100 years ago today ‘Miss Unsinkable’ – Violet Constance Jessop – survived the sinking of HMHS Britannic.
On 20 September 2011 Jessop was on board when the Olympic sailed from Southampton. The first Olympic class liner collided with the British warship HMS Hawk. Luckily there were no fatalities and the ship made it back to port without sinking.
Just over six months later Jessop joined the crew of the second Olympic class liner on her maiden voyage: RMS Titanic. The loss of this supposedly ‘unsinkable’ ship during the early hours of 15 April 1912 had a huge impact on the owners of the White Star line and the British maritime industry. Harland and Wolff – the Belfast shipbuilder – quickly adopted a ‘safety-first’ approach, and amended the design of their third Olympic class liner.
Britannic was born at the wrong time because she was launched on 26 February 1914 – five months before the outbreak of WWI. She therefore did not see service as a transatlantic passenger liner. Instead the British Government requisitioned the last Olympian, refitted her and repainted her. Her hull was painted white complete with large red crosses. Britannic’s role was to carry sick and injured troops home from Gallipoli. Violet Jessop joined the crew as a nurse.
On 21st November 1969 Britannic was steaming along the Kea Channel in Greece. At approximately 08.12 a violent explosion rocked the ship. The ship had hit a German mine. Despite Harland and Wolff’s major modifications, Britannic sunk within 57 minutes.
“The white pride of the ocean’s medical world … dipped her head a little, then a little lower and still lower. All the deck machinery fell into the sea like a child’s toys. Then she took a fearful plunge, her stern rearing hundreds of feet into the air until with a final roar, she disappeared into the depths.” Violet Jessop
In September 2006 I joined a HMHS Britannic expedition led by Richie Kohler and John Chatterton. During the expedition I was asked to play the role of Violet Jessop for a re-enactment.
It was already a hot afternoon before I donned woollen stockings, a long dress, a big black woollen coat, long scarf and hat. The ensemble was topped off by a very bulky cork life jacket.
We quickly realised that the life jacket worked. A good thing you would think. However I had to be pulled underneath the surface to re-create the struggle that Jessop had gone through to survive the sinking. The solution. I wore my 20lb shot belt beneath the long dress.
Jumping into Kea Harbour was a blessed relief from the intense Greek sun. But the respite was short lived. Film work tends to be a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ interspersed with some intense action. There was a lot of hanging around in the water, and I began to get cold.
And it was literally hanging around for me. I had to hold onto something solid for surface support as my weight belt proved to be most effective at pulling me under water.
This particular shoot took at least a couple of hours – I was filmed from all angles performing a variety of moves such as my feet kicking in the blue water. I was also shot from topside and underwater being pulled beneath Kea Harbour.
Evan asked that I jump into the water a number of times. He wanted to film me from below the surface as I replicated Jessop leaping out of the lifeboat and into the Aegean Sea.
“To my horror, I saw Britannic’s huge propellers churning and mincing up everything near them – men, boats and everything were just one ghastly whirl.” Violet Jessop
The lifeboat that Violet Jessop was in was being pulled into Britannic’s still rotating propellor. The only way to survive this giant mincing machine was to jump from the lifeboat. In doing so Violet struck her head on the keel and suffered a fractured skull.
All in all it was a great experience working with Evan and Joe on this shoot. When it was complete I climbed out of Kea Harbour with new respect for Violet Jessop. She must have been a remarkable lady.
There have been a number of documentaries and books about HMHS Britannic. The latest book – ‘Mystery of the Last Olympian‘ – has been co-authored by Richie Kohler. Richie has dived this Olympic class liner in 2006, 2009, 2015 and 2016. He answers the century-old question as to why all the engineering solutions built into the mighty Britannic could not save her from sharing the same fate as Titanic.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a great organisation for boys and girls aged 14 to 21 keen to learn and improve their skills in, on and under the water. There are Sea Scout units (called ships) established across the USA on oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes.
The program covers important leadership and life skills, and includes a healthy serving of fun activities, where young people can share interests. One such activity is scuba diving, where the next generation can earn valuable scuba training and certifications.
Kathy Weydig (WDHOF Founder, DAN Board Member), and Keith Christopher (National Director of Sea Scouts & Outdoor Programs with Boy Scouts of America) will share how interacting with these young and adventurous scouts helps encourage a lifetime love of diving and promotes conservation of the seas.
And there is funding available too! Did you know that PADI offers a multilevel scholarship program to introduce Boy Scouts, Venturers, and Sea Scouts to the exciting underwater world?
You can find out more today at 10.00.
TV adventure personality and Brit scuba diver – Monty Halls – received Sport Diver’s 2016 ‘Outstanding Contribution’ at last month’s Sport Diver Awards.
Mark Evans, editor of Sport Diver Magazine, explained how the judging team had made their difficult decision, because there were a number of worthy names on the list.
“Monty is not doing epic diving expeditions. Instead he brings diving to the masses and into our homes. He has probably done more for diving in mainstream television programmes than any one else at present. The programmes may have been seen as a bit ‘cheesy’ by hardened divers, but they were watched and loved by the general public. This award was quite special for Monty Halls. It is the first time his work has been recognised and he got quite emotional when he received it.”
Robert Parrington from Wakatobi made the announcement at the award ceremony.
“This is an award recognising a person or company that has gone above and beyond in the name of diving.
For 2016, the judges chose a truly worthy winner, someone who has arguably done more than anyone to get scuba diving in front of a mainstream audience on our TV screens.
Over the past ten years, he has taken viewers around the world, from exotic destinations such as Indonesia, Japan, South Africa and the Great Barrier Reef, to closer-to-home but no-less-beautiful locations like Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall. In between these televised adventures, he has found time to pen several books, write numerous magazine articles and do the odd spot of motivational speaking.
Along the way he has been upstaged by his faithful dog Reuben (sadly now departed), met and married his lovely wife, and had two wonderful children.
This year, the Outstanding Contribution Award goes to Monty Halls.”
2015: Fourth Element and Ocean Positive
The engaging documentary Of Shark and Man has won another award for the British film maker David Diley.
Of Shark and Man isn’t a movie about diving, it is a film about a diver who has a love affair with sharks.
On Saturday 29th October 2016 Diley won the Best Cinematography award at the International Filmmaker Festival Berlin!
Earlier that evening Diley had posted on Facebook, “its the awards gala in Berlin tonight. I’ve given up on the cinematography award, seeing as I’m up against a multi million dollar budget Subaru commercial featuring Robert Redford which looks spectacular”.
The film has now won six awards at international film festivals on several continents.
Many congratulations David!
In May 1937 the Systematics Association was founded as the “Committee on Systematics in Relation to General Biology”. The idea was to provide a forum to discuss theoretical and practical problems of taxonomy.
Today the Systematics Association furthers all aspects of Systematic biology. This includes organising conferences, training courses and awarding grants to support systematics research.
In the last few days it has been confirmed that Dr Sonia J Rowley, a deep CCR diver and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hawaii has received the prestigious Sir David Attenborough Award for Fieldwork from the Systematics Association and the Linnean Society of London.
Sonia is only the second person to receive this award. It was given for her for her work during the 2015 Pohnpei Expedition. Her report was entitled the “Exploration and Systematics of Twilight Reef Gorgonian Corals at Pakin Atoll, Micronesia.”
Other members of the 2015 diving expedition team were Brian Greene and Dr Richard Pyle.
“I am delighted to have received such a prestigious award, and that we can continue to implement advances in rebreather technology in research that not only reveals new discoveries to science, but also assists local community marine resource conservation [in low-lying atolls being perhaps the most vulnerable to sea level change.”
SAMS – The Scottish Association for Marine Science – has just put out this request. Please pass it on.
We have just completed fieldwork that involved deployment of a large array of moorings with acoustic detectors in and around Bloody Bay in the northwestern Sound of Mull (roughly in the area between Tobermory, Loch Sunart, Kilchoan and Ardmore Point – (see below map).
Last week we went out to recover the moorings and found that two had disappeared.
It consists of a clump of weight (~20 kg chain + anchor), to which are attached a Sonardyne LRT acoustic release unit, a short (<10m) line (standard green 12mm nonsinking rope) with two solid, orange trawl floats at the top.
The line also has attached to it a single C-POD acoustic detector (labelled #1654).
The missing component consists of a ~35m-long line (standard green 12mm nonsinking rope) with a large white float + small solid orange trawl float at one end.
Near the other end, the line has attached to it another C-POD (labelled #1714) as well as a Soundtrap acoustic detector.
Any help in tracing them would be greatly appreciated.
In the UK it is likely that paramedics and the ambulance service will administer Entonox gas as a pain relief.
Entonox – which is also known as ‘gas and air’ or laughing gas – is a 50:50 mix of Oygen and Nitrous Oxide. It is an anaesthetic gas, used for emergency on-site pain relief. However it should never be administered to a scuba / rebreather diver within 24 hours of surfacing.
Why is the administration of Entonox not advised during this 24 hour window? It is possible that that the use of Entonox gas can bring on Decompression Sickness because it increases the divers inert gas load. It could also cause gas in the body (middle ear, sinuses etc) to expand.
Divers by their very nature travel. It is quite possible to have a car accident on the way home after a dive, or at work, play or any other time within 24 hours of diving. It is also quite possible that the diver may not always be conscious or lucid following the accident. Therefore wearing something to alert paramedics that “NO ENTONOX” should be administered is useful. It helps to eliminate all doubt and helps keep the diver safe.
MV Valhalla – the Scapa Flow based liveboard – has kindly donated 400 of these bracelets to EUROTEK. The first 400 delegates that book a EUROTEK.2016 weekend delegate pass (Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th October 2016) will receive one of these in their Blancpain Fourth Element goodie bag.