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Why INDONESIA’S PREMIER marine park still needs to be on YOUR BUCKET LIST


Aggressor ‘Family Weeks’

ISSUE 24 | FEB 19 | £3.25


‣ Italy ‣ Solomon Islands ‣ Thailand WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

World of Aggressor™

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Swim with a lumbering whale shark. Snorkel with a majestic humpback whale. Dive through history exploring a WWII shipwreck. Aggressor Liveaboards , a division of Aggressor Adventures , offers inclusive scuba and snorkeling vacations around the globe. ®


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EDITOR’S NOTE WHO IS COMING TO THE GO DIVING SHOW? Exciting times ahead! It is just a matter of weeks until the inaugural interactive and innovative GO Diving Show at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry (trade day on Friday 22nd February, and consumer days on Saturday 23rd February and Sunday 24th February) and it seems like the whole UK diving industry is buzzing about it! Whether you are a veteran technical diver, a relative novice who is newly qualified, or even if you have never dived before but want to find out more about our awesome sport, the GO Diving Show has something for all of you, not least nearly 60 speakers across a range of disciplines! The Main Stage is home to our keynote speakers, including BBC favourites Andy Torbet, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Monty Halls, Canadian explorer and tech guru Jill Heinerth, professional mermaid Linden Wolbert, freediving legend Umberto Pelizzari and Discovery Channel presenter and Hollywood stunt double Mehgan Heaney-Grier. There are also dedicated stages for technical diving, freediving, underwater photography and videography, and dive travel, and there is even an Inspiration Stage where you can hear interesting and uplifting talks relating to diving. There are all manner of interactive elements at the show, including a 30-metre-long cave system, VR dives with sharks, seals and inside caves, an S-drill competition, a navigation challenge, trim machine, not to mention two monster 100 sq m pools for trydives, freediving sessions and CCR/tech trial dives. Some 80 exhibitors will be showcasing their equipment, resorts, liveaboards, charter boats, dive holidays, training and more, and The Next Generation section is aimed at keen kids and talented teens who are into diving. Check out for more-detailed information on what is going on. It’s £20 to get in on the day - with FREE parking - so represents excellent value for money! See you there!

Mark Evans Editor-in-Chief


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Why INDONESIA’S PREMIER marine park still needs to be on YOUR BUCKET LIST


Aggressor ‘Family Weeks’

ISSUE 24 | FEB 19 | £3.25


‣ Italy ‣ Solomon Islands ‣ Thailand WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


p001_ScubaDiverFeb19.indd 1

27/01/2019 07:32



8 News

22 Indonesia

A brand-new inland dive site in Kent, a research project with DDRC, New Year’s Honours for the Thai cave rescue heroes, and news that Japan is to resume commercial whaling.

28 Dive Like A Pro

Lena Kavender and Byron Conroy continue their Indonesian odyssey, this time spending time at Siladen Island Resort and Spa, and exploring the wonders of the Bunaken Marine Park.

32 Liveaboards - with the family in tow

This month, our panel of experts discuss what can be learned from making mistakes.

Jeremy and Amanda Cuff extol the virtues of the Aggressor Fleet ‘Family Weeks’, where kids are welcome too, and explain how they made trips with their son Zac so memorable.

58 Underwater Photography

38 Above 18m: Isle of Wight

66 Scholar

42 Q&A: Leigh Bishop

This issue, Anne Medcalf looks at the various different camera and housing systems available, and discusses the pros and cons of each.

Our-World Underwater Scholar Eric Jorda ventures back to Antarctica after securing a spot as a diver on another expedition.


Stuart Philpott braves seasickness and grim underwater conditions to dive the SS War Knight wreck, which lies in the shallows off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The deep-wreck explorer and photography pioneer discusses his mostmemorable wreck-diving moments, talks about how he got started, and chats about what the future holds in store.





52 Thailand

84 What’s New

Richelieu Rock in Thailand is an iconic dive destination, which had long been high on Stuart Philpott’s bucket list, but would his efforts to get there prove fruitless?

62 Italy

Jeremy Cuff enjoys exploring places that are somewhat ‘off-the-beatentrack’, and he reckons Ustica, off the coast of Italy, is a little-known gem that offers some of the best diving in the Mediterranean.

70 Ballistic dive RIB

British-designed Ballistic RIBs have a solid reputation in the leisure boating market, but now they are set to make inroads into diving with the launch of their luxurious but capable 7.8-metre dive RIB.

76 Solomon Islands

Neil Bennett waxes lyrical about the deep-water shipwrecks of the Solomon Islands, this time focusing his attention on the USS Aaron Ward, which lies in a depth of 70m.


We take a look at new products to market, including the innovative Horizon eSCR from Mares/ReVo, X-Core leggings from Fourth Element, De-Ox analysers, iDivesite strobe/video light combo, and orange Miflex Xtreme LP hoses.

86 Test Extra

Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans relishes going into cold water equipped with the Mares Active Heating Vest and Pants, and lights his way with the Finnsub BANG Spot and Wide torches.

94 Long Term Test

The Scuba Diver Test Team rate and review a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Shearwater Research Teric, BARE Ultrawarmth 7mm hood, Halcyon Infinity wing, and Aqua Lung Rogue BCD.


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)

NEW INLAND SITE OPENS IN KENT Divers in the southeast of England now have a viable option for an inland dive site with a decent amount of depth in the local area, with the opening of a flooded cement quarry in Kent known locally as the ‘blue lake’ because of the colour of the water. St Andrews Lakes, as the former quarry is now known, is located off the A228 in Halling, just two miles from the M2 and four miles from the M20, so getting there is no issue. The entire area of the multi-use development is some 122 acres, with the 70-acre lake the centrepiece. The project is in its early stages, but it is envisaged that it will be a nature park, with watersports and fishing facilities. Currently, there is a fishing lodge already in position, and the dive centre is operating out of insulated and heated temporary buildings. A sailing club is also planned. Future plans include a club house with changing rooms, showers, restaurant and more, and even wooden ‘glamping’ lodges and camping facilities. Scott and Niina Gillham from RAID dive centre SMB Diving – ‘Show Me Bubbles’ Diving – are managing the diving side of things at St Andrews Lakes. Scott is a RAID instructor and PADI Divemaster, and Niina is a PADI Divemaster. They have both dived extensively both in the UK and abroad,


and among other things have an interest in mine and cave diving, as well as ocean conservation. Scuba Diver headed down to the southeast to check out this new inland site for ourselves. The dive centre is now open for diving and open-water swimming – diving costs £17 for the day, and open-water swimming is just £5 – and Scott and Niina welcome individuals, clubs and dive centres. There is plenty of parking, and the temporary buildings that they have currently been assigned are spacious and warm. The main building serves as


a briefing area/classroom, and you can ‘defrost’ from a chilly dive with a hot drink and a chocolate bar, while behind are two changing rooms, which again are well-insulated and heated. Down at the water’s edge, there are kitting-up stations where you can get ready before heading into the lake. At the time, entry and exit from the water was via a shallow area, which then led into the main lake, but plans are currently underway to put gantries in place that will enable divers to just walk on these to the edge of the lake and do a giant stride into deeper water. Once in the main lake, the edge of the quarry drops off at quite a steep angle almost immediately, and at 18-20m, you come across the cab of a lorry. Further down the slope in deeper water, you come across the chassis of said lorry. Further on, in depths down to beyond 35m, you can find a yacht. Scott and Niina have linked all of the sunken attractions together with rope in a circuit, so even if the visibility deteriorates – and in the deeper sections when I dived, it was down to arm’s length – you can navigate your way around with no issues. There are plans to sink more attractions for divers, as well as some training platforms, but for me, one of my favourite parts of the dive was exploring around some of the boulders left over from its quarry days, and then swimming along the almost-sheer wall back to the exit. Here the visibility was much better, several metres despite it being a relatively overcast day, and it was quite

atmospheric to be doing a ‘wall dive’. It is always exciting to explore a new dive site, and St Andrews Lakes has all the ingredients to potentially grow into an impressive facility. The current buildings are only basic, but Scott and Niina have made them more-than-serviceable, and it will be interesting to see what it is like once the proper buildings are constructed. At the moment, there are only a handful of diver attractions in the lake, but as mentioned above, Scott and Niina are planning to add more in the future. The pair are friendly, professional and endlessly enthusiastic about the site and what it could become, and it will be intriguing to follow its growth through 2019 and beyond.



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9 12:00 22.01.19


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For more than 20 years, Dr Elmer Mejia of Honduras risked his life to treat the Moskito Indians who live on the east coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. They suffered injuries using scuba equipment to hunt for lobster – all to feed American and European markets. Throughout that period, Dr Mejia treated thousands of cases of Moskito Indians with severe decompression illness, including exceptional paralysis and incontinence. Often, Moskito Indian divers were carried into his clinic in Puerto Lempira, Honduras, and were able to walk out under their own power several days later. Most had residual symptoms but were not paralyzed. His treatment protocols fly in the face of conventional wisdom treating decompression illness, often beginning days after the injury with tremendous success. His success in many of these cases is nothing short of miraculous. He has patient records, case histories and in many cases follow-up examinations on each of these divers. Dr Mejia is working with two non-profit organisations - the DDRC in Plymouth, and the American Chronic Disease Registry - to compile his patient records in a way that his work can be analysed and used for extensive research. Donations will go to the Chronic Disease Registry, and they will distribute funds to the DDRC as they prepare the database and analyse the data for future publication. They will also distribute some of the funds to Dr Mejia to support him while he does the painstaking work of translating and recording the data. The results of this research will revolutionize the care for all injured divers.

THAI CAVE RESCUE DIVERS RECOGNISED IN NEW YEAR HONOURS LIST 2019 Get in touch with the SAA We would love to hear from you! T: 0151 287 1001 E:


Key members of the Thai cave rescue team have been quite rightly recognised in the New Year Honours List, collecting a host of richly deserved medals for their part in the dramatic extraction of the Wild Boars football team and their coach from the Tham Luang cave system in July. Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, the two divers who initially found the lost boys, receive the illustrious George Medal, while Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell will be presented with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Josh Bratchley, Lance Corporal Connor Roe and Vernon Unsworth were made MBEs. While many in the dive industry and elsewhere had argued that they all deserved to be given a knighthood, in actual fact, some of the medals that have been allocated are much rarer and prestigious. The George Medal is the secondhighest gallantry award, sitting just below the Victoria Cross, and is the highest that can be awarded to civilians, while the Queen’s Gallantry Medal recognises ‘exemplary acts of bravery’. However, as we’ve now come to expect, the cave divers were very humble in the face of the news. John Volanthen acknowledged that he appreciated his award, but that the most-important thing was that the boys were rescued, saying ‘I don’t think anyone could ask for any greater honour than being able to be a part of the team that returned the Wild Boars to their families’. Chris Jewell – who will be on stage at the GO Diving show in February – said ‘behind every one of the cave divers being honoured is a supporting cast of family, friends, rescue volunteers and employers’.



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JAPAN TO RESUME COMMERCIAL WHALING IN JULY In a move that has drawn criticism from conservationists across the globe, Japan has announced that it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – the organisation tasked with whale conservation – and will resume commercial whaling in July. Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after several species were driven to the brink of extinction, but Japan – a member since 1951 – has flouted the ban, continuing to hunt the marine mammals for what it calls ‘scientific research’, but still selling the meat, despite demand declining for many years. Even Japanese newspaper Asahi said that whale meat makes up only 0.1 percent of all meat sold in the country. The decision to resume hunting means that Japanese whaling ships will be able to freely hunt down species that are protected by the IWC, such as the minke whale. Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said commercial whaling would be restricted to Japanese territorial waters and economic zones, which means they will cease operations in Antarctic waters and the southern hemisphere, where they have been targeted by the likes of Sea Shepherd. Outrage at the move has been widespread. Even before the formal announcement was made, Nicola Beynon, head of campaigns at Humane Society International in Australia, said Japan would be ‘operating completely outside the bounds of international law’, and that ‘this is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for international rule’. Greenpeace Japan urged their government to reconsider, and warned it would risk criticism as the host of the G20 summit in June. Sam Annesley, Greenpeace Japan’s executive director, said: “It’s clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year, away from the spotlight of international media when the G20 summit arrives in the country in June, but the world sees this for what it is. “The declaration is out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures.”


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Coastguard teams and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) volunteers had been desperately scouring Loch Eriboll, near Durness, Sutherland, for a nine-metre-long sperm whale that was reportedly tangled in rope. It was first sighted on Tuesday 1 January, then again on Wednesday 2 January, and once more on Thursday 2 January. A BDMLR spokesman said that the whale was seen to be swimming very slowly, but they had yet to verify whether it was caught up in rope, or just injured or sick. Back in January 2016, a humpback whale was freed from fishing equipment used to harvest prawns in the same loch. The 12-metre animal was entangled, but BDMLR team members managed to free the whale and guide it to safety.



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Australia’s Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast were swamped by swarms of Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish in early January, leading to the closure of some of the main hotspot beaches. According to Surf Life Saving Queensland, there were over 13,000 stings recorded over the preceding week – which is three times more than the same period in 2018 – and some 2,600 people had to receive treatment just over the weekend. Despite a fearsome reputation, stings from Portuguese man o’ war – also known by the far-more-benign name bluebottle jellyfish – are painful, but generally not life-threatening. Applying ice or hot water is normally enough to counteract the sting, though some people did require treatment from paramedics. It is thought that unusually strong winds had driven the jellyfish into shallow waters and on to the beaches. However, Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin, a jellyfish expert from Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, said that while it was unusual to see such numbers at this time of year, given the abnormal weather conditions, which included strong winds and warm periods, it was to be expected that the jellyfish would thrive. Portuguese man o’ war are generally seen off the coastline during the summer months.

GREY SEAL FOUND WITH PLASTIC RING ROUND ITS NECK IN NORFOLK An animal rescue group has released distressing images of a grey seal on Horsey Beach in Norfolk with a plastic ring stuck around its neck. The Friends of Horsey Seals group managed to capture the animal – which they nicknamed Mrs Pink Frisbee – and it has been taken to the RSPCA centre at East Winch. The seal, which is estimated to be around four years old, will be nursed back to health and then released back into the wild in February. This was actually the second seal they have found with a plastic ring around its neck – in 2017, they discovered one with a yellow plastic disc on its neck that was cutting into its body as it grew. According to David Vyse, from the Friends of Horsey Seals, ‘Mrs Pink Frisbee’ was first spotted back in September, but it had taken until now for them to be able to catch her. A team of four volunteers had finally managed to capture her using special nets and a stretcher.


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EMPEROR DIVERS OPENS NEW MALDIVES RESORT IN RAA ATOLL The brand-new Emperor-managed dive centre at You & Me in Raa Atoll brings the number of resort-based diving centres to two, along with Emperor Divers Laamu, Gan (Laamu Atoll). You & Me in Raa Atoll is for adults only and perfectly set up for all things diving. Emperor is also managing the state-of-the-art watersports centre with a range of activities for divers and non-divers alike, offering everything you need for those watersports thrills; from snorkelling to jet skis, there is a complete range of watersports equipment and activities. This brand new five-star resort is opening 1 February 2019 and is just 20 minutes by speedboat from Ifuru domestic airport, or a 45 minute seaplane ride from Male’s international airport. Divers can enjoy channel, thila and wall diving for all levels, colourful soft and hard corals, sharks, rays and large schools of reef fish, mantas and feeding stations. Emperor’s Dive Centre is right on the arrival jetty with direct access to the lagoon. This is also where the dive dhonis (boats) leave for an exciting range of dive sites, which suit all levels of experience. For the more skilled there is wall and current diving with eagle rays, grey reef sharks, tuna, snapper, mantas and more. Guests can also opt for two-tank and full-day trips as well as a full range of PADI courses from beginner to professional level. You will find brand-new Scubapro rental equipment, aluminium cylinders, equipment room, rinse facilities and a teaching area. Emperor Maldives consistently offers value, variety, quality, service, professionalism, easy booking, local knowledge, flexibility and fast response to guest requests, as seen in the numerous five-star Feefo guest reviews. Guests can also choose from five, soon to be six, Maldives liveaboards for ‘further afield’ diving, where Emperor’s policy promises no hidden extras on board.


To find out more, why not visit us for Aptitude Day? Experience a Surface Supplied Dive, view the Facilities and meet the Training Team Please visit the website for more details 2019 Course Dates available 01726 817128 | 07900 844141


The mayor of Cambridge has died following a cardiac arrest during a scuba diving holiday to South Africa. Keen diver Nigel Gawthorne, who was 61 and on holiday with his wife Jenny, reported feeling unwell on Friday 11 January after surfacing from a dive close to Durban. Shawn Herbst, of Netcare911, claimed that other divers carried out CPR on Mr Gawthrope, but that tragically, his life could not be saved. Mr Herbst said in a statement: “Fellow divers initiated CPR while the dive boat raced back to shore, where CPR was continued by an advanced life support paramedic. Despite best efforts, he was sadly declared dead at the scene.” Cambridge City Council noted on its website that the mayor was an ‘experienced scuba diver and underwater photographer.’ Born in Leeds, Mr Gawthrope was just eight months into his term of office. He was a devoted charity fundraiser and his association with Cambridge children’s charity, the Red Hen Project, was something he was immensely proud of. He had been a city councillor for seven years and was first elected in 2012 to represent King’s Hedges ward and was re-elected in 2016. Councillors unanimously voted to elect him as Mayor of Cambridge in May 2018. Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, said in a statement on the Council website: “Losing Nigel is a massive shock and hurts us all at the city council, particularly his closest colleagues, and that is nothing compared to the devastation that his close and loving family are feeling right now.”


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IF CARLSBERG DID OCEAN CONSERVATION... Plastic rings around beer cans are to become a thing of the past thanks to Carlsberg. The beer brand is becoming one of the first brewers to do away with plastic rings in packaging, with the firm announcing that its beer cans will now be glued together instead. The move by the Danish company is said to be a ‘worldfirst’ and will decrease the ‘use of plastic to package products by 75 per cent,’ according to the Telegraph. Carlsberg claims that the blobs of adhesive bonding the multi ‘Snap Packs’ of cans together are strong enough to withstand the shop-to-customer journey, but also easy enough to break when twisted. The eco-friendly packaging, which has undergone a three-year development process, will be debuted in the UK and is being supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). When the new Snap Packs are introduced worldwide, Carlsberg will reduce its plastic use by 1,200 tonnes per year. Head of sustainability at Carlsberg, Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, told the news outlet: “It’s glued together so you can’t actually see the packaging. It’s almost not there, and that is what is extremely exciting from a sustainability perspective.” Myriam Shingleton, vice president of product development at Carlsberg, said: “It’s a global problem and we are very happy we are at the front end to propose that. “As always in Carlsberg, we will not keep this for ourselves. I’m sure other players will follow when they see that – and that’s a very exciting journey if more and more players are coming.”



Police divers who found a World War One medal in a Sheffield river have managed to return it to its owner’s family. The divers, who are part of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit, were investigating a murder when they discovered the British War Medal while diving the River Loxley. PHOTO CREDIT: SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE According to South Yorkshire Police, it belonged to Lance Corporal Stephen Smith, a man from Sheffield who died aged 23 at Suvla Bay in Turkey in August 1915. He served as part of the 6th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in World War One. After a social media callout, officers located the family and presented the medal to Stephen Smith’s greatnephew, Julian Cliff. PC Roger Bennett came across the medal when officers were searching the riverbed during a murder investigation. “I initially thought it was a coin, but as soon as I realised that it was a medal I was amazed,” Bennett said to the BBC. “We quickly made the decision to attempt to reunite the medal with Stephen’s family, and our research started within hours of us finding it.” Messages came flooding in from all over the world just 24 hours after posting pictures of the medal on social media – with distant relatives of L/Cpl Smith getting in touch. Julian Cliff was presented with the medal at Rotherham’s Clifton Park Museum, with 22 family members of L/Cpl Smith’s gathering for the ceremony. Some of the family had never met until the day. Cliff said: “At first I thought it was a hoax, but once things started to fall in to place I was so grateful that Roger and the team had decided to find us. “They went beyond the call of duty and they have brought a family together – most of us have never met before today.”


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MEDICAL Q&A Dr Oliver Firth has gained considerable experience in the field of diving and hyperbaric medicine since joining LDC in 2006. He is an Approved Medical Examiner of Divers for the UK HSE, and a medical referee for the UK Sport Diving Medical Committee. He is involved in the management of all types of diving-related illness, including recompression treatment, as well as providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy for non-diving conditions. He remains a passionate diver and has participated in various expeditions and conservation projects throughout the globe. Q: I have a recompression treatment question. Do you use different recompression tables when treating a diver with DCI, depending on what depth they got symptoms, or which gas they have been using? If someone has been diving on a rebreather or trimix, does that change things? A: Basically, the answer is no. Diving physicians select from a range of treatment tables, but the choice is rarely influenced by depth or gas mix; more by the clinical picture and severity of the symptoms. There are several different sets of tables in use, but the primary purposes of recompression are threefold: • To compress gas bubbles to relieve local pressure and restart blood flow • To allow enough time for bubbles to redissolve and be breathed out • To increase blood oxygen content and oxygen delivery to damaged tissues Success in achieving these three aims is largely independent of the depth and gas mix used in the accident. Over the years, countless divers have been guinea pigs to the fine tuning of the commonly used tables, and the protocols that have evolved are tried and tested in all sorts of diving accident situations. Some macabre research has been performed recently on rats, and the rate of recovery was the same whether they were treated with oxygen or heliox. So in this model there’s no advantage to using heliox to treat trimix DCI over good old oxygen. Sometimes, when DCI symptoms are very severe or not responding to the usual tables, deeper ones are used, and in these cases we often use heliox. This is because 100 percent oxygen at the depth of these tables can become toxic, so a 50 percent oxygen and 50 percent helium mix is used. Theoretically, diving on a CCR where


the pO2 is kept constant reduces the amount of nitrogen absorbed, thus lessening DCI risk, but treatment-wise the tables would be exactly the same. Q: Before Xmas I experienced six days of ectopic heart beats. For the first few days they were extremely frequent, up to ten a minute, gradually decreasing on the sixth day to an infrequent two or three an hour. I am 56 years old, and generally fit and healthy. My resting pulse is normally 45-50 and my blood pressure approximately 110/65. I have seen a cardiologist and all my blood tests have been normal. A 24-hour ECG monitor showed up a number of ectopics, but at a rate low enough to be considered normal. An echocardiogram was also normal. No explanation could be given. My question is this, therefore - do these ectopics have any impact on my ability to dive? A: The 2.5 billion beats a heart generates in an average lifespan are by and large regular as clockwork, thanks to the sino-atrial node, a little clump of cells that act as a natural pacemaker. Occasionally though, another bit of the heart tries to muscle in and fire off its own contraction; an ectopic is the result. Basically, they’re extra beats out of sync with the regular heart rate. The vast majority are harmless, but if they occur too frequently or in long runs, they can indicate a diseased heart. Reassuringly, your blood tests and echocardiogram were normal. Sometimes these ectopics can be due to excessive fatigue, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or other drugs, so have a think if any of these factors are relevant. But if your cardiologist is happy, then I think you’d be safe to dive again.


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28/11/2016 10:14


n the heart of the Coral Triangle lies the Bunaken National Marine Park. Well known for its clear turquoise water, warm tropical climate, pristine coral reefs and vast marine biodiversity, this place is nothing short of a diver’s paradise. My partner Byron Conroy and I have wanted to experience diving in this marine park for a long time, and we are certainly not the only ones to have this destination on our bucket list. We arrived at Manado airport in North Sulawesi after quite a few hours travelling from Iceland, where we are based. Our friendly local driver Michael from Siladen Resort and Spa (www. greeted us with a smile. During the short drive to the jetty, we found out that Michael had been with the resort for five years, and many of his colleagues for well over ten years, thanks to the great working environment. Next we boarded one of Siladen’s comfortable, spacious wooden boats. Just 30 minutes later we arrived at Palau Siladen, the smallest of the five islands situated within the Bunaken National Marine Park. This small island is built up


by limestone and sits right between the impressive Manado Tua volcano and the picturesque North Sulawesi coast. This unique location offers not only world-class diving but also some staggering views from the island and the resort itself, in particular during the evenings as the sun sets over the volcano. Luxury with a home-away-from-home atmosphere, Siladen Resort and Spa is an exclusive yet relaxed boutique dive resort in a lush environment surrounded by numerous fantastic dive sites. It’s built on flat land with rich vegetation providing lots of shade, making it convenient and easy to move around the resort without getting overheated by direct sunshine. Guests have the option of Deluxe bungalows featuring a private outdoor bathtub and secluded beach area, Beach bungalows or Garden bungalows, all which are spacious with

high comfort and are serviced twice daily. Upon our arrival, we were greeted and shown around the grounds by resort managers Ana and Miguel, and dive managers Romina and Galen. We already got the sense that our stay here was going be a very personal and inclusive experience. It was like we were already part of the Siladen family, despite it being our first day. This welcoming and embracing atmosphere is what really makes Siladen stand out. The whole team is incredibly friendly and makes you feel at home. It goes without saying that Siladen has a high percentage of repeat guests, many who come back several times a year. John and Tia, a lovely couple we got the pleasure to meet during our stay, travel from California to Siladen three times a year, spending a total of six months each year at the resort. That’s what you call a real ‘home away from home’!


Lena Kavander and Byron Conroy had always longed to pay a visit to the renowned Bunaken National Marine Park, but would it live up to their expectations? PHOTOGRAPHS BY BYRON CONROY


23 1 17/5/2018 14:27:43









Lena shooting anemonefish


Surrounded by over 40 world-class dive sites, you would think that evolution had divers in mind when creating this area. The islands of Bunaken provides great reef walls ideal for wide-angle photography. All dive sites are easily accessible from Siladen by one of the resort’s four private boats, all locally designed and purpose built for diving. Each boat has a shaded seating area, toilet, sun deck and hot and cold-water station. We did the first dive with our private dive guide Erin at a site called Negri, next to the Manado Tua volcano. We were lucky, there was literally zero wind, no current, the water was blue and 29°C warm, and visibility exceeded 30 metres. In other words, perfect conditions. It is not often you can look up from 20m depth and see white fluffy clouds in the sky above you. The wall itself blew our mind with the variety of colourful sponges, gorgonian fans, soft and hard corals, anemones and tunicates. An enormous school of yellow pyramid butterflyfish were swimming below us. Towards the end of the dive we spotted two giant yellow frogfish sitting at the top of the reef at 5m – a great place for a safety stop. In addition to the fantastic wall dives, this area offers some excellent muck diving full of fascinating macro life. We visited Bolung and Tiwaho, two dive sites just off the North Sulawesi mainland coast. The macro life here is astonishing and all a macro lover or macro photographer can ask for. I could hardly count the number of juvenile frogfish spotted during a single dive here, along with pink and yellow leafy scorpionfish, Ambon scorpionfish, ornate ghost pipefish, bobtail squid, long-armed octopus and much more. Our guide Erin was born and raised on Siladen island and amazing at spotting the tiniest critters for us, even at night time. Chilling after another great dive



Guests at the resort have the option of doing up to four dives a day. Two morning dives with a surface interval on the boat and snacks, fruits and hot or cold drinks provided between the dives, an afternoon dive, and a night dive or mandarinfish dive. I highly recommend doing at least one night dive at one of the muck sites - you will see an abundance of freaks and geeks in the dark. Great subjects for macro photos, or just for the pure entertainment of watching the nocturnal critters come out to play.


I think all divers can agree that doing up to four dives a day makes you feel hungry like nothing else, and the food at Siladen is worth a section of its own. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are included for all guests staying at the resort. Meals are served buffet-style, with a selection of food exceeding our expectations. With an Italian and a local

Indonesian chef running the kitchen, you will have a selection of both Western and local dishes to choose from. The dinners have different themes each night over a 14-day period. Every other Saturday, it’s pizza night, a favourite for many of the return guests (the perks of having an Italian chef). Other themes during our stay was BBQ night, sushi and sashimi, pasta night and local cuisine. The selection of tropical fresh fruits with every meal was phenomenal. Mangosteen, passionfruit, mango, dragonfruit, kiwi and watermelon, just to mention a few. Food is served on the beach just metres from the sea, a really nice setting.


A few days and many dives into our stay, I was more than ready for a visit to the Siladen Spa. As I arrived at the spa, I got to smell samples of massage oils and chose the delightful mango and passionfruit oil. The local therapist trained in Bali delivered one of the best massages I have ever experienced. The spa itself was beautiful and the air-conditioned treatment rooms were tastefully designed with peace and relaxation in mind.

Surrounded by over 40 world-class dive sites, you would think that evolution had divers in mind when creating this area 25

Safety stops are full of marine life


The island of Palau Siladen has a population of just over 300 people, of which 70 are employed by the resort. The resort takes great pride in working together with the local community through educational, clean up and recycling projects. For example, school books and educational material are provided for the local kids, and every month a beach clean-up is organised. All electricity on the island is provided by the Siladen resort’s four generators, which each day is connected to the local village. What a way to bright up everyone’s evening! It is clear that the locals have a true passion about conserving their unique environment, although they were still happy to share it with us. Refreshingly, the dive guides are not afraid of taking action if divers are seen being disrespectful to the reef or the marine animals. The resort is, each year, providing free dive training from Open Water to Rescue Diver for a number of people from the island. Some ambitious and motivated individuals have been provided with Divemaster and Instructor courses as well and are now working at the resort.

Shoal of fish so thick you can barely see through them

I highly recommend doing at least one night dive at one of the muck sites - you will see an abundance of freaks and geeks in the dark for any diver thanks to the fantastic biodiversity. In just a few days of diving, we saw everything from juvenile frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish and seahorse, to reef sharks and probably close to 100 turtles. Worth noting is that some dives might turn into drift dives as the currents can pick up. Therefore, it helps if you are comfortable with drift diving, or have some previous experience in diving with currents. We came to Siladen for diving, but actually got so much more. We made several new friends thanks to the genuine and friendly atmosphere. The food and the spa treatments added another dimension to the whole experience. When leaving Siladen, we didn’t say ‘goodbye’, but ‘see you later’. A big thank you to the whole team, and a special thanks to Ana and Miguel, who made us feel at home in their paradise. We will be back. n

Aerial view of the island

WE DON’T SAY GOODBYE, BUT SEE YOU LATER During our stay at Siladen, we had the pleasure of experiencing the very best of what Bunaken National Marine Park had to offer, both from a wide angle and macro perspective. I would highly recommend this destination

Dramatic wall

Macro heaven for photographers

Manado Tua behind the dive boat at sunset



This month, we ask our panel of experts about ‘useful mistakes’ – we all push our boundaries either intentionally, or accidentally when circumstances change. How do we learn from what happens? PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS


ANTD’s Tim Clements said: “Let’s be honest from the outset, we all make mistakes through forgetting something, doing something we should not have done, or trying something new that doesn’t quite work. These ‘mistakes’ can provide us with valuable learning about our capabilities, or the nature of the challenge we have set ourselves. The challenge we also face as professional educators is to ensure that these are safe and do not break the standards that underpin our agency. The same approach is valuable for sport divers, and we were all once sport divers, pushing boundaries and our own experience. There is great value in the idea that educators should still be advancing their own experience, as this not only gives them new subjects, but keeps their insight into student learning fresh, by being a student themselves. Admitting the possibility of failure is important and doesn’t always mean we should not do something, if we can manage the risk. “So, how do we stay safe when heading into territory where we know

we may fail? The first step here is planning. What are we intending to do? What can we see that will go wrong and how can we solve that? If it does go wrong, how do we ‘fail well’ and safely? This process will identify a host of actions or preparation that will make everything go better. The second step is to practice in safety, for us as pros, that means with our peers, without students. It’s an irresponsible instructor that tries to teach a new skill or technique on live students. In the same way, it’s an


irresponsible diver that hops in for a challenging dive in new or untried kit. “We can quote Donald Rumsfeld and his ‘unknown unknowns’ for the next bit. In the event of the plan not working out, or good old failure creeping in, our rescue skills and scenarios need to be just as well thought out AND rehearsed. This is where it really counts, so good preparation for mistakes includes acknowledging potential consequences and being totally well prepared. Listen to your built-in experience and intuition – if you have a feeling that something is not going to work out, stop and evaluate before it gets critical. “The subject of useful mistakes is huge – this is just the tip of the iceberg – I would recommend the Human Factors for Divers course from Gareth Lock for an in-depth education. In the meantime, plan well, stay safe and keep exploring. My personal motto, is that if I take a small step towards the unknown, I always try to make sure I can step back.” Dave Lock, BSAC’s Instructor Training


Group Leader, said: “All mistakes are useful to look at as you can learn from them and become a better diver. It’s good to have a post-dive review of what you did, what went well, where improvement is needed and what you could do better on the next dive. “Mistakes can range from ‘I forgot the batteries for my camera’ to something that can be life-threatening for yourself or buddy, such as not planning to have enough gas if a problem arises. Some have more obvious implications for safety than others. “Some mistakes can be prevented by better planning, this can revolve about more life-critical things, then the things that are an inconvenience. Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s best to be honest with yourself and your buddies. I know I tend to jump to conclusions and think that others have followed procedures when I should make sure that they have. “One incident springs to mind during the decompression phase of a 60m dive on rebreathers. My buddy showed me


their oxygen contents gauge, which was showing 20 bar. I connected my manual add-oxygen hose to their oxygen manual addition valve. My oxygen was supplied by the controller and we had adequate bail-out gas to complete our stops. My buddy added oxygen manually to their loop to sustain the level needed for their stops. We also had the rest of the team on the trapeze to supply gas if needed. The stops were completed safely and I reminded the buddy to breathe off their bail-out while awaiting the boat to pick us up. Once on the surface, the oxygen cylinder was checked and found to be barely turned on. Although there was no major problem, I had turned a simple solution into something much more complicated.” Dave continued: “Acknowledge your errors… Ask yourself tough questions... Make a plan... Make it harder to mess up... Create a list of reasons why you don’t want to make the mistake again. “Here is a list of ways to harness the

mistakes you make for your benefit. • Point us to something we did not know • Reveal a nuance we missed • Deepen our knowledge • Tell us something about our skill levels • Help us see what matters and what does not • Inform us more about our values • Teach us more about others • Let us recognise changing circumstances • Show us when someone else has changed • Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work • Remind us of our humanity • Spur us to want to better work, which helps us all • Promote compassion for ourselves and others • Teach us to value forgiveness • Help us to pace ourselves better • Invite us to better choices • Can teach us how to experiment • Can reveal a new insight • Can suggest new options we had not considered • Can serve as a warning • Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements • Point out structural problems in our lives • Prompt us to learn more about ourselves • Remind us how we are like others • Make us more humble • Help us rectify injustices in our lives • Show us where to create more balance in our lives • Tell us when the time to move on has occurred • Reveal where our passion is and where it is not


• Expose our true feelings • Bring out problems in a relationship • Can be a red flag for our misjudgments • Point us in a more-creative direction • Show us when we are not listening • Wake us up to our authentic selves • Can create distance with someone else • Slow us down when we need to • Can hasten change • Reveal our blind spots • Are the invisible made visible PADI’s Vikki Batten commented: “We all have different levels of acceptable risk. Make sure you know what yours are and that you (and your family) are comfortable with them. Understanding the risks involved in a particular dive means educating yourself both through training, diving and reading about diving. If you find yourself thinking


‘should I or shouldn’t I?’, ask yourself whether, if you died on that dive, your last thoughts would be ‘I knew I shouldn’t have done that!’ When you do make a mistake or push yourself too far too fast, admit to it (even if only to yourself), learn from it and make sure you know and practice what to do another time. Find yourself an instructor who challenges you, pushes you to improve and teaches you how to practice on your own outside of a course. If you are not already a PADI Rescue Diver, plan to take the course. It is often described as ‘serious fun’ and will massively expand your sphere of awareness covering self-rescue as well as buddy rescue and rescue management.” Garry Dallas, Director of Training UK and Malta, said: “There’s an old saying, accidents don’t just happen, they are

caused. Of course, no one ever means for them to happen on purpose, but we can all forget things, or maybe not entirely focused on what we’re about to do. “I’m sure all of us have forgotten a piece of important equipment prior to a dive, I know I have, but here’s a few things worth considering… “Pushing boundaries is not just about going deeper, or longer, or adding a stage bottle, that’s all physical stuff and many of us are capable. I’m talking about the added mental stress, multitasking and confusion about added tasks, due to lack of practice or training for the environment or equipment. “This mental build-up can also happen before a dive, even before you leave the house! Sometimes where we can overlook a piece of equipment to take with us. Then a little problem becomes a bigger problem, but not enough for it to take a step back, so we carry on, thus creating an even bigger problem, etc. This analysis of a diver’s basic behaviour is classic in ‘human factors’. “I see many divers doing buddy checks on themselves and not their buddy! Sure, when you dive with your best pal with identical kit, you know it, but what do you change about your system checks when you dive with another person. RAID instructors always train divers to know their buddies kit through a comprehensive buddy check, as they should already know their own. A common overlooked check is to breathe from your buddy’s regulator as they’re breathing from their back-up regulator, to check the first stage can handle two divers breathing from it, and you’re happy with the regulator breathe. “A good idea after a dive is to run through the dive again with your buddy, just to see if you could have done things differently, more effectively, felt better and less anxious, like better understanding of signalling, gas planning, better checks, dive plan or back-up plan. “Familiarity is not an excuse to disregard. This is how we learn and will help you improve yourselves and your safety for future dives.” n



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nyone with a young child (or children) will know that if you want to maintain interests such as diving, it’s not easy. You’ve really got to want to do it, and find a way to incorporate it into an already busy and hectic life. As we’ve always wanted to keep doing it, our way was to enlist the help of grandparents (usually Grandma) so that we can go away for a week or so, or get her to travel with us to longer-haul destinations. This was great up to a point, but didn’t really allow our son Zac to fully be a part of our ‘other life’ other than showing him images from our trips, looking at fish books and watching wildlife documentaries. That is until we discovered the Family Week liveaboards run by the Aggressor Fleet ( These itineraries are based on the normal grown-ups trips, but with a few subtle tweaks to make it more ‘child friendly’, both onboard and in the water. We started with the Cayman Islands and because we enjoyed it so much, followed it up with Belize and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Diving trips, and especially liveaboards, are normally the preserve of the grown-ups, but not with the Aggressor Fleet. Firstly in the Cayman Islands, then Belize and later in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jeremy and Amanda Cuff took their son Zac on the company’s unique Family Week charters, getting them all completely absorbed into the diving lifestyle PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEREMY AND AMANDA CUFF / WWW.JA-UNIVERSE.COM

Exploring the Keith Tibbetts

The liveaboard was a great thrill for Zac, with the steep staircase leading downstairs to our cabin along the narrow corridor, the dive deck with his own space, and the hot tub on the sun deck. Within seconds he’d laid claim to the top bunk and began making it feel like home as various toys spilled out from his backpack. We visited the world-famous Stingray City, where we watched Zac snorkel with one of the crew, legs kicking feverishly towards the melee of divers and rays. Then a ray eased within reach of Zac and it was a great moment to watch from beneath, and a great photo opportunity. He thought it was fantastic being so close to a stingray. Also in the Caymans, Zac would get his first opportunity to emulate a real diver, where he would attend the dive briefing and be shown how to kit up, check air and so on. He would then enter the water with a crew

There are wrecks a-plenty around the Cayman Islands


member using a SASY (Supplied Air Snorkelling for Youth) set-up, which is a self-contained regulator and tank, but for surface swimming only. With this equipment, a child can thus breathe through a regulator like a diver, check air and view the reefs from above, but without the snorkel filling with water. It’s a great step towards becoming a diver. We watched Zac perfect his giant stride entry and laughed as he begged

Zac on a SASY unit

to be given some weights. On one of his SASY dives, he went with a crew member on a DPV. On this trip, the usual format is to spend the first night and following day off Grand Cayman before making the crossing to the best diving at Little Cayman, where you spend most of the time, plus a visit to Cayman Brac, before heading back to Grand Cayman.







In Belize, most dive sites are combinations of spectacular walls, slopes and drop-offs cut with swimthroughs, fissures and overhangs that are adorned with sponges (including the gigantic barrel variety), plus a multitude of corals, gorgonians and other assorted reef growth. On the reef tops at some sites, such as Half Moon Caye Wall and Lighthouse Wall, there’s a maze of overhangs, gullies and ledges to explore, plus some interesting sandy expanses and seagrass beds, which are home to garden eels, stingrays grubbing for molluscs, the occasional eagle ray, jawfish, pipefish and possibly seahorses, though they’re incredibly hard to spot, try as we might. The Blue Hole is Belize’s signature dive, known the world over from the spectacular aerial shots that often adorn tourism and dive travel brochures. It was formed by the collapsed ceiling of a large underground cavern, resulting in the circular skylight that we see today. Around the world, there’s several ‘blue holes’ that can be dived, but Belize’s version is reputedly the largest. It was visited by the intrepid Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s, who brought this fascinating place to the public’s awareness and ensured its subsequent dive icon status. The dive itself involves an exciting freefall down the sheer wall into the black, to a depth of around 4045m, so it’s most certainly a dive to be taken seriously. At around 35-40m, the first shelf of the original cavern begins, where large stalactites descend from the ceiling. Divers have just a few short minutes to explore this unique topography before heading back up the wall. The kids had to watch all this from above. On this trip, Zac was in the company of three other children of the same age, and we can honestly say that we’ve rarely seen children so happy and in their element – free of toy shops, shopping malls and TV, just kids being kids, having fun together. It was a joy to behold. My friend Simon, his wife Tonya and son Thomas found this trip to be brilliant. The crew were great with the kids, often taking them off for dinghy rides while the grown-ups went diving. We also visited Half Moon Caye for a barbecue and nature walk. The island is home to lizards, iguanas, hermit crabs and colonies of nesting booby birds and frigate birds. The kids loved it.


Half Moon Caye

Rinse tanks for kids!

The Blue Hole is Belize’s signature dive, known the world over from the spectacular aerial shots that often adorn tourism and dive travel brochures

On this trip, Zac was in the company of three other children of the same age, and we can honestly say that we’ve rarely seen children so happy and in their element Having regularly checked out the Aggressor Fleet’s website on the lead up to the trip (the ‘Meet the Crew’ and ‘Captain’s Log’ sections), we were fairly certain that Lowel, one of the crew who looked after us on our Cayman trip and who Zac remembered, would be onboard. We arrived at Turtle Cove Marina early to meet the boat and settled into the nearby Tiki Bar for conch fritters and fish sliders while we waited for the time to board. The excitement of seeing the Aggressor moored up, getting cleaned, stocked and ready for our week, was too much for Zac, so we wandered over to see who was about and to his delight, Lowel was there. After all the divers he must have seen since our Cayman trip (when Zac was only six), it was nice that he remembered us, despite Zac having Man-made and natural attractions


Zac was now a proper diver

Huge vase sponges

grown a lot in the five years that had passed. He would say to Zac later in the trip ‘we’re reunited and it feels good’. We found the Turks boat very similar to the Cayman and Belize Aggressors, so the routines of liveaboard life soon came back to us. And as with all liveaboards, it has its own unique quirks and onboard highlights, such as abundant crisps and a ‘promise fulfilled’ of endless Oreo biscuits! By the time of this trip, Zac was qualified as a PADI Junior Open Water Diver, so could participate in many of the dives as a real diver. His new-found underwater competence meant that he could take part in the shark dives, which he really enjoyed, taking his GoPro to get some footage at the Rock and Roll site, as reef sharks cruised around him and a small nurse shark investigated the reef around the diver’s fins. On all three of our Aggressor trips, the crew were very friendly, encouraging

and patient with the children, and as a parent you felt completely relaxed about them being onboard, knowing that they were well looked after and entertained when you were diving. The crew film the activities of the week’s activities (underwater and above) and produce trip DVDs for anyone who’s interested. Our copies have been watched countless times by Zac, and it’s a testimony to how much he learned from the trips that were adventure, fun and education all rolled into one. In fact, these trips are among the most-memorable times we’ve ever spent together as a family. Summers to remember indeed! n


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02/11/2018 10:18

Even lumpy surface conditions and coffee-like visibility off the Isle of Wight can’t stop Stuart Philpott from exploring the wartime casualty SS War Knight, which tragically sank after losing many of her crew in a horrific, fiery collision PHOTOGRAPHS BY STUART PHILPOTT off East Dorset and Wight 1870-1979, which covered all of the local dive sites, and good news, there’s a new release coming out next month. This will be a supplement containing 24 additional wrecks. There will also be more photographs and information on the other wreck sites.

Linda inside War Knight’s chain locker



he Isle of Wight coastline is littered with World War One shipwrecks. SS War Knight is probably the most famous of them all. Her demise is steeped in tragedy and suffering, but there are also accounts of extreme courage and bravery. Dive boat skipper Dave Wendes has extensively researched the cargo ship’s history, becoming quite an authority on the subject. I made arrangements to spend a day out with Dave on his boat, Wight Spirit. The idea was to explore the wreck and gather some background information for this article, but things didn’t quite turn out as planned. I had managed to persuade diving friend Linda Faux to join me. Linda is one of the best tech divers I know, and she also makes a pretty good underwater model. I had promised Linda mirror-calm seas and crystal-clear visibility, but little did she know! The remains of SS War Knight are tucked in close to the Isle of Wight


cliffs. Lying at a maximum depth of 13m, the wreck site is suitable for both experienced divers and beginners. Usually divers explore a deeper wreck first and then visit SS War Knight as a second shallower dive. Dave Wendes was born on the Isle of Wight and started diving in 1969. He has been operating from Lymington for the past 18 years and is the only dive boat running between Lymington and Poole. Wight Spirit is available all year round for dive charters, even in January and March (during February the boat is cleaned and overhauled). Dave said he has the numbers for more than 200 shipwrecks and there are even some new ones not yet identified. Dave is a complete shipwreck guru. In 2006, he published South Coast Shipwrecks

The nautical town of Lymington in Hampshire is fairly easy to find. It is well signposted from the M3 or M27, depending on direction of travel. I preferred to take the scenic route passing through the New Forest and Brockenhurst. Dodging wild horses and donkeys clip clopping along the streets was quite eventful! Lymington offers a huge choice of pubs and restaurants. The same can be said for accommodation. I opted for some luxury staying at the Macdonald Elmers Court Hotel and Resort, but there are numerous B&Bs and boutique hotels to suit all tastes and budgets. Diving with Dave Wendes and Wight Spirit was a new experience for me. I spoke with old hand Chris Ringrose, who knew the routine well. Unload dive kit next to the slipway (being particularly careful not to upset the harbourmaster) and then carry onto the pontoon. Dave usually moors up a good 30 minutes before departure, which gives everyone plenty of time to drop off and park up. The Bath Road Car Park sits right next to the slipway. Cost is around £1 for every hour (£6 for six hours). If it’s an early morning departure time, divers can

I can now understand why this site is popular with dive clubs for training, or as a first wreck dive WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

contact or wander off the wreck site. Linda had brought along her AP Valves Inspiration and I was using twins with a nitrox fill on our first dive, SS Mendi, and then a single 12-litre filled with air on SS War Knight, as it seemed a waste to use nitrox. In hindsight, I probably could have got away with a ten-litre and still managed an hour-long dive.

Dave Wendes and his book


usually find a free parking space on one of the side roads. There is also a snazzy art deco looking toilet block for any lastminute pit stops (Wight Spirit also has a toilet). Après dive, the Mayflower pub resides directly opposite the car park. This is a huge family pub with garden. During the summer months, they even fire up the BBQ. Dave’s personal choice, the Fisherman’s Rest, is just a couple of minute’s drive from the main hum drum. This seemed to be more of a local’s pub, with small garden and free parking. Wight Spirit is an 11-metre-long Evolution hull powered by a single 500hp engine. Extras include an electric lift, cabin space and shaded area. Dave provides plenty of tea and coffee. His wife’s freshly made chocolate cake was an additional bonus. We had a good mix of singles, twinsets and rebreathers bungeed tightly onto the stainless-steel railings and there was still plenty of spare deck space. The boat is licensed for up to 12 divers. Cost for two dives is £45.

buoy and the wreck is not accessible from the shore. There was very little if no overhead boat traffic passing this close to the cliffs, so SMBs are not necessary. Dave said visibility varies from six metres plus to less than 50cm, tidal flow being the main influence. I would definitely recommend using a buddy line if guiding inexperienced divers or trainees in low-visibility conditions. Everyone should carry a delayed SMB just in case they lose

On 24 March 1918, in the early hours of the morning, a convoy of 18 merchant ships and six destroyers were cruising past the Isle of Wight bound for London. This included the 125-metrelong, 8,000-ton armed cargo steamer SS War Knight, complete with a crew of 47. She was built by Union Ironworks of San Francisco in 1917 and owned by the shipping controller (a government body managing shipping during war time). All of the cargo ships were carrying vital supplies needed for the war effort. SS War Knight’s holds were brimming with oil and foodstuffs, including bacon, lard and flour. Tanker O.B. Jennings, built in 1917 by Newport News Shipbuilding

Wight Spirit


Dave usually drops a shotline on the boilers. There is no permanent marker


DEPTH Max depth of 13m

EXPERIENCE Great for both inexperienced and experienced divers

MARINE LIFE The wreck is covered in marine growth


VISIBILITY Can vary immensely depending on the weather - from 50cm to five or six metres

SEABED Sand and shingle, with scattered remnants of the wreck, including the chain locker, boilers and engine

HAZARDS The site is close to rocks, so an SMB is not necessary, but carry a DSMB in case you wander off the wreck site


and Dry Dock Company, USA and her crew of 72 was also part of the convoy. At 151 metres long and 10,289 tons, she was probably one of the largest in the world. Her holds were filled with a highly flammable liquid called naptha. The convoy went on U-boat alert after seeing flashes of light and explosions in the distance. Standard protocol in these situations is to extinguish all lights and begin a zig-zag course, thus making the ships less of a target for enemy torpedoes. The lead ship HMS Syringa issued orders to alter course at different time intervals. With a convoy of this size it’s difficult to get a quick synchronised reaction from all the ships. Inadvertently, the convoy split into two groups. While attempting to re-unite the groups, there was a collision between SS War Knight and O.B. Jennings, which sent naptha flooding over the decks and onto the surface of the sea. Both ships were instantly engulfed in a fireball. Below decks on SS War Knight, Chief Engineer David Falconer’s quick thinking saved a number of crew members from the raging fire. With some help from the third officer George Brown, they miraculously escaped through a skylight in the mess room. Meanwhile, apprentice Reginald Clayton managed to open a valve which flooded the magazine, preventing another massive explosion that would undoubtedly have killed many more. In all, 34 crew were burned alive. Eleven survived, but two more died of their injuries later. Still ablaze, SS War Knight was towed into shallower water but struck a mine,

which led to further explosions and fire. The burning hulk eventually settled in Freshwater Bay. The crew of O.B. Jennings were rescued with only one fatality. The ship was then intentionally sunk to extinguish the flames, and re-floated and repaired some months later. Chief Engineer David Falconer and apprentice Reginald Clayton posthumously received the Albert Medal for bravery. Due to ‘red tape’, SS War Knight’s loss and the sacrifices made by the crew has never formally been recognised by the war office.


Even though there had been a long stretch of calm weather, the day I turned up an easterly wind started blowing. Dave had already forewarned me that easterlies created a short steep sea which, in turn, creates a bumpy boat ride. How bad could it get? Well, I should have listened to wise Dave. Golden Rule number one - the skipper is always right! Conditions were reasonable until we passed the headland and then it started to get very choppy. Even the sight of Dave’s wife’s chocolate cake made my stomach churn! Poor Linda was suffering the most, but to be honest we were all starting to turn an iridescent shade of green. We completed our first dive and then sped over to Freshwater Bay off the Isle of Wight. This at least provided some protection from the prevailing wind. An ominous-looking brown slick The vis was... challenging

Dave provides plenty of tea and coffee. His wife’s freshly made chocolate cake was an additional bonus 40

spread across the dive site. Dave had mentioned that the ebb tide would reduce visibility, but the sea looked like my mug of coffee. Visibility must have been less than 50cm with a heavy surge. Linda, professional as always, was running on auto pilot, swallowing rapidly trying not to regurgitate. We spent a good ten minutes looking around the bow area and I even managed to wedge Linda inside the chain locker. This turned out to be my only reasonable shot of the dive. We slowly finned along the wreckage, and every few seconds I would stop and turn around to check if Linda was still following. There were bollards, winches and twisted metal plates lying all over the sand and shingle. Everything was covered in a thick layer of weed, making it difficult to differentiate reef from wreck. The boilers stood out most. We reached the remains of the unique steam turbine engine and then turned around and retraced our route back. Miraculously, we found the shotline.


This was the first time I have ever dived out of Lymington and I will definitely go back again, if not for diving then just to explore the town and sample some of the local pubs and restaurants. Dave Wendes is a very competent dive boat skipper and as an added bonus, he knew the history of the wrecks inside out. Wight Spirit transported us to and from the dive sites safely and as comfortably as possible. Dave did forewarn me about the weather and in hindsight, I probably should have postponed the trip for another day. At 50cm, the visibility was probably the worst it could have ever been, so my apologies about the poor standard of images, although bonus points for Linda, who was an absolute trooper! From what I could see, most of the wreck was low lying, with one or two very tight overhead sections, but at 125 metres long, there was plenty to look at. I can now understand why this site is popular with dive clubs for training, or as a first wreck dive. The story of the War Knight’s demise has definitely stuck in my mind, especially the bravery of Chief Engineer David Falconer and apprentice Reginald Clayton. Dave has been trying to persuade the parish council to build a memorial overlooking the wreck site, but after their initial acknowledgement, they have not bothered to contact him again. n



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Leigh Bishop is one of the UK’s leading technical divers, pioneering deepwreck photography and exploring many prestigious shipwrecks, and he is joining Scuba Diver as our latest contributor. Here he chats about what drives his interest in tech diving and wreck exploration, and what his plans are moving forward PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF LEIGH BISHOP AND JASON BROWN



Q: You are well known as a technical diver, but what got you started in diving in the first place? A: For as long as I can remember I had always wanted to be a diver, but unlike most of my friends who were influenced by The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, I can’t recall actually watching that. I do, however, remember seeing a frogman on television somewhere that stayed in my memory for years, fascinating me through childhood. Before shipwrecks there was caving. Having left school, I joined my local caving club and spent pretty much every weekend of the 1980s caving. In 1988, I was passing through Kingsdale in Yorkshire and spotted a diver emerging from the famous Keld Head. Running down to him, I remember bombing the poor guy with 1,001 questions. When he eventually took his hood and mask off, the diver turned out to be John Cordingley, a well-known and respected British cave explorer of the time. John invited me back the following weekend to dive and somehow, I mustered up some basic gear and drove back to Yorkshire, where I was to put a regulator in my mouth for the very first time. I descended into an underwater world, a cave called Joint Hole, and swam quite some distance to a restriction however recall being bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t continue further! I was 20 years old! It wasn’t long before I was an active member of the CDG (Cave Diving Group), diving in caves all over Britain. It was also a link to meeting people who would remain diving friends for life. I joined my The early 1990s and diving with mixed-gas pioneer Rob Palmer


Decompression in a wet bell during the deep Britannic 2016 dives

Leigh’s famous time-exposure photo of Rich Stevenson being dwarfed by the huge propellers on Britannic

local dive club, Thrapston and District Sub Aqua Club in Northamptonshire, if only to improve my knowledge and skills and become officially certified. After one pool session, there was a conversation about a shipwreck the club intended diving that coming weekend – well, let’s just say the rest is history! Q: What was the attraction of technical diving for you, and what was it like being involved in the mixed-gas deep diving scene in its formative years? A: My diving naturally evolved into what became known as technical diving around the same time as editor of AquaCorps magazine, Michael Menduno, actually coined the phrase ‘Technical Diving’. I had been using oxygen that I read was good for decompression but I didn’t understand why. John Cordingley and his partner Russel Carter had returned from a cave-diving expedition in France supporting Swiss diver Oliver Isler and explained the concept and benefits of mixed gas to me. There was no material to read on the subject let alone any courses to enrol on, but luckily I got hold of one of Dr Bill Stone’s rare books about his Wakulla Springs cave-diving project in Florida. The book opened up a world of mixedgas diving, pioneered at the time by the United States Deep Caving Team. I even remember the book had schematics for early mixed-gas rebreathers. As a member of the CDG and always


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around the UK cave-diving hang outs, I’d met Rob Parker at roughly the same time I was reading my new treasured material. Parker happened to be a lead diver on that very project, who in return introduced me to another pioneer of mixed-gas diving of the time, Rob Palmer. By the early 1990s, the technical diving revolution was about to take off, and diving from John Thornton’s boat in Scapa Flow, Palmer taught me one-toone how to use mixed gas. Q: You pioneered deep-water shipwreck photography. What are some of the main challenges when you are taking photographs in extremely deep water? A: By the mid 1990s, I joined the UK’s first mixed-gas deep wreck diving team known as the ‘Starfish Enterprise’, headed up by Simon and Polly Tapson. Simon had taken photographs of the Lusitania at 93m and the pair of us fantasied over the possibility of shooting a shipwreck beyond the 100m depth. The only problem was housings and strobes were only rated to 60m and our next project as a team was the Britannic, which we knew to be twice the depth rating of our equipment. As naive as I was, I phoned up just about every well-known underwater cameraman for advice, even the likes of BBC Blue Planet cameraman Pete Scoones, all of whom told me I was in uncharted ground and couldn’t help. I used Simon’s camera system on Britannic in 1998 and if I’m honest, I simply kept my fingers crossed and hoped for the best. I recall positioning myself on the seabed at 120m depth with the massive stern section of Britannic and her monster propellers impressively framed up just perfect in my view finder.

Leigh Bishop during a film shoot for the History Channel’s Deep Sea Detectives in 2006

Cargo stacked inside the holds of Leigh’s favourite shipwreck

Having set up the F stop in relation to what I thought the shutter speed should be, I pressed the lever for the big money shot, only to fire off the entire 36 frames of film in less than a few seconds! The camera was like the sound of Duran Duran’s hit record Girls on Film with a noise of a photographer’s shutter rapidly operating. What had actually happened was the depth was so vast, the pressure had prevented the lever from returning, resulting in the entire film being shot of blurred roll images showing me peering through the dome port with a confused facial expression! Soon after that expedition I found myself up in Malin Head with my mate Rich Stevenson trying to photograph the magnificent ocean liner Justicia. By now the Canadian company Aquatica had come to my rescue with a housing that was rated to 100m. My classic Sea&Sea YS 350 strobes were miraculously pushing on. The only problem was that they were not powerful enough to light up huge sections of wrecks despite being the daddy of Sea&Sea strobes. To overcome the problem, I would focus my attention on time-exposure photography, basically I would let nature do the lighting work for me. All I had to do was hold the camera dead still in order to prevent motion blur while the shutter remained open long Planning a deep camera shoot with close Italian friend Edoardo Pavia and the man who was the first to set eyes on Titanic during her discovery, Billy Main

An example of Leigh’s deep water photography, diver Mark Bullen lights up anti-aircraft guns on HMS Limbourne in the English Channel at 85m

enough for the light to make my image. I approached BSoUP for my solution, where Ken Sullivan came to the rescue, building me a system to attach my Aquatica housing to a heavy-duty tripod. Using fast black and white film, I was able to shoot the first time-exposure images of a deep shipwreck and thus showcase the magnificent world of previously forgotten ships for all to see. Q: You have dived famous wrecks such as the HMHS Britannic, RMS Lusitania, SS Transylvania and MV Wilhelm Gustloff, to name but a few. Which hold a special place in your memories? A: Aside from the fact that, yes, I have dived some famous wrecks, ironically the one I love so much isn’t so famous - the Duke of Buccleuch, sunk in the


English Channel off Littlehampton. The story of both her sinking and discovery as well as physically swimming across the decks is all so enchanting, making the thrill of exploring shipwrecks truly how my dreams were made as a young boy. Sunk in 1889 and discovered in 1989, the holds of the Iron Duke are full of cargo destined at the time for Australia. On surfacing from a dive, I always sit back, watch and listen to the beehive of activity among the divers on the boat. Each and everyone has a story to tell another of their dive which last the journey home, the divers all have smiles on their face and their stories are as enchanting as the wreck itself. Q: As well as diving known wrecks, you are also a prolific wreck hunter, notching up diving on hundreds of virgin shipwrecks. What have been your most-memorable finds? A: I can’t rule out the time Rich Stevenson and I became the first men to swim across the decks at 85m of the famous Flying Enterprise. The ship sank in 1952 and other than the Coronation became THE media event of the year. In a severe Atlantic storm, the captain remained on board and fought to save his ship for over two weeks before finally walking down the funnel as the ship gave in and eventually sank. Captain Carlsen’s ship was there in front of our very eyes and I shot photographs of Rich in the same places as where the Captain was so famously photographed by media photographers in an aircraft circling the ship.

I found the maker’s plate on the front of the bridge, the ship’s birth certificate if you would like, a beautiful piece of lettered brass that took pride of place in my office before I loaned it to Falmouth Maritime Museum, alongside other artefacts that were displayed for a number of years to the general public. Q: You’ve dived open-circuit technical equipment and closed-circuit rebreathers. What do you see as the most-important elements of your tech-diving arsenal? A: I’m consider myself lucky to have lived in an era of pioneering shipwreck exploration but I see explorers of today equally as lucky because they are armed with far superior designed and functioning equipment than we were back in the day. Like where was all this magnificent equipment when we actually needed it? No advanced technical dive could realistically be completed successfully without each and every component that a diver actually needs, making the question as to what I see as the most-important elements of my techdiving arsenal impossible to answer. Realistically they all play equal roles. While my AP Inspiration rebreather actually keeps me breathing way beyond 100m, my heated Santi drysuit keeps me from dying of cold if I’m in the Baltic Sea. I couldn’t progress through the pitch-black interior of a deep shipwreck without my powerful Light Monkey torch. My Shearwater computer constantly updates my decompression

Members of the Starfish Enterprise team in the summer of 1997 in training for the 120m Britannic dives


The money shot of the Justicia that paved the way for the pioneering deep wreck timeexposure photography

profile and a simple thing like my Kent Tooling reel is equally important to keep my whereabouts known to the skipper and surface team above. Tough Miflex hoses knit everything together, and if it all went wrong and I had to bail out, I rely on Apeks regulators, which I know work perfect even deeper than 100m! Q: What does the future hold for Leigh Bishop? A: I always say that the one single best thing about diving is the people you meet. The second is the visiting corners of the planet that otherwise a sport such as football, rugby, netball or squash would never have done. The third is if you can make a little coin to make the process revolve around again and again. With that said, the best times I’ve ever had and the best laughs are with the lads of the Darkstar Deep Wreck Diving Team, headed up by the man I organise the Eurotek Advanced Diving Conference with, Mark Dixon. Mark skippers his privately owned purpose-built dive boat and his team quietly go about their business year after year exploring deep shipwrecks around the British Isles. This year, the focus will be some deep ocean liners off southern Ireland, including one Japanese liner in particular that the team are very much looking forward to. I also have plans for a couple of exciting projects in the English Channel with renowned Weymouth skipper Graham Knott, one historic and one a wartime loss. Let me keep my fingers crossed on those and hopefully you will read about them in future editions of Scuba Diver. n



Kids Sea Camp is the undoubted world leader when it comes to children and diving - more than 7,000 youth certifications and counting! - and founder Margo Peyton has painstakingly crafted a series of unique itineraries with unparalleled adventures, allowing families to bond, interact with local cultures, learn history, engage with wildlife and meet like-minded families from around the globe.

DREAMS OF THE SEA Rebecca Holt is one of the world’s youngest PADI Junior Master Scuba Divers, and here this inspirational youngster tells her story


y name is Rebecca, I grew up beside the sea in North Norfolk. At the age of six, I was taught to snorkel while on holiday, and I was amazed by the amount of fish among the rocks. On our return from holiday, my Dad gave me a copy of the book The Silent World, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. This fired my imagination, and I asked my Dad ‘could I learn to scuba dive?’ Moving forward to Christmas 2016, Mum and Dad announced that we were going backpacking in Asia, and having just had my 10th birthday, would I like to learn to scuba dive? We arrived on the island of Koh Tao in March 2017, and Dad enrolled me in my PADI Junior Open Water Diver course at the Big Blue Dive Centre. My instructor was to be Graeme Scott - this guy was an amazing instructor. I worked hard and qualified on 14 March 2017, just three months after my birthday. Over the course of the next 18 months, I continued to train and dive whenever possible, and during this time I met Polly, an instructor at Cristal Seas Scuba in Norwich. She inspired and helped me gain the additional qualifications on my journey to my Junior Master Scuba Diver certification. The next stage was a journey back to Thailand to complete my Junior Advanced Open Water Diver and Junior Rescue Diver referrals, plus a few Specialties.

I arrived at Koh Chang on 10 December 2018, and Dad enrolled me with Koh Chang Divers. My instructor David Dobson took charge of my training, with the help of Amaud. This was one of the mostamazing times of my life, surrounded by instructors who genuinely loved diving and helped me on my journey. Over the course of the next ten days, I dived

three times a day from shallow reefs teeming with soft and hard coral to the HTMS Chang, a large naval vessel. This is an amazing dive. The wreck is full of fish - grouper, batfish, juvenile barracuda, boxfish and moray eels. After completion of the above dive, David told me I had been signed off for my Junior Master Scuba Diver certification 18 days after my 12th birthday. The first thing I must do is to thank everybody for this gift of being able to swim with the fish. Love and thanks to Graeme, Polly, David and Amaud, plus many others. Jacques Cousteau famously said: “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder for ever” – and he was right! At present I am working on improving my photography skills (a wonderful photographer, Anouk Kanner, gave me the inspiration to start taking photographs underwater). I hope that in time, I can pass on my love of the sea to others, helping them to swim with the fish. And then there is always the next dive! n



13-YEAR-OLD LUCA HALES A young diver based out in Egypt has made the most of 2018, and is already looking towards 2019. Luca Hales, who lives in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh and has graced the pages of The Next Generation previously, became a PADI Ambassadiver in May 2018 (the PADI Ambassadiver programme recognises individuals who go that extra mile while diving and are passionate about the environment and PADI Luca to date is the youngest PADI Ambassadiver in the world!), but since completing his PADI Bubblemaker at the age of eight, he has never looked back, so this accolade was surely just a matter of time. In July 2018, Luca became a PADI Junior Master Scuba Diver at just 12 years old, under the guidance and instruction of his mentor, PADI Course Director Yahya Khiry. Yahya and Luca have a great friendship, and Luca sees Yahya as his role model. Luca regularly helps Yahya out when Yahya is teaching IDC, with Luca being the victim!

With having a great mentor like Yahya and PADI instructor father Kareem, Luca prides himself on knowing, understanding and following PADI diving and safety standards that are required to be a successful and safe diver. Luca has grown up to become a wellknown, friendly, familiar face all round Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab, and Luca has put himself out there to meet lots of PADI dive resorts and centres, as well as diving with them, which is gaining him vast experience within the diving world. All PADI divers and instructors young and old encourage and support Luca and this is part of why Luca loves diving. He regularly takes part in cleanup diving, and any events associated with diving for that matter. In December 2018, Luca had an idea to create a website and Facebook group where he will encourage everyone and share young divers’ stories, create Project AWARE events aimed at young

children like himself and families, and PADI pool parties around local PADI dive resorts to let people meet Luca and share his love of diving and the environment with them. In 2019, Luca aims to have Kids That Scuba merchandise and people will be able to purchase this, with all proceeds going to Project AWARE! Luca’s vision is to use his knowledge and experience to help other young divers get started in diving, or continue their diving - kids can come out to Sharm el Sheikh and dive with Luca, his PADI father and PADI CD Yahya Khiry, and all members of the Kids That Scuba group will get a discount on PADI courses, daily diving, night diving and much more. So, if you’re a ‘scuba parent’ or junior diver, Kids That Scuba wants to hear from you!


There will be a dedicated The Next Generation stand at GO Diving, and several of our Case Study alumni, including Grace Westgarth, Luke Evans and Luca Hales, will be around over the weekend to talk about diving, and inspire more youngsters to get into our awesome sport. There will also be a Graffiti Wall, a mini-cinema showing Linden Wolbert’s The Mermaid Minute – and the mermaid herself will also be making some guest appearances on the stand on the Saturday and Sunday! Beyond Bionic’s Andy Torbet will also be stopping by for a chat, and the team from Project AWARE will be on hand to talk marine conservation.



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Paul French from Bespoke Scuba Diving sent us in some information about an inspirational youngster who had recently started diving with his centre. I first met Kobie at the end of 2017 just before he turned nine. His mum Jacquie had booked him in for a PADI Bubblemaker with us at Bespoke Scuba Diving and, as with all kids, he was very excited to be getting in the water and blowing some bubbles! I asked Kobie’s mum Jacquie why Kobie decided he wanted to dive, and she said: “Having seen the Bespoke Scuba Diving pop-up banner at the pool, he was mesmerised and wanted to give it a try. He kept asking me until I made contact and booked him in for a course. Kobie told me he thought that it would be so much fun! He thinks he may want to be a marine biologist in the future,


and convinced me this would be a great thing for him to experience.” Jacquie also told me that she tries to encourage Kobie to try and learn as many things as possible – ‘do it now before we get older’, she said, adding: “I always think that the more we learn from our life experiences, the more enriched our lives become. I want Kobie to experience as many things as he can, and to be the best wellrounded person he can be.” One fun session in the pool later, and Kobie was hooked! His mum quickly signed him up for his PADI SEAL Team course, and over the course of five sessions, Kobie mastered all of the required skills, and was having a great time with his fellow students, as they all progressed together. SEALs done, what next? Kobie was really keen to take the next step and

become a PADI Master SEAL. When asked why he wanted to do this, Kobie said he was “so excited the thought of one day diving in the ocean with real sharks, not just the toys. The courses are fun, and I knew that these lessons would teach me some skills that I needed in the future”. Kobie completed the PADI Master SEAL Diver course, and showed a determination to become a better diver, great trim, good buoyancy skills and a desire to learn - all the things any instructor looks for in a student. Kobie is always well prepared for lessons and clearly has a general thirst for learning. So what next? After discussions with his Mum, he is going to start his Junior Open Water Diver course in 2019, and complete his qualifying dives when UK waters return to warmer temperatures. I know Kobie is going to be a delight to teach, will apply himself, and will become an outstanding advocate for our marine environment. I have just two things left to add: A word on diving from Kobie - “Diving is such a good experience. I like the feeling. I get the chance to use underwater torches, cameras and many other really interesting things too. I also have learnt about underwater animals too. Hopefully, I can use these skills in a future job!” Finally, is Kobie our only junior customer, no, we have been blessed with a great group this year, and I hope to be able to tell you about some others, along with those starting with us in 2019 in another edition. n


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fter spending a few days R&R at the luxury five-star Anatara Resorts based at Layan and Mai Khao, I headed south by taxi towards Chalong on Phuket, where the Sea Bees Diving main office resides. It had been great to catch up with some old friends and, as a special treat, I had even got to play with the golden gun originally used by hit man Scaramanga in the mid 1970’s James Bond movie. The local traffic was much heavier than I expected, a popular place by all accounts, plus a torrential downpour hadn’t helped matters. Rain before a diving trip has always been a bad omen for me. Fingers crossed this would be the exception. For many years, I had been trying to organise a trip to one of Thailand’s ultimate scuba-diving site, Richelieu Rock. I had heard so many first-

miles north to the Similan Islands (approximately an eight- to ten-hour voyage) then carried on to Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and finally ended up at Richelieu Rock. This route is then retraced back to Phuket, where guests spend their last night at Sea Bees’ Palm Garden Resort before flying home the next day. Another option is to take a day boat or threeday liveaboard from Khao Lak located further up the west coast, reducing journey times by a good few hours. The Similan and Surin Islands have been designated by the Thai government as Marine National Park areas but by the end of my trip I wasn’t quite sure what the Marine National Park status actually meant as I did actually see fishing boats moored up and, on some occasions, actively fishing. There didn’t seem to be any policing of any kind. Fortunately, the Mu Koh Similan Marine National Park is closed every year from mid May to mid

Stuart Philpott had his eye on the worldrenowned Richelieu Rock dive site for many years, and so was thrilled at finally getting the chance to dive it, but would the fickle weather play ball? PHOTOGRAPHS BY STUART PHILPOTT

hand reports of whalesharks circling its submerged pinnacles. I couldn’t believe that after all this time, I was actually going to visit. Phil North, brand manager at Dive Worldwide (www., had introduced me to German-owned Sea Bees Dive Centre (, who offered a variety of liveaboard options to explore the Similan and Surin Islands located in the Andaman Sea off the northwest coast of southern Thailand. Sea Bees is one of the more-established diving outfits in Thailand and has been operating for more than 20 years. I wanted to spend as much time as possible diving and taking photographs, so opted for the full six-day/six-night liveaboard expedition running on MV Marco Polo. Take it from me, the boat’s bright yellow paint job is very hard to miss! This particular liveaboard departed from Chalong Pier and travelled 120


October (the rainy season) and scuba diving is only allowed from November through April, which gives the fragile ecosystem a good six months to recover. I naturally assumed by visiting when the park had just re-opened there would be a much-better chance of seeing big pelagic marine life, especially mantas and whalesharks, but when I spoke to the dive guide he said that November is not the best time. Apparently, there is a far better chance of encountering the bigger species during February and March. I wish I’d thought to check this before I booked! We were bussed for the short journey from the dive centre to the pier in darkness. I dodged the puddles and jumped aboard MV Marco Polo, my home for the next six days. Most of my own liveaboard experience has been based around Red Sea and Caribbean excursions, and using this standard


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as a benchmark, I would say that MV Marco Polo’s facilities were relatively basic, but perfectively adequate for the job in hand. My shared cabin was on the smaller side, which meant less storage space, but there were a couple of sockets available for recharging batteries, phones, tablets, etc. Every cabin is equipped with either A/C or a fan (I had the latter), though I realised the best way to get some kind of airflow was to leave the cabin door open at night. There are no en-suites available, however there are three toilets which were regularly checked and kept clean throughout the day. To be fair, Phil from Dive Worldwide said the boat is not advertised as a luxury liveaboard and is competitively priced accordingly. Being a German-owned company, I was expecting to meet a fair proportion of Germans on board. Out of 14 guests, there was one other Brit, who had arrived last minute, and a couple from California, so I would say around 80% German occupancy. At dinner on the first evening, everyone was mixed up on different tables. By day two, the Germans were all shoe-horned on the starboard side tables and myself, the other Brit and the Californian couple had all the port side tables to ourselves! There was always conversation flowing, but naturally everyone seemed more comfortable speaking in their own native language. Phil said they had no

prior knowledge of the nationalities booked on the boat from one week to the next, as is the case on any (Thaibased) liveaboard, so it’s basically lucky dip, unless of course, the whole boat is chartered by a single group. The Swiss dive guide couple seemed to know their stuff and organised everybody into groups based on experienced levels. There were a couple of Germans with less than ten dives but overall the standard was pretty high. Another German girl had joined us as a dive guide, meaning our group sizes were small and intimate. I was loosely buddied up with the Brit and the Californian couple. When I’m taking Picture-postcard scenery

Some of the beaches are very popular

photographs, I like to ‘float’ around the pack and not be paired with anybody in particular, unless of course I’m working with a model. On average, underwater visibility during the six days maxed out at 15-20 metres. The Similans are made up of nine numbered islands - from south to north. Islands #1, 2 and 3 are presently closed to divers so our dives were focused around 5, 7, 8 and 9 (Not much really happens around island #4). My first dive at Island #5 was called The Hideaway. Anemonefish

Enormous seafan

Sea Bees is one of the more-established diving outfits in Thailand and has been operating for more than 20 years WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

We made our way along the boulderstrewn reef edge littered with sea fans, soft corals and some hard corals. Shoals of yellow-striped grunts, butterflyfish, surgeons, grouper and glassfish were on show. I tried to keep up with a huge shoal of trevally and hawkfish foraging along the seabed, but they were moving too fast for me. With limited sunshine the scenery looked a bit dark and dismal through my viewfinder, but my strobe lighting managed to highlight the surroundings. In total, we completed


13 dives in the Similans at eight different sites, including Navy Bay, Saam Tonn, Whale Back Rock, Eagle Rock, the Bommies and Elephant Head Rock. My favourite site, with its canyons, walls and giant boulders covered in soft corals and sea fans, was called West of Eden. After spending a couple of days in the Similans, we upped anchor and headed north to Koh Bon and then Koh Tachai. We visited most of the popular sites at Koh Bon twice over, this included West Ridge, Pinnacle and the Bay. There was plenty of marine life activity at West Ridge and the Pinnacle, with shoals of grunts and sweetlips regularly sighted. Now and again I saw a passing tuna or trevally, but no sharks apart from a solitary leopard at the Pinnacle. I tried to get close for a picture but the whole group were so excited that the shark got scared away. Everywhere we went there were huge shoals of glassfish. When my flash guns fired, the silvery reflections reminded me of millions upon millions of glittering stars. Further north, at Tachai Pinnacle, aka Twin Peaks, had a lot of potential. The current was running incredibly fast on our descent and visibility was a milky five to eight metres. There seemed to be one massive boulder sitting at a depth of 12m surrounded by smaller boulders. We circumnavigated it and then skirted around the periphery. Huge gorgonian sea fans and colourful soft corals colonised a number of the rock faces. I stopped to take a shot of a chilled-out puffer but after a few seconds had to move on otherwise would have lost contact with the group. A pair of eagle rays, which are very rarely seen in these waters, watched over us for several moments and then disappeared into the haze. We stayed low trying to avoid the current. We managed to do two dives at this site, which

Shoals of snapper

was probably the highlight of the trip – I can only imagine what it is like in amazing vis! My doubts about the weather were confirmed when the boat skipper and the dive guides decided to abandon our journey further north and return to the more-protected waters around the Similans. The highlight and main purpose for my trip, Richelieu Rock, was unfortunately cancelled. On our way back, we managed to stop off and explore Island #8, where there is a visitor’s centre and camping facilities. The beautiful white sandy beach is a popular tourist attraction, and on our


The liveaboard underway

The boat is not advertised as a luxury liveaboard and is competitively priced accordingly Ribbon eel

last day, the sun decided to make an appearance, bringing several speedboats filled with tourists looking to soak up the rays. At Donald Duck Bay, I found plenty of macro subjects to shoot. There were even a few swimthroughs stuffed with trevally and soldierfish. I enjoyed flitting around the rocks finding morays, coral grouper, angelfish, ghost pipefish, clowns, puffers and many more species. Just to round out my contentment, we bumped into a small friendly hawksbill. Our penultimate dive at Elephant Head Rock was a step up from our previous dive with bigger and better swim-throughs, overhangs thriving with smaller fish, and breath-taking scenery. I scouted ahead and found an abundance of sea fans and soft corals. With a few divers silhouetted in the background, my pictures looked very atmospheric. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the weather had beaten me. I’m old and ugly enough to understand that s***

happens and the safety of the guests and crew are paramount. But I was still bitterly disappointed to miss out on Richelieu Rock. I can only report on my findings as they unfolded during the week, which totalled 22 dives, including night dives. Tachai Pinnacle and Koh Bon Pinnacle were the main attractions for me, with their interesting seascapes of big boulders, dramatic walls and a number of swim-throughs to explore, and there was a good number of small to medium fish perfect for macro photo lovers. However, I had come to the Similans for big pelagic sightings and my overall tally for the week was disappointing. The moral of this story? If you have a particular ‘target’, in my case, big fish, then make sure you travel at the most-appropriate time of year! n




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02/11/2018 10:32


Anne Medcalf looks at what to consider when choosing a camera and housing PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNE AND PHIL MEDCALF / WWW.ALPHAMARINEPHOTO.COM


cuba diving can be an expensive hobby as we all know too well, add on underwater photography to this and your budget can be thrown out the window! Whether you are starting out with your first camera kit or upgrading your equipment, there are a myriad choices available. I am sure that nearly every underwater photographer has made an expensive mistake or two when choosing gear, I certainly have. Which is why I thought it would be useful to talk about the basics of what to consider when choosing a camera and housing. No matter whether you have a DSLR camera or a compact, it is you, the photographer, that takes either a good or bad picture, not your equipment. However, when it comes to taking cameras underwater, not all are created equal. Mainstream camera manufacturers design equipment for taking photos on land with little consideration of how they may work underwater. Often compact cameras have underwater modes or underwater white balance Using a fisheye lens and dome for close focus wide angle, shot unachievable without using manual settings


Lizardfish taken in Egypt. Using manual aperture settings allows the background to blur making the subject stand out

options, but how good these are vary considerably. Most are designed for the swimming pool or snorkelling with the camera at shallow depths, perhaps only in the kind of housing that is a stiff plastic bag with a rigid port for the lens. Many of the current crop of waterproof cameras are aimed primarily at folk who want a tougher version of their phone camera to use when they don’t want to endanger their mobile. Even waterproof cameras produced specifically for the diving market have limitations that affect their ability to get the best underwater images. To make a camera waterproof you need to make compromises. The most common being with lenses, some cameras use small sensor sizes which don’t need large lenses, this means a zoom lens can be enclosed inside the body of the camera. Others use fixed lenses that sit in a middle ground being neither the best for wide angle or macro photography. Bear in mind

that although these cameras have depth ratings they still rely on seals to keep them waterproof both in battery compartments and inside them. Salt water getting into camera battery compartments will almost always result in the camera dying. Often cameras have servicing schedules for the seals to be changed, which you need to keep to. If you do have a waterproof camera and there is an additional housing available for it, think seriously about getting it. This adds an extra level of security and usually the housing will allow greater depth and the ability to fit a broader range of accessories. Some waterproof cameras have recharging ports rather than changeable batteries, which does mean the camera is better protected, but do consider recharging times - if you are doing repetitive dives on holiday make sure that you will be able to charge the camera between them. When going into underwater photography, the primary options are



Phil and Anne Medcalf have nearly 40 years of diving experience between them and have been using underwater cameras of one sort or another for most of that time. They have had substantial competitive success with their images and have now made their passion into a business. Alphamarine Photography Ltd is an underwater photography equipment dealer offering tailored solutions for any level of budget and also runs workshops in the UK and soon in the Red Sea. Anne and Phil also give talks to dive clubs and offer advice online through their Facebook group Alphamarine Photography Q&A and via a blog on their website: For more information about what they do, email: Phil using a mirrorless camera in a metal housing with a dome port and strobes Moray eel taken with a compact camera using built-in flash Blue spotted ray taken in Egypt using a mirrorless camera with available light and custom white balance

action cameras, compacts, mirrorless (AKA compact system) cameras or a digital SLR and generally the bigger and more expensive the camera, the costlier it will be to find a housing to take it underwater. Action cameras are probably the most-limited especially when it comes to still photography. Compact cameras are a good starting point with a range of models and price points available, high-end models have large sensors with a few using sensors from mirrorless or DSLR cameras. Sensor size is generally more important than megapixels when it comes to image quality and a camera’s performance. But there is a trade off, some of these compacts have very large zoom lenses,


great for on land but fitting them in an underwater housing can cause issues with how well they perform with wide-angle wet lenses. Mirrorless and DSLR cameras allow the use of interchangeable lenses, such as fish eye lenses for wide-angle shots and specific macro lenses, but to do this they need a housing with interchangeable ports to get the best from individual lenses, which is another cost to consider. Certain features predispose a camera to be better at underwater photography. For starters, does it give you some way to colour correct your pictures. If you aren’t interested in using software to edit your images in any way, then a camera that has an efficient custom

white balance to allow you to correct the blue or green tint that pictures at any but the shallowest depths will have is an important feature. This will allow you to take pictures using available light down to 15m or 20m in good conditions without having to edit them or use additional lighting. If you are happy to use software to correct your pictures, then a camera that takes RAW images should be high on your priorities. RAW format has much more information retained than JPEG, and this means you can rescue pictures that don’t just need colour correction but may also be under or overexposed to quite a degree. But straight out of the camera these will appear duller to look at so you really do need to do some editing. Don’t forget as well that RAW isn’t magic, once you get down to depths where only blue or green light reaches, you will have to add artificial light. Once you want to start taking pictures without available light whether because of depth, an overhead environment or night diving, you need an additional light source. An entrylevel option is to have a camera with a built-in flash and this is how we started


UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY out taking pictures at night, etc. You do have to take into account issues with shadows caused by housing ports, but at close distance you can get reasonable results. Going beyond the built-in flash the most flexible and effective light source for stills photography is a strobe (underwater flash). When choosing a camera you need to think about having a way of triggering a strobe if you want to progress your underwater photography. Either the built-in flash or in larger cameras the hotshoe can be used to trigger a strobe and the lack of either of these is one of the issues that place action cameras low down the list of choices for underwater stills photography. Because even the smartest cameras struggle to deal with the lighting conditions underwater you need to be able to take control and manipulate your camera settings to produce the picture you want. Automatic modes rarely work for underwater photography so having a camera that allows you to adjust ISO, shutter speed and aperture is important especially as your underwater photography develops (pun intended). Look for models that have a full manual (M) mode available. Having the right camera is only half the battle, it has to combine with a housing well. There is a choice of metal and plastic housings, with plastic being cheaper and also having the advantage of being lighter, so it’s something to consider for the travelling diver with airline weight restrictions. Some of

Anne using a compact camera in a plastic housing with a flash diffuser

Scorpionfish taken in the UK using available light and custom white balance with a compact camera

the large camera manufacturers make plastic housings for some models of camera and these can often be a costeffective way of getting started. You may get some condensation in a plastic housing causing the port to fog up when diving in hot and humid climates, although you can use silica gel packets in the housing to reduce this. Only opening your housing when in dry, cool conditions can help with this, but isn’t always possible. Larger housings contain more air to circulate and so are more prone to this. Condensation is unlikely to harm your camera in the short term, but there is an irritation factor of having to wait for the condensation to disperse while you are unable to get any shots. Metal housings are more expensive and in most cases heavier than plastic Anemone taken with a compact camera using built-in flash


ones. They are usually a bit sturdier, but ports and controls are still weak points. They seldom get condensation on their ports as metal conducts heat better than plastic, so any condensation will have a much larger surface to form on. Whichever housing you choose, make sure you can use all the functions of the camera, you need to be able to find the controls easily underwater and be able to use all the settings and features you need. Many cameras have touchscreen features and menus, so if this is the case ensure that your housing will allow you to take control of these. To have the ability to take great underwater photos you need to be able to easily control the ISO, shutter speed and aperture of the camera and easily is the key word – unless you can comfortably reach the dials and they are easy to use when already task loaded with diving and you can adjust settings using whatever gloves you may be wearing, you will not get the best from your camera. All these factors for both camera and housing are to some degree a trade off. Much boils down to your budget but think also about how much use you will get out of it. Don’t spend your entire budget on a camera and housing and then not be able to afford to go diving and use it. n


We don’t recommend stacking 4 lenses together

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To dive there is to see what other areas of the Mediterranean may have once resembled before the pollution, plundering and excessive coastal development of modern times

A Mediterranean Marvel 62



don’t normally start my features with a ‘clickbait’-style of title, but having enjoyed a long-awaited visit to Ustica, I felt compelled to pose the rhetorical question - is this the best diving in the Mediterranean? When we told friends that we were going to Ustica for our summer dive holiday, every single one of them looked blank. “Where’s that, never heard of it” was the usual kind of response. We would then invariably resort to a Google map, to pinpoint its exact location to the curious friend. So where exactly is Ustica? Ustica is a small remote island of volcanic origin located off the northwest of Sicily in the Mediterranean, around 40 miles north of Palermo. It has an interesting and somewhat chequered history, from being initially inhabited around 1500 BC by people of Phoenician origin (though opinions differ on this). Later, the seafaring ancient Greeks named the island Osteodes in memory of Carthaginian mutineers who were left there to perish in around 400 BC. The name Ustica came from the Romans, meaning burnt, after the black volcanic rocks, and more recently in Italy’s Mussolini years, the island was used as a prison colony for political opponents and others considered to be undesirable or threatening to the regime. Since then, things have swung in a much-more-positive direction, and it’s now a lovely, off-the-beaten track kind of place to visit. I like the fact that you can’t fly there, only being reachable by boat. It’s popular in the summer months, mostly with mainland Italian and French visitors (many of them divers).

The waters off Ustica are fantastically clear

Many places claim to offer the ‘best diving in the Med’, but after paying a visit to Ustica in Italy, Jeremy Cuff reckons that it is surely a title contender PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEREMY AND AMANDA CUFF / WWW.JA-UNIVERSE.COM

Divers venture into a swimthrough


The entire island is now surrounded by a zoned marine reserve designated in 1986 covering 15,000 hectares. It’s officially called the Isola di Ustica Marine Protected Area and was the first of its kind in Italy. You therefore get a magic trio of factors - environmental protection, crystal clear water and spectacular underwater topography. To dive there is to see what other areas of the Mediterranean may have once resembled before the pollution, plundering and excessive coastal development of modern times. It’s quite special. To get there, and to organise accommodation and diving, isn’t difficult in today’s connected world. The moststraightforward way of doing it is to fly to Palermo in Sicily (there are several options from the UK), stay a night (there’s plenty of hotels to choose from) and then catch the ferry to the island (it’s easy to book online, with daily departures in the summer). On Ustica itself, there are choices of B&Bs, hotels and self-catering apartments, houses and villas, most of which can be easily booked via popular booking websites or direct with the owners or proprietors. In terms of the diving, there are a number of well-established and professional dive operators such as Blue Diving (our choice) and affiliated dive centre Mr Jump, who can also arrange ‘dive and



Where else in the Mediterranean these days can you dive among big schools of barracuda being buzzed by amberjacks? There aren’t many places Topside is just as stunning as below the surface

stay’ packages if you need them to. The diving season is roughly from Easter through until late-October. UK divers heading for the Med tend to go for destinations such as Malta, Gibraltar, Cyprus, Croatia, Sardinia or select spots around the Greek Islands, but there are other less-known places such as Ustica. My awareness of Ustica came from a visit to the spectacular Aeolian Islands to the East, and a fascination with maps whereby I ‘joined the dots’, so to speak. Upon reading up about Ustica, and discovering the marine reserve aspect, it was added to my ‘must visit’ list. I took quite a few years to get around to it, but I was very glad when it happened. It was the fulfilment of a long(ish) held ambition. So how about it? Nudibranch

Due to the popularity of diving, there are (we were told) nine dive centres currently operating on Ustica. We made our initial enquiry with Blue Diving, mainly because they had a nice website with good images (attractive to photographers like me). We got a prompt and friendly response from Guiseppe (the owner), so we decided to book our diving with them. They turned out to be a really welcoming, enthusiastic and professional dive operation and we really enjoyed the time we spent with them – it was an excellent choice. They share resources with another dive centre (Mr Jump), who had the same ethos. The Blue Diving shop is located in the square of the lovely, well-kept little town, a short walk away from our rented apartment. Nearby are a selection of trattorias, cafes, bars, tiny gift shops, bakeries and grocery stores that we would enjoy visiting and sampling during our stay. Once you’ve checked in and the dive certification paperwork is complete, dive gear is transported down to the harbour, where it is kept for the duration of a visit. If you need gear (such as a heavy camera) brought back up the hill each day, the Blue Diving team can arrange Divers explore the seagrass for critters

that for you to collect in the shop in the afternoon. The picturesque little harbour is a hive of dive activity in the mornings, with all dive centres descending on the area at roughly the same time. The format of the dives is an 8.30am meet up for a 9am departure, and (as all dive sites are within a ten- or 15-minute RIB ride) the divers return to the harbour for drinks and snacks in a sun shelter prior to the second dive, which sets off at about 11.30am. Return from the second dive is around 1pm-1.30pm, which gives divers the afternoon and evening to do other things. Night dives are also scheduled once or twice a week and set off at dusk. We didn’t know what to expect with water temperatures, so we travelled with both tropical and medium temperature gear. It was stiflingly hot during our stay (some days were around 38 degrees C), and water temperatures were high. I dived the whole trip in my tropical gear as the water temperatures in the shallow water were 26-28 degrees C. Thermoclines at around 20m would


Hermit crab

sometimes cause a bit of shiver, but it was quite bearable at around 20-22 degrees C. The water itself was always crystal clear offering fabulous visibility, and at times was almost purple in hue. The sites were largely current free during our visit, but that isn’t always the case we were told. All the dive sites are good on Ustica, but some deserve a special mention. Secca Della Colombara is a shoal located slightly away from the island and features a vertiginous drop-off and a wreck that spilled a cargo of marble stone across the rocky plateau. You can expect plenty of grouper, colourful wrasse, bream and perhaps an octopus at this site. Scoglio Del Medico is an excellent site with spectacular underwater topography consisting of swim-throughs, cuts, canyons and drop-offs. There are a number of ways of diving this site, which the Blue Diving team will vary over the course of a visit. Grouper and damselfish abounded at this site. Punta Falconiera is a popular site for both day and night dives. In the day, you can look for moray eels and scorpionfish along the wall and overhangs, or check the luxuriant sea grass beds for pipefish. At night, there’s good opportunities for octopus, lobster, hermit crabs, nudibranchs, shrimp and fire worms (some alarmingly large!). Secchitello is a more-challenging site, though the conditions were perfect for our dive. Basically, it’s a deep set of rocks and pinnacles starting at around 25m that attract large numbers of fish. Where else in the Mediterranean these days can you dive among big schools of barracuda being buzzed by amberjacks? There aren’t many places. Perhaps our favourite site was Grotta Della Pastizza, which features a spectacular cave that is accessed underneath the cliffs of the island itself. The caves are at shallow depth and it’s possible to surface once inside (assuming safety stops are complete).


Lush seagrass beds and algae tufts on the seabed

Mounted on a rock inside the cave is a statue of the patron saint of the island, Saint Bartolicchio. The Blue Diving and Mr Jump teams sometimes host a barbecue for diving guests at a house on the far side of the island. We attended one of these where they provided bread baskets, pasta dishes, swordfish steaks, salad, red wine Not all of the attractions are natural

and prosecco. It was a great evening, chatting with fellow divers under the starry skies of the Mediterranean. For non-divers and taking time out from the diving, the island itself is a lovely place to be. It’s easy to hire mopeds and scooters to ride to other areas of the island, perhaps to one of the island’s swimming coves, where you can hire sunbeds and purchase drinks and snacks such as paninis. There are also regular minibuses that circle the island – just hop on and off wherever you like. For the more energetic, there’s good coast path hiking that takes in some fabulous scenic vistas. So, does Ustica offer the best diving in the Mediterranean? It’s impossible to say, of course, but we met many returning divers who thought so. It was certainly excellent and we couldn’t argue with their sentiment. Currently, very few UK divers go there but I’d say with conviction that they really should. It’s not difficult to reach, and is hugely relaxing, enjoyable and rewarding. n



The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society is a non-profit, educational organisation whose mission is to promote educational activities associated with the underwater world. It has offered scholarships for over 35 years.



fter the successful Antarctic diving campaign from November/December, we got back to Punta Arenas by plane from the Chilean base Julio Escudero, in King George Island, in the Antarctic archipelago of the South Shetland Islands. Seeing for one last time the White Continent disappear behind us while we were flying towards the Drake Passage produced quite a special feeling. It was like this piece of Earth was isolated from the rest of the world, like a bubble. A pristine place so far from everywhere else where humans inhabit, but at the same time, a place where our actions as a species produced anywhere else around the globe are causing huge impacts on this hugely important ecosystem for the correct functioning of our planet. Some days before leaving, I got the news that another Chilean scientific team was looking for a last-minute diver for an expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula by January 2019. And of course, I said yes! Who has ever had the opportunity to dive twice in the Antarctic in less than four months! So, once back in Punta Arenas, I decided to stay there for the Christmas holidays. It was my first-time celebrating Christmas in summer, although the southern tip of South America is quite cold even at this time of the year. However, I was looking for some diving to do before leaving again to Antarctica, and I put the spotlight on Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world located in Argentina! I contacted three active divers from the region, Mariano, Augusto and Félix. These guys have created a group to document all the underwater fauna and flora from the waters of the Beagle Channel. Through Beagle Secretos del Mar and Beagle Buceos, they are trying to communicate the wonders of these waters to the general public, through TV programmes for kids in the national TV, exhibiting their pictures and

videos, taking people diving and doing conservation activities with different agencies like Greenpeace, etc. With them I had the pleasure to discover the kelp forests of the shallows of the surroundings of this region, coming across giant king crabs and huge sponges. After the dives we did together, I completely understood why these divers are trying to protect this marine ecosystem from the impacts of possible installations of aquaculture farms in the near future in the Beagle Channel. Many biologists in the area have warned the damage that their underwater backyard could suffer, and they are determined to defend it through reporting its ecological value to the public through the amazing documentation that they are doing. After my time in Argentina, I went back to Punta Arenas, where the boat from the Chilean army Aquiles was awaiting us prior to its departure for the next adventure to Antarctica. In the boat, I met the team of divers and researchers that I will be spending these next one and a half months in the military base of Bernardo O’Higgins and in the base Julio Escudero, in King George Island studying the benthic communities of these areas. Right now, I’m finishing these lines while we head to our first destination. After one and a half weeks of navigation, with many attempts to disembark, we are finally getting there. The truth is that Antarctica, sometimes, shows you its scary face, making you feel insignificant in an adverse environment. Here, the extreme climatology delays or even cancels all operations programmed and puts people in dangerous situations, but in these occasions, everyone finds the strength to continue and push forward, united, together. If there is something that I like from science it is that everyone works as a group and helps each other. And when that happens in the mostdifficult situations, it is guaranteed that you can share also the amazing moments that this part of the world brings from time to time, like watching amazing whales blowing next to you and immense beautiful icebergs passing by. n

Eric Jorda



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igid inflatable boats are the backbone of the UK diving scene, and are becoming more and more common in other locations as people realise just how durable and versatile these boats are, especially when conditions are less than perfect. There is a reason they are often referred to as the ‘Land Rover Defender of the Seas’ – basic, no-frills, but get the job done when the going gets tough. Valiant, Humber, Delta, etc, top the usual suspects list of dive RIBs, but Ballistic ( is not a name commonly associated with diving, despite having built a solid reputation for quality, durability and performance in the leisure RIB market. However, that has not stopped enterprising dive centres from seeing the capabilities of the Ballistic as a dive boat – Duttons Divers, for instance, in North Wales have retro-fitted a 7.8-metre Ballistic and are successfully using that as a commercial vessel.


Now Ballistic themselves are going into the diving market with their own purpose-built 7.8-metre dive RIB, well equipped with the usual array of electronics, etc, but fitted with a stainless-steel tank rack and a stainless-steel ladder that attaches to the A-frame. Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans headed down to Portsmouth to try out the new boat.

Ballistic have made a solid name for themselves in the leisure rigid inflatable boat market, and now the company is branching out in the diving world with the launch of their 7.8-metre purpose-built dive RIB. Mark Evans went to try it out off the South Coast PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS AND NIGEL STANDERLINE / STANDERLINE.COM


The British-designed Ballistic range of RIBs are renowned for their highperformance, superior load-carrying capacity and high-quality finish. They are known to provide one of the driest rides on the market, which comes from a unique combination of the deep V-shaped hull and reverse scalloped hull chines. The V-hull creates excellent seakeeping and handling in waves, while at the same time, the chines deflect water away as well as increase stability. The Ballistic’s characteristic large, low Hypalon tubes are positioned to skim just above the water, which adds stability, both at speed and at rest. This makes boarding passengers and guests safe and easy. The tube fendering is also designed to deflect spray, ensuring all on board keep dry. The larger boats are built using a unique three-part structure, comprising the GRP moulded hull, deck and internal


ladder chassis, which are bonded together with Lloyds-approved highquality resins, creating a strong hull, streamlined look and reducing the number of areas to bond. Importantly, there is no wooden panelling under the deck that can rot. This cutting-edge construction method sets Ballistic RIBs apart from other RIBs and makes it one of the strongest and most-durable rigid inflatable boats on the water.


Ballistic’s fleet have carved a niche for themselves in the leisure RIB market, and their 5.5-metre, 6-metre, 6.5-metre and 7.8-metre boats have gained a strong and loyal following from people wanting good-looking, comfortable and wellequipped boats that are also extremely capable when conditions get decidedly lumpy. So it was only natural that they eventually looked at the dive market, and this 7.8-metre boat is the result. At first glance, it looks very much like their leisure model, but that is no

bad thing, as a lot of things had already been well thought out. Just because ‘traditional’ dive RIBs tend to have a single console and one jockey seat towards the bow and then a tank rack in the middle, and require divers to perch on the tubes, doesn’t mean that is the only way to do it. The 7.8-metre boat is a big vessel, with a wide 2.5-metre beam, and so that means plenty of room inside the tubes. The double console holding the steering compass, Yamaha digital engine gauge, Garmin echoMAP, Garmin 100i VHF radio and Fusion marine stereo system – you have to have some tunes during your surface interval! – sits in the middle of the boat, yet it is designed with plenty of room either side to easily walk past. This gives the skipper a commanding view of the water all around the boat, vital when



#GODiving See this RIB at the brand-new interactive dive show GO Diving at the Ricoh Arena on 23-24 February 2019! Tickets available now from:

you are coming in to collect divers. Behind the console are four jockey seats, and then behind this, where the bench seat normally sits, is a neat stainless-steel tank rack that can hold six cylinders. All manner of customisations are available, and if you wanted more tank-capacity, you


can lose the rear-most jockey seats and have a larger tank rack fitted. In the six-tank guise, it means you can sit the skipper and three divers on the jockeys, and then others can either stand either side of the console – which with all the stainless-steel grab handles is actually a comfy place to be – or they can sit on the tubes either side of the jockey seats and tank rack. The double stainless-steel A-frame holds the navigation lights, VHF aerial and it is fitted with two extremely bright flood lights, which are great when you are night diving! There is a large seat for two people on the front of the console, and the

elongated bow has bench seats along either side, and can be fitted with a removeable in-fill sun pad cushion. There is a built-in anchor locker in the bow, which is topped by a cushion as well. Whip out the in-fill cushion and you have absolutely acres of space up front for briefings, and to get kitted up and roll into the water. When it comes to getting out, there is a nifty stainlesssteel boarding ladder that attaches to the A-frame, and it is easy to climb either just in your drysuit/wetsuit, or even with your cylinder still on your back. Certainly a lot easier than hauling yourself over the tubes! All of the seating is covered in weatherproof, durable Silvertex material, which is hard-wearing but looks very eye-catching. And there is a ton of storage – all of the jockey seats have underseat storage, and there is a cavernous space in the front of the console (which is where the picnic table is stored – well, you need somewhere to put your cup of tea or coffee on your


surface interval, don’t you?) as well. There is also underseat storage beneath both of the benches in the bow. Just under the latter, you could easily store mesh bags full of masks, snorkels, fins, hoods, gloves, etc, so that the floor of the RIB is not cluttered up. It can certainly get up and go, too – this boat was fitted with a Yamaha four-stroke 300hp outboard, mounted on hydraulic steering, so it could shift, but it was also a doddle to steer thanks to that steering system. This is a big old engine, but there was no effort needed to turn the wheel at any speed. If you really wanted to, you could shove up to a 400hp engine on the back, but with the 300hp, she clears 50 knots with ease, so would you want any more? With an underfloor 225-litre fuel tank, you have got plenty of range for your next dive trip as well. It was quite a choppy day when we headed over to a sheltered bay on the Isle of Wight, and yet the 7.8-metre Ballistic just soaked up the lumps and bumps and provided a fast, smooth and stable ride. Even chucking it into some tight corners, it just heeled over till the tube nestled into the water and then went round like it was on rails. The famed Ballistic reverse scalloped hull chines certainly did the trick, and we didn’t get wet even though there was a fair bit of swell.


The 7.8-metre Ballistic dive RIB is, without a doubt, a serious bit of kit. It looks fabulous and is immensely well-equipped, but it can deliver on all fronts – this could be the ‘Range Rover



The Ballistic RIBs story started in the heart of the South Coast. The original design concept was the brainchild of Paul Frankowski, an expert British boat-builder from Lowestoft. His aim was to create a high-performance boat with a highly predictable ride, capable of a sustained speed of 40 knots, while crossing up to a one-metre sea with superior load-carrying capability. In the mid-1990s, local entrepreneur Nick Parish bought the rights to the design, and started manufacturing Ballistic RIBs for both leisure and commercial uses. Over the years to the end of the 1990s, Parish built a steady number of bespoke craft. In 2002, Parish started to work with Jonny Boys of JBT Marine, one of the world’s leading experts in second-hand RIBs. Jonny, with his growing team in a new purposebuilt facility, reworked the manufacturing processes. Design features were improved, creating a RIB that could be built in volume, to satisfy a growing market. To test the new design and build processes, Jonny entered five Ballistic RIBs into the ultimate endurance challenge, the harsh Trans-Agulhas Race. Based off the southern-most tip of South Africa, this race claims to be ‘The world’s toughest inflatable boat race’, which is no surprise when you consider that it covers 1,000kms from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean in some of the roughest conditions known to man. Jonny was able to confirm both the superiority of these extraordinary boats and also prove his new build processes. Since then, Jonny and his JBT Marine team have built on the Ballistic high-quality, high-performance and load-carrying concept, resulting in a range engineered for unparalleled stability, safety and comfort together with practical, yet attractive design. Always focused on developing the right products for his customers, Jonny took over the Ballistic design and brand in 2005 to further evolve the brand. JBT Marine has since expanded with a strong team of friendly and innovative RIB experts and has changed its name to become Trafalgar Boat Sales. Many Ballistic RIBs can be found all over the world, from the Norwegian Red Cross, fisheries patrols, police forces and emergency services. Even Richard Branson’s Necker Island retreat in the British Virgin Islands chooses the Ballistic RIB.

of dive RIBs’. The package from JBT Marine is a boat ready to go, right down to twin-axle roller trailer, console cover, full boat cover, foot pump, life-jackets, etc. The package price is £74,976, and clubs with charity status obviously don’t pay any VAT, which drops that cost by 20 per cent. All Ballistic RIBS come with a comprehensive, no-nonsense five-year guarantee, and a one-year guarantee for electronics. n NB: JBT Marine ( are currently working on a leasing option for clubs.


GOOD FORTUNE AFTER BAD This month’s column is a Case Study, written by James M Chimiak, and is a salutary tale about a CCR diver enjoying a liveaboard trip to the Socorros THE DIVER

A 40-year-old male did four rebreather dives one day from a liveaboard near Socorro Island. Maximum depths of the dives ranged from 35m to 39m of seawater; dive times were from 62 to 76 minutes. This was the third day of his dive series, which totalled ten dives. All dives were uneventful, and he was out of the water at 6pm.


Approximately three-and-a-half hours after his last dive, the diver experienced nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing during dinner. His fellow divers reported that he was unable to recognise them and could not recall his home address or date of birth. Fortunately, two physicians were among the passengers, and they examined the diver. The exam revealed dilated pupils, slurred speech, motor weakness and involuntary muscle contractions. The crew activated the vessel’s emergency action plan. They placed the diver on oxygen at approximately 10pm. and contacted DAN for medical advice and to initiate an evacuation to a suitable medical facility.


Located in the eastern Pacific south of the Baja Peninsula, Socorro Island is approximately 240 nautical miles from Cabo San Lucas. It is one of four volcanic islands that make up the

Revillagigedos Islands (the other three are San Benedicto, Roca Partida and Clarion). The boat ride to Cabo San Lucas takes about 24 hours. A Mexican military airstrip is on Socorro, but the runway is unable to accommodate larger aircraft, including those that can maintain sea-level pressure during flight. Inbound flights require permission from the military and must clear customs and immigration on the mainland before departing. The airstrip is insufficiently lit to allow takeoff or landing at night. As evacuation plans were being made, the diver’s symptoms began to resolve as he breathed supplemental oxygen. DAN established direct

He was indeed lucky, but he also was a beneficiary of divers’ willingness to help other divers 74

contact with the small military facility on Socorro, which has a functional hyperbaric chamber and professional staff. They quickly recognised the severity of the diver’s condition and that a favourable window of opportunity existed to recompress him, so they agreed to receive the patient. Though there was no physician at the chamber, the diver’s improving condition made treatment at the local facility a good option. The diver arrived at the military facility within four hours of his notable decline. He was able to walk into the chamber, and the chamber operators administered a US Navy Treatment Table 6 with guidance from DAN’s physicians. The treatment led to complete

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

resolution of symptoms, and the diver was released to the boat for monitoring and frequent detailed neurological evaluations by the physicians on board the vessel. A well-known dive medicine physician happened to be aboard another dive boat in the area, and freely rendered his assistance. After a detailed evaluation, he confirmed full resolution of the patient’s symptoms. The diver made an uneventful return home and did not experience any return of symptoms aside from some mild, intermittent general soreness.


Evacuation of this diver presented many challenges to the medical personnel involved in his care, and there are excellent lessons to be learned at each phase of treatment. First, quick recognition of serious dive-related problems is important. In many cases, denial can lead to a refusal to accept that something is wrong and needs attention. Divers may employ hopeful rationalisations to discount early symptoms, because a declared emergency has the potential to end further diving - for both the injured diver and others. Even when an injury is finally recognised, a desire exists for things to spontaneously improve without the need to notify the Divemaster. In this case, an astute dive team recognised abnormal symptoms and behaviours that led to a diagnosis of cerebral decompression sickness (DCS). Next, caregivers should administer first aid promptly and conduct further investigation. This dive team quickly provided oxygen, which resulted in dramatic improvement in the diver’s condition, and then identified medical


professionals in the group and engaged them in his care. They contacted DAN for help with both treatment suggestions and evacuation options. In remote locations, it’s important to be familiar with local medical capabilities and evac options before emergencies happen. In this case, a two-leg flight would have been necessary to get the diver to a fully capable hyperbaric facility (at the University of California, San Diego). There are hyperbaric facilities in Cabo San Lucas, but getting there would still require air evacuation or a long boat ride. Because of the limited capabilities of the island’s airstrip, an unpressurised aircraft would have to take the patient to the mainland, where a second flight would deliver him to San Diego for definitive recompression therapy. Symptoms developed in the evening, so due to darkness any flight to the island would have to be delayed until morning, introducing further delay. DAN notified the Mexican navy of the diver’s serious condition, and they understood that a delay in treatment could lead to a poor outcome. Despite the busy tempo of the remote diving unit, the commanding officer opened his recompression chamber to the civilian diver. The chamber crew were true professionals who quickly administered the necessary hyperbaric treatment that resulted in complete resolution of all

the diver’s symptoms. Doctors on the dive boat re-evaluated him and decided he could remain aboard and transit back to the mainland according to the ship’s original itinerary. Three days after his treatment he made an uneventful flight back home. Four fortunate events positively affected this diver’s episode of serious cerebral DCS. First, his well-trained fellow passengers and the crew quickly recognised the problem and monitored his health until he reached the medical facility. Second, they administered oxygen quickly, which resulted in considerable improvement. Third, an expert in diving medicine was diving in the vicinity and rendered assistance. And fourth, the highly professional Mexican navy opened a restricted facility, which enabled definitive treatment and prevented potentially permanent neurologic injury to the diver. He was indeed lucky, but he also was a beneficiary of divers’ willingness to help other divers. Such willingness can overcome significant obstacles, even international borders, as seen in this case. Please take time to thank the professionals who are committed to helping injured divers. In particular, thank those who keep hyperbaric facilities open for diving emergencies 24 hours per day, seven days a week - they are diving’s unsung heroes. n



None of the USS Arron Ward has been recovered, having managed to escape the attention of salvagers during the 1970s, which is great news for divers

Bow of the Arron Ward

The Solomon Islands are steeped in history from World War Two, in particular the epic naval and air battles of Guadalcanal. There are so many wrecks of ships and aircrafts here that the area was given the name Iron Bottom Sound. One of the most-famous wrecks is the USS Arron Ward PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEIL BENNETT


uilt by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, the USS Arron Ward was launched on 22 November 1941 as a Gleavesclass destroyer. The ship was named in honour of Rear Admiral Arron Ward before heading off to serve in the conflicts of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The USS Arron Ward was an impressive ship, with a displacement of 2,060 tonnes and a length of 106 metres, plus she was capable of reaching 35 knots. Her armament was no less formidable, with an impressive list of weapons – four five-inch DP guns, six .50-inch guns, four 40mm AA guns, five 20mm AA guns, five 21-inch torpedo tubes and six depth-charge projectors

with two depthcharge tracks. Today, her five-inch guns can be found still pointing to the skies as she went down fighting, as if in a symbolic gesture of defiance towards her enemies. Having already seen heavy action in Guadalcanal, the USS Arron Ward was severely damaged and returned to Pearl Harbour for repairs, but not before her gallant actions received commendations for an example of fighting spirit in the heat of battle. After rejoining the fleet, the USS Arron Ward was again involved in the midst of battle while escorting the LST-499 off Togoma Point. Upon this ship was a junior grade officer, Lieutenant John F Kennedy, who later became the President of the United States. During manoeuvres to avoid a dogfight over

Five-inch guns pointing at the surface

supporting divers

Search light from the bridge

Savo Island, the USS Arron Ward was surprised by three enemy aircraft attacking from under cover of the sun. In an attempt to defend herself, she opened fire with her 20mm, 40mm and five-inch battery, but unfortunately the crew failed to shoot down the Japanese, who released a series of bombs that would eventually prove fatal to the ship. Three of these bombs managed to strike or near-miss the ship. The first proved to be devastating, tearing a hole in her side, allowing the forward fire room to flood. The second bomb made a direct hit into the engine room, causing loss of power to the main guns; however, shifting to manual control, the valiant

supporting manufacturers


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The Solomon Islands provide a beautiful contrast of island time and stunning diving that needs to be experienced by any diver The fatal damage to the bridge section

gunners kept firing until the end. The third bomb blew a hole in her port side, causing loss of rudder control. Now helpless, the USS Arron Ward could only turn in a circle, unable to avoid any approaching planes. The bombers attacked again, releasing bombs which all exploded near her port side, killing 20 men, wounding 59 others and leaving a further seven missing. Crippled and helpless, there was nothing she could do to defend herself. The ships Ortolan and Vireo immediately came to her aid in an attempt to beach her on a nearby shoal, however, she began to sink stern first just 550 metres from safety, coming to rest in 70m of water.

bottom at 70m. The USS Arron Resting on the trapeze Ward is too big to during the deco stop complete in one dive, so decide which area to dive first, taking into account the possibility of currents, especially heading towards the bow. The mooring line has been set at midships on her port side. Those intending to penetrate the wreck need to plan very carefully, remembering her structure has been badly damaged and collapsed in the centre. All of her guns point towards the skies, a testament to the last minutes of

battle. The bridge has been completely destroyed, leaving a pile of debris in its place with the last remaining searchlight sitting upright on the deck as if it had been there all along. Don’t be misled to think there is little to explore - this is a huge ship and there is still plenty to see. All of her five-inch guns remain intact, as are many of the other guns. It is incredible to think that these huge objects actually stayed attached during her sinking. In front of the bridge are the torpedo tubes, still full and carrying live explosives, one of which has slid partially out of the tube. It is important to realise that these

THE DIVING In 1995, the USS Arron Ward was located by Ewan Stephenson, a marine archeologist. Today, the wreck lies upright in warm, clear water with her deck at approximately 60m and the

Propeller at almost 70m

torpedoes self-arm when released from their tubes, so don’t tap the torpedo! None of the USS Arron Ward has been recovered, having managed to escape the attention of salvagers during the 1970s, which is great news for divers. The deck is covered with shells of every description; the telegraph system used to contact the engine room can also be found lying on the deck. If you like to simply ferret around, then you will have found heaven. The bow is simply stunning! Fully intact, she waits to be photographed. Gorgonian corals now grow from her sides. Plenty of ambient light reaches her deck and lights up the bow like a Christmas parade. Moving towards the stern, the funnel remains undamaged, while the conning tower has now dropped off to the sea floor on the starboard side. Again, the guns are still there and the stern is in good condition, although the hull is now distorted from the impact with the seabed. The stern itself makes for a good photo opportunity, with both the props still in-place down at 70m. Gas in the Solomon Islands is very expensive;

helium will cost around $300NZ per tank fill. Although not the ideal method, our choice was to run this as an extended range dive on air and decompressing on nitrox. With a bottom time of 25-30 minutes, we were managing to run a deco time of approximately 45 minutes, depending of course where on the wreck you decided to spend your dive time. Tulagi Dive provides a trapeze with their operation and this is essential for this kind of dive. Without this and if the current is running strongly, you may find yourself halfway to PNG before you surface! This is not a dive I would recommend without the right training or gear, and certainly any penetration should be for the experienced divers, simply due to its depth and the complexity of the dive the wreck itself presents. Having said this, it is without a doubt one of the moststunning and enjoyable wreck dives I have undertaken. I simply love travelling to the Solomons to explore this wreck. Travelling here to dive is very easy, and due to the close proximity of the wrecks, it is possible to undertake this

The team exploring the bow section

as a shore destination trip run from two locations, Honiara and Tulagi Island. Honiara provides the base to explore the wrecks along her coastline while being hosted by Tulagi Dive, then simply move across the channel to Tulagi Island and dive the wrecks in this area while being hosted by the Raiders Hotel. Out on the island, nearly all of the sites are located within a 15-minute boat journey from the hotel. In Honiara, some of the sites on the mainland take a little longer to reach but that doesn’t present an issue. The service and quality of these operations are exceptional given the challenges remote destinations can provide. The Solomon Islands provide a beautiful contrast of island time and stunning diving that needs to be experienced by any diver. It’s not expensive, and nor is it difficult to get to, with Brisbane providing the hub for flights. n NB: Next issue, Neil continues his Solomons adventure, this time exploring the wreck of the USS Kanawha.

Heading towards the bow past the 20mm cannons

This article was supported by New Zealand Diving Ltd, Go Dive Pacific, Raiders Hotel and Tulagi Dive.

Lighthearted profile of dive centres or clubs from all over the United Kingdom. This month, it is the turn of Atlantic Scuba, in Cornwall

Who is in


Name: Mark Milburn Rank: Lord Admiral Date of first certification: Feb 2000 Number of dives to date: 4,000 WHAT’S YOUR STORY? When we moved from London to Cornwall in 1976, we lived 400 metres from the sea. Surfing, swimming and snorkelling when I could. When I started full-time work in 1980, it was 100 metres from Cornwall’s first dive centre. The price of the equipment was too restrictive for me. Life progressed - married, kids, etc. Then d.i.v.o.r.c.e. and a tropical holiday to celebrate. Perhaps I should try this diving lark - I was hooked. I bought a set of kit from a dive centre that closed in 2001, bought the rest of that centre in 2002, became an instructor in 2006, and set up Atlantic Scuba in 2007. Moved to the Falmouth area in 2010, as there were more opportunities to dive there than the north coast. Now concentrating on taking divers out on our boat, as well as diving for myself when not driving the boat.

Q&A with Mark Q: How would you describe your team at your dive centre? A: Some are sane, some are madder than a box of frogs and a half. Q: What is your most-embarrassing teaching moment? A: Doing an out-of-air ascent with a student, we surfaced next to two naked young women on the rocks. My smoothtalking student chatted them up and got a date with the pair of them. I knew what a gooseberry felt like. Q: What is your favourite place to dive in the UK? A: Somewhere no one else has been. Q: What is your favourite place to dive abroad? A: Thailand. Q: If you could change one thing about diving, what would it be? A: Rather than in-fighting, let’s all get on and promote diving together. 82

Q: Who is the worst air-guzzler in your team?

A: No guzzlers left here, although there was this one DMT once, that could have done with twin 18s for a shore dive. Q: Who is the biggest wimp out of the lot of you, and give a recent example? A: Bill ‘it’s too cold here’ Gunn, he’s off abroad again next week, all applies at any time of year. Q: Who attracts the most attention, good or bad? A: Kat, she got told off for roller blading around the dive show during set up! Q: If you could teach a celebrity to dive, who would it be and why? A: Albert Einstein, I have never seen him with wet hair. Q: What’s been the biggest fear factor in your diving career to date? A: When an Open Water student did everything you get taught to handle in a Rescue Diver course, repeatedly for several minutes, until we reached the shore.

DIVE CENTRE factfile Contact details 1 Trenoweth Business Park, Mabe, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9JH Tel: 01326 618583 Email: Website: Facebook: atlanticscuba Twitter: atlanticscuba Instagram: atlanticscuba YouTube: atlanticscuba Opening hours We’re open most days about 9pm-10pm, occasionally as early as 7pm, but some days as late as 12pm or 1am. We’re closed about 5.30pm or 6pm, occasionally about 4pm or 5pm, but sometimes as late as 11pm or 12pm. Some days or afternoons, we aren’t here at all, lately I’ve been here just about all the time. Except when I’m someplace else, but I should be here then too.

Courses available Most courses from SDI/TDI, PADI and RAID Rental kit and brand Lots, mainly Sopras Sub or Tecline Shop We have a small retail shop, carrying everyday items as well as Tecline regulators, Kwark undersuits and other stuff from Sopras Sub Gas mixes Air, Nitrox and Trimix to 300bar and oxygen to 200bar Servicing Cylinder testing available. Tecline, Sopras Sub, Dive Rite, IST, Poseidon reg servicing


What’s New


The latest version of the legendary Aquamatic features a high-precision Japanese automatic movement, virtually scratchproof sapphire crystal and a display back. Small productions ensure quality, fit and finish that make this classic Divemaster’s watch a true standout. It has a 40-hour power reserve, is depth-rated to 300m (and features a screw-down crown), and is fitted with a custom strap made with 316L stainless steel, with all solid links and endpieces, for unrivalled dependability on any adventure. Special half-links on either side of the clasp allow for more-precise sizing, and a foldout extension (under the clasp) can be flipped out to allow you to wear the watch over a thin wetsuit sleeve.



The latest Series 3k Spot (20°) from Anchor Dive Lights features advanced optics that enable wreck divers to see more of the wreck when diving in clear, deep water like Ireland’s Malin Head, but this compact handheld light is also perfect for diving in clear warm water, both during the day and at night. The Series 3k Spot is designed for divers who want a high-performing hand-held dive torch. The Series 3k Spot has a similar intensity to the Series 1K Spot, but the increased output combined with the advanced optics produces a less tightly focused beam, allowing the diver to see more. The easy-to-use single button operation controls both the intensity and signalling modes. The incorporated battery indicator also displays the remaining state of battery charge. The powerful 4,315 lux beam provides a generous 75-minutes burn time at 100 percent power. The modular head can be upgraded to an umbilical system, boosting the full power burn time to over three hours.

I-DIVESITE SS-03 (SRP: £350)

Miflex Xtreme LP hoses are now available in a range of 11 colours (nine for inflator hoses) with the new Orange colour being launched for 2019. This allows divers to personalise and configure their equipment as required for visibility, safety and personal choice. Available with standard 3/8” UNK male fittings for the first stage, the reg hoses come in lengths ranging from 56cm to 210cm, and the BCD/inflator hoses come in lengths from 50cm to 90cm. All Miflex hoses are supplied complete with manufacturer re-usable drybag packaging, as well as important Miflex user information and warranty details. 84

Expanding on previous Symbiosis models, the SS-03 gives users the great benefits of an all-in-one video/ strobe combo while packing it all into a pint-sized body. The SS-03 has a heavy-duty aluminium head, housing an LED array producing 2,800 lumens in video mode, a flash module kicking out 20GN of flash power and two high-capacity 18650 batteries that keep going well through a dive. The benefit of being able to have both a flash and a video light in one tiny package is unparalleled, allowing users to capture beautiful colours underwater, be that video or stills using the easy-switch mode to go between both. The SS-03, which is depth-rated to 60m, also features an auto-off mode when a flash is detected, and a red light mode allowing it to double up as a focus light. WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM



The X-Core leggings complement the X-Core vest, which was launched last year, and provides the critical core areas with the enhanced protection of X-Core fabric with lighter fabrics, to make the leggings easy to layer up underneath an Arctic. A lightweight waistband avoids too much bulk around the midriff, while the insulating material extends to just below the knees for exceptional thermal protection, especially when on trim. Bulk is minimised in the lower legs and behind the knees for maximum mobility. Fastwicking fabric makes this an excellent next-to-skin layer, or can be used with an additional base layer. The X-Core fabric is 76 percent recycled plastic from post-consumer waste, making this product part of Fourth Element’s OceanPositive collection. Men’s leggings available in February (sizes XS – XXXL), Women’s styles will follow in March (in sizes UK 6 – 20).

DE-OX ANALYERS (SRP: £235-£540) De-Ox are an Italian brand of diving analysers. They are known throughout the world for their military and commercial instrumentation, and are now available to UK recreational and technical divers. De-Ox Easy O2/He (£540) – This is a simple, and veryaffordable trimix analyser. The analyser is built into a waterproof explorer case, and comes ready to use with a rubber flow restrictor. The power button also toggles between oxygen and helium readings, which makes it very easy to use. De-Ox Zip O2 (£235) – A lightweight and very portable nitrox analyser. One button for on/off and an adjustment knob for calibration make this analyser very easy to use. The calibration knob is not easily knocked, so it works great when several people are using the same analyser, and the Zip O2 comes in a padded case to protect it. De-Ox SAFE CO (£299) – An unusual unit, the De-Ox SAFE CO is a carbon monoxide analyser/detector. Every year, we hear more and more stories of divers having issues due to ‘bad air’ in both foreign locations and in the UK. This very affordable CO detector should be a part of any diver’s safety tool kit, and definitely should be part of any commercial operation’s risk assessment. WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

There is a new recreational rebreather in town! The decades of expertise behind Mares and ReVo rebreathers have combined to create a unique semi-closed unit like no other. What makes it stand out immediately is the compact size, and the fact that it is designed to be used with standard nitrox cylinders that are available at any dive destination. The Horizon, which only weighs 12kg for easy transportation, features two scrubber canisters, each containing 1kg of CO2 absorbent that can be refilled by the user, two integrated weight pockets, a fully adjustable harness system (from XS to XXL), two oxygen sensors, a 2.8-inch full-colour, highcontrast dive computer, three sets of redundant electronics, each with an individual battery system, and a safety gag on the mouthpiece. It is designed so that it reverts automatically to full nitrox breathing in case of failure, and no tools are required for preparation, use and cleaning. It will work with nitrox mixes from 30 percent right up to 99 percent, and with one stage cylinder as gas supply it is 30m no-deco limit, with two stage cylinders as gas supply it is 40m with decompression. 85

Test Extra

MARES ACTIVE HEATING VEST (SRP: £204) AND PANTS (SRP: £204) Mark Evans: As I write this review, it is January, and the waters in the UK – both in the sea, but particularly in inland sites – are getting decidedly chilly. Good thermal protection is, therefore, paramount, and there are all manner of base-layers and undersuits to don under your drysuit to try and keep the cold at bay. However, we live in an era of technological development, and so it makes sense to tap into all of this clever stuff – and that is where heated undersuits come in. I have tried a few heated vests over the years, but Mares have come up with a neat set that provides warmth for your upper torso and your legs. In their literature, Mares say that the Active Heated Vest ‘provides heat to the back kidney area and to each side of the chest, giving a feeling of complete warmth to the upper body’ and the trousers ‘provides heat to the back iliac area and knees in order to give a feeling of complete warmth in the lower body’. The vest is constructed with a windproof 100 percent polyester outer, with two handy zippered pockets – perfect for keeping your hands warm when topside. Inside there are two Velcro-closing pockets – one for the lithium battery pack, and the other for essentials. There is a double zip up the front. The Active Heating Pants are made from polyester, nylon and spandex, so combine some of the windproof elements of the vest around the front of your legs, but at the back are super-stretchy and thin for minimal bulk and ease of movement. The elasticated waist is closed with a zippered fly and metal popper, and there is a single zippered pocket on the left for the battery pack. Stirrups at the bottom of the legs prevent them from riding up as you put your legs into your drysuit.



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MARES ACTIVE HEATING VEST (SRP: £204) AND PANTS (SRP: £204) It says not to use the vest and trousers against your skin, so wear a base-later underneath them. The battery packs provide four different temperature settings, providing between two and five hours of heating time from each supplied lithium battery (which only take around two-and-a-half hours to recharge). The battery packs feature a charge level and battery level indicator. Undersuits can develop a particular aroma after several days of use, as anyone who has been on a coldwater liveaboard can testify, but thankfully both the vest and the trousers are hand-washable – after you remove the batteries, of course! So, what are they like in use? Well, warm as toast springs to mind! The vest and trousers run on small battery packs, but man, do they pack a punch. Whack them on full power and within a few minutes you can really feel the heat. I found that if I switched them both on at full power while I was getting the rest of my dive kit sorted, by the time I was due to get into the water, I could knock it down a couple of power bands as I had built up a good residual warmth. That said, on one particularly cold day, I just left them on full power the


whole time and it was very bizarre to still be feeling very warm at the end of an hour in low single-digit temperature water! The heating elements are in the perfect spots, accurately generating the warmth to the right locations. The battery packs are simple to use – once turned on with the power button, you can then ‘cycle’ through the heat settings, or press-and-hold to turn off. Obviously, once you are in your drysuit and ready to dive, your battery pack is all sealed up inside. So, you have two options. You can either set the heat to the level you want pre-dive and then leave it at that, or if your drysuit is a reasonably thin trilaminate, and you ensure the battery pack is seated so that the control button faces out, you can change it ‘on the fly’. Both the vest and the trousers are lightweight and flexible, so you do not feel restricted when you are wearing them. In fact, I even pressed the vest into use when I went mountain biking when there was a thick frost on the ground, and it was great to be able to warm up while I was in the car and getting my Kona off the car bike rack, and then switch it off once I was out

on the trails. I soon switched it back on when I returned to the car park though! Perfect way to finish, a nice warm core combined with a large hot chocolate! It would equally be useful when out and about walking the dog, hiking, out on a RIB or jetski, or any number of outdoor activities when keeping yourself warm is essential. The vest and trousers come in sizes ranging from XS to XXL, and the supplied charger has different attachments for plug sockets depending on where you are in the world. NB: The Active Heating Vest and Pants are not suitable for people with pacemakers.


Test Extra


Mark Evans: Finnsub have always done something a little out of the ordinary with their dive light ranges, and now they have added two innovative new torches to their lineup – the BANG Spot, and the BANG Wide. The Spot has a five-degree beam and according to Finnsub is designed for use in murky conditions or for signalling, while the Wide has a ten-degree beam and is designed for those in clearer waters who want maximum light over a wider area. Both put out 1,100 lumen for two hours at 100 percent power, or 366 lumen for ten hours at 30 percent, which given the compact size of the units is quite incredible. They are depth-rated to 100m, which is more than enough for most people, and are powered by an efficient lithium-ion rechargeable battery. They can be charged up without having to ‘open’ the torches thanks


to the charging points being at the back of the unit. As any diver knows, ‘cracking’ open a torch to get to the batteries when it comes to recharging time, or battery replacement, is crunch time, and is often when something doesn’t quite seat right, resulting in a dead flooded torch on your next dive. Removing that risk factor is a major bonus, and the charging cable attaches securely magnetically when you want to charge the BANG torch up. You must ensure that both the charging points and the charger itself are free from any moisture or salt residues, so after use, always rinse and then dry off thoroughly. Another potential failure point on dive lights is the on/off switch and power controls. They can either pack-up working, or flood. Finnsub get around that issue by doing away with any visible controls at all! Both of the BANG torches are switched on and off, and the power levels changed, via a unique

system where you lightly ‘tap’ on the ‘BANG’ logo on the light body. It is even designed to be used with gloves, and I tried it with both KUBI drygloves and 5mm neoprene gloves and had no issues with either – once I got the rhythm right. Three taps with a 0.3-0.8 second gap between to turn




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FINNSUB BANG TORCHES | SRP: £375 on and off, and two taps with 0.3-0.8 seconds between to cycle through the power settings. It does take a little practice to get it right, and you will find yourself sat there tapping away to no effect for a while, but have patience, and once you have the hang of it, it is extremely simple and easy to turn the torches on and off, or adjust the power setting (NB: Only use the lower power setting topside). The accelerometer has innovative dual software, so it senses whether the light is topside or underwater, and it is optomised for underwater use, so you’ll actually find it easier to operate when you are diving. This clever software can even detect when the torch is being transported and not accidentally switch on. Each torch is supplied in a soft, zippered pouch for storage and protection. Within these drybag-like pouches, you will find the lights themselves and their chargers inside individual drawstring pouches – the torch one even has a handy image of the light printed on the outside. Both torches also come with a neat soft webbing-and-neoprene Goodmanstyle handle mount to hold the light securely on the back of your hand, but leave your fingers and thumb free to do other things. This can be quickly and easily adjusted to fit a bare hand, if you are in warm waters, or a hand inside a thick neoprene glove in colder climates. I really like


these sort of handles, the dive light just sits there for when you need it, but doesn’t get in the way when you don’t. That particularly applies to these units as they are so small. Being small but very bright, these Finnsub dive lights are perfect as primary UK torches, but equally would be ideal for the travelling diver, as they won’t hammer your baggage allowance. Knock down the power to the lower settings and it is great for night dives in the tropics, but then find yourself inside a shipwreck or cavern and you can crank

it up to full power. I found the Spot perfect in UK conditions when there was a bit of detritus in the water, as the focused beam just sliced through the murk. The Wide still did a good job, but obviously illuminated more of the ‘floaters’, but this could be counteracted by knocking down the power levels, which still meant it gave you decent light penetration but without reflecting on all the floating particles.



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Long Term Test APEKS XL4+ Mark Evans: The Apeks XL4+ is the next generation development of the original XL4 regulator, which was a stunning cold-water-rated regulator that was also very lightweight for travelling with. This ‘+’ version, which comes in a natty white colour scheme, also benefits from an additional high-pressure port on the first stage. It scored highly in last month’s Test Extra, INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 and it will be interesting to Suggested retail price: £401 see how it fares over the Number of dives: 0 next six months. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins


Mark Evans: So after the long wait, I finally got my hands on the brand-new Finnsub 20D and Comfort Harness. I have managed a couple of dives and first impressions are favourable - particularly like the large, pinch-cliprelease integrated weight pockets. I find this style INFORMATION Arrival date: January 2019 incredibly secure and Suggested retail price: £579 user-friendly, but they are Number of dives: 2 not bulky. Time in water: 1 hrs 50 mins 94


Mark Evans: The Epic ADJ 82X combines the traditional advantages of the company’s regulators with the latestgeneration technological innovations. The balanced diaphragm first stage has a unique design for the high-pressure ports allowing you to orientate them to your preference regardless of the first-stage position. The pneumatically balanced second stage features the ‘motorcycle-throttle’ venturi control and INFORMATION Arrival date: February 2019 pivoting purge first seen Suggested retail price: £545 on the highly regarded Number of dives: 0 Fusion regulator. Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins

SHEARWATER RESEARCH TERIC Mark Evans: The Teric has accompanied me on a few dives now, and I am very impressed by how bright that display is - I can see why Gabriel from Shearwater described the Teric as being ‘like the sun’ compared to the Perdix being ‘like the moon’... However, this month I want to talk about how the Teric charges up in its little cradle. You just pop it in, and if it is seated correctly, the light on the front goes green, if it is wrong, it flashes red. Once it is charged, it INFORMATION Arrival date: December 2018 flashes green. Simple! And Suggested retail price: £918 the display even changes Number of dives: 4 orientation in the cradle! Time in water: 3 hrs 55 mins WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM


Mark Evans: The Infinity has been racking up the dives, and I am getting a long-hose aficionado in it for next month’s report. I like the attention to detail - this singlecylinder metal mount works well, holding a tank with no movement, and the dual tank bands feature large INFORMATION Arrival date: October 2018 slaps of embossed rubber Suggested retail price: £777 to firmly grip the sides of Number of dives: 11 the cylinder. Time in water: 10 hrs 20 mins


Mark Evans: For all those colour-co-ordinated types out there, who like their dive kit to match - heh, asthetics is getting all the more important! - please make note of the fact that you can get colour-coded elastic and INFORMATION Arrival date: September 2018 silicone straps for the Suggested retail price: £59.95 Scope Mono in a range of Number of dives: 18 funky, vibrant colours. Time in water: 17 hrs 20 mins WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM

BARE ULTRAWARMTH 7MM HOOD Mark Evans: I have to say, when I first heard the spiel for the Celliant technology several years ago at the DEMA trade show in the United States, I was extremely sceptical. However, that all vanished in about five minutes after donning a wide neoprene belt infused with Celliant and feeling the heat around my kidney area. It really does work, and it is fantastic that BARE have combined it into their gloves and hoods, as it genuinely does make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, a 7mm, well-fitting neoprene hood should be pretty warm anyway, but this item is noticeably warmer than a standard hood. If you do a lot of cold-water INFORMATION Arrival date: November 2018 diving, then I suggest you Suggested retail price: £64.95 try one out - your head will Number of dives: 8 thank you, believe me. Time in water: 8 hrs 20 mins

AQUA LUNG ROGUE Mark Evans: The Aqua Lung Rogue has finally reached the end of its six-month run in Long Term Test, and I have been thoroughly impressed by this lightweight, back-to-basics back-inflate BCD. I prefer it over its morestripped-back sibling the Outlaw, because it has dropdown pockets, more D-rings, and can handle integrated weights and trim pockets. It is extremely comfortable, works equally well in the UK and abroad, and thanks to the neat modular design, you can really tweak the fit INFORMATION Arrival date: August 2018 by mixing-and-matching Suggested retail price: £455 shoulder and waist straps Number of dives: 47 of different sizes. Time in water: 45 hrs 50 mins 95

















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Behind-the-scenes of the inaugural GO Diving Show, the interactive and immersive event held at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry Adrian Stacey is blown away by the marine biodiversity in the Philippines on a liveaboard trip with the Stella Maris team

Stuart Philpott leapt at the chance to experience life at a brand-new Prodivers resort in the Maldives aimed specifically at divers


The legendary wreck-diving mecca of Scapa Flow has its 100th anniversary in 2019, and author Lawson Wood celebrates this iconic destination Raja Ampat has always been on Al Hornsby’s wish-list of dive destinations, but it eluded him until now - and it was worth the wait! The Scuba Diver Test Team braves the chilly waters of North Wales to rate and review regulators priced from £275-£400.


ARE YOU READY FOR GO DIVING? The ultimate interactive and immersive event celebrating all aspects of diving! Whether you want to find out more about diving, are just getting started in this exciting sport, or are an experienced veteran, GO Diving has something for you! The date: Friday 22 – Sunday 24 February 2019 (Friday - trade only) The venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry, CV6 6GE KEEP IN TOUCH VIA SOCIAL MEDIA Follow us on social media at /godivingshow to get the latest updates on the show – use the hashtag #GODiving



he GO Diving Show is headlined by an array of celebrity divers who have each had a major impact on the diving world in their own unique way. They will be on the Main Stage on Saturday 23 February and Sunday 24 February for a mix of must-see presentations, ‘fireside chats’ and Q&A sessions. The Brits are out in force, with BBC stars Andy Torbet, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Monty Halls being front and centre (Andy and Miranda are also acting as comperes for the Main Stage as well as doing their own presentations), and they are joined by American professional mermaid Linden Wolbert and TV adventurer and Hollywood stunt double

Mehgan Heaney-Grier, Italian freediving legend Umberto Pelizzari and Canadian explorer extraordinaire Jill Heinerth. As well as the Main Stage, there are no less than five other stages at GO Diving dedicated to specific disciplines and interests – Technical Stage, Freediving Stage, Underwater Photography Stage, Travel Stage and the Inspiration Stage – playing host to more than 50 speakers, including the likes of Chris Jewell, Phil Short, Leigh Bishop, Gareth Lock, Mark Powell, John Kendall, Rich Walker, Stug Severinsen, Emma Farrell, Alex Mustard MBE, Ellen Cuylaerts, Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield, Jason Brown, Stuart Philpott and many more. Alongside these six stages, there are also two 100 sq m trydive pools, for entry-level trydives,


technical trydives and freediving/ snorkelling sessions, The Next Generation section for keen kids and talented teens to hang out and talk diving, masterclasses in underwater photography and freediving, a range of interactive challenges, including a 30-metre dry cave system, a navigation trial, and a timed S-drill event, plus some eight different Virtual Reality ‘dives’ including great white sharks, seals, cave systems and more. All of this is interspersed by some 80 stands from major manufacturers, top training agencies, travel specialists, major retailers, and a selection of resorts and liveaboards from around the world. To find out more information or to book your tickets in advance, check out:

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Scuba Diver February 2019  

Scuba Diver February 2019