DDC Blog

Top 10 Dives: Best Diving in the World

We've been publishing the list of the world's top dives since 2000 and until last year the SS Yongala consistently topped the list. Now though, the Yongala has been forced into third position. She's still my favourite dive site though.

The list is fairly evenly balanced between Northern and Southern hemispheres, the South winning by 6 entries to 4. It is also a 6:4 ratio in Reefs versus Wrecks.

We know it's difficult to choose your favourite dive sites, and we ask you to choose just two! Do you prefer wrecks, sealife, caverns, drift dives, underwater scenary, big stuff - some of each?

Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
Wall of coral where sharks come cruising by and barracuda surround you. You are guaranteed to see big stuff here and lots of it. Occasional strong currents blast over an underwater prairie that's home to white tips, turtles, grouper, jacks, bumphead parrotfish and of course the barracuda that give it its name.


Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia
An upwelling means this splendid wall dive is favoured by pelagics. Expect to see sharks, barracuda, eagle rays, Napoleon wrasse, snappers, jacks...if you can tear your eyes away from the fish the wall hosts thick coral with morays, nudibranchs and mantis shrimps being just a few of the attractions.

The Yongala, Australia
The Yongala is a shipwreck off the coast of Queensland. Full of life you may see manta rays, sea snakes, octopuses, turtles, bull sharks, tiger sharks, clouds of fish and spectacular coral.
The Yongala sank during a cyclone in 1911 killing 122 people, a racehorse called Moonshine and a red Lincolnshire bull. She had no telegraph facilities and so could not be warned of the weather ahead. In 1981 the Yongala was given official protection under the Historic Shipwrecks Act. The ship is 90 km southeast of Townsville, 10 km away form Cape Bowling Green. 109 meters long, the bow points north and the ship lists to starboard.


Thistlegorm, Egyptian Red Sea
A large wreck which needs several dives to do it justice. A British vessel, the Thistlegorm (Blue Thistle) was attacked from the air and sunk in 1941 whilst carrying a cargo of war supplies: rifles, motor bikes, train carriages, trucks. Currents can be strong, and in different directions at the surface and at the wreck.
Motor Bikes on the Thistlegorm
Motorbikes inside the Thistlegorm by Tim Nicholson


Shark and Yolanda Reef, Egyptian Red Sea
Three dives in one: anemone city, shark reef with its spectacular drop off and the wreck of the Yolanda. Currents make this good for drift dives and for pelagic fish. A popular dive starts at Anemone City before drifting to Shark Reef and its drop off. Finish up on the wreck of the Yolanda with its cargo of toilets.


Manta Ray Night Dive, Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Underwater lights placed on the ocean floor attract infinite amounts of plankton, which in turn attract the huge, yet beautiful manta rays of Kona Hawaii. The rays get so close to you, that you often have to move to avoid them accidentally hitting you. An amazingly wonderful and unforgettable time with one of the most beautiful animals in the world.


Great Blue Hole, Belize
Very deep, wide, hole outlined by coral reef and inhabited by sharks. Is there another sight like it? 30 m visibility coming over the bathwater warm reef of vibrant colors, descending into a cool, deep blue hole where the water begins to waver and shimmer as you enter the transition from salt to fresh water at about 15 m. Watching the enormous tuna and other pelagics dive into the hole to clean themselves as you briefly remove your octopus to taste the fresh water. Then descending another 25 m to explore the stalagtites and stalagmites of ancient caverns.


Navy Pier, Western Australia
Extending 300 m from shore, the T-shaped structure is 300 m wide, including two outlying "dolphins" (platforms for larger ships to tie up to). Although a very defined and somewhat compact site, you could spend 5 days diving there and not be bored, particularly at night. On any dive there are lots of nudibranchs and flatworms, eels, woebegone and white tipped sharks, octopuses, lion and scorpion fish, stargazers, and the usual smaller finned friends. Sometimes you'll come across absolutely huge rays dozing in the sand.


President Coolidge, Vanuatu
The SS President Coolidge off Santo, northern Vanuatu, was a WW2 luxury ocean liner. She was commandeered by the US navy and fitted out as a naval ship. Unfortunately, she was sank by one of America's own mines. The engine room and one of the dining rooms are at about 47 m, the promenade deck is around 33 m, the mosaic lined swimming pool about 50 m. It's a fabulous dive. The wreck is fully protected by law and both it and the surrounding seabed has been designated a Marine Reserve.


Richelieu Rock, Thailand
A horse shoe of rocky pinnacles, just breaks the surface at low tide. Famous for whale shark sightings, but also great for big schools of pelagic fish such as jacks, barracuda and batfish. Mantas are also seen, and it is a superb spot for Macro photography with such creatures as ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, frogfish and seahorses. Currents can be strong. Needs several dives to see the whole area."

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Vote Now: People's Choice H.E.R.O.

The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) has launched voting for the People's Choice Award in its H.E.R.O. Awards campaign.

The finalists for the 2017 H.E.R.O. Awards are all exceptional individuals and organizations from around the world who go above and beyond in maritime search and rescue (SAR).

To vote - just visit the Facebook page and 'like' the original 'story' of the finalist chosen.

The finalist whose original 'story' on the IMRF Facebook page has the most 'likes' at 1700hrs UTC on Thursday, November 2, 2017 will be awarded the People's Choice H.E.R.O. Award at the presentation ceremony, which takes place that evening.

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World War II: Ultra — The Misunderstood Allied Secret Weapon

The full contribution of intelligence to the winning of World War II is clear only now, nearly sixty years after that conflict. Over the intervening decades it has been discovered that throughout the war the intelligence services of the Western powers (particularly the British) intercepted, broke, and read significant portions of the German military’s top-secret message traffic. That cryptographic intelligence, disseminated to Allied commanders under the code name Ultra, played a significant role in the effort to defeat the Germans and achieve an Allied victory.

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5 Valuable Tips On How You Can Become an Exceptional Diver

 

An experienced diver can pick up bad habits as easy as a new diver, in fact, bad habits picked up early are hard to change. Even without knowing their background you can pick out the exceptional divers while still out of the water. Often you can also tell which "experienced" divers might be a concern.

Exceptional divers have exceptional skills

Experience in itself does not make a great diver

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Here is Why You Should Never Touch Marine Life

Did you ever touch marine life while diving? Be honest...

We are sensuous creatures, we rely on our senses, most animals do after all. Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. We garner information about our surroundings this way. We are also a tactile species.

Our hands have evolved to manipulate objects; opposing thumbs distinguish us from our nearest living relatives. In short, we touch and change our world almost instinctively, just look at a baby and how it grabs things.

So when someone says “Don’t touch marine life” it does go somewhat against our inbuilt desire to do the opposite. That person be it your Mother, Father or Divemaster or Mother-of-all-Divemasters, who does utter those words, is not however doing it just to hear their own voice.

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Survey Reveals Top 10 Dive Sites in Europe

Europe boasts some world class dive sites, with great visibility and masses of underwater life. In a recent poll of SCUBA Travel readers, these were voted the ten best dive sites in Europe. Disagree? Then cast your vote.

Diving the Booroo
The Zenobia, Cyprus
The pristine wreck of a huge ferry. Lying on its port side, the wreck starts at about 15 m and descends to 42 m. Fabulous dive. Possibly the best shipwreck dive in the world in recreational depths. 20 m plus visibility and some great swim-throughs. Needs several dives to see anything like all of it.

Blue Hole, Gozo
A beautiful sharp drop off into the blue hole with what seems like limitless visibility and literally feels like you are on the very edge of the world. A most extraordinary dive.

Cirkewwa, Malta
Features the wreck of the Rozi MV as well as stunning underwater topography. Visibility is very good and there iss ea life in abundance: barracuda, morays, octopus, cuttlefish and even dolphins.

Booroo, Isle of Man
The Burroo, with its extremely diverse and plentiful marine life offers a truly magnificent dive. In fact, in areas exposed to the fast flowing current, it is something of a challenge to find a single square centimetre of bare bedrock, so abundant is the life here.

Blockship Tabarka, Scapa Flow, Scotland
This shallow 18 m dive is a real beauty. One of the block ships scuttled to prevent submarine attack during WW2. Covered in life, a beautiful place. Worth the trip and the one of surprises of Scapa. anemones

Diamond Rocks, Kilkee, Ireland
Claimed to by on a par with the famous Yongala. It is a cold water dive off Ireland’s west coast. The bay is fairly sheltered and is teaming with life. The terrain is full of rocks and gullies and the water is really clear.

Eddystone Reef, England
12 miles off Plymouth, England. The reef is from 8 to 60 m. Encrusted with jewel anemones and with the remains of ancient wrecks, including a large 17th century anchor. Stunning.

Secca della Columbara, Italy
BarracudaOne of the best dives in the Mediterranean. It features a steep, beautifully-decorated, wall; large shoal of barracuda; grouper; giant amberjacks and a wreck. The wreck is a 74 m ship which was carrying slabs of marble. It sank in 2005 and rests at 20 m in two parts.

Fanore, Ireland
Shore dive in crystal clear Atlantic water with abundant fish.

Chios island, Greece
Small undersea caves and paths between impressive rocks, colourful reefs and vertical walls.

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Does diving with sharks and rays affect their behavior?

Shark and ray tourism generates thousands of millions of dollars globally each year and, says WWF, it is growing substantially. Florida alone generates more than $221 million in revenue per year.

Businesses around the world provide a variety of activities that allow people to get close to sharks and rays, ranging from boat-based spotting to guided snorkelling, cage viewing experiences and scuba diving. If current trends continue, the numbers of shark related tourism could more than double over the next twenty years. Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the sharks?

Research published this month by American scientists finds that scuba divers can repeatedly interact with reef sharks without affecting the behaviour of the shark in the long term. Well-regulated shark diving tourism can be accomplished without undermining conservation goals.

The researchers – Darcy Bradley, Yannis Papastamatiou and Jennifer Caselle – didn’t detect differences in reef shark abundance or behaviour between heavily dived and un-dived locations. There were no differences in shark residency patterns at dived and undived sites in a year with substantial diving activity, and a year without any diving, either.

So, how can divers and dive operators ensure that they dive with sharks responsibly? The WWF, Project Aware and the Manta Trust have produced a Guide to shark and ray tourism.
Guide to Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism

Advice from the Guide to Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism to Dive Operators

Operate a code of conduct to reduce pollution from vessels, discarded waste and plastics, physical and chemical damage such as boat strikes, breaking off coral and damage from sunscreen.
Avoid touching the animals or altering their habitat which could ultimately damage the resources upon which the tourism businesses are based.
Think several times before feeding or “provisioning” sharks. Provisioning may lead to animals ‘begging’ from tourists, and becoming aggressive if they aren’t satisfied.
Proactively support conservation of the habitats and species on which your business depends. Marine protected areas (MPAs), which limit or restrict activities that affect marine life within a defined area, are one widely adopted conservation tool. In Palau, shark diving within the MPA is popular because the white tip and grey reef sharks are predictable, relatively numerous, and spend most of their lives in the one area.
Customers want the best experience they can get, so it’s important staff training goes beyond safety and customer service. Staff should receive a comprehensive induction into the business; and this should be followed by regular training and updates on the latest science, management practices, conservation and regulatory issues.
Use eco-accreditation, such as that from Green Fins,

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GoPro Do’s and Don’ts

Today, divers need no longer be intimidated by the price and size of the GoPro underwater video cameras. There are three types of new videographers: divers who are happy with their footage, divers who are so dismayed at their footage that they leave the GoPro in the closet, and divers who investigate ways to get better footage by reading, asking questions and perhaps even taking a class.

For the last group, there are a few simple things a diver can do to vastly improve the quality of their GoPro footage. Unfortunately, spending more money is one of these things.

Filters

If you look at the GoPro cameras on the dive boats, you will notice that there are often divers who haven’t spent the extra money on a filter. Don’t be one of them! GoPro makes very affordable filters, which are well made, simple and effective, that will improve the quality of your footage by taking out the cyan color typical of underwater images.

There are two basic colors of filters: red (orange) and magenta. The red filter will cut out some of the blue from your footage, and the magenta filter will cut out the green. Choose the appropriate filter for your diving environment.

Camera rig

Be aware that the GoPro "Dive Housing’" uses a different size filter to the GoPro "Standard Housing". The ten-dollar filters that fit inside the GoPro are problematic and should be avoided. They will distort your images and won’t allow you to take the filter off for surface shots. Unless you like a heavy orange or magenta tint in your shots, taking the filter off is a good idea if you are shooting scenes above the surface, such as divers entering the water.

As we know, the GoPro is a tiny camera. One thing many divers don't know, however, is that there is an inverse relationship between the size of an underwater camera rig and its inherent steadiness in the water. The bigger a housing is, the steadier it will be. Shooting with the GoPro by itself, unmounted, makes it extremely difficult to get steady footage. Mounting a GoPro on something will help a diver get a steadier shot. There are a variety of mounts available from GoPro. I personally recommend the Jaws Flexclamp as part of your arsenal.
There are several brands of telescopic poles which also help greatly with the task of holding the GoPro steady. A tray for the camera housing and two lights are the optimal setup. The lights and the arms that hold them will help steady the camera.

Video lights

Buying a video light may be a daunting purchase as lights usually cost more than the GoPro camera itself. Abundant lighting is vital for the GoPro. We see jaw-dropping films of skiers and skydivers and expect the same for our underwater shoots, but the water actually cuts out more light than most of us realize. Our eyes adjust to the darker underwater environment and the GoPro can automatically adjust its iris to a certain extent. This enables it to operate well in shallow depths when the water is clear and the sun is shining.
Beyond these conditions, the GoPro will try to automatically amplify the video signal, giving the footage a grainy look. Of course, the color will diminish with every increment of depth. So, if you are diving on an overcast day without sunlight, take a video light.

Skills

Shooting techniques need to be practiced. A diver with excellent buoyancy is halfway there. I find that cave divers make good videographers as they have been trained to lie still in the water column without moving. Quite a few dive instructors have taken my GoPro course and I usually just have to work on their camera hold, camera movement and framing, with some fin kick modifications to iron out the bumpiness. The steadiest shots come when a diver keeps their limbs stationary. In a wreck, this can be achieved by making contact with a part of the wreck. In general, don’t flap your hands and fins around while shooting.

Etiquette and safety

Good diver behavior and etiquette seems to have gone out the window with the proliferation of the GoPro. New videographers tend to concentrate on the wrong things, or they just have their priorities backwards. Safety should always be the first consideration. If the diver does not know how much gas they have left, their depth or what is happening around them, then they should not even be recording. It only takes a few seconds to check on these things and it could save a piece of coral, soothe an angry buddy or it could even save a life.

The main thing to remember is that the shot is of secondary importance to everything else, and that includes other divers’ enjoyment. Quite often, I find that I would get a better shot of a critter if I wait until everyone has moved off. Finding your own critters gives you first dibs on shooting, which is ideal. However, other divers will like you more if you step aside and let them take a look in a timely manner.
Another behavior that the GoPro seems to encourage is that of divers charging toward marine life in attempts to film them before they swim off. This almost always results in the critters fleeing in the opposite direction; thus, it is always more productive to approach them calmly and slowly.

Settings

Read up on GoPro settings. Don’t just go with the default factory settings. It is best to choose an appropriate resolution and stick to it. Changing your resolution can be confusing when it comes to editing as software compatibility varies; research is required to understand what is going on, as well as the pros and cons for each resolution. The Superview setting causes some distortion at the sides of the frame; this is not a bad thing for many types of shots, but some experimentation will show you the effect that this resolution has on subjects moving in and out of the frame.

Frame rates, on the other hand, can be altered to great effect for different conditions. A lower frame rate can really help in lower light situations. The higher frame rates offered on the GoPro are very useful when it is time to slow down footage in the editing process; twenty-four frames per second can yield good results underwater. The Protune setting is turned off by default. When people come to me with their new GoPro, I will usually turn Protune on for them. Simply put: Protune intensifies the footage and makes it more robust and hence easier for color correction.

Get used to the buttons before going on a dive. Take time to play with the GoPro on dry land. Learning the timing of button-presses will help you avoid the accidental switching of modes during a dive. Try to develop some muscle memory so you are not distracted by the camera functions when underwater.

In short, the GoPro is an amazing little camera. It is capable of shooting incredible footage if handled the right way.

Dr Pete Bucknell is an underwater filmmaker, a cave diver, a music professor and a public speaker. His publication, The Underwater GoPro Book, has introduced divers to methods of getting the most out of their cameras, and following better and safer practices for shooting video while diving. He conducts workshops at dive conventions and events, and instructs in New York City.

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Shark Diving: Tips on Photographing Sharks

There are a few places in the world where one can see sharks quite close naturally (without divers changing the natural environment with food), such as the sardine run in South Africa where huge bait balls attract sharks. Being in the right time and place for large migration events like the hammerheads that pass through the Galapagos is another opportunity, and then there is the super lucky dive where a curious shark comes close. But mostly, sharks do not like us. We are big and loud (all those noisy bubbles), and when they see or hear us, they swim away. Sharks have a sensory organ called a lateral line system that allows them to sense movement and vibration in water. We must sound like a freight train to sharks, and they know we are there long before we ever see them, so we often do not see them.

Enter the shark dive, where bait is used to lure sharks to a specific spot and divers can enjoy the spectacle.* Sometimes, the sharks are actually fed by a trained dive guide, sometimes a bucket of bait is opened at the end of the dive, or sometimes the sharks are not fed at all but a container of bait is used to keep curious sharks nearby. For photographers and videographers, these dives are amazing opportunities to get close to sharks, and here are some tips to get the best photos.

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U-Boats - Separating Cultural Myth from Historical Reality

On land, artifacts from different periods can get mixed up. And, most artifacts recovered from sites on land are mere remnants— broken bits and pieces that were either thrown away intentionally or were left behind accidentally. Archaeological sites found underwater are unique because they were lost (usually) due to a single event, such as a ship sinking or a city flooding. A shipwreck contains everything that was aboard at the time it went down. If people were forced to flee their community because of an impeding flood, they didn’t have time to take much, if anything. In either case, more is left for an archaeologist to find underwater than would be on a typical land site.

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Colombia to salvage legendary shipwreck loaded with treasure

More than 300 years after it sank during an attack in the Caribbean near Cartagena's coast, a Spanish treasure ship has been found, says Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.

Santos announced the discovery of the legendary galleon Friday night, tweeting: "Great news: we found the Galeón San José!"

The value of the San Jose's treasure — believed to include gold, silver, emeralds, and other precious cargo — has been estimated at more than $10 billion, with a range of $4-$17 billion often invoked. Much of the bullion came from mines in what is now Peru.

The discovery was made on Nov. 27, Santos said at a news conference in Cartagena Saturday. He called it "one of the biggest findings and identification of underwater heritage in the history of humanity."

At a formal announcement this morning, Santos said, "I am very pleased, as head of state, to inform you that, without a doubt, we have found, 307 years after its sinking, the galleon San Jose."

The three-decked ship was reportedly 150 feet long, with a beam of 45 feet; it was armed with 64 guns. Colombia says researchers found bronze cannons that are in good condition, along with ceramic and porcelain vases and personal weapons. The researchers say that the specifications of the cannons leave no doubt that the wreck is that of the San Jose.

Santos' office also says that so far, the evidence suggests "the San Jose did not explode, as stated in almost all books" about its sinking. Santos also says that it will take several years to recover items from the wreck.

If it's borne out, the find would write a new chapter into a shipwreck story that has long fascinated people in Colombia and elsewhere — it even figures in Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel Love in the Time of Cholera, as an object of both fantasy and lore.

Announcing the historic find, Santos said that the discovery had been documented for future generations. His office released a roughly edited video Saturday that shows a ship's crew exploring underwater areas with a submersible probe — and sending off a hard drive of data for analysis.

The president said that after a massive undertaking, several shipwrecks had been found on the sea floor — and that by working with the navy and a team of international scientists, Colombia's Institute of Anthropology and History determined that "an archaeological site that corresponds to the... galleon San Jose."

Santos also paid tribute to the 600 people who lost their lives in the sinking of a ship that had been intended to bring treasure back to Europe.

The galleon was meant to help fund the war effort led by France against Britain in the War of Spanish Succession. It also sparked a modern legal battle, after its location was initially reported to be miles off the coast at a depth of more than 800 feet by a salvage company in 1981.

That find was part of a collaboration between Colombia's government and the American company Sea Search Armada — which later filed a lawsuit, after Colombia claimed ownership of the wreck as a heritage site. Today, Colombia says the ship was found in a place "never before referred to by previous studies."

As part of the court filings in the court case, the salvage company published a history of the final battle of the San Jose, the flagship of an armada of 15 ships that was escorted by two French frigates.

"The complaint in this case reads like the marriage between a Patrick O'Brian glorious age-of-sail novel and a John Buchan potboiler of international intrigue," U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote in his 2011 ruling — which went against SSA, due to the statute of limitations.

Here's a portion of the document that describes the heart of the combat between Britain's Commodore Charles Wager (who was later knighted) and the weighted-down — and badly leaking — galleon of Spain's Admiral Jose Fernandez de Santillan, Count of Casa Alegre:

"In a one-on-one battle, Wager's ship, the Expedition, had the San Jose outgunned both in the number and size of their cannons. The first bloody broadside was exchanged between them shortly after sunset. There were casualties on both sides. In the light winds, the ships seemed to be drifting, but locked together, blasting each other with cannonades of chains, scrap iron, and balls of all sizes up to Wager's 32 pounders. The largest cannons on the San Jose were 24 pounders. Between broadsides, each ship raked the other's decks with small swivel cannons and muskets.There was a good deal of blood on the decks of both ships. Sand was quickly poured over the blood to allow sure footing for the crew, as the battle continued without interruption.

"By 7 PM, it was quite dark. Wager's sixth broadside answered Alegre's. Blasts of fire and smoke spurted out of thirty cannons consecutively as they came to bear. The noise was deafening. The smoke, smelling of sulphur and brimstone, was heavy in the air, and punctuated with crimson from fire streaking out of the cannon barrels. With little wind, the smoke was slow to clear; it enveloped and obscured the two ships pounding each other at close range.

"The Expedition's 32 pound cannonballs blasted through the heavy timbers of the San Jose's hull at a distance of about 100 feet. After the last of the Expedition's 30 cannons had fired, there was a brief silence as the gun crews tried to see through the smoke to assess the damage they had done. The silence was broken by a tremendous explosion on the San Jose.From the deck of the Expedition, Wager could feel the sudden heat of the blast, but little of the shock, as the path of least resistance for the explosion inside the San Jose was upward. The gunpowder which had been moved up from its lower hold to escape the leakage had ignited. Its explosion drove the hull of the San Jose down into the sea with a force so great it created a shock wave—a wall of water so high it came in at the Expedition's gun ports. The San Jose's upper decks, which were not built to withstand forces from below, offered little resistance. The decks blew skyward, splintering from the blast and igniting from the heat."

The account concludes that the galleon sank so quickly that it seemed to simply vanish.

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Wreck beer recreated

The brew was reproduced thanks to elaborate research by Finnish and Belgian scientists who teamed up after the wreckage was discovered off Finland's Aaland Islands in 2010.

Divers exploring 40 feet down found only five bottles of beer next to 145 champagne bottles -- confirmed as the world's oldest drinkable bubbly -- in the long-lost wreck. The Government of the autonomous Åland Islands is the owner of the findings and had the beers analyzed at VTT Technical Research Center in Finland.

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DAN Member Profile: Clive Cussler

Master of undersea adventure

You know you're on an airplane bound for a dive destination when you look around the cabin and see all the Clive Cussler books being read. Cussler, author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books, creates characters in his novels who are serious scuba divers, not merely poseurs wearing orange Doxa dive watches. Divers around the world have envied the adventures of his fictional hero, Dirk Pitt, a swashbuckling cross between Jacques Cousteau and James Bond, who discovers shipwrecks and triumphs over world-class villains. 

Like his fictional hero, Cussler is an experienced scuba diver and shipwreck explorer. He took up diving in 1951 as a U.S. Air Force flight engineer stationed in Hawaii. "I read about Jacques Cousteau, so my friend and I sent away to France for a tank and regulator," he says. "It was one of the first scuba rigs ever manufactured. There were no dive training agencies at the time, so we just donned our gear, ran into the water and figured it out on our own." 

After his stint in the Air Force, Cussler remained an active diver and an avid fan of historic shipwrecks. He went on to become a gas station owner, advertising copywriter and, ultimately, a bestselling novelist, so it is no coincidence that Dirk Pitt's adventures usually involve wrecks. "There is a special mystique about shipwrecks … most are still lost, and you can't simply walk up and touch them," he says. 
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Anatomy of a Shipwreck

It all started by chance at Sharkey's bar in Key Largo in 1994. Several of us who had been involved in the 1987 sinking the U.S. Coast Guard cutters Bibb and Duane as artificial reefs started playing "what if." What if we wanted to sink another ship as a dive attraction? What kind of ship should it be? Where would we get it? How would we fund it? 

Bill Harrigan, an underwater photographer and NOAA's first manager for the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, sat in on the meeting. We knew there was a whole fleet of moth-balled U.S. Navy ships up on the James River in Virginia. Since Bill knew his way around Virginia and the Navy, he was the logical volunteer to go scout the fleet. He came home with photos of the 512-foot Spiegel Grove. The quest had officially begun. 

We knew the whole project would revolve around funding, and since it only cost us about $350,000 to clean, tow and sink the two USCG cutters, we assumed we could sink this one for about $300,000. After all, this was only one ship. How expensive could that be? Little did we know…

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Traveling Light

For most people, dive trips are about relaxing and enjoying yourself. While you can bring all your dive gear with you when you travel, this can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful.

Dive equipment can be rather heavy, bulky and inconvenient for airline travel. While innovations in materials and design have led to lighter and more packable gear, some products may not be as comfortable, durable or easy to use as standard gear.

At popular dive destinations around the world, much of the available rental gear is adequate. Although it is best to practice with your equipment and confirm comfort and fit before travel, this isn't always possible and may not be necessary for every piece of dive gear. Just make sure you are capable and comfortable with your equipment before you dive. Some gear, however, you'll definitely want to bring with you from home. Here are some considerations for traveling with various pieces of dive equipment.

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Diving with Dinosaurs

My heels were raw from swimming nearly a mile burdened with a heavy camera, a thick wetsuit and an annoying current. Zig-zagging back and forth along the contours of the deep reef compounded the misery. From time to time my safety diver and I exchanged brief glances and kept kicking. After an hour I had a migraine. I love diving, but this was too much.

The private charter I was on cost me a pretty penny, and it was starting to look like an expensive debacle. I'd recently had quite a few such flops, and my unrestrained optimism was taking a hit. Second thoughts flooded my conscience. What fool hires a boat and crew for a sawfish charter? I didn't know it at the time, but Adam, 20 feet to my right, was even more apprehensive. He had seen five of the critically endangered fish just two days earlier on the same reef and assured me that our chances of finding them again were excellent.

I had given up hope when suddenly, at the end of our underwater marathon, Adam's wild gesticulations jolted me. I followed his gaze, and 60 feet below us rested three massive smalltooth sawfish. They faced the current, with their saws (known as rostrums) slightly elevated. One had a ball of monofilament fishing line, which resembled a dirty little pompom, on the tip of its rostrum.

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Invisible Crystals

Scuba equipment failure or malfunction is a relatively rare factor in diving-related accidents and fatalities. When it does occur, the most common and hazardous malfunctions involve regulators and buoyancy compensator (BC) power inflators.1 Thus, a recent report to DAN® of a regulator failure was not necessarily surprising, but the cause in this particular case turned out to be quite unusual.

Although the diver involved in the incident managed the situation very well, and no one was harmed, an inexperienced or nervous diver might not have been so fortunate. It was particularly strange that although the diver's cylinder was not empty, the gas flow had slowed and then ceased in a way that resembled an out-of-air situation. Closer examination of the equipment led to a puzzling discovery: A large amount of yellow crystallized material was blocking the inside of the braided second-stage regulator hose. The hose had been in use for a few years but showed no external abnormalities or signs of deterioration.

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The Curious Life Beneath Piers and Docks

Photogenic coral reefs and majestic kelp forests deservedly garner much of the dive industry's interest: They are beautiful, and they significantly contribute to marine diversity. Unfortunately, linked habitats such as sand and rubble slopes, seagrass beds, mangroves, rusting shipwrecks, piers and docks are habitually overlooked because they are perceived to lack traditional aesthetic value. As a result, many people do not fully appreciate these habitats' ecological importance.

Piers and docks in particular act as artificial reefs, harboring an abundance of shallow-water fish. While not intentionally designed to attract marine life, these partially underwater structures often serve as oases for both common and extraordinary organisms in locations that may otherwise amount to aquatic deserts. Even though the diversity of life under piers may seem to be relatively sparse when compared with healthy Pacific coral reefs, the sheer variety of animals, plants and microorganisms drawn to these man-made formations can be vast and the associated food web exceedingly complex.

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Wreck Diving with Sand Tigers

While most humans try to avoid sharks, the surge in popularity of shark diving in the past 10 years shows that divers are enthusiastically traveling the world intentionally seeking them out.

North Carolina's Outer Banks are a prime location for diving with sharks. Over the centuries, many ships met their demise there due to war, weather or human error as well as by becoming artificial reefs. These wrecks have morphed into prolific reef communities with abundant marine life from every link in the food chain, and sharks are the dominant predators.

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Diving Coastal British Columbia

British Columbia (BC), located just above the US state of Washington, on the northwestern coast of North America, provides all of this and more, along with countless topside activities like fishing, skiing, hiking and great wildlife viewing. I have listed below a sample of some of these areas and what you might see when exploring them.

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U/W Bike Race

eventsiconJoin us on July 4th for this annual event benefitting the Children's Mile of Hope.

Lionfish Tournament

eventsiconWe need your help to make Carteret County's 5th Annual "If you Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em" Spearfishing Tournament a success! This Tournament is a joint effort between Discovery Diving and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA).

Treasure Hunt

eventsiconFood, prizes, diving, and fun! Proceeds benefit the Mile Hope Children's Cancer Fund and DAN's research in diving safety.

ECARA Event

2013Join us June 3rd, 2017 in support of the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association.  Click here for more info on this great event and how you can help to bring more Wrecks to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.