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 √©migr√© 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