I had just finished a wonderful dive at Subic Bay, Philippines and was waiting my turn to get back on the dive boat when a diver asked me if I had bought my gear new. I told him I had, about 17 years ago. He replied that my mask was showing its age as was his. We had the same mask, one of the few available 17 /18 years ago that took optical inserts. When we got on-board and started on our surface interval we continued talking of our equipment and experiences with it over the years. The other divers joined in and I will say all were veteran divers. The diver that ask the original question was an Instructor from British Columbia on vacation. Joining the conversation was a technical instructor from the U.K. Two of the divers are pensioners, one also from the U.K., and the other Scotland. They spend about five months here when the weather is cold in their homelands and do at least ten dives a week. The last of our little group was our dive master, Henry. Henry mostly used the resort's equipment. It has been at least 12 years since I first dived with him. The area we are diving is a marine sanctuary and local regulations require a dive master in the water each dive.
At the beginning of WWII, a navy's power was measured in her battleships. The Musuashi and her older sister the Yamato where the secret weapon of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). They were the largest battleships every built and they were built in complete secrecy. When U.S. Naval intelligence did start to hear rumors of the ships, they just dismissed them as propaganda messages, Battleship could not be built that large.
Intelligence was wrong and the Yamato and later the Musuashi emerge from their ship yards as the greatest battleships of all times. Not only were they the largest in size, they had the largest guns. They could fire over the horizon, guided by spotter planes, on targets that could not only not see them but were also beyond their range to return fire.
The Battle of Sibuyan Sea on Oct 24,1944 was the opening skirmish in what became known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. This sea battle is considered not only the turning point of the War in the Pacific but also the end of the era of battleships. The battle saw both Yamato and the Musuashi defeated in battle. The Battle of Leyte Gulf decimated the majority of the Japanese Imperial Navy's surface fleet and saw the Musashi sunk. The Musashi was a symbol of the Japanese Naval power, it had even been visited by the Emperor. The lost of the battleship and the heavy damage to Yamato, who withdrew from the battle, shock the confidence of the IJN. Air power had proven itself over battleships.
The selfie, a self portraiture often taken with a digital camera or a camera of a smart phone, has taken over social media. They have become so common that, when a parody online newspaper did an article that said American Psychological Association has announced that taking too many selfies was a mental illness, millions believed it and mentioned friends suffering from it. In the truth is stranger than fiction category, some studies launched after the hoax article did find that people with certain mental disorders did take more selfies. A Thai Health ministry study showed excessive selfies can lead to depression if not enough people “like” it on social media.
Whether you are a fan of selfies or believe in the mental health issues, the fact is they are everywhere online. You can pick up a digital camera very inexpensively to take basic snapshots, and you seldom see a cellular phone that does not include some style of camera, most have two. If days of film you had a limited number of shots and each one cost you in film cost, processing and printing. Today, it cost the same to take one photograph or a thousand. Most of the time you can see the result as you take the photograph. If you do not like it, shoot another. At the end of the day, just delete the ones you not like and save the rest to your computer or online storage. The introduction of mono-pods, often called selfie sticks, has even helped the growth.
Do Australian Sharks Need a PR Agent? That question is meant in jest, but there may be some truth in it. We generally look at great whites as killing machines, and as the apex species they are. We use shark proof cages and lure them with bait so close that tourist can get a up close look. A well know entertainment website has posted a video of a great white attacking one of those cages and getting part of the way in. They don’t mention that it happened in 2007. Last year, a video of a great white attacking a camera went viral. Still one needs to remember that they were attracted by bait. I am not discounting the danger of a great white, just saying the videos show them at their meanest. Great Whites are clearly a presences to be both feared and respected. If a great white is spotted, I will likely not dive.
While the movie “jaws” has created a generation that feared the great white, there is now some movement to balance that fear with respect. Over 18,000 people on twitter follow the pings of a great white named Katherine. The female was tagged in August 2013, and every time she comes to the surface a tag transits data on what she been doing. A twitter tweak is sent and that tag is added to a data base. Followers can go to the internet and see her travels on a map. When a week past after a February 5 tag, newspapers stared writing articles speculating where she may be. Sharks specialist were interviewed asking is this gap was something to worry about. The program is based on research by OCERCH. OCEARCH is a non-profit organization for research on great white sharks and other large apex predators. The organization is now doing research and tagging in Australia, so maybe one of their great whites will get a following. If the great whites of Australia need a spoke person, then Ocean Ramsey, the shark whisper, is a great choice. A scuba diving instructor and free diver she is very active in shark conservation programs. On her website, is an incredible video of her free diving with a great white. While she breaks the rule about touching marine life, seeing her being pulled by a great white twice her size is amazing.
One of the first after-dive task you learn is your logbook. You use it to chart your progress as a student, record your pressure groups, chart your bottom times, weights,depths, air comsumption and surface intervals, and generally show your dive experience. There is often a place for twenty or thirty words of comments. Often divers get tired of them as they just become bare stats. Little to seperate one dive from the next. Many divers stop using them after a while, other just keep going to prove a milestone. While dive center websites often state divers must present their log books, I have never been asked for one. It has been about ten years since the first electronic log books came out. I remember adding my first hundred dives into the PADI dive logs. While I have always been an earlier adapter, the electronic logs never really suited me, and while I have tried a number of different electronic logs I have stayed with a paper logbook. I will balance my neutrality with the point that my dive computer is old and does not have a computer interface.
Recently I came acoss a dive log that goes beyond the old traditional logbook and adds the power of online mapping and images to a dive entry that is more a journal than just a log. Diviac short for Dive Maniac, has recently released both an android and an apple mobile applications for its cloud base service. Diviac started in 2013 as a cloud based service for divers. The power of cloud base storage allows the company to bring more than just a location to store data to their program. Elements of social interaction and information sharing have been incorporated into their program.
The starting point would be the logs. The logbook is a journal, Not just a record of technical facts. The log entries include all the customary items and is compatible with any computer that is compatible with a computer. There are also the ability to upload images that you have taken on the dive. You can also share your log with your dive buddy and they can validate your entries. As you enter your information, there is also the opportunity to access related information on the cloud. As an example, you may find additional information based on the dive center you are using or the dive site. This information may be from diviac information or information provided by dive centers or previous divers. When you set up your account, you can set your privacy and determine who, if anyone, can view your information. You can set different levels of controls on different items you are sharing.
The program has a different look for each of the three groups of potential users: dive centers, dive instructors and divers. It may be easier explaining some functions by starting with the dive centers. Dive center who register with Diviac can load their basic data. Like trip advisor or Google business listing they provide the basic information. Dive centers are also encouraged to list there dive sites, giving the GPS location so that it can be mapped and basic site information. The centers can provide depth and current information as well as a description. Diviac has a marine life database of over 14,000 listings. Dive centers can create a fish card based on the marine life they frequently encounter using the information in the database. They can also upload a gallery of images taken around the dive center and at the dive sites.
When a diver opens a new log entry, thy have a option of entering the dive center they are diving with. If that dive center has logged the information, the list of dive sites will appear in a drop down box. Selecting a listed dive site will populate the map with the proper information and show the site descriptions. A useful bit of information for pre-dive planning. Also available will be the fish card for the location and photographs from the dive center and previous divers who shared their photographs.
Israel Antiquities Authority announced in early February the find of over 2,000 gold coins, the largest gold find ever in the western Mediterranean. Members of a local dive club diving in the ancient harbor of the Caesarea National Park made the initial discovery. One diver saw what they initially thought was a toy coin for a game. However, when finding more they started to wonder if they were not in fact real. Diving in the National Park is open to the public but under controlled measures to prevent looting or damage to archaeological sites. Observers from the Antiquities Authority or specially trained members of the dive club must lead all dives. These divers knew exactly what they needed to do. The divers collected a few coins, marked the location the coins were, and headed back to shore. They immediately started the reporting procedures. The Israel Antiquities Authority dispatched a team of divers who returned to the site with the club divers. The 2,000 coins recovers are thought to had been uncovered by a recent storm. Plan to explore the site further possibly looking for a ship wreck have been delayed due to poor weather.
Comments in general circulation news media have all sort of views on who these coins belong too. One often expressed notion is the children saying Finder-Keepers, Loser's Weeper's. But the real answer is far from that saying and even for experts it does not always turn out as expected. In this case Israeli law is clear, all antiquities belong to the state and removing them from a site can be a criminal offense.
Big business is now involved as well and it is being accepted as a means to raise funding. Forbes magazine has even done feature articles on how to get crowd funding. In 2013 an estimated $5.1 Billion was crowd funded online. The scuba diving industry and closely related items have also turned to crowd funding some successful, some not.
The small Pacific Ocean country of Palau is taking big steps to protect its environment. Two years ago, it teamed up with its neighbors and created a regional shark sanctuary covering 5 million square kilometers. Earlier this year, the country shocked the world by banning commercial fishing within it 200 mile economic zone. Palau’s waters are home to over 1,000 species of tropical fish, and their new national marine sanctuary will cover approximately 600,000 square kilometers, an area about the size of France. The country's constitution requires leaders to “take positive action to conserve a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment.” They seem to be following that mandate. However, Palau's plan had a major problem. They own only one patrol boat to enforce the marine park regulations. Like so many others, Palau turned to crowd funding and it been reported that they successfully raised $100,000 to purchase drones and other monitoring equipment.
An established woman's watch company, the Abingdon company is a boutique business that has a narrow niche. They design and manufacture fashionable, functional watches for women aviators. For the last two years they have been researching and designing a new watch to expand their market to female scuba divers. They have designed a watch they named Marina and state that it easily stands out as a rare and one-of-a-kind entry in the woman's dive watch market. The companies goal is to keep the final retail price of the watch, which will be available in seven colors, below the $1,000 mark. To meet that target amount for their initial production of 500 watches they need to raise $63,000 by their kickstarter campaign. Backers at different levels can get different incentives. There were ten offers of Getting a free watch for a $450 pledge, they have already been taken. They still have a distance to meet their goal but they are doing well so far.
“We thought the videos would be scientifically interesting for marine biologists — showing the dynamics of each creature’s movements — but they’re also artistically appealing,” said Young.
I followed the link to the Edgertronic camera, which itself was a kickstarter project, the camera has the ability of record 18,000 frames per second. Your standard movie theater film is 30 frames per second.The camera was not designed for underwater photography so a special case was made. Mike Matter who designed and founded the company that builds the camera is also a MIT grad.His goal was to produce an inexpensive camera for research purposes. At less than $6,000, it is about the same as a week’s rental of other cameras. He named the camera after one of his professors and a man often called, among other titles, the Father of High Speed Photography,Harold “Doc” Edgerton.
One item that disturbed me about the report was the section on boating and surface incidents. There were 38 in the UK report plus some more in the international section. Some of these were shore divers having problems leaving the water and 24 incidents involving lost divers on the surface. I have been on a dive boat that has lost divers for considerable time and once been in open water with no dive boat in sight. So these stats bring a chill to me. In an international incident a diver died when the dive boat was unable to recover her back to the boat in rough seas. In a UK case a dive boat had to call for assistance when they lost 6 buddy teams on the surface, when diver aborted dives because of bad conditions. Another case a sail boat spotted two divers adrift, over 2 miles from their dive boat.
Read the Boat
Reading the report, I believe will help all diver keep things in the proper place. A couple of final comments, more advance divers were involved in incidents than any other level of training, and the beginning of the season had a lower percentage of incidents.
Sometimes traveling companions want to take in a little culture, visit a museum or art gallery. Personally, I enjoy going to museums and art galleries while I travel, however, diving comes first if it is available. If you get into a situation where a gallery stop is a concession you need to make, consider suggesting a visit to an exhibit of Jason DeCaires Taylor. Taylor is a world renown sculptor with his work being shown in many places around the world, and many of those places are also diving destinations. His website sums up his work the best. “Jason deCaires Taylor is an internationally acclaimed sculptor who creates underwater living installations, offering viewers mysterious, ephemeral encounters and fleeting glimmers of another world where art develops from the effects of nature on the efforts of man. His site-specific, permanent works are designed to act as artificial reefs, attracting corals, increasing marine biomass and aggregating fish species, while crucially diverting tourists away from fragile natural reefs and thus providing space for natural rejuvenation”.
Moiliniere Bay, Grenada was the start of his underwater massive displays. In 2006, the coral reefs of the bay were heavily damaged by storms. As a part of an effort to restore the reefs a sculpture park was established. Special materials are used to create the art work so that it is long lasting and pose no toxic threats to marine life. Damage but living corals were attached to the new bases after they were placed on the sea floor. Additional pieces have been added over the years many of them by Taylor and other pieces by students and other artistic. There are currently 65 pieces of art at a range of depths from surface level to 25 meters. The site is also good for snorkeling. It is only ten to fifteen minutes away from the local dive operators.
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