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So lets check out some of these wrecks we will be visiting during our Red Sea Wreck Diving Liveaboard on M/Y Blue Fin:
SS. Thistlegorm – Shaab Ali: Probably the most famous of the Red Sea wrecks. The 129m English Freighter was bombed by German aviation on 6th October 1941. Today she creates an artificial reef on a sandy bottom at 32m max depth. She is home to an enormous variety of marine life and is especially popular with large schooling fish.
Abu Nuhas: Also known as the ‘Ships Graveyard’, this reef is dangerously positioned close to the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Suez. This reef has claimed more ships than any other in the area. On the north side are four wrecks laying on a sandy seafloor at the bottom of a steep sloping reef layered with table corals. On the south side is a safe anchorage for liveaboards and two ergs, known as Yellow fish reef.
Ghiannus D – Abu Nuhas: In 26m of water and leaning to port with a fully intact stern section and an impressive engine room packed with glass fish. Carnatic – Abu Nuhas: A British P&O steamer which struck the reef in 1869. She lays in 29m and now the whole hull is draped in multicoloured soft corals. The wreck is home to glass fish, octopus, morays, jacks and tuna cruise overhead.
Tile Wreck – Abu Nuhas: There is much discussion over the true identity of this wreck. Sunk in 1978 fully laden with stone floor tiles, she now lies from 4m to 30m.
Lentil Wreck – Abu Nuhas: A cargo vessel which sank in 1978 whilst carrying a heavy load of lentils. She rests at 30m on her starboard side. The bow area is completely destroyed but the main section and propeller areas are good to explore.
Big Brother: A 400 metre long island offering fabulous wreck diving and wall diving. The wreck of the Numidia lies on the northern tip between 10 and 80 metres. The north-west side of the island houses the wreck of the Aida. Every section of this reef is covered with corals and life.
There are more wrecks and dives that we will be diving, for a full list drop us and email and we will send it through. Diving Leisure are taking the whole boat, and all the usual suspects will be on this trip. The deposit of £200 is due now and the trip balance is due 12 weeks before the trip. Are you coming?]]>
A few weeks ago I was sat on a wall in glorious sunshine at Gildenburgh, being debriefed by Richard Somerset a PADI Instructor Examiner at the end of my PADI Instructor Exam.
The IE was the end of what has been a twenty month journey from MSD to Instructor, oddly I didn’t even set out to be an instructor, and this is how it happened. During 2010 I had been chatting to my friend and dive buddy Ken Gibbs about sitting in on some divemaster theory lectures as an intellectual exercise as neither of us really fancied the commitment to a divemaster internship as it was in those days, one Saturday in September 2010 we sat down with Alex Varnals, PADI Course Director, at Diving Leisure to discuss our plan along with a mug of the legendary wallet loosening Diving Leisure tea.
Alex listened and then told us that there was another way called “option two”, none of those pesky 6am starts or late Friday nights in the pool, just workshops with pretend students, this suited us fine as we had no real intention of working in the industry. My divemaster took fifteen months and was completed in December 2011, the 23rd as it happens, “Option two” sort of never happened, after a few weeks of lectures and pool sessions I had become embed in the dive team and was enjoying it. If I was to give any advice to any trainee dive masters, it would be get involved and work with real students you will learn a lot, which will prepare you for the assistant instructor (AI) course, which brings me onto my AI course.
At club night in December 2011 I was coming to the end of the DM and had realised that being an Assistant Instructor (AI) would make me more useful, this is as an AI you can assess skills in the pool under the supervision of an Instructor which greatly speeds up sessions with big groups, certainly more interesting that watching over students while thinking I’m hungry and should have had a bigger meal at the bottom of the dive pit, Chatting to Alex over a beer I discussed my outline plan to buy some new reg’s in the first half of the year and do my AI later in the year, it didn’t work out that way AI pre study began on the last weekend of January and fellow DM’s Peter, Tony & Hesh were already booked on, it would be a shame to not join them, after a couple of more beers I was signed onto the AI and also signed onto the full Instructor development course (IDC), it turns out that beer is just as good at loosening your wallet as diving leisure tea is.
The AI consists of classroom, pool and open water sessions, I didn’t realise how rusty some of my skills demonstrations had got, our first pools session will not go down as one of my finest moments, kit removal with air still in your BCD does not make for a score of five, pool session by pool session we polished our skills.
Then came open water. Blue Lagoon in February is cold, about five degrees of cold, as part of the AI you start evaluating skills and correcting problems, using fellow candidates as problem students, for example your students is doing as mask removal they may well drop it, our problem was that we could do the assigned problem as well as our own problems, this is not good. I have to admit this was a low moment and did think to myself “What am I doing this”, going from being an experienced DM at the top of your game to a AI candidate at the bottom of the learning curve is hard, happily after fifty three minutes in the water we had managed to get our act together and we all passed, yippee I was an Assistant instructor, next step Egypt for a holiday and then onwards to the second part of the IDC the “OWSI”.
The OSWI prepares you for two things one is the Instructor exam weekend (IE) and also real world teaching, the OWSI like the AI consists of pool, classroom and lectures, believe me we did lots of them all, an IDC is a big commitment and you will begin to believe that you are living at the dive centre. In my case the IDC also coincided with the biggest project the company I work for has ever taken on, a hard combination to balance, my head hit the pillow a night with a hard thud on more than a few occasions, going to a fellow dive team’s fortify birthday after a Friday pool session followed by a full day at Capernwray and then partying until five thirty in the morning takes some doing.
Which brings me to the Instructor exam (IE), up to this point in your diving career all of your exams have been conducted by your local dive centre, the IE is different, you are examined by examiners from PADI, and yes our Course Director, Alex Varnals, was there (glad he was, by the way, but you are on your own now, apart from Peter and Gemma, who were there too). The first day of the IE consists of theory and standards examinations, teaching presentations , a pool session where you demonstrate five skills and teach one, with problem students again , the second day consists of a rescue assessment (exercise seven from the rescue course) followed by teaching two skills in open water.
Day one was good; I passed the theory, got a good score on the teaching presentation and had a fantastic pool session getting fives for all the skills and the teaching section (five being the top mark). Second day we were at Gildenburgh for 8am for the briefing, first up was the rescue assessment, passed it. Next up was open water teaching, in my case the hover from Open water dive four and efficient fin kicks from the PPB course, the PPB skill went well and I got a five, spotted the problems and corrected them, when it came to the hover my student had been told to skull , I was too busy watching his fin tips in case they touched the platform and as a result didn’t notice his sculling at first I dropped a couple points for that, still got a 4.6 well above the pass mark, which brings me back to the start, sat on the wall being debriefed by Richard Somerset. The feeling when the examiner shakes your hand and congratulates you on passing your IE is amazing; you will smile for days afterwards.
Would I do it again, YES? It’s hard at times; it’s a roller coaster of emotions. Alex will work you hard and give you some difficult assignments; this is a good thing, when you are given a teaching from the aware coral reef conservation specialty as a teaching presentation at the IE, no problem when you have done a similar one from the same specialty three days before.
If you are thinking of doing your PADI IDC and looking around PADI Course Directors to do it with, Alex really puts the effort in, if you put the commitment in it will be matched by Alex.
What’s next, I have already signed up for five specialties, Sidemount diver and specialty instructor, if you are wondering if how “it’s just like this in diving” fits in I will let Alex tell you on your AI course, I still haven’t bought my new reg’s
As a Tec Skin Diver you’ll learn to plan and make technical skin dives using any of the Technical Skin Diving gases (Air, EAN21 or Trimix 21/0) and while using the standardised technical skin diving rig in either side-mount, front-mount or pocket-mount configuration.
Because we’re so excited about opening up the entirely new types of diving offered as a Tec Skin Diver, we’re making the instructor outline available for free at the link below - if you’re a PADI Divemaster or higher rating, you can qualify to teach this exciting new course by earning the diver level certification and then applying directly to the Training and Quality Management department at your local PADI office. If you’re not a PADI Pro, you can still download the outline and study the theory and skills required to qualify!
What are you waiting for? Become a Tec Skin Diver Specialty Diver today!
Click here to download the PADI Tec Skin Diver Distinctive Specialty instructor outline free of charge!
(Photo by Eric Clua – hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing it!)]]>
So you like wrecks. Yeah, me too. One of the main reasons I am into wrecks these days is because of the volume of marine life you can find on them. I am not a complete metal head though, but to be fair I am not that into marine life on its own either. So what am I into then? I actually think the combination of the two is what really appeals to me. Part of this is the way I can capture what I am seeing on video. This video is one example of a wreck that really does it for me:
The Thistlegorm is in the Red Sea, we are looking at running a liveaboard and this will be on the itinery, are you interested in coming along email us and we will put you on our mailing list or check out the trip list at www.divingleisure.co.uk.
I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife and how organisms interact with each other in the natural world. Symbiosis basically means “living with”, and refers to two organisms of separate species co-existing and living together, sometimes in harmony, and sometimes at great cost. The ocean is home to some of the most intricate examples of symbiosis in the natural world, just a few examples of which I will talk about below.
There are three distinct types of symbiosis:
Parasitism – A Parasitic relationship is one in which one organism in the relationship benefits to the detriment of the other. These symbioses can take many forms, from endoparasites which live inside the host’s body, to exoparasites which live on the surface, and usually result in the parasite taking nutrients either intended for consumption by or directly from the host. Almost all animals are host to multiple parasites at any one time, ourselves included. We all know about leeches and tapeworms, but one of the most interesting cases of parasitic symbiosis in the marine world is that of the tongue-eating louse…
Cymothoa exigua, a.k.a the Tongue-Eating Louse, is a small crustacean roughly the size of your little toe. These parasites enter a fish through the gills, where they breed (the males can turn themselves into females if there are no females present – now that’s talent!). A pregnant female then travels onwards and attaches herself to the base of the fish’s tongue using her large front claws. She feeds here for a while, draining blood from the tongue through the claws, which eventually causes the tongue to atrophy and fall off due to loss of blood. The parasite then uses the same claws to attach herself to the remaining stub, where she takes up residence. The louse continues to live and feed happily on the fish’s blood and mucus for the remainder of her life, while the fish uses the remaining muscles in the tongue stub to utilise the louse’s body as a fully-functional tongue. There are many species of isopod but this is the only one known to replace and subsequently function as a body part in this way.
Commensalism – A commensal relationship is one from which one organism benefits while the other does not lose or gain. Probably the most well-known of these relationships is that between the Barnacle and Whale. Barnacles are frequently seen growing on the fins and bodies of whales, and while having the barnacles growing on them neither helps nor hinders the whale, the barnacles themselves benefit greatly as they are exposed to enormous amounts of the plankton upon which they feed.
Another more comical example is the relationship between Sea Cucumbers and Imperial Shrimp. The shrimp jumps on the back of the sea cucumber and basically hitches a free ride around the sea bed, hopping off for a quick bite to eat when they reach a productive food area, then jumping back on to be transported to the next spot.
One of the more… unusual examples of commensal symbiosis is the relationship between the Pearlfish and the Sea Cucumber (and if you were already feeling sorry for the sea cucumber, it only goes downhill from here!). Pearlfish have a distinctive, eel-like shape, thin and slender, and are usually around 50cm in length. When threatened, the pearlfish quickly wriggles, tail-first, up into the sea cucumbers’ anus, where it can safely hide from predators. It will happily stay up there for some time, every now and again popping its head out for a peek to check whether the coast is clear before exiting the same way.
Mutualism - Probably the most interesting of the symbiotic relationships, mutualism is a relationship from which both species benefit. These relationships will generally span the entirety of the organisms’ lives, and are often essential to the survival of both organisms (this is known as “obligate mutualism”). Check out this video…
Only recently discovered in 1997, the Pompeii Worm resides in tubes near hydrothermal vents on the sea floor. Their feathery heads stick out of the tubes into the surrounding relatively cool 22ºC water, while their tails rest in water up to 80ºC. Very few organisms would be able to survive in such extreme temperatures, but the Pompeii Worms manage it by secreting mucus from tiny glands in their backs to feed and grow bacteria. These bacteria multiply in huge numbers, forming an insulating, fleece-like coating around the worm. The worms could not survive without this insulation and the bacteria could not survive without the nutritious, delicious mucus!
Boxer crabs grab an anemone in each claw and use them like little short-distance tasers, stunning small fish before going in for the kill. It’s an incredibly efficient way of hunting, giving the boxer crabs an edge over the other competing predators, and also offering them some protection from predators themselves. The anemones benefit by constantly being taken to new, ample food sources, instead of having to wait for the food to drift in on the next wave.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about mutual symbiosis without mentioning the Clownfish of Finding Nemo fame! The clownfish coats itself in a layer of slimy mucus (isn’t there a lot of mucus in this post?) which creates a protective layer against an anemone’s poison. This allows the clownfish to live within the anemone, protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging tentacles. In return, the anemone gains nutrients from the clownfish’s droppings, and the clownfish chases away butterflyfish which would otherwise eat the anemone for breakfast.
Mimicry – Hang on, I thought there were only 3? There is one further level of symbiosis, which is less direct than the three main forms listed above. Debateable whether or not this is a “true” symbiosis, mimicry refers to a species’ ability to mimic the colours, patterns or behaviour of another species, either to allow it to get closer to prey or to hide from or scare away predators. I could go on with a few more examples of this, like the Anglerfish, or the Banded Snake Eel, but you’ve read enough already so I’ll just show you this video of a Mimic Octopus in action: Prepare to be amazed…
Next time I will be talking in a bit more detail about one particularly interesting symbiosis, the light-producing Hawaiian Bobtail Squid! Stay tuned…]]>