Comfort 6 wetsuit. The Focea Junior is black with ‘black shield’ printing, exactly like the Focea Comfort 6, so just like Mum and Dad! It is made from 6.5mm neoprene, with rolled edges for easy on/off, and also to avoid water ingress. The jersey interior helps retain warmth. It has a vivid orange zipper running up the front and right into the built-in hood, which has a bright orange flash on the top of the head for added visibility and safety, and there are long zippers on the ankles too. There are Supratex 2 kneepads – ten percent more flexible than Supratex, but just as resistant – to ensure better durability and flexibility. It is available in a wide range of sizes – 8-10 years, 10-12 years, 12-14 years, and 14-16 years. www.beuchat-diving.com/gb
Canaria G R A N
Gran Canaria is one of the most-visited destinations for Europeans, but way too many leave their dive gear at home! Christian Skauge reckons you should definitely bring it, because the island offers great diving with huge fish schools, angel sharks, stingrays and great volcanic seascapes PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRISTIAN SKAUGE
Divers explore MV Arona
Spotted sea hares
ost divers, and especially underwater photographers, seems to think it’s necessary to fly half-way around the globe to get a good dive or some great images. Not so! Great diving is much closer to home, at least if you’re European. The Canary Islands is a well-known holiday destination, but it seems most people are unaware of the great diving opportunities. Gran Canaria is located bang in the middle of the offshore island group, and offers perhaps the best combination of accessibility, value for money and great diving. Gran Canaria receives approximately four million tourists every year, but only a fraction of them choose to dive. That’s a pity, because Gran Canaria is surprisingly beautiful underwater, offering great visibility and an impressive range of marine life. We chose to go diving with Diving Centre Nautico (www.divingcenter-nautico.com), the oldest operation on the island with origins in 1972. Not only are they experienced, they’re also very friendly and helpful, and will make sure your dive holiday lives up to the expectations.
EL CABRÓN – ‘THE BASTARD
One of the top spots on Gran Canaria is found near the town of Arinaga in the marine reserve called El Cabrón, named after the pirate Pedro Hernández Cabrón, who landed here with three ships in 1483. According to legend, he was not a very nice guy, but apparently he got what was coming to him - in the battle that followed the landing, he lost all his teeth and could not eat or speak for days. The entry at El Cabrón is rocky, and the dive staff will help you get in and out of the water safely. After a short swim you reach the drop-off, which offers spectacular walls and numerous swim-throughs - some of them so large, it made me think of Gozo’s sadly-gone Azure Window. The sandy bottom at 20m below the volcanic formations is home to angel sharks, stingrays, butterfly rays, electric torpedo rays, stargazers, and schools of roncadores (bastard grunts, but one always should try to learn some local lingo). Bright red starfish and club-tipped anemones adorn the
About half of the 20+ divesites on the island are shore dives, the other half require a short boat trip WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
Nitrox only dive centres Private Facilities - House Reef and Pool Packages and diverse courses available
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Caverns and swim-throughs abound
The painted comber lives up to its name
rocky outcrops and crevices. With the anemones, you also find different species of cleaner shrimp tending to the morays eels living on the reef, and mysterious caves promise stingrays, big-eyes and huge feather duster worms. The shallow reef top that runs along the rocky coastline is covered in algae and green-yellow sponges, and is teeming with colourful wrasse, damselfish and parrotfish. If you look closely you might find and octopus garden, their curious but timid inhabitants showing off their amazing camouflage and shape-shifting abilities. Sometimes they venture out to feed, but mostly they’re busy arranging and re-arranging their personal collection of rocks and seashells to keep their hideout safe, neat and tidy. El Cabrón offers seven to eight different dives from the same starting point - no wonder this is a popular dive spot!
ANGEL IN THE SAND
Visibility is generally good and the spectacular seascapes of El Cabrón were amazing. The best dive was when we decided not to return to the usual starting point, but instead continued on around Punta de la Monja and into the bay of Playa del Cabrón. This offered even more spectacular volcanic formations, some of which were encompassed in schools of fish, and caves with huge pufferfish and big-eyes. Suddenly the dive guide started pointing towards the bottom. She had spotted an angel shark! These magnificent animals can grow to almost two metres in length and look like a cross between a shark and a ray. How cool! This particular specimen was not buried in the sand as they usually are, and had either been for a swim or had been spooked by divers
earlier. When they’re not camouflaged they tend to be skittish, and we gently inched closer to get a better look. As soon as I fired the strobes, it took off and swam out on the sandy flat. Crikey, what to do? Since I didn’t have too many dives left, I quickly decided not to let the opportunity pass me by. I swam as hard as I could after the shark and slowly gained on it... only to have it flick its tail and dart off when I was almost close enough. We continued this dance for four to five minutes and I burned through my air like never before. Finally I was able to get close enough to get a handful of shots, and puffing and panting I stared to look for the reef. It was gone! I had no idea which way to head back until I saw the dive guide, who wisely had stayed as an intermediary so I could find the way back. The rest of the dive was spent in shallow water trying to breathe as little as possible... but it was worth it!
A dive holiday is not complete without a proper wreck, and Gran Canaria offers several opportunities. We chose the M/V Arona, a 96-metre-long cargo ship that sank at anchor after a fire in 1976. The wreck lies off the coast of Jinamar, some six nautical miles south of Las Palmas’ Puerto de la Luz port.
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…a juvenile cuttlefish not much bigger than a pea emerged from the dark volcanic sand and I got the same feeling of excitement I know from diving in the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia The Arona is in excellent condition and offers great schools of fish both in the holds and above the hull – barracuda, grunts and breams. The bow is especially beautiful and makes every underwater photographer try a little harder against the current (if there is any) to get the right angle. The wreck lies on the keel with a 45-degree list to port at 2540m depth. To get to the wreck the divers are first driven to Las Palmas, where a 15-minute RIB ride awaits you. Usually there are two dives on each trip, with a surface interval at sea. Don’t forget to take Dramamine if you’re affected by sea sickness!
MACRO HEAVEN IN TUFIA
Diver is dwarfed by vast shoal of roncadores
The tiny, picturesque village of Tufia seems completely untouched by the tourism so present in many other areas of Gran Canaria. The steep hillside is covered in white-washed tiny houses, stacked on top of each other above the small beach and anchorage. We plodded down the narrow alleys to get to the water, and found the beach to be a very easy entry and exit. Tufia offers a great really macro dive in shallow water, but if one swims far enough there are also some great swimthroughs and caves at Punta de Silva. Being a macro fanatic I was never to get that far - there was so much to see and photograph on the way, and even a 90-minute dive wasn’t enough! Most people reach it in 20 minutes without problems though... but it’s perhaps easier without a camera. Small overhangs revealed sea cucumbers, slipper lobster, starfish and anemone shrimp, and colourful Felimare nudibranchs were crawling among algae and sponges, on which they feed. This large sea slug is associated with the Canary Islands, Cap Verde and the Azores, but is also found in the Mediterranean and even the Gulf of Mexico. Tiny triplefins competed for attention with various moray species, scorpionfish and beautiful anemone hermit crabs. Towards the end of the dive, with the black sandy beach already in sight, two large cuttlefish were doing their mating ritual and barely noticed us passing by. A cold coke and an ice cream in Luis’ tiny dive-and-snack-bar at the beachfront rounded off a perfect day.
SARDINA DEL NORTE
After a long drive all the way to the northwest corner of the island and the small town of Sardina del Norte (curisously there is no Sardinas el Sur), we were hoping for butterfly rays and perhaps more angel sharks. Although visibility was good we couldn’t spot any of these sometimes illusive elasmobranchs on the vast sandy plains. Instead, we concentrated on the prolific fish life on the outside of the mole, which is covered in huge concrete cubes acting both as wave-breakers and an artificial reef. While trying to frame divers and a school of fish, I spotted something on a nearby outcrop - two giant sea hares! They had the same colour and shape as Peter Pan’s shoes, and I swear they were about size 45. Nearby, some curious yellowlined arrow crabs made their spidery presence felt, almost like they were auditioning for the role of Tinkerbell to make my underwater Disney fantasy come alive. Diver prepare for a shore dive
Canary Islands scorpionfish
LEMBEH FEELING IN TALIARTE
In the marine life book at the dive shop, I had spotted something very interesting – a beautiful yellow-spotted bumblebee shrimp. Would it be possible to find it? I really wanted to see this magnificent little creature, and the answer was to do a night dive. Taliarte is by far the best spot for this on Gran Canaria, and off we went. A staircase with rails has been built for swimmers, making the entry and exit a whole lot easier – there’s not much light and we got in the water and swam the 30 or so metres to the drop-off. We reached the bottom at 8m, and almost immediately a juvenile cuttlefish not much bigger than a pea emerged from the dark volcanic sand and I got the same feeling of excitement I know from diving in the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia. The tiny critter posed for a few images before it got spooked, inked, and darted off. I found it about a foot away – its emergency escape range will hopefully improve with time... We started exploring the steep wall that runs along the entire shoreline at Taliarte, and within three minutes we found the first bumblebee shrimp. They can be spotted at this dive site during the day, but at night they are plentiful and very active.
Off on a boat dive
rock, becoming equally surprised to see me each time they made a lap. It’s was almost as if I could hear them squeal with terrified delight.
The sandy bottom teemed with soles, razorfish, weavers and hermit crabs out feeding, while the walls were full of sleeping pufferfish and scorpionfish. In tiny caves we found slipper lobster and well-camouflaged sponge crabs, and the club-tipped anemones had peak season with tentacles emerging from every crack in the reef.
THE SCHOOLS OF PASITO BLANCO
The offshore reef Pasito Blanco is another must-do dive when visting Gran Canaria. We drove to the village of Arguineguin where a 24-foot RIB was waiting at the dock, engine idling. After a short boat ride we dropped down the anchor line to a marvellous sight - an enormous school of roncadores! More than half the dive we were surrounded by fish, completely encircled to the point where daylight started to disappear because of the density of the school. The elongated, submerged reef offered a multitude of overhangs and small caves, revealing big-eyes and trumpetfish by the hundreds. Several large stingrays were resting under the ledges, sometimes letting us get really close and sometimes swimming off slowly into the distance. Three of them ended up chasing each other around a big
The diving was extremely well-organised and Nautico ran a tight operation. The divers would be picked up at their respective hotels in the morning and brought to the dive shop, where the gear was loaded into the dive buses. These would then depart for the dive sites of they day, which have been carefully selected after reviewing wind and wave conditions. About half of the 20+ divesites on the island are shore dives, the other half require a short boat trip – but you still have to get in the bus to go to the harbour. In between dives we were offered sandwiches and water to keep us hydrated, and dive briefings were always extensive. Diving is done at various places along the east coast, from Mogan in the south to Sardina del Norte in the northwest – the west coast of the island is inaccessible.
DO MORE, DON’T JUST DIVE!
Gran Canaria has much more to offer than diving, and this typical one-week holiday should at best be made into a twoweek adventure. The interior of the 65 km across island has great mountains with lush pine and eucalyptus forests, and the sand dunes at Playa del Ingles is well worth a visit. Being relatively small, the island is efficiently navigated by rental car and staying in Maspalomas in the south like I did is no hindrance to reach all corners of this otherwise relatively circular holiday paradise. n
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ABOVE AND BEYOND
Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield explains how to get topside dive-related images, and then goes into detail about getting macro images that rise above simple fish ID images PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL DUXFIELD
wanted to write an article this month about firstly those pictures that fall outside of regular underwater pictures but are great examples of shots that illustrate our hobby so well, by looking at some shots taken on the surface, and I will give a rundown of the way I’ve achieved them. And then I will look at moving your macro pictures beyond straightforward fish ID shots to macro pictures that are a little bit different, so as to mix things up a bit. So, kicking off, literally, I’m going to show you how to achieve that classic type of picture of a diver making a giantstride entry into the water, but with a twist, so we will look at upping the drama and doing it when it’s lower light, and using your strobes to light the diver up and freeze the action.
Technically, this sort of picture presents a few issues, but you’ve also got to think about some practical considerations. Time of day - I like to shoot these pictures at dusk or dawn. It’s best just before a night or dusk dive with enough light in the darkening sky, but not so dramatic if it’s pitch black. Slide into the water and try not to get your dome port splashed with water droplets, ideally getting your rig handed down to you, keeping it high. Inflate your BCD to the max to help in this. Prepare your scene. Where is the sun going down (or coming up?) and visualise the image without a diver in it to sort out your backdrop. I like to get these shots as unposed as possible, so timing is critical. Of course, you could get your buddy to repeat the procedure, but it’s a pain in the behind bothering people to keep getting in and out. Also, once you’ve had a few giant strides nearby you, your dome will be covered in splashes. So my exposure settings and flash output needs to be sorted to get it right first time and one time only ideally. I do this by taking a test shot of the scene sans diver, adjusting shutter speed and aperture, to give a nice dramatic sunset, at the same time I will focus on the ladders usually, and then lock
Best of Manado
the focus, by switching into manual focus. Locking focus is important, as sometimes there may be the odd drop of water on your dome port or fisheye wet lens, and the camera will focus on this instead, meaning an out-offocus scene. Your flash output needs to be adjusted to light the diver, and with my strobes, which are quite small, this means with the typical camera settings that I have set, the strobes will be almost at full power.
For the next shot, it’s all about being able to react quickly when the action happens. This was on my most-recent workshop out in Komodo, a place famous for its mantas. And I’ve always wanted a split shot with a manta and the boat in frame. So when in these locations, I always make sure between the dives that my camera is good to go, and ready to grab with snorkel, mask and fins if we’re lucky enough to have
ESCORTED BY MARTYN GUESS
29th Sept 2020 £3595 inc flights from UK
Holiday highlights... With an action packed 29 boat dives plus 9 unguided, house reef dives and free nitrox! Martyn Guess & Manado workshop will enable you to go hone and advance your key photographic skills at Murex Bangka and Lembeh resort. The workshop will spend 5 nights at Murex Bangka followed by 6 nights at Lembeh resort, both on a full board basis (2 people sharing).
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these magnificent creatures pitch up out of the blue. To speed things up, I will detach my strobes between dives, as then me and the kit is much more streamlined while snorkelling. I will pick as fast a shutter speed as is possible in the prevailing conditions, in this case I was able to shoot at 1/500 a second, and the aperture was around f8 at 200 ISO. It was a lovely sunny day though, so be prepared to compromise these settings if its poor light. If you are going to sacrifice something though, make it the ISO first, and increase this before you compromise the shutter speed. Focus is important too, so I made sure that the boat was nice and sharp by locking the focus on this beforehand, freeing me up to shoot away as the scene unfolded in front of me. This time it paid off, but if I’m being fussy then I’d have preferred that the manta was facing me. Ok, we’ve covered the above, what about the beyond? I’m talking about getting shots that are a little elevated beyond just a plain old fish ID picture. I’m keen to try and up the creative stakes a bit and picture it in a more-unusual way, injecting a bit of personality into the shot.
DAMSEL GUARDING EGGS
I was at one of my favourite Red Sea dive sites, the Barge in Gubal and this place is covered in marine life big and small. So lens choice is often a difficult or easy decision depending on your mindset. My take on it is that it really doesn’t matter, if you go in armed with your macro, no problem you’ll have plenty of subjects to shoot. And if you have your fisheye lens on then you’ve loads of scenes available to you as well. Back to the shot, grey damsels like these are everywhere
BIOGRAPHY: PAUL DUXFIELD Duxy has been part of the dive industries fixtures and fittings now for well over a decade, delivering help and advice to the growing band of divers looking to take pictures on their underwater escapades. He’s been witness to the huge changes in digital photography that has meant that most divers now have a camera as an integral part of their dive kit. His past as a dive guide and his patience and good humour puts him in the prime position to deliver his trips
and they are often to be found fiercely guarding a silvery patch of eggs. A damsel like this is only a couple of inches long at best, so it needs to be really close, in this case literally touching the front of my mini-domed fisheye lens. Once again, focus is important. The damsel is darting around really quickly, watching its reflection in the dome. And even with the latest autofocus systems, this is a challenge. So I used my finger to lock the focus at about an inch in front of the dome, set a very small aperture about f16 to give maximum depth of field, covering any minor errors. I used inward lighting close to the dome, and then instead of looking through the lens to frame I instead held the camera below me, and fired shots when I saw the damsel get within the focus range in front of the dome. I tilted the camera slightly upwards to try and get some background and surface in the frame, and once again prayed to Lady Luck.
and workshops to all, from the merely curious to the super-keen snapper. He’s now well-established working with Dive Safari Asia for his longer haul excursions, and with Emperor Divers for his popular Red Sea itineraries. Closer to home he is back visiting a dive club or centre near you, and if you’d like to book him for a talk to your club, then get in touch via: firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Take It Easy Duxy on Facebook or Instagram.
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29th June 2019 £1295 inc flights from UK
Red Sea Cyclone
Holiday highlights... Join Mario Vitalini for a week focused on getting more out of your camera! Departing from Hurghada, you will spend 7 nights on board on a full board basis (twin share cabin). Based in Northern Red Sea with up to 21 dives over the week but the itinerary will vary, depending on the photo opportunities. All marine park fees, 12lt tank and weights are included in your package.
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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY LUCKY DEVIL
In the sand around a lot of muck diving hotspots can be found a type of creature sometimes called a devil scorpionfish, they can give a nasty sting and are a great, if painful way to remind divers to stay off the sand, as they’re usually very well camouflaged. This one was perfectly blending into the sandy area around it, and was only in about 3m of water, so there was enough light to switch off my strobes and use the plentiful available light to picture it. This meant I was able to pick a nice fast shutter speed to keep everything steady, the side effect which was I was able to use a very wide aperture so that I could have a very narrow band of focus with my macro lens attached, only focusing upon the creature’s eye, making the background less distracting while still showing that there is an animal hiding out in the sand. Don’t be shy about switching off your strobes when you can with your macro lens, as it will allow you to produce pictures that are different from the norm. Folk can often get into a rut particularly shooting macro, sticking to the same old settings time after time, so if you’re somewhere shallow, and well lit, have a go and switch off your strobes to mix things up a bit.
Or bad if you’re the poor chromis caught in the chops of this hungry lizardfish! Keep an eye out for behavioral encounters. This may mean just spending a bit of time watching the goings on in a small patch of reef. Lizardfish are a worldwide very common, but very photogenic creature. And they’re a voracious predator. So if there’s a few around and suitably sized prey, just watch and wait, and if you’re lucky like I was here, you’ll be rewarded with one taking a big mouthful. Once they’ve caught a poor victim in those tiny but jagged needle-like teeth, they will stick around and slowly gulp it down, allowing you time to get a few shots of this macabre example of nature! I was able to get a few examples from different angles, but this was my personal favourite.
You don’t need to make many adjustments to your usual regime to make some of your shots stand out a little more from the rest on your memory card. Okay, some things may be more technically demanding like the topside pictures and the close focus wide angle, but often all it takes is to move your strobe a little and change up your angles. It’s a win win around as the more difficult to achieve shots will gain you experience, and learning new things will keep things fresh. n
Corals and Caves on
Hurricane 21st May 2020 £1425 inc flights from UK ESCORTED BY MARIO VITALINI
Holiday highlights... Mario Vitalini will teach you to work with natural light and wide angle photography, as well as the secrets of amazing fish portraits and using strobes. He will help you build a stunning selection of classic Red Sea images, from the decks of the stable steel hulled Hurricane. There are 18-21 dives over the workshop, as well as all park fees included, 12lt tank/weights and FREE Nitrox.
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This month, we ask our panel of experts what routine maintenance/care they carry out on their gear both pre- and post-dive trip PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL DUXFIELD, MARIO VITALINI, MARTYN GUESS, AND ANNE AND PHIL MEDCALF
Always a hassle when I get home from a trip, but as MARTYN soon as practical, I make GUESS myself take everything out from the various bags. Don’t leave equipment in your bags for weeks before you do this, as corrosion sets in quickly, even if equipment is rinsed on location. I make a list of anything that I didn’t use to help plan for the next trip, or anything that will need replacing or repairing. I reassemble my housing without camera and also my strobes and everything that I used on the trip, make sure it is all waterproof and place everything in a large ice cooler (the biggest container I have). You can, of course, use your bath but I tend to leave my equipment soaking for several days. I fill the ice cooler with fresh water and a couple of 500ml bottles of distilled vinegar, which helps get rid of the salt. I leave it for several days and then
Find something large enough to hold all of your equipment while giving it a thorough soak for a few days
empty and fill again with freshwater for another day or so. When everything is dry, all O-rings are re-greased and then stored, loose, in the housing and the battery boxes of my strobes. Don’t leave O-rings in place for months at a time. The housing and ports are polished and everything else is re-assembled. Strobe arm clamps are taken apart and sprayed with silicone and then stored in a clean bag. The strobes are tested to make sure they are working okay and then everything is stored, safe in the knowledge that it is all clean, lubricated, free of salt and working – that is until the camera cupboard gremlins get to work! When going on a trip, everything is reassembled, tested, fired and practice shots taken so that any problems can be resolved before departure.
Take O-rings out and store in battery box of strobes (They can’t then be lost) in between trips. The same applies to housings
Master Macro 9th May 2020 £3495 inc flights from UK ESCORTED BY MARTYN GUESS
Holiday highlights... 10 nights in resort, full board divers plan & 24 boat dives – FREE Nitrox Join pro photographer Martyn Guess in the critter mecca Dumaguete. With 24 boat dives plus free nitrox (3 dives/day plus 1 day Apo reef) and Martyn’s workshop throughout, this workshop packs a real punch. Additional travel options available, ask for details.
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Use a very diluted mix of distilled vinegar and freshwater to soak your equipment after a trip. The acetic acid will remove salt deposits
Ok, how do I care for my photo kit and make sure it’s all tickety boo before and PAUL after a trip? DUXFIELD Pre-trip, as hinted at on the last Shoot Like A Pro, I put all of my kit together before packing as if I was going on an imminent dive. I even go as far as taking a couple of shots with both wide-angle and macro lenses so that I know ahead of time that nothing in the chain will let me down. This allows me to see if I have any problems with things like fibre-optic cables, loose clamps, worn O-rings, etc. I will then grease all the O-rings, not forgetting the lessobvious ones like the ones on the strobes that are for the less-fashionable electronic synch. As these rarely get used, there is a tendency to forget about them, but a regular peek and a regrease will keep them in tip top condition. Don’t forget vital stuff like battery chargers - on my last trip I found out that one of my chargers had given up the ghost, I have a spare, but it was best to know in good time. Check your memory cards too, they can fail, so make sure you’ve got back-ups, and free up enough space on your hard drives so that you don’t run out mid-trip. Upon my return, all the waterproof stuff gets a thorough rinse. I fill up the bath and leave it all to soak for a few hours, pressing all the buttons periodically. I then put it on the draining board to air dry, before putting it all away ready for next time once it’s completely moisture-free. And so as not to waste water and use the time more effectively, after I’ve removed all the camera kit from the bath, I’ll put all my dive kit in the bath water too so it can get rinsed.
ESCORTED BY MARTYN GUESS
11th July 2020 £1495 inc flights from Gatwick
Relaxed Red Sea
Holiday highlights... 7 nights onboard Whirlwind, tanks, weights and open dive deck at least once a day! Photographers can go at their own pace on a photography itinerary that is as relaxing as it is productive. Welcome to the world of the Red Sea Relaxed Photo Finish. Dive a host of incredible Red Sea dive sites with an open deck policy, chosen by our photo pro based on their reliability as top notch photo-worthy dive sites.
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Our underwater photography professionals have, between them, literally thousands of hours of dive time and countless hours spent travelling the world shooting underwater images and teaching workshops. If you have a question you’d like them to address, email: email@example.com
Lists play a big role in how we get things done on a diving trip. As we mentioned last month we try and have a list of everything we take somewhere with us so we can make sure it all makes it back home at the end. Providing replacements for lost equipment is a small but significant portion of our sales business. Common things left behind or mistakenly picked up by other divers include batteries, chargers and housing port covers. Create a checklist before you pack everything and make sure it is all still there when you pack to come home. This will at least give you the chance to search the boat or resort before the journey back. During the trip, you’ll likely discover a few things that you should’ve brought - bung these on the list for the next expedition. The other list we put a lot of thought into when prepping for a trip is our ‘shot list’. This is a plan of what pictures we want to get while we are diving somewhere. For us it’s a mixture of test shots using different equipment, and images we need for blogs, talks and workshops. But it also includes any funny ideas we have along the lines of ‘I wonder whether this will work?’. Look at what pictures you want to achieve and put it on the list. Planning like this can really help to take your photography up a notch.
From our experience as dealers of underwater photography equipment, ANNE one of the best bits of advice we can MEDCALF suggest is, weeks before a trip, set your camera rig up. Check that everything is functioning properly and that nothing is missing or broken. Underwater photography equipment is very specialist, manufacturers often only produce small quantities at a time and because of the diversity of items, dealers and importers don’t hold large stocks. This means if you order at the last minute, you may not get what you need before a trip. We keep all our kit as organised as possible in a set of labelled boxes when we aren’t diving. This is a necessity for us given how much equipment we take on a trip. It saves the stress of hunting around for things and reduces the chance that something will get left behind. We also use a lot of equipment that has been loaned to us by manufacturers and importers to try out. Keeping track of what came from who and when it needs to be returned is a job in itself. All this gear gets carefully checked and cleaned before it hits the water along with our own. The last thing you want when someone lends you some shiny toys is for it to be flooded for the sake of a bit of time cleaning an O-ring. If you do borrow or rent equipment, do the same, don’t presume the last user put it away ready to use.
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Some of the best photo locations are far away MARIO and there is nothing worse than to VITALINI arrive to your destination after hours of travelling and realise that you left a key piece of equipment behind. To avoid this, I always recommend checking all your photo equipment before you start packing and, more important, assemble everything at least once, If you are planning to use different lenses make sure you set up your kit in every configuration you intend to use to ensure you have all the bits you will need and making sure everything is working. After this I normally take everything apart, add any spares I may need such as O-rings, grease and my housing maintenance kit, and put it in a box so is all together for when I start packing. Rinsing your camera kit after every dive is always a good practice and helps to prevent any problems. At the end of the trip, after the last dive, a more-thorough rinse is not a bad idea but when back at home, reassemble the housing and ports and give it a proper soak in a big plastic container or in the bath with lukewarm water. Work all the dials and buttons to ensure you rinse out all the salt and plankton. Sometimes, especially if I’ve been diving in particularly salty environments such as the Red Sea or in sandy spots like Lembeh, I leave my kit in water for a couple of days.
Use a micro-fibre towel to dry ports and domes to avoid watermarks. I then remove all the O-rings, grease them as when I use them in the housing, and store them in a plastic bag. I then store the housing ports and strobes in a cotton bag inside a cardboard box ready for my next trip. n
ESCORTED BY MARIO VITALINI
11th Sept 2020 £1795 inc flights from UK
Holiday highlights... Join photo pro Mario Vitalini on this Philippines workshop to hone your images of the biggest sharks to the smallest critters. The workshop includes 20 nitrox boat dives plus daily presentations covering all aspects of underwater photography. Your holiday package includes 7 nights in a deluxe room on an full board basis – optional room grades available. Airport transfers are included.
..award winning dive experts +44 1483 411590 www.scubatravel.com/photography
EQUIPMENT TRAVEL HOW TO TRANSPORT
A SCUBA TANK
This issue, Caren Leibscher looks at transporting a scuba tank both on the road and in the air, and details the rules we have to comply with PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK EVANS
ince 11 September, tighter flying regulations exist. Still, terrorist attacks occur, like the Russian airplane crash above northern Sinai a few years ago. Smuggling and other security issues have always been a problem to any airport in the world, and criminals can become very inventive. Since Sharm el Sheikh is a popular dive spot in Egypt, some were guessing that terrorists used scuba equipment (like scuba tanks) to cover up and smuggle explosives on board. Although divers can rent scuba equipment in many places, some prefer to bring their own scuba tanks and other diving gear for their vacation. A possible dive spot may be a lake or a coast where one can drive to by car, or a destination on the ocean where one may fly to by plane. In the following, we will look at scuba tank transportation by car and by airplane, as well as special rules and regulations that apply. IN THE AIR – NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR COMMERCIAL FLIGHTS If you plan to legally transport your scuba tank in an aircraft, you have to comply with specific rules and regulations for the transport of such items. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has outlined its guidelines in the IATA reference guide. National regulations exist as well. In the US, for example, it is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that requires scuba tanks to travel empty and without the valve, so the interior of the tank is open to inspection. The TSA complies with IATA in these requirements. Regulations can change. Thus, always get the latest update from the IATA website. Pressurised scuba tanks or other compressed gas cylinders containing air or other nonflammable, nontoxic gases are regulated as hazardous materials once they reach a pressure of 2 Bar at 20oC. Hence, you cannot fly with a pressurized scuba tank. It is listed in the IATA reference guide under the dangerous goods table. The only way to transport it is by taking the valve off.
Tanks with medical oxygen are exempted from this rule, but
the airline company is to be informed in advance and needs to approve taking a full medical oxygen cylinder onboard. Private planes are not regulated by TSA or IATA. Empty scuba tanks or scuba tanks pressurised at less than 2 Bar are not restricted as hazardous materials. However, airlines and airport screening officials may require valves to be opened all the way for inspection.
GETTING YOUR TANK THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY
Start by opening the valve and emptying the scuba tank of air. Then, use a wrench and screw off the valve or regulator (pony or spare air). Store the valve in your carry-on baggage. Put the entire regulator of a Spare Air with its attached parts (metal washer and O-ring, etc) in a zip lock bag, so you can later screw your unit back together without anything missing. And bring along new O-rings for re-assembling the cylinder again. Although scuba tanks are quite solid, they can be damaged. Therefore, wrap the tank in cardboard packing or bubble wrap that covers the tank from bottom to shoulder, or to the part that begins to narrow to the valve aperture and fix it with packing tape. Remember: • When wrapping: Leave the tank’s valve aperture open for inspection by the airport’s security personnel • Aluminum tanks need extra protection. The metal is softer than steel and tanks are therefore more susceptible to external dents, dings and scratches which can compromise the tank’s structural integrity • Tanks need a valid certificate (or stamp in the neck of the cylinder) of the competent MOT-inspectorate of your country • Bring new O-rings for later re-assembling
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you remove the valve to fly, some dive shops will not fill your tank until it has had a new VIP done (i.e. visual inspection). Before cylinders can be filled in the country you travel to, it is possible they must have passed the hydrostatic test as required by that country and therefore will need the stamp or certificate of the country where the cylinder is to be used.
DIVERS ALERT NETWORK: EUROPE DAN Europe is an international non-profit medical and research organisation dedicated to the safety and health of divers. WWW.DANEUROPE.ORG
Check with your home country and airline which regulations you have to comply with. Some airlines have rules that prohibit the transportation of scuba tanks anyway. Consider whether renting a tank at your dive destination may be the easier option. ONE THE ROAD – TRANSPORTING SCUBA TANKS IN A VEHICLE Divers may go by car to a dive site and will bring along their scuba tanks with compressed air or nitrox, their emergency oxygen bottle, and perhaps argon for their drysuit. Private individuals who transport scuba tanks filled with air, nitrox or argon for their own purposes (e.g. recreational diving or filling) do not need to carry along any transport documents nor labels in their car or on the bottle. Just put the tank safely in the boot or on the floor of the car. Don’t put it on its bottom but wedge it in place with luggage or behind car seats to minimise its potential to roll around.
Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route (ADR) European and neighbouring states have acceded to the ADR and implemented it in their national legislation. According to the ADR, a filled scuba tank is hazardous material and belongs to the dangerous goods class 2.2, non-flammable gas.
Regulations for dive businesses are different to private individuals. There is an exemption limit of 1,000 litres of total bottle volume of air, nitrox, oxygen and argon. Such transport volume doesn’t have to be marked as a transport of dangerous goods and hazardous materials, but a transport document is
necessary. Warning - Austria has sharp safety controls and punishes breaches with high fines. According to the ADR, a single diver who carries a scuba tank for his own use in his/her car is not a hazardous/ dangerous goods transporter, but a private individual and is therefore exempted from those regulations. It is mandatory though to pack and wrap the tanks correctly, store or place them safely and avoid a release of the tanks’ content. It is not necessary to put a sticker on the tank or mark it as hazardous goods. However, if you fear problems with security personnel on the road, put a danger label on the tank. Nitrox, emergency oxygen, air with 23.5 volume percentage of oxygen, and argon (for drysuits) for personal use of private individuals are treated like compressed air regarding transportation on the road. It is important to secure the bottles in the car or in its boot and provide sufficient ventilation when carrying mixed gases. Also, carry a fire extinguisher and comply with the nosmoking policy. Make sure all tanks are pressure-tested (valid hydrostatic test) and the neck of the cylinder is stamped with the competent MOT-inspectorate of your country accordingly (logo of inspectorate with date stamp) or carry along a valid certificate from the Technical Inspectorate for your scuba tanks in the car. Under pressure… The danger coming from a scuba tank or any other pressurised container is that the tank will burst or the valve will blow out and the tank will turn into a torpedo and go through the belly of an aircraft, or the door of a car without slowing down too much. Therefore, in any of these places (as well as on dive boats and in dive centres), pressurised tanks either need to be chained to a wall or kept in an approved storage rack of some type. n
MEETING THE PRESIDENT
The President Coolidge is often touted as one of the top wreck dives in the world, and as Neil Bennett explains, the massive World War Two casualty more than lives up to the hype PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEIL BENNETT / WWW.NZDIVING.CO.NZ A rusting Jeep inside the hold
WANT TO DIVE THE COOLIDGE? Check out www.nzdiving.co.nz for details of trips to Vanuatu
Diver on a wreck penetration of the Coolidge
t long last, my epic journey around the world was coming to an end and finally I arrived in a small country known as Vanuatu, located in the South Pacific not too far away from Fiji. Vanuatu consists of a number of small islands, and the largest, Santo, was to be my final destination. As I left the aeroplane at Santo airport, the hot, humid afternoon air hit me like a boxer’s punch. I walked swiftly across the hot tarmac and into a small departure and arrival’s lounge consisting of one room. A mass of people were gathered together, some waiting to board the plane that I had arrived on, some waiting to collect passengers, all mixed together and impossible to separate. Collecting the baggage took no time at all as it was simply dumped onto a wooden counter and left for you to retrieve. It was with great relief when at last I saw the smiling, friendly face of our tour operator who I had met some 12 months earlier when I was trying to plan this venture. I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to dive here - after several failed attempts and almost two years of planning all was now coming together. I was dropped off at the Deco Stop Lodge and informed
Artefacts including boots and jugs
We design, manufacture and retail scuba and rebreather equipment. We have fully equipped test and certification labs, and can pressure test large items in our vacuum chambers, as well as run fully automated leak test and dive simulations down to 400m. Our EMC and EMF lab is filled with state-ofthe-art equipment for testing electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic fields. We also have a large in-house laser for cutting and engraving on plastics and metals. www.narkedat90.com
The bow of the Coolidge
that everything had been arranged for the briefing before the initial meeting the following day. The excitement grew with the anticipation of this encounter, and of her enormous reputation. The Deco Stop was a breath of fresh air in the hot day. Situated at the top of a hill above a small town called Luganville, the Deco Stop commanded panoramic views over the bay and across to a neighbouring island called Aore, which itself was covered in beautiful, lush rainforests and completed the setting for a relaxing stay in Vanuatu. The buildings were made of wood that were styled to reflect the traditional architecture of the local area, providing the hotel with a tranquil setting to plan the coming week’s activities and to reflect upon each day’s encounters. We were up bright and early the following morning and set off to the meeting area. This was well hidden along a beach and within a small palm tree wood with dense vegetation. Unless you knew the area, you would have little hope in trying to find this location along the dirt tracks that make up the local roads. There are several dive centres that work close together, complementing each other in their respective specialist fields on promoting the finer aspects of diving on the President Coolidge. The wreck has massive potential for everybody, yet it needs the operators who manage it to be co-operative in how the diving is to be conducted and the reef protected if the Coolidge is to become a true diving mecca. On the evidence that I have seen, the future looks very good. The briefing covered the agenda for the week ahead and was to include safety procedures and decompression techniques,
all standard procedure for divers about to embark on a visit to the Coolidge for the first time. All decompression stops would take place on the reef at the various staged levels of 12m, 9m, 6m and 3m. Additional gas cylinders were all set up at each point in the event of an air problem. Hip-slung stage cylinders would be carried for the decompression routines containing a 60 percent nitrox mix - we would be running on air tables and the nitrox was to be used to provide an extra margin of safety. The reef itself provided some additional advantages by protecting the divers from unwanted surge or current, making the stops painless and easy. One other major benefit with decompressing here is that it also provided entertainment, allowing you to study the reef life while otherwise wishing away endless time doing nothing. The wreck itself couldn’t be easier to find. Fully kitted up on the beach you can simply stroll into the sea for about 40 metres and then descend past the deco stop and follow a line that runs directly to the tip of the bow approximately 20 metres below. Divers wishing to access areas of the wreck at various points towards the bow are required to undertake a surface swim to one of several buoys marking various sections of the ship, at approximately 50 metres and 150 metres (midships) distances, thereby maximising both air and bottom times. This is a sensible thing to do when you consider that the overall length of the vessel is 196 metres and 24 metres wide. While the Coolidge is still fully intact and lying on her port side, she is also resting on a slope, and this accounts for the bow lying in a depth of 30m and the stern at 72m.
To fully appreciate the size of the vessel, you need to compare the President Coolidge to other ships that everybody uses as a benchmark for scale, such as the Titanic, or her sister ship the Britannic
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www.narkedat90.com To fully appreciate the size of the vessel, you need to compare the President Coolidge to other ships that everybody uses as a benchmark for scale, such as the Titanic, or her sister ship the Britannic. It is also worth noting that while the Titanic is in depths only reachable by submersible vehicles and not free-swimming divers, and the Britannic resides in such a depth that she can also only be reached by the most highly trained divers involved in detailed expeditions, the President Coolidge is accessible, to a certain degree, to all competent sports divers and the deeper lower decks to trained technical trimix divers. President Coolidge has been thoroughly documented in the past, ranging from bestselling books to many magazine articles describing the onset of her construction with the majestic fittings and a style fit for any true president past or present, to her fateful end in Espiritu Santo in World War Two. On 26 October 1942, when trying to access the Segond Channel for safe passage into Luganville, the President Coolidge struck two US mines that brought an early end to this great vessel. Incredibly, the Coolidge had over 5,500 US troops on board and the quick action from Captain Henry Nelson in beaching the Coolidge certainly prevented a major disaster in the loss of life, albeit two men died in the sinking. Firemen Robert Reid lost his life in the initial explosion, and Captain Elwood Euart died after refusing to leave any of his men onboard he stayed until every last man reached safety, unfortunately leaving no time for his own evacuation. Captain Elwood Euart went down with the ship and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery. After the incident, the US Navy tried to charge Captain Nelson with various accounts of negligence, but in the subsequent trial the military tribunal acquitted the Captain on the grounds that the US Navy had failed to equip the Captain with the correct details about the mines in the Segond Channel. As you descend to the bow, you are left in no uncertain terms that this is indeed a huge vessel. The bow is still fully intact and points forcefully towards you as you move over her. The hull is an entire coral reef in its own right and is covered in life to the extent that it is difficult to distinguish between the artillery shells and the coral that has grown around and
Objects lay on the floor as found covered in silt, capsules of valium, stethoscopes, first aid boxes and even a container that contains an appendix in preservative are all visible WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
Inside the Coolidge
The ship dwarves divers
over them. Beautiful staghorn and gorgonian corals hang from the keel like curtains draping on the centre stage of a theatre, and all across the side of the hull are anemones and hard corals that shelter an abundance of reef fish. Juvenile species of fish could be found everywhere, velvet black batfish with a bar of shining orange across their backs, tiny rock wrasse who resemble a piece of dead leaf washing around in the surge, and young sweetlips that resemble a Mambo dancer twirling her skirt as she swims between the corals. Moving along the bow decking towards the gun turret, you are presented with a mass of coral life that have transformed the image of war to an artistâ€™s palette of colour. Shells still in their rack mounts play host to the life that now begins to cover them. An even more stunning area is the hole that runs across the hull on cargo holds one and two. Coral growths have become so strong it is difficult to move safely inside the wreck without the fear of brushing against the growths. The corals hang in massive clumps of all colours on both walls, grabbing every inch of space that points towards the light. It wonâ€™t be long before this entry point is closed due to coral growth. Everywhere you move there is stunning evidence of how the Coolidge is transforming into a beautiful reef. Every gaping hole is occupied by schools of fish taking refuge in the Coolidgeâ€™s protective shell, every change in contour provides an anchorage to some form of coral life. It is not until you move into the interior of the ship do
COMPUTERS • O2 CELLS • GAS ANALYSERS CABLES & CONNECTORS • REBREATHER PARTS PATHFINDER STROBES • SENSORS TOOLS • SOLENOIDS you truly get the impression of a lonely, dark, forbidding place. As you move deeper into the depths, her silence and stillness have an overwhelming fascination that beckons you to search deeper and deeper. Time is beginning to take its toll on the Coolidge and certain areas that have been more exposed begin to suffer with corrosion that inevitably takes place. But this doesn’t spell the end of the Coolidge, because as one door closes with the collapse of its surrounds, another door opens revealing new passages, rooms and pathways to unexplored parts of the ship. The ship is far from being completely explored, and all of the rooms contain artefacts that were in place when the ship sunk. Testimony to this is the trip to the doctor’s surgery, which involves a long surface swim to the midship mooring and a subsequent deep dive entering the hull at approximately 45m. After moving along a few corridors and then making a sharp turn, as you roll over onto your back you are faced with an eerie sight in the room. Objects lay on the floor as found covered in silt, capsules of valium, stethoscopes, first aid boxes and even a container that contains an appendix in preservative are all visible. There are many routes and many subjects of interest, ranging from jeeps stacked together, rifles and helmets scattered around the decks to the fittings of the original ballroom, chandeliers and the Lady, who keeps watch over the Coolidge. While there are plenty of areas to explore that are in reach for most divers, deeper areas such as the doctor’s surgery are only open to advanced divers, and even a lot of these areas are only suitable to trimix divers. One such dive is to investigate the engine room, deep in the dark depths of the wreck. The dive is again a deep dive to approximately 48m and to gain access involves moving along a corridor and into the confinement of the engine room. There is an extra hazard to contend with - silt, and lots of it! A careless fin stroke will certainly result in zero visibility. If care is taken, you will be rewarded with a spectacular dive. The brass instruments and gauges are still reading the final actions of the Captain as he stopped all engines. Pressure gauges show the final moments of the great ship’s life. Next to these instruments is one of the huge propulsion motors, which tower above you. You can still see the details of the electrical coils inside whose size defies any description. Next to these are the massive condensers equal in scale to the engine itself. It is very rare to be able to see an intact engine Seafan on the wreck
Venturing into a hold on the Coolidge
room in a shipwreck, however, the Coolidge provides you with that opportunity. Heading back up from the engine room you can explore some more areas of the wreck. Passing through a few more passages you come across the galley, containing plates stacked in a holder that resembles a magazine rack, loaded in preparation to eject the next shell. Next to this are two cookers and the counter in readiness to serve the next customer. Due to gas and time limitations, these additional areas would be covered on a subsequent dive. As you move up the ship, more of the interior is revealed to you. This is one reason why trimix is a must - to really justify the dive you need to spend some time here and explore these areas, rather than rushing the dive to reduce decompression times.
While the President Coolidge lies in her final resting place, this is by no means the end of the story. In the death of this great ship new life has been given to an incredible reef system. As the ship decays, rich minerals feed the coral systems that are flourishing in vast sizes and colours, even at a depth of 35m. And as you expect with a rich coral reef, there are prolific numbers of fish. Even better still is the fact that a large part of the wreck lies in deeper water, attracting fish such as pelagics and other ocean species. For those of you who are into marine life and reefs, well you have it all - contrasting settings of the wreck and the surrounding reefs, together with just about every species of life the South Pacific has to offer. Anybody who is serious about wreck diving, this has to be in the top five wreck dives in the world. It has everything you could want, and the opportunity to advance your diving with specialist courses run by two outfits that really know what they are doing. And all of this in warm, crystal-clear water! n
WATERHAUL SUNGLASSES (SRP: £65)
Cornish start-up Waterhaul is launching a range of sunglasses produced from 100 percent recycled fishing nets, following in the footsteps of other innovative companies reusing plastic waste, such as Fourth Element and Island Kayaks. Every year, 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are lost or discarded in the ocean. Samples of plastic waste accumulating in our oceanic gyres reveal 46 percent of this plastic, by weight, is attributable to fishing gear. Waterhaul is part of a collaborative scheme that intercepts nets from European seas. They work with fishermen to provide an alternative to landfill or abandonment through incentivising net amnesty programmes. The company also collaborates with community groups and NGOs removing nets from Cornish beaches and seas.
Intercepted nets (often exceeding 100 metres in length) are washed, shredded and turned into pellets, which are then moulded into Waterhaul’s innovative sunglasses frames. Waterhaul’s founder, Harry Dennis, a marine scientist from Cornwall, said: “Throughout my travels, discarded fishing gear was a ubiquitous sight on every strandline from the Coral Triangle to Norway’s Arctic Circle. I thought that there must be a way to redesign the systems causing this problem. “Waterhaul’s mission is to turn this waste into a resource. Fishing nets are made from incredibly high-quality plastics. We want to create demand for this unique material, so nets don’t end up abandoned in our oceans.” The word ‘Waterhaul’ originates from Newfoundland cod fisheries; a term used to describe the act of hauling in a seine or trawl net that is absent of any catch. Retrieving empty nets from the ocean is precisely what the company aim to achieve. To prevent any of their sunglasses ever ending up in a landfill, Waterhaul offer to buy back your old or damaged frames and recycle these into new sunglasses. Waterhaul’s range launched in the UK this month with two models - the Kynance, and Fitzroy. The sunglasses come paired with high-quality polarised mineral glass lenses, which are also recyclable. www.waterhaul.co
FOURTH ELEMENT SUMMER LIFE COLLECTION (SRP: FROM £26.95)
In stark (sic) contrast to the most-talkedabout TV series in history, Summer is on its way, and with it, Fourth Element’s new Life collection. Featuring bold designs from Mixed Up for the serious tech diver to Ror-shark, a suggestive design for those with sharks on the brain, these designs are hand-printed onto GOTS-certified organic cotton. In collaboration with the shark conservation charity Bite-Back, Fourth Element will donate £3 for each sale of the Shark Invested Waters design, and for those who like their T-shirts with a political statement, Make Dive Not War may just tick your box. www.fourthelement.com 82
DIVEOTION TEST PRESSURE LIMITING DEVICE
The Test Pressure Limiting Device (TPLD) by Diveotion Scuba Services Limited ensures affordable compliance with the 2019 cylinder testing standard – EN ISO 18119, of which specific provisions are to be made under clause 18.104.22.168 of the recently implemented standard. As the name suggests, the instrument accurately manages the input pressure of a hydrostatic test station and allows the user to adjust and maintain performance, to within 0.01 of a bar. This will consequently limit the output force in order to create a desired shut-off pressure for a variety of test pressure ranges. The TPLD locates between the low-pressure air supply (not to exceed 8bar) and the air/hydro pump to act as a controlling device. Because of this, the system relies completely on pneumatic principles, making for a simple and easily serviceable arrangement. The unit also allows for extra protection of the air/hydro pump with the use of a lowpressure air filter positioned inside. The modest size of 300mm by 300mm by 125mm will allow for the unit to be fitted to a wall, using the four integrated fixing points, in close proximity to the test station. Both IDEST and ASSET are in the process of issuing statements detailing the need for such a device and a date for which test stations need to add an over-pressurisation appliance to the operating procedure. Failure to comply with this statement will result in credentials being revoked. Working with such high pressures, in some cases as high as 500 bar, will always require a testing organisation to operate with an even-higher level of vigilance. Although the TPLD does not substitute for user control, it will prevent a gas cylinder from being accidentally over-pressurised by setting a desired shut off pressure (+10%) higher than the manual shut off pressure (+3%), thus achieving compliance of clause 22.214.171.124 – a pressure control device, to prevent the test pressure from being exceeded by more than a further 10%. This is why Diveotion Scuba Services Limited have invested considerable time and effort into this project. The idea is to not eliminate the human control in the testing cycle, but rather add another layer of protection and result in an evensafer cylinder testing environment. With a limited number of over-pressurisation devices on the market, it was seen as an essential development for Diveotion Scuba Services Limited in order to provide an economical and convenient solution to this multi-test pressure requirement. For sales enquiries on the device, email: email@example.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
BEUCHAT POWERJET (SRP: £115)
The Beuchat Powerjet fins are an adjustable fin made from three different technopolymer materials, which feature an innovative blade with multi-flex power jets. According to Beuchat, the flexible vent concept gives full power to negative areas without stiffening the blade, while the use of ultra-flexible materials at the tip of the blade help obtain an efficient ‘scoop’ effect. The fins have spring straps for easy donning and doffing. Yellow and blue fins off regular flex, while black fins are powerful flex. www.beuchat-diving.com/gb
MARES ULTRA ADJ 82X (SRP: £400)
For the current range, Mares have brought out two lines sitting side by side – an all-metal range, and a series mixing metal and technopolymer components. The range-topper in the all-metal is the Epic Adj 82X – currently in our Long Term Test stable – and the equivalent in the plastic/metal range is the Ultra Adj 82X. The Ultra second stage looks very similar to the Epic, and has the same ‘motorcycle-throttle’ control on the hose, the pivoting purge, and the cracking resistance control knob on the side. The only difference is where the Epic is metal, the Ultra is constructed from mainly lightweight technopolymer. The 82X first stage is pretty much identical to the one supplied with the Epic Adj, it just has a pearl chrome finish as opposed to the hard-wearing PVD. There is also the Mares Ultra 72X, which retails at £355, and is very similar, it just does not have the cracking resistance control on the second stage, and the 72X has four vertical and four radial low-pressure ports. www.mares.com 83
THIS ISSUE: PRIMARY DIVE LIGHTS
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.
PRIMARY DIVE LIGHTS
This issue, we look at primary dive lights. A decent torch is a must for any diver, whether you are a hardcore UK diver, an occasional holiday diver, or anywhere in-between. Dive lights are not just for ‘night dives’, thay can be invaluable in a cave, cavern or shipwreck, and can also put some of the colour back into an underwater scene on an overcast or dull day. They are also useful as a signalling device between buddy teams. Our criteria for the test was a torch that is ideal for use as a primary dive light, that is, your main source of illumination on a dive. It could be battery or rechargeable - although in this case they are all rechargable - but must be hand-held, no umbilical units. We looked at the build quality, ease of use (how to turn on/off while wearing thick gloves, etc), type of beam (spot or wide/flood), burn time, accessories and size. The continued development of LED lighting technology has seen dive lights come on leaps and bounds, and it is astounding the power developed by some compact units these days - in the past, you have been carrying a monster torch around for a similar sort of output.
ON TEST THIS MONTH: • ANCHOR SERIES 3K • BIGBLUE TL3500 • DIVEPRO D6 • EXPOSURE MARINE 3-20 • FINNSUB 3600 SHORT • MARES EOS 20RZ 84
Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis www.viviandivecentre.com Water temp: 9 degrees C Surface temp: 18 degrees C WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
ANCHOR DIVE LIGHTS SERIES 3K 20-DEGREE SPOT | SRP: €395-€425 Anchor Dive Lights are an Ireland-based company that is earning high acclaim in the world of underwater lighting. The Series 3K is one of their staple products, and the 20-degree Spot version here, as the name suggests, produces a tightly focused, bright beam which still provides a reasonable spread, and has some peripheral light that illuminates around the main beam. This aircraft-grade anodised aluminium torch pumps out 3,000 lumen at full power, which gives a burntime of 70-80 minutes, but you get two-anda-half hours at 50 percent power, and five hours at 25 percent power. It is simple to cycle through the different power settings by pressing the on/off button, which also features illumination to let you know the charge level of the battery. Depth-rated to 100m, it is amazingly compact, and is swallowed in the palm of your hand. With its light weight - for a metal torch - and dinky size, it is ideal as a travelling diver’s companion. Its power and brightness of beam means it is fantastic as a compact primary torch right here in UK waters that beam just slices through even lousy visibility - but it would be phenomenal as a main dive torch abroad, I’d just knock it down to 50 percent power so you didn’t scare everything off on a night dive! The latest blue-anodised version has a couple of new features, in particular a ‘warmer’ light more suited to tropical night dives. www.anchordivelights.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 340g RECHARGEABLE: Yes VERDICT: Small but powerful primary dive torch suitable for use in the UK and abroad, especially the new ‘blue’ version. Easy to use, durably built - all-round quality package.
BIGBLUE TL3500 | SRP: £299 BigBlue have successfully carved out a niche for themselves in the competitive world of underwater lighting, and I am seeing many videographers utilising their products now, as well as divers for general lighting purposes. The TL3500 delivers - as the name suggests - 3,500 lumens at full power for oneand-a-half hours via its three ultra-highintensity LEDs, and while much of this is concentrated in a ten-degree spot, there is also a wide peripherary beam as well. This makes it great for penetrating through floating detritus - as often encountered in UK waters - and also for signalling. The halo of peripheral light is also enough to illuminate wider surroundings without burning everything out. There are four power settings - 100 percent, 50 percent, 25 percent and 10 percent, with the latter giving an awesome burntime of 15 hours! There is also an SOS setting. The push button is easy to operate even wearing thick gloves, and the colour indicator - blue at full charge, green as the power drops, and red when nearing re-charge time - is handy too.It is quite comfortable just held in your hand, but also comes with a lantern-style handle, and a soft Goodman handle. www.liquidsports.co.uk
CHOICE 2019 GROUP TEST
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 447g RECHARGEABLE: Yes VERDICT: The BigBlue TL3500 is a compact unit, but it sure pumps out some light, and we like the design of the push-button on/off with indicator light.
DIVEPRO D6 | SRP: £79.95 The DivePro D6 is made from aircraftgrade anodised aluminium and boasts a single CREE XM-L L2 LED pushing out 1,200 lumens into a tight, bright spot, with a light peripheral halo around it. The D6 is turned on and off with a twist of the hilt, which is easy to do even wearing gloves. However, by turning it on and off within two seconds, you can cycle through high and low power settings, and an SOS mode, which is pretty neat. You get a burntime of four hours on full power, and eight hours on low power. Even low power, approximately 500 lumens, is quite bright. The small nature of the D6, along with its relatively low weight (for a metal torch) means it is a good option as a primary torch for use abroad, as it won’t eat up too much luggage allowance. I personally would happily use the D6 as a primary torch in the UK, as that narrow spot beam slices through the gloom (great for signalling, too), but it would also make a superior back-up torch due to its size. It would excel in tropical waters, though, as a main dive light. Finally, let’s touch on that stunning price point. Under £80 for a metal-bodied rechargeable torch of this quality is fantastic value for money. www.nautilusdiving.co.uk
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 340g RECHARGEABLE: Yes VERDICT: Extremely compact dive torch, with a bright spot beam. Easy twist on/off, great burntime and an astonishing price. Great for a powerful UK back-up or tropical primary.
Lightweight | Compact | Cold Water Unique Freeze-Resistant First Stage 2 HP Ports | 4 MP Ports Designed For Cold Water Lightweight - Just 905G | 2Lb*
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EXPOSURE MARINE ACTION 3-20 | SRP: £350 Exposure Marine turned the dive light market on its head a few years back with their innovative torches, which were incredibly bright and compact. However, the method of turning them on/off and cycling through power settings - which involved rotating the torch - left some divers bemused. The new versions have all of the positives of the previous incarnation, and none of the negatives. The anodised aluminium, rechargable Action 3-20 has three White XPL2 LEDs, which deliver 1,800 lumens on full power, for a runtime of two hours. Medium power gives you four hours, and low power eight hours. Gone is the old method of turning it on and off, instead you now have a moretraditional and user-friendly push button on the bottom. However, uniquely, there is an OLED display which shows the remaining runtime at that power setting in hours and minutes. The clever bods at Exposure Marine couldn’t help themselves, though, and so the torch also has a ‘tap’ function, where you can cycle through the power levels simply by tapping the light itself. For a small unit, the 3-20 puts out a very bright, even white light, and it sits in a soft Goodman handle on the back of your hand. www.exposurelights.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 258g RECHARGEABLE Yes VERDICT: Geat to see Exposure Marine back in the mix, with a compact but powerful, and more user-friendly, version of their unique dive light.
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DIVE SOMETHING BETTER FOR THE OCEAN
Mission 2020 is a collection of pledges from organisations within the diving community to change their business practices in order to help protect and preserve our oceans for the future. With a primary focus on single-use plastic, the project sets ambitious short term targets of changes to be made before World Oceans Day 2020. Whether you’re choosing a training agency, booking a holiday or picking out your next wetsuit, ensure it’s with a business that’s doing their bit for our increasingly endangered underwater world.
FINNSUB 3600 SHORT | SRP: £715 Finnish-brand Finnsub offer a wide range of dive lights, but the 3,600 Short is perhaps one of its morepopular units. The head has three CREE XM-L LEDs putting out a focused ten degree beam, which at full power of 3,600 lumens - the name kind of gave that away! - is incredibly bright and cuts through British waters, and is more akin to some umbilical torches. This full-power mode has a burn time of one hour, but knock it down to half power of 1,800 lumens, you get two hours, and this is still very bright. Drop it to the third ‘safety’ power setting of 360 lumens and you get a burntime of 12 hours, plus you can use it topside without damaging the torch. To cycle through the power settings, you just turn the magnetic ring on the head - the first twist puts it in safety mode, and then clockwise goes brighter, and counter-clockwise reverses the procedure. It has an anodised aluminium body and comes with an anatomic Goodman handle that allows the torch to sit comfortably on the back of your hand. It is one of the heavier and more-expensive units in this test, but it also produces the most lumens. www.finnsub.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 760g RECHARGEABLE: Yes VERDICT: One of the bigger, heavier and expensive torches here, but well-made, incredibly bright, and easy to operate even with gloves on. A great primary light for UK use.
MARES EOS 20RZ | SRP: £266 Mares have produced a strong line-up of torches with the EOS RZ range, and the 20RZ is the top of the line, but it doesn’t have a ridiculous price point, coming in at £266. It is one of the larger units in this review, and it weighs in at 594g, but even then, it is no beast, comfortably sitting in your hand. Part of the reason for the weight is the enlarged front of the light, which offers a nifty zoom function - twist that chunky head and you can alter the beam from a tight, bright 11 degree spot to a wide 75 degree flood, which still retains an even spread. A narrower beam penetrates well in lower vis, and the wider beam can light up a wide area when things are clearer. The three CREE XP-L LEDs put out 2,300 lumens at full power, and it has three settings - high (100 minute burntime), low (three-hour burntime) and SOS mode. It is depth-rated to 120m, and recharges by simply unscrewing the end cap and then plugging in a cable to your laptop or a wall socket (via a mains/USB plug). To turn the 20RZ on and off is easy - you just slide the locking mechanism across and thumb the slide switch forward. Ever push forward cycles through the settings. www.mares.com
BEST VALUE 2019 GROUP TEST
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 594g RECHARGEABLE: Yes VERDICT: Great torch for use as a primary dive light. The zoom beam is a neat feature, and the on/off is simple to use even with gloves on. Great unit.
Dive lights are an essential piece of a diver’s kit arsenal, and all the torches here performed admirably, which made dishing out the awards incredibly hard. For the Best Value, the DivePro D6 and the Mares EOS 20RZ went head to head. The DivePro is incredible value for money, but while I would be happy using it as a primary over here, it is perhaps best suited as a superior back-up torch thanks to its size and bargain price. The Mares represents great value for the performance and build quality, and we really liked the zoom ability to switch between spot and flood beam ‘on the fly’. The Choice award was even more difficult. The Exposure Marine, Anchor Dive Lights, Finnsub and BigBlue were all contenders. They all put in a superb performance, and we liked the Exposure Marine’s nifty OLED display, the Anchor Dive Light’s modular nature and dinky size, and the Finnsub’s robusy build quality and magnetic switch, but the BigBlue just edged ahead, a combination of being well made and having an epic power output, all for a stunning price.
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Long Term Test AQUA LUNG AQUAFLEX Mark Evans: The 5mm Aquaflex is made from superstretch neoprene with liquid-sealed seams, and it is exceptionally easy to take on and off. We have got two suits on test - a male and a female version - and both have seen action in the Middle East since arriving in the office. The male suit is blue and grey, and the female suit is black and what Aqua Lung call ‘galaxy’, which certainly adds a spark of colour to the suit. www.aqualung.com/uk
INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2019 Suggested retail price: £260 Number of dives: 20 Time in water: 18 hrs 50 mins
SUUNTO D5 Mark Evans: The Suunto D5 accompanied the Scuba Diver team to Aqaba for our #experienceaqaba assignment (see last month’s issue), and Publishing Director Ross Arnold put it to good use. Ross has used a D6i in the past, but he was instantly at home with the D5, navigating around its menu - which is more like the EON series, with no problems. www.suunto.com 94
MARES EPIC ADJ 82X
Mark Evans: Last month we looked at the high-pressure ports on the 82X, this issue I am focusing on the swivel for the low-pressure ports, which includes one in the top, which gives you masses of variations when it comes to hose routing, so whether you are tech diving, INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 sidemount diving or Suggested retail price: £545 recreational diving, you are Number of dives: 19 covered for best routing. Time in water: 17 hrs 40 mins www.mares.com
APEKS TECH SHORTS
INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2019 Suggested retail price: £545 Number of dives: 17 Time in water: 15 hrs 55 mins
Mark Evans: The Tech Shorts will be off to Egypt in a couple of weeks when I head out with Deptherapy. I previously wore them over a 5mm, but this time I will be in a 3mm full suit. Thankfully, the design of the Tech Shorts means that the adjustments around the waist - both INFORMATION Arrival date: March 2019 Velcro straps and a pinchclip ‘belt’ - allow them to fit Suggested retail price: £94 Number of dives: 16 both suits. Time in water: 15 hrs 15 mins www.apeksdiving.com/uk WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
OTTER WATERSPORTS ATLANTIC Mark Evans: Guest tester Jason Brown has been logging plenty more dives in his Otter Watersports Atlantic. He is enamoured with various elements of the suit, but the spacious thigh pockets are worth checking out in more detail. A bellows-type, they expand when in use, but stay relatively flat and streamlined when empty. Under the large Velcroclosing flap, there is the main pocket, complete with bungee retainers, and a flat pocket at the back with a D-ring. www.drysuits.co.uk
INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 Suggested retail price: £1,560 Number of dives: 26 Time in water: 25 hrs 35 mins
SHEARWATER RESEARCH TERIC
Mark Evans: The Shearwater Research Teric headed off to warmer waters once again, this time on our family diving trip to Egypt (see page 22 for the full story). Again, it was a joy to use on a daily basis, both as a watch and as a dive computer. The full-colour screen was clear to read even in the shallows when the sunlight was extremely bright some full-colour computers can struggle in bright sunlight - and I am increasingly becoming a fan of the INFORMATION Arrival date: January 2019 vibration function. That Suggested retail price: £918 little buzz when I end my Number of dives: 45 safety stop is great. Time in water: 44 hrs 25 mins www.shearwater.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
APEKS XL4+ Mark Evans: The Apeks XL4+ was used on our Egypt trip by my 12 year old son Luke, who did his Junior Advanced Open Water Diver course (see next month in The Next Generation for the full story). He clocked up six days of diving on the regulator, and found it nice and light in his mouth - the second stage weighs nothing, it very small and compact, and combined with a braided hose, there was little to no pull on his mouth/strain on his jaw. Being totally comfortable with the regulator meant he could INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 concentrate on his course Suggested retail price: £409 and not worry about his Number of dives: 40 breathing. Time in water: 38 hrs 55 mins www.apeksdiving.com/uk
FINNSUB 20D AND COMFORT HARNESS Mark Evans: The Finnsub 20D and Comfort harness has reached the end of its six-month stint in Long Term Test, and it has proved more than worthy. It is a robustly constructed wing system, made of heavy-duty materials and built to last. It is no lightweight by any means, but if you are after a durable wing with an extremely comfortable - it lives up to its name - harness set-up, then this is well INFORMATION Arrival date: December 2018 worth considering when Suggested retail price: £579 you are in the market for a Number of dives: 28 buoyancy system. Time in water: 27 hrs 35 mins www.finnsub.com 95
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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
INTRODUCING THE 2019 EUROPEAN SCHOLAR – KIM HILDEBRANDT
y name is Kim Saskia Hildebrandt, from Hamburg, Germany, and I am incredibly fortunate that I have recently been awarded the 2019 European Rolex Scholarship of the Our-World-Underwater Scholarship Society. I am a passionate scuba diver and a third-year Veterinary Medicine student considering becoming involved in a marinewildlife related area like Marine Mammal Research and Medicine in the future. Growing up on a horse farm, I’ve always had a deep connection to animals and nature. Early on, I developed a great curiosity for natural sciences, but in general have an inquisitiveness that led to numerous interests, which I hope to explore during my Scholarship year. I’ve felt a special fascination for the underwater world for a long time, and for this reason I decided to spend a high school exchange year at the Mercury Bay Area School in Whitianga, a coastal town in New Zealand, in 2013/14. There, I chose marine-related subjects like the Marine Academy, Marine Sciences and Outdoor Education. The Marine Academy included intensive time scuba diving, and captivated by this sport, I advanced up to the PADI Rescue Diver certification. My free time with my host family and friends was also spent in close relation to the water scuba/ freediving, kayaking, fishing and spearfishing. The Marine Sciences course further sensitised myself for the value of marine ecosystems. I picked up what work in a marine-related field is like and found myself tremendously liking the idea of becoming involved in such. I also completed a Project Jonah Marine Mammal Medic training, where I learned about Marine Mammals’ Ecology and responsible Stranding Responses. In 2016, I graduated from High School and began studying my childhood dream, Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, though the studies unfortunately only cover Companion and Production animals, not giving many insights in niche fields. I felt something was missing - I want to make a difference on a comprehensive level with my scientific and practical proficiencies as a vet, focusing on relations between anthropogenic actions and environment and the consequences in affecting wildlife and its habitats, preferably in the marine environment. Last spring, I dived in the Andaman Sea with a Zoologist
and Marine Researcher. Greatly inspired, I then chose extracurricular courses in my university to gain insight in work with Aquatic Animals. On a marine-biological excursion week on a North Sea holm, I explored veterinary practice and research in seabirds and fish. Also, I attended ‘Clinical Anatomy of Reptiles’ by reptilian specialist Dr Renate Keil for one Semester, following my interest in turtles. Last September, I finished my Veterinary Preliminary Examination. But the lack of opportunities for continuing education in the aquatic wildlife animals related field, as well as my ongoing desire to live close to the ocean to get more involved in scuba diving, drew me to Lisbon, Portugal, to spend an Erasmus year at the Veterinary Faculty there. I gained experience in Marine Mammal Pathology by performing a necropsy on a stranded common dolphin, who we found was heavily infected by a number of parasitic species. Thereby, I learned about Cetacean anatomy and physiology. In November 2018, I attended an International Conference for Wildlife and Conservation Medicine. The aquatic-related topics, which really inspired me, were stranding responses and rehabilitation of Marine Mammals; Elasmobranch, Sea Otter, Cetacean and Seal Medicine; and Emerging diseases in Wildlife and Captivated Animals. Therefore, I participated in an optional course in Wildlife and Conservation Medicine afterwards. I am incredibly excited to immerse myself in experiences in the particular field of Aquatic Wildlife Medicine, Rehabilitation and Research this following year, as well as a variety of other marine-related fields, that I am curious to get involved in. I am also hoping to improve my scuba diving skills and advance in qualifications in this sport. I would like to thank Rolex, the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, and all the amazing sponsors for their support, without which the next 12 months would not be possible. n
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SUUNTO D5 The new Suunto D5 is designed to be so clear and easy-to-use that you can just enjoy and focus on exploring the wonderful underwater world. Play with style by changing the strap to match your looks. After diving, connect wirelessly to the Suunto app to re-live and share your adventures with friends. www.suunto.com
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