Friday, 11 November 2016

Diving in Bermuda

Throwback to working as a dive instructor in Bermuda, where I was interviewed by Keeon Minors for his website

Check it out here

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Underwater Photography Top Tips

To get good underwater photos follow these top tips:

1) When photographing marine life, give it somewhere to swim to in the photo. Framing too close to the head of a turtle, for example, often leaves a lot of negative space behind the subject.

2) Let the turtle come to you. You will never be able to outswim anything underwater and chasing marine life is harassment. Plus, you'll only end up with the back of a turtle's shell in your photo.

3) Pre-focusing your camera can save time. Pick a nice feature- a colourful sponge for example- then focus your camera on that feature. When the turtle swims past it you are ready to shoot with pre-programmed settings.

4) Visualize the shot before you take it. Jumping into the water and haphazardly swinging your camera around snapping shots is great if your goal is to delete a lot of images, but it probably isn't. Stop, think, then act.

5) Once you think you've composed the shot, take it several more times. Backscatter and fish photo-bombing the frame can ruin a good shot. Digital cameras make it easy to take multiple shots.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Nobody does history like the Greeks

There is history like no other hidden in the Ionian Sea. Go diving off the Greek island of Kefalonia to discover 2,000 year old shipwrecks and ancient archaeological artefacts.

With the island being first settled in 1200 BC, the surrounding Ionian waters harbour shipwrecks dating back over 2,000 years. There isn’t much left of the wrecks themselves, but what can be seen is hundreds of ancient artefacts and amphorae.

Off the north-east coast of Kefalonia lies a very small rocky islet with just one church on it. The islet is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey as ‘Asteris Island’ but is more commonly referred to today as Daskalion Islet. Drop down beneath the surface and you’ll discover that this is actually a submerged mountaintop which is surrounded by marine life. Octopuses, moray eels, groupers and nudibranchs can all be encountered here; although it is not the marine life that sets this dive apart.

At 30-35m you will find the remains of a 2,000 year old Roman shipwreck which presumably wrecked on the rocks of Asteris Island. Although most of the vessel has been eroded away (bar a few wooden struts and ballast weights) it has left behind hundreds of amphorae, some of which are still intact and have been undisturbed for thousands of years.

Excellent visibility, which often exceeds 20 metres, makes it possible to see the vast extent of the ship’s cargo scattered across the seabed. Underwater, you get a real sense of the magnitude of the history, imaging what it must have been like thousands of years ago and how the ship must have met its end there. Past becomes present and history comes alive as you see all of the amphorae that the ship once carried.

From a historical point of view, Kefalonia is an extremely interesting island. Archaeological finds date back 40,000 years in time. This is reflected in the diving, which allows an opportunity to discover a type of history unseen by most people. Whilst you may not get the perfectly preserved type of wrecks that more modern history offers, instead you get a story and ancient archaeological artefacts that you’ll struggle to match anywhere else in the world.

Amphorae can be seen at several dive sites around Kefalonia as well as during dives off the neighbouring island of Ithaca.  As Ithaca is one of the more remote and less inhabited islands the marine life and quality of wall dives there is spectacular. Ithaca is also where Homer’s Odyssey was based; a testament to the quality of history that these islands provide.

Kefalonia offers diving steeped in rich history combined with average visibility of 30m, 28°C water temperature and diverse marine life. Contact Aquatic in Agia Efimia, to enquire about all diving possibilities on the island.

Friday, 19 August 2016

"The Shallows"

Yesterday I went to see "The Shallows" because I wanted to see how Hollywood has yet again demonized an endangered species. 

In reality, we pose a far greater danger to sharks than they do to us. For every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately 2 million sharks. This movie is responsible for perpetuating the false belief that sharks should be hunted and not helped. 

The truth is that shark attacks on humans are incredibly rare, but sharks are now critically endangered due to human activities.... A fact far more chilling than any shark-themed horror movie.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Wreck diving in Bermuda

 Since Bermuda was first colonized by the survivors of the Sea Venture in 1609, its fringing reefs have maintained their reputation as notoriously treacherous over the centuries, claiming hundreds of vessels that attempted to navigate Bermuda’s waters. These shipwrecks have shaped the history of the island and what was once a boat captain’s nightmare is now a wreck diver’s dream destination.

Bermuda consists of 21 square miles of land encompassed by 500 square miles of coral reef, which may explain why there are over 350 shipwrecks surrounding the island. Bermuda is hailed as the ‘shipwreck capital of the world’ for the range of wrecks available to divers. These vary in historical significance, aged between 10 to 500 years old, and include an array of types of vessel; from paddle steamers to tug boats. The shipwrecks lie dotted around the perimeter of the island, nearly all of which sunk on shallow reefs (between 30ft-65ft in depth), making them accessible for divers of all abilities and allowing maximum dive time for exploration. Dive operators on the south shore have access to a number of wrecks within a 5-10 minute boat journey out, which all have their own interesting history behind them.

The Mari Celeste was a civil war blockade runner and paddle wheel steamer which sank in 1864 with only one casualty. Today, she sits in 55ft of water and is one of the only vessels of her kind to have both paddle wheels still intact which make an excellent site for photography and a particularly popular wreck with divers. Teddy Tucker is a revered Bermudian legend who discovered, researched and charted most of the shipwrecks in Bermuda as well as recovering treasure and providing information of great historical importance. However, there are estimated to be a number of missing wrecks still waiting to be found and The Roanoke, a contemporary of the Mari Celeste, has attracted recent attention from hopeful treasure hunters. A long-lost American Civil War blockade runner, it was commandeered by the Confederate Navy and burned and sunk off the coast from St. George’s in 1864 and has yet to be discovered. The area of Five Fathom Hole is where divers expect to find the wreck and groups of divers plan annual trips to the site to see what they can uncover. In 2013 one group found 11 anchors and a further 6 anchors, glass bottles and plates in 2014.

Off the north-west coast of Bermuda is the Constellation, a four-masted schooner built in 1918. She wrecked on the reef in 1942 carrying a 2,000 ton cargo en-route from New York to Venezuela. It was in fact this wreck which provided the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s story The Deep, as amongst her cargo the Constellation carried thousands of drug ampuls and many broken glass vials and bottles which can still be found by divers today in only 30ft of water. Within only 50 yards of the Constellation is another wreck, the Montana, which sunk in 1863. She is an English paddle wheel steamer and civil war blockade runner which is often referred to as the Nola as she was given multiple names to elude American spies. She lies in 33ft of water, 8 miles north-west of Dockyard.

Surrounding the wrecks in Bermuda are thriving coral reefs and interesting rock formations which offer arches and swim-throughs for divers to explore. For the more intrepid individuals there are some intriguing cavern systems with some narrow tunnels to discover. However, there are also some wider, more open passages for less experienced divers. Most dive operators on the island offer a wreck and reef 2-tank dive for certified divers every morning during peak season. During the last 30 years wreck diving has become increasingly popular, so much so that more wrecks have been created for divers to experience.

In 1984 the King set the trend for a new kind of shipwreck in Bermuda, one which was intentionally sunk. The King is an old Navy tug boat, built in 1941 and was the first vessel to be scuttled in Bermuda. At 55ft long she lies intact in 62ft of water, a short ride out from East Whale Bay. Purposefully sinking the King for diving proved such a success that it encouraged other vessels such as the Hermes and the Forceful to be scuttled as well. The Forceful is also an old tug boat which was intentionally sunk in 2008, just 50 yards away from the King, creating a site where two wrecks can be explored on one dive. At 75ft long, she has an open hull which provides safe and easy penetration and there are many ways she can be explored:  divers can even stand inside the pilot house. Also in 1984, The Hermes, originally a 175ft U.S. Navy buoy tender built in 1943, was purposefully sunk for diving and now lies in 65ft of water. She has been made safe for wreck penetration diving, and remains intact, upright and very photogenic.

Fuelling the Bermuda Triangle myth; it is not just shipwrecks that can be found in the waters around Bermuda, but also aircraft. In 1962, a U.S. B-29 Bomber plane took off from Bermuda and went down over the sea due to a fuel problem. Fortunately the pilot and crew all successfully bailed out from the plane before she crashed into the water so there were no casualties. Now known as the Airplane wreck she lies in only 33ft of water and many parts of the plane, such as the propeller still remain intact for divers to explore.

However, the wrecks do not exclusively define the diving in Bermuda. There are also beautiful and vibrant coral reefs, full of marine life. One of the popular reef sites, South West Breaker, is where the opening scenes of the adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel The Deep was filmed. This dive site is absolutely thriving with marine life; lobsters, barracudas, octopi, green moray eels, grouper, snapper can all be seen here. Average depths on the other reef sites range between 26-72ft, the visibility between 50-200ft dependant on the conditions and season. As there no strong currents, little dangerous marine life and strict government licensing requirements, Bermuda boasts an exciting opportunity for safe and unique diving.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

My World

I see things that most people do not: A different world underwater.

This is my world.

But my world is being destroyed. The ocean is dying. I have seen first hand the after effects of what we have done, how we are ruining it. Water is what differentiates our planet from any other and facilitates life. No ocean, no life. We call this world planet earth, but seven tenths of the world’s surface is covered by water and over 80% of life on earth lives in the ocean. Life on earth evolved from the sea. We all come from the sea, but we are not all of the sea.

There are those who have never seen these creatures in the wild. They see them in their bank accounts. They profit from the destruction of our oceans. 

They take exactly what they want with no thought or respect for the impact it will have.

But we depend on the oceans. They hold 97% of the planet's water, produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb the most carbon from it. Over 2 billion people rely on the oceans for their primary source of food. Destroying the ocean is threatening everything that lives in it.

Sharks are just one of the species that are in real danger. But ironically, society has taught us that sharks that are dangerous and you grow up believing it. But when you see the very thing you were told to fear underwater: it’s absolutely incredible. If sharks were the evil, deadly man eaters that the media sensationalises them to be, then I would have probably been eaten years ago.

However, I believe that sharks know we are not prey. Millions of people swim every year in waters where sharks hunt all the time. If they wanted to eat us they would, but they don’t.

Swimming with sharks I feel vulnerable, clumsy and small. They have an aura of invincibility, but nothing is as it seems. Sharks are in serious trouble. Every single second of every single day around 3 sharks are killed by us. With 90% of the world's shark populations already wiped out, sharks are being depleted faster than they can reproduce and if an apex predator is taken out of any ecosystem then eventually it is going to collapse. Sharks are vitally important; they have shaped life in the ocean for over 400 million years. Sharks kill 5 people each year. We legally execute 2,400 people a year and kill 100 million sharks. Is it really sharks that we should fear? Don’t fear them. Fear for them.

I believe that future generations are going to look back on us as barbarians, in the same way we now look back on slave traders.We are driving species to extinction and the worst part is that we know what we’re doing and yet we’re still allowing it to happen. I just hope that by the time people finally see sense, it isn’t too late, the damage isn’t irreversible and we aren’t faced with the extinction of species.

People protect what they love, this is what I love and I’m determined to fight for it. I want future generations to grow up to be able to experience the same ocean that I have. But if this carries on, in the next 4 years 30% of known species of sharks and rays could become extinct. Once they’re gone we’ve lost them forever. We will have to carry that on our conscience; it will be the fault of mankind. We have caused these problems, now it is our duty to fix them.

People don’t see what goes on in the oceans so it’s easy for them to ignore. They wanted to save bears, leopards and elephants; mankind was afraid of sharks and creatures of the deep. However I believe that if others had witnessed what I have seen in my lifetime from hundreds of hours underwater, I would not seem outspoken at all.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Are you sitting comfortably? Don't. Life is short

People constantly aspire to have more; to be wealthier, own more possessions and get promotions, which is crazy when you think that there is someone out there who is aspiring to just have what you already do. There are always those better off and worse off than you. Remember that.

I was lucky to have been born in a developed first world country, to have; not just education, food and clean water every day, but also so many opportunities. I'm far from the wealthiest person I know, but I still have so much, I am extremely fortunate. I don't know why I was born into these circumstances and not different ones, but I do know that I definitely won't take it for granted.

I have been that girl; working two jobs, seven days a week just so I can afford to cover my costs. I was literally working to afford working. However, unlike many of my peers, I now refuse to work a job I don't like just to make money, to carry on living a life that I'm unhappy in.

So people should not aspire to materialistic goals. They should strive to improve themselves in some way; making money doesn't equate to making yourself better. Travelling changed my life. My mindset used to be all about money. Although, it wasn't really MY mindset; I was just a product of the society I was raised in. Aspiring to make money and orientating everything around that is what is expected from you as a responsible adult, and is just viewed as being the social norm.

I had myself lined up a successful career based on the hard years spent working to get my degree, but then I boarded a plane to travel the world working as a dive instructor instead. I defied the stereotypical expectations people held of me which was the best decision I ever made.

I quickly came to realise that making money was most certainly not the most important thing in life, not for me anyway. Now I would gladly live out of a suitcase; sacrificing material possessions for life-altering experiences.

So, don't waste your life aspiring for things that can only be measured in materialistic success because, "Life isn't about how many breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away."