Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wood off Shipwrecks

Reprinted with permission from Dr Lee Spence

WOOD OFF SHIPWRECKS: People are always asking me whether wood survives on shipwrecks. The answer that I always give them is "it depends" (meaning there is no easy answer). Preservation of wood depends on a wide variety of factors. They range from whether the wood is buried or exposed on the wreck, to what type of woods are involved, and even whether the wood was treated or painted before it was lost.

These two pieces of wood came off the wreck of the Civil War blockade runner Georgiana, and I brought them to surface over 40 years ago. I photographed them (earlier today) to help shown the wide range of natural preservation in wooden artifacts recovered from wrecks (and in this particular case from the same wreck).

The piece on the left is one of the handles from the captain’s wheel or helm of the steamer Georgiana. If you look carefully, you will note that one end of the handle is charred (burnt), while the rest is almost perfect. This matches with contemporary accounts, which say that after the Georgiana was wrecked she was set afire while her decks were awash. This part of the ship's wheel was obviously protected from the fire by the water.

The piece on the right is part of a crate found in the forward cargo hold of the Georgiana. It was of a softer wood and has suffered more damage.

Both pieces had been covered by mud & sand, and were thus protected from damage by sea worms (teredo navalis), which quickly destroy most exposed wood on shipwrecks.

Photo © Copyright 2014 by Dr. E. Lee Spence

You can read more about the Georgiana at

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Too Old To Learn Scuba Diving?

Reprinted from Enzine Articles

We are always told we should learn sports when we are young, when our bodies are more resilient to the bruises and bumps which can be afflicted on us when we learn a new sport. This is true to a certain extent.

Take for example, my experience learning wind surfing. I learnt the sport when I was 26. If I were to learn this sport now at age 42, chances are I would not go far and would probably give up after 1 or 2 tries. Learning wind surfing was like battling with all the forces at the same time! We're talking about trying to balance on choppy waves on a slippery wet board, at the same time maneuvering a sail which weighs more than you in the correct direction that you want to go.In the process, I contributed blood and flesh from cuts on barnacles and bruises from hitting the surf board more than once before falling into the waters.

But there is a huge difference with scuba diving. YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN SCUBA DIVING. I can never say this enough. I learnt scuba diving when I was 38. Now I'm not saying that 38 is a ripe old age but still, the body does feel somewhat less strong and less resilient. Added to that, as we get older, we also seem to have more fears. Perhaps we feel we have more to lose if something should happen to us.

I say middle age and beyond should never be a factor in learning scuba diving BUT you do need to have these:

1) an intense love for the sea

2) a willingness to learn from someone younger than you

3) relatively good health and lastly but very important

4) time and money

Now I'm assuming that you are thinking of learning scuba diving because you want to make this a sport that you can enjoy every other weekend if time and money permits and not just learning for education's sake.

An Intense Love for the Sea

To enjoy a scuba diving trip, you will have to love the sea and I mean really really love it with all its wonderful creatures large and small. You will know what I mean on your first ever scuba diving trip after you have cleared your Open Water tests.

It is unlikely that your scuba diving buddies on your first dive trip will be the same classmates in your scuba diving course. Because of time and money constraints, you will find that you may be the only one keen enough to join a scuba diving trip soon after your certification.

More often than not, your dive buddies will be a dive-crazy bunch who will do at least 4 dives a day plus another at night. This means that on a scuba diving trip, most times you will not do anything but dive, talk about the sea creatures and encounters of each dive, before suiting up for the next dive. For someone who only wants to do one dive a day and then go shopping, he/she may be disappointed as many great scuba diving spots have few of these shopping and entertainment facilities.

In case you are already getting stressed just thinking about this, don't be. Every scuba diving newbie goes through this. Just have an attitude of a newbie, be humble and you will find that the seasoned divers are more than willing to share tips and may even help you to gear up before a dive.

A Willingness to Learn from Someone Younger than You

Your scuba diving instructor is likely to be someone much younger than you. Some dive instructors have an attitude and are cocky so you may have to live with it for at least 3 weekends before you become certified - 1st weekend for classroom and theory, 2nd weekend for pool sessions and a 3rd weekend for the actual open water tests. Put aside your ego and just bear with it, it'll be worth it in the end.

Having said that, that's not to say that there are no good and kind scuba diving instructors around. I was fortunate to receive dive instruction from PC, a very kind and patient man, without whom my dive learning experience would not be as smooth and enjoyable.

Relatively Good Health

It's not necessary to be in peak fitness before you can take up scuba diving. However, you would need some strength to be able to walk with full scuba diving gear strapped on you. Once you enter the waters with all your gear, you are almost weightless. But it's the few steps you have to make to get into the boat or to cross the beach into the water that may be a challenge for a person who is not used to carrying heavy loads on them.

Having said that, some scuba diving resorts have fantastic dive staff who can help to overcome this by carrying the tanks and gear to the boat for you to suit up inside the boat. And of course if you are on a live-a-board (live, eat, dive, sleep, on board a boat throughout the dive trip), then this may not be relevant.

Time and Money

This is probably the 2 most deciding factors of whether someone continues to enjoy scuba diving after passing the Open Water tests. Getting certified through a scuba diving course is very fast, just 3 weekends basically. And not too expensive, probably about $300 to $400, including an out-of-the country dive trip for the open water tests. But unless you live near a scuba diving area, you are most likely going to have to travel a distance or even out of the country to do a good dive.

Now just think how much each trip is going to cost you and multiply that by how many times you would love to do scuba diving in a year. When you do the sums, it can be staggering. So you cut down the number of dives you want to do in a year, and then calculate and cut down some more.

In our scuba diving class, my husband and I were the only ones who continued to dive after the class was over. Even then, we did not manage to do the number of dives we would really have loved to do in a year. That's how it finally ends up that we are doing an average of 1 dive a year. This more or less ensures that we will always be diving as a "scuba diving newbie" (hence the blog's name). A scuba diver gets "rusty" when the interval is too long between each dive trip. Ideally, we should dive at least once each quarter.

I have not even gone on to calculate the other "investments" to personalise your gear such as your own BC (buoyancy control), your own octopus (breathing appartus) and your wet suit.

Having said all this, I still believe it's never too old to learn and enjoy scuba diving. Even with our limited dives since we were certified and diving as scuba diving newbies, we enjoy each and every one of our dive trips. Find the right people to dive with, find a fantastic dive spot that suits your preferences (whether macro, to check out small sea creatures, or see bigger fish) and nearby spa facilities to sooth your body aches after a dive - it's a wonderful combination that will almost always ensure a great scuba diving experience!

A scuba diving newbie can still enjoy happy diving!

Kathy Dowsett

Article Source:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wanted :: Adventurers and Explorers for Shipwreck School

Shipwreck School Graduates its First Class

World renowned side scan sonar expert, Garry Kozak recently completed the first “Side Scan Sonar Operators Course” this past May for Shipwreck School. The Five participants received 3 days of comprehensive training on the school’s new EdgeTech model 4125 Dual Frequency Side Scan Sonar System. The course consisted of 8 hours of classroom and 8 hours of hands on sea time over a 3 day weekend. Shipwreck Schools offers professional training courses anywhere in the world on various side scan sonar systems, marine magnetometers, ROV’s and more?

Have you ever watched the Jacque Cousteau TV Specials or any number of shipwreck TV documentaries about searching for shipwrecks on the Discovery or the History Channel? Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a part of one and actually get to experience one of the last greatest adventures on earth?

Welcome to Shipwreck School!

The idea for this venture was born out of a desire to offer an opportunity where one could learn about shipwrecks, including exploration methodology, hands-on training, historical significance, current political climate surrounding shipwreck exploration, and the list goes on. Furthermore, the vision for the school has always been to be a place open and of interest to both scuba divers and non-divers alike. Finally, the ultimate goal of the school is to promote and foster private exploration of shipwrecks. To date, it seems there is no other institution in the world specializing in shipwreck education.

Shipwreck School has been designed to offer information and instruction to people anywhere in the world. It offers a unique opportunity in the form of a diverse selection of courses and seminars designed to train, educate and inform. Given that the topic of shipwreck exploration is so broad and diverse and can be both complicated and controversial, Shipwreck School offers a balanced and well-rounded approach. It achieves this by offering training from a variety of perspectives, including that of marine archaeologists, seasoned explorers, and exploration technology gurus. What’s more, instructors at “Shipwreck School” are well-equipped to provide training based on experience versus opinion or policy. In fact, each one is a respected professional in their respective fields and has a minimum of a thousand hours or more of actual “field experience”.

Shipwreck School is pioneering new and unique, yet convenient and ultra flexible Seminars and Courses ranging from a basic entry level “Shipwreck Hunting” seminar to a 3 day hands on “Side Scan Sonar Operator” course.

Terry Dwyer

An adventurer, entrepreneur, wreck diver and explorer who has been studying shipwrecks for the past 35 years. He published his first book; Wreck Hunter – The Quest for Lost Shipwrecks in 2005. That book went to a second printing in 2008 and he is currently working on volume two, Wreck Hunter 2– The Adventure Continues, which is due out this Fall. Terry has authored and published numerous articles on scuba tourism, shipwrecks, shipwreck diving and exploration in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on shipwrecks in Eastern Canada. His fascinating presentations include information about scuba diving, scuba tourism, shipwreck hunting, and shipwreck projects that he has worked on in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland over the past 35 years. Terry is the primary host and coordinator for Shipwreck School and will organize, schedule and coordinate the courses, seminars and expeditions. To learn more about Terry, please visit his website:

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, June 20, 2014

Recognition is Essential

Reprinted from AlertDiverOnline

The Diver

The diver was an experienced 48-year-old female with more than 300 lifetime dives. Her medical history included hypertension that was well controlled with a single medication. She also took a prescription drug to manage her cholesterol. Her general health and fitness were otherwise good.

The Dives

The diver was on a trip at a popular Caribbean island. The first four days of diving consisted of two morning dives each day. None of these dives was deeper than 80 feet, and all bottom times were within her computer's no-decompression limits. Her second dive each day was to 60 feet or shallower, and she breathed air on all the dives. On the fifth day, her first dive was a multilevel one to a maximum depth of 85 feet for a total time of 40 minutes. The dive was uneventful, and she exited the water at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Within five minutes of surfacing, the diver began to feel slightly short of breath while she was removing her equipment. This was followed by soreness in her middle and upper back. As she was moving her equipment she noticed reduced strength in her right arm. Almost simultaneously both of her feet began to tingle, and the sensation progressed up both legs to her waist. Fatigue accompanied all these symptoms.

She reported the situation to the dive boat crew. They did not act alarmed and suggested that oxygen was not necessary because the reported weakness in her right arm resolved on its own within 15 minutes. The diver chose not to participate in a second dive. The other divers were in the water for an hour. During that time her symptoms seemed to resolve, except for the tingling in her feet.


Kathy Dowsett

Picture is From Stephen Frink

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mixing sun, sand, sailing, scuba helps travel agent serve divers

As a travel agent and a diver with about 10,000 dives under his belt, Bryan Cunningham knows the scuba travel business well. But he also knows it is an industry that is changing all the time.

Dive shops change. The condition of their dive boats can change. So do dive sites. That's why Bryan will leave his desk at Travelpath in Burlington, Ontario and relocate to the Caribbean. "I already know quite a few -- probably 40 different dive operators in the Caribbean," he says. "But things change all the time. You have to keep up to date."

In late June he will leave Hamilton, Ontario, in his Grampian 30 sailboat and begin his relocation trip to the Caribbean and its rich assortment of quality dive sites. He plans to settle in Antigua (in the Eastern Caribbean), where his ex wife and daughter live.

"I will island hop around the Caribbean and visit dive shops, which increases my knowledge (of good options for his scuba travel customers). Most the islands are no more than 60 miles apart."

He will continue to book the dive trips through Travelpath, but his "office" will be his sailboat.

His decision to buy the sailboat was based on both frugality and safety. The cost of diesel fuel to power a boat to Antigua is prohibitive. He can save a lot of money by sailing in the open seas, while using the engine to get in and out of ports. Rough seas can come up quickly in the Caribbean and the sailboat handles it better than power boats. The fact that the Grampian has a four-foot keel and a three-foot centre board that can protrude below the keel, also helps.
"It's a nice lifestyle. Your expenses are minimal.," Bryan says of life on a boat in the Caribbean.

But the bottom line is the opportunity to better serve his customers, not only from his knowledge of dive boats and dive sites but also of the quality of hotels where they will stay. He says most dive operators offer a commission to him as travel agent but he will pass that on to his customers as a discount, giving them a cheaper diving option if they book their hotels and flights through Travelpath.

"We will put them in the right hotels for diving," he says, adding that in booking through an Ontario company such as Travelpath, customers are protected by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO).

Geographically, the area he envisions serving runs from the Bahamas down the eastern Caribbean to the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The advantage of this trio of islands is that they are below the hurricane belt. The last major hurricane to directly hit Aruba was in 1877. He also offers trips to other destinations worldwide.

NB:::::Bryan will keep kirkscubagear updated on his travels when he can. Watch for further articles on his trip.

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Descent Checks - Vital on Every Dive

Periodic checks with your dive buddies while diving is always a good thing. Things can start to develop in a negative way, and fast. Just because you met your dive buddies on the hang line from the boat, or the edge of the cliff before descending into the abyss, does not mean something did not change. Things can happen at a moments notice. Descent checks are vital to the success and enjoyment of every dive.

Every now and then I'm on a road trip with my family where we are caravanning with other people. Prior to departure for the trip, we will plan out our schedule and where we are stopping, especially if we are separated. Fortunately, today's technology allows us to get up-to-date information with our phones by calls, text messages, or someone posting a status update on social media.

Scuba diving, on the other hand, does not have the luxury of technology while diving. Although some manufactures have created underwater housings for smartphones, most tech divers will not be bringing this along for a few obvious reasons. We do not have the luxury of saying "hey buddy, I need a little help" before you reach your final destination, such as a shipwreck at 150 feet. In a perfect world, maybe things will go just fine. The slightest problems can still happen between the surface and 100 feet while descending. I can list at least a dozen issues that have actually occurred on tech dives.

This is why descent checks are so important. To complete a descent check, you would perform the following tasks.

Check dive buddy for any bubbles from leaks in:

hoses and
tank valve or manifold (double tanks).
Make sure the hoses are properly routed, especially on a tech diving set up

Perform a simulated out of air and donate your long hose to make sure it is free from deco tanks and other hoses.
Ensure the canister light wire is free and clear for easy use when needed.
Ensure the deco tanks are in the right spot:
stacked in right order, or
tanks are on the correct side to prevent switching to wrong gas.
Check to make sure everyone is OK for the dive:

Someone may need to catch their breath from currents/task loading
A diver may be disorientated for a moment and need a few seconds to regain the missions focus.
There could be a chance a diver is having a bad day.
Aborting a dive at shallower depths increases the safety of the entire dive team.
Going deeper with this 'bad day' on your back will only accelerate problems when it is more difficult at depth to handle (cold, dark, enclosures, narcosis, etc).
The general rule I have used is to have at least two check points of any dive, regardless of depth. Typically, the first stop is done around 20 feet. The second spot will be a midpoint of the dive. For example, if you were going to 100 feet, you would stop at 20 feet and then 50 feet and then a final check once we reach 100 feet. You can modify this based on landmarks or turn points in the dive, such as a cliff or an actual turn. A check once you reach the bottom or destination adds a safety buffer. Especially when you are diving in cold, dark and arduous environments.

In a perfect world, these things should not happen to experienced tech divers, but they do. Why?

Murphy's Law

We are human

The descent check should also be done on recreational dives. If you are planning a 40 foot dive, you can do a check just below the surface around 10 feet and a check at the 40 foot mark. You may not do all the things a tech diver would do, such as a simulated out of air with a long hose. However, the principles are still the same by adding a safety margin to the dive.

The purpose of a descent check is to increase the safety of each dive, recreational or technical. By adding this safety margin to the dive, it brings more confidence in scuba divers and the dive team. Everyone knows if you increase your confidence the enjoyment of the dive goes way up. This is the reason we dive. Go enjoy the underwater world.

Article Source:

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Do SCUBA Dive Calculations

By Edwin Thomas, eHow Contributor

One of the dangers of scuba diving is the absorption of nitrogen into the bloodstream, as too much nitrogen causes decompression sickness. For this reason, dive table calculations are taught in any basic scuba diving course. Through these calculations, a diver can track how much nitrogen her/his body has absorbed on a given dive, and therefore plan her/his time on the surface and her next dive within the bounds of safety.


Monitor your bottom time on your first dive, taking note of both the deepest depth and the time spent there. Either you or your dive buddy needs a dive watch to do this.

Round up the depth and time figures to the nearest 5 for safety and utilize these numbers to determine your nitrogen class on the dive table. A dive with 18 minutes of bottom time at 95 feet should be rounded up to 20 minutes and 100 feet, yielding a class of "F."

Monitor your surface interval, or the time spent between the first dive and the second dive of the day. Utilize this number to determine your new, reduced class. After two hours on the surface, you should have dropped to class "D."

Inquire about the maximum depth of the day's second dive and utilize this figure (rounded up for safety) to determine how much bottom time is safe for the second dive. If you spent two hours on the surface and the next dive bottoms at 65 feet, round up to 70 feet. In this example, the table indicates a maximum safe bottom time is 25 minutes and a residual nitrogen time of 20 minutes.

Add your residual nitrogen time to your actual bottom time to determine your new nitrogen class. With 20 minutes of residual nitrogen time and all 25 minutes spent on the bottom, your total nitrogen time is 45 minutes. Fed back into the table, this indicates a new nitrogen class of "I."

Repeat the procedure in Steps 3 and 4 to determine the safe diving parameters for a third dive.

Tips & Warnings

This guide is tailored to match the tables used by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). Other organizations, such as the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) or Scuba Schools International (SSI) have their own tables, but all are based on almost identical principles. Adaptation to another organization's dive table should only require studying how the table is organized and not changing the calculation method.

Dive computers perform the same calculations and with greater accuracy. However, a given dive computer might use a more liberal margin of safety than others. Check a new dive computer's algorithm by comparing its results against those of your dive table calculations for the first few dives, just to see where the dive computer stands.

Thanks to Edwin Thomas, eHow Contributor

Kathy Dowsett