TECHNICAL: DEEP DIVING
DIVE LIKE A PRO: BCDS
1,300-MILE LIVEABOARD VOYAGE FROM KOMODO TO RAJA AMPAT
NEIL BENNETT EXPLORES THE MINDSET NEEDED TO SAFELY MASTER TECHNICAL DIVING
HANDY HINTS ON HOW TO PROLONG THE LIFE OF THE HUMBLE BCD
INSPIRATIONAL GEMMA SMITH TALKS ABOUT EPIC TECHNICAL DIVES, BEING A STRONG ROLE MODEL, AND FIGHTING BACK TO FITNESS AFTER A SERIOUS ACCIDENT
ISSUE 30 | AUG 19 | £3.25
Aussie roadtrip, part two
‣ Scholar ‣ Red Sea overview
Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka
Aggressor Safari Lodges , Sri Lanka ®
Ari Atoll, Maldives
Roatan Aggressor , Roatan, Bay Islands of Honduras ®
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Our mission is to share the wonders of the natural world in unparalleled style and comfort with service from a professional staff. Scuba dive aboard our Aggressor Liveaboard yachts, cruise the Nile on an Aggressor River Cruise or ®
photograph Sri Lanka’s elephants at the Aggressor Safari Lodges . You bring the passion, we’ll bring the adventure!” ®
–Wayne B. Brown, Chairman & CEO, Aggressor Adventures ®
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EDITOR’S NOTE SCAPA FLOW WRECKS GO FOR A SONG ON EBAY The Orkney Islands’ diving community recently commemorated the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the German World War One Navy Fleet in the natural harbour of Scapa Flow. The seven remaining vessels from this enormous fleet have made the Flow a Mecca for wreck divers from all over the world, who flock to the north of Scotland to dive on these behemoths from another time. So there was understandable consternation when four of these iconic vessels - the battleships Kronprinz Wilhelm, Konig and Markgraf, and the cruiser Karlsruhe - appeared for sale on eBay of all places. Initially, many passed it off as a hoax or a joke, but it turned out to be true, and the owner of the wrecks, a retired Tayside diving contractor by the name of Tommy Clark, had timed the sale to coincide with the anniversary events of Scapa 100. The ships were up for a hefty sum - £250,000 each for a battleship, anyone? - but in the end, they sold for the bargain price of just £76,500 for the three, with the smaller Karlsruhe rustling up just £8,500. The latter sold to a private bidder from the UK, but the three battleships went to a Middle Eastern company. This has now raised concerns among many people. The German warships are scheduled monuments, which means they cannot be removed from the seabed or be subjected to any more salvage operations, but questions are being asked as to why anyone would spend such an amount for no apparent reason. If not to make a profit in some way, shape or form, why do it? Several individuals wondered if a scheme to charge divers to visit the purchased wrecks might be on the cards, but as the new owners don’t have the rights to the sea surrounding the ships, then this seems a mute point. Perhaps the buyers merely wanted to be able to have the bragging rights of saying they own a German warship?
Mark Evans Editor-in-Chief
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TECHNICAL: DEEP DIVING
DIVE LIKE A PRO: BCDS
1,300-MILE LIVEABOARD VOYAGE FROM KOMODO TO RAJA AMPAT
NEIL BENNETT EXPLORES THE MINDSET NEEDED TO SAFELY MASTER TECHNICAL DIVING
HANDY HINTS ON HOW TO PROLONG THE LIFE OF THE HUMBLE BCD
ON THE COVER
INSPIRATIONAL GEMMA SMITH TALKS ABOUT EPIC TECHNICAL DIVES, BEING A STRONG ROLE MODEL, AND FIGHTING BACK TO FITNESS AFTER A SERIOUS ACCIDENT
ISSUE 30 | AUG 19 | £3.25
Aussie roadtrip, part two
‣ Scholar ‣ Red Sea overview
PHOTOGRAPH BY: NINA BAXA / WWW.NINABAXA.COM
Deptherapy drops PADI and joins RAID, three divers are killed by dynamite fishing, Aggressor launch a new boat into Sudan and Djibouti, and four of the Scapa wreck fleet are sold on eBay.
30 Dive Like A Pro
Al Hornsby is a well-travelled and experienced photo-journalist, but any thoughts he was getting a little jaded vanished when he was left absolutely flabbergasted by the superlative diving in Raja Ampat.
Martin Sampson explains why you should ensure that your BCD gets just as much care and attention - and maintenance - as your regs.
Dr Richard Smith and his four diving buddies continue their epic diving roadtrip around southeast Australia, this time sampling the delights of Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, before hopping over to the south of Tasmania in search of weedy seadragons.
68 Underwater Photography
42 ABOVE 18m: Dorset
98 OWUSS Scholarship
46 Q&A: Gemma Smith
Martin Guess delves into the world of exposure, and explains how to make your photos ‘pop’.
Kim Hildebrandt gets to grips with underwater photography during a packed trip of workshops in the Egyptian Red Sea.
Stuart Philpott tackles the infamous Chesil Beach to shore dive the wreck of the Royal Adelaide.
Gemma Smith may only be young, but already she has taken part in some ground-breaking technical projects and expeditions, not to mention fight back from a serious accident.
52 THE NEW GENERATION
82 What’s New
A Case Study from Ireland, more inspirational youngsters from Canary Divers, and a nifty children’s snorkelling set from Mares.
Mark Evans explores the Cement Pier in Barbados, which he reckons can give Bonaire’s famed Salt Pier and Town Pier a run for their money.
60 The Red Sea
Jeremy Cuff provides an overview to some of his favourite dive destinations throughout the Red Sea.
76 DAN Europe: An unexpected earplug
This month, the DAN team looks at the case of a diver who encountered problems associated with, of all things, earwax.
74 TECHNICAL: Deep diving
Experienced technical diver Neil Bennett looks at the art of deep diving, and explains everything that goes into conducting a successful dive.
We take a look at new products to market, including the Mares Avanti Pure fins, Aqua Lung Bali wetsuit, Nanight charging port, Fourth Element’s Mini Gulp drinking bottle, and Sea Life Sea Dragon Mini 1000 dive light.
84 Test Extra Special
Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans heads to Vivian Dive Centre in North Wales to focus on the Mares Blue Battle/Silver Knight backplate-and-wing, Apeks VX1 mask, and the latest computers from Oceanic.
94 Long Term Test
The Scuba Diver Test Team rate and review a selection of products over a six-month period, including the 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
PARTNERSHIP WITH RAID
cuba diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy is delighted to announce a new partnership with diver training agency RAID. RAID is now the official training agency partner of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, and the charity is registered as a RAID dive centre. Starting with the next training expedition to the Red Sea in September, Deptherapy Programme Members will follow the RAID training model and be certified as RAID divers. A crossover plan is also in place for Deptherapy Instructor Trainers, Instructors and Divemasters. As well as providing training materials and certifications for Deptherapy Programme Members without charge, RAID has pledged to support the charity in marketing and fundraising initiatives. Deptherapy and RAID will also now work together in developing adaptive training materials for the future. Richard Cullen, Chairman of Deptherapy, said: “We have been working closely with RAID since the beginning of the year and we view our transition to become part of the RAID family as allowing Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education to grow and develop within the diving community. The package we have been offered by RAID is exceptional and in return, we will provide our expertise in adaptive teaching to RAID. We have already been made to feel a part of the RAID community and we are excited by the thought of moving forward together.”
PHOTO CREDIT: DMITRY KNYAZEV FOR DEPTHERAPY
James Rogers, Business Director - RAID (UK and Malta) recently spent a week on expedition with Deptherapy, where he was able to see first-hand the ‘extraordinary and lifesaving transformational work undertaken by the Deptherapy team’. On the new partnership, James Rogers said: “RAID is proud and excited to be chosen as the new diver training agency for Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education. The charity’s work is world-class and the RAID system will provide a high quality and a modern online platform for their divers, future development needs and global diving adventures.» For more information about the work of Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education visit: www.deptherapy.co.uk
DS N E I R DIVING WITH F
NEW: Faarufushi Maldives
PHOTO CREDIT: JASON BROWN
ICONIC SCAPA FLOW WRECKS SELL – BUT AT A BARGAIN-BASEMENT PRICE In a move carefully orchestrated to coincide with the 100th anniversary commemorations of the mass scuttling of the German World War One fleet in the Orkney Islands, four of the famous shipwrecks were put up for sale on eBay – they sold, but at a fraction of the asking price. The monstrous battleships Markgraf, Konig and Kronprinz Wilhelm were up for £250,000 each, but ended up selling to a Middle Eastern company for just £76,500 for all three. And the cruiser Karlsruhe was snapped up for £8,500 by a private bidder in the UK. The four shipwrecks, which are scheduled monuments and so protected – they cannot be removed from the seabed, have any salvage carried out, or even be entered, though the latter is often overlooked by divers conducting penetration dives into the wrecks – were owned by retired Tayside diving contractor Tommy Clark. Drew Crawford, who was acting as a mediating agent for Mr Clark, commented: “We are not certain as to the long-term intentions of the new owners – and the sale does depend on terms and conditions being met. We’re finalising details with them now, and would hope to know more later this week.” While the historic vessels, which attract thousands of divers annually to the Orkney Islands, may be safe from being disturbed, some fear that the new owners may try to recoup some of their purchase costs by charging a ‘fee’ to dive their property.
INDONESIA THAILAND EGYPT S PA I N
NEW: Roses, Costa Brava
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 :
7 12:00 22.01.19
THREE DIVERS KILLED BY DYNAMITE FISHING IN MALAYSIA Two Chinese tourists and their Malaysian instructor have died after allegedly being killed by ‘fish bombs’ while they explored the reefs off Semporna, on Sabah’s east coast on Friday 5 July. The dead group – dive instructor Zainal Abdun and Chinese nationals Zhao Zheng and Xu Yingjie – were found motionless in the water, surrounded by dead fish, with shattered masks. The 24-year-old boatman and a 23-year-old guide, who dropped off the victims in the afternoon and raised the alarm after returning to the site later and finding sea foam, ‘lots of bubbles’ and the divers’ bodies, have since been arrested by police, who are treating the incident as murder. Initial reports had tourism groups laying the blame squarely on dynamite fishing activities, but later statements claimed others nearby did not hear any explosions. Sabah Police Commissioner Omar Mammah said: “There’s a strong possibility that the divers died because of (the fish bomb) explosion, and we are searching (for the fishermen). We have also ordered the marine police (to conduct an investigation). The (boat) crew who are currently in the diving area are from small boats. But the problem is, none of them heard the bombs go off (in the area).” He reiterated his commitment to stop fish-bombing activities in state waters, but said that the sea was too enormous for authorities to monitor all the time. He also said that fishermen knew this, and either found secluded spots, or timed their activities for when patrol boats were not in the area. Deputy tourism, arts and culture minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik was quick to say that tourists should not be worried about their safety, saying: “I have not received a report yet, but it’s an isolated case, (so) do not worry. We are confident that the authorities will handle this incident.”
BODY FOUND IN SEARCH FOR MISSING DEVON DIVER
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A body has been found after a multi-agency search operation off the coast of Devon looking for a man who went missing on 1 July near West Hoe, Plymouth. The 57-year-old had been out with fellow members of a diving club when he got into difficulties, and the alarm was raised around 7.30pm. The Coastguard and the RNLI, supported by both police and military divers, conducted an air and sea search until after 3am in the morning. It resumed on Tuesdayt 2 July at daybreak, and the man’s body was subsequently found. Devon and Cornwall Police said that the body had yet to be formally identified, but that the missing man’s family had been informed.
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JAPAN CLAIMS FIRST VICTIMS AS IT RETURNS TO COMMERCIAL WHALING Conservationists around the world have been lamenting the start of Japan’s first foray into commercial whaling in over 30 years – and as we went to press, five minke whales had fallen foul of the fleet. Whales have been protected by the 1986 International Whaling Commission moratorium that banned commercial whaling, and Japan joined the Commission in 1988 – but continued hunting whales, citing ‘scientific purposes’, which many saw as a thin charade to enable them to continue hunting whales to sell the meat. Now any such smoke-and-mirrors has been dropped. Japan pulled out of the Commission back in December, and has now resumed whaling within its territorial waters and economic zones. The argument is that hunting and eating whales is part of Japanese culture, but while a number of coastal communities in Japan have hunted whales for centuries, consumption only became widespread after World War Two when other food was scarce – and that is definitely not the case now. The only positive – and it is only small – is that they have set a quota of 227 whales for the season (which runs until December). In 2017-2018, the Japanese fleet killed 596 whales under the ‘scientific purposes’ smokescreen. Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International, accused Japan of beginning a ‘new and shocking era of pirate whaling’.
CALLING ALL DIVERS – ARE YOU UP TO THE CONISTON CHALLENGE?
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The Coniston Challenge sees sighted people completing a running, walking or kayakbased challenge in aid of the Guide Dogs for the Blind – and this year, for the first time ever, there is a diving element. Co-ordinated by DiveLife, who have been given special dispensation for the diving challenge – which takes place on 14 September at Bailiff Wood in Coniston – it will be based on three levels. The dive will last for one hour and reach a maximum depth of 18m. Each level will consist of an amount of time diving with a blacked-out mask (i.e. diving blind). Level one is the hardest, and will see the diver diving blind from start to finish of the dive. Level two will have the diver spending about half of the dive blind, i.e. they will ascend blind. Level three will have each diver spending at least ten minutes blind. Each diver will be required to have two normal masks with them, as well as all of their normal scuba-diving kit. Divers taking part should be experienced – minimum 100 dives – and have dived in a similar environment previously (i.e. cold water with limited visibility, and in darkened conditions). The ‘blind’ divers will all be accompanied by a buddy who will work with and support them during the dive. The DiveLife team are going to hold practice sessions in the pool and at the Capernwray inland dive site. www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simon-read14
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BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS TURN HURRICANE DEBRIS INTO SCUBA DIVING TREASURE After the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the BVIs are turning hurricane-destroyed vessels into very unique dive sites through the non-profit organisation Beyond The Reef. Members of this group were heavily involved in the sinking of the BVI’s now-famous Kodiak Queen ‘Art Reef’ and are excited to continue with their next project, which involves removing three derelict airplanes from the airport and turning them into halfairplane/half-sharks. Although a half-airplane/half-shark sounds unconventional, the two have blended together seamlessly and the group hopes that the ‘sharkplaneo’ will generate positive awareness for the necessity of sharks in our waters, while also making for a fun and interactive new dive site. The site will feature an airplane bull shark, blacktip reef shark and hammerhead shark, along with a coral-archway garden made from recycled mooring lines. Following this, they plan to turn the legendary floating bar The Willy T, that was also destroyed in Hurricane Irma, into an underwater pirate ship playground. In addition to creating new reefs for marine life and new dive sites for tourism, Beyond The Reef is most excited that these wreck sites will go back to benefitting the local community through generating donations for children’s swim lessons. It is currently believed that only one-in-ten children in the BVI are able to swim, and Beyond The Reef asks that every diver who enjoys their sites donate $5 in exchange for a souvenir sticker (one that might even get you free stuff around town), that goes directly into teaching local children to swim. By their predictions, the donation revenue brought in just by divers on these continuing Art Reefs should be enough to teach every child on island to swim within ten years. www.bvitourism.com www.1beyondthereef.com
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For those looking for superb diving away from the crowds, specialist operator Regaldive is newly offering Abu Dabbab Diving Lodge on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. Comprised of a collection of wooden bungalows, the Lodge is far removed from the usual big resorts offered on this stretch of coastline. Abu Dabbab’s location also means that it opens up dive sites usually only the preserve of liveaboards, such as nearby Elphinstone, with its silvertip sharks and pods of dolphins, one of Egypt’s most-celebrated sites. Abu Dabbab Diving Lodge is a charming and characterful choice for divers in the sought-after location of Abu Dabbab Bay, a sweeping bay of white sand fringed by coral reefs. A welcome change from nearby resorts, the Lodge features just 62 wooden bungalows set among gardens of tropical plants. Informal and relaxing, each bungalow has a double bed and bathroom, while the Lodge also boasts an outdoor pool, restaurant and 1km-long private beach. The Lodge and its diving centre, both run by Blue Ocean, has access to the excellent house reef from one of Egypt’s finest beaches. Here divers might see dugong or green turtles feasting on the seagrass. The calm conditions make it suitable for divers of all abilities and for families on their first diving holiday too. However, Abu Dabbab’s biggest draw is its proximity to some of the southern Red Sea’s finest dive sites, usually accessible only by liveaboard. The celebrated site of Elphinstone with its teeming marine life is only 25 minutes away by speed boat, and here experienced divers might expect to see scalloped hammerhead sharks, colourful corals and barracuda. www.regal-diving.co.uk
ASIAâ€™S SHORE DIVING CAPITAL
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 your 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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Aggressor Adventures is expanding its destinations to include a new scuba-diving yacht operating in Sudan and Djibouti. In February 2020, Aggressor Adventures will begin offering seven, ten and 11-night charters departing from Port Sudan on the elegant 20-passenger Arabian Aggressor for an introductory rate of US$1,999 per person. Between February and October, guests can choose between three unique Sudan itineraries and visit some of the southern Red Sea’s most-glorious dive sites, including Angarosh Reef, Sha’ab Rumi, the Umbria wreck, Protector Reef and Cousteau’s Précontinent II underwater habitat. The Arabian Aggressor cruises south to Djibouti in November and operates cruises from the Port of Djibouti through February. Djibouti’s Gulf of Tadjourah is world-renowned for its whaleshark population. Djibouti excursions on the Arabian Aggressor include dives throughout the Seven Brothers Islands reefs, Moucha Island and Ghoubbet Bay. “The southern Red Sea is at the top of the list for divers who want to combine thrilling pelagic encounters with lush coral reefs and wrecks. Sudan is a shark paradise with large schools of hammerheads, majestic oceanic whitetips and the rare thresher shark,” Aggressor Adventures Chairman and CEO Wayne Brown said. “Djibouti is a premier destination for whalesharks, but it also has mantas, dolphins, pilot whales as well as numerous shark species. We are excited about this new diving frontier.” Since 1984, Aggressor Adventures has offered travelers liveaboard scuba and snorkelling charters, luxury river cruises and exotic wildlife safaris. Worldwide locations are Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Cocos Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Galapagos, Hawaii, Indonesia, Maldives, Mexico, Oman, Palau, Red Sea, Roatan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand and Turks and Caicos. Reservations can be made online at www.aggressor.com
SCAPA FLOW – UNEXPLODED TORPEDO FOUND DURING 100TH ANNIVERSARY WEEK A Royal Navy bomb disposal team was despatched to the Orkney Islands after an underwater survey on Saturday 22 June revealed an unexploded torpedo lying on the seabed. HM Coastguard set up an exclusion zone and erected warning signs urging people to stay at least 500 metres away from the ordinance, which was found between Hoy and Cava. The EOD team was expected to carry out an assessment to make the device safe. Bomb disposal experts from the Royal Navy were sent to the same area back in 2016 to detonate a World War Two torpedo found on the bottom that was thought to have been fired at HMS Royal Oak by a German U-boat in 1939. Tragically, a total of 833 men were killed in the naval disaster. The most-recent discovery came after all manner of commemorative events took place throughout the islands last month to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the World War One German Navy fleet.
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SILVER MOON IS A SYMBOL OF HUMAN EXPLORATION, A COMMEMORATION OF THE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND. ANYONE CAN EXPLORE UNDERWATER SPACE. THE DRYSUIT CONSISTS OF A SILVER AND BLACK E.MOTION NYLON FABRIC, WHICH WA S C R E AT E D E XC L U S I V E LY F O R S A N T I . T H E O R I G I N A L C O L O R C O M B I N AT I O N M A K E S THE DIVER LOOK VERY ATTRACTIVE. STYLISH AND MODERN LOGO EMPHASIZES DYNAMIC FEATURES OF THE PRODUCT. THE SUIT IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SANTI DRY SUITS . SILVER MOON SET INCLUDES A NEW ' 7 OR ' 11 HOOD, SMART SEALS SYSTEM AND A UNIQUE T-SHIRT WHICH CORRESPONDS TO THE IDEA OF THE LINE. DIVE WITH SANTI INTO UNDERWATER SPACE!
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! email@example.com Q: My husband and I are both keen divers and our daughter is showing an interest already, even though she’s only five. She’s been quite unlucky with ear infections though, and the ENT doctors are recommending she has grommets to stop her getting them so often. Obviously we are going to do what’s best for her, but will this stop her diving in the future? A: Firstly, a few words about the humble grommet, essentially a tiny artificial tube inserted into the eardrum. Smaller than a match head, they’re used to create a deliberate perforation, so that air can get in to the middle ear, and more importantly, mucus and pus can get out. The simple reasoning is this: the pain and misery of middle ear infections is mostly due to the pressure build-up in a confined space. Put a hole in one of the walls of this confined space, and the pressure won’t build up. Hence no pain, fewer infections and a happy kid. And it works. The grommets eventually fall out by themselves after a while (a few months to a few years) and the perforation left behind heals up by itself. By that stage the child is older and bigger and hopefully has grown out of infections, so quite a neat procedure all round. Luckily, once the eardrum has healed, it’s perfectly safe to dive with, although it always seems to be slightly more fragile than an undamaged one, so they need to take extra care with their equalising. Q: Two years ago I passed my Open Water course on holiday in Turkey. I am now 55 years of age, rather rotund and I don’t do any regular exercise. Last year I went diving in Egypt. Before undertaking the scuba review, I filled out
a medical form telling them of my hiatus hernia plus the medical history of my father, who suffered from angina and also had a heart bypass. Taking my age into consideration as well as those facts, they took me for a medical. My blood pressure and pulse were taken, then I was asked to squat up and down for a minute while supporting myself on the doctor’s desk with my hands, and then my blood pressure and pulse were taken again. The doctor informed the dive centre that I was alright to dive, but to keep me clear of strenuous dives. I am now worried about future dive trips. I am using a treadmill at home and am on a diet, but what I need to know is what should my blood pressure and pulse read to enable me to sail through the next medical? A: There is a wide variability of ‘exercise testing’ carried out in dive resorts, and these days, there is a lot of discussion about what sort of exercise test is best, or in fact, whether a test is necessary at all. The main reason for doing them is simply to emphasise the fact that physical fitness is important for safe diving. It also enables some sort of comparison of fitness from year to year, acting as a motivating tool for health promotion. I digress from your question however. In your case, before you jet off, you would be best seeing a diving doctor in the UK, who can assess your blood pressure and cardiovascular health in a properly controlled environment. Nebulous suggestions such as ‘keeping you clear of strenuous dives’ are sometimes difficult to apply practically. Incidentally, if you look at diving fatality statistics, very few could have been predicted from known medical conditions; most are accidental and involve inappropriate diving beyond the diver’s experience levels.
THREE PEAKS CHALLENGE AT SIX YEARS OLD FOR DEPTHERAPY In an amazing achievement, a six-year-old boy has completed the challenging Three Peaks Challenge in under 24 hours, all while raising funds for diving charity Deptherapy. Lucas Lawrenson, from Sutton Manor, managed the epic trek – which involves scaling the heights of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – in 23 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds, making him the youngest person ever to finish the feat in under 24 hours. The total walking distance involved in the challenge is 23 miles, and the total ascent is 3,064 metres, which would represent a serious endeavour for most adults, never mind a six year old! Lucas completed the trek with his dad Adam, who has been helped by Deptherapy. The Army veteran joined the programme last October, and found it helped him to come to terms with his experiences in Afghanistan, and move on with his life. It was such a life-changing experience, he wanted to help raise funds so the charity can help other veterans, and his son more than rose to the challenge right there alongside him. You can donate: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/adam-lawrenson
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ROADTRIP, AUSSIE-STYLE - PART THREE
ABOVE 18m: PORTLAND PARK
Q&A: SARAH DAILY
TECHNICAL: BIKINI ATOLL
INDONESIAN LIVEABOARD ADVENTURE
GEAR GUIDE: WRISTWATCH DIVE COMPUTERS
Richard Smith concludes his epic roadtrip Down Under, this time visiting Sydney and Nelson Bay We talk to the underwater performer about dancing with sharks, being a mermaid, and teaching people to freedive and scuba dive
Adrian Stacey embarks on an epic 1,300-mile journey travelling and diving through legendary hotspots such as Komodo, Alor, the Banda Islands and Raja Ampat
Stuart Philpott checks out phase two of the Portland Underwater Curiosity Park Aron Arngrimsson returns with another article from the iconic Bikini Atoll, this time focusing on the Arkansas and the Lamson wrecks
The Test Team heads to North Wales to rate and review wristwatch-style dive computers
â€œThe reef systems here are some of the most pristine I have seen anywhere in my dive travels around the globe, and Wakatobi resort and liveaboard are second to none. The diversity of species here is brilliant if you love photography.â€? ~ Simon Bowen
An experience without equal At Wakatobi, you donâ€™t compromise on comfort to get away from it all. Our private air charter brings you directly to this luxuriously remote island, where all the indulgences of a five-star resort and luxury liveaboard await. Our dive team and private guides ensure your inwater experiences are perfectly matched toÂ your abilities and interests. Your underwater encounters will create lasting memories that will remain vivid and rewarding long after the visit to Wakatobi is concluded. While at the resort, or on board the dive yacht Pelagian, you need only ask and we will gladly provide any service or facility within our power. ThisÂ unmatched combination of worldrenowned reefs and first-class luxuries put Wakatobi in a category all its own.
Raja Ampat Well-travelled photo-journalist Al Hornsby thought he had seen everything, but a cruise around the superlative dive sites of Raja Ampat left him absolutely flabbergasted PHOTOGRAPHS BY AL HORNSBY
’m sitting on the shaded deck of the schooner, Emperor Raja Laut, our dive boat for the past seven days, as we head for the Indonesian port town of Sobrong, our seemingly non-stop dive adventure having finally come to an end. The sea is glassy-flat, as it has been for most every day of the cruise, the sky a deep blue, with just a few white clouds scattered here and there. I’m trying to choose those several ‘best’ dives about which to write (magazine space simply doesn’t allow for ‘all’ or even Turtle chilling on the reef ‘most’), but I’m finding it slightly bewildering, there having been so many, one after another. Our run had taken us on a circuitous route through the more than 1,500 islands of Rajah Ampat (‘the Four Kings’ in the local Bahasa Indonesia language), Indonesia’s most-acclaimed diving area. For all its prodigious reputation as being in the centre of biodiversity in the Coral Triangle and that the sheer numbers of species and concentrated numbers of fish and other marine creatures one encounters are simply astounding – I really wasn’t prepared for what that actually meant, until having experienced it myself. Our dives were of several general types. Some centred in and around channels, which bring in steady flows of nutrient, supporting massive stands of corals and gorgonian fans, huge schools of fish (the fusiliers of several species, covering large areas of the reef, were often too dense to see one’s way through) and the predators that feed on them. Other sites were calm, island-side slopes, reef-flats and drop-offs, featuring prolific hard and soft corals, many fish species and lots of turtles, including unusual numbers of hawksbills. The final – really fun – category could best only be described as ‘very unique and… unexpected’. Because of different preferred styles of diving, the dive guides were very accommodating for us nine passengers, generally running three groups, especially on the high-current dives… one group that typically went deep and hooked on for longer periods when there was high current; one that preferred more gentle dives at more-moderate depths; and my preferred group, which liked heading to the deep point, then Gorgonian seafan
Almost immediately we began seeing denizens – small, stumpyspined cuttlefish, flatworms, a strange banded sole and then an unusual sight - a gigantic, 40cm-long giant balor shell crawling over the bottom, long proboscis extended Schools of fish are commonplace
The crystal-clear water is beyond tempting
moving about and hooking on at various times and places for brief moments when the current was really running (when making images it’s tough just to wait and hope something will come along to get its picture taken!). So… back to my dilemma of which of the nearly 30 dives and related adventures (the trip was more than dive-divedive) to single out… To pick one, I guess I have to start with Blue Magic in Damphier Strait, which we dived on the trip out (and happily) again on our return. It was perhaps the mostdramatic, high-current dive site, with a negative-drop to 30m to the flow-facing point of a large, oblong coral mound where huge schools of fish moved about among gorgonian fans and soft corals, especially chevron barracuda and big-eye trevally. Other schooling fish, especially mixed groups of snapper,
We would hook on, wait a few moments until mantas made close passes, then release and drift to the next mound, and repeat
The reefs are a riot of colour
Snapping anemonefish hiding in their host
Majestic manta ray flies by
sweetlips, squirrelfish and spadefish, tended to gather toward the current, packed closely together, side-by-side, cheek to cheek, in large congregations, something like I have seen nowhere else. Drifting along toward shallower water to finish out our multi-level profiles, we found massive coral gardens thick with different reef tropicals and surprising numbers of big bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse. A reef-slope dive early into our trip was also the first of the several â€˜unique and unexpectedâ€™ dives we were to experience, off the Mansuar village of Sawandarek. For what was to come, it was a peaceful but rather innocuous place. Its story was wonderful, however; a village that had decided to stop fishing and harvesting on its just-off-the-beach reef, and instead to centre its economic activities around welcoming visiting
EMPEROR RAJA LAUT
At 31 metres long, with a 7.3 metre beam, the twin-masted schooner Emperor Raja Laut is built in classic, Indonesian style, and is modern, roomy and utterly comfortable for its (maximum) 12 passengers. With six cabins, all with private bathrooms, full interior AC, a large, shaded deck area and great fresh, European and Indonesian cuisine (which can accommodate vegetarian guests every meal), its cruises would be a joy even without the great diving. WI-FI is available, except in certain very remote areas. The dive operation is top-flight, with French and local dive leaders, EANx, Scubapro rental equipment, very efficient gear-storage and donning areas, and two fast RIBs for reaching dive sites. For photographers there is an airconditioned photo area with multiple charging stations. For information, check out: www.emperordivers.com
Curious sweetlips are not scared of divers
divers, plus creating a coral and giant clam nursery. While certainly something I wanted to experience and support, it wasn’t the normal setting leading to super-high expectations for the diving and photography. As we slipped into the calm, shallow water over a beautiful coral slope that angled down from the shoreline – my max depth was about 15m everything changed, and we found ourselves in the midst of huge schools of fish, by the thousands - ribbon, diagonalbanded and many-spotted sweetlips, blacktail snapper, wideband fusiliers and more, in such congregations as I’d never seen before, anywhere. Their groupings extended up from The coral pinnacles are smothered in growth
the bottom to near the surface, forming columns and pillars of bright colour, the fish closely packed together in sinuous displays, barely moving in the slight current, utterly accepting of divers being within touching distance. Scattered among them were longfin and circular spadefish and solitary giant sweetlips, and in crevices in the riotous coral garden were tasseled wobbegong sharks surrounded by masses of tiny, glittering pearly cardinalfish; anemones with anemonefish; giant clams and hordes of other species. The final surprise was found nearby under the town’s small, wooden pier, where large clumps of hard and soft corals hung down, sheltering many sweetlips, rabbitfish and snapper; and the glowing, blue, ambient light created remarkable photographic possibilities. By that point in the trip the variety and breadth of the Raja Ampat experience was beginning to sink in, and our next special dive came soon after. In the Airborek Island area, in a wide, meandering swath of channels, kilometres from the islands to either side, we watched from the boat as the glassy surface gradually began to move and swirl, more and more as we progressed, until we were in a tidal river of currents. When we began seeing the dark tips of manta wings breaking the surface in all directions, we had reached
Bumphead parrotfish over the reef
Sweetlips under the jetty
Manta Sandy, an extraordinary manta dive. Quickly dropping down to a rough, white sand and gravel channel bottom at 18m, we flew on the current. Within moments, a large manta came to us, just metres away, from behind us, then another soon after from the opposite direction. We then began reaching large, stony coral mounds scattered here and there along the shallower sides of the channel, each of which appeared to be a classic, manta cleaning station. We would hook on, wait a few moments until mantas made close passes, then release and drift to the next mound, and repeat. In our 60-minute dive, I was approached by, and made close, strobe-lit images of, at least eight large mantas and saw numbers more outside of good photographic range. It was very interesting that they weren’t being cleaned, but simply seemed to be coming in for curious looks at us. Marvellous, marvellous. Our first night dive was just off the Airborek Jetty. Expectations were high, because it is a place where the unusual, Raja epaulette (‘walking’) shark, found only in Raja Ampat, could sometimes be seen. We went in, onto a sand and rubble slope with scattered coral heads and sponges – classic, macro-night dive territory. Almost immediately we began seeing denizens – small, stumpy-spined cuttlefish, flatworms, and a strange banded sole. Moving toward the shallows near dive’s end, we found a brilliant, red fire clam. Soon, my guide began quickly swimming up into the shallows – like to 1m of depth – over a thick forest of antler coral, just off the beach. I followed, inching along to avoid touching anything, knowing he was looking for something; then, the ‘waggling light’ signal meaning a ‘something’ had been found. Edging in close, there was the most lovely and unusual small shark I have ever seen, walking on its pectoral fins across the bottom, in and out of the coral branches – a Raja epaulette.
Our first night dive was just off the Airborek Jetty. Expectations were high, because it is a place where the unusual, Raja epaulette (‘walking’) shark, found only in Raja Ampat, could sometimes be seen WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
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????????????? The reefs cover ????????? distances extensive
The close-up images that resulted were utterly delightful. Perhaps our most-unexpected dive of all occurred late in the trip, in an area called The Passage. Between a huge assemblage of large and small, jungled islands rimmed with mangrove forests was a kilometres-long series of twisting and turning, narrow ‘rivers’ and interconnected ‘lakes’. When we looked down through the clear water, large coral heads sprouted out of the sand bottom, and colourful soft corals hung from the limestone walls of the channels – this wasn’t an area of freshwater rivers and lakes, but instead was the ocean moving between a complex cluster of up-thrust islands. After a thorough briefing for the rather complex dive, we entered a narrow channel where the current was fierce but manageable when we tucked in close to the channel wall. We pulled ourselves along the bottom against the flow, the light muted under the branches of the overhanging trees. Soft corals were everywhere, and schools of bumphead parrotfish meandered about, letting us in unusually close. Snapper, sweetlips and spadefish came in and out as we scrabbled along. Then, a cavern’s-mouth opened to our right side, and we left the current for its still water. Just inside, a big school of pickhandle barracuda rested, moving slowly apart to allow us through. We ascended to find an open-air grotto with a few openings to the jungle above, light beams streaming in. Back out into the channel, we continued along, finding more caverns, the last one our dive’s goal. At the back of the submerged chamber, a narrow, soft coral-festooned chimney
angled upwards, just large enough for one diver at a time to slither through, to surface inside another large grotto. A narrow crevice extending above and below the water-line opened to the Passage’s channel and to the bright sunlight reflecting from the trees on the jungled hillside beyond. I wish I had more space available; I’d also describe Melissa’s Garden, one of the most-beautiful coral gardens I’ve ever seen… which also had blacktip sharks and schooling barracuda, in very close. And, I’d mention more topside adventures, like when we hiked up a high, island hillside in darkness to watch red birds of paradise in mating displays at dawn; or when we made our way to a peak at Pianemo, for the majestic, constantly-published Raja Ampat signature-view of green islands and turquoise waters; and… Well, wish as I might, I guess I’m forced to save those and other Raja Ampat stories for yet another time. n
Aerial view of Raja Ampat
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Martin Sampson offers some handy hints on how to prolong the life of the humble BCD, which is often neglected in favour of regulators PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTIN SAMPSON
afterwards. You wore an ABLJ over your wetsuit before donning your cylinder. With the crotch strap too tight, inflating the ABLJ made it capable of being both a pain in the neck and a pain in the ass simultaneously. It was impossible to ignore the fact that you were wearing one because they got in the way of everything. On one occasion I got dragged over the side of an inflatable while playing the part of a casualty, only for the entire direct feed assembly to get snagged in a rope handle and ripped from the front of the ABLJ. At the end of a normal dive you took your cylinder off in the water and passed it up into the boat, much as you do now, except that the cylinder wasn’t wearing any buoyancy. Several aqualungs ended up on the seabed after enthusiastic deck crew answered ‘Yes!’ to the question ‘Have you got it?’, when in actual fact they meant, ‘No!’. Yet, we called this a Life Jacket. Except that it wasn’t because it couldn’t guarantee to float us face up on the surface if we were incapable of operating it. As we grew more enlightened, we started to inflate the ABLJ routinely underwater and - gasp - we experienced the holy grail of neutral buoyancy. Until the day the direct feed failed, in which case we either went back to bunny hopping or the opposite, ballistic ascents. The emergency cylinder needed to be tested every couple of years as well, so a lot of ABLJs got looked at every two years. But these days, for every ten regulators that come in for service, I might get one BCD - and even then only because it already has a problem. Unlike the ABLJ, modern BCDs spend far too much time attached to cylinders, where they can end up lying face down in the sand, or having other cylinders stacked on top of them on the deck of a boat. Of course, they are still prone to the age-old problem of direct feed buttons sticking. So here are my top tips for prolonging the life of your BCD:
hen I first learned to dive, we didn’t have BCDs. We started training with a simple backpack and cylinder. It was pot luck whether or not your cylinder buoyancy would match your own natural buoyancy. In my case, being small and slim, it never did so I spent weeks demonstrating competence at bunny hopping around the floor of the swimming pool before finally being allowed to progress to bunny hopping in open water. Eventually I was introduced to an advanced piece of equipment with the warning ‘This Device Can Kill’. It was the Adjustable Buoyancy Life Jacket (ABLJ) and it had an emergency inflation cylinder so that you could shoot to the surface in contravention of most strategic arms limitation treaties. Hence the aforementioned warning. If you didn’t suffer an air embolism during the ascent, then a Russian MIG fighter would shoot you down shortly
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Check the BCD straps. This applies to both the stitching at the anchor points as well as the webbing where it is pulled through buckles. This is particularly important on BCDs that spend a lot of their life in swimming pools, as pool chemicals have a very detrimental long-term effect on BCD fabrics.
Check the condition of the cylinder cam buckle. These can get damaged but remain undetected if you don’t un-thread the webbing.
If your cylinder needs filling, just bring the cylinder so that the compressor operator doesn’t have to trip over harness straps and stamp on the buckles.
If your BCD has an emergency inflation cylinder fitted, then it must be tested on the same basis as your main diving cylinder, every two-and-a-half years. The trouble is that because it’s only you that has to fill it and not a compressor operator, you may not have noticed that it’s become out of date. This is a pity and potentially very hazardous because these cylinders do not have an easy life. They tend to get filled and emptied rapidly and may also be flooded with sea water from the BCD. The reliability of direct feed units is so good these days that it’s my opinion that it is difficult to make a case for even having an emergency cylinder. Most manufacturers don’t fit them to BCDs and haven’t done for several years.
Wash your BCD in fresh water after use - this will surprise no one. However, I service plenty of BCDs that seem to have been cared for, yet they have corroded and faulty direct feed units. I am sure that you remember to drain the sea water out of your BCD, but do you do this after you have rinsed it? I ask this because if you drain sea water out through the direct feed, then you will be storing a rinsed BCD but with a direct feed flooded with salt water.
Inflate the BCD and allow it to dry. This is a good opportunity to see if it stays inflated. Dump valves can leak because of debris underneath the diaphragm. Most BCD dump valve assemblies simply unscrew; so as long as they are not too tight or require special tools/procedures, it’s easy to remove them for cleaning out the rubbish. If the bladder itself leaks, you can pinpoint the leak by submerging the inflated BCD. A small hole can sometimes be repaired with Aquasure or something similar, but this may not be possible if the hole is close to or at the seam. If your BCD is quite old and it appears to have a few pin holes, then the material is probably porous, in which case it’s time to consider a new one.
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Every few dives make up a weak sterilising solution (with the same stuff they use on babies feeding bottles) and wash the inside of the BCD. Thankfully, breathing the air out of a BCD has not been a required skill for years, but there have been cases in the past of divers contracting unpleasant diseases such as Legionnaires from BCDs. Oral inflation of BCDs is a required skill, so it still makes sense to ensure that your gear is hygienic.
Check the condition of both the corrugated hose and direct feed hose. In particular look out for cracks due to perishing and stress. Submerge the direct feed unit with it connected to an air supply and check for leaks. If you find a trail of bubbles coming from the end of the hose, the hose end O-ring will need changing.
Book your BCD in for an annual service to get the inflator and dump valves serviced. n
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Richard Smith and his four road-tripping fish-fanatic friends continue their adventures around Australia in Melbourne and Tasmania PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD SMITH
Inside a large cave off southern Tasmania
Hermit crabs battling over a vacant shell
Trio of excitable pygmy leatherjackets
W A shortfin mako caught by local fishers
ith the spectacular Great Ocean Road behind us, we waited for our ferry to take us across the mouth of the Port Philip Bay where Melbourne City sits to the north. We could see the picturesque Mornington Peninsula in the distance and I explained the lay of the land, and our coming diving schedule, to the other four. We had already visited Edithburgh and Rapid Bay in South Australia and were doing remarkably well in checking off our wishlist of critters - pyjama squid and leafy seadragons at the top so far. Our little crack team, comprised of dive guide Yann Alfian, off-duty liveaboard cruise director Wendy Brown and naturalist publishers Ned and Anna DeLoach, had made the most of our chemistry above and below the waves. We each played to our strengths in tracking down our quarry, so we had high hopes for our temperate water muck diving around the jetties of the Mornington Peninsula and eventually the cold Tasmanian seas. As the ferry pulled into the jetty of Sorrento inside the mirror-like Port Philip Bay, we could see a couple of the jetties that we would dive in the coming days. Nearest to the mouth of the Bay is Portsea Pier, followed by Blairgowrie and Rye. On the ocean-exposed side of the peninsula is Flinder’s Pier - that would be our first dive location. We had rented an AirBnB bungalow in a residential street in Rye, which allowed us the luxury of spreading out with all our dive and camera gear, plus we had a tank-filling station conveniently located nearby. It was a fairly gloomy morning as we drove for half an hour across the rural part of the peninsula to Flinder’s Pier. Yann’s eyes were already at work as he spotted a koala high up in a
The handfish are a rather ancient group, related to frogfish and are only found around Tasmania and southern Australia gumtree enroute. This jetty was a fairly relaxed start to the Mornington Peninsula portion of our trip. While some of the other jetties have a more-arduous trek to get into the water, it is very easy at Flinder’s. The jetty itself is more exposed and it’s slightly cooler in the water, but conditions were fine for us and the water in February was 20˚C. This time of year is the austral summer, and about as warm as it gets. The highlight of Flinder’s are the weedy seadragons, which tend to be less common inside the bay. Although we would be seeing more of these stunning fish in Tasmania, the weedies of the mainland have a different colour, so worth seeing. This was another shallow dive, reaching a maximum of 4m. We saw a couple of large weedies, but Yann surprised us all by finding a tiny newly hatched juvenile. Smaller than a toothpick, the little dragon swayed back and forth in the slight surge around the dense weed. It was almost impossible to keep a track of it in all the movement. The next day we stayed closer to home and dived Blairgowrie jetty. This site is slightly trickier to access as it is around an active yacht harbour, which limits the ability to park and drop gear very close by. The nearby car park is up a flight of stairs on the top of the cliff and then there’s a 500-metre walk to the entry point. It is certainly my favourite dive in the area. Over the years, I have seen all sorts of Well-hidden pot-bellied seahorse
Endemic draughtboard shark
Wendy with a weedy seadragon
unusual muck critters here. The pylons of the jetty are also covered in amazingly bright invertebrate growth, despite being so shallow. After several back and forth trips to and from the bus, it was a relief to finally get in the water and we all immediately started spotting interesting animals. As well as the bountiful nudibranchs, there were many colour variations of potbellied seahorses, the world’s largest species reaching over a foot in length. Surprisingly, they are as difficult to spot as the smaller species, since their colour matches the local sponges so uncannily. Ned found a huge southern blue-ringed octopus, but I was transfixed by a courting trio of southern leatherjackets and missed it. Two gravid female leatherjackets were feeding, while an eager male showed off his dewlap and amazing colours. We were being torn in all directions. After leaving the three of them to their private time, I came cross a stunning little sea robin, which startled both of us. It was just a couple of inches long, but with colours as bright as you can imagine. I also passed a baby ray, the size of the palm of my hand, illustrating just what a magnet this site is for juvenile fish. Even as I surfaced, I spotted a small baby seahorse clinging to a floating piece of seagrass at the surface. Research shows that due to being such poor swimmers as adults, baby seahorses cling to these kinds of debris to aid their camouflage and dispersal in the open ocean during this vulnerable time in their lives.
Bull kelp off southern Tasmania
Small cryptic dragonet
After a few wonderful days of diving around the Mornington Peninsula, we drove to the city and flew down to Hobart in Tasmania’s south, although in the past I have taken the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, and then driven to Hobart. I had been to the region a few years prior, so had certain areas and animals already in my sights. Again, an AirBnB made a perfect home for the five of us for the few days we were exploring the city and around. We started our diving schedule in the suburbs of Hobart, diving in the chilly Derwent Estuary. At around 16˚C in these summer conditions, the drysuit was suddenly coming into its own. During my previous visit, I had dived in a semi-dry in 13˚C, so had been better prepared this time. One afternoon, we made a trip up a local mountain and, despite being summer, there was a heavy snow flurry! We planned a couple of dives around the Derwent Estuary in search of a very special group of fish, the handfish. The handfish are a rather ancient group, related to frogfish and are only found around Tasmania and southern Australia. There are 14 known species, but several are believed extinct and some are known from just a single specimen. First off, we were on the hunt for the critically endangered spotted handfish. The ‘critically endangered’ listing means that this species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction. The fish now remain only in the Derwent Estuary, having gone extinct Head detail of a Victorian weedy seadragon
Large spider crab
in other nearby estuaries. They are struggling with introduced Japanese seastars that are severely impacting the local environment. These prey on the eggs of the handfish, which are laid on intriguing stalked sea squirts on to the seafloor. We had great success with the spotted handfish, thanks to Wendy, who spotted three for us. We even saw one with its tiny lure cast, which was reminiscent of their frogfish cousins. Sadly, though, we had less luck the next day while looking for the red handfish. Also indigenous to the Derwent Estuary, but even more rare, these fish are thought to only live along a 100-metre stretch of the shoreline. Another alien invader is seeing to the loss of these fish, although in this case it’s an Australian native that’s spread further south into Tasmanian waters only recently.
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Richard Smith, a British underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Richard organises and leads marine life expeditions, where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment. His book, The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs will be released in September 2019. www.OceanRealmImages.com
An almost invisible velvetfish
Tasmania’s sea is experiencing some of the most-extreme climatic change in the world. The seas here are warming at four times the global average. This is caused by the warm East Australian current that is pressing much further south than it has in the past. With this warm water comes the longspine urchin, which has a taste for algae and kelp. It is devouring Tasmania’s kelp forests at an alarming rate and has made rocky barrens of the red handfish’s habitat. The urchins are approaching from both directions, shrinking the red handfish’s last stand as they march on. In the end, it was the weather that prevented us from seeing the handfish, as there was too much swell and we couldn’t access the site. I hope that when I’m finally able to return, the stunning little fish hasn’t already been lost. After Hobart, we drove just an hour down to the Eaglehawk Neck in southeastern Tasmania. Here we wanted to make the most of the more-adventurous diving opportunities and went out on two days of boat charters. We were primarily in search of weedy seadragons, which are much more colourful here than their mainland counterparts. I also asked about returning to the wonderful Waterfall Bay, where I had enjoyed the towering kelp forests six years prior. The dive guide informed me that, along with almost all Tasmanian kelp forests, they were already gone thanks to the urchins and warmer waters.
We were primarily in search of weedy seadragons, which are much more colourful here than their mainland counterparts
We did, however, have great success in finding the weedies and enjoyed plenty of time with them among the short and stocky bull kelp. We also had fun encounters with sealions and the locally endemic draughtboard sharks, which are a small cat shark measuring just a few feet in length. A dark cloud came over our group upon return to the harbour. As we walked up the boat ramp, before us on a trailer was a magnificent several-metre-long shortfin mako shark. It was occasionally gasping for ‘breath’ and thrashing its tail. Fishers cheerfully posed with it, but us divers, having just experienced the amazing underwaterscapes just metres away, were completely sobered. Although globally endangered with extinction, either these Tasmanian populations are considered The stunning less threatened by local fisheries, or haven’t Tasmanian coastline been assessed. We contacted the local fisheries agencies, but as these sharks aren’t protected in these waters no crime had been committed. Between dives we were able to enjoy the local topside scenery, which is stunning in this part of the world. It’s also one of the only places where you can find tiny live-bearing seastars. Just 1.5cm across as adults, they pop tiny miniature seastars out of the parent, rather than spawning into the water like all others. They are a fascinating and rare find in the local rock pools. After some fun rock pooling, we finally said good-bye to the most southern reaches of our trip and flew up to New South Wales for some entirely different diving. n
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Stuart Philpott has clocked up more than 300 dives on the Royal Adelaide off Chesil Beach in Dorset, but he never tires of this wreck â€“ and here he explains why PHOTOGRAPHS BY STUART PHILPOTT
ver the centuries, Chesil Beach in Dorset has seen its fair share of shipwrecks. The Royal Adelaide is probably the most famous of them all. Her remains lie approximately 100 metres off the pebble beach, which is no more than two or three minutes moderate fin kicking, for the average diver. But beware the main site only covers a small area and can easily be missed. The most-prominent features are the anchor, foredeck winch, huge mound of chains and a section of the starboard bow, which stands three to four metres proud of the seabed. Maximum depth rarely exceeds 15m, so dive times of an hour or more are plausible using a 12-litre cylinder. This all adds up to an exciting shore-diving proposition suitable for beginners through to more advanced. Does this sound too good to be true? Alas yes, there is one small catch. Walking up and over Chesil Beach in full diving kit, especially on a hot summer’s day, can be quite a shock to the system and usually goes hand in hand with a barrage of four-letter expletives. I’ve even had some divers flatly refuse to walk the walk. At least this dive site guarantees to deliver an unforgettable experience! For more than 25 years I have been making the cardiacinducing climb up and over Mount Chesil, on some occasions twice and, if I am feeling particularly stupid, three times in a day. Who needs to do a step class! I have conducted open water training dives, night dives, navigation dives and photo workshops at this site. Having logged more than 300 Adelaide dives, I think I’ve gained enough experience to write an accurate review. Marine life sightings can be exceptional with a huge variety of species on show from the more-exotic undulate rays, john dory, cuttlefish, crawfish and triggerfish to the run of the mill lobster, edible crabs, shoals of pouting, sea bass, pollock and ballan wrasse. On my last outing, I literally bumped into a monster one-and-a-half-metre-long monkfish. Grey triggerfish
The infamous Chesil Beach
ARRIVAL AT THE SITE
Follow the Portland beach road (A354) onto the causeway. The Fleet lagoon is on the right-hand side and a boatyard on the left. After crossing the bridge use the car park next to the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre. Facilities include an onsite café and reasonably clean public toilets. Parking costs £2 for two hours. Stay close to the beach centre for the Royal Adelaide wreck. Kit up in the car park and then walk cross the wooden foot bridge. For any last-minute gas or equipment requirements, Underwater Explorers are just a few miles up the road.
The heart-thumping trudge over to the Royal Adelaide can be daunting. Try and keep to the grassy scrub rather than walk on the relentlessly shifting pebbles. Just a word of warning - the walk back is even worse! The beach incline is much steeper and the cascading pebbles give way underfoot, very similar to walking up an escalator moving downwards. Try and keep a defibrillator close at hand! Over the years I’ve seen them all, from the not-so-sensible wearing twinsets to the clever old duffers designing special kit-carrying sledges. Some divers won’t even consider a shore dive and prefer to use a charter boat instead. Contact Skin Deep Diving at Portland Marina, (www.skindeepdiving.co.uk) or Dale Spree at Dive Beyond (www.divebeyond.co.uk) for more information on dive schedules. Surf entries and exits can be quite tricky. All but a puff of prevailing south westerlies will render Chesil Beach Part of the Adelaide
Marine life sightings can be exceptional with a huge variety of species on show WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
The Adelaide’s anchor
The beach incline is much steeper and the cascading pebbles give way underfoot, very similar to walking up an escalator moving downwards undiveable and conditions can even change during a dive. On hearing the woomph of breaking waves followed by the rumbling of pebbles, be prepared for a tricky exit scenario. Many a time I have had pebble shapes impregnated into my forehead from being picked up by the huge swells and spewed out on the beach head first! To avoid any unnecessary pain, check out the Chesil Beach Watch page on Facebook before starting your journey (https://en-gb.facebook.com/diveportland).
A few years ago I visited the Dorset Archives and found some old newspapers clippings recording the Adelaide’s demise. On 14 November 1872, the 1320-ton Royal Adelaide left London bound for Sydney, Australia. The 72-metre-long iron-clad clipper-class vessel was fully laden with 2,600 tons of mixed cargo and 35 fare-paying passengers hoping to start a new life Down Under. Captain Martin and his crew of 31 brought the tally up to 67 souls. On Monday 25 November, the Royal Adelaide was sighted off Chesil Beach caught in a strong southwesterly gale. Despite the crew’s desperate attempts to change tack, the ship was driven onto the beach. The Coast Guard managed to attach a line to the ship using rockets and began transferring passengers and crew to safety by means of a cradle. Seven drowned during the rescue attempt. One elderly woman, too afraid to get into the cradle, was seen standing alone on the deck as the ship broke up and sank beneath the waves.
Word quickly spread about the Adelaide’s demise and as darkness fell, more than 1,000 people gathered on the beach front to watch the ship breaking up. Shipwrecks were exciting times, giving locals the opportunity to loot any cargo that got washed ashore. The Adelaide was carrying a consignment of rum, brandy and a very-refined form of gin called Wolffs Aromatic Schnapps. This initiated a mass drinking spree on the cold, wet beach. Ironically, 20 people died of exposure in the harsh November conditions. For more background information on the Royal Adelaide, visit the Portland museum (open 10.30am until 4pm most days). There are a number of glass display cabinets with clay pipes, children’s leather shoes and other personal effects. I also found a selection of brass items, including a full-size replica ship’s bell. Usually there are no marker buoys to show where the wreck is located. I think only once or twice over the past 20 years, I have seen a buoy floating above the site. The marks given in the local dive guides are reasonably accurate and easy to follow, although some fine tweaking is normally required. As a rough guide, after crossing the wooden foot bridge, bear right about 30 degrees and keep walking up and over Chesil Bank to the beach front. At extreme low tides, it’s possible to see some exposed wreckage above the shoreline, which is a good indication you are in the right place. I usually collapse at the water’s edge to catch a quick breather before donning my fins, hood and mask. It’s safer to shuffle into the sea backwards while breathing from regulators. The bottom consists of a number of pebble ledges
Part of the superstructure
descending to around 12m. Then it gradually slopes off to 16m-18m. The Royal Adelaide sits at a depth of around 12m-15m depending on tides. At 13m conduct a back and forth sweep across the seabed until the wreck is located. Knowing the surroundings so well gives me an advantage. I make directional adjustments depending on the specific metal plate, bollard or stanchion I see. But even so, I still occasionally miss the wreck, especially in low visibility. Most of Royal Adelaide is broken up and buried beneath the shingle. Only the starboard bow, foredeck winch, chain locker and anchor remain visible. There are no overhead areas. Every year I go back and find new parts exposed, especially after a bout of heavy storms. There are always lobster and edible crabs hiding underneath the twisted metal plates as well as giant-sized congers peering out. Late-August is normally when the first grey triggerfish are sighted. The triggers get caught in the Gulf Stream and end up congregating at selected hot spots along the southwest coast, including the Adelaide. Some years I have seen as many as 100 triggers cruising around the wreck. The grey triggers are extremely passive and nothing like their infamous relatives, the titan trigger. They are very curious and often come close to divers. There can’t be many places in the UK where divers can get such an interactive experience. Unfortunately, this is a one-way ticket for the triggers. They are poor swimmers, so
There are always lobster and edible crabs hiding underneath the twisted metal plates as well as giant-sized congers peering out
can never return. When the water temp drops, the triggers will die. In December, it’s quite common to find trigger carcasses washed up on the beach. Sadly, over the past few years, most of the triggers have been fished out by anglers within a few days of their arrival. The Royal Adelaide is a highly underrated shore-diving wreck site suitable for most experience levels. The killer walk discourages most divers, but there’s always the charter boat option available. This year there seems to be far more lowlying wreckage uncovered. Once located just follow the debris field, which lies parallel to the shore line. The pebble seabed isn’t as prone to silting up and visibility can, at times, exceed ten metres. Marine life is always huge on variety and quantity, with the possibility of seasonal triggerfish encounters. n
Gemma Smith has completely and utterly destroyed the stereotypical image of a technical diver, and in a relatively short time has been involved in some of the most ground-breaking expeditions and projects around the world
See Gemma Smith at the interactive dive show GO Diving at the Ricoh Arena on 22â€“23 February 2020! Early bird tickets available now from: www.godivingshow.com
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANNY TAYENAKA, DAN WRIGHT, JANNE SUHONEN, NINA BAXA (WWW.NINABAXA.COM) AND BRETT SEYMOUR
GEMMA SMITH 46
Q: You seem to have been into all manner of adventure sports – skydiving, white-water rafting, kayaking. When did you first get into diving, and what was your driving influence? A: I actually first started diving when I was 17. Honestly, at the time it was just the next adventure sport to have a go at. Although I had enjoyed all the other sports, none of them had really ‘clicked’ with me. I had tried them for a few months and then got bored. That certainly wasn’t the case with diving! I was hooked from the first moment I breathed underwater. It was pure magic. Q: What was it about technical diving that attracted you to this niche within the sport? A: I remember being a brand new Open Water diver and seeing Wes Skiles’ famous photo of Diepolder Cave. I remember thinking that there was no way there was
actually somewhere on Earth that looked like that. It was so ethereal. One day I was determined to go there, one way or another, and so my interest in technical diving grew from there. Also, my first years were spent diving in UK waters, and I became interested in all the World War wrecks in the Channel. We have so much amazing history here! So I slowly started my way on the technical diving path. At the beginning, all I could lift were double sevens, then 12s, then I could add a stage… it was a challenge, which was part of the fun. Q: You are not by any means a stereotypical ‘technical diver’, did you find it hard to gain acceptance in this maledominated field? A: I have been helped by so many people in the industry, both male and female. There were definitely times over the years where I found it hard to gain acceptance, but I honestly think that was as much to do with my age as anything. The diving community is getting older, and it has always been my desire to inspire the next generation to discover the wonder that diving can bring. To do that though we need to give them opportunities to grow and develop. I had amazing mentors over the years. Age has nothing to do with being a competent diver, and I think some people need to be reminded of this!
The Antikythera wreck
Stingray in the Cayman Islands
Q: You have been involved in several high-profile expeditions and projects over the years, including the Antikythera shipwreck, the DPAA Tulsamerican operation, and the film short Dive Odyssey. Can you tell us about these missions, and explain which have had the most impact on you? A: The expedition that had the most emotional impact on me was the DPAA Tulsamerican operation, without question. I have always loved being on underwater archaeological projects like Antikythera, but this was different. The mission was to try and recover remains from three missing in action airmen who had been on the B24 Tulsamerican plane when it was downed. The aim was always to send any osseous remains back to the United States, to be honoured and remembered as they should be. After several weeks of searching we did indeed find remains, but I think the moment that touched me most was finding the pilot’s wedding ring. It really brought home to me that this was a real person, who had had a real life, and a family. It’s the only time I have ever cried underwater. Dive Odyssey was a passion project of my good friend Janne. Let’s be honest, most diving films are dull. It’s not really the best spectator sport! Janne wanted to change that. Inspired by classic sci-fi films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and The Abyss, his idea was to make an underwater sci-fi movie of sorts. Nothing comes so close to the mystery and unknown of outer space as the underwater world does, so why not combine the two? It was two years in the making, but the final film is something I think I will be proud of for the rest of my life. All the filming was done in Finland and Norway in winter though, so I did tell Janne the next project we do, he has to pick a warmer location! Q: You are also an experienced instructor. What is it about teaching people to dive that inspires you? A: I love the reaction of seeing someone’s face underwater when they try scuba for the first time. The awe in their eyes is just incredible. Equally, I love the challenge of teaching a CCR cave class. Seeing students try, be challenged, and ultimately come out as more accomplished and aware divers is a feeling that never gets old.
Q: Gemma Smith is a multi-faceted offering – not only are you an accomplished technical diver and instructor, but you also get roped into modelling for the likes of Fourth Element. How different is it being involved in a photoshoot to heading off on an epic tech dive? A: I actually think they complement each other! A big tech dives takes a lot of planning and is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. You can’t let your mind wander when you have hours of deco ahead of you. The dry land photoshoots are so much fun, but with that being said, it still takes planning. As for underwater photoshoots, they take a lot of work. I remember when we filmed Dive Odyssey, we spent several hours before each dive rehearsing and making sure we understood the storyboards. Even though we were on CCR, trying to explain exact positioning and timing to the models at 50m in a mine would not really have worked!
On a deep technical dive
On the Dive Odyssey shoot
Q: We couldn’t talk to you without mentioning one of the biggest challenges you have faced. You were involved in a nasty traffic accident in March 2018 that left you severely injured. How is the recovery progressing, and what was it like getting back into diving? A: Yes, it has definitely not been the easiest 18 months of my life! That being said, I don’t regret anything. The way the dive community came together to support me was just astonishing. The physical recovery is going very well (which sadly means I now don’t have an excuse not to go to the gym!), the mental side is, of course, slower. The PTSD is on the mend, but it takes time. One of the most-amazing feelings which brought me instant relief was actually getting back in the water. It felt like I was ‘home’. Locating the wedding ring on the Tulsamerican project
Gemma with Amphitrite the mermaid
Not your typical techie
Silversides off Grand Cayman
Q: So, finally, what does the future hold for Gemma Smith (other than being a speaker on the Inspiration Stage at the GO Diving Show in February 2020)? A: Oh yes, I’m definitely looking forward to being a speaker at GO Diving! As for other plans… there are things in the pipeline for sure! My outlook on diving has changed though since the accident. While I have always been incredibly driven to succeed, I think my definition of success has changed. I’m in the process of putting together underwater projects that show people how mentally and physically healing diving can be. If it helps even one person, it will be worth it. n
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PUTTING THE FUN BACK INTO DIVING
lackburn-based Canary Divers are a regular in the pages of The Next Generation, and they have been busy in recent weeks with more youngsters getting into diving. Sophie O’dea notched up her Junior Open Water qualification at the age of ten, while her older brother Declan Flynn – who is currently going through his Dive Guide certification – has been doing a fantastic job making fellow divers feel at ease and relaxed. In fact, several members have referred to him as their ‘dive hero’! The team also ran an underwater birthday party, which saw many of the participants sign up for courses afterwards. The parties are always fun for everyone involved – the staff don their novelty hoods and run underwater egg-and-spoon races using a tabletennis ball and an upside-down spoon. www.canarydivers.com
WHAT’S NEW: MARES SEA FRIENDS SNORKELLING SET (SRP: £50) The Mares Sea Friends Snorkelling Set is a great introduction to the underwater world, with a mask, dry snorkel and fins all together in an eye-catching marine-themed drybag. The mask offers a wide field of vision and is made to fit smaller faces. The snorkel has a dry top valve that will close when submerged to prevent water from getting in, and if any waters does manage to enter, the lower purge valve will push it out with each breath. Adjustable heel-strap fins allow for growing feet, and everything can be kept together and carried to the beach in a roll-top drybag backpack. There are different colour schemes and versions available, including a blue fish, a green turtle and an purple octopus.The perfect set to accompany young underwater explorers when they head to the beach this summer! www.mares.com
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!
CIAN MC NAMARA, 12
OLD PALLAS, COUNTY LIMERICK, IRELAND Ger Mc Namara contacted us justifiably proud about the achievements of his 12-year-old son Cian, who has just received his Junior Master Scuba Diver certification. As Ger explains, it has been an interesting two+ years. He said: “It all kicked off with a trydive when we were on holiday in California back in August 2016, and then again on May 2017 in Ireland – to make sure the interest was real. “Fast forward two years and some diving in Tenerife, Lanzarote, Florida and lots of diving off the west coast of Ireland, a little in Portroe, and this part of his diving certification journey is complete.” Ger added: “We don’t see enough kids really taking up scuba diving over here, there is quite a bit of SEAL team and Bubblemaker activity, but I often think kids see the Open Water and Advanced Open Water as something more for adults. Thankfully, our dive centre Dive Academy (www.diveacademy.info) is very childfriendly and is attached to a nice indoor swimming pool, and they have an indoor aquarium dive tank, which makes it more first-time kid and adult friendly. “Ireland aside, with the exception of Florida, Cian is often the only person on the boat diving that is under 15 - and more often than not it’s all adults. “We are off to El Gouna in August to enjoy what the Red Sea has to offer.”
Bonaire’s Town Pier and Salt Pier are ‘signature’ dives, but Mark Evans reckons that the Cement Pier on Barbados beats them both hands down
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
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A friendly turtle
dive under the pier of a working cement factory might sound like an odd location for a popular dive site, but anyone who has dived under the likes of Swanage Pier or Trefor Pier in the UK, or the Town Pier or Salt Pier in Bonaire, will know that these are hotspots for diving. The Cement Pier dive lies up towards the northern end of the west side of Barbados, and is one of the regular sites for morenortherly dive centres, including Reefers and Wreckers and Hightide. We dived the Cement Pier with Reefers and Wreckers, based in Speightstown, which made them the most-northerly dive centre on the island and perfectly positioned to access the Cement Pier. The company’s semi-covered dive boat Conqueror I, with its twin 225hp engines, made short work of the blast up the coast to the giant structure, which – it has to be said – rather spoils the beautiful natural scenery in the area. The pier itself forms a giant ‘T’ protruding out into the sea, and the dive boat moored up just off the left-hand side of the
Octopus at the bottom of a pier leg
structure. The briefing explained that the entire dive would be below the pier, starting with the ‘T’ and then taking in some of the main stretch that runs in towards the shore. After rolling in, we found ourselves in no more than 8m-10m of water, and headed straight off for the nearest pier struts. The legs of the pier are more than a metre and a half thick, but it is hard to see any metal as they are absolutely caked in marine growth, forming a kaleidoscope of colour right up to the surface. Sponges, corals, algae and anemones smother the structure, providing homes for a variety of arrow crabs, shrimps and blennies. At the bottom of one of the struts I found not one, but two, small octopus sheltering behind some clumps of broken coral, but they were not in the mood to be hassled by paparazzi and ‘shut the door’ when I tried to get a photograph of them. In and around the struts large barracuda stalked their prey, and various reef fish – angelfish, parrotfish, damselfish and chromis - darted from one piece of cover to another in order to avoid detection. The seabed played host to sea moths, several species of nudibranch and even a couple of seahorses.
Under the Cement Pier
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Sponges smother the pier legs
It is very atmospheric under the pier
They are absolutely caked in marine growth, forming a kaleidoscope of colour right up to the surface Apparently, frogfish are also seen regularly, but they avoided us on this occasion. Once we reached the middle of the ‘T’ and turned on to the long stretch towards shore, a massive shoal of silver baitfish enveloped us. It was so thick, you could only see a metre or so, and for a moment everyone lost their buddies. It was so mesmerising watching this mass of fish life undulate beneath the pier, I floated transfixed for several minutes and just watched this wildlife spectacle. Every once in a while, a large jack, barracuda or some other predator would make a charge into the shoal, and it would break, twist and swirl as if it was one giant living mass as opposed to thousands of individual fish. Absolutely unreal. It was difficult to tear myself away from the baitfish, but I had reached that point in the dive where I had to make my way back to the dive boat, but I took my time on the swim back, soaking up the colours and the sheer spectacle provided by the richly decorated pier struts. Back on the boat, everyone was buzzing from the dive. Thanks to the shallow depth, it is suitable for even raw novices, but experienced divers and underwater photographers in particular will relish a dive or two under the pier. Bonaire’s two pier dives are rightly seen as diving highlights on their island, but I reckon the Cement Pier on Barbados beats both of them hands down. If you are into your macro critters, or just want a dive with a difference, make sure you schedule a trip to this site. n
There is a metal pier leg under here somewhere
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Jeremy Cuff has been an avid fan of the Red Sea for years, and here he delves into his back catalogue to provide an overview of diving throughout the region PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEREMY AND AMANDA CUFF / WWW.JA-UNIVERSE.COM
As inexperienced divers back in 1998, we gained experience on the daily boat dives and revelled in our first wreck penetration on the wreck of the Thistlegorm
The Red Sea is famed for its soft corals
he Red Sea invokes images of the distant and exotic, and yet it’s as little five or so hours flying time from the UK. It’s surrounded by some of the world’s richest and most-important history, basks in near-unbroken sunshine and contains stunning coral reefs, marine life and shipwrecks. Overall, it’s a varied and affordable destination for European divers looking for great underwater experiences. The Red Sea covers an area of around 169,000 square miles, is around 1,400 miles long and is 220 miles across at its widest point. It’s described as ‘a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the Indian Ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden. To the north lie the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez’. Its bordering countries are Saudi Arabia and Yemen on the eastern side and on the western side there’s Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti. In the north, there’s the Egyptian Sinai and at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba are small sections of coast within Israeli and Jordanian territory. The area is characterised by deep blue water set against rugged and stark desert scenery, at its most spectacular when lit by the morning or afternoon sun. It can make for unforgettable scenes and vistas that print indelibly into the mind. It’s also synonymous with diving and is home to some of the most-iconic dive sites known to man, such as the wall dive at Ras Mohammed at the tip of the Sinai, the shipwrecks There are plenty of shipwrecks
A great location for family diving
of Abu Nuhas, the wreck of the Thistlegorm, the ‘Blue Hole’ of Dahab, and the remote offshore reefs and islands of Elphinstone, St John’s, Daedalus and the Brothers, to name but a few of the underwater treasures in Egypt alone. The vast majority of dive travellers choose Egypt, but there are other options to consider such as Jordan, Israel, the deep south of Sudan and Djibouti, and the extensive eastern side of Saudi Arabia. All in all, there’s a massive choice for all levels of interest and budget, from the occasional holiday diver, through to the discerning naturalist or photographer, or even the deep wreck and tech specialist. It has everything a diver could wish for - big stuff such as mantas and whalesharks, predatory sharks, wrecks, marine mammals including whales, dolphins and even dugongs, abundant corals, vivid colours, spectacular drop-offs, great visibility, schooling fish, caves, macro subjects, seagrass beds and mangroves. Though it’s difficult to be fully comprehensive in a feature set out over a few pages, this overview paints a picture of what the Red Sea can offer.
THE SINAI PENINSULA AND GULF OF AQABA
The Sinai Peninsula and finger-like Gulf of Aqaba is a fascinating area, located in the northern Red Sea. It’s rich in history and mystery, legend and mystique. In terms of diving there are many options, as the area includes four different countries within close proximity, all with a stretch of Red Sea coastline - namely Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, though it’s much more straightforward to visit the first three. On the southeastern side of the Sinai is the resort and diving hub of Sharm el Sheikh and Na’ama Bay, where it’s possible to book dayboats to nearby reefs such as Jackson and Woodhouse in the Straits of Tiran, or Jackfish Alley and the spectacular Ras Mohammed to the south, and even further flung long days out to the famous wreck of the Thistlegorm. Alternatively, you can head out to more-remote dive sites in the general area on a liveaboard. As inexperienced divers back in 1998, we gained experience on the daily boat dives and revelled in our first wreck penetration on the wreck of the Thistlegorm. Eleven years later in 2009, we enjoyed a great liveaboard week from Sharm, visiting some sites visited by the dayboats as well as more distant reefs such as Abu Nuhas, where the excellent Giannis D, Chrisoula K and Carnatic wrecks can be dived. Sharm is also the entry point for the dive spots of Dahab,
Dive guide craziness
BEYOND THE RED SEA
Though your main reason for visiting the Red Sea might be diving, there are also other experiences and excursions that are worth considering. From Hurghada, it’s possible to visit Cairo. Among the top five are the Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, the stepped pyramid of Saqqara, the ancient city of Memphis, the Kan El Khalily bazaar and the Egyptian Museum featuring treasures and artefacts from the Pharaonic dynasties, including Tutankhamun’s burial mask. From Roots Dive Camp, we chose to visit the ancient and historic city of Luxor, which is located on the Nile. To get there, the Roots team organised a driver to pick us up early for the drive due west across the desert. Though a long day, we were able to take in the Temple of Karnak, a papyrus factory and gallery, a drive past of the Temple of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, an alabaster factory, Quenn Hatchepsut’s Temple, the Colossi of Memnon and a short boat trip on the Nile itself to a secluded plantation for a fruit and drink stop. For visitors to the Sinai, it’s possible to visit St Catherine’s Monastery and trek Mount Sinai, where popular belief tells of the prophet Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, though the precise location of ‘Mount Sinai’ is disputed by scholars. If visiting Aqaba in Jordan, there are day trips to Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and the incredible and unmissable Petra (the Rose Red City), while across the border in Israel, it’s easy to visit Masada, the Judean Desert and Dead Sea health spas at locations such as Ein Gedi.
Shore and boat diving is possible
Nuweiba and Taba further up the Gulf of Aqaba on the Egyptian Sinai. In the recent past, we enjoyed a visit to Dahab, visiting the Blue Hole, a range of reef sites dived from shore using minibuses and pick-ups and also some boat diving. Additionally, there’s some productive seagrass beds, even in front of the town itself where seahorses and ghost pipefish are possible. Sadly, all the areas north of Sharm itself are currently in the ‘do not visit’ list of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. At the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba are the Israeli and Jordanian Red Sea coasts. Neither country boasts huge tracts of Red Sea, but what they do have offers good diving. Way back in 1997, we enjoyed our first-ever foreign dive trip, basing ourselves at the Israeli town of Eilat following a recommendation from our dive instructor, who’d recently certified us. We enjoyed our first taste of diving in clear warm water at easy sites such as Moses Rock, seeing moray eels, scorpionfish, lionfish and a myriad of reef inhabitants for the first time. Though we’ve not dived the Jordanian part of this area, it is reputed to be good, with a range of good reefs and wrecks to tempt divers (Ed – I can confirm Aqaba has some great diving, including a C-130 Hercules, the Cedar Pride wreck and coral reefs teeming with marine life). Over on the eastern side is Saudi Arabia, which I’ll describe further on in the feature.
The Cuff family and guide at The Rock
Most wrecks are festooned in coral growth
Returning to the dive boat
THE EGYPTIAN MAINLAND COAST
Soft coral heaven
The Egyptian coast, on the mainland of the African continent, has a lot of diving options, from resort-based dayboat diving, more simplistic and rustic dive camps, and choices of liveaboard. In the north are the resort areas of Hurghada and El Gouna, where many international hotel chains have set up shop. From here, there’s plenty of options for dayboat diving, which visit areas such as Giftun and Gubal Islands. Back in 1999, a year after our first Red Sea visit, we tried Hurghada. It was popular then, and remains so today. Heading south are the towns of Safaga and El Quseir, both of which offer diving with some nearby tourist hotels offering acceptable levels of accommodation, even though the towns themselves are pretty basic. In 2015, we visited the excellent Roots Dive Camp north of El Quseir, which we really enjoyed. At this clean, welcoming and friendly dive camp, we went back to nature and visited a variety of dive sites from both shore and using local boats, and I even went out to the excellent Abu Kufan reef on a full day from Safaga (the Roots team arranged the transfer). Visits to the Red Sea favourite of Elphinstone, where oceanic whitetips are regularly seen, can also be arranged from here. Further south again is Marsa Alam and Port Ghalib, where again there’s shorebased diving possible as well as liveaboards. We had a great week on an itinerary visiting St John’s, Fury Shoals and Abu Dabbab back in 2008, where we enjoyed fantastic underwater scenery in brilliant conditions.
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Inside the Carnatic wreck
THE DEEP SOUTH (WESTERN SIDE)
Down in the deep south are Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti. There are liveaboards that visit areas of the Sudanese Red Sea, and to dive there is to see the Red Sea in its most pristine and unvisited. These trips tend to be for experienced divers and will cost more than the areas that are easier to reach. Eritrea is even less known than Sudan, though there are areas reputed to be excellent, such as the Dahlak Archipelago, however there is very little infrastructure currently. Along the Eritrean coast, there must be countless stunning dive sites awaiting discovery. Perhaps the occasional exploratory trip may visit the area – it’d be a very interesting thing to do. Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa, in the area where the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden meet. In terms of diving, it’s known for the seasonal gatherings of whalesharks that can be encountered between October and February. Though I haven’t done this trip, I know others who have and rated it highly as an experience. Red Sea anemonefish
Topside is equally intriguing
THE EAST COAST
On the eastern side, there’s Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Due to the current civil war and instability, Yemen is off-limits, but Saudi Arabia, with its vast coastline, is an interesting prospect. Back in 2001, we visited Saudi Arabia, diving with the Jeddahbased Desert Sea Divers, who were very good. In writing this feature, I checked and found that they are still operating, so divers wishing for something different might be interested in considering it. There’s plenty of flights to Jeddah from the UK. For our trip, the bureaucracy surrounding our visit was a bit of a palaver, involving us having to visit the Saudi embassy in London with our marriage certificate and an ‘invitation to visit the country’ from the dive centre in order to get the necessary visas. I doubt if much has changed, but anyone wishing to do it would have to check on the current entry requirements. Divers that do visit will be rewarded with excellent reef and wreck diving without the crowds, with the Ann Ann wreck being a superb dive (as good as any of the Abu Nuhas wrecks).
Way back in 1997, we enjoyed our first-ever foreign dive trip, basing ourselves at the Israeli town of Eilat following a recommendation from our dive instructor 66
Diving from a tender on a liveaboard
So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to do eight Red Sea trips (and counting). For newbie divers, a visit can inspire a diving odyssey that can last a lifetime, and for experienced divers, it’s clear why they return time and time again. When you ‘see red’ for the first time, it’s magical, and you’ll probably want to go back. And there’s plenty of choices. n
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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY BACKGROUNDS OR NEGATIVE SPACE IN MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY Following his last article on getting the exposure right, Martyn Guess provides some tips on how we can all improve our macro photography by paying attention to the background or negative space PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTYN GUESS
n any type of photography, we need to be aware of the background behind the subject – the picture of the lamp post behind your loved one’s head comes to mind! It is important that we deal with the background behind the subject, in a positive and creative way, and to take control. The background or negative space behind the subject can make the picture a good picture or a bad one (see picture of the Rosie Frogfish in image 1, where the subject is blending in with the background and the picture is a little confusing). The common mistake is to capture the image with the camera pointing towards the reef and to light the whole scene. A distracting background like this overpowers the image and dilutes the impact of the subject. Separating the subject from the background will make it stand out and lift the image (Image 2 - see the image of the same frogfish as in image 1, but this time lit carefully with a snoot (narrow beam of light) to hide the complicated reef background). There are many lighting techniques we can use to achieve this separation and which I have covered in an earlier article on macro lighting. Image 1 – Rosie Frogfish with unsightly and confusing background
Image 2 – Same Rosie Frogfish Snoot lit giving the image impact
These include: Snoot lighting – where a snoot is attached to the strobe and a very narrow beam of light is emitted – more on this later. Cross lighting – where the strobes are pointed at each other in front of the camera to cut out light hitting the background and also help to create texture as it is a fairly harsh directional light (see image 3). Inward lighting – an extreme version of cross lighting with the strobes pointing back towards your head on longer strobe arms and out of the field of view. This is useful where the background is very close to the subject as only the edge of the beam is used – I remove the strobe diffusers to help give a sharp edge to the beam. Back lighting – where the light source is placed behind the subject and blacks out the background (see image 4) and is
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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Image 3 – Whip Coral Gobie – Cross lit
BIOGRAPHY: MARTYN GUESS
Martyn has been diving for over 30 years and taking underwater images for over 25 years. He has been very successful in National and International competitions and regularly makes presentations to Camera and Photography clubs and Diving shows as well as The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSOUP)and other underwater photography groups. Today he shares his passion and knowledge - As well as teaching underwater photography courses he leads overseas workshop trips for Scubatravel. Check out his IG account at martynguess_photography.
very useful where the subject is right on the bottom. This technique will create memorable and sometime abstract images, and work best with closed apertures and faster speeds. We can also take control of the colour of the background water column. Pointing upwards into the water column and using a fast speed will help to darken the background and slowing the speed right down to say 1/60th second will help you achieve a blue background (Image 5). I keep reducing or increasing the speed until I get the desired colour background. A very good method of separating the subject from the negative space behind is to use lower apertures and create a pleasing Bokeh or blurred background (see image 6). There are subtle differences between apertures, so try a few different settings on each subject until you get the effect you require by reducing the aperture a step at a time. Beware that as the aperture opens, the depth of field reduces and with a fully open aperture, the choice of focus point is critical – often Image 4 – Back lit y mess g hidin the eye of the subject Seahorse background or the rhinophore of a
Image 5 – Blue background behind Weedy Rhinopias created by using low speed
nudibranch, for example. As the aperture opens the amount of light hitting the sensor increases, so control this by reducing strobe power and /or ISO or increasing the speed. I sometimes use artificial creative backgrounds such as sparkly Perspex (Image 7) or even metallic scouring pads. These can only be used where it is safe to hold them behind
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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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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY Image 6 – Open aperture used to blur background and create Bokeh
MY ESCORTED TRIPS
Want to learn how to take or improve your underwater images? Why not come on a photo specific trip? These trips are meticulously planned to the best destinations at the best time of year where the conditions should be perfect for building a portfolio of great images. The workshops, which are for all levels of experience but mainly aimed at people with a few trips under their belts, include classroom sessions and presentations as well as in-water help and guidance, all done in a relaxed and non-competitive friendly environment. This year there are trips back to Bali in August for wide angle and macro photography opportunities. There is a Northern Red Sea Relaxed trip in November 2019 and again in July 2020, where the emphasis is on an open-deck policy with time spent on the same sites .There are also trips to Atmosphere Resort, Dauin Philippines in May 2020 and Lembeh Resort and Murex at Bangka in September 2020. Please contact the Scubatravel team or check out their website: www.scubatravel.com
the subject and not to touch or disturb the critter, such as a whip coral gobie with plenty of open water behind the whip coral. Artificial backgrounds work best with relatively open apertures. Moving the background closer or further apart will create a different look. Reflections are also a wonderful background if you find a subject close to the surface. When shooting be aware of the background behind the subject and look for interesting and uncomplicated negative space. I often swim around the reef looking for an interesting background colour – often a sponge - and then wait for a critter to appear to set it against. Sometimes by simply changing the angle of the shot you can find a more-interesting background or lose something which will overpower the image so look carefully around the subject to get the best angle of view. Coming back to snoot lighting, this is in my opinion one of the easiest techniques to use to hide a difficult background. A dive guide can hold the snooted strobe for you and direct the beam of light onto the subject. If using Image 7 – Black a buddy, reciprocate for them. sparkly Perspex used The Retra LSD snoot is for background one of the best that I have used, and it is easy to see where the strobe light will hit the subject as the in-built spotting light in the strobe shines through the tube and this can then be accurately directed. I set the strobe power to about 3/4 and then change the exposure by adjusting the ISO leaving the aperture fairly closed
Image 8 – Snoot lit Wunderpus Octopus with low speed to show background
at say F22 and the speed at the maximum the camera will sync at – in my case on a Nikon D5, 1/320th. I start with a lowish ISO and increase as needed. Check the Histogram after every shot to make sure that highlights haven’t been blown, as the snooted light is both bright and harsh. An interesting snooting technique is to lower the speed so that the background is darkened, but not entirely black (image 8) - this will give you a slightly different image. Generally, the snoot is pointed straight downwards for portraits of critters and will give great separation from the bottom where the subjects live. Remember, snoot light is very harsh as it is not diffused so is great for showing off texture, such as the skin of frogfish. When you next dive with a camera think about backgrounds and try some of these techniques to help your images stand out. n
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This issue, our panel of well-travelled experts explain how they prepare their camera systems for diving when they arrive at their destination, and what to do with it each evening PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIO VITALINI, MARTYN GUESS AND ANNE AND PHIL MEDCALF
So, you finally arrive at your dive destination - absolutely wacked out MARTYN from the journey! If you arrive late in the GUESS day, my advice is - go to bed and get up early to prepare your camera rig in time for the first dive. The most-important thing is to assemble and test everything when you are feeling awake and hopefully fresh. I see so many issues with people rushing to get their cameras ready when they are tired and inevitably something gets forgotten or worse, an O-ring traps a hair, etc. When you assemble everything, do it in the quiet of your room where you are not going to be distracted. Check the batteries and card in your camera. Set the camera’s time zone and time for where you are now located (useful when you want to check back what time of the day a shot was taken for sun position, etc). I then set the camera for macro or wide-angle depending on what I intend to dive with first, including the focus settings. I take a few test shots out of the housing with the appropriate lens attached, then start to put everything together methodically. I first put the camera in the housing and check the housing controls are aligned. Next on goes the port, carefully checking the freshly greased O-ring for hairs, etc. I then assemble the strobe arms and attach strobes with fresh batteries. When the cables are attached between housing and strobes, I take what is probably the most
The Test Shot to check everything including strobes are working
Set your camera to the new time zone and correct local time
Best of Manado
important shot of the day – you guessed it, a picture of my cabin or room through the camera port! I can’t tell you how many people don’t do this and then discover a problem when they go underwater! The last thing - if you have it, pump up the vacuum or if not check for bubbles with the rig placed in the rinse tank before you dive. Each evening thereafter is a simple process of changing the lens for the type of photography planned for the next day and change the strobe batteries and cards and check the camera battery. I see no point in trying to get another day out of your strobe batteries – they are the cheapest part of your dive trip! When all together, make that all-important first shot again. Happy diving…
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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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Before any dive with a camera, there is one thing you can do once everything is put together that will prevent a vast range of grief, embarrassment and anguish. The test shot. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Our ones are often pictures of tables in the saloons on dive boats, bits of camera kit, selfies or unflattering shots of each other. What the test shot does is show that you can get a picture from your set-up before you get in the water. If it won’t produce a picture or it looks wrong, you can fix the issue in the dry. Some problems can be fixed underwater, others can’t. A camera not being aligned properly in the housing will lead to a frustrating dive where none of the controls work and you can’t fix this without getting out of the water to open it up. The test shot can detect all sorts of problems from a strobe cable not being plugged in or even left in the back of the car on a shore dive, to a compact camera being put in upside down in the housing (this can be done!). Other classics include leaving the lens cap on the camera, not putting batteries back in, or putting the flat battery back in instead of the charged one - the list goes on. Taking test shots also allows you to get things somewhat set-up for when you are in the water. You can get an initial handle on positioning of strobes if you have them and/or your camera settings by taking a string of images before you get in the water. When the diving day is over, and our camera set-up is rinsed and dried, we’ll put batteries on to charge and then copy the day’s pictures from our memory cards. The approach we take to our photographic workflow is to use Adobe Lightroom Classic to copy our images from the memory card to a portable hard drive. In fact, we use two separate hard drives
ANNE AND PHIL MEDCALF
A toughened portable hard drive like this is a good option for backing up your images on trips
A typical test shot taken in the camera room on a Red Sea liveaboard boat
and create a back-up of the pictures as we copy them. We each The memory card slot on a lapto p is usually a quicker way to trans use one hard drive to fer images than wifi or bluetooth hold the pictures we are working with and the corresponding Lightroom catalogue file. The same hard drive also holds the back-up of the other’s pictures. This approach means we can clear the memory card for the next day and still have a back-up of our images in case something happens to one of the hard drives. Using a memory card reader or slot on a laptop is usually a quicker and more-reliable approach than the various wireless transfer options that cameras have to offer. Once the pictures are on the hard drives, we’ll usually have a quick review of them, normally with something chilled and alcoholic in hand while we plan out the next day’s diving and photography. When travelling we always keep the hard drives separate in our hand luggage so if one does suffer a mishap, we’ll still have all the pictures from the trip. When we are in a hotel room, they are the thing that we take the most care to make sure are in the room safe before we go out anywhere. Once we get home we move the back-up to a larger hard drive that is kept secure. There are plenty of variations on how to keep your images backed up, but this system works for us.
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30th November 2019 £1295 inc flights from UK
Relaxed Red Sea
Holiday highlights... Join Martyn Guess 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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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
After flights and transfers, I finally get to my destination, check in with the MARIO crew and unpack my dive kit – then it is VITALINI time to sort out my camera kit. Word of advice here - if you feel tired and had a very long trip, it can be a good idea to set up your camera the next morning. Tiredness can lead to mistakes, that can cause floods… forgotten O-rings being a big one! It can help to lay all your camera kit out in front of you as you unpack. Have you forgotten anything? It’s good to know before your liveaboard leaves harbour! To make the system easier to transport, I remove the housing, so the first thing I do is to reattach them. Then I clean and set all the O-rings and set the port I intend to use. Finally, I put all my batteries on to charge. In the morning I load the camera in the housing, put the batteries in my strobes and set the vacuum alarm on my housing. These devices give you peace of mind but are more effective if set at least an hour before you jump in the water. Never be complacent, always inspect and clean your O-rings regularly. Leak alarms don’t replace the basics of camera care. In the evenings, I only open my housing if I need to charge the battery, change lenses or download my photos. Otherwise
Corals and Caves on
I leave the housing closed. Every time you open it you are reintroducing the risk of flooding, so the less you do it, the safer it is. As for my strobes, I know that the batteries last about a day, therefore, every evening I switch and charge them. If I’m on a liveaboard I tend to keep the housing on the floor in the saloon so it is well protected. If I’m land-based, I bring my set up to my room unless there is a lockable camera room. Better be safe than sorry. n
Vacuum alarms give pace of mind but good old fashion O-ring care is still an essential part of setting up your housing
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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After unpacking my kit, I assemble the housing which I normally take apart to pack it
A dedicated camera table is a good place to keep your system. Set the housing flat so it will not fall or slide
Camera rooms are becoming incredibly popular in many resorts. They offer a safe place to store and set your precious photo kit
ESCORTED BY MARIO VITALINI
11th Sept 2020 ÂŁ1795 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 â€“ optional room grades available. Airport transfers are included.
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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
Marty McCafferty looks at a case where a diver encountered problems associated with, of all things, earwax
he diver was a 58-year-old man with approximately 150 lifetime dives. He had hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) for which he took levothyroxine daily. He had no other medical problems and reported being physically fit.
The diver and a companion were on vacation in the Caribbean and planned to dive every day. They had scheduled two morning and two afternoon dives each day. On their first dive, the seas were calm and current was minimal. After a site orientation and dive briefing, they descended to 20m for 35 minutes while breathing air. The dive was mostly uneventful, but the diver reported
minor difficulty equalising his right ear. He stated that it was not sufficient to cause discomfort or make him abort the dive. As he was removing his equipment, however, he began to feel dizzy. The dizziness soon became true vertigo (a sensation of spinning), and he vomited twice. He also had difficulty standing. The boatâ€™s crew placed the diver in the recovery position and provided oxygen at as high a concentration as possible. The oxygen did little to improve his symptoms. Once all the divers were back on board, the vessel returned to the dock. The crew contacted emergency medical services (EMS) while the boat was under way, and the EMS crew met them at the dock. Enroute to the hospital, the diver realised the vertigo was subsiding. When they reached the hospital, he was able to sit upright, and the nausea had resolved.
The hospital staff worked efficiently to evaluate this diver. They performed an electrocardiogram (ECG) and routine blood tests to determine if there were any cardiovascular problems. The doctor performed a neurological examination and found that the diver could walk normally without assistance. He could easily walk heel to toe and maintain his balance. His co-ordination, reflexes and motor function were all normal. He displayed no short-term memory problems, and his only complaint was muffled hearing in his right ear. The doctor examined his ears. The left ear appeared normal with no signs of barotrauma. The doctor could not evaluate the right ear because of impacted cerumen (earwax) blocking the ear canal. After irrigating the wax from the canal, the doctor was able to evaluate the diver’s eardrum, which displayed some minor redness. Removal of the wax had relieved the diver’s muffled hearing. All test results were normal, and the diver was released back to the resort. The doctor recommended that the diver not dive the next day as a matter of prudence, but said he could resume diving the following day provided he had no further problems.
It is impossible to state with absolute certainty what occurred with this diver. From the available information, we can reasonably speculate what may have happened. The body naturally produces cerumen, which is necessary for good ear health. Some individuals, however, are more prone than others to accumulate too much cerumen. This condition has little to do with hygiene and is easy to manage. It is also easy to not know that you have excess cerumen buildup until it creates a problem. The excess cerumen can act as a non-vented earplug. As the water pressure increases during descent, an air space may be between the cerumen plug and the eardrum. The plug is forced inward toward the eardrum, compressing the air space. This compression was likely the reason the diver had some difficulty equalising his right ear. The compressed air did not allow the eardrum to move easily when he was
equalising the middle-ear space on his right side. The cerumen plug can be forced deeper into the ear canal during descent. During ascent, it will probably not return to its original position (even though the air that was compressed will expand as the ambient pressure decreases). This can cause a pressure difference between the two ears, which can trigger alternobaric vertigo, a spinning sensation caused by differential pressurisation of the ears. The fact that this diver did not have acute symptoms at first suggests that the expanding air had a passage to escape through the cerumen. When the diver’s symptoms worsened abruptly, that passage had likely become blocked, and the expanding air then triggered alternobaric vertigo. During the ride in the ambulance, the diver experienced reduced symptoms, and he reported complete resolution of his symptoms, besides muffled hearing, when he arrived at the hospital. The expanding air most likely found a passage through the cerumen that allowed the pressure on both ears to be equalised.
This scenario could happen to any diver. Prevention is easy - consider irrigating your ear canals prior to leaving on dive vacations. Earwax-removal kits are available at local drug stores. You can also use a simple bulb syringe to flush the ear canals with warm, soapy water. As with anything related to your physical health, be sure to discuss this condition with your health-care provider. The crew of this dive vessel did the right thing in ensuring this diver got evaluated by a medical professional. If you have any symptoms or concerns after diving, do not hesitate to contact the DAN Emergency Hotline. n
Before leaving for your next dive adventure, make sure your DAN membership is still active. If it isn’t, join DAN, or renew your membership at: www.daneurope.org 77
verybody loves an adventure and each individual, no matter what sport you are involved in, dreams of taking that adventure to a certain limit beyond their comfort zone to feel that buzz, the adrenaline rush, a sense of overwhelming achievement. Just how far you take that adventure is up to the individual, but you don’t learn to swim just to dip your toes in the water! No matter the realm you seek to explore, there is a road of learning and experience you must travel before you can reach your destination. For me, it has always been the need to explore, to find those lost shipwrecks and dive deep where few have dared to venture. Strangely enough, they go together quite well. The best wrecks are usually found in deep water, intact and protected from the unforgiving elements of the sea. You can get the same buzz drifting over a canyon that drops away hundreds of metres below you as if you were standing at the top of a mountain, or making that enormous decent to 100m depth as the adrenalin kicks in just as you begin your freefall from the safety of an airplane. But what is probably missed by most people is the journey you need to take to prepare yourself for this moment. There are many divers in the world, a large percentage of which never really dive beyond 20m, a number which the sports diving world consider ‘deep diving’. Take the next level of training and you can increase the depth to 40m. Not bad, we are just now entering the zone where most shipwrecks worthwhile diving lay to rest. In the technical diving world, we have just reached the point of what we regard as ‘deep diving’ begins. Here everything starts to change - equipment evolves to provide redundancy, suitable to the task in mind and of quality; we have to plan the dive in detail, know every minute where we should be, what we should be doing; plan our gases, amount needed to complete the dive, what gases we need to breathe at each depth; how long we can stay at each depth, where we have to stop our ascents and what to do if something goes badly wrong. In decompression diving, problems have to be solved in the water, with an artificial ceiling there is no popping up to the surface to sort it out – that spells disaster, or even worse a possible fatality. Just like that freefalling parachutist, if it goes wrong, solve it now or don’t solve it at all. Either way, it’s up to you. So, the journey is long, there is no short cut if you want to join in exploring the Earth’s last true frontier. Were you aware we know more about the moon than the ocean depths? Incredible when you consider 7/10ths of the planet is covered by water. To begin, you need to get through the early levels of the sports diver training (open water and advanced) and then move onto the technical courses. You have to learn about the gases we breathe and understand how they affect you underwater. The impact nitrogen has on us (which is 78 percent of the air we normally breathe). Did you know we cannot breathe 21% oxygen (air) past a depth of 66m as it
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Deep diving A STATE OF MIND
Experienced technical diver Neil Bennett looks at the art of deep diving, and explains everything that goes into conducting a successful dive beyond recreational depths PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEIL BENNETT
Deeper shipwrecks are generally in better condition
Twinsets and stage cylinders
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As time and depth increase, the more narcosis will become a bigger factor, your senses begin to dull and the narcotic influence takes effect becomes poisonous (oxygen toxicity) to us, so we replace with helium to reduce the oxygen and nitrogen content, a product known as trimix, allowing us to reach the depths of well over 100m and beyond. These are covered by a set of courses known as nitrox, Advanced Nitrox, Decompression Procedures, Extended Range and Advanced Trimix. Five courses - that will keep you busy! Each course introduces new skills, more knowledge, more equipment and a lot, lot more diving. Experience counts for a lot. Did I mention it was a long journey? But each step of the way is fun, building on the foundations of the previous course, ultimately giving you the self-belief for the adventure you are about to embark on. So now I am ready, I am sitting on the side of the boat. The time for idle chat has gone and I am running the dive plan through my mind. Refreshing the depth times and tasks to be performed, making sure my dive slate is clear on my forearm to see. Systems check - back-mounted twinset for my bottom breathing gas are open and working. My travel gas is on and ready, mounted under my left arm. My two decompression gases of different oxygen mixes are clearly labelled and ready under my right arm - that’s five cylinders in total! Main computer set correctly and working, back-up computer set and working, main umbilical torch working, back-up light working, main surface maker buoy and line stowed correctly, back-up buoy and reel stowed correctly, spare mask stowed, main knife reachable, back-up knife stowed correctly. Drysuit airline working, back-up BCD inflator hose stowed correctly and I haven’t even checked the camera system yet! Camera on, both strobes on, ready for somebody to pass to me in the water. Are we in the water yet?
Venturing inside a deep wreck
Splash, now we are ready to go. Not quite! Another round of checks at 5m with your buddy to make sure nothing is missing or air is leaking. I check him and he checks me. Now we are good to go. For me, recording what I am seeing is a big part of why I dive, almost duty bound to pass on the experience to others, but the preparation itself is difficult to convey. The mental process you need to go through in planning. Nobody sets my gear up, only me. Like packing your own parachute - if I mess up it’s my fault; if you screw up I’ll come back and haunt you! As we start to drop through the water column you can feel your heart beat increase in anticipation of the dive, excited by the drop-off into the abyss. We are descending 100m so the plan time just to freefall is approximately three minutes. At 50m we are changing from our travel gas and onto our bottom gas. As time and depth increase, the more narcosis will become a bigger factor, your senses begin to dull and the narcotic influence takes effect. Your senses kick into auto mode and you start to run the routine you have trained on so many times before; check the time – where should I be – what
Deep wreck penetration
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gas should I be breathing – are we on plan? All good, touch down, we have reached our target and now I must do the job I have come to do. I have a pre-planned list of images to try and take, but the difficulty is you don’t know what the subject, the shipwreck, will be like until you are there. Too dark, murky and just boring broken chunks of metal, so you have to get the perspective you need and direct your buddy into the film set in a vain hope the audience can see and understand what you are showing them. But we have a problem; my buddy is suffering from narcosis too! So the pantomime of two divers dancing around the shipwreck unfolds as they both attempt to communicate what is required. Our 20 minutes bottom time is soon over, no one last photo opportunity, time is time and once the plan says up, that’s it! And so begins the long, slow process of surfacing. Preforming Donating the long hose
So, the journey is long, there is no short cut if you want to join in exploring the Earth’s last true frontier ultimate buoyancy control and checking your ascent speed. Halting at each planned micro-bubble and decompression stop. Each getting longer than the previous one. At 50m, switch back to the travel gas, at 20m, change to the first deco gas, then finally at 3m onto the 100 percent oxygen mix. Breathe any one of these at the wrong depth for too long then it could be all over in an instance. The plan now needs to be followed without deviation. Times, depths and correct gas use are critical for safety! The camera has long been stowed away and now is replaced with the surface marker buoy, as it is inflated and sent off to the surface. Each movement towards the surface requires the line to be reeled in to remove the danger of entanglement and at the same time, still controlling your buoyancy, making sure you’re on the right gas, monitoring your depth and time if you are on the 100 percent oxygen, no deeper than 6m otherwise game over! Exploring a deep wreck
The 3m stop lasts forever, at these bottom depths don’t be surprised if you have to float there for well over one to two hours; all for a 20-minute bottom time. Finally, you reach the surface and the sense of achievement is massive. You’ve been forced to be in silence for several hours and now you just want to talk! Everyone wants their story out, all the things they saw during the dive and what tribulations they had on their adventure. You are left with this smile on your face knowing that you have been somewhere and seen something few other people have witnessed on this planet and probably in time too. You know you are indeed a privileged person, having got there by your own ability and fortitude, all built on a platform of sound training. n If you would like to know more about technical diving, visit the website: www.nzdiving.co.nz
MARES AVANTI PURE (SRP: £58)
The Avanti Pure fins are manufactured using two materials – a soft and comfortable rubber for the foot pocket, and a lightweight and responsive technopolymer for the blade. The structure of the blade is the same as the Avanti HC, just shorter, which results in an unbeatable effort-to-thrust ratio. The superior comfort of the foot pocket is excellent for extended periods, without causing pain in the feet, and antislip ribbing in the heel area improves grip on the sole. The bungee-heel pad system offers a series of innovations that deliver optimal use with improved efficiency in the fin, and unparalleled comfort through the heel reinforcement pad that alleviates pressure on the Achilles tendon. The Pure is available in two versions, with different colours for the retail and rental markets. www.mares.com 82
AQUA LUNG BALI 3MM (SRP: £112)
The Bali suit (available in male and female cuts) is designed for warm-water diving and its thoughtful features – such as the flatlock stitching and V-shaped collar – give it additional comfort. Printed designs and panels help the Bali resist abrasion, to keep your suit looking good, but also have a deeper meaning – they are based on a photograph taken of a coral reef in Flores, Indonesia, by Martin Colognoli, cofounder of Coral Guardian (www.coralguardian.org), which works to preserve coral reefs in Indonesia and has been an Aqua Lung partner since 2013. It is eco-friendly not just in looks, either – it is made from 3mm non-petroleum-based neoprene. It also has O-ring seals at the wrists and ankles to limit water entry, and Supratex knee panels that offer excellent abrasion resistance. An optional hood matches the suit for when water temps need that bit more insulation, and there is a hook on the right thigh for attaching the hood when you are out of the water. www.aqualung.com/uk WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
FOURTH ELEMENT SHARK INVESTED T-SHIRT (SRP: £29.95)
Shark finning is a business, driven by consumerism and greed. All over the world, there are humans profiting from the sale of shark fins either directly or indirectly. The real sharks are those on land, and if we don’t act fast, perhaps they will soon be the only ones left. Hand-printed with water-based inks on 100 percent organic cotton, and packaged without plastic, with each purchase of one of these crew-necked T-shirts, Fourth Element will donate £3 to Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation. www.fourthelement.com
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SEALIFE SEA DRAGON MINI 1000F (SRP: £165)
SeaLife has introduced the Sea Dragon Mini 1000F light. Featuring 1,000 lumens, the compact imaging and dive light offers users tremendous brightness and a wide 130 degree beam. It can be handheld, or mounted to an arm or camera adaptor with its included YS-adapter mounting accessory kit. All light functions are easily accessible with one-handed operation, to cycle through five light modes – full power, half power, quarter power, one-second flash signal, and emergency SOS signal. The light’s power and mode button also features a battery charge level indicator, which illuminates from green, to amber, to red when the battery’s charge is depleted. It is depth-rated to 100m, and will give 65 minutes of runtime at full power from the included 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery. www.sealife-cameras.com
FOURTH ELEMENT MINI-GULPER (SRP: £29.95)
Nanight has released a feature that allows charging of their dive light without disassembling it. “We want it to be easy to use our products”, said Ulf Backudd, R&D Manager at Nanight. “Our new connector makes charging really smooth, and reduces the risk of wear and tear. The connector is sealed with a bayonet-locked lid and the depth rating is 500m.” The charging port is available as an option for all Nanight torches. Divers already in possession of a Nanight light can upgrade their product with the new device. www.nanight.se WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
Designed in a smaller, moreeveryday 500ml size, the MiniGulper is more than just a trusty alternative to the single-use plastic bottle. Stainless-steel double wall vacuum insulation means that iced drinks stay cool for up to 24 hours and a hot drink will stay that way for up to 12 hours. Every time you refill this bottle instead of buying bottled water (look out for refill stations cropping up everywhere), you are helping to reduce the production of plastic waste, which may end up in landfill or our oceans. The versatile lid means you can drink on the go thanks to the twist and sip valve, and the wide aperture makes filling and cleaning quick, simple and spill-free. www.fourthelement.com 83
MARES SILVER KNIGHT AND BLUE BATTLE | SRP: £489 Mark Evans: Backplate-and-wing combinations are becoming all the rage for single-cylinder divers. With the likes of RAID training beginners in such set-ups, along with a long-hose regulator, it is no longer seen as being a ‘techie’ thing. However, I still maintain a lot of people like using a backplate-and-wing on a single cylinder as it does make them feel like they are somewhat above the norm. I have been a firm fan of backplate-and-wing combinations for a long time, especially for travelling. You can’t beat having something stripped back to basics to keep your luggage weight down. Plus, I find being unencumbered around your front much more comfortable than being smothered by a jacket BCD. And finally, having all the gas in the wing on the back means you naturally fall into that classic trim position that everyone strives for! Mares have been in on the backplate-and-wing scene from the beginning, and the Silver Knight - or its limitededition blue-camo version, the Blue Battle - is a robust and well-made piece of kit. The backplate itself is made from 3mm aluminium, and it is then kitted out with a standard ‘unbroken’ webbing
MARES SILVER KNIGHT AND BLUE BATTLE | SRP: £489
harness that is equipped with five 6mm aluminium D-rings (two at the shoulders, two on the hips, and a crotch ring) and an aluminium buckle. The wing is a single tank donut bladder with twin efficient rear pull dumps and a nifty power inflator that has a nice heft in your hand. It proved itself more than capable in UK waters, as Tom Pimblett found out when he stepped in to be my buddy at Vivivan Dive Centre, but it is equally at home in the tropics. If you don’t like wearing a weightbelt, there are optional dumpable weight pockets that can be attached to the webbing waist strap. In and out of the water, it is very comfortable, and once submerged, it does hold you in a nice trim position. However, it is easy to roll around and get into different positions without feeling like it is trying to force you back into the classic ‘skydiver’ position. The power inflator is comfortable in a gloved hand, and the stainless steel buttons have a nice feel to them. It is efficient, and pumps air in at a good rate. Similarly, the twin pull dumps on the bottom of the bladder work well, venting extremely quickly when you need them to. The backplate is a very arty design - you could strip the straps and bladder off it and put it on your wall! - but it is also purposeful, and it threads the strap and the tank bands in the optimum positions. The standard Silver Knight is a great backplate-andwing combo, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, you can’t beat the Blue Battle, which is the same price. We loved the blue camouflage finish, and the anodised blue aluminium buckle and D-rings were just beautiful. However, if you want the latter, don’t hang about, as it is a limited edition, and once they’re gone, they’re gone! www.mares.com
by Aqua Lung Ocean Ambassador Alicia Ward @SeeThroughSea
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capability to sync with our free DiverLog+ App • app allows you to manage your dive data, computer settings, and share favourite dives and photos to social media • 4 operating modes – Air, Nitrox, Gauge, and Free Dive • User-changeable standard battery allows for easy changes while retaining your data
OCEANIC VEO 4 | SRP: £249.95
Mark Evans: Oceanic has launched its Veo 4 computer, which can either be wrist-mounted (as reviewed here, and the preferred form for European divers) or in a console (which the Americans still adore). It is a nice, straightforward unit, with just two push buttons for navigation, but it boasts plenty of features. It is equipped with Oceanic’s patented dual algorithm, so you can select from the Pelagic Z+ (Buhlman ZHL-16C) or the Pelagic DSAT algorithms. It has four operating modes – air, nitrox, gauge and freedive, and is capable of handling up to three gas mixes.The large size of the digits on the analogue display make it great for those with, shall we say, less than perfect vision. The unit itself is quite compact for a wrist-mounted computer – Oceanic says it has a 20 percent slimmer profile than its predecessor, the Veo 2.0. The user-replaceable battery gives approximately 300 hours of use, and is simple to swap out for a new one. There is a handy SmartGlo backlight, the duration of which can be adjusted, and this makes seeing the screen at night as easy as pressing a button. The Pelagic DiverLog+ App can be downloaded at no charge from the App Store, and this handy tool not only logs your dives but also allows you to control and change settings on the Veo 4 from your phone via Bluetooth. Pre-dive you can select your gas mix and algorithm, set alerts for time and depth, etc, and then fire it across to your computer. After the dive, you can reverse the process, sending all the dive profile information across to your phone. You can then embellish this with photographs, videos and more detailed information. Everyone seems to be going for colour screens these days, but the good old digital display still has some legs yet. The digits on this one are crisp, sharp and a decent size, and the information displayed is very easy to read. The two buttons are easy to press even wearing thick neoprene gloves, and navigation around the menus is nice and simple. For the price – and its capabilities – it represents good value for money. And with the dual algorithm, you could buy this as a back-up to your primary computer and set the algorithm which is nearest that on your other unit. It comes in this bright yellow colour, or techie black if you don’t want to stand out. www.oceanicworldwide.com
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OCEANIC GEO 4 | SRP: £319.95
Mark Evans: Oceanic has several wristwatch-style dive computers in their line-up, and in its 4.0 guise, the Geo is looking better than ever. The ‘aerated’ strap – which is available in five optional colours (black, white, blue, yellow and sea-blue ) – looks cool and is very comfortable, which is important if you are actually going to be wearing this for long periods as an actual watch, and the main unit has been given a makeover. While it is wristwatch-sized and can be worn as a large sports watch during your day-to-day life, it has a goodsized display, with big digits. They might not be quite as large as on the Veo 4, but they are still plenty big and clear enough for most people. It obviously has all of the normal watch functions, but then it can also handle air and nitrox (up to three gas mixes between 21-100 percent), together with a gauge mode and a freediving mode. The menu is simple to navigate using the four buttons on the computer, and it has a back-light for when it gets murky or at night. The battery lasts for approximately 300 hours, and can then be easily and quickly replaced by the user, so no sending it back to the manufacturer. As with the Veo 4, the Geo 4 is equipped with Oceanic’s patented dual algorithm, so you can select from the Pelagic Z+ (Buhlman ZHL-16C) or the Pelagic DSAT algorithms. Also as with the Veo 4, the Geo 4 is designed to be used with the Pelagic DiverLog+ App, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store. This handy tool not only logs your dives but also allows you to control and change
settings on the Geo 4 from your phone via Bluetooth. Pre-dive you can select your gas mix and algorithm, set alerts for time and depth, etc, and then fire it across to your computer. After the dive, you can reverse the process, sending all the dive profile information across to your phone. You can then embellish this with photographs, videos and more detailed information. The Geo 4 looks good on your wrist, both as a ‘watch’ and when you are using it as a dive computer. It has more than enough capabilities for most divers, and it comes in at a competitive price. www.oceanicworldwide.com
APEKS VX1 | SRP: £69
Mark Evans: In the past, Apeks has had masks, but they have generally been basic products just branded up with the Apeks name. Now, finally, the company which prides itself on making top-quality, high-performing products has a mask that is worthy of that Apeks logo. The VX1 has a frameless construction, which creates a lightweight and low-volume mask which is easy to clear and equalise. What Apeks call ‘advanced skirt geometry’ is designed to minimise facial pressure points during long-duration dives. Matte and gloss areas on the silicone skirt create a better seal and improve fit and comfort. This might all sound ‘fancy talk’, but in reality, I can tell you this is one of the most-comfortable masks I have tried in a long time. I like single-lens masks, but in the past, everyone I have tried from different manufacturers has pressed on to my forehead. They just didn’t work for the shape of my face. However, the VX1 fits like a dream! There are quick-release buckles with stainless-steel rollers mounted directly into the premium, surgical-grade silicone skirt. This means you can fold it flat into a drysuit pocket as a back-up mask, if needs be. They are easy to adjust, with a one-touch button on the top - easy to use, even with thick neoprene gloves on. The mask comes in a robust zipped protective case, with a karabiner attachment on one end, and has a comfortable silicone strap, as well as an additional neoprene strap for those who prefer that style. The VX1 is available in two colour schemes - black skirt with a gloss-black insert around the lens, and a white skirt with a gloss-black insert around the lens. So, Darth Vader look, or a Stormtrooper... You decide. www.apeksdiving.com/uk
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Long Term Test MARES GENIUS
SEALIFE SEA DRAGON MINI 1300S
Mark Evans: The Genius is the latest full-colour dive computer from Mares that not only supports recreational air and nitrox diving, but also hypoxic and normoxic trimix gas mixes, making it their most-advanced computer so far. Four push buttons along the bottom of the housing provide easy navigation through the various menus, screens and settings. The Genius is packed with features, including INFORMATION Arrival date: August 2019 the ability to support up Suggested retail price: £711 to five optional wireless Number of dives: 0 transmitters. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins www.mares.com
SUUNTO D5 Mark Evans: The Suunto D5 has been used in the colder waters of the UK more recently, after its jaunts to the Red Sea in Egypt and Jordan, and that full-colour screen is great in lessthen-ideal visibility. The display is easy to read, and with the colour-coding you can see and understand exactly what it is telling you. The vibration method of alerting you to what it is doing is also very neat, and you can easily feel it through even a thick neoprene glove. www.suunto.com 94
Mark Evans: The Sea Dragon Mini 1300S is winging its way to me from SeaLife Cameras as we speak, and looking forward to giving it a first runout in Malta and Gozo next week. A compact but powerful dive light is a godsend on a dive - you can use it to signal your buddy, light up inside wrecks or under ledges/ INFORMATION Arrival date: July 2019 in caves, etc, and when Suggested retail price: £130 you aren’t using it, you can Number of dives: 0 stick it in your BCD pocket. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins www.sealife-cameras.com
APEKS TECH SHORTS
INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2019 Suggested retail price: £545 Number of dives: 34 Time in water: 32 hrs 25 mins
Mark Evans: My Apeks Tech Shorts will be accompanying me to Malta, where they will be used to stash a DSMB and spool, and my back-up dive light. It is just so handy having decent-sized pockets to safely and securely put your accessories, leaving them easy to hand. I used INFORMATION Arrival date: March 2019 to miss my drysuit pockets when I was in a wetsuit, but Suggested retail price: £94 Number of dives: 32 no more. Time in water: 31 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, and as he demonstrates here, it is exceptionally easy to get on and off. Jason has the KUBI Dryglove System factory-fitted to his drysuit, which is a cost option, but this makes it simple to attach and detach the comfortable drygloves to the suit. And the long metal cross-torso zipper aids with the donning and doffing of the Atlantic as well. www.drysuits.co.uk
INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 Suggested retail price: £1,560 Number of dives: 45 Time in water: 44 hrs 25 mins
AQUA LUNG AQUAFLEX Mark Evans: One of the things I like most about the Aqua Lung Aquaflex wetsuit, in particular the female version with the eye-catching ‘Galaxy’ pattern on the arms, shoulders and lower legs, is how good it looks in photographs. Often it can be a pain when you are shooting someone underwater who is wearing an allblack wetsuit, as it just absorbs the strobe light and it is hard to get any detail. The ‘Galaxy’ print just pops in photographs and adds an element of colour instead of just dull black. www.aqualung.com/uk WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2019 Suggested retail price: £260 Number of dives: 35 Time in water: 33 hrs 45 mins
Mark Evans: Luke Evans is looking forward to using his Apeks XL4+ on our forthcoming trip to Malta. It is so easy and simple to swap mouthpieces out with the reuseable clip - simply flick back the locking clip, unhook and remove, then the mouthpiece can be pulled INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 off, a new one popped on Suggested retail price: £409 and you are good to go Number of dives: 53 again. Time in water: 51 hrs 55 mins www.apeksdiving.com/uk
MARES EPIC ADJ 82X
Mark Evans: The Mares Epic Adj 82X has come to the end of its stint in the Long Term Test stable, and it has performed admirably in all conditions, from the cold waters of inland quarries to the warmer climes of Egypt and the Caribbean. I am a fan of the ‘motorcycle-throttle’-style Venturi control, and the cracking resistance control knob fitted to this reg works well. I also like the large pivoting purge, which INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 is easy to use with gloves. Suggested retail price: £545 A well-specced and highNumber of dives: 36 performance regulator. Time in water: 35 hrs 35 mins www.mares.com 95
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MARK EVANS RETURNS TO THE RED SEA IN SEARCH OF SHARK S, SHIPWRECKS AND MUCH MORE
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Dive Odyssey fused Atmospheric short film , diving and fantasy, elements of science-fiction a long run-time, the and while it didn’t have astounding. Stars work that went into it was a Smith take Andy Torbet and Gemm this us behind the scenes of epic production PHOTOGRAPHS BY JANNE
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LEARNING UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE RED SEA PHOTOGRAPHS BY KIM HILDEBRANDT
he month of June was all about gaining even more diving experience, and learning about underwater photography. And luckily, I got to learn it on the stunning coral reefs of the Red Sea – and just to give you an idea of what an intensive start into photography underwater it was, I logged around 60 dives in 24 diving days, out of which I maybe spent five without a camera in my hands! But as I had expected it to be like, I very much enjoyed combining my hobby of photography on land with scuba diving. Although I must admit I was terribly scared of flooding the camera housing, which Reef Photo and Video and Light and Motion support me with, right away! For this reason, I was very happy that Red Sea Diving Safari invited me to join their Photocamp in Marsa Shagra, which was led by Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield and Phil and Anne Medcalf. Although the official workshop consists of four different presentations on Lighting, Composition, Marine Life Behaviours and Workflow and Editing, which were really informative, I was lucky that Duxy, Paul and Anne really took their time to guide me through the basics in underwater photography in general. From setting up and caring for the equipment, to the specifics in settings when taking pictures underwater, to the cataloguing and editing of RAW files afterwards. The opportunity at RSDS to go diving on the house reef as much as you want, really helped me to get confident with the camera and a variety of subjects, which I could revisit as often as needed. Duxy, Phil and Anne also jumped in the water with me many times, and it really was helpful to be able to observe what they were doing, as well as being able to seek advice in strobe positioning and settings. Furthermore, I got certified as a Dugong Survey Diver through the Egyptian Dugong Team and Dr Ahmed Shawky from HEPCA during my stay at RSDS. Although I measured feeding trails width for determining a dugong’s muzzle’s size, identified different seagrass species and
used a laser measurement tool for dugong’s body size on turtle carcasses, I unfortunately wasn’t lucky enough to see a dugong itself. I guess that means I have to come back… After the introduction to photography on the RSDS Photocamp, I felt ready to join two weeks on the Red Sea Photo Workshop with Alex Mustard, which Scuba Travel invited me to. I got to learn about photographing a big variety of subjects, from wrecks, to schooling fish, to fish portraits, and it was an incredible experience to learn from not only Alex Mustard himself, but also all the other participants, who were all very happy to share their knowledge and skills. We dived the Thistlegorm as well as four other wrecks, and got to spend many dives in the National Park of Ras Mohammed, which was thriving with life. As I went onto two weekly workshops, I again was able to return to the subjects that I struggled with on the first trip, and it really helped me improve, as well as encouraging me to get more creative in my photography. Alex is a brilliant teacher and the Red Sea was definitely the perfect location to start. The abundance of marine life on the healthy and colourful coral reefs there make for great subjects, and as a megafauna fanatic, I was even lucky enough to encounter dolphins, many turtles, a hammerhead shark, and even a whaleshark! 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
Suunto Diving UK