Friday, December 30, 2011

Underwater archaeologist digs diving

Finding missing submarines or battleships is all in a day's work for Dr. Susan Langley.

An underwater archaeologist, Langley has devoted her life to the study and conservation of underwater artifacts, which she usually finds in shipwrecks.

The former Sarnian has helped excavate historic wrecks all over the world, working with UNESCO, Parks Canada, private companies, and — currently — the United States Navy.

She's also the State Underwater Archaeologist for Maryland and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and St. Mary's College of Maryland, teaching courses like "the history of piracy."

Much of her time is spent teaching, writing, surveying and searching for wrecks.

"We spend a lot less time diving then you would think," she said. "When you watch Discovery Channel, you may see 10 years of work squished into that one hour."

But for Langley, hard work has never been a problem. She's contributed to exhibits at the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, holds a PhD in the subject, and is currently co-authoring a book about legal issues surrounding heritage resources.

Langley said her parents first got her interested in archaeology.

"My family was always interested in history and we would go to historic sites," she said.

But it was a diver's photo on a National Geographic cover that made her consider taking her science underwater.

"That just mesmerized me that you could find these things and bring them up," she said.

There's strategy in selecting sites to survey.

"We have a huge responsibility to the taxpayer," she said. "We want them to be able to come and watch while we do it, we want to do it during part of the academic year so students can come."

Audiences aside, Langley said preserving a site is most important.

"Archaeology is a destructive science," she said. "Once you dig a site, nobody can ever come back and re-dig it. You have to do it right the first time."

It can be frustrating when looters or treasure hunters get their hands on a site, she said.

"There's no 'finders keepers.' (They're taking) it away from everybody else who's entitled to see it.

"(Artifacts) should not belong to one person."

Langley says penetration dives, where the diver enters an underwater structure, are especially dangerous. The diver risks getting lost, fragile walls collapsing, hypothermia, embolisms, and aggressive marine life like sharks or sea snakes.

Nevertheless, she has a diving career spanning three decades.

Today, she gives lectures on expedition tours, feeding the widespread fascination with underwater artifacts.

"You're touching history," she said. "They're little time capsules. There's stuff to be learned even in the mundane."

Thanks to the Sarnia

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From Ad Exec to Scuba Therapist

A recent Sunday in Long Beach, Calif., found 53-year-old Jim Elliott in one of his favorite places in the world -- under water.

Elliott performed a scuba diving demonstration for onlookers at Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific, where he received the Glenn McIntyre Heritage Award for his work helping disabled children and adults through scuba therapy.

Yes, scuba therapy.

Scuba's not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of rehabilitation. Music, art and even other water activities are more common tools for aiding physical and cognitive development. But in 2001, Elliott left his job as an advertising executive at the Tribune Co. and started Diveheart, a nonprofit foundation that focuses on scuba therapy.

Based in Downers Grove, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, Elliott and his team of volunteers work with people as young as eight years old who have polio, autism, brain injuries, paraplegia and amputated limbs.

When he's working with new divers -- some of whom have never even been in water -- Elliott starts by outfitting them in full scuba gear, getting them acclimated to the equipment and explaining the concept of buoyancy and how their bodies will feel in such a different, weightless, environment. He and his volunteers demonstrate basic techniques for being underwater and guide students as they get used to having their heads submerged while using breathing apparatus. Depending on their comfort level, new divers can explore the deeper ends of the pool and swim around independently, with teachers following them. Elliott says many of his students feel comfortable during the first lesson.

"We've had people say 'On land, I feel like I'm in a cage, but when I'm underwater, I'm free,'" he says.

In addition to psychological benefits, scuba provides physical therapy by improving students' circulation and allowing oxygen to reach more parts of the body.

"Being underwater, you're in a weightless environment, so people who can't stand [on land] can stand up in the deep end of the pool," says Eric Castillo, a dive safety officer and adaptive scuba instructor at the Aquarium of the Pacific. "They can work on their muscles without the pain of gravity."

Elliott first learned to dive in 1976 when he was working as a journalist and wanted to learn the skill "just in case I ever had to interview Jacques Cousteau." He quickly developed a passion for scuba and had the idea to turn the sport into a therapy tool after witnessing the experience of his daughter, Erin. She was born partially blind, and at nine years old was mainstreamed in school with sighted children. She was constantly teased for her disability.

"I was desperate to get her involved in something to make her feel good about herself and about her visual impairment," Elliott says.

He enrolled Erin in a downhill ski program for the blind.

"She became Erin the skier, not Erin the blind kid," Elliott says. "It changed her self-esteem. She went on to excel in school, won awards, got scholarships...and I blame it on the skiing."

His daughter's progress inspired Elliott to use scuba as a tool to help people with disabilities. He traded in his media career -- and six-figure Tribune salary -- to launch Diveheart and says he now earns about $20,000 a year.

Elliott uses his skills to be a one-man marketing machine for Diveheart: He's the company's writer, promoter, advertising executive and public relations person. Almost all of the organization's teachers are volunteers. Much of what keeps the foundation running comes from donations, which pay for scuba gear repair, vehicle maintenance, office supplies, accounting work and legal advice. The foundation uses community and high school pools as its teaching facilities.

Elliott says he has downsized his lifestyle since leaving the corporate world and that his expenses are minimal. His children are grown and he's divorced. He doesn't have a house and lives in the home of a friend. When he travels, he flies on donated miles and stays with instructors in the cities where he trains. He says he has simple food and personal needs.

"I can eat PowerBars and peanut butter and be fine," says Elliott. "But usually my hosts take good care of me when I travel."

Diveheart continues to work with people in the Chicago area, and Elliott and his team also travel to start new programs. So far, they've visited more than 50 cities in the United States, Honduras, Mexico, China, Israel and Australia to show others how to use scuba as therapy.

"There are other handicap scuba associations out there," says Castillo. "But I don't know of any other organization like Diveheart that is so far-reaching."

For Elliott, there aren't enough hours in the day to reach as many people as he'd like to help. "The reason I work seven days a week is because I can't get up early enough or go to bed later to do this," says Elliott. "I'm 53; I need to make some stuff happen. And I need to make it happen now!"

Thanks to Tracey Chang

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, December 19, 2011

Scuba diving on a shoestring

It's certainly no secret to scuba diving enthusiasts that seeing the spectacular sights beneath the ocean's surface isn't typically considered a shoestring endeavor. If you're willing to consider some minor tweaks to the typical dive vacation, however, spotting more underwater scenery for your money is definitely possible. Try these thrifty travel tips to experience a world-class scuba getaway for a song.

Discounts: In Pompano Beach, Florida, a number of notable wreck and reef diving opportunities are available. Divers can score great deals here during the month of June, which has been designated as a learning month for new divers. Many dive operators and resorts offer great package prices during this time. Additionally, at The Scuba Club in Florida's West Palm Beach - a sort of country club for the dive crowd - members receive preferred pricing discounts of up to a full third off regular excursion rates. To keep track of other dive deals and locate certified equipment facilities from your smart phone, PADI - the Professional Association of Dive Instructors - has a mobile app available for download on their website.

Transportation: Boat charters to off-shore sites can add significantly to the overall cost of your vacation. Consider incorporating more shore excursions into your underwater adventure getaway to maximize your dive dollars. According to Terri Huber, a dive travel wholesale specialist with Deep Blue Adventures, one of the best places to accomplish this is the Caribbean island of Bonaire, which is synonymous with shore diving. According to Huber, numerous resort packages there offer multi-bedroom apartments for mid-sized dive groups which include kitchen access, daily breakfast, vehicle, tank refills and unlimited shore diving starting at roughly $110 per person per day.

Temperature: Since many people prefer tropical temperatures, heading to colder waters can shave significant dollars off the cost of a scuba trip for more serious dive enthusiasts. Matt Reider, a PADI-certified master scuba diving trainer and founder of the Canuck Abroad travel Web site, points to Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada for some of the best diving in the world, much of it accessible from the shoreline. Roughly 5 minutes from the city of Victoria says Reider, divers can hit the water to explore wolf eels, seals, sea lions, giant octopus and more. Once you have your dry suit and other gear, the only cost for this activity is a tank of air!

Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of, a website for independent travelers. She also founded, a website for teachers.

Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What It's Like ... To Be the World's Oldest Diver

The World's Oldest Diver::::Norman Lancefield

I’m 91 and have been diving with the same gear since 1970. Like me, it’s still going strong after more than 500 dives. My hips don’t stick out far enough, so I can’t wear a weight belt; instead, I rely on a harness and I make my own weights with melted lead shaped in loaf tins. This setup has worked for me in Malta, Mexico, Turkey and my favorite destination, the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. I have swum with sharks and dolphins, but at my age you don’t need obvious excitement. Even a hermit crab can be thrilling — they’re funny creatures, living in second-hand seashells.

Diving isn’t a dangerous sport; it is a hazardous sport and my goal is to avoid the hazards. A buddy helps me into the water, but after that, once I’m in I do fine.

I don’t do strong currents — those days are long gone. I don’t go too deep either. I’m not as physically fit as I used to be, but that’s why I like diving: I tell anyone looking to take up the sport that you don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer. I’m noticeably slow in the water, but I still swim 500 meters three times a week.

Because of this, I could swim all day if I had to. It’s important to me that I keep up with my buddies in the Barry Sub Aqua Club here in Wales. I also make a point of testing my gear regularly. It sits in a closet all winter, so I kit up in a local pool before each season. I’d rather find problems when I am only six feet deep.

Only once have I been scared in the water. My mask flooded completely — I had placed part of the seal atop my hood. I lit my torch, spun wildly in a circle and realized I had lost my buddy. But I surfaced after one minute and returned to the boat. There was my buddy waiting for me.

It’s important for divers — of any age — to know when to say no. You don’t want to put a buddy at risk. I had a mild attack of the flu 18 months ago, and had to sit out on a planned dive. But for the most part, I stay fit. As long as I can keep going and not be too much nuisance to my buddy, I will keep diving.

Thanks to Norman Lancefield and Scuba Diving

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cold Water Diving

As winter starts to set in and the temperature drops there is more that we need to bear in mind before each dive.

I certainly don’t want to put anyone off but diving in cold water creates a new set of challenges that need to be prepared for before actually going diving. Every piece of equipment that you use needs to be considered, checked and corrected/upgraded if it isn’t up to scratch. As always your kit is life support equipment, if it fails or isn’t up to the job you put your life in danger every time you get in the water. This is no more true than when we, as divers, encounter extreme conditions.

If you think about it, its not just the obvious kit either like your regulators and thermal protection. What about the battery status of your dive computer? The cold can seriously affect the chemical reactions within the battery, reducing the performance of the battery in cold conditions. When you check it prior to the dive the battery will probably be nice and warm after you’ve travelled to your dive location but once you’ve jumped in and shocked it with the temperature change its not uncommon for the dive computer to report a low battery status and possibly even shut down as a result of insufficient current.

All these little things can massively affect the outcome out your dive, if you even get in. So what are some of the main things to remember?


Your regulators should be cold water certified when diving in water temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius
Avoid excessive testing on the surface, especially using the purge button as this causes significant temperature drop in the first and second stages which can allow any moisture to freeze.
Avoid breathing from or exhaling through your regulators whilst on the surface to prevent exhaled moisture freezing on the second stage components.
Reduce the load on your first stage by avoiding excessive breathing and inflating your BCD / wing / drysuit whilst inhaling.

Thermal Protection

Proper thermal protection is essential with a drysuit and appropriate thermal layers being an must, especially if you want to be in the water for any length of time. The best way to protect yourself is to layer up, ideally at least three. Three layers provides a base layer which is usually a fast wicking material to draw moisture away from the skin, then your primary insulation layer with your outer layer as the drysuit. Obviously the suit you wear will affect the other two layers as a neoprene drysuit will provide better thermal protection than a membrane suit. There are alternatives that break this mould such as the Waterproof D1 Hybrid drysuit which uses a non-compressible layer to maintain the air space around your body and also the Fourth Element Halo 3D undersuit which uses similar technology in key areas.

It also goes without saying that you need to protect your extremities as well. Your hands and feet can quickly get cold which in turn starts to lower your core temperature as the cold blood returns to your heart. The body tries to counter this by restricting the flow to these cold areas to maintain core temperature but its definitely good practice to wear high quality, well fitting and thick gloves in cold water. Don’t forget your head as well, up to a third of your body heat can be lost through your head so make sure its well protected with a good thick hood.

The Little Things

As mentioned before the cold can affect your dive computer, reducing the performance of the battery and possibly shutting it down. The same goes for any other battery operated devices like your torch, make sure you carry a small spare in case your main fails.

Try to avoid leaving your cylinder laying on the cold floor and prevent even the smallest drop of water getting into the regulators when fitting them.

With all the extra layers on you’re likely to need extra weight, make sure you perform a buoyancy check before you set off on your dive. Being light towards the end of the dive is dangerous.

Thick gloves make donning and doffing fins harder, similarly pressing and releasing clips is the same. Make sure you are able to operate all of your releases comfortable and safely without the need to remove your gloves. If you can’t handle a vital clip underwater because of your 5mm or thicker gloves things could get a bit sticky.

Generally be prepared for the cold. If you lose or need to replace your mask for whatever reason it can be a real shock to the system to have that cold water on the face and can cause divers to lock up, struggle to breathe or even panic.

If you’re diving in a fresh water lake and the temperature is low enough for ice to form on the surface be sure to reel off from your entry point so that you always now where a safe exit point is.

At the end of the day the idea is to be safe, plan your dive and stick to it. If you do that and bear in mind the conditions it should lead to a very enjoyable (though chilly) dive.

Thanks to Simply Scuba

Kathy Dowsett

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

German submarine U-352

German submarine U-352 was a Type VIIC U-boat of the German Kriegsmarine during World War II.

1st patrol

U-352 left Kiel on 15 January 1942, and arrived at Bergen on the 19th. She left the next day and patrolled south of Iceland without success before sailing to her new home port at Saint-Nazaire by 26 February.

2nd patrol

U-352 left St. Nazaire on 7 April 1942 and sailed across the Atlantic to the coast of the north-eastern United States. There on 9 May 1942, she was sunk by depth charges from the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Icarus, south of Morehead City, North Carolina, in position 34°21′N 76°35′WCoordinates: 34°21′N 76°35′W. Fifteen of the crew were lost, but 33 survived, and spent the remainder of the war as prisoners of war.

Dive site

The U-352 lies in about 100 feet (30 m) of water, and sits at a 45-degree list to starboard. This wreck is a popular scuba diving spot for advanced divers. A replica of the wreck is on display at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Heinz Richter

Heinz Karl Richter, a Maschinengefreiter (equivalent of a Fireman 3rd Class) who survived the sinking, was found living in Canada and was interviewed for Discovery Channel's special coverage of U-352. He said that Captain Rathke was obsessed with receiving a Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross medal for sinking 100,000 tonnes worth of enemy ships. Richter said that the captain's obsession eventually led to recklessness, ultimately resulting in the ship's sinking. Richter also said he was the last man out of the boat before it sank; those still on board were already dead, or perished in the boat as it sank.

Video of U-352, sunk May 9, 1942, taken in July, 2011 while diving with Olympus dive charters located in Morehead, NC.

Lying on the bottom in approx. 100 ft of water 30+ miles from shore, heavy seas often prevent access to divers.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the article and Brian Spilsbury for the video.

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Be a smart diver

Join efforts to preserve dive experiences for future generations of divers by protecting and supporting your national marine sanctuaries.

Sharpen your skills. Mastering buoyancy control and streamlining your equipment will help minimize the risk of entanglement or accidental disturbance of the bottom. Even the slightest damage can permanently alter an entire ecosystem or historical shipwreck site.

Learn the proper techniques for shipwreck diving. When diving shipwrecks, always know the orientation of the wreck site and only enter the wreck if specifically trained to do so.

Be familiar with kelp diving procedures. Always swim below the surface of a kelp canopy and navigate with your compass. Don't panic or thrash around if entangled, slowly remove the kelp or have your buddy gently untangle it for you.

Respect marine wildlife. Enjoy viewing marine mammals and wildlife from a safe distance. Should you encounter marine mammals and observe nervous behavior, back away.

Don't collect underwater souvenirs - leave them behind for others to enjoy. Resist the temptation to collect shells, rocks or other underwater artifacts, because they provide homes for sea creatures. Additionally, removal of any historical artifacts is regulated by law.

Be a marine debris crusader. Once you finish your dive, make sure to carry away any trash you - and others - may have left behind. Beach litter poses a significant threat to the health and survival of marine organisms, which can swallow or get tangled in beverage containers, plastic bags, six-pack rings and other debris.

Thanks to National Marine Sanctuaries and Bing

Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, December 10, 2011

From milk bags to mats

Newmarket seniors help Haiti’s children

We’ve all heard milk “does a body good”, but seniors from Newmarket, Holland Landing and Sharon are taking it one step further.

The seniors are taking milk bags and doing good for children of Haiti.

There are nine women who meet once a month to crochet plastic mats out of milk bags.

The plastic mats are used to wrap medical supplies for shipping to Haiti, instead of using plastic wrap.

After, the mats are distributed to local children to sleep on.

It takes about 250 to 300 milk bags cut into two-inch strips to make one mat, said Jean Mennen, who brought the idea to other Holland Landing and Newmarket seniors after reading a pamphlet on how the mats can help.

“These would normally go in the garbage,” Ms Mennen said. “Now, these children have something to sleep on instead of sleeping on dirt.”

Milk bags are collected from hockey arenas, day care centres, churches and libraries.
“Everyone is amazed by the product in the end,” said Robin Ward, who collects and cuts milk bags for the women to crochet.

The main reason is to show people there are other uses for milk bags. They don’t have to go to a landfill and they can be used to help people, he said.

The different selections of milk, such as skim and 2-per-cent, which come in different coloured bags, make for a colourful selection, almost looking like a crocheted blanket.

“I used to separate the bags, 2 per cent over here, purple ones over there,” Ms Mennen said. “But it all comes out nice and colourful anyway.”

It takes almost a week to complete one mat, which is larger than one square metre.

The group sent 15 mats in February and is gearing up for another shipment later this month. The mats are sent to Haiti through Emmanuel International Canada, a non-profit organization that has been in Haiti since 1979.

Not only are the mats used as protective wrap for medical supplies and sleeping mats, they are also used during surgery.

“Sometimes, they don’t have linens,” Ms Mennen said. “So they use the mats, then wash them and reuse them.”

The mats also help protect children from parasitic infections, such as hookworm.

“Most people are still living in tents and sleeping on the ground,” Emmanuel International Canada executive director Richard McGowan said.

“These aren’t very thick, but it gets these children off the damp ground.”

To donate milk bags, you can drop them off at the Holland Landing Public Library or e-mail Robin Ward at

Thanks to

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Secrets of the Deep

Has Nova Scotia put its treasure hunters — and the bounty they seek — at risk of extinction?

AT 40 METRES LONG and 540 tonnes, the Chameau was a powerful frigate, designed to carry people and goods to New France and take natural resources back to Europe. She was a fast ship but a cranky one; when the weather got bad, she would toss like a toy boat in a bathtub. On her final voyage, the Chameau was carrying approximately 100,000 livres in gold, silver, and copper — along with 316 passengers, including the newly appointed intendant of New France. As she approached the coast of Nova Scotia in August 1725, a southeast wind rocked the waters. By nightfall, a squall had brewed, thrashing the vessel. It plunged into a reef, where it broke apart and sank into the depths. There were no survivors. Most perished in the storm; those who didn’t were either consumed by the undertow, or died from exhaustion after washing ashore near the fort town of Louisbourg.

In 1961, twenty-three-year-old Louisbourg transplant Alex Storm was thumbing through a history of his adopted home, by then a fishing community. His interest was piqued by the story of the Chameau. A recent émigré from Indonesia, where his family had been imprisoned in Japanese-run internment camps during World War II, he had settled in Nova Scotia and volunteered for a position aboard the Marion Kent. Taking advantage of the circumstances, he dove near Chameau Rock, the ostensible site of the wreck, and came upon a cluster of some twenty cannons, strewn alongside anchors and guns. “It was a solemn moment, because I knew that no one had seen it since the night when the ship wrecked,” he recalls from his home nearby. But the expedition yielded more than history: glinting among the ruins was a single silver four-livre piece, embossed with the year 1724 and a portrait of King Louis XV.

The coin was a small discovery, but one that set Storm on a mission to find the rest of the Chameau’s loot. He took a job with an underwater archaeologist and, in his spare time, familiarized himself with eighteenth-century ships, and gathered weather reports and ocean current data from the night the Chameau went down. He assembled a team of divers, and in 1965 located the ship’s final resting place. There, along the gully and the cracks in the bedrock, Storm found his treasure: over 2,000 gold louis d’or coins and more than 11,000 silver livres, which later sold for untold millions at auction.

His discovery was a watershed moment in the province, the first time a treasure wreck was discovered by a recreational diver. “Alex Storm is the grandfather of it all,” says Terry Dwyer, a shipwreck expert and explorer. “He probably initiated the industry of searching for shipwrecks for treasure hunting and for salvage.” Dwyer, a thirty-year veteran, has uncovered his own share of historical ruins: in the summer of 2000, he located the Anna, a full-rigged British ship that had sunk off St. Paul Island, Nova Scotia, in 1874. In 2009, his team found parts of the Sovereign, another British ship that sank near the end of the War of 1812.

Nova Scotia holds special prestige for marine treasure hunters. Navies, cargo ships, privateers, and fishermen have sailed its waters for hundreds of years. Its traffic, as well as its rugged, stark coastlines, have left an astonishing number of shipwrecks dotting the ocean floor. A study released by the provincial government estimates that its coastal waters might hold upwards of 10,000 shipwrecks, compared with 50,000 in the entire United States.

But the provincial government has put an end to the industry Storm set in motion. Since 1954, the interests of private hunters have been secured by the Treasure Trove Act, a unique piece of legislation that permitted the salvaging of treasure (defined as “precious stones or metals in a state other than their natural state”) from shipwrecks. At the beginning of this year, the province repealed the act, following a recommendation from a provincial task force, which cited the need to protect Nova Scotia’s underwater cultural heritage.

The repeal may ensure that Nova Scotia’s heritage stays in the province, but it raises an entirely new problem: without private sector salvagers, no one would find anything. The province lacks the resources to even locate (much less recover) shipwrecks, and the treasure hunting report suggests that a handful of profit-motivated parties — divers and private companies — are responsible for the bulk of underwater discoveries so far; both Storm and Dwyer estimate that number to be close to 99 percent.

Clearly, heritage alone is not enough to motivate the recovery of underwater artifacts; it is the promise of gold that sets salvagers’ hearts racing. For Storm, that silver piece was only the beginning. After auctioning off his gold coins from the Chameau for between $3,000 and $8,000 apiece, he continued to chase riches. In 1968, he located the remains of HMS Feversham, a seventeenth-century British warship, part of a fleet sent to attack Quebec. Although glittering prizes were always his ultimate goal, the lure of adventure — like that of the stout-hearted sailors in his history books — gave him momentum. “Just like a mountain climber, you need to climb the mountain because it’s there,” Storm says, in his lilting East Coast brogue. Now in his seventies, he is distinguished by a coarse white beard and skin tanned from years of seafaring.

He has retired from diving, but he worries that outlawing treasure hunting may leave these historical sites to fade away beneath the currents. The province’s decision brought it in line with UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, a document that privileges in situ preservation over excavation. While this makes sense for some locations, strong evidence suggests that the powerful wave movements along Nova Scotia’s coastline put wrecks at risk of deterioration. “The ships are disappearing,” Storm states plainly. “Natural electrolysis on the sea bottom is diminishing the metal until it’s all gone, and biological agents eat up the woodwork, because it’s organic.”

With them will go a significant chunk of the province’s history. The Chameau, the Feversham, and the Sovereign have been rescued, but others, such as the British warship HMS Tilbury and the treasure ship Triton, have yet to be recovered.

For now, these vessels will languish underwater. And while they dwindle, rogue explorers like Storm — sea-weathered adventurers with the wits, skills, and fortitude to unearth the mysteries of the deep — risk extinction. “We all know that when you’re motivated by silver and gold, that’s romance,” Storm says with a chuckle. “Anybody who is not is nuts.”

Thanks to The Walrus

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, December 5, 2011

Florida Diver Breaks World’s Record For Longest Saltwater Dive

Florida scuba diver Allen Sherrod set a new world record Saturday in South Florida for the longest scuba dive in saltwater.

Sherrod’s breaking record: 48 hours and 13 minutes. The old record for the longest saltwater dive was held by William Gordon, a United Kingdom diver who set it in January 2010 in Lombok, Indonesia. Gordon’s record was 48 hours, 8 minutes and 7 seconds.

This was Sherrod’s second attempt to break the record. On Friday, his wife said he was on track to complete the task even though he’ll leave the water earlier than anticipated.

Sherrod wanted to stay in the water until noon Saturday, but then decided to even cut that goal short due to expected rough surf, which makes it difficult for safety divers to bring him air tanks.

Divers with his safety team were pounded by the surf and sea conditions overnight as they carried fresh air tanks out to him. Some divers lost gear; others returning to shore were swept far south of the Windjammer by strong currents.

But surely enough, Sherrod surfaced at 10:25 a.m. on Saturday, breaking the current world record by just under 5 minutes.

A crowd of supporters and members of his dive safety team applauded when Sherrod emerged. Divers helped Sherrod walk up to the beach, where Volunteer Fire Department Beach Patrol members and paramedics were waiting to transport him to his hotel room.

Once there, paramedics with American Medical Response checked his blood pressure and other vital signs, according to Steve d’Oliveira with the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

The back of Sherrod’s knees were bruised from the trip. His hands were also visibly puffed up from two days of exposure underwater, d’Oliveira said. As he emerged from the ocean, he also needed assistance walking.

He spoke to the media and thanked his dive safety team and Gold Coast Scuba, a Lauderdale-By-The-Sea dive shop which supported his efforts.

“I was glad I was able to break the record in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, the Shore Dive Capital of South Florida,” he said.

Sherrod, who is from Groveland, Florida, went into the water Thursday morning just after 10 a.m. by the Windjammer Resort, which is off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. He’s in about 15-feet of water and is also eating, drinking and sleeping underwater.

“All I have to do is stay three days,” said Sherrod on Thursday before he began his lengthy dive. “Just think about this when you get a three day weekend off from work, it is never long enough.”

On Friday, Debby Sherrod told CBS4 News that Allen was “doing wonderful and the safety divers are doing an impressive job.”

Sherrod set up his temporary ocean residence in about 15 feet of water near the Town’s newest artificial reef, which stimulates coral growth by using a low-level electric current fed by solar panels.

The buoys housing the panels are being repaired after they were damaged by rough seas earlier this year. The artificial reef is about 250 yards offshore and just south of the Windjammer Resort.

A NAUI diving instructor for 11 years, Sherrod chose the Town’s coral reefs because they are close to the beach, according to the city.

A popular spot for beach divers because of its near-shore coral reefs, the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea was declared the “Shore Dive Capital of South Florida” by the Broward County Commission in September 1997.

Nicknamed “the grouper” by Windjammer Resort General Manager John Boutin, Sherrod recently set a world record for the longest freshwater scuba dive in Central Florida (five days). During the attempt, he said he lost six pounds.

During the dive Sherrod limited his food intake Gatorade and chocolate Ensure. He also slept, but not for very long.

Sherrod first attempted to break the record on Oct. 25. He cut short the effort after just 12 hours, when worsening sea conditions posed a threat to his safety divers.

Thanks to:::CBS Miami

Kathy Dowsett

Friday, December 2, 2011

Breaking through barriers

Eight feet below the surface of the water in the Florida Keys, Matt Johnston became the world’s first ventilator-dependent person to dive in the ocean.

With that dive on the Hen and Chickens coral reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Matt realized his dream. But his feat also showed others with physical disabilities that they should not be discouraged from following their own dreams.

Matt has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, so the dive was made via a hose connected to a ventilator on the surface. An alternative that would make the dive easier and allow him to go deeper involves a life support system consisting of a half ventilator and half regulator. But in the Keys, eight feet was deep enough to open up a new world for him.

There were colourful corals “and the turtles were awesome.” A barracuda came menacingly close. A shark circled 15 feet away from Matt and his two support divers.

“I’m a shark guy,” says Matt, adding that he was not frightened by the shark’s presence.
His precedent-setting dive in November of 2006 was followed the next year by another in Key Largo above an underwater hotel.

To participate in diving, Matt needs an instructor and a rescue diver. “I have to put all my trust in them,” he says.

Over the years, he has received emails inquiring about scuba diving from other people on ventilators.

His trail blazing in ventilator-dependent persons’ diving has also gained him recognition in diving museum in the Keys.

For Matt, diving is therapeutic. “It helps me relax. I have no pain of any kind (in the water) but my body aches all the time on the surface.”

Now, he’s working on a book about his life story. So far, it’s up to 27 pages – and counting.

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, December 1, 2011

4 Effective Strategies In Preserving Air While Underwater

Air consumption is very important for your diving success.The longer you last underwater, the more air is required from you. If you have just started your scuba diving lessons and conserving air while underwater is one of your main problem, there are some simple steps you can take to perfect your breathing technique and last longer underwater.

1. Increse your diving routine. This might sound like a cliche, but definitely you really have to learn to be comfortable with water. Find time to dive more to be totally comfortable with water. Diving most often will help you relax your muscles while in the water. Ever notice how your air consumption have dramatically decreased since the first time you dive to your recent dive? I bet you have observed a decrease in you air consumption. This is so because your body was able to finally compensate to your air requirements while underwater and relaxes your muscle.

2. Practice deep and slow breathing. Short and shallow breaths will make you lose air more easily. Breathe deeply and then slowly exhale. Avoid holding your breath just to decrease your air consumption. You will only retract your diaphragm, which increases your air consumption which could lead to physical exhaustion while underwater. So avoid holding your breath if you want to last longer in water.

3. Avoid any unnecessary movements while underwater. When diving, avoid moving too often. Use your fins when moving. The more you move the more air you will consume. Place your hands either at your side or in front of you. Actually, it can be any position you would feel comfortable to.

4. Check your gear setup. Before you go on diving, make sure you don’t have anything hanging loosely on your gear. Anything that hangs loosely on your gear will create a dragging movement while underwater and will definitely increase your air consumption. Always get rid of those unused scuba accessories just before you go out for diving.

Thanks to Simply Scuba

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Women and Diving


There are two answers to this important question. The short answer is "no." Much has been written about the difference between men and women divers, and no self respecting dive columnist would stop with such a simple answer. But the fact is, the differences between men and women regarding scuba diving are, with one exception, minor and not significant. The one exception, of course, is pregnancy, which I will discuss in a later question.

The long answer is that women, on average, have smaller lungs, a lower aerobic capacity, a greater percentage of body fat, and less upper body strength than men, and these differences have some effects on diving. Women tend to use less air/minute than men (because of their smaller lung volume), but in recreational diving that is rarely an important factor. Women may not have the same capacity for extreme physical exertion as men, but that too is of little consequence in recreational diving. Since women have a higher percentage of body fat in men, in theory they should have better tolerance to cold water. Although some think the higher percentage of body fat increases the risk of DCS, there is really no solid evidence to support this belief (discussed below).

The long answer also recognizes that the menstrual period poses some concern for women, but this is not ordinarily a limitation. The long answer must also include the observation that men as a group seem to take more risks than women, and as a result show up more frequently in mortality statistics associated with cave, deep, and mixed gas diving.

However, except for pregnancy, the anatomic differences between men and women are simply not a big deal when it comes to scuba diving. Either sex can learn to become quite proficient both as a recreational diver or as a scuba diving professional.


Women have on average 10% more subcutaneous fat than men. Since fat tissue can hold five times more nitrogen than blood, it has been suggested that women might be more susceptible to decompression sickness (DCS) than men. However, the few studies in this area are inconclusive. Some studies have suggested an increase in DCS among women, while others have not found any difference. If you read the literature on the subject there appears to be "some controversy"; however, I believe this merely reflects that the data are insufficient to show a difference one way or the other. Not controversial, of course, is the risk of DCS simply from diving. Women need to be every bit as cautious as men in this activity. Until some respected agency comes out with a different set of dive tables for men and women, it is safe to assume the risk for DCS is the same or about the same, and not worry about it.

As for the other component of decompression illness arterial gas embolism there are no reports of an excess incidence in women. Also, the incidence of patent foramen ovale (a theoretical predisposition to arterial embolism) is the same in women and men.

Overall, women do not seem over-represented in DAN's yearly compilation of diving accident statistics. Of course, the great unknown (as with many other diving accident statistics) is the number of people at risk. Personal experience, as well as the vast panoply of scuba literature, suggest as many women as men enjoy recreational diving.

When scuba first became popular there were very few women divers (Jacques Cousteau's wife Simone was probably the very first, in the 1940s). Now, about half of newly-certified divers are women. There is nothing in scuba instructors' collective experience to indicate that women have a greater risk than men for developing decompression illness.

In summary, inconclusive studies, as well as lack of any perceived gender-related problems by professionals in the field, suggest there is no increased risk of DCS and AGE among women divers.


As already mentioned, men on average seem to take more risks than women. Apart from this observation, which may account for the disproportionate number of men who engage in technical (as opposed to recreational) diving, there seem to be no important psychological differences between men and women that would affect scuba diving.


Again, there are no conclusive studies to answer this question. Repeated exposure to hyperbaric pressure has not been shown to affect hormone regulation, ovulation, or menstruation.

Many women are concerned that menstrual bleeding itself could attract sharks or other predators. However, with tampons this is simply not a problem. It is not even clear that it would be a problem without a tampon; the amount of blood that would be released into the water from menstruation during a 30 or 45-minute dive is minuscule. Some women have experienced a greater menstrual flow when diving, but this has not posed any significant problem either. Thus, it appears safe to dive during the menstrual period providing, of course, the woman feels healthy. Obviously any woman who suffers severe menstrual cramps, headaches, or other symptoms related to her period should refrain from diving until fully recovered.


There are no data to indicate that use of oral contraceptives increases risk of diving accidents. We know that oral contraceptives and smoking increase the risk of stroke, but smoking is bad for divers in any case. Oral contraceptives have also been associated with increased rates of blood clotting ("thrombo-embolic" disease) and mild hypertension, particularly in women over age 35. However, if oral contraceptives cause the woman no problem on land, there should be no problem under water.


A short exposure to increased ambient pressure, per se, appears of no consequence to the fetus. However some studies on pregnant animals have shown an increased rate of fetal abnormality from decompression sickness, particularly among sheep; different studies in other animals have not shown an ill effect on the fetus. Like many other medical conditions, the available studies on this issue are inconclusive.

Based on what is known about pregnancy, and about diving, my recommendation (and that of most physicians) is that pregnant women should not dive. There are three reasons for this blanket recommendation. First, pregnancy is only nine months, a relatively short period in one's life; it is simply not worth taking any unnecessary risks by subjecting the unborn child to an abnormal environment. The body experiences marked pressure changes under water, changes that are believed to be safe for adults who follow recreational guidelines. However, considering that accidents do occur, diving is riskier than not diving. We have so little information about decompression on the developing fetus, and much of the information is conflicting, that common sense suggests any risk is simply not worth taking.

The second reason against diving while pregnant has to do with treatment of diving injuries. If a pregnant diver does develop DCS or gas embolism, she will be referred for hyperbaric therapy. Hyperbaric therapy poses a theoretical risk to the unborn child, because of the high oxygen pressures. The developing eye of a fetus is particularly prone to oxygen toxicity. Although non-diving pregnant woman have been successfully treated with hyperbaric therapy (for carbon monoxide poisoning), there is always concern a fetus could be harmed, especially if multiple treatments are needed.

It has been recommended by some authors that pregnant women who do dive stay shallower than 33 feet (less than 2 atmospheres total); the rationale is that shallow diving should at least prevent any risk of the bends. However, there are no data to support this recommendation, and a sensitive fetus might not like any increase in nitrogen or oxygen pressure. Certainly the risk of air embolism is not diminished by staying shallow.

The third reason against diving is that pregnancy is often accompanied by changes which could make a dive uncomfortable, if not downright hazardous. These changes include frequent bouts of nausea ("morning sickness"), gastric reflux (from the enlarged uterus), and discomfort from increased abdominal girth. In theory a woman could become nauseous on the dive boat (abetted by any sea sickness), experience regurgitation under water, and then lose her weight belt as she tries to adjust it for her larger size all on one dive!

In summary, it is a strong recommendation that any woman who is pregnant (or thinks she may be, or is trying to become) refrain from diving.


I would leave this decision up to the woman and her obstetrician. The answer should depend on how quickly the woman has regained her strength, whether the delivery was vaginal or by C-section, whether there are any post-partum complications, etc. A general recommendation is that the woman should be able to return to diving when she feels back to her baseline health and has medical clearance to resume strenuous activity.


Although diving during pregnancy is definitely not recommended, on occasion a woman may dive without knowing she is pregnant (i.e., very early in gestation). This event should not be cause for alarm. There is certainly no evidence to warrant pregnancy termination because the fetus was briefly exposed to higher pressures. However, if the dive was complicated by injury to the woman, then the specifics of the case need to be discussed with the diver's obstetrician and, if necessary, a dive medicine specialist.


Ideally, no. The stereotype of a weak, mechanically disinterested, and/or uncoordinated female is out of date and harmful to both sexes. Any woman who expects manual chores will be done for her (carrying her tank, attaching the regulator, etc.) because she is a woman, loses the opportunity to learn important skills and remain self-sufficient. Any man who abridges a woman's chance for self-sufficiency by insisting on doing things for her not only demeans her but also perpetuates an outdated stereotype. Also, if the woman is his dive buddy, he may weaken skills she may one day need to help him.

Scuba diving is a level playing field; it is no place for machismo behavior or sexism of any sort. Equality certainly reigns at the professional level. Hundreds of women instructors teach open water and advanced courses to men and women. Women run dive shops, operate dive boats and lead diving expeditions. Resorts that carry tanks, attach BC's or perform other dive-related chores for its customers do so for men and women alike. Obviously, scuba diving is no longer "a man's world" as it was perhaps a generation ago. Today, it should be as acceptable for a man to ask a woman for help with equipment or some other problem, as vice versa. When diving, women and men should want and expect to be treated as equals.


Kathy Dowsett

Friday, November 18, 2011

Former carpenter immerses himself in his new job

College program leads to unique career option

A downturn in the construction industry in the late 1980s led Shaun Kerr to new waters, literally, as he now dives to work every day.

While laid off after three years of carpentry work, he discovered an underwater commercial diving program at Seneca College.

“It’s a good profession for me ... it’s exciting and challenging,” the 41-year-old says, in a telephone interview following a day out on Lake Erie.

Kerr explains that commercial diving involves working on “virtually any structure in the water.”
These days, as a commercial diver for Talisman Energy Corp., he works primarily on the natural gas wells in Lake Erie. However, he’s worked on many underwater projects, including the Confederation Bridge in Prince Edward Island, power plants, water intake systems, and salvage operations.

“One of the attractions (of the job) is you go wherever you want ... you can work all over the world,” Kerr says. He adds the Seneca program is recognized worldwide. With his training, he’s certified to dive to depths of 165 feet. But Kerr can plunge deeper, thanks to additional training he received in Scotland.

Because his contract with Talisman is from the spring until the end of October, Kerr can do contract diving jobs the rest of the year. A couple of years ago, he worked in Japan for five months salvaging a ship carrying 3,500 vehicles, which was damaged in a typhoon.

The Toronto man has also worked in Indonesia, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Finland, New Zealand, Chile and the Dominican Republic. Some of that work involved constructing and repairing pipelines, or working alongside remotely-operated vehicles, which are sometimes used for underwater filming.

Last year, he worked up north at the Bruce Power plant for the winter. Inspections and repairs at the power plant meant diving under five feet of ice.

Kerr is attracted to the personal challenge of the job, but admits there are some pitfalls. It’s hard on the family life when you’re constantly travelling and the seasonal hours are long.
And Kerr admits, as he gets older, he’s becoming less tolerant of the cold.

It’s also “inherently dangerous,” Kerr says. “You’re working with cranes and things can happen when you have limited visibility,” he says. “Little accidents on the surface can be tragic in the water.” Although every effort is made to ensure safety on the job, Kerr says he’s had some “close calls.

“You really rely on the guys on the surface to look out for your well-being,” he says, adding you trust them with your life.

And it’s a slow job, as Kerr compares it to “working with oven mitts on and turning off the lights.” They wear three-fingered mitts, making it difficult to pick up a half-inch bolt or other small piece.

In recent years, cameras have been installed on the divers “so those on the surface can watch everything being done.”

He says it helps ensure everything is properly inspected because it’s so costly to have to go back and redo an underwater job.

Ross McPhee, a production diver with Talisman, says it aids in training new divers. “We can accelerate the training and can help keep someone from making a mistake,” he says.
The 30-year-veteran of commercial diving says the job is more than just diving.

“Diving is the way I get to my work,” he says, adding he oversees the underground gas field on the Canadian side of the water, comprised of more than 100 natural gas wells and thousands of miles of pipeline from Port Colborne in the east to Wheatley in the west.

“It’s a good profession for me ... it’s exciting and challenging.” Shaun Kerr
commercial diver.

As the supervisor, McPhee says there’s a lot of equipment to install, maintain and pressure hoses to check. He notes that each valve is now computerized, but the computer systems have to be installed and programmed and it’s the divers that do that work. At times, there’s also drilling to be done.

McPhee also schedules the divers who go out in teams of five or six on the vessels or rigs to do the necessary work.

The 52-year-old has spent his entire career in Lake Erie – during that time he’s seen vast improvements in technology and safety.

He studied math and science at university, taking the diving program at Seneca as a reprieve from university. But he was offered a job after graduating from the diving program and never returned to school.

Personally, McPhee said he’s never gotten over the thrill of the first dive of the day, adding, “I hope I never will.” While he sacrifices family time during diving season, the Dorchester resident tries to make up for it during the off-season, opting not take any offshore jobs.
He says there’s a worldwide market for commercial divers, especially after major tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina. In Ontario alone, he said there are a number of jobs — virtually any place that has a shore requires a diver to go under at some point for inspections, maintenance and repairs.

Sean O’Dwyer of The Carpenters Union Local 785 in Cambridge has represented the commercial divers in Lake Erie for the last four years.

He says The Carpenters Union, which began representing divers about 40 years ago, now represents about 70 to 80 divers across the province.

He says commercial divers are also involved in aiding the Department of Transportation in inspecting ships and freighters.

Unionization, he says, has helped to ensure they have more competitive wages, benefits, pension and for those who choose, the opportunity to apprentice as a carpenter so they have options for their future when they can no longer handle the physical demands of diving.

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scuba Diving::::Is It An Extreme Sport?

How extreme do you want your sport to be?

What is your comfort level with risk?

When it comes to scuba diving, these are questions you will have to ask yourself if you wish to advance to some of the more extreme elements of the sport.

That is one of the strengths of scuba. It’s versatile. You can choose the level at which you wish to participate.

“Scuba is not extreme, but it lends itself to extremes,” says Catherine Donker, a dive master from St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. “It is user friendly. You can take a casual approach if you are not looking for a lot of physical challenge or excitement. You can choose dives according to your level or interest. You can do 15-to-20 foot dives on top of a reef or if you’re getting into the extremes, a wreck such as the Andrea Doria.

While approaching the coast off Nantucket, Massachusetts, the Andrea Doria and the eastbound freighter MS Stockholm collided. The Andrea Doria sank on July 26, 1956, resulting in 46 deaths. Diving to its wreck is difficult and dangerous and it involves depths beyond 200 feet. It is only for highly qualified technical-certified divers, whose certifications include training in the use of mixed gases.

For scuba divers who want to push the limits in other ways, there is cavern and cave diving.

PADI describes the cavern zone as the area near the entrance of a cave where natural light is always visible. Cavern divers always keep the entrance in sight and use a guideline to help them find their way back in case they lose sight of the entrance. However, cave divers will go much farther into the cave, sometimes thousands of yards.

The majority of scuba enthusiasts will probably never want to advance to cave diving. They are happy with what they set out to do – explore the underwater world of coral reefs and occasionally dive to a shipwreck that is accessible enough for the dive certification they hold.

There is no shortage of sites for either experience. Florida and the Florida Keys are popular destinations for people living on or near the U.S. Eastern seaboard.

“The Keys has both wrecks and reefs covered,” says Catherine. “There are hundreds of wrecks in Florida.”

Dive sites include the USS Oriskany, a former aircraft carrier that was sunk off Pensacola, and the USS Spiegel Grove, a former U.S. Navy dock loading ship that rests on the bottom offshore from Key Largo. Both of these dives can be done with an Advanced Open Water certification.

Viewing reefs and shipwrecks is more in line with what most divers envisioned when they began scuba lessons.

“I would say the most common reason people enrol in lessons is a reference from a friend. They’ve heard exciting stories of the incredible colours of the reefs and amazing aquatic life or maybe a compelling historical wreck,” says Catherine. “If you can get them to watch your video creations, people see what they’ve only seen before on National Geographic and they know that it really is accessible to anyone. They know you are not Jacques Cousteau, just a regular person.”

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SS Andrea Doria


SS Andrea Doria[p] was an ocean liner for the Italian Line (Società di navigazione Italia) home ported in Genoa, Italy, most famous for its sinking in 1956, when 46 people died. Named after the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, the ship had a gross register tonnage of 29,100 and a capacity of about 1,200 passengers and 500 crew. For a country attempting to rebuild its economy and reputation after World War II, Andrea Doria was an icon of Italian national pride. Of all Italy's ships at the time, Andrea Doria was the largest, fastest and supposedly safest. Launched on 16 June 1951, the ship undertook its maiden voyage on 14 January 1953.

During the ship's maiden voyage, it encountered heavy storms on the final approach to New York, listing a full twenty-eight degrees. Nevertheless, Andrea Doria completed its maiden voyage on 23 January only a few minutes behind schedule, and received a welcoming delegation which included New York Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri. Afterwards, Andrea Doria became one of Italy's most popular and successful ocean liners as it was always filled to capacity. By mid-1956, it was making its 100th crossing of the Atlantic.

A collision course

On the evening of Wednesday, 25 July 1956, Andrea Doria, commanded by Captain Piero Calamai, carrying 1,134 passengers and 572 crew, was heading west towards New York. It was the last night of a transatlantic crossing from Genoa that began on 17 July: the ship was expected to dock in New York the next morning.

At the same time, MS Stockholm, a smaller passenger liner of the Swedish American Line, had departed New York about midday, heading east across the North Atlantic Ocean toward Gothenburg, Sweden. Stockholm was commanded by Captain Harry Gunnar Nordenson, though Third Officer Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen was on duty on the bridge at the time. Stockholm was following its usual course east to Nantucket Lightship, making about 18 knots (33 km/h) with clear skies. Carstens estimated visibility at 6 nautical miles (11 km).

As Stockholm and Andrea Doria were approaching each other head-on, in the heavily used shipping corridor, the westbound Andrea Doria had been traveling in heavy fog for hours. The captain had reduced speed slightly from 23.0 to 21.8 knots (42.6 to 40.4 km/h), activated the ship's fog-warning whistle, and had closed the watertight doors, all customary precautions while sailing in such conditions. However, the eastbound Stockholm had yet to enter what was apparently the edge of a fog bank and was seemingly unaware of it and the movement of the other ship hidden in it. (The waters of the North Atlantic south of Nantucket Island are frequently the site of intermittent fog as the cold Labrador Current encounters the Gulf Stream.)

As the two ships approached each other, at a combined speed of 40 knots (74 km/h), each was aware of the presence of another ship but was guided only by radar; they apparently misinterpreted each other's course. There was no radio communication between the two ships, at first.

The original inquiry established that in the critical minutes before the collision, Andrea Doria gradually steered to port, attempting a starboard-to-starboard passing, while Stockholm turned about 20 degrees to its starboard, an action intended to widen the passing distance of a port-to-port passing. In fact, they were actually steering towards each other — narrowing, rather than widening, the passing distance. Compounded by the extremely thick fog that enveloped the Doria as the ships approached each other, the ships were quite close by the time visual contact had been established. By then, the crews realized that they were on a collision course, but despite last-minute maneuvers, they could not avoid the collision.

In the last moments before impact, Stockholm turned hard to starboard and was in the process of reversing its propellers, attempting to stop. The Doria, remaining at its cruising speed of almost 22 knots (41 km/h) engaged in a hard turn to port, its captain hoping to outrun the collision. At approximately 11:10 PM the two ships collided, the Stockholm striking the side of the Andrea Doria.

Impact and penetration

When Andrea Doria and Stockholm collided at almost a 90-degree angle, Stockholm's sharply raked ice breaking prow pierced Andrea Doria's starboard side approximately midway of its length. It penetrated three passenger cabins, numbers 52, 54 and 56, to a depth of nearly 40 feet (12 m), and the keel. The collision smashed many occupied passenger cabins and, at the lower levels, ripped open several of Andrea Doria's watertight compartments. The gash pierced five fuel tanks on Andrea Doria's starboard side and filled them with 500 tons of seawater. Meanwhile, air was trapped in the empty tanks on the port side, contributing to a severe, uncorrectable list. The ship's large fuel tanks were mostly empty at the time of the collision, since the ship was nearing the end of its voyage, but all the empty fuel tanks did was help the list increase.

Meanwhile, on the bridge of Stockholm, immediately after the impact, engines were placed at ALL STOP, and all watertight doors were closed. The ships were intertwined for about 30 seconds. As they separated, the smashed bow of the stationary Stockholm was dragged aft along the starboard side of the Doria, which was still moving forward, adding more gashes along the side. The two ships then separated, and the Doria moved away into the heavy fog. Initial radio distress calls were sent out by each ship, and in that manner, they learned each others' identities.

In the last moments before impact, Stockholm turned hard to starboard and was in the process of reversing its propellers, attempting to stop. The Doria, remaining at its cruising speed of almost 22 knots (41 km/h) engaged in a hard turn to port, its captain hoping to outrun the collision. At approximately 11:10 PM the two ships collided, the Stockholm striking the side of the Andrea Doria. The world soon became aware that two large ocean liners had collided.

Andrea Doria capsizes and sinks

Once the evacuation was complete, the captain of Andrea Doria shifted his attention to the possibility of towing the ship to shallow water. However, it was clear to those watching helplessly at the scene that the stricken ocean liner was continuing to roll on its side.
After all the survivors had been transplanted onto various rescue ships bound for New York, Andrea Doria's remaining crew began to disembark—forced to abandon the ship. By 9:00 AM. even Captain Calamai was in a rescue boat. The sinking began at 9:45 a.m. and by 10:00 that morning Andrea Doria was on her side at a right angle to the sea. The ship fully disappeared into the Atlantic at 10:09—almost exactly eleven hours after the collision with Stockholm took place.

22-year-old Evelyn Bartram Dudas was the first woman to successfully dive onto the Andrea Doria. Dudas reached the wreck in June, 1967; her future husband, John Dudas, retrieved the ship's compass.

As of 2010, years of ocean submersion have taken their toll. The wreck has aged and deteriorated extensively, with the hull now fractured and collapsed. The upper decks have slowly slid off the wreck to the seabed below. As a result of this transformation, a large debris field flows out from the hull of the liner. Once-popular access points frequented by divers, such as Gimbel's Hole, no longer exist. Divers call Andrea Doria a "noisy" wreck, as it emits various noises due to continual deterioration and the currents' moving broken metal around inside the hull.

However, due to this decay new access areas are constantly opening up for future divers on the ever-changing wreck. The ship lies on her side at a depth of about 250 feet in an area where the underwater weather can change suddenly from clear and calm to a ripping current filled with sediment. But the reward for those who venture this deep is to briefly rediscover a ship still recognizably the luxury liner that gaily cruised the southern Atlantic route in the 1950s. Most of the deck hardware and all three swimming pools are clearly visible. Lifeboat davits still jut from the boat deck and great cranes dominate the bow. The ship's name can still be made out on both the bow and stern.

After 20 minutes exploring the wreck, the diver must spend another 90 decompressing before returning to the surface. But he brings back with him unforgettable images of ruined luxe and of the end of a magnified era in ocean travel.

thanks to Wikipedia

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cop divers: A breed apart, a breed below

It's one of the least popular types of specialized police work: dead body retrievers.

Of the 69,200 cops in Canada, only 110 are police divers.

This week more than half of them showed up at a frozen quarry near Ottawa to train in far more favourable conditions than many of them are used to.

Ottawa rookie cop Alana Fong sits on a towel-topped, waterproof kit case with her feet propped up on a small one. Wrapped in blankets she waits in a tent for colleague Walt Leshman to surface.

The burly Newfoundlander is far more experienced; he's been a police diver for four years.

Fong is about to make her second-ever ice dive.

In fact, she's the only female police diver in Ontario and one of only a handful in Canada.

She was fast-tracked into the unit - diving has always been something that interested her - having only been hired by Ottawa Police in May.

That's because they needed her.

"There's not a lot of people that want to do this job," says Const. Brent MacIntyre, of the Ottawa Police dive, marine and trails unit.

"It takes a certain type of police officer to want to go underwater and recover human remains, so there's not a lot of pickings when we're going out to recruit new officers."

Fong's first ice dive, completed Tuesday in the quarry, was an experience she'll never forget.

"It was incredible, actually. It was quite different than diving in the summer," she says.

"Here we have a lot of visibility, when you look up at the surface you can see so many colours."

MacIntyre can speak from experience about the contrast between the visibility in a quarry and what police divers are up against diving in places like the Ottawa River.

"It's like diving in tea," he says. "You can't see anything."

The quarry near Wakefield, Que., offers 128 feet of depth and numerous underwater objects to dive to.

The divers also conducted drills and exercises with dummies.

The busiest season of the year for police divers is just around the corner - spring thaw.

Thanks to London Free Press

Kathy Dowsett

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

History of rebreathers

A rebreather is a type of breathing set that provides a breathing gas containing oxygen and recycled exhaled gas. This recycling reduces the volume of breathing gas used, making a rebreather lighter and more compact than an open-circuit breathing set for the same duration in environments where humans cannot safely breathe from the atmosphere. In the armed forces it is sometimes called "CCUBA" (Closed Circuit Underwater Breathing Apparatus).

Around 1620: In England, Cornelius Drebbel made an early oar-powered submarine. To re-oxygenate the air inside it, he likely generated oxygen by heating saltpetre (potassium nitrate) in a metal pan to emit oxygen. Heating turns the saltpetre into potassium oxide or hydroxide, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. That may explain why Drebbel's men were not affected by carbon dioxide build-up as much as would be expected. If so, he accidentally made a crude rebreather more than two centuries before Saint Simon Sicard's patent.

1808: The oldest known rebreather based on carbon dioxide absorption was patented in France by Sieur (old French for "sir" or "Mister") Touboulic from Brest, mechanic in the Napoleon's Imperial Navy. This early rebreather design worked with an oxygen reservoir, the oxygen being delivered progressively by the diver himself and circulating in a closed circuit through a sponge soaked in lime water. Touboulic called his invention Ichtioandre (Greek for 'fish-man'). There's no evidence of a prototype having been manufactured.

1849: Patent for the oldest known prototype of a rebreather also used an oxygen reservoir, granted to the Frenchman Pierre Aimable De Saint Simon Sicard.

1853: Professor T. Schwann designed a rebreather in Belgium; he exhibited it in Paris in 1878. It had a big backpack oxygen tank at pressure about 13.333 bars, and two scrubbers containing sponges soaked in caustic soda.

1878: Henry Fleuss invented a rebreather using stored oxygen and absorption of carbon dioxide by an absorbent (here rope yarn soaked in caustic potash solution), to rescue mineworkers who were trapped by water.

About 1900: The Davis Escape Set was designed in Britain for escape from sunken submarines. It was the first rebreather which was practical for use and produced in quantity. Various industrial oxygen rebreathers (e.g. the Siebe Gorman Salvus and the Siebe Gorman Proto, both invented in the early 1900s) were derived from it.

1903 to 1907: Professor Georges Jaubert invented Oxylithe, which is a form of sodium peroxide (Na2O2) or sodium dioxide (NaO2). As it absorbs carbon dioxide (e.g. in a rebreather's scubber) it emits oxygen.

1907: Oxylithe was used in the first filming of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

1907: This link shows a Draeger rebreather used for mines rescue.

In 1909 Captain S.S. Hall, R.N., and Dr. O. Rees, R.N., developed a submarine escape apparatus using Oxylithe; the Royal Navy accepted it. It was used for shallow water diving but never in a submarine escape.

1912: The first recorded mass production of rebreathers started with the Dräger rebreathers, invented some years earlier by an engineer of the Dräger company, Hermann Stelzner. The Dräger rebreathers, especially the DM20 and DM40 model series, were those used by the German helmet divers and German frogmen during World War II.

1930's: Italian sport spearfishers used rebreathers systematically. This practice came to the attention of the Italian Navy, which developed its frogman unit Decima Flottiglia MAS, which was used effectively in World War II.

World War II: Captured Italian frogmen's rebreathers influenced design of British rebreathers. Many British frogmen's breathing sets' oxygen cylinders were German pilot's oxygen cylinders recovered from shot-down German Luftwaffe planes. Those first breathing sets may have been modified Davis Submarine Escape Sets; their fullface masks were the type intended for the Siebe Gorman Salvus. But in later operations different designs were used, leading to a fullface mask with one big face window, at first oval like in this image, and later rectangular (mostly flat, but the ends curved back to allow more vision sideways). Early British frogman's rebreathers had rectangular breathing bags on the chest like Italian frogman's rebreathers; later British frogman's rebreathers had a square recess in the top so they could extend further up onto his shoulders; in front they had a rubber collar that was clamped around the absorbent canister, as in the illustration below.

Some British armed forces divers used bulky thick diving suits called Sladen suits; one version of it had a flip-up single window for both eyes to let the user get binoculars to his eyes when on the surface.

Early 1940s: US Navy rebreathers were developed by Dr. Christian J. Lambertsen for underwater warfare and is considered by the US Navy as "the father of the frogmen". Lambertsen held the first closed-circuit oxygen rebreather course in the United States for the Office of Strategic Services maritime unit at the Naval Academy on 17 May 1943.

Thanks to Wikipedia

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, October 31, 2011

Five Ways to Use a Swimming Kick Board

Swimming is a healthy water sport. Many different exercises can be done in the water with the use of a kick board. Kick boards provide several options for beginners as well as advanced swimmers.

#1 Traditional kick

The traditional kick is the most common way to use the kick board. It is also the only way that many people know how to use it. To perform the traditional kick, you simply hold on to the board with your hands and kick. This is a great way to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings. During lap swimming, the traditional kick is a great way to take a break without completely stopping.

#2 Breast stroke kick

The breast stroke kick works the inner thighs. After a few laps, prepare to feel a burn. To perform the breast stroke kick, hold on to the kick board and move your legs just as you would when performing the breast stroke. First, the knees are bent up. Then, the legs are pushed in a circular motion away from one another.

#3 Butterfly with the board (caterpillar)

The butterfly is a challenging swim stroke by itself. Adding the board makes the sound of this stroke a lot less intimidating. It is really more of a caterpillar type move than it is a butterfly. The caterpillar works your abdominal muscles, legs and hips. Hold on to the kick board, and then wiggle your body to make it move. This is the same wiggle technique that children are taught when they first learn to do the butterfly.

#4 Back kick with the board

The back kick is very relaxing. It works the front and back of your legs. Just lay on your back while holding on to the tip of the board. I enjoy doing this when I need a break from my goggles. I can remove my goggles and relax before returning to my free style swimming.

#5 Side kick with the board

To perform the side kick with the board, you simply hold on to the board with one hand while swimming on your side. Be sure to switch hands to equally work both sides of the body.

Safety tips

To prevent injuries you should always stretch before and after swimming. You should also avoid kicking with too much force. Alternate exercises so that you do not acquire an overuse injury. It is especially important to take a break from the breast stroke kick. The whip kick done during the breast stroke can cause swimmers knee.

Ready, set, jump in the water! Don't forget the kick board.

Rebecca completed courses in Medical Terminology, Administrative Medical Assisting, and Coding and Billing. She is recognized by the National Healthcareer Association as a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) and Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA). In addition, Rebecca is a former gymnast and is avid about swimming, jogging, and other athletic activities.

Thanks to Yahoo News

Kathy Dowsett

Saturday, October 29, 2011

10 Tips to see the most when you scuba dive

The best way to see any dive site is with a guide who knows the area and the native wildlife or coral formations in the area. Don’t be afraid to ask them about the site or tell them what you are interested in.

1. Relax and take things slowly when you dive. Remember you are a stranger with lots of bubbles in the underwater world, so by relaxing and not appearing as a threat you will get more fish remaining for you to enjoy.

2. You are in the homes of the fish, turtles and other marine life that you are looking at. Respect that as you would a friends house. Do not disturb the natural surroundings, avoid kicking up sand and definitely not the coral. So practice your buoyancy away from the reef. Give the fish and reef some distance between you and them about 3 ft or 1 metre.

3. Do not poke, prod or harass the fish. This can be dangerous to their health and sometimes yours. They will also swim away and maybe relocate so other divers will not get to see them later.

4. Always allow the marine life a clear exit path. Make sure you and your dive buddy or group stay to one side and do not surround the animal you are looking at. If the fish or turtle doesn’t feel threatened it will remain for longer and allow you a better experience.

5. Do not feed the fish, apart from it being bad for the natural ecosystem, you do not get to see the natural behaviour of fish if they are being attracted to divers for the food.

6. Move along slowly in the water and pay close attention to the seascape around you. This helps your navigation but more importantly gives you time to really pay attention to the smaller creatures such as beautiful nudibranchs. Initially frightened fish may pop back out or come back to take a closer look at you.

7. Get into routines for checking your gauges. The best equipment designers in the world not make gauge better looking then the reef that surrounds you, so spending time fiddling with your gauges unnecessarily is time wasted. You can play with your dive computer on the boat as much as you want.

8. Spend some time before you get in the water and on the surface to double check you are comfortable with your equipment. Spending time “playing” with your dive gear underwater distracts you form the dive and also makes you consume air more rapidly.

9. Don’t be afraid to stop in a spot to look more closely and examine the coral formations for starfish, crabs and other beauties that make their homes under the coral. Again relax and practice your buoyancy.

10. Stick with your buddy and take the time to point out the cool things you have found. Four eyes are better then two. Agree with your buddy before you dive on some certain types of marine life that you are interested in. By looking at the same type of marine life you both will focus on areas likely to have the creatures.

Most of all have fun and don’t be nervous!!!

Thanks to New Horizon

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, October 27, 2011

SS Oregon British passenger liner

The Oregon was a record breaking British passenger liner that won the Blue Riband for the Guion Line as the fastest liner on the Atlantic in 1884. She was sold to the Cunard Line after a few voyages and continued to improve her passage times for her new owner. In 1885, Oregon was chartered to the Royal Navy as an auxiliary cruiser, and her success in this role resulted in the Admiralty subsidizing suitable ships for quick conversion in the event of a crisis. She returned to Cunard service in November 1885 and four months later collided with a schooner while approaching New York. All persons on board were rescued before Oregon sank. Her wreck, 18 miles east of Long Island, remains a popular diving site.

The triple expansion reciprocating steam engine built for Oregon had a 70-inch-diameter (1,800 mm) high-pressure cylinder flanked by two 104-inch-diameter (2,600 mm) low-pressure cylinders. The engine generated 12,500 indicated horsepower as compared to 8,300 for Alaska. Steam was generated from nine Fox patent double-ended boilers, each 163⁄4 feet long and 161⁄2 feet in diameter. Daily coal consumption was 300 tons, an increase of 50 tons compared to Alaska and 165 tons over Arizona. The screw propeller was twenty-four feet in diameter with a shaft that consisted of fifteen separate parts made of crucible steel.

Oregon was fitted for 340 saloon, 92 second-class, and 1,000 steerage passengers. Passengers traveling saloon or cabin were equivalent to first class today. On Oregon, stearage had been upgraded to third class and given assigned berths in small rooms rather than dormatories.[3]
The main public room, the grand saloon was in the forepart of the ship and described at the time as "capable of dining the whole of the 340 cabin passengers." "The ceiling decorations were almost exclusively confined to white and gold. The panels were of polished satinwood, the pilasters of walnut, with gilt capitals. The saloon measured 65 by 54 feet, and was 9 feet high in the lowest part. A central cupola of handsome design, 25 feet long and 15 feet wide, rose to a height of 20 feet, and gave abundant light and ventilation." "The staterooms are large and well lighted and ventilated. Every facility for comfort is provided in the cabin. The ladies' drawing room is furnished in a costly manner, and is on the promenade deck. The latter extends nearly the entire length of the vessel. The wood work of the ladies' drawing room, the Captain's cabin, and the principal entrance to the saloons came from the State of Oregon. On the upper deck near the entrance of the grand saloon is the smoking room, which is paneled in Spanish mahogany and has a mosaic floor. Incandescent electric lamps, supplied by the Edison Company, are used in lighting the vessel."


On what was supposed to be one of her last runs to New York, Oregon sailed from Liverpool on March 6, 1886 with 186 saloon, 66 second class and 395 steerage passengers. At 4:30 AM, just 15 miles from New York, she collided with a schooner, most likely the Charles H. Morse, which disappeared in those waters about the same time. The schooner sank almost immediately with all hands.

The hole in Oregon's side was described as big enough for a horse and carriage. An unsuccessful attempt was made to plug the hole with canvas. Two hours after the collision, the captain ordered Oregon to be abandoned, but the lifeboats and rafts only had room for half of the 852 people on board. Finally, at 8:30 AM, the schooner Fannie A. Gorham and the pilot boat Phantom responded to Oregon's emergency flares and boarded all passengers and crew. At 10:30 AM, Fulda of Norddeutscher Lloyd also arrived, and the passengers and crew were transferred again. Eight hours after the collision, Oregon sank bow first in 125 feet of water. Her mast tops remained above water for several tides.

Cunard sent divers to the wreck to determine if Oregon could be salvaged. However, the hull broke open when the ship hit the bottom. The loss amounted to $3,166,000 including $1.25 million for the ship, $700,000 for her cargo, $216,000 in passenger baggage, and $1 million for currency and other valuables carried in the mails. Oregon's purser managed to save a large shipment of diamonds in the ship's safe.

Over the years, the ship's hull and iron decks have collapsed. However, the engine still stands 40 feet above the ocean floor near the ship's nine boilers.

Her wreck, 18 miles east of Long Island, remains a popular diving site.

Thanks to Wikipedia

Kathy Dowsett

Watch Peter Bucknell's video on diving the Oregon