LEGO is manufacturing a female scientist minifig family. The collection pays homage to real life aerospace engineers and astronauts. My favourite piece however is a touching tribute to deep sea explorer Dr Sylvia Earle.
“I want to get out in the water. I wanted to see fish, real fish, not fish in a laboratory.”
Dr Earle was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She has logged over 7,000 hours underwater and led over 100 expeditions as an scientist, author, lecturer, and explorer.
“No ocean, no life. No blue, no green. No ocean, no us.”
In August Women Divers Hall of Fame Fellow Sylvia Earle will be 80 and she doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Her self imposed mission of protecting the world’s oceans has inspired millions to learn to dive or pursue careers in marine biology.
Wholly fitting therefore that this quiet lady is now a LEGO figure, gently influencing the next generation, through play, to think about what happens in our seas.
A recent post on a diving forum stated “sidemounting is just a fad”.
New(er) divers to the sport could be forgiven for thinking this style of scuba diving is a recent phenomenon.
Sidemounting was actually invented in the 1960s by the Brits. They were exploring sites such as Wookey Hole, Swildons Cave and other underground systems, and would often find ‘the way on’ was blocked by a submerged passageway called a sump. In order to explore further, these sumps needed to be navigated.
British sumps tend to be short, cramped, flooded passageways, therefore buoyancy is not an issue nor is the use of fins. Cavers just needed a means to be able to breath and (sometimes) see where they were pushing. The caver would attach a cylinder and regulator to their body using a robust belt that allowed the cylinder to be worn against the body. This ‘English system’ of cylinder rigging allowed the explorer to crawl through both dry and wet sections of cave and keep on pushing the system.
During the 1970s the ‘English system’ was adopted across the pond by Floridian cave divers. These cave systems tended to be properly flooded with the emphasis on diving to explore the cave. Buoyancy, trim and propulsion became an issue, hence cylinders were moved from the waist / thigh area, up towards the armpit and against the torso. Once again, these divers made their own rigging system. However it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that the first commercial sidemount diving system was manufactured by Dive Rite. This was designed by Lamar Hires, a renowned cave explorer and instructor.
The following article by Michael Menduno is reprinted from the pioneering American journal for technical diving, aquaCORPS, V4, MIX, January-February 1992.
Though double (twinset) tanks and stage bottles are generally a requirement for most technical diving operations, diving sets vary significantly depending on the specific application and diving environment. Here’s a look at some of the more common methods of set rigging as practiced today in the “doubles community.”
Squeezing By – authored by Lamar Hires
Originally developed for the tight low visibility sump diving that is common in Europe, sidemounts allowed spelunkers to more easily transport single cylinders through a dry cave to the dive site. In North Florida, the use of sidemount techniques has allowed exploration into small silty areas that were once thought impassable and has opened up entire new cave systems that were simply inaccessible with back mounted doubles.
Sidemounts reduce the strain of carrying heavy doubles up steep inclines, lowering cylinders down into a hole, and making those long walks through the woods to the dive site. Cave systems known to be silty can now be penetrated without heavy silting. Sidemount configuration means wearing the cylinders on the hips instead of the back. The cylinders are fastened in the middle with a snap to a harness at the waist. The necks are clipped off at the armpit using bungee material (a bicycle inner tube is preferred) so that the cylinders are forced to lay parallel to the diver’s body. Adjustments are usually needed at first to insure a snug comfortable fit.
When diving with sidemounts, gas supplies must be balanced for adequate reserves throughout the dive. The regulator and SPG hoses no longer lay across the back and instead are clipped across the chest area. The management of these is critical for proper monitoring of gas supplies and switching regulators during the dive. Back-up and emergency equipment must be streamlined and tucked away to achieve the desired profile—no thicker than two cylinders that lay along the diver’s hips.
Clearly, sidemount diving is not for everyone because of the potential hazards that exist; low visibility, line traps and squeezes that seem to get smaller and smaller are only a few of the obstacles to be overcome. A diver must be totally comfortable in all these conditions before considering sidemount as an alternative. Suitably equipped, divers who are, can usually find a way to squeeze by.
China Cult – authored by Billy Deans
Previously isolated from the underground and fellow wreckers to the south, the east coast wreck diving community evolved its own style of set rigging suitable for the cold dark waters of the north and the available technology. Still seen on the boats that work the Doria, Texas Tower, the Virginia and the San Diego, a typical east coast wreck diving set consists of a pair of double 80s or 95s (10.5 or 11.5 liter) or secured to a large capacity BCD jacket with a manifold system, or commonly two independent regulators, which are rotated throughout the dive.
A 40cf (5.5 liter) pony mounted between the doubles serves as a bailout, along with a handmade upreel (hemp rope wrapped around a forearm-length aluminum spindle). For the most part, stage bottles, typically air, are something divers leave tied off to the anchor line at 10ft (3m), and oxygen for decompression is still used sparingly, if at all.
Now with the advent of larger tanks, harness and manifold systems, improved decompression methods and mix technology, all that is changing. Today, a well-outfitted high tech wreck diver carries a pair of cold-filled Genesis 120s (14.5 liter) with DIN crossover manifold and valve protectors, shoulder mounted stage bottles, or ‘wing tanks’, containing decompression gas (EAN and or oxygen)—do you really want to bet your tissues on that cylinder clipped off to the anchor line? Harness, bag and back plate system, argon inflation system and of course an upreel.
The result? Wreck divers are staying down longer, getting more of that first class china, and most importantly are doing it safer. After all, when you come right down to it, the most valuable artifact that you’ll ever bring home is yourself.
To read the full article, click here
Can you spare 5 minutes to help Maarten Debrauwer with his PhD research?
Maarten is doing his PhD on cryptobenthic fauna – #frogfishes,#ghostpipefishes etc – in Southeast Asia. As part of his research he has a survey about these little critters. The survey investigates which species are most popular with #divers who are interested in muck diving.
It is part of a larger scientific research-project that investigates the ecology and threats of cryptic marine fauna in Southeast Asia. To better protect these species, it is crucial to know the key characteristics of muck dive tourism.
Muck diving is a distinct type of diving that mostly occurs over sand or mud areas, with little or no coral reef. The focus of muck diving is on finding small critters that are rarely encountered on coral reefs.
The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. Participating in this survey is entirely voluntary and your identity cannot be connected in any way to your survey answers, and you can opt out at any time.
It would seem that Dive Rite has the answer with the launch of their next generation backplate, the XT Lite.
Spotted at New York’s 2015 Beneath The Sea Dive Show, this eye catching backplate is manufactured from marine grade 316 stainless steel. (316 is the preferred steel for use in marine environments because it has a greater resistance to corrosion, hence surgical steel is also made from 316 grade stainless).
Dive Rite has a simple solution. They have lost the excess weight, whilst ensuring the strength of the backplate is not compromised, by laser cutting a series of cut-outs from the body of the plate. The plate is then hand finished to ensure that there are no rough or jagged edges.
It is good to see that the Dive Rite has considered that divers have changing needs for their kit. The XT Lite backplate has two sets of 2 inch slots cut along the centre spine so that the plate can be dived with a single cylinder without the need of a single tank adapter. Plus a series of 3/8 inch holes and 1 inch slots have also been cut along the outer edge of the plate, thus giving the diver a plethora of choice when it comes to mounting lights, lift bags, pony bottles and other paraphernalia. And the ever useful crotch strap has not been forgotten either. There is a slot cut for that too.
As you would expect, Dive Rite have complied with the standard twinset / doubles bolt setup measurement of 11 inches between the two holes. But that is no surprise. Dive Rite introduced this measurement back in 1984 when it started manufacturing backplates. This measurement was then adopted by the tech community.
Hurrah! A fresh solution that stops that frustrating moment of ‘just where do I put all my stuff’?
Ardent drysuited divers will probably all agree that there are many joys of diving in a wetsuit. A wetsuit is quick and easy to don and you are most likely to be diving in warm(er) waters. What a treat! Kit up goes really smoothly until you hit that horrible moment of ‘bother, I miss my drysuit cargo pockets. Just where do I put all my stuff? Spare mask, wetnotes, reel, line markers or delayed surface marker buoy and cuddly toy’?
There are two solutions. Get cargo pockets added to your suit or go for the quicker, easier option – wear a pair of diving shorts. Currently there is a choice of diving shorts on the market. Most of them keep the shorts secure with a drawstring at the waist. This works, but it is not an optimal solution.
I was therefore curious to see at the 2014 Las Vegas DEMA Show that Apeks have looked at this product with fresh thinking and walked a different path. Their solution for securing these Tech shorts? An adjustable waistband augmented by an adjustable belt.
How does this work? Think nappies! Simply pull on the shorts and get them comfortable. Then grab the left hand back flap and wrap it around your left hand hip and over your left stomach area. Next you grab the front left hand flap and velcro it on top before repeating the same process over your right hand hip. Finally you clip the belt home and your shorts are nicely secure. The waist band is wide and there is velcro aplenty on the flaps so that you benefit from great adjustability and a snug fit.
The two large cargo pockets have been designed to reduce flap whilst providing flexibility of use to the diver. Each pocket has an ‘expansion system’ fitted to the outside of the pocket. Basically velco tabs that allow you to velcro down or release the pocket, so that you can use the pocket just for wetnotes, or truly stuff it to full capacity. Time to explore inside a pocket and you will be pleased to know that you can clip off and secure your pocket contents to the stainless steel integrated D-Rings. The pocket should be quick to drain courtesy of 4 large grommets and the pocket itself is secured and closed by a large velcro pocket flap that keeps everything in place.
In summary, Apeks have designed and manufactured quite a sophisticated pair of unisex diving shorts. With a choice of 5 sizes – small through to extra large – I can see they will quickly become the dive short of choice for many divers. And for drysuit divers who don’t have cargo pockets, this might be an economical solution to your storage issues.
On Friday 29th May 2015 at 18.30, a memorial service was held around the restored anchor from ‘Mona’s Queen’, at Kallow Point, Port St Mary on the Isle of Man. The service was held 75 years to the day that three Isle of Man Steam Packet Ships were lost within the space of 24 hours at Dunkirk. ‘Mona’s Queen’ was mined, ‘Fenella’ was struck by air attack whilst ‘King Orry’ sustained heavy damage following several air attacks.
The ‘Mona’s Queen’ anchor, which was raised in 2010 thanks to the combined efforts of Isle of Man, UK and French naval and government representatives, is a permanent memorial to all the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company crew who took part in World War Two. Eight Steam Packet Company ships took part in Operation Dynamo – the historic rescue of the British Expeditionary Force – and brought 24,669 of them to safety. Of a total of 338,226 troops rescued, one in fourteen was brought out on a Steam Packet Company vessel.
During the service Pam Evans, the daughter of a Dunkirk serviceman, read her poem entitled ‘Home Again’.
The Ben-my-Chree came in as usual one early misty morn,
But this day was rather special for history was born.
She’d carried a priceless cargo across the sea that night
And a guard of honour greeted her in the early morning light.
She was bringing back the anchor from the valiant ‘Mona’s Queen’,
Lost at Dunkirk in 1940 in that hellish dreadful scene.
In the 70th anniversary year of Dunkirk’s historic days,
The ‘Mona’s Queen’s’ great anchor at last they hoped to raise.
Nearly all our boats were commandeered in Operation Dynamo,
Along with all their crews of course, they had no choice but go.
Yet they helped rescue British soldiers from the enemy’s desperate hand
And played their part in no small way in the saving of our land.
Almost 25,000 men its said were saved by our Manx boats alone
With the bravery of their seamen, who helped get them safely home.
My Dad he was a soldier just one of thousands on that shore,
Hoping desperately for rescue which looked less likely more and more.
Along with all those others he waded out up to his neck,
Till pulled aboard a destroyer he he landed on its deck.
He never said a thing about the awful sights he must have seen.
But I always will remember these things he said he’d seen.
As a Scouser born and bred of course the Isle of Man boats he knew.
He recognised them right away, King Orry, Mona’s Queen, Fenella too.
And he saw the Mona’s Queen herself come under fierce attack,
Enemy plans were bombing her, no way could she fight them back.
She sank it seems quite quickly, half a mile away from shore,
Killing twenty four of her civilian crew and who knows how many more.
Her sister ship Fenella, suffered likewise and was caught.
Dad witnessed her sinking – I really can’t hep but wonder just what he must have thought.
Happily he got home safe or I would not be here.
And its solely thanks to him of course I was brought up to revere,
The memory of all those service men and civilians who were not able to return,
But gave their lives bringing triumph from disaster and the enemy overturn.
So now we have the anchor back. A symbol of the war,
And the loss sustained by millions which time cannot restore.
Tell your children, tell your grandchildren, if you remember don’t forget,
How much was owed by so many to our Manx boats and how very great the debt.
And let us all give thanks that now the day has come along
When in some small way the ‘Mona’s Queen’s’ – back home – where she belongs.
If you are ever diving the Isle of Man, it is worth taking a walk up to see this memorial. It is approximately 10 – 15 minutes walk from Discover Diving in Port St Mary.