The scale and destruction of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami were beyond anyone's expectations. Three years on, the disaster is still very much on people's minds with images of the giant wave and destruction still vivid. In the months immediately after the disaster, I began looking online for volunteer work that involved diving or anything marine-related when one day I came across Sanriku Volunteer Divers, a group that's been diving almost everyday since March 2011 to continue restoring the affected regions.
Hiroshi Sato, who established the group, comes from Iwate Prefecture, one of the most badly hit areas. He was working as a dive guide in Thailand when the disaster struck. Immediately he returned home and began helping out, when one day he was told that as a diver, he could help recover the debris that had been washed out to sea. This led to a huge underwater clean up and as word spread, other divers began joining in. Today volunteers from all over Japan and abroad are being accepted into and assigned to appropriate projects. It's important to note that those who wish to participate in underwater activities need a good deal of experience - Rescue Diver at the very least. Non-divers can also join in by helping out on land and assisting the divers.
With a rope around their waists, the divers are paired with another volunteer who waits on land holding the end of the rope. They descend slowly to about 6-10m and are often underwater alone so they must be 100% comfortable with their equipment and any potential dangers such as getting tangled or stuck. Once their ropes have been securely tied to an item of debris, they pull on the rope a couple of times and the person on land brings the debris up.
If an item needs to be lifted with care or cannot be removed without specialist equipment, the divers ascend to explain this to those on land. Because they ascend and descend quite often, good ear-clearing skills are a must. Cranes are used to remove anything big such as tree trunks, while fishing nets, fishing gear, branches, trays or car tires can be more easily taken away. The debris is then sorted as much as possible, while personal items like handbags are put aside and cleaned in case someone later claims them.
The changing chemistry of the ocean may be hard to imagine, but it has very real and tangible effects. Increased CO2 levels in the ocean mean fewer carbonate ions, which coral reefs use carbonate to build their structures. Other calcifying species such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, and certain types of plankton also depend on carbonate ions for good health. Increasing ocean acidification leaves the animals less able to build their structures and to get on with their lives. In turn, increasing ocean acidification could mean fewer reefs to marvel at while on a dive.
What Can Be Done?
The most direct action a scuba diver can take against ocean acidification is to be more mindful about CO2 emissions. Do what you can to be more energy efficient and use fewer fossil fuels. For a more far reaching impact, consider working with NGOs that focus on ocean or energy issues – either by volunteering or through a financial donation. Taking the time to write your elected officials and voice your concern can also have a major impact.
In Part 2 of our series Diving in Japan, Bonnie Waycott takes us to northern Japan, and introduces ice diving off Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula.
When winter arrives in Japan, it doesn't mean that you have to give up on scuba diving until the summer. Hokkaido, the country's northernmost island, may be covered in snow and ice. Blizzards and bitterly cold winds may sweep the area frequently. But if you're feeling brave enough to take on a new challenge, you may want to visit. In February, frozen ice from the Sea of Okhotsk breaks up and is blown south to the Shiretoko Peninsula. This is home to the ice diving season that begins around the end of January and lasts until mid-March.
On land, the peninsula is something else. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, it's full of national parks and a range of wildlife such as deer and bears. In winter however, it's surrounded by ice floes. These can be observed during a short boat cruise but if you really want to get up close to them, well this is when diving comes in.
The vast majority of people who go ice diving tend to be repeaters but new challengers are always welcome. A good point of contact is theIruka Hotel an English-speaking dive school and hotel that can cater to non-Japanese divers.
As conditions are extreme, ice diving comes with some strict safety procedures. Before the divers assemble for the first dive of the day, a hole is dug over the chosen dive spot and a small base is then created for assembling equipment, changing or just to keep warm. Through the hole goes a long rope which divers are told to never lose sight of. Because of the cold (the water temperature tends to be between 3 and -2 degrees), all dives are kept to within 10m, and usually last about 30mins. It's essential to be familiar with your equipment, to double check your dry suit and make sure it's properly fastened. Divers are also given special regulators that fit firmly into the mouth with a band that goes around the head, while a number of staff members from the dive school are stationed around the hole in case of emergencies. Descending slowly and keeping a firm grip on the rope are also requirements.
Everyone has their own budget to work in when planning their next dive vacation. Looking back at your last one you often find it was more expensive than you had originally expected. If you think your last vacation was expensive, I have some suggestions for you to gauge the price of your last vacation against for you to judge if it was really that expensive. These are not the most expensive resorts with diving, there are many luxury resorts that have diving as an option. These are, however, some resorts who's primary focus is diving and have a large price tag. To make it easy to compare, the rates will be for two people staying a week and using the least expensive accommodation type. I will use United States Dollars as the currency.
Official Disclaimer: It is a common practice when doing reviews to state if a destination has provided free stays in return for the review. I am sad to say, that none of the resorts listed here have made such an offer. I am, however, more than happy to accept an offer if any of them would like such an arrangement.
Vacations to tropical resorts are known for the beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, great scuba diving, wild nights out partying and the morning hang over. I am sure that most of us have seen divers dragging themselves into the dive center nursing a hangover. Some may even still have the smell of alcohol on them. While we may chuckle at their discomfort, they may be putting themselves and even us in danger.
While science is still looking for a detail cause of a hangover and how to cure them, a simple explanation is that a hangover a set of signs and symptoms related to the bodies process to eliminate a large amount of alcohol. In doing so the bodies systems get out of the normal range. While the sufferer may be planning on diving it is possible that his condition will worsen before it gets better. Diving with a hangover can be a serious problem. The Diver who smells of alcohol should not be diving at all. That smell is an indication that he still has a high blood alcohol content (BAC). How many drinks it takes to get someone drunk or to raise their BAC to a certain level varies on many factors including weight and gender. While the legal limit for driving with a BAC is normally around .08 to .1 many people have no outward signs till they past .12 BAC, While what it takes to get to that level is not the same, the rate that it leaves your system is fairly consistent at .015 per hour. So a couple of strong pints at 2 am are still hanging about at 8am. 90% of that is broken down and the remainder is past by the lungs, urine and skin. Even when the BAC has dropped to zero, tissue may still be breaking down the alcohol that it absorbed. There has been a number of studies that show that cells breaking down alcohol release other toxins and gas at a slower rate. Relating that to divers, Nitrogen will be released from tissues at a slower rate.
He has traveled thousands of miles to arrive in Grand Cayman, and on Saturday, April 12the bronze sculpture Guardian of the Reef will be sunk at his permanent home on a sandy flatat 60f/18m off the island’s Northwest Point. Months ago Divetech purchased the sculpture from Canadian artist Simon Morris to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. The13-foot Guardian is a mythological creature half ancient warrior half seahorse that was sculpted at Morris’s studio in British Columbia, caste in bronze at a foundry in Oregon. Once completed, the sculpture was shipped to Orlando, FL in early November for an unveiling at the Dive Equipment Manufacturers Association Convention (DEMA). He arrived in Grand Cayman earlier this month and has been on display at Divetech since clearing customs.
“We are very excited to see the Guardian of the Reef in Cayman after his long voyage here over 4,500 miles and many, many months,” say Divetech owners Jay and Nancy Easterbrook. “To see him standing on shore he is very majestic and will serve as a long-term reminder to all of us about the need to protect our reefs.”
I am going to dive in the red sea this August, what are the best liveaboards do you recommend? What are the price ranges?
Normally, from mid march until end of may, it is common to hear the humpback whales singing during the dives.Specially those located in Sal Rei bay and lacaçao beach.
Scuba diving is already a "transportation to another world" but if you add this soundtrack it becomes a mind blowing experience.
This year a little "upgrade" on the experience to share. It was an urge need to put a face to that music.
This is what we got!
Upon first opportunity I put my gears together and drove to what became one of my favorite spots - Old Steamship Pier, located at Eastport, Maine. This site is an immediate neighbor to a spot mentioned in "Fifty Places to Dive Before You Die". I realize that the book is highly subjective, but most who dove in a vicinity keep coming back for more.
Driving from Boston was easy. And despite almost constant drizzle I reached Lincoln, Canada in less than 8 hours. Actually I was pleasantly surprised to see 75 mph speed limit posted in some parts of the highway.
It seems to me that I'll never tire to praise this dive spot. Its unparalleled combination of topographic position, easy parking, effortless access to the water, simple sub-navigation, relatively safe depth and richness of fauna. I swam to the wall in less than a minute and began scanning first log. Making this story short; 54 minutes of easy, unhurried dive "yielded" 6 species of nudibranchs, a worm, shrimp, soft corals and all kind of anemones.
According to my Atomic computer, which has tendency to be a bit "warmer" than its counterparts, water's temp was 39 - 40'F. Visibility wasn't bad for this spot - 5 maybe 6 feet. Using macro lens I was able to get clean shot of of fairly large anemone.
Hence I resurfaced happy with results of my dive. Few others went to farther reef and came back with pictures of other beautiful members of sea slugs.
A word of appreciation to every responsible diver. Thank you, guys, for being super careful and sensible to places we visit, above and below the surface. Let's take plenty of pictures and leave behind nothing but our love.
It is not diving season at Boa Vista, it starts in may, so going out for a dive means 20ºC, 18knots wind, 1.8 mts waves, some surge, some current. And on top of this there is a plankton swell (that is why the humpback whales are here) that makes visibility the poorest year round 8 to 10 mts...
On the other hand, fish looks like they are in carnival, so alive and moving a lot as we are not used to (well it might be the surge) but I Think the plankton has a lot to do in all of this.
Went diving with Geer from Belgium and John from Holland to Atlantida today. Geer was lucky yesterday diving with two respetable sand tiger sharks and we were excited about what to find today.
Well it was great 2 dives in the wall first down to 26 mts and over the platform at 10 mts. We managed to see white seabreams, guinean seambreams, guinean grunts, trumpet fish, squirrel fish, soldier fish, porcupine fish, parrot fish (male & female) guinean parrot fish, sea sluds, different nudibranches, damselfish, royal spinny lobster...moray eels, and even a Tuna fish school passing by.
The higlight was a massive Burr fish more than a mtr long that was curious and came really close to us...really nice.
A year passed and another group, lead by world-renowned photographer Andrew Martinez, set its course to St. Vincent - Critter capital of the Caribbean. If last year only 6 guys tagged along with Andy, this time more the 20 divers, in two separate weeks, joined his expedition.
I can't answer for all, but this time I enjoyed diving even more then during previous occasion. Thanks to a great help of Ray Haberman, who’s probably by now can be called a native of the island, I was able to rediscover unlimited possibilities of new underwater findings. Ray taught me how to look for and showed to me creatures size of the grain of sand. And with Andrew’s detailed instructions on underwater camera technique - proper strobes alignment, favorable composition, speed and aperture, good lightning of the subject, careful approach etc., I had unlimited potentials to photograph incredible world of the fantastic organisms.
Two awesome dive-masters – Cally and DJ, both with over two decades of experience in finding small, hard to detect animals.
Right after breakfast, we headed to the dock where all our dive-gears were preloaded onto boats and shortly, no more than 10-15 minutes, we were at chosen locations. If one of the boats headed, let’s say, to Orca 2, then other went to Cruise Ship. Then, during surface interval, we'd swap sites.
Thus, at the same time no more than 8 divers were at each particular spot.
Average depth of almost all our dives would hardly reached 30-35 feet. Only ones Ray took me to 100 feet at “New Guinea”, to check if spotted Bull-eyed lobster still lived inside of the entangled pile of sunken nets. But otherwise light, aluminum tanks easily yielded an hour, an hour-and-a-half of bottom time.
Overall I go back to St. Vincent again and again. And so far my only wish that air-travel could've been improved dramatically.
Happy diving and safe resurfacing to all.
WWII Wreck - Air raid attack and sank on 12th February 1942 - later moved to St. Elmo Bay - Depth 18 metres
The HMS Maori is in St Elmo Bay (Fort St. Elmo - Valletta in front of a cafe which has its outside walls covered with a number of painted Destroyers, amongst which is the HMS Maori.
HMS MAORI was ordered on the 10th March 1936 at the Fairfield Shipbuilding Co, Govan. Laid down on the 6th of July 1936, launched 2nd September 1937 and commissioned on the 5th December 1938, she saw considerable action in the Mediterranean, the Norwegian campaign, Atlantic convoys and the North Sea.
On February 12th 1942, it was moored at the entrance to Dockyard Creek, when it received a direct hit in her engine room. She was eventually set down in the back-water of St Elmo's Bay, on the sandy bottom at a depth of around 18 metres. Her guns were removed and the bows and stern are gone, however part of the raised bridge is still there. Divers can enter the remains quite easily, with exits through large holes in the starboard side. Although silted up, there are plenty of different types of fish and other creatures in and amongst the wreckage, which is covered with green weed and tube worms. Good Site to spot Sea Horses... Maximum depth - 18 metres.
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