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EDITOR’S NOTE Celebrating the
INDOMITABLE HUMAN SPIRIT It never ceases to amaze me what can be achieved if you put your mind, body and soul into a project. A prime example of that is the recent Thai cave rescue - many believed that this was going to be a body-recovery exercise, but all the cave divers involved pulled together and were able to complete a veritable miracle by pulling out the soccer team and their coach alive and well. Ginge Fullen is another example of someone who just refuses to give up. A Royal Navy Clearance Diver, he is used to being in the thick of things, but all I can say is there must have been some serious alcohol involved when he came up with the hare-brained idea to walk to the summit of Ben Nevis - a reasonable feat in its own right - in full standard dress diving equipment! Anyone who has completed a dive in this old-fashioned gear will tell you it is one hell of a weight, and the thought of walking 200 metres in it is painful, never mind up a mountain! However, such was his belief in the project that through sheer force of will, he made it happen - and September saw the successful completion of the ground-breaking Subsea to Summit walk, which raised over £7,500 for the Historical Diving Society, the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (LMRT) and the family of Saman Kunan, the former Thai Navy Diver who tragically died while taking part in the afore-mentioned cave rescue. Even more impressive is the long list of friends and associates he managed to get involved alongside him during the arduous relay slog up Ben Nevis, with ages ranging from 19 to an incredible 71. Read the full report on pages 8-10. I applaud you all on your endeavours - and can’t wait to hear what Ginge comes up with next! All I can say is that a few rounds of adult beverages might be involved in the planning. I’ll leave you with some final words of wisdom from Ginge when asked about the chances of the walk being achieveable - ‘There are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic deadlines’.
MARK EVANS, Editor-in-Chief
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ON THE COVER
REEFS, WRECKS, CONSERVATION, MUSIC AND MORE! ISSUE 21 | NOV 18 | £3.25
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PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: Mark Evans
In-depth report on epic charity event Subsea to Summit, a beluga named Benny in the Thames, and a German U-boat discovered off Wales.
Adventurer, tech diver and TV favourite Andy Torbet presents the first of two articles looking at extreme underwater filming, beginning with the challenges of shooting when it is very, very cold.
22 Extreme underwater filming, part one
28 Dive like a Pro
48 Underwater Photography
38 ABOVE 18m: Dorset
70 Our-World UW Scholar
42 The Philippines
A panel of training agency experts look at boat and shore diving and discuss the pros and cons of both.
Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield explains how adding a ‘spin’ to your photographs can transform them into an eye-catching image.
Eric Jorda tries his hand at coral gardening in the Philippines, before doing his HSE Commercial Diver Part IV right here in the UK.
When a planned modelling photography workshop failed to materialise, Stuart Philpott headed out to Egypt’s Red Sea anyway to get some topquality images in the bank.
Stuart Philpott takes the reins of Above 18m this issue, venturing out from Portland to explore the brand-new Underwater Curiosity Park in Balaclava Bay, which is suitable for all levels of diver.
After Al Hornsby’s fantastic trip to Dumaguete, he didn’t think the diving could be topped, but Puerto Galera literally left him speechless when each dive site just kept delivering encounter after encounter.
Mark Evans jetted out to the Caribbean for the second annual DiveFest event in Grenada and Carriacou, and found it the perfect blend of diving, conservation, music, food and above all a damn good craic.
60 THE NEXT GENERATION
Severntec Diving made the most of our great summer weather and went to Porth Ysgaden in North Wales with a group of keen youngsters eager to get in the water and explore this sheltered location.
Croatia is often overlooked as a short-haul diving destination, but as Stuart Philpott found out, with clear waters, healthy reefs and numerous shipwrecks, it is well worth checking out.
76 TECHNICAL: Backmount vs sidemount
Recreational diver Gavin Jones takes the plunge with RAID’s Garry Dallas for trydives on both a backmounted twinset and a sidemount system which will come out on top as the ideal tech starting point?
GEAR GUIDE 82 What’s New
New products recently released, including Fourth Element’s winter range of apres-divewear, Zeagle’s Bravo BCD, DiveLogs waterproof logbook, and the Hollis Seeker reels.
84 Group Test
The Scuba Diver Test Team heads to Llanberis in North Wales to review a selection of mid-range fins - £75-£100 - from a range of manufacturers.
90 Test extra
Mark Evans gets to grips with the SeaLife DC2000 compact camera and housing.
94 Long Term Test
The Scuba Diver Test Team reviews a selection of products over a six-month period, including the Apeks RK3 HD fins, 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 social media. www.scubadivermag.com/news | .com/scubadivermag | @scubadivermag
SUBSEA TO SUMMIT
There have been several wacky diving charity events over the years, but as Ginge Fullen reports, Subsea to Summit, a never before - and probably never again! - walk up Ben Nevis in historical diving equipment weighing over 80kg will take some beating! PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF GINGE FULLEN AND IAIN FURGUSON/ALBA PHOTOS
t began at 5m in Loch Linnhe and finished at the summit of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. A total climb of 1,350 metres. It was hoped to raise £4,430 - i.e. a pound for every foot gained. Barring death I did not see any real problems at all in climbing this mountain after all, no simpler a plan has been made and no harder a trip undertaken. Can we do it, well we didn’t know if we could not! There are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic deadlines. I would like to say thanks to the team. Yes, for all the hard work, but mostly because whenever I climb another mountain, I will smile and say to myself – it could be worse!
INTO THE UNKNOWN - MAKING MAD IDEAS A REALITY! Make no doubt, the walk started off brutal and got steadily worse. If it was only difficult then it might have been done before. The Navy would not really back it officially in case someone died, I think. People will and did ask the question ‘why’, those who asked though will probably never understand the answer. The answers are many and different for each person. The simple answer of ‘why walk up Ben Nevis in standard diving equipment’ was, for me, so nobody else has to. I had the idea for many, many years but the time to realise dreams is getting less and less. After finishing a five-year project to climb the highest peaks in the 53 countries in Africa, I wrote ‘unfortunately the world is too big for just one lifetime’. Now is the time to do things, write them down and dream beyond what you think is possible.
I met Ty Burton, a tough, ever-positive Welshman a couple of years ago during a dive in Stoney Cove in standard diving equipment. On first hearing about the idea his first comment was ‘let’s make it happen!’. We met several times to formulate a plan and met for a last time in a remote Welsh mountain bothy to finalise the Subsea to Summit idea. As equipment officer for the HDS, Ty took charge of the standing diving gear required on the mountain and the many little changes required to make walking up a steep mountain with 80kg of equipment that little bit more comfortable. Next on board was an old diving mate, Tim Kite, who involves himself more and more in crazy adventures and sponsored the project as soon as he heard about it.
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Wanted: men for hazardous journey; low wages, intense cold, long months of darkness and constant risks, return not certain. Shackleton’s quote could well be adapted for a project such as this. Nevertheless, a small band of men and women got involved maybe, knowing me, more out of curiosity than anything else. Some I knew but many I didn’t, but the most-remarkable thing about this whole journey is the team on the mountain, those who came and went have shared a unique and crazy experience that may only come around once in a lifetime. Ty started the Subsea to Summit project with a dive off the Marina and shoreline companies pontoon on the shore of Loch Linnhe at 10am on 1 September. The Ben Nevis race would start at 1pm the same day and be finished the same afternoon. We were planning at least four days. The first day saw us go the two-and-a-half miles through town to the Ben Nevis Information Centre at the base of the mountain. Dean ‘Simmo’ Simpson, who had set up the crowdfunding site among helping out in numerous other ways, timed his stint in the suit well as he called into the whisky shop on the high street for a tot of whisky. Simmo had also roped in Zac, his youngest son, who also had a couple of stints, including on the mountain making him the youngest at 19 years of age to carry the kit. Ex-CD and MCDO Paul Guiver was involved early on and volunteered to do anything asked of him, and subsequently got volunteered to act as PR rep. Others took their turn as we made very good time to the information centre. Meg, only the second female Clearance Diver to qualify in the Royal Navy, arrived at midday by train keen to be involved. After a change of shoes she was soon wearing 80kg of diving equipment and took her turn right up until the summit. As a Leading Diver, I would not expect anything less from a fellow CD. She fitted into the team in an instant and added a constant smile whenever anybody talked to her. Lenny, a small tough ex-Army Diver in his 50s and HDS member, took the lead with Ty when the diver was dressing, never letting the diver do a thing or wait a second when they were dressing. Two more young Army Divers joined us for the
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INDUSTRY NEWS All funds raised will be distributed evenly between the Historical Diving Society, the Lochaber Mo untain Rescue Team (LMRT) and the family of Saman Kunan, the for mer Thai Navy Diver who tragica lly died while taking part in effo rts to rescue 12 boys and the ir football coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand.
first two days, Hodgie and Lee, and they put us ahead of target by the time they had to leave us. Chris Betts also had to leave us at the end of day two. We finished that day at over 1,000m on 4 September. Ty, Lenny and John stayed up on the mountain looking after the equipment on a wet and miserable night. John from the HDS, quiet and unassuming, supported us throughout the trip just wanting to be part of the madness, as did Rodger, another HDS member, who at 71 years of age was the oldest to do a stint. Those of us who came down the mountain were up at 5am and back where we had left off by 9am. We were soon back into a cold wet suit but the day was clear and we could sense success. We were now down to six walkers in the equipment but were bolstered by three support crew from my RNR unit HMS Dalraida, Brian Jones, Stevie Allan and Brian Cartlidge. Tough ex-Rugby League player Nigel and Gary, an American climber I recently met while climbing in the Marinas Islands, rounded out the team. The final 100 metre leg of the project fell to Meg to climb the summit Cairn and for us to be the first team - and possibly the last - to reach the highest point in the UK in standard diving equipment. It’s the hardest things in life that you remember the most and that is so true, but to share it with such a team makes this all the more special. It’s been a pleasure to part of the Subsea to Summit team. We came and achieved the aim of the Subsea to Summit challenge and in the process raised over £7,500. n
SUBSEA TO SUMMIT TEAM
Walkers – Ginge Fullen (RNR Clearance Diver), Ty Burton ( HDS), Lenny Lennox (HDS and ex Army Diver), Nigel Brockwell (HDS), Gary Reckelhoff (Climber, USA), Megan Haigh (Serving Clearance Diver) , Hodgie Hodgkinson and Lee Ord (both serving Army Divers), Chris Betts (RNR Clearance Diver) Walkers (Guest appearances) – Paul Guiver (ex CD), Zak Simpson (19 years old), Dean ‘Simmo’ Simpson (ex CD), Rodger Fairhurst Blackburn (HDS, 71 years old), Ali and Sarah Macload (Ali – Underwater Centre Dive Supervisor) Support – John Wilkins (HDS), Brian Jones RNR, Stevie Allan RNR, Brian Cartlidge RNR, John and Una Smillie, Adrian and Jenny Barak
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BELUGA WHALE SETS UP HOME IN THE RIVER THAMES Conservationists from various groups and organisations, as well as hundreds of onlookers, are still monitoring a beluga whale – normally seen in the Arctic Ocean – which seems to have set up home in the River Thames. The whale, which has been nicknamed Benny, was first spotted near Gravesend in Kent at the end of September. At the time it was said to be ‘swimming strongly and feeding’, but various groups were monitoring it and hoping that it would make its way back out to the open sea. Ships using the waterway were given instructions to steer clear of the beluga, and members of the public were urged not to take to the water for a closer look. However, as the weeks went by, it became clear that Benny wasn’t going anywhere, and he currently seems to be right at home and feeding well in the Thames. But his presence is still causing some distruption - the annual river fireworks display has been postponed for fears of scaring the animal. This is the most-southerly recording of a beluga – which can grow to over six metres in length - in the UK, with the whales last seen three years ago off the coast of Northumberland and Northern Ireland. They are normally found in the icy waters surrounding Greenland, Russia, Canada and Alaska.
FORT WILLIAM’S UNDERWATER CENTRE GOES INTO ADMINISTRATION Some 50 jobs are at risk after Fort William’s long-established Underwater Centre was forced into administration in October, despite recently undergoing a financial restructuring to become a not-for-profit company. The centre, which is mainly used by the oil and gas industry and trains ROV pilots and commercial divers, is one of only a handful of saturation dive training facilities in the world. It got into financial difficulties last year after its subsidiary in Australia fell into liquidation, but in May 2018, it was thought to have fended off the threat of closure after securing a collaboration with a group of offshore firms. Announcing the news, managing director David McGhie said: “We regret to confirm that the Underwater Centre has been forced to cease trading and will be placed into administration. It was heartbreaking informing our committed, loyal and professional staff, not to mention students who were due to begin a course this week. “The government, industry and local management team have been working hard over the past year to try and find a sustainable solution for the centre, but unfortunately this has not been possible. We were still hopeful of a solution right up to the 11th hour, which is why some students have been adversely affected - we will do what we can to support them.” Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse commented that the announcement was ‘a matter of great regret’ and that the Scottish government would look to provide support for affected employees. He confirmed: “We will continue to do all we can as this latest very unwelcome situation develops, given that we firmly believe the Underwater Centre at Fort William is a world-class asset with unique capabilities and a highly experienced team.”
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TYRREL BAY - GRENADA ADDS A NEW SHIPWRECK TO ITS SUNKEN FLEET Grenada has added a new wreck to its ever-growing sunken fleet of diving attractions. The Tyrrel Bay patrol boat was sunk on Tuesday 25 September approximately one mile off Grand Anse Beach close to Boss Reef. The Tyrrel Bay was donated to the Government of Grenada by the US Government for use by the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) Coast Guard and entered into service in 1984. Following its service, the boat became inoperable for several years, after which the Grenada Scuba Diving Association (GSDA) requested permission from the Government of Grenada and the US Government to decommission and sink the vessel as a sustainable reef and new dive site in the destination. This public/ private sector project began in 2016 and was completed in September 2018. Project partners included the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA), Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), Grenada Scuba Diving Association, RGPF Coast Guard, Ministry of Health, Grenada Ports Authority, Clarkes Court Boatyard (CCB) and Sol EC Ltd. Financial support for this project was provided by CCB, the GTA and the GHTA, which was the major financial sponsor through its Tourism Development Fund. Following the sinking of the Tyrrel Bay, President of the GHTA Jerry Rappaport said: “The GHTA is delighted to be the major financial contributor to this project, which enhances Grenada’s already diverse dive portfolio. This is another example of how our Tourism Development Fund, which is solely funded by visitors to our hotels voluntarily contributing money, has been able to help to develop what we as a destination have to offer.” Christine Finney, President of the GSDA, was happy to complete the project: “We are excited for the Tyrrel Bay to become a sustainable home for coral and marine life. I am confident that visitors will find this new dive site fascinating.” GTA Manager for Nautical Development Mrs Nikoyan Roberts thanked all stakeholders who provided invaluable technical and financial support to Grenada’s newest dive product. www.puregrenada.com
AIR NIUGINI AIRPLANE ENDS UP IN WATER AFTER OVERSHOOTING RUNWAY IN CHUUK One person died and several others were injured after an Air Niugini plane overshot the runway in Chuuk, Micronesia, and ended up semi-submerged in the lagoon. It came to a stop close to a market where fishermen had come to sell their catch, and they jumped straight into their boats and started hauling people to shore, which probably helped prevent any more fatalities. Flight ANG73, a Boeing 737-800 carrying 35 passengers and 12 crew, was enroute to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, to Pohnpei in Micronesia, with a stopover in Weno Island. Those onboard – mainly locals and US and Australian visitors - were taken to hospital for checks, at the time allegedly suffering ‘minor injuries’, but later reports said some suffered ‘serious injuries’. The cause of the crash is unclear, but investigations are due to start shortly. Apparently, Air Niugini had only recently begun flying that route with the larger Boeing planes.
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INDUSTRY NEWS SONAR SHOWCASES WORLD WAR ONE U-BOAT SUNK OFF WALES A German U-boat from World War One which was sunk off Bardsey Island in North Wales on Christmas Day in 1917 has been captured on sonar for the very first time. U-87, which went down with more than 40 crew on board after being rammed by escort vessel HMS Buttercup, has been surveyed as part of ‘the Forgotten U-Boat War’, a project examining associated World War One shipwrecks around the Welsh coastline. The German sub, which sank or damaged more than 20 British and Allied vessels between May and November, is not the only vessel involved in this project, which started in 2016 with the backing of £400,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the assistance of experts from the Nautical Archaeology Society. The advanced technology has also been used to create a more-detailed view of the British submarine, HMS H5, which sank with its 26-man crew in Caernarfon Bay on 2 March 1918 after mistakenly being rammed by British merchant ship SS Rutherglen. Dr Michael James Roberts, from Bangor University’s Centre for Applied Marine Sciences, manages the Seacams 2 sonar project, which is being used to find out what happens to undersea structures such as shipwrecks over time, as well as the surrounding environment. He commented that it was a ‘moving and thought-provoking experience’ when the sonar image appeared on the computer screen for the first time.
FRENCH DIVE TEAMS WORK TO REMOVE CAR TYRE ARTIFICIAL REEF ‘ENVIRONMENTAL FAILURE’ An artificial reef comprising tens of thousands of old car tyres is being lifted from the seabed off the south of France in a vast operation costing well over a million euros after it was found to be exuding toxic chemicals. Back in the 1980s, local authorities came up with the plan to create an artificial reef from car tyres, which were sunk some 500 metrew from the shore between Cannes and Antibes in the heart of the French Riviera. It seemed the perfect solution – get rid of a mass of old tyres, and create a thriving marine habitat at the same time. However, it transpired that only a few hardy species of marine growth took to the tyres, with most fish species choosing natural reefs or concrete artificial structures. Also, the tyres ended up being shifted by the currents, causing damage to existing reef systems nearby, and worst of all, in 2005, researchers found they were leaking chemicals including heavy metals into the environment. Despite this information being to hand, in 2015 authorities said that the tyres were ‘completely inert’ and presented no risk, but later that year some 25,000 were removed, with 10,000 expected to be lifted in the coming weeks by divers using heavy lifting gear, and more in 2019. The French government is fronting most of the cost, but tyre manufacturer Michelin has also contributed. This is not the first time ‘tyre reefs’ have failed – in Gibraltar, a tyre structure put down in the 1970s was washed away by strong currents, while thousands of tyres from a doomed reef project off Fort Lauderdale in the USA have been removed from the seabed.
INDUSTRY NEWS CAPTAIN COOK’S HMS ENDEAVOUR FOUND OFF NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND Archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) believe they have pinpointed the final resting place of Captain Cook’s iconic vessel HMS Endeavour, which he used to sail to Australia in 1770, after an epic 25-year search. The possible discovery of the wreck of the famed ship off the east coast of the USA – it was used by the Royal Navy in the American War of Independence and eventually scuttled with a dozen other vessels in 1778 as a blockade off Rhode Island – has been hailed a ‘significant moment in Australian history’. Researchers know that the Endeavour was the largest of the scuttled vessels, and 3D imaging revealed this ship that fit the specifications. RIMAP Director Kathy Abbass said: “We are down to just one site”, which prompted Australia’s Consul General in New York to state: “This is the final resting place of the Endeavour.” However, marine archaeologist Dr James Hunter from the Australian National Maritime Museum, said it could be another year until testing confirms the identity of the wreck. He explained: “We have our timber samples and data that we have recovered, we will have to assess all those little disparate parts, and then we will have a clearer picture of whether we have Endeavour or not.”
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JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR ‘HEARTBROKEN’
OVER DESTRUCTION OF MALDIVIAN SCULPTURE
Acclaimed English sculptor and environmentalist Jason DeCaires Taylor said he was ‘extremely shocked’ to learn that elements of his Coralarium sculpture, which sat just offshore from the Fairmont Maldives’ Sirru Fushi Resort, has been destroyed by the Maldivian authorities. The Coralarium, which took mine months to build, was the first-ever museum of its kind. The large steel frame had cut-outs that aimed to mimic the marine world and allowed sea life to explore freely within, acting as a new habitat for coral and other species, while 30 human figures were positioned on top and inside the frame at tidal level, with others submerged beneath. However, despite the government being involved in a constant dialogue regarding the Coralarium, and having regular consultations, on Friday 21 September, local police officers carried out a court order to destroy the human-like figures that formed the focal point of the installation. The destruction followed condemnation by local Muslim leaders of what they deemed to be the ‘un-Islamic depiction of human figures’ and ‘a threat to Islamic unity and the peace and interests of the Maldivian state’. The Accor hotel group, which owns the Fairmont resort, said in a statement: “The main Coralarium structure remains intact and we have initiated ‘re-imagination’ plans with the artist that will be in harmony with the locals and environment’.
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: Hi there, I am an avid diver and I have been diagnosed with ME. As little is known about ME I need to know whether I should continue diving. Most of my dives are 40m plus. The vast majority of time I don’t feel well enough, but on the rare occasions I do, is it advisable? A: In 1955 the Royal Free hospital in northwest London had to shut for two months due to a mysterious illness which caused fever and persisting fatigue in 292 staff members. Initially called ‘Royal Free disease’, investigations into the cause led to the coining of the term ‘myalgic encephalomyelitis’ (ME) for the condition. The fact that it now goes by a plethora of names including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), post-viral fatigue syndrome and ‘yuppie flu’ just goes to show how poorly understood a problem it is. Interestingly, many veterans with Gulf War syndrome have the same symptoms. Diagnosis is difficult, relying as it does on subjective criteria, but generally it involves unexplained fatigue of six months or more, which is not due to exertion and which is unrelieved by rest. Numerous other symptoms may occur, such as memory problems, sore throats, joint and muscle pains, and unrefreshing sleep. If any other illness could cause the symptoms then ME is excluded. So there’s plenty of scope for controversy here, as you can see; initially the medical community was sceptical even of the existence of the disease. The stigmatising ‘attentionseeking’ label is still very much a problem in the public arena. Not surprisingly, most sufferers do not feel well enough even to contemplate diving. This, in some ways, is the best guide, as it’s very difficult to give concrete advice on whether it’s safe to dive or not. All sorts of theories as to the cause of ME abound. The only
fact is, no-one knows. As such, the best advice I can give you is if you feel up to diving, then make sure you get a full diving medical first. If you can put in a good showing on the ears, heart, lung and exercise tests, then I’d say you could dip your toe into the water. Q: I’m a bit embarrassed to ask this but hope you can help. I’m a new diver, and I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) recently. I’ve done a few open water dives and I find that I get really gassy during them, and afterwards my stomach feels bloated and I have to pass a lot of wind. Is this normal? I’m guessing it might have something to do with the IBS but it’s a bit awkward having to run off to the loo as soon as I finish a dive! I am going on my first liveaboard soon so any advice would be very helpful. A: Unfortunately, production of some intestinal gas is an unavoidable part of digestion. A human can generate anything up to two litres of wind a day, although your average is nearer 600ml. Its major component is nitrogen, but sadly farting a lot does not reduce your DCI risk! The problem is that all this gas has to obey Boyle’s Law when diving, so it will expand, contract and generally cause discomfort unless it is expelled, from either end of the gut. Some IBS sufferers do generate a lot of wind, and diving will therefore exacerbate the discomfort, but as long as there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, as it were, then the gas will escape and relief will ensue. The best advice I can give is simply to avoid anything ‘flatogenic’ on a dive trip. The obvious culprits include beans, cabbages, onions, mushrooms, etc, but also fizzy drinks and milk. With any luck you can then spare your cabin buddy a fragant night on your first liveaboard…
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EXTREME UW FILMING, PART II
ABOVE 18M: DORSET
FEELING FABULOUS IN FIJI
Q&A WITH STUART COVE
GEAR GUIDE: TOP-END FINS
Andy Torbet discusses more challenging filming exploits, including the Britannic Mark Evans goes to see if Fiji deserves the title ‘soft coral capital of the world’ We talk sharks, wrecks and Hollywood with the Bahamas-based dive legend.
Stuart Philpott tours around a rewarding shallow wreck, the James Fennel Super-dreadnaught, ocean liner, Sherman tanks - Malin Head has it all... Fins costing over £100 are rated and reviewed by the Scuba Diver Test Team
UNDERWATER FILMING EVERYBODY BE COOL
In the first of a two-parter, BBC presenter and adventurer Andy Torbet describes the challenges involved with underwater filming at the more-extreme end of the scale PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF ANDY TORBET
t can get pretty cold at home in Britain. And this can mean extra layers under drysuits, dry-gloves and even consideration about making sure we can keep people warm on long boat trips back to shore. But as bleak as British winter diving gets, you usually don’t have to deal with your regs freezing up, icebergs, polar bears or temperatures plummeting to -28 degrees C…
INTO THE BLUE
On a science and filming expedition to Greenland, myself and cameraman Doug Allan were tasked to take samples from, place probes on and film the bottom of a Blue Lake. These large pools of water form in depressions in glaciers where meltwater trickles in like hundreds of tiny rivers draining into a freshwater sea. The water is only just above freezing (our dive computers actually read 0 degrees C), crystal clear and from above look a spectrum of blues. Hence the name. The Arctic sun penetrates the translucent water and reflects off the white lakebed. The difference in depth give blues from bright electric azure in the shallows to dark indigo in the deep sections, which just scraped past 20m. And we did get a view from above. The only way to reach these lakes with your dive kit is by helicopter. After landing and kitting up, we giant-strided from the icy shore and that was when the problems started. The cold water and heat from my face was causing my full-face mask to steam up like never before, and I could not clear it. I could see absolutely nothing so dense was the coating. I found out later Doug was frantically signalling me, directing me to swim in various directions for shots and becoming more and more irate at my lack of response. Those stood on the surface could see his gradually more animated gesticulation 20m below. Then my full-face mask stopped providing me with air… something, I think you’ll agree, that is not ideal. Normally regulators won’t freeze underwater, but we think some water may have got in on the surface, frozen, and then my purging to try and clear the mask may have closed the last gap. I wasn’t particularly concerned. I fingered my drysuit inflation valve ready to ascend if necessary. We’d been down only a few minutes and at this depth I knew, even blind, I could ascend at a safe enough rate. I was literally punching myself in the face trying to clear the mask and inhaling with as much force as I could generate. Suddenly the mask gave, I got a face full of ice crystals… and a deep, satisfying breath. After surfacing and sorting the mask out, we dived again to witness a landscape of hillocks and humps, crevasses and cracks, and Dali-esque ice sculptures like thinly stalked mushrooms as much as two metres high. I even found an ice cave that, despite Doug’s refusal to follow me, I couldn’t help but have a quick exploration down into the heart of the glacier…
#GODiving See Andy Torbet at the brand-new interactive dive show GO Diving at the Ricoh Arena on 23-24 February 2019! Early bird tickets available now from: www.godivingshow.com
I even found an ice cave that, despite Doug’s refusal to follow me, I couldn’t help but have a quick exploration down into the heart of the glacier…
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Andy braves the cold for a surface shoot
OF ICEBERGS AND POLAR BEARS Diving around icebergs in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Canada might sound cool… mainly because, frankly, it is very cool… but it does bring its own set problems. The first is the cold. This may seem obvious, but I mean really cold. Saltwater freezes below 0 degrees C, and at 30m the waters around the iceberg read -2 degrees C on our gauges. Because of this we kept our dives short, 45 minutes maximum, and wore appropriate clothing. For ‘appropriate’ read ‘as much as I can fit under my drysuit’. As an example of how cold it was, and what a difference glove selection can make, on our first dive I wore 7mm mitts. My hands were relatively warm, even at the end of the dive, but working cameras and the sampling bottles I carried was difficult, so I swapped to 5mm gloves thinking I’d sacrifice a little comfort for the increased manual dexterity. I received nerve damage to the third and fourth fingers in both hands that left them numb for about six months. I went back to wearing the 7mm mitts on dive three. And it wasn’t just the cold that was out to get me. We were diving an ice island, a name given to a really big iceberg. Ours was approximately 25 sq km, so it counted. Upon this island lived some polar bears, 24 to be exact (Chris Packham did a quick helicopter survey). Seeing the world’s largest land carnivore up close is a truly humbling and awe-inspiring experience… even when it’s deciding whether or not to jump into your boat. On the very first dive we’d pulled our little RIB, launched from the Icelandic research ship we were using, up to the wall of the ‘island’. As we floated around kitting up someone pointed up with a whispered ‘Look’. We cast our gaze upwards to see a bear, paws on the cliff edge, peering down at us. We backed the little boat away and the animal looked at us, then down the cliff at the water beneath, then back at us, continuing this cycle a few times and clearly judging if the drop to the water was do-able. We kept backing away and the bear turned, with what in my mind looked like a shake of its head, and headed back inland. I was lucky enough to see, and be stalked by, three more bears on land excursions onto the ice island later in the trip.
Ready to submerge
ICE-FREE The more-extreme side of underwater filming isn’t the exclusive concern of diving. Freediving can bring its own logistical problems… especially if you’re attempting it during an Alaskan winter. The main environmental concerns are light and cold. Even early in the winter season there is limited daylight in Alaska. We were filming late in November and had a window of about three and a half useable hours between 1100 and 1430. This put us under time pressure and limited any preparation time I’d have before the dive. Then there was the cold. During the day it got down to minus, that’s MINUS, 28 degrees C. There were a lot of Brass Monkeys walking around looking deeply uncomfortable. Fortunately, the water in the lake I’d be diving in was a balmy 1 degree C. Unfortunately, I’d be in a 5mm wetsuit. We were filming for my Children’s BBC series, Beyond Bionic, where we looked at how a human could use technology and science to mimic extraordinary animals. In this episode it was the turn of the ringed seal and the final challenge was a swim under half a metre of solid ice between two holes cut in the ice 40 metres apart. And so although I was only in a 5mm suit, I was wearing a thin fleece undersuit with electrically heated pads on my thighs and lower back. This helped keep me functional in the 25 minutes I spent in the water to attempt the task and all the other filming. Normally before freediving you warm up in the water. Doing progressively deeper or longer dives to encourage your body’s dive reflex to kick in. This is where your breathing rate and metabolism slows down, blood pools around your vital organs and the spleen contracts to pump more oxygen-carrying red
blood cells into your system. However, I had no intention of a prolonged ‘warm up’ in the conditions I was faced with. So I sat in a heated tent on the ice fully kitted up doing breathhold exercises to try and induce the dive reflex. Apparently this method isn’t as effective as doing it in water, but these sorts of events are often compromises between the many challenges and constraints we are faced with. After about 20 minutes of exercises, I signalled I was ready and I walked down to the entry hole. In the minute I was standing by the entrance, talking to camera, my neoprenesocked feet had frozen to the ice. Peeling myself off, I sat by the hole, donned my freediving fins, mask and snorkel and slipped into the black water. I was expecting the cold shock as the water percolated the suit and my body worked to heat that water up so the wetsuit could hold a layer of warm water around me as a barrier to the cold. I pushed myself underwater to let the exposed skin of my face acclimatise and then repeated this to eye-ball the guideline. I’d asked for a guideline to be installed by driving two steel rods into the ice at the entry and exit holes so they protruded underwater to a depth of 2m. A line was then run between them so I could navigate my way. We’d then planned on marking every ten metres with a glowstick but they simply wouldn’t work in the extreme cold. The visibility was expected to be ten metres. But when I ducked underwater and cast my eyes down, I could see it was less than two. I couldn’t see the line from the entry hole. However, it was getting late in the day and we were losing light. This was our last day and I either went soon or not at all. The cold, the dark, the poor visibility, the lack of visible line from the surface and the pressure of filming all played upon my mind. Freediving is very much a psychological as well as physiological sport. The more relaxed you are the better you will perform and I knew my anxieties were not helping my
A spot of ice climbing
Getting ready to dive
underwater capabilities… which only added to the anxiety. I made two more short dives, finding the line beneath me and swimming along it and back ten metres then 20. After surfacing the second time I decided that more ‘warming up’ wouldn’t help. I signalled the camera crew that I’d be going but in my own time then just began to actively clear my mind. I pictured the line and myself smoothly moving along it. I reassured myself I had swam much further underwater, albeit in much warmer, clearer waters, I ignored the cameras and the 14 people all watching me. I was alone in the world. And I dived. The lack of distance markers on the line was also a concern, I like to know where I am. But in this case it served to make things easier. I made an effort not to rush, to relax into the swim and to not aim to the end but to simply move in the moment. I stared down at the line rather than up and along it towards the exit. Craning your neck back tightens the neck muscles, which is not ideal in freediving, and why you see ascending freedivers looking at the line rather than the surface. I guessed to myself that I must be around the halfway mark and casually glanced up… just in time to stop myself head-butting the rod at the exit hole. I felt good. Even more so now I knew that my next breath was above me and the job done. So I spent a little time hovering under the ice by the entrance, casting my gaze around and rolling on my back to look up at and through the thick ice. It was only now, at the end, I had the mind space to appreciate the beauty of my surrounding and the uniqueness of my situation. As the final shafts of winter sun shone through I felt privileged, there are few who get the opportunity to swim under Alaskan ice and a setting sun. n NB: Next month, Andy looks at more extreme underwater filming, this time with a theme of ‘light’
Fortunately, the water in the lake I’d be diving in was a balmy 1 degree C. Unfortunately, I’d be in a 5mm wetsuit
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Our panel of industry experts look at the pros and cons of boat diving and shore diving, explaining that there are merits – and issues – with both forms of diving PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
o you are going diving, but how are you getting into the water? Are you venturing off with your buddy on a shore dive, or are you climbing about a charter hardboat or RIB to be whisked to an offshore dive site? There are pros and cons for both shore and boat diving. Both have their merits, and both have their issues. We asked our industry experts for their opinion on boat diving and shore diving. Garry Dallas, Training Director for RAID UK and Malta, commented: “Does it just really depend on the weather on the day? Several factors simultaneously vary in the differences of boat or shore diving on the day. RAID’s comprehensive literature in our course materials reflect the detail in a diver’s awareness skillset. “One main factor is the diver(s). Understanding and knowledge as well as key skills for the different environments chosen to dive are vital tools to have a safe and enjoyable day. Looking at the boat diver, you can go as far out to sea as you’d like, weather conditions permitting in the open seas, and visit those lonely wrecks sitting on the seabed for decades. The ability to kit up on a boat without forgetting anything or losing it, planning gas, route and egress, while the boat is manoeuvring in the wakes or choppy seas, takes a bit of practice. Easy enough providing planning is done well in advance, so the mind can focus on safety while you abandon ship (legally termed). To finish, the skipper comes along and picks you up from the shotline or your DSMB and takes you
home with a cup of hot chocolate. The smiles on faces equal the number of bums on places and worth the £70-£80 for the two charter dives! “Then there’s the shore diver, somewhat limited to those World War Two wrecks in shallower waters, but nonetheless equally enjoyable seeing the aquatic life surrounding the maritime reefs of the complimentary British coastline. So how else does this diver differ from the boat diver? Although both dives are similar, the rugged coastline, surges, currents and entry/exit points differ from that of the open sea dive, yet play an important role in navigation.
“Disregarding jumping off a jetty, surge can be unbalancing, boat wakes are replaced by surf, slippery and equipmentcluttered floors are replaced by invisible rocks under the surf, yet getting your fins off can still be challenging, but unless everyone has incredible natural navigation instincts or brings their compass and uses it proficiently, returning home to their initial entry point might be a challenge too. The last thing you want is the HM Coastguard being alerted by your shore cover to come and pick you up!” Emily Petley-Jones, PADI Examiner and Regional Training Consultant, said: “Having completed many dives in the UK, I know there are some fantastic dives which can be reached either from the shore or by boat. When considering diving in a new location, it is always a good idea to go out with a local dive boat, as you will greatly benefit from their local knowledge of the dive site, topography and interesting features. Diving from boats allows you to get to dive sites which are inaccessible from the shore.
Understanding and knowledge as well as key skills for the different environments chosen to dive are vital tools to have a safe and enjoyable day Additionally, when diving from a boat there are some which have additional benefits, such as a head, cabin for shelter, and a spares box, or you may even get the luxury of a lift to get you out of the water, and hot drinks for after your dive. The most-important feature of diving from a boat has to be the additional safety provisions on board, including oxygen, first-aid kits and a marine radio so help can be summoned quickly if necessary. “There are some excellent reasons for choosing to dive from the shore as well. Shore diving in the ocean usually costs as much as your air fill, parking and a Cornish
pasty. This makes it an excellent low-cost option for divers. Additionally, there is the flexibility to dive at a time that suits you, though it is always worth checking the tide tables to get the best tides. You can often get several dives in one location. As the shore dives are generally shallower than sites you may visit on a boat, you will most likely have longer no-stop limits on your computer, so can dive for longer. When planning shore dives, you should also factor in where the parking is, how far you will have to carry your kit, and over what terrain as this can sometimes make the logistics of shore diving more challenging. You should also ensure you bring plenty of spares for your kit as it is unlikely you will find a spare fin strap nearby should yours break.â€? n
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A model After his attempts to set up an underwater modelling photo workshop in the Red Sea were an epic failure, Stuart Philpott used his time in El Quseir to hone his subjectsâ€™ buoyancy skills PHOTOGRAPHS BY STUART PHILPOTT
y bright idea had spectacularly crashed and burned. Whether this was due to Harvey Weinstein’s antics hitting the news headlines, a lack of advanced promotion or simply a vote of no confidence regarding my own photographic abilities, the brutal facts were clear - my underwater modelling photo workshop had failed to hit the mark. Models add a focal point to underwater images. A cave entrance or shipwreck comes alive when a diver is in the frame, torch beam illuminating a shoal of passing fish or highlighting the blades of a coral-encrusted propeller. We can relate to a picture far better when there’s a diver or a snorkeler either silhouetted somewhere in the background, or sharing centre stage with a dolphin or a turtle. The photographer, working closely with a model, usually plans out the composition - this is not so easy to do with unpredictable marine life, but even so an experienced model knows where to go and where to look. My idea was to provide a variety of models and then show the underwater photographers the best way to get results. Steve and Clare, the owners of Roots Red Sea (www.rootsredsea.com) based at El Quseir in Egypt, offered me the full use of their facilities and three previous Miss Scuba UK winners, including Miss Scuba California, agreed to help out as underwater models. All the right ingredients were available, but the menu just wasn’t proving to be popular. I had enquiries from both male and female photographers but firm commitments were not so forthcoming Maybe the concept of photographing models underwater was not PC anymore? But come on, this wasn’t a Playboy shoot, my idea was to take pictures of women - or should I say ‘divers’ - wearing scuba and snorkelling gear complete with wet tangled hair, snot, slime, etc. How sexually explicit does that look, especially with a regulator or a snorkel hanging out? The girls were not being exploited. They wanted to go diving and were happy to pose during the dives. That was basically the ‘bare bones’ of the week-long workshop. Going out as a group, taking pictures, making a few improvements/enhancements and having a few laughs along the way. Maybe the word ‘model’ had been misinterpreted? But this clearly described what I was trying to achieve. In hindsight, using ‘diver in the frame’ instead of ‘model’ would have been a better turn of phrase. I guess the thousand dollar question was, why then use attractivelooking women on the workshop? Let’s face it - scuba diving in the UK is predominantly a male-orientated sport. The harsher conditions just aren’t so appealing to the fairer sex, so promoting women in diving surely can’t do any harm,
can it? I’m sure this subject is a massive ‘hot potato’ of discussion and there are many different opinions, but be assured my intentions were true. So I arrived at Roots Red Sea, feeling deflated and a tad embarrassed. Looking on the positive side this meant I had four underwater models pretty much to myself. Steve, proactive as always, had planned in a two-day reef monitoring course with resident marine biologist Guy Henderson, which left me with about three to four days to kill. I had covered the Miss Scuba UK finals back in 2015 so knew the girls could all dive. Hannah Higgins and Sarah MarikoWinterbottom had clocked up at least 50 dives, and Alex Talbot Prior, the 2017 Miss Scuba UK, had logged around 20. Miss Scuba California, Marina Inserra, was an unknown quantity, but she was working full-time at a dolphinarium in Dubai, so must be fairly competent in the water. My biggest mistake was assuming the girls would be ready for action the moment they jumped in the water. I took some test shots during our warm-up dive and could clearly see this wasn’t the case and that we needed to do some work. Being an underwater model is not easy. I think it’s just as difficult as being on my side of the lens. Models need to have good buoyancy skills and be aware of the surroundings, so no touching coral, no kicking up the seabed and keep an eye on marine life movements. Usually when I go on an assignment I use someone from the dive centre staff (this can be male or female) who are very experienced divers and know the dive sites well. Being 100 percent comfortable underwater is key. The downside to using dive staff is that their equipment is normally worn out and they predominantly wear black-skirted masks and neoprene hoods. It’s difficult to highlight the model’s eyes when they are using a black-skirted mask, and wearing hoods makes the overall feel of the picture look cold. This is fine in the UK or colder water destinations, but if I am promoting the Caribbean or the Red Sea, it doesn’t look so good. Several years ago, I gave a dive show presentation about front cover pictures. This described the do’s and don’t’s of underwater modelling and talked about the best equipment colours to use, mask types, body position and even how momentarily holding your breathing can make a difference. When I use flash guns, it’s the yellows, oranges and pinks that come to life and if colour co-ordinated with matching fins and even a stripe or nifty design on a semi-dry suit, this all adds to the finished picture. We also discussed the importance of good communication. I use a few extra hand signals just to guide the model into the right position, move up and down slightly, etc., I’ve learnt that the camera dome port acts like a mirror and reflects my intended composition. This gives the model an insight into what I am trying to achieve.
The perfect model - with big round eyes, pouting lips, white teeth and colourful complexion - that would pose for me all day long could turn slightly aggressive, especially when hassled by photographers
The week entailed some topside photo shoots...
Our first couple of dives at Roots Red Sea’s house reef didn’t yield many results and this was probably down to me not explaining what I wanted clearly enough. I sometimes take it for granted that models can assume the position instantaneously without any prompting. Then I remembered covering a tech story at Divewise in Malta. Owner Alan Whitehead had used a Go-Pro to record the whole training dive and then played it back in the classroom later. It was much easier to explain a problem when you have pictures or a video as a back-up. So I made plans to take a series of inwater test pictures and then review them at Roots Red Sea’s lab-come-presentation room after the dives. I picked a spot on the north wall where there was a cluster of pretty pink and white soft corals. The plan was to take some face-on shots showing the importance of arm and hand positions. Then we moved over to a statue in the middle of the bay just to practice keeping legs together and pointing fins downwards. I chose a pinnacle located on the south side for the rest of my exercises. It sits at about a maximum depth of 18m and is about four metres proud of the seabed. Resident marine life includes shoals of anthias and glassfish. The focal point is a bright red anemone complete with a family of very photogenic anemonefish. The girls took it in turns to hover next to the pinnacle, firstly with fins pointing down for a portrait shot and then posing either head or side on to the anemonefish for a landscape composition. We tried hair tied back and then flowing (apparently tied back is more modern and professional, and although arty, flowing hair looks out dated and very 1980s) and eyes and head pointed at the subject, looking away and finally looking at the camera lens. Most models will automatically look into the camera. But if I am taking a shot of a fish in the foreground, the model should be looking at the subject not at the camera lens, otherwise the composition looks confusing. When we reviewed all the pictures later on, the girls could clearly see the differences and what worked best. Facial expressions can also make a difference. Even when a regulator is in the way, a smile can still be seen at the corners of the mouth and in the creases of the eyes. As a special treat, Steve made arrangements for us to visit Rigging up for a shore dive
...and underwater sessions
‘the rock’, a dive site located just off the coast of El Quseir and only accessible by boat. This gave me a chance to play with torches - although slightly too small to have much effect, the beam of light managed to add some extra magic to my pictures. This dive site is loaded with anemonefish as well as the full range of predators including lionfish, octopus and moray eels. I managed to get a great shot of Hannah. Her yellow mask really did make a difference. My original plan was to include some snorkelling and breath-holding shoots in the workshop. Most diving courses teach the basics of snorkel clearing and duck diving, but this doesn’t make divers proficient snorkellers. We spent a few hours in Roots Red Sea’s swimming pool going over some breath-hold skills which included static work and swimming lengths underwater just to build up confidence levels before going in the sea. Sarah had brought along a new swimwear range from a well-known high-street brand and wanted to get some promo pictures. There was a small boat moored in
Sarah freediving under a boat
We can relate to a picture far better when there’s a diver or a snorkeller either silhouetted somewhere in the background, or sharing centre stage with a dolphin or a turtle A model adds scale to reef shots like this
the middle of the bay and I thought this would make a good backdrop for some pictures. Instead of using a snorkel, Sarah was just going to take a deep breath and swim under the boat. This meant I could get a clear shot of her face. On this occasion, I was also breath-holding so we both duck dived at the same time and met somewhere in the middle. It was rough, which really stirred up the silt, so I had to spend quite a few hours post-processing, but the finished shot didn’t look too bad and Sarah’s swimsuit definitely stood out. As to be expected, Roots Camp’s top-rate hospitality kept everyone in fine spirits. Late afternoons were often spent sitting around the pool. There was even time for some sunbathing. The week finished off with a beach-side barbecue and a few ice cold beers. Although my workshop had been a disappointment, I had learnt a valuable lesson. If I was ever going to try again, I should first make sure that the underwater models could actually model. If the workshop had attracted more attention, I would have been left with a logistical nightmare. This was entirely my oversight and no fault of the models. There was even some talk about writing a new PADI Underwater Modelling Specialty course outline. I certainly had enough material to fill a two- to three-day course. But I doubt this would generate much interest. So who turned out to be star model of the week? Complete with big round eyes, pouting lips, white teeth and a colourful complexion - happy to pose all day long. The one-and-only Amphiprion bicinctus, aka two-banded anemonefish! n
The Roots team and models
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The Red Sea certainly makes a striking backdrop for the surface shots
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Stuart Philpott heads to the South Coast to check out Portland’s newest sunken attraction, the Underwater Curiosity Park PHOTOGRAPHS BY STUART PHILPOTT
ver the years I have visited my fair share of man-made underwater attractions, including Buoyancy World at Koh Tao in Thailand and Jason deCaires Taylor’s artistic rendition, Museo Atlantico, lying off the coast of Lanzarote. Some sites are just concrete blocks and cylinders while others have sculptures of real-life people or giant sea creatures. If done properly, the concept has to be a win-win. The installations are usually built on a barren seabed so attract marine life and flora growth, and visiting divers get to practice their buoyancy skills without damaging fragile corals. But I never thought Portland in Dorset would become the latest venue. During my trip to Dive Beyond run by PADI CD Dale Spree, I managed to squeeze in a lightning tour of the recently opened Underwater Curiosity Park (UCP), located close to Portland harbour’s south entrance, where the remains of HMS Hood and the Dredger reside. Businessman Derek Lockhurst had discussed the possibilities of opening an underwater park with port authorities more than three years ago. In July 2018, his plan came to fruition, when phase one of the UCP was completed. There are supposedly 25 installations to explore and more to come in the near future (I can’t recall seeing 25,
but then again I wasn’t really counting!). Derek’s grand plan is to attract more divers to the once-thriving Castletown area. Back in the early 2000s, Castletown was packed full of divers visiting from all over the country. I was hard pushed to find a car parking space unless I rocked up at some obscene o’clock in the morning. Admittedly, this time around, I had turned up on a week day, but it was quite sad to find the car park almost completely empty and no other divers in sight apart from me, a small group from Flippers n Fins dive school, and solitary local diver, Alex Charleton. The surrounding Jurassic coastline offers so many options for beginners and experienced divers. Historic wreck sites vary in depth from 10m to 50m plus, and include the M2 submarine, Alex Van Opstal, Binnendijk and Black Hawk. Lulworth scallop banks are within an hour’s boat ride as well as the slopes of Pulpit Rock, located at the tip of Portland Bill. If the prevailing south westerlies blow out the offshore favourites, there is always a back-up Plan B available in the protected harbour sites.
The ‘tunnels’ are a great test of buoyancy
ARRIVAL AT THE SITE The Underwater Curiosity Park is offered by nearly every dive centre and charter boat operating out of Weymouth and Portland. I have listed some of the options available for visiting divers. From Weymouth there are several charter boats for hire, or contact the Old Harbour Dive Centre owned by Mary and PADI CD Nigel. Costs are normally £17 for a RIB dive and £20 for a hard boat dive. For Skin Deep dive centre based at Portland, follow the main beach road (A354) onto the causeway. Carry on past the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre car park, turn left at the mini roundabout and then follow the signs to Portland Marina. Or carry on to the next roundabout and take the left turn. O’Three Drysuits and Underwater Explorers can be seen from the road side (Underwater Explorers is a convenient stop for gas top-ups and any dive kit issues) and then follow the road signs to the marina complex. Portland Marina was purposely built for the 2012 Olympics. They offer the full range of boat services, including overhauls, hard standings and moorings. Skin Deep and the Boat That Rocks bar/restaurant are also located on site. Skin Deep is run by Ian and Oona. They offer regular shuttles to the harbour dive sites, including the Dredger and Balaclava Bay. Cost is £18 for a dive at the Curiosity Park. Car parking is free. Or carry on into Castletown where the Aqua Hotel and Dive Beyond reside. The café managed by local diver, Angel, cooks up a mean full English as well as offering a range of healthier options. The hotel has 25 very reasonably priced rooms available as well as a bar and on-site lecture facilities. Dive Beyond sits snugly next to the Aqua Hotel. The dive centre is managed by PADI CD Dale Spree. I have known Dale forever; she is a great character and highly respected in the diving industry. As far as I’m aware, no-one else offers hot Ribena and Cadbury’s Freddos in between dives! Dive Beyond go to the Curiosity Park virtually every weekend, cost is £18 pp. The Castletown car park fee is about £3 for four hours. Early risers might be able to grab a free space along the road side. The shark will be a diver favourite
Monster chains on the seabed
My original plan was to dive the James Fennel and Royal Adelaide wrecks located around the Bill and to the west Various statues can be encountered in the park
DIVE BRIEFING Weather conditions turned out to be far better than I expected. My original plan was to dive the James Fennel and Royal Adelaide wrecks located around the Bill and to the west. Visibility was about five to six metres on the day with a calm sea. We spotted a few skittish triggerfish on the Adelaide, but there weren’t as many as I had seen on previous years. Maybe this was just a blip in their annual migration habits, but I wondered if the large influx of anglers had anything to do with this sudden downturn. On the way back to the Castletown floating jetty, Dale suggested that we stop off at the Underwater Curiosity Park. This was the first time I had heard about the new site and was curious to find out more. There are four yellow buoys on the surface identifying the approximately 70 metres by 30 metres perimeter of the park. The buoys deter any passing boat traffic, so SMBs are not necessary unless of course divers get lost. Maximum depth is around 10m-14m and currents are minimal. Divers can use ten-litre or 12-litre cylinders filled with either nitrox or air. I would personally stick with air. Allow 30-45 minutes for a complete tour. The site has already started
UNDERWATER CURIOSITY PARK, PORTLAND WHAT TO EXPECT TYPE OF ‘DIVE’ Boat dive
10-14m, with minimal currents Huge anchor dwarfs divers
MARINE LIFE/WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR Statues, anchors, chains, concrete tunnels
Can be several metres, but avoid disturbing the fine sediment on the seabed
Silt and sand
The park is buoyed off, so boat traffic should not be an issue Marine growth is already taking hold
to attract marine life, including various species of crabs and juvenile fish. Ian Craddock from Flippas n Fins agreed to be my model for the dive. He even took his hood off without me asking, which was quite worrying. Ian had recently returned from a successful PADI CD course held in the Dominican Republic. From beginner diver to top-of-the-tree CD in less than 20 years was quite a story, especially as he was still only 32 years old! As an added bonus Ian was using his Scubapro G260 multicoloured second stage, which really brightened up my pictures.
THE DIVE We followed the mooring line down to the seabed. At the end of the rope, there were a number of huge two- to three-metre diameter concrete pipe sections. I asked Ian to go around and through one of the pipes so I could take a series of pictures. The pipes were perfect for fine-tuning buoyancy skills and had plenty of spider crabs lurking inside. I noticed the seabed
was mainly made of fine, easily disturbed silt so divers need to watch their fin kicks. Thankfully there is a guide rope connecting all of the installations or ‘curiosities’ so as long as I didn’t go off piste, I wouldn’t get lost, even in low vis! Alex beat me to the next exhibit (which will probably be every diver’s favourite), the two-and-a-half-metre-long shark complete with gaping jaws full of sharp-looking teeth. I got Ian to do his usual posing routine and couldn’t help but notice three spider crabs sitting inside its mouth. I had seen pictures of the shark sitting on the jetty before sinking complete with fresh paintwork, but most of this had now gone. I somehow missed the diver sculpture and ended up heading in a north-west direction towards the harbour wall. On the way, we passed two Greek-looking statues, although I thought authentic Greek statues were usually naked, or at least semi-naked, but these were fully robed. I took another stream of shots and then followed the line to a small cherubshaped statue complete with spider crab. The statues had been weighted down with old car parts, so hopefully they won’t fall over in a heavy swell. After passing a pile of anchor chains with yet more crabs, I caught sight of the jagged remains of the Dredger wreck and then the harbour wall. Altogether, this had taken us about 10-15 minutes. We re-traced our route back to the concrete pipes and then followed another guide rope to a huge admiralty anchor. The tail fluke was absolutely massive. This rope carried on to yet another huge anchor.
SCUBA DIVER VERDICT The Underwater Curiosity Park didn’t quite have the same impact as a Jason deCaires Taylor project, but then again, I’m sure Mr Lockhurst’s budget was far less exuberant! Here are my list of pros - overall a great idea, diveable in most conditions, a new site for divers to explore, shallow enough for all levels, suitable for training courses and underwater photography practice and only a five-minute boat ride from Castletown jetty (shore diving is not an option). The cons – could do with a few more ‘curiosities’ to explore (more are due to be put down), seabed easily kicked up reducing underwater visibility. The chosen location had raised a few eyebrows being sandwiched between two established dive sites, the Dredger wreck and the reef at Balaclava Bay, but this did guarantee the site had some protection from rough weather. Phase two was supposed to begin shortly, when more sculptures will be added to the park, but an exact date hasn’t been confirmed yet. n www.portlandunderwatercuriositypark.co.uk
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e had dropped in on Fantasea Reef just moments before, after a two-minute (really) boat ride from the resort’s beach. The shallow site is a sprawling, complex collection of hard and soft corals, intermittent sand patches, vibrant colours and loads of life. Today, we were on a mission – the afternoon before, we had found two pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti), hidden in the branches of a massive red gorgonian fan, the male hugely pregnant (as ‘huge’ as a tiny seahorse can be, anyway). I had been shooting with a 60mm micro lens and had images of the miniscule creatures, but they were just not quite as close-up as I wanted. Today, I had a 105mm macro and was ready. We quickly found the place, but to our surprise, someone else had already laid claim to the spot – a gigantic green turtle was rubbing its lovely shell back and forth against the trunk and lower branches of the fan, causing the branches to sway like a tree in a violent wind. Being respectful of the turtle, we tried to find the seahorses without disturbing it. We soon located the head-of-a-pin-small male, but my attempts to focus the 105mm in the turtle-produced gale were both dizzying and hopeless. I looked up at Rodil, my dive guide, and gradually my bemused smile turned to chuckles, then broke into one of those mask-filling bouts of underwater laughter that only divers can truly appreciate. We waited patiently for a while, until Rodil finally moved over to the turtle to gently push it away, but it resisted, refusing to give up its prime rubbing-post. This went on for a while until the turtle finally relented – although it didn’t leave, but kept coming back for another go. I managed to slip into the spot where the seahorse was perched, tail wrapped around a small branch, and, with the turtle watching closely, began shooting. I remember thinking that a wide-angle lens would have captured an amazing series of images of the turtle in this situation, but… as I mentioned, I had a 105mm on (I did manage a very nice close-up of the turtle’s face and one of the nearly metre-long, yellow and green shark suckers on its back, however.) And, oh yeah, I got my pygmy seahorse, yes indeed. As special as this particular dive was, in my four and a half days of four and five dives a day, from early mornings on into the nights, it was really just one of many special dives. In all my years of diving, I can honestly say that I have never before seen such a remarkable, multitudinous array of exotic marine life – especially unusual macro creatures – as I found around Puerto Galera. Whether on coral reefs, in sandy-muck channels, on grass beds, around an ocean pinnacle off a neighbouring island or even on a nearby offshore wreck – the 30m-deep Alma Jane - every dive was a ‘creatures on parade’ experience. Given the location, in the heart of bio-diversity for the world’s oceans, I
guess this shouldn’t have been a complete surprise, but the remarkable richness of the life there… still was. The night dives were, if anything, even more amazing, with something new and exotic seemingly every few moments. The ease of the diving also made finding ‘more’ simple to accomplish… with the boats just steps away from the Atlantis Dive Resort’s gear lockers, and boat rides generally a matter of a few minutes, doing four to five dives a day was not a strain, with plenty of time between dives for a hot shower, a meal, coffee or tea, camera prep and so on. And, the sharp-eyed dive guides knew their home territory and its resident denizens very well, indeed. It’s difficult to choose a list of favourite sites but, like Fantasea Reef, a number of them stood out. One would be the location of my first dive upon arrival (and a couple of my night dives), an area just minutes straight out from the resort called Sabang (named for the town, Sabang Port and its bay). Averaging 15m and less of depth, it’s an area of shipwreck debris, sand and intermittent coral patches, with turtle grass beds toward shore.
Marine life EXTRAVAGANZA IN THE
Philippines After the delights of Dumaguete, Al Hornsby moved to Puerto Galera and found it defied all of his expectations, delivering some truly unique diving experiences PHOTOGRAPHS BY AL HORNSBY
ScubaDiverUK.ai 1 17/5/2018 14:27:43
…with the boats just steps away from the Atlantis Dive Resort’s gear lockers, and boat rides generally a matter of a few minutes, doing four to five dives a day was not a strain My first dive there was memorable – we quickly found a large, orange giant frogfish, and shortly thereafter, one of the creatures on my ‘hoped-for’ shot list peeked out of its lair beneath a small coral head – a large, brilliantly- colored peacock mantis shrimp. It was shy at first, continually ducking back into its hole, but finally it emerged and moved quickly away. I followed slowly, giving it space, but keeping it in sight until it ducked into another hole. As I approached, the bold mantis (they are indeed bold), apparently tired of being followed, suddenly came out, marched across the sand to me and stood up in challenge, allowing me a series of very close images. Just moments later, my guide, Aires, excitedly pointed toward a whitish, pebbled area on the sea floor… where I could see – nothing. He kept insistently pointing – obviously at something very, very small. I looked more closely and finally saw an exquisite, less than pea-sized, white, juvenile blue-ringed octopus, who made a splendid image. In this same area on night dives, I also photographed – among many others - a lovely fingered dragonette, which went into full display as I approached, two pairs of sea moths, several peacock flounders, an intricately-patterned dwarf lionfish and a large, hairy hermit crab in a huge Triton’s trumpet shell, which came marching out of the darkness across the sand bottom, coming right to our lights.
Lionfish sheltering near seastar
Monstrous coral dwarfs diver
A lovely Napoleon snake eel, head sticking up out of its burrow, was also an exotic creature I had never photographed before. Another remarkable site was reached by a quick trip around the point from Sabang Bay. The sand beach turns to steep, jungled iron-shore, and Sinandigan was one of several great sites up against the coastline. Underwater, the shallows are a maze of crevices, swim-throughs and tumbled coral gardens, in clear, still water. Beyond the colourful beauty of the hard and soft corals, whip corals (with whip coral shrimp and gobies), swirling reef tropicals, patches of yellow sea cucumbers and many anemones with anemonefish, it is a nudibranch treasure-trove. Down the slope, the drop turns steep, to become a wall with bigger fish, turtles, and many overhangs – one was home to a blue-spotted ray. Back in the shallows toward dive’s end, another ‘shot list image’ was captured, when a bold banded krait interrupted its feeding to swim directly to my camera. After several days of macro, we headed eastward on a 50-minute boat-ride to nearby Verde Island, a mountainous isle that rises out of the sea. Just offshore, the
ATLANTIS DIVE RESORT PUERTO GALERA
For the resort and dive operation, a PADI five-star Dive Centre, the owners’ designed goal was ‘To create a great resort that makes sure guests don’t have to sacrifice anything in their search for the best diving’. They work to provide an all-inclusive offering centred on great service, great diving, modern, comfortable rooms, wide-ranging activities (including a luxurious spa), delicious food and a friendly, well-trained staff. The resort’s 40 rooms, which extend from near the beach up a hillside for wonderful views of Sabang Bay, have full facilities and amenities, including Wi-Fi. Atlantis Dive Resorts and Liveaboards operates Atlantis Dive Resorts Puerto Galera and Dumaguete, as well as the liveaboard vessel, Atlantis Azores. www.atlantishotel.com Peacock mantis shrimp heads for cover
top of a submerged pinnacle is visible, which provided us two remarkable dives along an area called The Drop-off. On the first, we dropped down to 30m on a brisk current along a steep, gorgonian, soft coral and barrel sponge-blanketed wall, swirling fish surrounding us – including bands of spadefish and a large school of long-jawed mackerel. In calm water around a corner, we saw grouper, snapper, sweetlips and hordes of reef fish, plus several large, green turtles. On our second dive, we stayed more shallow and discovered a brightly-coloured wall area completely covered with soft corals and sponges, home to many fish and several very calm banded kraits nosing about the nooks and crannies. My most-productive dive, however, was saved for last, my final dive before packing up the gear and heading home. On the side of Puerto Galera away from Sabang Bay are several small islands that create a series of protected, sand-bottomed channels – the sites for muck-diving in its truest sense. One called The Hill is a series of sandy slopes with a winding, 20m-deep channel meandering inbetween. This particular afternoon, a large dive group had just left the resort, and a couple of the guides, having nothing on their dive schedules, asked if they could go along with us. What resulted was unique – the four of us, spaced about ten metres apart in a long line, effectively covered nearly 40 metres of bottom. As we moved along, waggling lights and tank-banging from both sides had me constantly moving from discovery to discovery for a non-stop 75 minutes, even into a long, safety stop. At The Hill, shooting hundreds of frames, I got images of several pairs of spiny waspfish, flamboyant cuttlefish and eggs, an unusual ocelated poison octopus who stood up in a defensive posture (they bite from underneath, of course) on tip-toes for a portrait, three species of seahorse, a goldbar sand diver, an unusual chiagra mantis, magnificus shrimp on tube anemones, a seldom-seen rubrolineata nudibranch, stumpyspined and reaper cuttlefish, an unusual saddled snake eel... the list goes on, and on – wow.
Lush topside scenery
This dive trip was one that takes its place as special, even after so many years of being fortunate enough to dive many of the world’s most-celebrated locations. And, as other divers and couples I met at the resort told me, the surrounding town of Sabang Port, a small, bustling, resort-beach village of winding streets lined with restaurants, bars and clubs, was of itself a vacation treat. For me however, I never made it out on the town – with every dive being so remarkable, I could not have been tempted to miss even one. n Flamboyant cuttlefish
As we moved along, waggling lights and tank-banging from both sides had me constantly moving from discovery to discovery for a non-stop 75 minutes, even into a long, safety stop WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
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UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY YOU SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL DUXFIELD
kay folks, this time, I’m going to be examining a technique that I’ve shown many examples of before, and it’s a trick that when I show people how to do it on my trips and workshops, they seem to love and it brings a sense of fun to the whole proceedings of what can sometimes be the quite dry(sic) topic of exposure control within underwater photography. I also find that because you’re having to push the boundaries of the exposure envelope, and wrangling the trio of flash output, shutter speed and aperture, it will give you a better understanding of the whole subject of the exposure triangle, which is really necessary to learn fully in getting to grips and master underwater photography. So, what trick are we going to reveal then? The spin shot or twirl, and its associated motion blur cousins that will allow you to inject a dynamic sense of speed into your shots. And it is the most fun way that I know in getting people more familiar and involved with the whole topic of the exposure triangle.
Spin shot self-portrait
EXPOSURE TRIANGLE? Before we dive into the intricacies of pulling off a successful spin shot, it’s worth having a little peek at the rules that underpin its workings, and this is the aforementioned exposure triangle. This is simply the name given to the three mainstays of controlling your camera in manual mode, and this is your Aperture, your ISO, and the most-important control for this technique and that’s your Shutter Speed. I’m not going to go into a full-blown account of the exposure triangle, but it really is something worth learning to help you understand all photography, underwater or otherwise. For now though it’s sufficient to grasp that if you change any one of these settings it will directly affect the other two settings. And balancing these changes are what allows you total control of the shot in hand. Stern of the Thistlegorm
Learning to use your camera manually is the real secret to all photography, and even though digital cameras have gone through huge changes and can do all sorts of things automatically these days, you still need to learn this fundamental stuff to truly master your camera and get the results you want. The good news is that it really is easier than it seems, in fact it’s easier than learning to dive, and I can usually get people up to speed shooting using the exposure triangle in only a couple of dives on one of my trips.
A LEARNING ITINERARY Having the freedom to learn underwater photography at your own pace is much easier on a dedicated itinerary. And rather than have a rigid routine where the dive times and durations are fixed, my Red Sea routes are designed to include multiple days and dives spent at specific locations, so you can get in and out the water, when you want, and do the dive you want rather than follow around the guide for a fixed amount of time, which allows you the freedom and time to really get to know your camera and it’s settings. Add to this that I like to park the boat right on top of the most-productive dive sites, meaning you don’t need to use a RIB so often, which can be a hassle getting in and out of if you’re carrying a camera.
BLURRY CONTRADICTIONS When we start out in photography we strive to achieve nice sharp, in focus pictures without any obvious signs of motion blur. The technique we’re looking at totally flies in the face of this though. And the whole point is to show some motion in your still pictures, this is not about portraying reality, this is all about creating an impression of speed, by selectively blurring parts of your shots, and exploits two key attributes of your photo equipment. Slow shutter speeds on your camera, combined with the motion freezing potential of your strobe.
GETTING FLASH This really needs you to be shooting with a strobe or flashgun, a strobe is a flash, and a flash is a strobe. Don’t be confused this just means a unit that gives out a very brief burst of light, and is not the same as a continuous light source like a video light or powerful torch. And it really needs this super brief, measured in thousandths of a second, burst of light, to work this technique properly, so action cameras like GoPros and similar really can’t be used for this. You will also need a camera where you can control the shutter speeds, and that has the ability to externally trigger a flash.
BIOGRAPHY: PAUL DUXFIELD Duxy has been part of the dive industries fixtures and fittings now for well over a decade, delivering help and advice to the growing band of divers looking to take pictures on their underwater escapades. He’s been witness to the huge changes in digital photography that has meant that most divers now have, or are thinking of having, a camera as an integral part of their dive kit. His past as a dive guide and his patience and good humour puts him in the prime position to deliver his trips and workshops to all, from the merely curious to the super-keen aquatic photographer. He’s now well-established working with Dive Safari Asia for his longer haul excursions, and with Emperor Divers for his popular Red Sea itineraries. Closer to home he is back visiting a dive club or centre near you, and if you’d like to book him for a talk to your club, then get in touch via: takeiteasyduxy@gmail. com, or through his various Social Media Channels Take It Easy Duxy on Facebook or Instagram, or Dux Soup Q&A for any questions you’d like to pose about diving and underwater photography. If you’d like to develop your underwater photography on an overseas itinerary, then get in touch with Dive Safari Asia on 0117 369 0443 or Diverse Travel (Red Sea Trips) 01473 852002. The twirl transforms this coral shot
WHY DO THIS? At the very least it’s a great way to liven up a duller subject with a dreamy blurry edge which can be used to hide a boring background. I also find a twirl shot in particular gives some circular symmetry to a circular subject. At best it really can portray a sense of speed in your shots, as variants of the twirl, like shutter dragging, allow you to place a moving subject front and centre, crisply outlined against a blurred and in-motion background.
HOW DO I DO THIS? It’s all about the shutter speed chosen, in combination with motion generated by you, or the motion already contained within the shot itself. You’ll need to pick slower shutter speeds than usual, and it really does depend on the desired outcome. A slow shutter speed between a 1/2 and a 1/30 second will give the most-pronounced effect, with the effect being more pronounced as the shutter speed gets longer. However, just picking this alone isn’t enough to deliver the required end result. You’ll have to move the camera in a circular motion at the same time as you’re taking the shot. I find that lining up on the subject, and framing how I want first, and then making about a quarter turn or less, while I press the trigger, will deliver the end result. I wish I could
It can add a sense of speed and movement
UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY Have fun with the spin shot technique
The seastar pops because of the blurred background
guarantee that it’ll work first time, and every time, there’s a random aspect to this, but it’ll get easier the more you practice it.
ENIGMATIC VARIATIONS If you’ve figured this out correctly, you’ll have realised that it’s your circular motion that is causing the background blur, and how much or little you turn, combined with the shutter speed chosen will decide what the background looks like. So it follows that whatever movement you make will create a similar pattern in the background, and you’re not limited to just a circular movement. Side to side, or as one of my good friends does with amazing results, a Nike ‘Swoosh’ tick pattern that he does for the motion bit, all of this will be echoed in the impressionistic pattern of your backgrounds.
A SYNCHING FEELING If you’ve explored the flash settings on your camera, you may well have noticed a setting called 1st and 2nd Curtain synchronisation. This means the point at which the shutter triggers the flash to be fired. How this effects the shot, is all to do with the blurring while the shutter is open. If the flash is triggered when the shutter starts its movement, at the beginning of the shot in 1st curtain synch, will mean that any secondary blurring after the flash has fired will be recorded after the flash. If instead you decide to switch the camera into 2nd curtain synch, then the flash will fire after the shutter has moved, at the very end of the shot. So you now have a way to define if the blurring is in front of or behind the subject movement. This doesn’t have a great deal of impact on a straightforward twirl shot, as the movement is a circular one and the blurring has little beginning or end. However, it has a big effect on the sort of shot where you stay still and the subject is moving. As any blurring is better if it is behind the subject’s direction of travel, this makes for a more logical sense of movement.
So for shots where you want to show the fish movement, like in my shot of the stern of the Thistlegorm, with the burst of fusiliers around, then you stay still, letting the fish do the moving for you. Then second curtain synchronisation is the setting too use. In all honesty, as it’s something I may forget to change in the heat of the moment, I set my camera to 2nd Curtain synchronisation by default.
FINAL THOUGHTS These motion-blurring techniques are predominantly for shooting with wide-angle lenses. Time of day can be quite important too, because if you’re shooting with slower shutter speeds, the amount of ambient light will dictate just how low you can go, ie if it’s very bright and in the middle of the day, you may find that even if you’re shooting with very small apertures on your lens, at the lowest ISOs then the exposure triangle won’t always allow you to pick the lower speeds. So I find these techniques work better when the ambient light is already low, either at dusk or dawn, which can give you more flexibility. This will also have the welcome benefit of allowing you more range with your flash, opening up distances further than under a metre away, as you’ll not have to be limited to the range-reducing smaller apertures. And if you’re really struggling to pin down this technique, if you can’t make it then you can always fake it, using subject selection techniques and selective motion blur in Adobe Photoshop, you can make a pretty convincing imitation of this. Whether or not you want to learn this in camera or cheat, this is something I can easily teach you on one of my Photo Editing workshops, or overseas trips. Although I do think it’s better to learn how to do this properly. You should have fun trying though, and persevere, it will pay off in the end. n Give movement to shoals of fish
Encounter Capture Create 4 UW Scene Modes
Full HD Video
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Taken with SeaLife DC2000 & 0.5x Dome Lens
Tiffany Morse exploring the Tyrrel Bay shipwreck
e’re gonna laugh, and sing, and dive, and everything, we’re heading for Grenada’, sang ‘The Scuba Cowboy’ Pup Morse at the opening party for the 2018 DiveFest, at the chilled-out beach bar Off the Hook on Carriacou, and the lyrics from his song – named simply ‘Grenada’ – accurately captured the flavour of this event, which is now into its second year. The inaugural DiveFest was quite a low-key affair, but this year saw all the involved parties, spearheaded by the Grenada Scuba Diving Association and the Grenada Tourism Authority, really push things up a notch, with a jam-packed schedule incorporating reef and wreck diving on both Grenada and Carriacou, lionfish hunting, beach clean-ups, trydive sessions and lively opening and closing parties. The action started over on sleepy little Carriacou, a tiny island which really offers a laid-back slice of Caribbean heaven, on 3 October. Today was Reef Diving Day, and two cracking reef dives with Deefer Diving at Barracuda Point at the acclaimed Sisters Rocks and near Mabouya Island delivered pristine corals, vibrant sponges, mass shoals of chromis and snapper, moray eels, grouper, angelfish, barracuda, octopus, nurse sharks and even a turtle. That evening saw the opening party at Off the Hook beach bar, and American singer-songwriter – and avid scuba nut – Pup Morse performed an entertaining set of his light-hearted, easy-listening ‘Scubarribean’ tunes, which made the perfect accompaniment to a few ice-cold Stag and Carib beers as the assembled throng celebrated the start of the DiveFest. Thursday 4 October, the focus remained on Carriacou and was Wreck Diving Day, so we headed out with Lumbadive to explore the recent Troll shipwreck (see box out for more information), a large tugboat sitting upright in 35m, and then completed a relaxed combo reef/wreck dive off Mabouya Island, which revealed some of the largest gurnards I have ever seen in my life.
Josh McKie on the Shakem Idyllic beach scene in Carriacou
Ben Frudd on the Tyrrel Bay
The annual DiveFest on Grenada and Carriacou is now in its second year, and this time around Scuba Diver was on hand to take part in the proceedings PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
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Pup Morse on the Veronica L
Artificial reefs are well-known to provide great marine habitats and take pressure off actual coral reefs, and various countries around the world have now sunk vessels for this purpose, including Grenada, but the island is soaring ahead of the pack in terms of the number of purposefully submerged attractions by adding not one, not two but three shipwrecks in the last few months. The 60-metre container ship Anina languished in Grand Anse Bay for several years before finally being green-lighted as an artificial reef, but she ended up going down slightly earlier than planned at the end of March after starting to take on water and can be found lying on her side in some 30m of water close to popular reef dive Purple Rain. It is a stunning dive, with the flat bottom of the vessel liberally coated in orange cup corals - so much so it resembles a wall dive - and the cavernous holds being open for exploration. It is also possible to venture into the engine room, which retains much of its machinery. The latest wreck is the Tyrrel Bay, a former US Coastguard patrol boat which went down at the end of September close to Boss Reef off Grand Anse Beach and had barely been sunk a week when we dived her. The result of a two-year public/private sector project, the wreck still has many interesting features, including a safe, telephone, compasses, control panels and levers, and even a few toilets, and its shallow depth – the upper superstructure comes to within 5m of the surface – means it can be enjoyed by all levels of diver. And neighbouring Carriacou has not missed out, with the sinking of the 38-metre tugboat Mammoth Troll in January. The Troll, as it is known, was set to go down near the two existing tugboat wreck dive sites near Mabouya Island, but it is now on the bottom in 35m in an upright position a short distance from the famed Sisters Rocks. Penetration is possible into various sections of the vessel, and there is a great swim-through running the length of the superstructure on the starboard side. This intriguing ‘tale of three wrecks’ will be covered in more depth (’scuse the pun) in a future issue of Scuba Diver.
On Friday 5 October, the DiveFest entourage moved back to Grenada itself, and despite an unexpected and truly torrential lightning and thunder storm putting paid to a few of the planned activities, our merry band were back on the water for Environmental Awareness Day. I Peter Seupel on headed out on the boat with Eco Dive the Bianca C to explore the freshly sunk Tyrrel Bay artificial reef (see box out for more information), and then caught up with divers and shore-based assistants conducting a beach and underwater clean-up dive off Grand Anse Beach, which saw them remove several sacks full of plastic bottles, cans, clothing, toys and other rubbish. While we as divers are perhaps more-aware of the ocean debris issues than others, due to seeing it every time we venture beneath the surface, it was heartening to see families joining in with the beach clean side of things, and enthusiastically helping to collect rubbish lying on the sand. The day concluded with a ‘movie under the stars’ night at Coconuts Beach Bar and Restaurant, where dive centre staff and DiveFest attendees met up to watch some marine-themed documentaries and sup some cold beers and rum punch. Saturday 6 October was Lionfish Eradication Day, and I headed out with Pup and his daughter Tiffany on a lionfish hunt with Native Spirit Scuba. These invasive species are wreaking havoc across the Caribbean, but in Grenada and Carriacou there have been determined efforts by the dive shops to try and keep the reefs and wrecks as ‘lionfish-free’ as possible, and I have to say, I was only seeing a handful of the colourful blighters on each dive, which is a major improvement from two years ago, when they appeared to be more plentiful. We hit reef site Windmill Shallows and shipwreck Veronica L, and successfully speared 17 lionfish. These fish joined others harvested by the rest of the dive shops and were delivered to the staff at Coconuts Beach Bar and Restaurant on Grand Anse, ready to be eaten that night at the closing party. The evening saw dive centre owners, staff, DiveFest divers, locals and members of the GTA and GSDA gather together
Pup Morse opened and closed the DiveFest
Peter on the prop of the Anina...
While we as divers are perhaps more-aware of the ocean debris issues than others, due to seeing it every time we venture beneath the surface, it was heartening to see families joining in with the beach clean side of things ...and inside the vast engine room
at Coconuts to tuck into tasty lionfish fillets served with ginger or garlic, and then have a few drinks while listening to an entertaining two-hour set from The Scuba Cowboy to celebrate the successful completion of the second annual DiveFest. Due to my flight schedule, I was able to squeeze in a cheeky couple of days diving either side of the DiveFest. On Tuesday 2 October, I was out with Aquanauts Grenada, making a welcome return to the gigantic ocean liner Bianca C – the flagship of the island’s sunken fleet – and checking out the brand-new Anina shipwreck (see box out for more information) for the very first time. On Sunday 7 October, I rounded off my trip to the islands with ScubaTech by visiting the Anina again (to get the photographs I missed first time around) and then exploring the cargo vessel Shakem, a wreck that is absolutely smothered with coral growth and is teeming with marine life.
Vibrant growth on Carriacou
Sorting out the collected debris
GRENADA CONTENT HUB
For a comprehensive guide to Grenada and Carriacou, and the top wreck and reef diving hotspots, check out: www.scubadivermag.com/content-hub/grenada 56
The second annual DiveFest successfully built on the foundation of the inaugural event, and I am sure that the 2019 event will grow even more from this year’s packed four days. The scheduled themed days – Reef Diving, Wreck Diving, Environmental and Lionfish Eradication – meant that those taking part experienced four very different aspects of diving on the islands, and if you are out there for a week, you can squeeze in an extra couple of days diving the same as I did. Pup Morse did an excellent job of opening and closing the event, and his catchy, scuba-related tunes and lyrics lodged themselves into your brain. Next year will have a photography competition on top of everything from 2018, and I am sure by the time October rolls around next year, there will be even more events/activities lined up. Put the date in your diary – 2-5 October 2019 – and get planning your trip to Grenada. The islands are a diving paradise anyway, with some of the healthiest and most-pristine coral reefs in the Caribbean (I first visited back in November 1999 and they look just the same now as they did then), not to mention a veritable fleet of sunken shipwrecks now numbering 15, and mixing this in with the fun of the DiveFest is the perfect concoction for a superb dive trip. n
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Lighthearted profile of dive centres or clubs from all over the United Kingdom. This issue, it is the turn of Below the Surface, in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
Who is in
Name: Bill and Sal Painter Rank: Master Instructor and Assistant Instructor Date of first certification: Bill 1973, Sal 2009 Number of dives to date: Bill 15,000+ Sal 600+ (Bill’s been around a long time!) WHAT’S YOUR STORY? Bill learnt to dive after ‘borrowing’ a friend’s dad’s kit aged 14. He joined a BSAC club and learned to dive; he spent many years in the army, diving in the summer, skiing in the winter (it was a hard life). In 1985 he left the army and spent a few years teaching in Spain with Calypso Diving. He came back to England in 1987 and worked as a service manager for Comdene, before setting up Below the Surface in 1991 with a brief two-year interlude with European Dive Centre in Turkey, and has been teaching in the UK ever since. I came late to diving in 2009; I wish I had started earlier. I met so many great friends and my instructor (Bill) became my best friend and husband and we now run Below the Surface together and we love it!
Q&A with Bill & Sal Q: How would you describe your team at your dive centre? A: We have an amazing team, Ian Barnes and John Halliday our Divemasters are fantastic and we really could not do all we do without them, and Brian Kerr who has been helping Bill for decades. We are supported by all our divers, particularly Carole Kerr and Alison Barnes who offer shore cover, repairs services and so many others who collect kit and tanks and whom we can’t thank enough. Q: What is your most-embarrassing teaching moment? A: Turning up to a dive site and forgetting your own fins… Q: What is your favourite place to dive in the UK? A: I love St Abbs, Bill loves the Summer Iles.
Q: Who is the worst air-guzzler in your team? A: Really? Now that would be saying but… what do you think, Gus? Q: Who is the biggest wimp out of the lot of you, and give a recent example? A: Ooooh naughty question, that’s harsh, but we do have a few fair-weather divers in the club… Q: Who attracts the most attention, good or bad? A: Ha ha, it has to be Rose Melvin, aged 13 - everybody loves her, some want to adopt her and she is developing a very cheeky sense of humour to stand her ground among the men… aided by Ian Barnes! But so many attract good attention as they are genuinely nice people and great fun to be around.
Q: What is your favourite place to dive abroad? A: Take us back to the Maldives any day, but Bill’s old Medes Islands haunt is still a favourite, as is Lanzarote. Such different sites, but each has their special qualities.
Q: If you could teach a celebrity to dive, who would it be and why? A: Rob Gilbert, we like a laugh…
Q: If you could change one thing about diving, what would it be? A: Only that we could do more of it, less work more play!
Q: What’s been the biggest fear factor in your diving career to date? A: Bill Painter has no fear. Me? My IDC.
Why you should
JOIN OUR CLUB CLUB NIGHTS Our club night is full of fun, we have a large youth section to keep us enthused and many interesting personalities to keep us amused. Because we teach on the club nights, it means there are always skills to be watched, new techniques to learn, for us as well as the divers and students. We have changed the way we teach after a recent instructor update with Prior Knowledge and we believe the learning should always continue, we encourage our divers to come to the pool sessions and practice their skills, the ones that do are by far better divers. And after… We go to the pub, have a beer, reminisce over the last trip, plan the next and generally have a good laugh.
BRITISH DIVING TRIPS St Abbs is a favourite for us all, we stay on the harbour. We like to stay together, sometimes we rent a boat and sometimes we take our own, sometimes we just shore dive and that’s what makes it great. The diving is fantastic, so much to see, the scenery is beautiful and the weekend is always great fun. The Farnes is also a popular trip as how could you not love diving with the seals?
FOREIGN DIVE TRIPS We run at least two foreign trips a year, in January a training trip to Lanzarote so we combine the training with a great holiday and has something for all levels of divers. We also try and fit in a L’Estartit trip most years and the diving on the Medes Islands is simply amazing and this month we are on a liveaboard in the Red sea - the club has taken on the whole boat and we can’t wait! TRAINING FACILITIES We have a dive centre with a well stocked shop. We have a small pool for SEAL Team and Bubblemakers - we think it’s a nicer way to introduce them to diving - and a large pool in Todmorden with a fantastic 3m drop facility. We use the house for small teaching sessions and rent a room for larger teaching sessions, we would love to have a club house in the future for teaching and social events.
DIVE CENTRE factfile Contact details
Below the Surface, 26 Albert Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8AH Tel: 01422 846343 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.belowthesurface.co.uk
All levels of training can be provided.
which has just been refurbished as we had out grown it. We love it.
Rental kit and brand
We have a variety of kit available, it means our divers can try various makes and models before they purchase their own.
Air and nitrox.
Wednesday – Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-4.
We have a very well-stocked shop,
Servicing We provide kit and cylinder servicing, and wetsuit and drysuit repairs.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Kids Sea Camp is the undoubted world leader when it comes to children and diving - more than 7,000 youth certifications and counting! - and founder Margo Peyton has painstakingly crafted a series of unique itineraries with unparalleled adventures, allowing families to bond, interact with local cultures, learn history, engage with wildlife and meet like-minded families from around the globe.
CHILD-FRIENDLY FUN IN NORTH WALES Severntec Diving, based in Shrewsbury, recently held a child-friendly snorkelling and diving weekend in North Wales, visiting the shallow, sheltered bay of Porth Ysgaden TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEVIN MURPHY
he fabulous weather through the early and midsummer months prompted me to organise a weekend trip to Porth Ysgaden, a calm, sheltered bay on the Llyn Peninsula south along the North Wales coast from Caernarfon. I have taken dive groups there for years, and have always been impressed by the marine life on display, but this time my focus was on the younger generation. For me, this weekend was going to be all about youngsters and teenagers and getting them in the water. The ages of those involved ranged from nine to 16, with my son Sam being the youngest and Shannon being the oldest â€“ and terrified of water! Myself and Mike Minton coaxed her into the water very gently and took things step by step, and by the end of the weekend, she was racing the boys up and down the bay (NB: Since that weekend, she has done a trydive in the pool and is now enrolled on her RAID Open Water 20m course!). The other younger element there were Jaden and Logan, and the latter is already in the process of notching up his Open Water 20m certification. I was so set on keeping this weekend kid-friendly, I didnâ€™t even take any dive kit with me, but divers on the team for the weekend were Gail Nichols, Angus Andrews, Debra Smith, and Piotr and Agnes Dullek, while Pete Coby did a fine job of dive marshalling. The weekend did not disappoint, and as well as fantastic weather topside, underwater we saw flatfish, blennies, wrasse, lobster, starfish, crabs and much more. Visibility was in excess of ten metres both days!
It just goes to show you donâ€™t even have to dive to have a great time, just stick a mask, snorkel and fins on and away you go. With shallow sites like Ysgaden delivering all manner of marine life sightings, they are the perfect place to take both divers and snorkellers to let them see what the British coastline can put on display. n www.severntecdiving.com
BLAKE SMITH, 16, SHREWSBURY, SHROPSHIRE I was born extremely premature and swimming from a young age had helped develop my lungs. I was very comfortable in the water, and my first-ever dive was in 2009, in a pool in Cyprus, when I was eight. The hotel we were staying in was offering trydives and my Grandad paid for me to have a go. It was fun and I took away underwater photos, a DVD and memories along with my PADI Bubblemaker award. Apparently the dive instructor said I took to it really well. I hounded my Mum to take me diving as she had dived a few times. When I got back into diving, I was 14. I initially qualified as a BSAC Ocean Diver in August 2016 at Capernwray with Kevin Murphy from Severntec Diving - I had just turned 15. Through Kevin, I moved over to RAID. I really enjoyed learning under the RAID system, as the course material is contained in comprehensive online booklets, to read at your leisure, and the theory is ten to 20 multiple choice questions. I went through the theory quickly. In the Open Water 20 theory, it even teaches you the basics of rebreathers, with an emphasis on safety and self rescue, learning how to avoid falling into the pit of cascading failures. I am now qualified as an Advanced 35 diver and also studied nitrox diving, drysuit diving, boat speciality and have done a basic first-aid course. I enjoy studying under Kevin because he is willing to answer any questions I have impartially. He is serious when he needs to be, but is always willing to have a good laugh. Last May, I had such a fantastic experience of a week on my first liveaboard boat, diving the Deep South of the Red Sea. I took part in Project Shark and experienced diving around my first wreck, the Salem Express. This, along with other UK dives at NDAC, was followed with a great weekend diving the Farne Islands with grey seals. I hope to soon become a Divemaster, and dive in many exotic locations around the world with our friendly gang.
OUR MISSION: Kids Sea Camp’s mission is to inspire families to dive, travel and explore environmentally and culturally diversified destinations, and thus we have created family-friendly resort packages, activities and tours designed to provide safe, fun and educational vacations to children and their families.
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GIVE THEM A WEEK THEY WILL REMEMBER FOREVER
JAMES PICTON, 14, KEIGHLEY, WEST YORKSHIRE We met James in the winter of 2016. His family were going off to Egypt and he and his Dad wanted to learn to dive. It was hard for James - his skills were never in doubt, nor was his confidence, his battle was with the cold as he was such a skinny little thing back then. He passed with ease and came back to continue diving, becoming a very proficient young diver. In August 2017, he had the skills and confidence to lead dives on our centre trip to L’Estartit. He is now developing his love for photography and has just passed his photography speciality and his Advanced Open Water in preparation for our trip to Egypt at the end of the year. We look forward to his photos and his continued progression in diving. Like our other juniors, he is a pleasure to teach and a credit to the club and his parents.
FAMILY DIVE ADVENTURES
KIDS@FAMILYDIVERS.COM 803.419.2556 WWW.FAMILYDIVERS.COM
A BONAIRE DRIVE-N-DIVE
SHORE-DIVING PACKAGE WORTH OVER £625 WITH BUDDY DIVE Scuba Diver has teamed up with Buddy Dive to offer one lucky reader the chance to win an awesome drive-n-dive shore-diving package on Bonaire, the ‘shore-diving capital of the world’, worth over £625. To enter, all you have to do is visit: www.scubadivermag.com/competition and fill in your details – it’s that easy! The trip, which includes seven nights in selected accommodation in Buddy Dive Resort, seven days vehicle rental, six days of unlimited shore diving, a free nitrox upgrade, daily American-style breakfast buffet, welcome drink, free WiFi, ‘Manager’s rum punch party’ invite and airport transfers, will open up a plethora of fantastic dive sites to the prize winner, including the likes of the Hilma Hooker shipwreck, the Salt Pier and innumerable fantastic reef dives.
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Less than two-and-a-half hours away from the UK, Croatia offers some chilled out, relaxed diving opportunities. Stuart Philpott went to see it for himself PHOTOGRAPHS BY STUART PHILPOTT
earing so many good reports about Croatia, I couldn’t resist planning a visit. Well-known brand Euro Divers (www.euro-divers.com) had opened a dive centre at Stara Baška on Krk Island, located way up north far away from the hustle and bustle of popular tourist resort Dubrovnik. Checking online I found regular flights departing from the UK to Dubrovnik, but this was hundreds of kilometres from my final destination, making transfer times impractical. The airport at Riječka was much more convenient, although flight options were limited to a weekly Ryan Air service departing from Stansted during the summer months. At least my air ticket didn’t cost me a fortune, and with flight times of only two hours and 20 minutes, I wouldn’t be shuffling about on my seat for too long. After clearing customs, I jumped in a local taxi and made tracks for Stara Baška, an hour’s drive down the road, depending on traffic. The fare cost 52 euros each way, so next time
around I will put the money towards a full week’s car rental hire. This would give me much more freedom in the evenings, and I could also go sightseeing on non-diving days. At the opposite end of the scale, I spoke to a young German couple, Stefan and Irena, who were more than happy to stay in town for a complete two-week period. Stefan said he had a highpressure job in Munich and preferred to go diving all day and just sit and veg in the evenings. Stara Baška is located in a sleepy bay on the south side of Krk Island approximately 10km from Punat, home to the third biggest boat marina in Europe (important note - the marina restaurant serves up the best cheeseburgers). I had booked into Pansion Nadia but was unaware that there were two buildings with the same name. This totally threw the taxi driver, who initially took me to the wrong one! The town itself has a grand total of three bars/restaurants and a number of low-rise apartment blocks all fronted by a small pebble beach and a concrete jetty, which provides moorings
Drysuits are a good option or a full 7mm wetsuit, although Kai said that he had a group of Brummies visiting last year wearing just shorties! The waters are crystal clear
Exploring a swim-through
Dive boat in the marina
for around 50 or so boats. There is also a supermarket of some sorts, but it was quite a walk from my accommodation so I didn’t get a chance to check it out. The PADI-affiliated dive centre is conveniently located along the seafront just a few steps below Pansion Nadia. Euro Divers opened for business on 1 April 2013 (hopefully April Fool’s Day wasn’t an omen?). I met the manager and partowner, Kai Behrend, who had spent ten years in the German special forces before changing his career to the dive industry. For the next ten years he worked as a diving instructor and manager at various resort islands in the Maldives before settling in Croatia. Kai said: “It takes 100,000 volts of energy to make a dive centre successful. Service and safety are paramount. I’ve never had an accident, ever”. There were two other full-time members of staff. Vinko doubled up as Divemaster and boat driver, while Maria managed reception. My name seemed to give Vinko the giggles. The only ‘Stuart’ he had heard of was an animated white mouse called ‘Stuart Little’. Maybe there was more of a resemblance than I thought? Kai said: “We might not have the best boat or the best facility but we care more for our divers. We give the competent divers more latitude and help the weaker divers”. Over 85 percent of Kai’s customers are repeaters. Some have been loyal followers since his Maldives days. A fair proportion of Kai’s clientele came from Germany. With Munich only six hour’s drive away, this was quite understandable. Kai said: “Most of the road is Autobahn down to the bridge at Krk Island”.
Euro Divers Croatia offer approximately 40 dive sites within a ten- to 60-minute boat journey range. Normally, there is a morning dive at 9.30am followed by second dive at 3pm in the afternoon. On occasions, Kai offers two-tank morning dives and full-day trips to the popular Lina wreck, which is about a two-hour boat ride each way. Drysuits are a good option or a full 7mm wetsuit, although Kai said that he had a group of Brummies visiting last year wearing just shorties! Water temps can hit highs of 26 degrees C. Kai recommended visiting in September, when the weather is still warm and there are fewer divers about. During my stay, I met a complete mix of European nationalities. Some were locals who just turned up for the day, while others were on holiday and staying in town. The whole atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly. Everybody would revert to speaking English when I was around. I got off to a flying start with a scenic dive at Prvic Tunnel. The main feature was a swim-through/tunnel adorned with colourful sponges. The tunnel sits at a depth of 10m and is roughly 50 metres long with room enough for two or three divers swimming side by side. There was also a wall dominated by vibrant yellow sponges and the odd purple sea fan thrown in for good measure. Fish life mainly comprised of small damsels, flying gurnard, scorpionfish and some black and white spotted nudis.
Colourful marine growth
The tunnel sits at a depth of 10m and is roughly 50 metres long with room enough for two or three divers swimming side by side The Euro Divers team
Corals and sponges adorn the reefs
I quickly settled into a daily routine which began with a leisurely breakfast. Sipping coffee and eating freshly made chocolate croissants while admiring the sparkling Adriatic was simply idyllic. One morning I watched a solitary bottlenose dolphin jumping across the bay. Between dives I would catch lunch at the neighbouring restaurant called Marinara and then return to Pansion Nadia for dinner. Kai said that last year he counted eight different seahorses on the house reef and so taking up the challenge, we went hunting for seahorses. The bottom composition was mainly sand with the odd patch of sea grass. Black sea cucumbers were everywhere. I also found an old boot, a discarded wine bottle and a lorry tyre. We searched fruitlessly for 45 minutes and then, as promised, Kai found me a seahorse. Apart from the house reef, there are no other shore diving sites. I paired up with a German diver called JJ for a dive at Brazol, which started with a wreck at a depth of around 30m. I didn’t know the wreck’s history but it looked to be an approximately 20-metre-long cabin cruiser or an old dive boat. I managed to get through the hatchways, but most of the interior had already disintegrated. Marine life consisted of a conger eel and a lobster hiding behind the prop. Vinko mentioned that there was another relatively untouched wreck in the middle of the bay at 50m, but the weather conditions had scuppered all possibilities of a visit. On our trip to the popular site, Prvic Coral Garden, Kai paired me up with Polish diver Renata. At a maximum depth of 42m, this turned out to be my deepest dive of the week and had the best visibility. The site was basically two seamounts that dropped off into the deep blue yonder. I followed Renata down to a very pretty wall full of huge purple sea fans interlaced with red and yellow sponges. During the ascent we watched shoaling bream dodging our exhaled bubbles. The dive ended at the tip of the pinnacle, around 10m beneath the boat, where I found scorpionfish and more sponge formations. There are around six dive centres operating in the region but Euro Divers are the only centre at Stara Baška. Kai said: “We rarely see another dive boat at a site”. Kai’s favourite site was called Zala Draga. This was by far the best macro site with a variety of nudis, scorpions, blennies, wrasse, mullet and multiple octopus sightings. Using
Renata as a marine life spotter really helped me clock up my picture quota. My last dive at a site called Skuljca was best for wide-angle opportunities. There were a number of deep gullies making a kind of underwater maze. This opened out by a rocky outcropping covered in bright orange cup corals. The late-afternoon sun filtered around the rocks, making the perfect backdrop for my pictures. Stara Baška wasn’t the most adrenalin-fuelled diving destination I have ever visited but I came away feeling happy and contented. I couldn’t fault the dive centre or the staff. The dive sites I visited were full of colourful flora and overall had very good underwater visibility. There was also a house reef to explore with virtually guaranteed seahorse sightings and even a couple of small shipwrecks. Pansion Nadia offered a good spread of food and wine (at very reasonable prices, I might add) and my room, which had recently been refurbished, was modern, clean and comfortable. Most importantly, the beers were always served in frosted glasses, so all in all not a bad result! n
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The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society is a non-profit, educational organisation whose mission is to promote educational activities associated with the underwater world. It has offered scholarships for over 35 years. owuscholarship.org
GARDENING CORALS AND DIVING AT WORK! PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC JORDA MOLINA AND REGIE TUTOR
hooting the teeny tiny critters during the photo worksholp in Manado with Saeed Rashid (Focus Visual) really made me discover a new passion for underwater photography that I didn’t know was in me before. It is so amazing when with a macro shot you can enhance the vibrant colours and weird shapes of incredible animals that, otherwise, you would just overlook when diving next to them because they are too small and indistinct. But with macro photography, everything gains a new dimension! It was such a fantastic experience working with all the group of the workshop and I am so thankful to Saeed for having taken me with him on this trip. After leaving Sulawesi, I headed to the island of Bohol, in the Philippines. There, a charming and hidden diving resort started a coral gardening project a few years ago. They invited me to join them to learn more about their project and to give them a helping hand wherever I could. Amun Ini Resort and Spa is located close to the village of Anda and if you ever go and visit them, you will be amazed by its white sand beach with turquoise waters and its incredible house reef. Some years back, though, due to the high pressure of dynamite fishing, the reef was extremely damaged and all herbivorous fish were gone, while the surviving corals began to be overgrown by algae, deteriorating conditions even more. However, Amun Ini started to grow fragments of corals in underwater nurseries and their Divemasters and marine biologists have been planting and taking care of the new corals, rebuilding and recovering the reef into a thriving ecosystem. This, coupled with the implementation of a marine protected area around the house reef, has improved conditions exponentially, which is not only good
for the inhabitants of the reef, but also for the divers that can enjoy such a lovely scenery underwater. In fact, their MPA has been one of the mostsuccessful throughout the country. It was an immense pleasure diving with Regie and Jason, who showed me the techniques that they use to plant the new corals and showed me around the impressive underwater pyramid structures and glass bottles where they grow the fragments of corals. Salamt to everyone in Amun Ini resort for having me in your amazing resort! Diving in Asia for the first time really opened my eyes to this new passion for underwater photography and it is certainly something I want to learn more about and practice during the Scholarship year. After enjoying the tropical waters of Asia, I headed back to the UK for an intensive two-week training that was going to change my approach to diving 360 degrees. In the capital of Wales, Cardiff, I took my HSE Commercial Diver Part IV course with Bristol Channel Diving Services. Neil Brock, the main instructor of the course, has been training media-orientated divers for many years and has been involved in the diving operations of, for example, the Blue Planet II series of the BBC. Together with him and Richard Bull, who supervised most of the dives, we learned about all diving regulations and safety procedures in the media and scientific arena, we went through risk assessments and learned all necessary skills to dive while at work. Neil introduced us with full-face masks and underwater communications and also showed us the ‘art’ of tending a diver with lifelines. After having built scaffolds underwater, surveyed wrecks with almost no visibility and having tied knots underwater in complete darkness, we realised the huge importance of having an efficient and reliable team where everyone not only takes care of their own safety, but also of each other. I want to give a huge thank you to all the staff of Bristol Channel Diving Services for this amazing course, and I am sure that it will be the perfect platform for a future career underwater. n
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FREEDIVING NEWS CMAS WORLD FREEDIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS The CMAS World Freediving Championships were held in Kas, Turkey, in early October. In the Men’s Free Immersion (FIM) discipline, Alexey Molchanov’s 116m dive earned him the gold medal, as well as a new CMAS World Record, while Andrey Matveenko took home the silver with a 100m dive and Daniel Koval and Same Jeranko tied for bronze with 95m dives apiece. For the women, Alessia Zecchini took home the gold plus her own World Record with a 94m dive, while Sayuri Kinoshita nabbed a silver medal with her 90m dive and Hanako Hirose and Sofia Gomez-Uribe tied for bronze with 86m dives apiece. In the men’s Constant Weight with Bi-Fins (CWT BF) discipline, Alexei Molchanov won the gold with his 107m dive, while Arnaud Jerald took home the silver with his 101m dive, and Antonio Mogavero earned a bronze with a 91m dive. For the women, Natalia Zharkova nabbed the gold as well as a World Record with her 89m dive, with Alenka Artnik and Sofia Gomez-Uribe taking home silver medals with their 86m dives. In the men’s Constant Weight No Fins (CNF) discipline, Mateusz Malina took home the gold medal with his 78m dive, while Michele Giurgola took silver with his 76m dive, and Remy Dubern took the bronze with his 75m dive. For the women, Alessia Zecchini and Natalia Zharkova shared gold medals with 70m dives respectively, while Sayuri Kinoshita took home the bronze with a 66m dive. This was the third annual CMAS Freediving World Championships, but they were marred by safety fears and were, in fact, cancelled for two days due to these concerns which were raised after a Spanish competitor blacked out
during their dive and was not rescued until after drifting from 35m to 61m in depth. The organisers have brought in Jonathan Sunnex, the head of safety for rival federation AIDA International, to help ensure both equipment and protocols for safety were being followed, but it meant that the competition lost two diving days that were scheduled for Constant Weight (CWT) athlete dives, meaning divers who wanted to compete in Constant Weight would have to do that each day, in addition to the disciplines already scheduled for that day.
TRUBRIDGE, NERY AND GAUTIER NAMED OCEAN QUEST GLOBAL CORAL REEF AMBASSADORS understated, they not only provide them with food and Champion freedivers William Trubridge, Guillaume Néry and Julie Gautier have joined environmental advocacy organisation Ocean Quest Global’s campaign as ambassadors to protect and rehabilitate coral reefs. While protecting and rehabilitating coral reefs via scuba diving is a viable option, it isn’t the only one. As such, Ocean Quest Global is working towards including freediving so that the members of those local communities can be fully involved in the process as well. Coral reefs are traditionally monitored and rehabilitated by those with the financial capacity to do so, with the costs of scuba certification and equipment amounting to several months of average income in many countries across the world. Such efforts also tend to be occasionally inhibited by the operational issues presented by scuba diving equipment, particularly in remote or non-tourist areas. According to Ocean Quest Global: “The importance of healthy coral reefs to their surrounding communities cannot be
revenue (through fisheries and tourism), but also stave off coastal erosion, thereby safeguarding land property from damage and reducing the risk of population displacement. It is estimated that coral reefs worldwide provide goods and services valued to be close to $30 billion on an annual basis.” Consequently, Ocean Quest Global has been developing and is now finalising a new and specific method of coral reef rehabilitation using freediving to this purpose. It’s been working with Apnea Total Freediving, its instructors and master students, getting advice on how to adapt the advocacy organisation’s methodology and techniques to freediving. Specific education in coral reef rehabilitation is scheduled to begin in early 2019. The objective over time is to set up protection and rehabilitation campaigns with local communities that will become fully self-regulating within a reasonable period after launch. For more info, check out the website: www.oceanquest. global
DeeperBlue.com is the World’s Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. We’ve been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.
WORLD RECORDS TUMBLE IN THE MED
Colombian freediver Sofia Gomez Uribe has set a new women’s world record with a Constant Weight with bi-fins (CWT) dive to 86m. The record was set at the end of September under World Underwater Federation (CMAS) rules at the Kas Baska freediving competition, in advance of the CMAS World Championships being held there in early October. According to Gomez Uribe: “I took advantage of today to announce 86m with bi-fins and try to make a new world record, more relaxed and without the pressure of the World Championship. It worked and I succeeded. I will not say it was easy, it’s my first immersion in competition throughout the year and obviously the nerves did not wait, I fought until the end and I’m very happy with the result. Now to rest and recharge my energy for what is coming this week.” For the first time in history, Alessia Zecchini has the women’s world record in freediving with a monofin in the Constant Weight (CWT) discipline under two rule sets - the World Underwater Federation (CMAS) and AIDA International. Zecchini set the record under AIDA International rules at the OriginECN Vertical Blue freediving competition in July with a dive to 107m, and at the end of September set the record with a dive to the same depth under CMAS rules off the coast of Turkey at the Kas Baska tournament in the run-up to the Outdoor CMAS World Championships. Zecchini said: “A dream that became real… I want to dedicate it to our special lovely friend Pamela Holtzman, you were always with us in Vertical Blue before and after our dives with your hugs and cute smiles. A big hug to all your family.” And just for good measure, Zecchini set a CMAS Free Immersion world record with a dive to 90m as well.
NEW CROSSTRAINING FOR FREEDIVING BOOK NOW AVAILABLE Just because you don’t live near the water doesn’t mean you can’t stay fit for freediving. To that end, Dr Jaap Verbaas’ new book, Longer And Deeper, describes the cross-training methods and techniques he uses to improve your diving skills. According to the book’s back cover, the reader will learn: How your muscles work; what to do if CO2 tables fail; how to minimize drag; how to delay the onset of contractions; how to stay fit all year long; how to adapt muscles to hypoxia; how to reduce leg burn; and how to recover from exercise. Ian Almasi, PFI freediving instructor, says of the book: “Longer and Deeper was easy to digest and interesting. It makes the dry training of freediving seem both fun and doable. Anyone can excel in this sport with land-based training.” The book is available from Amazon for US$24.99/€21.63 Euros.
BARBADOS LAUNCHES FREEDIVING ASSOCIATION
According to the man behind the organisation, Alex Davis, its main aim will be to represent the interests of divers across the island. The new organisation was launched at the National Aquatic Centre in Wildey, St Michael on Tuesday, 2 October (the date got moved from the end of September due to flooding after the recent Tropical Storm Kirk). According to Davis, during the inaugural meeting: “We will be briefing everyone on what we plan to do with the association, where we want to move in the future and what it means for Barbados in the long run.” Among the publicly stated aims of the organisation so far is to host a Caribbean national pool competition. While the date of the event has not been confirmed, it is planned to take place next year. The new organisation is open to freedivers, spearfishing participants, and snorkelling enthusiasts.
FREEDIVING NEW ZEALAND POOL NATIONALS The results are in for the Freediving New Zealand Pool Nationals competition, held in September. Overall: F - Gemma Cookson with a point total of 179.5. M - Guy Brew with a point total of 240.7. Static: F - Kathryn Nevatt with a time of 7:07. M - Guy Brew with a time of 8:11. Dynamic: F - Kathryn Nevatt with a distance of 176m. M - Jarrod Briffa with a distance of 170m. Dynamic No Fins: F - Gemma Cookson with a distance of 111m. M - Guy Brew with a distance of 138m. www.freediving.co.nz/fnzpoolnats2018
FREEDIVING GEAR TEST SALVIMAR WET DROP CELL 7MM | SRP: £142-£184 Steve Millard: I wanted to find a suit that would keep the thinnest of freedivers warm in the water for longer periods of time. Staying warm for some is a problem, but there is a misconception that if you aren’t in a drysuit in the water, then you will be cold. You just need to dress correctly for conditions and your body type. I wanted a suit that could be used for multiple uses and then trial it for an entire diving season with heavy school and instructor use before coming to any conclusions. The suit I picked was the Salvimar Wet Drop Cell 7mm suit. It is a two-piece wetsuit, and the external nylon outer is designed to make for a long-lasting durable suit. Internally it has Open Cell material, which is ideal for warmth, comfort and flexibility. It has reinforced ‘puff gum’ material on the knees and chest and, after a season of clambering over rocks and kneeling while adjusting fins in car parks, etc, they were completely undamaged. The chest pad is, of course, for spearos to place the butt of the gun against the chest for comfortable loading. The suit has high-waist pants which stop just below the ribcage, as opposed to long johns which go over the shoulders. I have started to prefer this type of two-piece suit. You have added flexibility when raising the arms above the head, which is better than the long john design, and it fits a wider range of students as the suit becomes ‘telescopic’, plus going to the loo is a much-easier proposition! The only downside really is you lose the warmth over the chest area, and this can easily be achieved by purchasing a separate neoprene vest. A key feature of this suit, and many pure freediving/spearfishing suits, is the integrated hood design. This will stop flushing from that area completely and is more streamlined and hydrodynamic as the water flushes over it, not into it. The difference between this and a classic separate hood/hood with zip up to the
chin design is massive - the integrated hood always wins hands down. It has a beavertail adjustable single clip. Arguably Velcro is more comfortable depending on fit, and more adjustable, but once the Velcro wears out you have a problem, so I prefer the clip designs and frog designs for the longevity of the suit. The suit is ideal for all year-round use. I have done a continuous five-and-ahalf-hour session (not even out for a toilet break) in October and still been okay to dive. I would say in the middle of summer, if anything, it is too warm for two months for those who don’t feel the cold, but for those who do, perfect. It is ideal for UK spearfishing conditions on the England and Welsh coasts, and I would even say good enough for Scottish lochs and the sea having used it up there for groups. We trialled it on scuba a few times too, and here is a quote from Rebecca Westley, who is a full-time dive industry professional, who wore it in Capernwray and had a comfortable day, and then took it on holiday to trial over a longer period. She always feels the cold so it was good to hear her opinion. She said: “After comfortably diving in my drysuit for six months of the year for four years in the Red Sea, I knew I’d be cold in the more-temperate waters of the Galapagos. I was also conscious of the possibility of surge and strong currents. So, I needed a robust and warm suit for this special trip. The Salvimar Wet Drop Cell 7mm suit was quick easy to don and doff. The two-piece design gave me a double layer around my core, that meant I was comfortable in the temperatures. I had no issues with comfort and movement. I believe the sizing is great and it even suited my shorter frame. I didn’t experience one of my usual challenges of having too much extra length on the legs and arms.” A few points to help the user get the best out of the suit. The open cell on the inside of the suit rips easily with nails and rough handling, so lubricate the suit ideally to put it on. Veterinary lube, K-Y Jelly or some form of mild conditioner
works well with a litre of water swilling around it. Do not use the two loops on the highwaist pants to pull up the suit or you will tear them, lube the suit, and use the balls of the fingers, and fold over and pull the nylon outer side of the suit to get it on safely. In summary, this is an exceptional wetsuit suitable for cold-water freediving, spearfishing and scuba diving. It is long-lasting and rugged, very flexible for the thickness and well worth the price tag. www.nautilusdiving.co.uk
Forget McGregor versus Mayweather, the big showdown when it comes to technical diving is sidemount versus backmount. Recreational diver Gavin Jones took the plunge with RAID UK Director of Training Garry Dallas to try out both forms of twin-cylinder diving PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK EVANS
ack in the day, when it came to open-circuit technical diving, the default ‘base’ from which to develop your skill set was a trusty twinset, either manifolded or two independent cylinders. Having twin ten-litre or 12-litre cylinders on your back gave you ample gas and redundancy over a solitary tank to venture a little beyond so-called recreational diving depths, and then by adding one or more side-slung cylinders as your training in the world of technical diving progressed, you could really start to explore those alluring depths. Then sidemount burst on to the scene. Now diving with two cylinders, one on either side of your body, with a streamlined wing on your back for buoyancy, was nothing radically new – cave divers had been utilising this set-up for many years – but several years ago it became very en vogue, and suddenly diving sidemount on reefs and wrecks became the ‘in’ thing. It also provided a stable base from which to
add more cylinders as tech training developed. So you are a recreational diver, with a few years of diving under your belt and a couple of hundred dives in your logbook, and you are looking to enter the work of technical diving. Now you have a choice – sidemount or backmount? We recruited Gavin Jones, a keen single-cylinder Master Scuba Diver and RAID 40 diver from Shropshire who was showing an inclination to ‘go technical’ in the future, to be our ‘guinea pig’ and try out both forms of twin-cylinder diving. He has trained with Shrewsbury-based RAID centre Severntec Diving, and already uses a backplate-and-wing and long-hose set-up, so was well on his way to the technical ‘dark side’. Gavin said: “As I progressed through various courses and my depth limits, one thing that was always at the forefront of my mind was redundant gas supply. While I acknowledged the buddy system, I didn’t want to rely on the ability and skills of an unknown diver while diving on holiday.
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Gavin had great trim in sidemount in no time
“As I reached the limits of recreational diving, I opted to always carry a stage cylinder with the same gas for non-deco dives deeper than 20m for my own peace of mind and to be self-reliant. This reduced my anxiety, gave me comfort and allowed me to enjoy the dive. “My first experience with a twinset was unloading our club’s van - I enquired how they managed to even stand up with that on! The reply was ‘you get used to it’, and ‘you don’t notice in the water’. Sidemount seemed easier to manage at the dive site, but the set-up looked nothing like my backplateand-wing, so I was sceptical if I’d be able to understand a different way of doing things.” We then roped in Garry Dallas, Director of Training for RAID UK and Malta, as our mentor to take Gavin on extended try dives both in backmount and sidemount so that he could see the pros and cons of both forms of technical diving.
TO THE DELPH A bright, sunny morning greeted us as we rolled into the car park at the Delph. Garry maintains a classroom here, so it made sense to conduct the trydives at this location. After introductions and the obligatory coffees, we went into the classroom and Garry immediately went into ‘instructor mode’, explaining the differences between backmount and sidemount, and getting Gavin sized up with the right wings and harnesses. Although he is well known in sidemount circles, Garry also teaches and dives in backmount (as well as with rebreathers), so he was the perfect guide to show Gavin the ropes with both systems. First up was sidemount.
SIDEMOUNT This was a totally new concept to Gavin. He commented: “I carried both cylinders to the water, placed them in the shallows and returned to get into my harness. I noted how easy it was to get set up and at no point was I carrying anything heavy. Once the sliding D-rings were correctly positioned and the cylinders were bungeed up, the whole system was very neat and streamlined - nothing protruded wider than my shoulders or deeper than my body.” It took a little while for him to get properly rigged up with the cylinders sitting in the correct position, but at least he was used to the long-hose set-up, and this meant that that aspect of sidemount didn’t feel completely alien to him. I know from back when I did my sidemount course with Garry,
I instantly felt comfortable with how everything was set up and worked - until we discussed and went through shutdown procedures
Cylinders rigged securely either side
it does feel very odd to be in the water with nothing on your back, and to have the valves on two cylinders sitting either side of your chest. On the other hand, this positioning also helps you achieve a nice horizontal trim very quickly. One thing that Gavin did have to get used to was swapping between his regulator second stages to evenly deplete the gas out of his two cylinders. One sits round the neck on a bungee, as per normal long-hose recreational or twinset diving, while the long hose is equipped with a P-clip so that when that regulator is not in your mouth, it can be securely clipped off onto a D-ring on your right shoulder strap. Under Garry’s watchful eye and tutelage, Gavin soon got to grips with sidemount diving. His trim and position in the water was nicely horizontal within a matter of minutes, and I could see he was enjoying the ease of access to both pillar valves for shutdown drills, etc. Garry doesn’t do anything by halves, and really worked with Gavin to ensure he got the best possible introduction to this form of diving. He also put him through several skills and drills, including back-finning, turning, and so on. Gavin concluded: “The whole system felt very balanced, streamlined and stable. I liked the fact that everything was right there and accessible, I could easily see and manipulate valves, check SPG and hose routing. Entering and exiting the water was easy, and rigging up was much easier and quicker than I envisaged.”
BACKMOUNT Gavin immediately looked more comfortable out of the blocks with a traditional twinset on his back. As he was used to diving with a backplate-and-wing and a long-hose set-up,
THE GOSPEL OF GARRY
Gavin looking relaxed on sidemount
There’s so much subjectivity regarding the pros and cons of backmount and sidemount, that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees - and egos. From an unbiased POV, given my earlier technical diving path on twinsets, from diver training through to trimix instructor, seeing the differences was obvious, hence I’m still diving religiously today. For the last 60/70 years, innovation has improved on all scuba systems, so now RAID have released, alongside the twinset, the most up-to-date sidemount training manual – the primary author being me. Fundamentally, every unit should keep you safe, redundancy being your safe, accessible back-up. For this main reason, sidemount cave divers found this configuration the safest choice. If anyone can’t - or really struggles to - reach their valves easily every time, without losing buoyancy, then they need to change configuration. Period! Other reasons you’ll learn on a RAID course are minor in comparison, for instance… carrying double the weight on land as opposed to singles, while L4 and L5 vertebrae screams on the way back to your vehicle. Can sidemount be a faff? Of course, when someone hasn’t trained on it. Everything is hard work when you don’t know what you should be doing. Train ‘hard’, dive easy!
Gavin practising his hover
other than the fact he now had two cylinders on his back instead of one, everything else was very familiar and fell easily to hand. However, there was that weight to get used to. Gavin said: “I’ve suffered with a bad back on and off for many years from a motorcycle accident, so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to hoisting all that weight up and walking to the water. However, I was pleasantly surprised that once I’d got it up and everything secure, it wasn’t too bad - I managed the walk and the entry to the water without a problem.” One of the key skills when using a backmounted twinset is the S-drill, or shutdown drill, and Gavin found there was a definite knack to reaching up and over your shoulders to turn the knobs on the cylinder pillar valves and the central manifold knob. Garry said the skill does become easier over time, as a result of muscle memory and increased flexibility, but this was the only aspect of twinset diving that Gavin appeared to find a bit awkward. He commented: “I instantly felt comfortable with how everything was set up and worked until we discussed and went through shutdown procedures. In
One thing that Gavin did have to get used to was swapping between his regulator second stages to evenly deplete the gas out of his two cylinders
my drysuit I struggled to reach the valves to turn them. Maybe with some practice this wouldn’t become an issue.” Once under the water, Gavin’s trim and buoyancy in the water was very good, and he didn’t seem to have any major issues, even through all of the skill-and-drill circuits directed his way by Garry. He said: “I liked the instant familiarity with the set up and rig, and once on my back it wasn’t as heavy and bulky as I thought it would be. However, I wouldn’t of liked trying to get out on slippy rocks or up a boat ladder.”
CONCLUSION So, which is best? Well, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that. What works well for one person doesn’t necessarily tick all the right boxes for someone else. Either set-up makes a sound starting point for technical diving. Sidemount allows a lot of flexibility – for example, it is a simple matter to just rig up one cylinder and go diving if that is a better option for a particular dive than needlessly lugging two tanks. Many sidemount devotees note the reduced strain on your lower back, and the enhanced freedom of movement from having the cylinders on your side rather than mounted on your back. On the flipside, you get those who see rigging sidemount as a real faff, and prefer just being able to sling a twinset on their back and go diving. Technical divers do tend to be tinkerers and are always fettling their kit anyway, but sidemount divers can take this to a whole new level of ‘tweaking’, so I understand this viewpoint to an extent. Which one came out on top for Gavin? Well, he was undoubtedly more comfortable in the twinset from the outset, however he liked the flexibility of the sidemount system and was looking very streamlined and trim in the water. A few weeks later, he bit the bullet and did his first course using two cylinders – in sidemount, in case you were wondering… n
Magmadive Expeditions, Iceland firstname.lastname@example.org www.magmadive.is
ICELAND Multi day dive expeditions all over Iceland including Silfra fissure
DIRZONE 52MM BLACK FACE GAUGE WITH PVD COATING (SRP: £59) High-quality brass pressure gauge, with a cool black dial, suitable especially for main tanks and stages. The body has been given the black nickel treatment, and the stainless steel ring has PVD, which is 300 times harder than chrome. The synoptic dial scale goes up to 360 bar, and it comes with a swivel and viton O-rings. www.nautilusdiving.co.uk
MARES DCT CANISTER LIGHT (SRP: £591)
ZEAGLE BRAVO (SRP: £354.95)
The Bravo is the next evolution of the Sport line. It has generous, easy-to-access pockets, six stainless-steel D-rings, an adjustable cummerbund, tough 1,000-denier black bladder material with 10mm thermoplastic polyurethane coating which resists fading and abrasion, and reinforced, colourcontrast stitching. There is an octo pocket, knife mounting positions on both sides, and it also has integrated weights and non-dumpable rear trim pockets. www.zeagle.com
DIVELOGS FULLY WATERPROOF UNDERWATER DIVE LOG (SRP: STARTER PACKS FROM £12.95)
The Mares DCT Canister Light is made from hard-anodised aircraft-grade aluminium and features a rechargeable lithium battery, that can offer a maximum runtime of up to 27 hours. It has three O-rings to ensure it is depth-rated to 200m, and has an overheat protection function. It has a 12-degree narrow flashlight head, with three CREE LEDs that put out a maximum of 3,200 lumens. This has 5mm toughened glass on the front, and a magnetic switch. www.mares.com 82
Divelogs has released a fully waterproof underwater dive log. Commonly known as wet notes, the team has reinvented them as a compact, waterproof, slate and refill system, with a patent pending resuable spiral binder. The pages are printed on heavyweight 170 micron polyester that is tear-proof and ready for hard use. The patent-pending spiral binder makes changing the refills quick and easy, even between dives. Each system includes a backing slate (with or without waterproof pencil) and two thicknesses (light and heavy duty). The slate includes bungee retainers and a lanyard hole, and a flexible but tough plastic cover page helps to keep the refills protected. Everything in the system is modular and designed to work together, and there are extra options such as extracapacity spiral coils and placeholders. Starters packs are priced from £q2.95, with refills available in packs of ten (£5.95) and 20 (£10.95) pages. You can also buy everything singly as required. www.dive-logs.com
HOLLIS SEEKER REELS (SRP: £114.95-£129.95)
The Hollis Seeker reels are made from high-tensile Delrin for durability and abrasion resistance, and feature a hard-anodized aluminium handle. It has a left and right hand handle design for easy switching between hands, and the knurled stainless steel lockdown screw provides single ‘on-off’ with gloves on. It comes in two sizes, both with ultra-bright line – 60 metres (£114.95) for jumps, or shooting a DSMB, and 152 metres (£129.95), for reaching the main cave line or for deeper explorations. www.hollis.com
FOURTH ELEMENT LIFE WINTER COLLECTION (SRP: £26.95-£79.95)
The brand-new Fourth Element Life Winter Collection is a return to the roots of the brand. Strong dive designs with a light-hearted play on diving terminology are combined with promoting the brand’s environmental objectives as well. This collection is the first to be entirely packaged without single-use plastic, from the obvious plastic/paper bag swap to the plastic swing-tag replaced by a paper sticker. The company’s Mission 2020 initiative is being adopted by many diving organisations around the world as a statement of their commitment to the oceans, and with this collection, which includes garments made from recycled cotton and polyester, shows Fourth Element’s own resolve to do better for the environment. T-shirts are priced at £26.95, sweaters at £49.95, and hoodies at £79.95. www.fourthelement.com
THIS ISSUE: MID-RANGE FINS
Each month, the SCUBA DIVER test team assembles to rate and review a selection of dive equipment from a range of manufacturers. Products are split into price categories and are then evaluated for performance, comfort, ease of use, build quality, looks and value for money. The Test Team comprises Editor in Chief Mark Evans and a squad of volunteers, whose dive experience ranges from a couple of hundred dives to well over 6,000.
MID-RANGE FINS (£75-£100)
This issue, we continue our group tests of fins, this time looking at the middle of the range. Fins are one of the most-important parts of a diver’s kit, as without them you will not be going anywhere! A set of fins is very personal, and once people find a fin they like, they can end up being very loyal. A good pair of fins needs to fit well, be comfortable, easy to get on and off, and work with a variety of fin strokes. With each pair of fins, we looked at ease of donning and doffing, comfort of the foot pocket, and what power/control they provided in a selection of fin strokes, including a ‘normal’ finning action, frogkick, back kick, helicopter turns, etc. In this price bracket, all the fins follow the paddle fin approach, albeit some with a few little tweaks (vents, etc).
ON TEST THIS MONTH: • AQUA LUNG PHAZER • MARES WAVE • SCUBAPRO SPLITFIN XP • ATOMIC X1 BLADEFIN
Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis
Date tested: 20/9/2018 Water temp: 9 degrees C WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
AQUA LUNG PHAZER | SRP: £86 The Aqua Lung Phazers are a robust pair of fins, which feel nice and solid. They are quite large fins, with a broad blade, and this incorporates Wave Rib Technology, which according to Aqua Lung translates as the elastomeric rubber sections of the ribs working together with the wave-shaped structures down the side of the blade to accumulate the energy of every kick that is released during the kick cycle. The Phazers also have a bungee heel strap with large thumb loops.
CHOICE 2018 GROUP TEST
BEST VALUE 2018 GROUP TEST
The Phazers incorporate a lot of technological advances in terms of design and materials, and this translates into a pair of fins which generate lots of power in all fin kicks - though like their cheaper siblings reviewed last month, you need strong legs to get the most out of them - but while they are a big fin, they are still reasonably easy to manoeurve around in. The bungee heel strap makes donning and doffing the fins a doddle. www.aqualung.com/uk
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.40kg per pair | STRAP: Rubber bungee / thumb loop VERDICT: Robust, eye-catching fins at a decent price - you just need strong leg muscles to get the best out of them due to the sheer size of that blade.
ATOMIC AQUATICS X1 BLADEFIN | SRP: £99.95 Atomic Aquatics are well known for their highend regulators, but now they are building a similar reputation in the fin department also. The X1 Bladefin is a robust paddle fin which has rigid, low-profile side rails and a stiff blade designed to make turning and pivoting easier, while vertical ‘strakes’ on the tips of the fins add stability and lower drag. The X1 Bladefins are equipped with Atomic’s EZ-Lok buckle system, which allow the buckle to snap on and off easily. The X1 Bladefins are well-made paddle fins with some neat design touches. In use, we found they provided immense levels of propulsion, but as with most large paddle fins, you do need strong leg muscles to really get the best performance out of them. That said, they were designed to work with all kick-styles, and for a relatively long fin, cope well with frog kicks, back kicks and helicopter turns. I’d prefer a spring strap, but the EZ-Lok buckles are the next best thing, and effective even with gloves on. www.atomicaquatics.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.06kg per pair | STRAP: EZ-Lok buckles / rubber strap VERDICT: Strongly made, stiff paddle fins, which provide lots of power in all kicking styles provided you have the muscles for them. EZ-Lok buckles work well, but we’d prefer a bungee strap.
MARES WAVE | SRP: £82 Mares are past masters when it comes to fin design, and the Wave utilises tri-material construction to produce a strong, robust fin which is also very lightweight, tipping the scales are under 2kg. The vast superchannel that comprises much of the lower blade is designed to produce plenty of thrust, and the foot pocket is anatomically designed for comfort. The Wave is equipped with Mares’ tried-and-tested ABS+ buckles, which lever open for you to get them off, and lock forward into place to tighten the strap on to your heel. The Test Team was left astounded by the Avanti Superchannels in the Budget Group Test (see October issue of Scuba Diver), which made a clean sweep of both the Choice and Best Value awards, but the Wave failed to live up to expectations. Don’t get me wrong, it is a wellmade paddle fin, and produces decent power, but it can’t hold a candle to its cheaper sibling. It is also still fitted with ABS+ buckles rather than Mares’ efficient bungee heel strap as seen on the Superchannels. Good fin, but we’d suggest seeking out the Avanti Superchannels. www.mares.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 1.82kg per pair | STRAP: Rubber strap / ABS+ buckles VERDICT: Robust, well-made fins, which perform as you would expect a large paddle fin to, but can’t compete with their budget siblings. ABS+ buckles work but we’d prefer a bungee strap.
SCUBAPRO SPLITFIN XP | SRP: £90 Scubapro have a selection of splitfins in their lineup, and the XPs are, in their words, the ‘most radical improvement in nature’s wing technology’. According to Scubapro, the fins incorporate three different materials for even higher efficiency, and have a power plate for optimum power transmission. They have a large, comfortable foot pocket, and rubber bungee straps with big thumb loops, which make getting them on and off very easy. A few years back, splitfins dominated most of the price brackets, but so far, in the budget and mid-range group tests, these are the first splitfins to put in an appearance. The technology seems to have fallen out of favour in preference for good old paddle fins. In use, with a normal fin kick, the XPs develop a good turn of speed, but as soon as you start to frogkick or back kick, that splitfin isn’t so efficient. They are very comfortable, and the bungee heel strap and big thumb loop combo works a treat. www.scubapro.com
TECH SPECS & VERDICT WEIGHT: 2.26kg per pair | STRAP: Rubber bungee / thumb loop VERDICT: Comfortable, well-made fins, with a nice bungee strap for easy donning and doffing. Good with a normal fin kick but not as effective with frog and back kicks.
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It is interesting to see how the fin market changes from year to year. It doesn’t seem two minutes since everything was ‘split’, but now the good old paddle fin definitely seems to be back in vogue, at least at the budget end of the scale, and now in the mid-range too. The Best Value was a battle between the Mares Wave and the Aqua Lung Phazers. The Waves are nice and light for travelling and well made, but to be honest, the cheaper Mares Avanti Superchannels from last month are a far better fin and would have given the Phazers a run for their money. As it is, the eye-catching Aqua Lungs took the title. The Choice Award saw the Aqua Lung Phazers go head to head with the Atomic Aquatic X1 Bladefins. The Atomics are a quality fin, well made, robust and with some nice features, but the Aqua Lung Phazers also incorporate lots of neat design points and they nudged just ahead of its rival. A close run thing - both are undoubtedly top fins with great performances - but the Aqua Lung Phazers took top spot to be double winners in this price bracket.
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SEALIFE DC2000 | SRP: £699
Mark Evans: There was a time when, rightly or wrongly, SeaLife Cameras were regarded as being one-step-up from a basic point-and-shoot, and didn’t really factor on the radar of anyone who was seriously looking at getting into their underwater photography. However, times change, and over the past few years, the offerings from this progressive company have started to incorporate some impressive features and statistics. The DC2000 is their current rangetopper, and while it comes in at a relatively budget price, you get quite a bit of bang for your buck. For starters, the actual camera itself, which has a large Sony 1-inch back-illuminated 20MP CMOS image sensor and 3-inch 920K LCD monitor, is waterproof down to 18m, which means if you are snorkelling or pootling around in the shallows, you don’t even need to put it into the housing. It also means it is the perfect ‘boat camera’ - no concerns about it getting splashed, wet, etc, as you capture the action topside. The SeaLife has no less than eight shooting modes - manual, aperture, underwater, shutter, programme, intelligent auto, land, and panorama - and on top of that, with both Jpeg and RAW imaging formats available, it gives the user near-endless photo-editing options. There are four underwater shooting modes, and three builtin digital colour-correction filters - shallow water/snorkelling, deep water (normal diving) and even green water, which SeaLife says is for ‘algae bloom’ but actually works well in British waters to compensate for the standard green! There are a staggering 25 land scene modes to adjust the camera settings for specific shooting environments - portrait, landscape, sunset, dawn, backlight, kids, night scene, fireworks, beach, snow, sports, party, candlelight, night portrait, soft skin, food, background defocus, self-
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SEALIFE DC2000 | SRP: £699
portrait, smile shutter, HDR, time lapse, GIF capture, art effect, continuous shooting, and even love portrait - while the intelligent auto mode selects the optimal land scene mode. If you like take control, with the manual, shutter and aperture settings, you can adjust to your heart’s content shutter speed can be from 15 to 1/2000 seconds, and F-stop ranges from F1.8 to F11. Manual white balance means you can tweak and customise the underwater colour correction ‘on the fly’ to suit your specific depth and water conditions. Auto focus goes from just 9cm to infinity, and the macro focus can cope with 3.8cm-10cm (with the optional Super Macro lens). It has an ultra-fast shutter response of 0.1 seconds, meaning you will never miss the crucial action shots, and it will accept Micro SD, SDHC, SDXC and UHS-1 memory cards up to 64GB, so you will never run out of room. The lithium rechargeable battery will let you shoot more than 200 photographs, or two hours of video, and can be back to full charge in just two-and-a-half hours. In this day and age, it is all about sharing your images, and the DC2000 uses wifi and bluetooth to preview, download and share photographs and videos to smart phones and tablets via the free Link123 Plus app. The robust housing, which is rubber-armoured and shock-resistant well, you know what divers are like with their kit! - is depthrated to 60m, which is more than enough for most people. I found the DC2000 quite simple to get on with in use. As with any camera, constant use means everything becomes more intuitive, but you can be in the water and snapping away in a relatively short time. The underwater modes actually work very well, and while I am used to shooting fully manual, I would suggest these are a good starting point for those just getting into UW photography, as it lets
you concentrate on your composition. The large ‘piano-style keys’ - a regular feature on SeaLife cameras - and the rotary dial on the back of the housing are a good size and you can operate them even with thick neoprene gloves on. Some compacts I have used in the past can be a bit fiddly when it comes to cold water. It might not have all the bells and whistles - and capabilities - of a DSLR or a mirrorless system, but for the money, it offers a great way to start capturing your underwater adventures and then showing your resulting photos and videos to your friends. The DC2000 camera and housing can be paired up with Sea Dragon video lights, strobes and SeaLife wet lenses, and the former will be reviewed in conjunction with the camera in a future issue. www.sealife-cameras.com
WINTER IS NOT COMING
Long Term Test BARE ULTRAWARMTH 7MM HOOD Mark Evans: The new BARE Ultrawarmth hood has an Elastek outer fabric for great stretch and fit, and high-loft Celliant inner fabric to help conserve lost body heat and accelerates thermal recovery. It is double-glued and blind-stitched with Securelock construction, which improves isolation and reduces flushing, keeping you warmer and diving longer. The Elastek/Glideskin-in trimmable face and neck glides nicely over your hair, and the hood neck seal mates with drysuit seal/wetsuit collar. www.baresports.com
INFORMATION Arrival date: November 2018 Suggested retail price: £64.95 Number of dives: 0 Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins
MARES QUAD AIR
Mark Evans: The Mares Quad Air, as the names suggests, is an air-integrated dive computer, and it gets its info on your tank contents via the LED Tank Module, which screws into your first stage. As well as permanently pairing with the computer, and having a user-replaceable battery, it also has a vivid colour LED on the end which allows for a quick tank check on the surface and also alerts your buddy of INFORMATION Arrival date: May 2018 a low-air situation on the Suggested retail price: £318 dive itself. It’s also handy Number of dives: 25 on a night dive. Time in water: 23 hrs 45 mins www.mares.com 94
MOMENTUM DEEP 6
Mark Evans: As well as a uni-directional rotating bezel on the front, another must-have feature on a ‘proper’ dive watch is a screw-down crown. The Momentum Deep 6 has a chunky body and a suitably robust screw-down crown, which keeps it watertight INFORMATION Arrival date: June 2018 and also allows you to Suggested retail price: £195 adjust the time and the Number of dives: 17 date quickly and easily. Time in water: 15 hrs 45 mins www.nautilusdiving.co.uk
ZEAGLE SCOPE MONO
Mark Evans: A few more dives under my belt with the Scope Mono, and I am really liking the ski-mask-style elasticated strap. It is just so comfortable and easy to get on and off. It also does not more at all either on the back of your neoprene hood or on the back of your head. The broad nose pocket is very soft and makes it simple to clear INFORMATION Arrival date: September 2018 your ears. Single-lens Suggested retail price: £59.95 masks don’t often fit my Number of dives: 7 face, but the Scope does. Time in water: 6 hrs 15 mins www.zeagle.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
AQUA LUNG ROGUE Mark Evans: The Aqua Lung Rogue has just accompanied me to the island of Grenada for the annual DiveFest event. This saw me diving extensively in both Grenada and neighbouring Carriacou over the course of a week, which involved two island-hopper flights in the middle of the trip. At this point I was extremely thankful of the Rogue’s light weight, and also the fact that it dries out very quickly - a couple of hours in the bright Grenada sunshine and it was left slightly damp, which meant INFORMATION Arrival date: August 2018 I didn’t get clobbered on excess baggage charges for Suggested retail price: £455 Number of dives: 32 the inter-island flights. Time in water: 31 hrs 25 mins www.aqualung.com/uk
HALCYON INFINITY Mark Evans: First dives completed on the Infinity wing and I was impressed. The one-piece harness is well padded, as is the backpad, and this makes the whole set-up very comfortable. The integrated weight pouches sit neatly on the waistbelt, and the twin cambands securely hold the cylinder. It is set up for a long-hose configuration, so those using a standard reg set will find a lack of D-rings around the upper chest area for your INFORMATION Arrival date: October 2018 octopus, etc, but this could Suggested retail price: £777 easily be recified if this was Number of dives: 3 your thing. Time in water: 2 hrs 45 mins www.halcyon.com WWW.SCUBADIVERMAG.COM
FINNSUB 20D AND COMFORT HARNESS
Mark Evans: The brand new Finnsub 20D and Comfort Harness is still being finetuned, so watch this space for when it arrives! www.finnsub.com
INFORMATION Arrival date: September 2018 Suggested retail price: £579 Number of dives: 0 Time in water: 0 hrs 0 mins
APEKS RK3 HD Mark Evans: And so the RK3 HDs come to the end of their stint in Long Term Test. They have been used both here and in the UK, in a variety of conditions, and were not found wanting in any situation. They are comfortable, easy to get on and off thanks to that big heel tab and spring strap combo, but most importantly they provide lots of thrust in a range of finning styles. I particularly like the bright orange colour, but for traditionalists the HD also comes in black, or grey. If you want the standard version, you can get them in white and yellow as well as black, but I found the stiffer HD version suited me better. Well made, well priced and a top performer what more do you want? www.apeksdiving.com/uk
INFORMATION Arrival date: April 2018 Suggested retail price: £120 Number of dives: 26 Time in water: 24 hrs 55 mins 95
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DIVE LIKE A PRO:
WHAT SHOULD BE IN EVERY DIVER’S GEAR BAG ON A NIGHT DIVE
CASUALTIES OF WAR: EXPLORING THE WORLD WAR TWO SHIPWRECKS OF CORON BAY
SNOWMOBILES, SUPER JE EPS AND ICE CAVES
THE BAIG STIC
THE SCOURGE JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST OF PLASTIC POLLUTION
‣ Dive Like A Pro: Safety gear ‣
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EXPERIENCE A VIRTUAL SHARK DIVE
WITH DISCOVERY CHANNEL AT GO DIVING The GO Diving show has teamed up with the Discovery Channel to bring an exciting virtual shark dive to the February 2019 event
hether you are already an avid diver, or looking to take the plunge into this exciting sport, you cannot miss the opportunity to don a VR headset and find yourself in the midst of the action on an adrenaline-fuelled Discovery Channel Shark Week dive in the Bahamas. Sharks, widely misunderstood by the general public and unfairly vilified in the mainstream media, Follow us on social media are one of nature’s most-graceful at /godivingshow to get and impressive predators, and the latest updates on the being in the water with any of show – use the hashtag the multitude of species is simply #GODiving mind-blowing. In this exciting virtual reality film, narrated by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, you will be able to see exactly how amazing these creatures are, as
KEEP IN TOUCH VIA SOCIAL MEDIA
they surround the divers and approach from every angle. Want to try it out for yourself? Get down to the GO Diving show and make your way to the Discovery Channel VR booth. Whatever your age, you too can get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s greatest apex predators. Come and experience a virtual shark dive at GO Diving at the Ricoh Arena on 23/24 February 2019 – head to www.godivingshow.com to find out more details and to book early bird tickets! n
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At Wakatobi Resort, we take great pride in providing the ultimate in exclusive and personalised service. Our dive staff and private guides ensure your in-water experiences are perfectly matched to your abilities and interests. At the resort, or on board our luxury dive yacht Pelagian, you need only ask and we will gladly provide any service or facility within our power. For all these reasons and more, Wakatobi takes top honors among discerning divers and snorkellers.
preference. The service and support was downright luxurious!” T. Marshall Manson