Thailand – Australia – United Kingdom

Archive for September, 2008

Brit diver’s world record four-and-a-half minute breath holding attempt

Sara Butler (pic:Adam Butler)


She’s known as Dolphin Girl – the diver who can hold her breath for an incredible four-and-a-half minutes.

She already has the world record for diving 90 metres deep. And next week Londoner Sara Campbell aims to go even deeper with her amazing monofin.

But that’s just the start of it… this summer she will become the first woman ever to “freedive” one of the world’s most awe-inspiring and challenging plunges – The Arch in Dahab, Egypt.

It is a huge archway, or tunnel, connecting the Blue Hole – a massive abyss – with the open ocean. To complete the dive Sara, 35, must first swim down 55 metres to the tunnel entrance.

After 10 metres the human body is no longer buoyant so she will use a “divebomb” technique to plummet further into the deep. She will then aim to take the shortest 35 metre route through the tunnel and then up to the surface threeand- a-half minutes later, swimming a total of 145m (475ft) – almost the height of Blackpool Tower.

Sara, who is just 4ft 11in and weighs only seven-and-a-half stone, will have to use every ounce of her strength – assisted by her £300 custom-made monofin – to ensure she doesn’t sink.

“Imagine holding your breath for three-and-a-half minutes,” she said. “Now imagine doing it while physically working your body at its limits, at depth.

Remaining calm is the only thing that will ensure I survive.”

The Arch has claimed the lives of countless scuba divers, and has been conquered by just a handful of male freedivers before.

Medical expert Dr Marios Anastasiadis last night explained the risks Sara will take. “Most normal people struggle to hold their breath for much longer than a minute, without exertion,” he said. “Any longer and they risk unconsciousness through oxygen starvation.

“Drowning is a real risk for Sara. At 50 metres her lungs will shrink. She will feel pressure on her whole body.

It’s not just lack of oxygen, it’s also the fact the water is cold.

“She will start to feel the effects of dizziness, lack of concentration and her vision may blur. If she loses consciousness she will die.”

Sara, who is a three-time world record holder in freediving, said: “It will be a huge challenge for me. It is very dangerous.”

Incredibly, she only started competitive freediving nine months before setting her records last October.

Sara added: “When I’m at 90 metres without oxygen I feel utterly at home. My body and the water do the dive for me – I just relax and surrender to this magical space. Freediving is a totally natural expression of the human potential under water. It is a tangible link to our past as sea mammals.”

Sara’s £300 custommade monofin is made of carbon fibre with a rubber insert for her feet. It weighs around six kilos and is one metre wide.

She holds the world record for diving 90 metres without air tanks – as deep as Big Ben is high. Next week she plans to go even deeper… in training for The Arch.

Most people struggle to hold their breath for more than 60 seconds. Sara can hold hers for four-and-a-half minutes.

‘I’ll have to stay calm or I will die’


Shark Week calls for change

European Shark Week, for which the public are asked to run all manner of activities in support of shark conservation, takes place from 11-19 October.  
In the UK, the event is being promoted by The Shark Trust, which describes it as “a unique opportunity for people across Europe to demonstrate their support for shark conservation in a way that can really effect change”.

Materials including banners, badges, posters, leaflets and stickers are available from the Trust, for those willing to promote the campaign to change European law for more effective shark conservation measures in EU waters.

A key element is the collection of campaign petition signatures. “During European Shark Week 2007, aquariums, dive clubs and other organisations helped host more than 100 events and collected more than 20,000 signatures,” says The Shark Trust. “This year is truly pivotal for European shark policy.”

To find out more about European Shark Week, obtain publicity materials or sign the petition online, go to

Participants who get hold of the event’s big-fin posters are asked also to contribute digital photographs of people with them, for a campaigning online picture wall at, website of the European shark conservation umbrella group of which The Shark Trust is a member.
Source: Divenet

Harry diving with Royal Navy… while prosecutors prepare to rule on rare bird shooting

Prince Harry found himself in even deeper water yesterday following his brush with police investigating the illegal shooting of two rare birds at Sandringham.

But this time he clearly had plenty to smile about as he tried his hand at underwater engineering during a visit to the Royal Navy’s fleet diving squadron in Portsmouth.

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Prince HarryHarry smiles after being kitted out during the visit

Harry, 23, who completed challenging dives in Cyprus and Plymouth during his Sandhurst training, was kitted out with a lightweight dry suit, rubber fins and face mask – with his surname printed around the edge.

After watching a mock rescue of a casualty at the bottom of the 16ft deep training tank he took the plunge himself.

A water temperature of 15C (59F) did little to curb his enthusiasm as the prince clearly relished being back on royal duty following the furore over the killing of two hen harriers on the Queen’s Norfolk estate.

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Prince Harry divingScuba kit: The Prince gets some help with his diving gear

A spokesman for Harry has flatly denied he was involved in the shooting last month.

Given the sensitivities of the affair, the prince could have been forgiven for picking up a few tips from the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit he visited yesterday before his dive.

Dressed in his Blues and Royals combats, Harry was shown how to explode limpet mines, letter bombs and even a Second World War anti-submarine device found on the seabed.

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Harry divingAction man: Harry helps with some underwater engineering

Cornet Wales, as he is known in the Army, sparked a laugh when he took control of a bomb disposal vehicle and swung the extending arm towards reporters.

He then used the remote-controlled device to blow open the boot of a car in a mock bomb scare 50 yards away.

Chief Petty Officer Diver Dan Archer said: “He had a good sense of humour. You could see exactly what he was doing moving that bomb disposal vehicle around.”

Last night attention was turning back to the Sandringham incident with the Crown Prosecution Service confirming it was expecting to receive the police file on the case today or tomorrow.

That will determine if Harry or other members of the shooting party should be charged.

The hen harriers were killed last week, according to three witnesses. But no one saw who fired the shots and no carcasses have been found.

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Prince HarryHelping hand: Harry appears relaxed underwater

All that has been confirmed is that the prince, a keen country sportsman who enjoys pheasant shoots, was in the area at the time and has been spoken to by police. In addition, police are understood to have interviewed two other people who were with him.

One is said to be a member of the Van Cutsem family, who have close ties with the Royal Family.

The third is believed to be a game keeper or royal protection officer.

The hen harrier: Anyone guilty of killing one of the birds could be jailed for up to six months

A senior royal source said yesterday: “The police are seriously examining the possibility that Harry’s party were responsible for the shooting.

“That’s not to say that they did it but detectives cannot find evidence of anyone else being in the area at the time.”

Birds of prey are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. Anyone convicted of killing one faces a six-month jail sentence and £5,000 fine.

Blackbeard salvage under way

A three-week operation is under way to raise items from a wreck judged to be Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.

The 1718 wreck was found in 1996, in shallow water near Fishtown in North Carolina. Over the past 11 years, numerous surveys and recoveries have taken place at the site.

This time, the QAR Shipwreck Project team are excavating and recovering items from the wreck’s forward hold and midships areas. Among other things, an 8ft, 1-ton cannon is being raised to join eleven other cannon already ashore.

Dives began on 15 September and are due to continue until 7 November. Recovered artefacts are being taken to the project’s lab at East Carolina University for treatment and storage.
Source: Divenet

Amy Winehouse: PADI Scuba Drunk Rock Diver?

Amy Winehouse has taken up scuba diving and is enjoying her new hobby with Bryan Adams, according to reports. The embattled diva looks to have escaped the full glare of the media with her new aquatic hobby, holidaying off the island of Mustique.

She is said to be staying as the Canadian rocker’s holiday home and has found “the beauty of nature” a great distraction to her very public problems.

Speaking to a UK tabloid, Amy explained: “I’ve learned to appreciate simple things, like the beauty of nature. It’s taught me to face my fears.

“It’s a different world down there. I can look at things in a new way. I’ve come to the realization that life is short, so I want to make sure I live every minute of it.”

Winehouse’s husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, is currently on remand in Pentonville Prison, awaiting trial on allegations which include perverting the course of justice.

New Sonardyne system protects superyachts from divers

Harle A high performance diver detection sonar is being presented by Sonardyne International Ltd at the Monaco Yacht Show (Telemar Yachting Stand QS41). The new Sentinel system has been developed to close the envelope of security around superyachts which, until now, have always been vulnerable to intruders approaching from underwater. With the small, lightweight Sentinel sonar lowered into the water from a boom or through a dedicated hull opening, a yacht’s crew will be alerted to any divers or swimmers approaching the vessel from any direction. The long detection range capabilities of Sentinel mean that should a threat be identified, the crew has sufficient time to assess the situation and react accordingly.

Sentinel has been developed specifically for ease of use by a yacht’s crew and is set to become a vital component of a vessel’s security system. Within minutes of a yacht anchoring or berthing, the Sentinel sonar head can be deployed in the water and activated; ensuring complete peace of mind for all on-board.

The Sentinel system that is now available for installation aboard superyachts is based on the same technology chosen by the US Navy for its Integrated Swimmer Defence system. It combines state-of-the-art sonar with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based processing units and automated detection and classification software that has been proved in extensive evaluations.

Commenting on the changes that Sentinel will bring, Ross Gooding, business development manager for maritme security at Sonardyne said; “It is extraordinary that vessels and shore installations have remained vulnerable to underwater attack for so long. Yachts and ports can be equipped with radar, night vision, armed guards, infra-red CCTV, electric fences and every conceivable device yet they remain fully accessible to any intruder with access to diving equipment. Sentinel now closes that gaping hole in a yacht’s security and offers safety and reassurance to all yacht owners and their guests. It is the first system to combine small size with exceptional performance that comes from having been designed specifically for the task of creating an underwater protective screen around vessels such as superyachts.”

During proving trials, Sentinel has shown a 100 per cent success rate in detecting targets at long ranges and in differentiating between divers, surface swimmers and non-threats such as pleasure craft, large fish and cetaceans. This high level of performance is attributed to the fact that unlike other diver detection systems, Sentinel is a not a hybrid of an existing sonar. It has been specifically designed to meet the challenge of tracking underwater targets reliably and cost-effectively.

Compact and easily deployed, the Sentinel sonar head is only 30cm in diameter, 40cm high and weighs just 29 kg (65lb). The 360 deg sonar can operate as a stand-alone portable system or can enable multiple heads to be networked together so that very wide areas, such as ports and water-front locations can be monitored. The new system features advanced software for target detection, classification and tracking that removes the need for continuous manual operation. Threat warnings received by the system’s control facility can be automatically forwarded by text message, internet or pre-recorded voice message to key personnel anywhere in the world.

Sonardyne International Ltd is recognised as a world leader in the design and manufacture of subsea acoustic navigation, communication and telemetry systems for use by the military, offshore oil and gas industries and the international scientific community. The company has headquarters in Yateley, England, with additional facilities in the Far East, USA and South America.

Pictured: Female British diver clings to life in a shark-filled sea during amazing three-day ordeal

As she clings desperately to a log in pitch darkness, terror in her eyes, British diver Charlotte Allin fears she will not make it through the night.

This moment was captured on camera by her boyfriend James Manning as their five-strong party drifted helplessly in shark-infested waters after being separated from their boat.

‘There were times when I thought we would die,’ admitted 25-year-old Charlotte yesterday as she described her ordeal to the Daily Mail.

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Enlarge Charlotte

Clinging to life: Charlotte pictured by her boyfriend James Manning

‘But I quickly brushed those thoughts from my mind. We had to keep our spirits up. I knew that if we lost hope of being found, that would be it. Jim was a tower of strength, both in the water and back on land. He assured us all that we would get out of this predicament.’

Charlotte and 30-year-old James, a former Royal Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, were recovering yesterday from cuts, bruises and the effects of dehydration after a three-day ordeal missing in the dangerous waters off Indonesia.

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Survivors: Charlotte Allin, Jim Manning and instructor Kathleen Mitchinson

Enlarge Divers

The five divers are taken to safety


Charlotte, left, and her four friends receive medical treatment

But they were able to piece together a dramatic hour-by-hour diary of the nightmare which saw them carried away by the current and eventually stranded on an island with a deadly Komodo dragon – the world’s biggest lizard.

After taking diving courses in Thailand the couple, both from Devon, had worked their way through Indonesia before they reached Flores, the mysterious island where scientists claim to have found the sub-human they have named the Hobbit.

It is where pygmy elephants once roamed and where, on a tiny island to the west, the Komodo dragon still roams.


Charlotte Allin, left, Frenchman Lauren Pinel and Swede Helena Naradainen on the beach On Rinja island after spending 9 hours drifting in the sea off Flores, Indonesia


Divers aboard the Reefseekers boat shortly before they went missing


James Manning and his girlfriend Charlotte Allin smile on arrival in Bali’s Airport, Kuta, Indonesia, today. All five Europeans who went missing while scuba diving in treacherous waters were found alive Saturday on a remote island

The couple made contact with another Briton, Kath Mitchinson, who runs the Diveseekers Company on Flores.

They left for what was to be a three-day adventure among the spectacular coral reefs. Their first two days of diving left them awestruck by the underwater beauty. Then, last Thursday morning the couple set out with Miss Mitchinson, a French diver named Laurent Pinel and a Swedish woman, Helena Neradairen.

‘We had a wooden dive boat and spent the early part of the day on a walking trip before starting that day’s dive,’ says Charlotte, whose family live in Bideford. ‘We explored an underwater site called Hanging Garden, then at 3.05pm we went down a second time to explore an area called Manta Corner.’ James took pictures with his waterproof camera.


Charlotte Allin and Kathleen Mitchinson on the beach on Rinja Isand

Thursday, 4.10pm: The party surface after 65 minutes, as arranged, 30 yards from the boat but the crew have their backs to the divers and do not see them. ‘We blow whistles but still the crew don’t respond, so we put up an inflatable 4fthigh orange marker buoy, again to no avail,’ says Charlotte.

‘We have no cause for concern at that stage. We are sure they will see us and pick us up. But it doesn’t happen – the five of us find ourselves being swept further from the boat.

‘At 5.15pm we can still see the boat in the distance, but it is impossible for the crew to see us. We decide to swim for land, but the current takes us around the first island we head for.’


Alive: Charlotte Allin

6pm: Darkness begins to fall. ‘We all agree as we swim together, kept afloat with our dive vests, that we have to make land,’ says Charlotte. ‘But the currents have a different idea and push us around each island we approach.’

7pm: ‘We see lights of fishing boats but our shouts and whistles fail to attract attention. We are all becoming weak. Then a new problem arises – the cold. While we had been warm as we dived, being exposed from the chest up, with water splashing down inside of our wetsuits, we begin to feel a chill running through our bodies.

‘Weakness is going to be our main problem – will we have the strength to make it through the night? I am wondering that myself and I suspect the others are thinking the same.’

7.30pm: ‘We have an incredible stroke of luck. A dead tree trunk, about 6ft long, drifts by. We grab it and use it as a buoy to cling on to.

‘What is frightening me is the night. I don’t want to be out there in the dark, but we all know no one will be able to find us and we just have to hang on to that log. I hook my arm through the back of Jim’s wetsuit gear and my other arm is around the log.’

8pm: ‘The wind stirs up waves that crash over us. Helena, the Swedish girl, is badly seasick and getting weak and we have to make sure she hangs on to the log. But nobody is crying or grumbling – we just try to keep talking about anything that comes into our minds to keep everyone awake.’

10.45pm: ‘The sea becomes calm as the wind drops. By now we have discarded our weight belts, which were dragging us down. But we are suffering from cramp from constantly kicking our flippers, trying to force the log to take us to land.’

Midnight: ‘Jim and Kath decide to break away from the log and swim to land, believing they can see the outline of a white beach in the darkness. They are almost dashed against rocks by the surf and Kath has to return to the log. But Jim manages to make it to the beach – which turns out to be nothing but light-coloured large boulders and rocks. He believes the group can get in and eventually manages to help us all in to the beach, particularly Helena who is now pretty weak.’


Friday, 12.52am: ‘We’re all assembled on the beach, hugging one another, collapsing on to our knees,’ says Charlotte. ‘We’ve been in the water for nearly nine hours.’

By sunrise, the group are all bitterly cold after lying in their soaking wetsuits all night in the hope that it would be warmer than taking them off.

‘Jim decides to try to find help after Kath tells him she believes we are on Pandaua island, where there will be fishing boats moored off one of the bays,’ says Charlotte. In fact they are on a deserted island called Rindja – one of the homes of the Komodo dragon.

Kath tries to accompany Jim because she speaks the local language but as they scale a steep slope he tells her to go back because it is too dangerous.

It is now that he has to use all his training from his days in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of 59 Independent Commando Squadron RE.

He has taken off his wetsuit and is now in an undervest, shorts and slim rubber diving boots.

8am: He is almost at the top of a cliff when a snake wriggles in front of him, causing him to reel back and almost fall.

10am: He suffers a second shock – knocking back a branch he almost disturbs a huge bee colony. ‘If the branch had hit them they would have gone berserk. It terrified me much more than the snake.’ There are dried stream beds all around but not a drop of water to be had.

11am: Back on the beach, the other four are desperately trying to make a fire, using a magnifying glass Kath had in her diving gear, but all they manage to make is smoke and no flame. ‘The thirst is terrible,’ says Charlotte.

‘My lips are swollen and white. It is just unbearable and we know we have to try to find water. There was shade from big rocks in the morning but the sun is getting higher and we are losing that shade. There are no trees. The sun is very, very, hot.’

Noon: ‘I find a coconut and break it open hoping to find milk, but it is rotten inside. Desperate for food and water, we turn to scooping mussels and other things off the rocks. At least we are getting protein and there are some juicy bits.’

1pm: The party build the letters SOS with huge white rocks on the side of the hill, hoping to attract a boat. ‘It is very hard work,’ says Charlotte. ‘The sun is beating down and the rocks are very heavy, but we have to do it to attract attention.’

2pm: As thirst attacks Charlotte again, Kath tells her: ‘Pretend that you have just had a long, cool, icy, drink.’ It helps her overcome the craving for water.

4pm:By now Jim has scrambled down cliffs and tried to make his way around the coast by clambering over rocks and swimming, but seems to be getting nowhere. It is dangerous work. Several times he knows he could have been smashed against rocks. And exhaustion is driving him to his knees.

‘One thing keeps me going,’ he says. ‘One phrase, over and over again, “You’ve got to get help for Char and the others. They are depending on you. You’re the scout – do your work”.’

At the same time, back at the beach, a Komodo dragon lumbers into view. More than 10ft long, it can easily kill a human with its massive jaws and toxic saliva. In its mouth is the wetsuit Jim left behind when he began his scouting.

The giant lizard almost bites Helena in the head as it snatches at her wetsuit hood, lying beside her. ‘We eventually chase it off using stones and Kath pokes at it with a stick,’ says Charlotte.

British divers

British divers Charlotte Allin and Jim Manning, diving at another site in Indonesia, before their fateful trip

5pm: ‘We’re desperate on the beach and we know by now we will have to spend another night in this rocky, isolated place, uncertain whether a major search has been launched for us. A plane has passed overhead but it didn’t see us. We’ve also seen boats in the distance, but again our frantic waving, whistling and calling went unheeded. I don’t know if Jim is alive or dead.’

5.15pm: On a rocky outcrop around the coast, Jim sees two people on a beach. ‘I yell and scream at them but they don’t turn around. Finally I realise they are just two rocks that look like people.’

6.45pm: He settles in for the night. He does not know what has happened to Charlotte and the others. He has gone too far to turn back. He just knows he must stay warm, find some strength to carry on looking for help when the next morning breaks. Back at the beach, the four try to sleep and ignore their crippling thirst.

Dawn: On their different parts of the island, the five pray for rain and rescue.

12.30pm: Jim’s prayers are answered. A speedboat comes into the bay, heading towards the rock on which he is lying. People on board are waving, cheering. There is Charlotte waving among them. The ordeal is over. German Frank Winkler, who runs another dive club, had worked out where the divers could be, taking account of the current and tides, and his calculation proved right.

Yesterday: Charlotte, Jim and Kath sit in a jungle clearing on an island off Flores. They are cut and bruised. Their throats are scarred from the chafing of their wetsuits. But they are alive.

On Monday Jim and Charlotte will fly home and start looking for work. ‘It will be lovely to see Devon again,’ says Charlotte. ‘I thought of the green hills and the moors when I was in the water. It will be lovely to touch it.’

Komodo Dragon

Toxic saliva: Komodo Dragon

Enlarge Kathleen British diver Kathleen Mitchinson hugs her husband Ernest Lewandowski after being rescued

Clockwork Orange

The last colour you see before the world goes black is orange.
Which is why orange watches are essential for scuba divers

Look stylish underwater

1. Omega SeaMaster Planet Ocean
The iconic, all-mechanical diver’s watch, waterproof to 300m and chronometer-certified (ie, it’s very accurate).

2. Doxa Sub 750T Dirk Pitt
Re-issue of the 1967 watch designed for a fictitious adventurer, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Waterproof to 750m.

3. TechnoMarine Abyss
A Swiss-made quartz timepiece that’s waterproof to a mind-boggling 10,900m. The bubble floating inside is deliberate.

4. Traser HS P 6504 Diver Orange
Water-resistant to 200m, the tritium dial on the H3 is 100 times brighter than a standard watch.

5. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
Limited-edition diver’s watch with tachymeter, which allows you to monitor the speed of passing fish… or something.

6. Hermès Clipper Chronograph
This Swiss-made watch proves that Hermès is just as comfortable designing for the depths as it is for the catwalk.

The Art of Escape

Wreck diving skills Houdini would love

It was a calm, clear day when we descended 100 feet to the deck of the USCG Duane off Key Largo, Fla. The water was clear, the current was slow, and fish were so thick that they formed a living shroud over the intact hull. You couldn’t ask for better conditions for an easy, trouble-free dive.

Our dive was nearly complete and I was straggling behind my buddy as we swam along the portside rail. I turned my head to admire a school of huge barracuda when my forward motion stopped. It felt like an invisible hand had reached out from the wreck and grabbed my tank valve.

In fact, that’s about what had happened, only the hand was a tangle of monofilament fishing line. I didn’t know it yet, but another loop from the same snare of discarded line had also wedged between my tank and the BC. My hands and feet were free, but I was tethered to the wreck. I signaled my buddy for help, even grunted at him through my regulator, but he was already at the ascent line with his back to me. The barracuda just stared.

Learn from the Techies

Wrecks attract fish. Fish attract fishermen. Fishermen accidentally hook their fishing line, heavy tackle, nets and assorted ropes on the wrecks, creating entanglement hazards for divers.

In fact, getting caught in a web of monofilament is the major wreck-diving hazard facing open-water divers. Modern fishing line is not only strong, it’s designed to be invisible in water. The only time you can see it is when it’s been down so long it becomes encrusted. And when an angler hooks a wreck by mistake, he’s often forced to cut the line at the end of his pole, leaving long strands of the stuff to drift and weave itself into intricate patterns on the wreck’s exterior.

The danger of entanglement increases inside the wreck, where wires and loose wreckage also have a tendency to reach out and grab you when you least expect it. Wreck penetration divers are trained to recognize and deal with these hazards. Unfortunately, most open-water divers aren’t, and when confronted with an invisible snare of monofilament, they often make things worse. Take a page from the technical diver’s handbook, and you can learn to deal with entanglement hazards quickly, safely and effectively.

Get Streamlined

Dangling hoses, flapping straps and loose tank bands all create an increased risk of entanglement. To eliminate these potential snags:

  • SECURE YOUR GAUGES. To keep gauges from dangling, place a bolt snap or other securing device on your console or SPG and connect it to a chest D-ring on your BC. When you need to check your gauges, the console is easy to locate and unsnap. Clip it back when you’re done. Another option: Use a retractor that automatically pulls the gauge console back to your BC when you let go.
  • SECURE YOUR OCTOPUS. Place your alternate second stage in an octopus holder or attach it with a band of surgical tubing.
  • ADJUST YOUR BC’S FIT. A loose-fitting BC can shift or flip at crucial moments, sending you right into a hazard you’re trying to avoid.
  • TIGHTEN TANK BANDS. Make sure the loose ends of your tank bands–especially Velcro ones–are secured. It’s amazing how well Velcro can grab stuff that’s not Velcro.
  • REVERSE YOUR FIN STRAPS. The loose ends will stay tucked inside the strap instead of dangling outside.
  • THINK IN 3-D. As land-dwelling creatures, we tend to think of things in just two dimensions (what’s in front and behind us; what’s to either side), but divers should also be aware of depth–what’s above and below us.

Most divers swim along, focusing their vision down and slightly ahead. Unfortunately, some of the most common entanglements involve snags on the diver’s tank valve. Make it a point to look up and ahead frequently, watching for entanglements.

Don’t Fight It

When the Duane reached out and grabbed me, my first reaction was to freeze. Kicking, pulling, twisting–almost any movement–only make the problem worse. If you’re diving with a buddy, signal him for assistance (he is nearby, right?). Your buddy can see the problem better than you can and has the freedom of movement to deal with it effectively.

If there’s no one to help out, your first step is to determine where the entanglement is and, if possible, what it is. Gently move each part of your body and carefully feel for any restriction of movement. If you can’t locate a particular restriction, odds are the entanglement is on your BC or tank. Once you’ve located the restriction, hold it away from your body and slip away from it.

If you can’t find it, or if you can’t reach it, the best option is to back up. You most likely swam into the restriction, and if you haven’t made the problem worse, simply backing up may allow you to swim out of it.

What should you do if you can’t back up and you can’t find the entanglement? Look again. It’s there. Sweep your arms down and back along each side, then do an overhead sweep that begins behind the tank valve and goes forward.

The overhead sweep is how I discovered the first of the two tangles that had me anchored to the wreck. Working by feel I was able to remove the loop wedged between my tank and the BC. I was also able to feel the more complicated knot wrapped tightly around my tank valve. One problem down, one to go.

Cut and Run

Now for the hard part: Cutting myself free. Whenever cutting tools are involved, you’ve got to think before you act. Accidentally cutting a hose or your hand will only make matters worse. You’ll still be trapped, of course, only now with a rapidly dwindling gas supply or a bleeding appendage.

Once you’ve located the entanglement, position your body so that you can secure the object with one hand while you use the other hand to cut it away. Before you unsheathe your blade, get a good look at what you’re cutting. Figure out the best to approach the problem and determine whether you have the right tool for the job.

Blame the old Sea Hunt series and countless James Bond scuba battles for the propensity of divers–especially male divers–to buy the biggest machete they can find and strap it to their lower leg. Only in movies is this a good idea.

For starters, a knife that large serves no useful purpose unless you really are trying to vanquish underwater villains. Worse, strapping anything that large on your leg only invites entanglements while putting the knife out of reach should you really need it.

Your dive knife is a tool for cutting monofilament and trawl netting–not a weapon for cutting hoses and throats. A good 4-inch dive knife, a recessed Z-knife or shears are much more practical options. When diving wrecks, you should carry all three.

Mount your cutting instruments where you can reach them in any situation. For dive knives, try the BC chest strap or waistband, the forearm and even the low-pressure inflator hose. For shears, a BC pocket is the only location available unless the shears come with their own mounting sheath. Small Z-knives can be mounted on the side of a mask strap or on the strap of a wrist-mounted gauge.

Ditch It

If all else fails, you may have to resort to removing your BC, a skill we all learned in open-water class and promptly forgot. Removing your gear is always a last resort, particularly at depth. Removing a traditional BC, for example, leaves the diver wearing a weight belt while his source of buoyancy (and his air supply) attempts to float upward. Weight-integrated BCs have the opposite problem. They can leave the diver floating toward the surface while the BC heads toward the bottom.

That’s why the first critical step is to ensure that all of the air is dumped from the BC. If possible, settle onto a solid surface before beginning the removal. Make sure you have a secure grip on the regulator in your mouth before unbuckling the chest and waist straps and removing your left arm first. This allows you to rotate the BC toward your right side without jerking the regulator out of your mouth.

If possible, keep one arm hooked underneath or through the BC at all times. Once the BC is off, you should be able to easily cut or remove the entanglement. Before replacing your BC, swim away from the entangling object to ensure that you don’t have to repeat the process.

The Right Tool for the Job

THE TOOL: Standard dive knife

Look for a blade with a line-cutting notch, a sharp smooth edge and a serrated edge. Line-cutting notches and smooth blades make short work of monofilament, while a serrated edge is best for sawing through thicker rope and nylon lines.

The Technique: With one hand, form a tight loop of monofilament and snap it using the cutting notch or cut away from your body with the smooth blade. Serrated edges work like a saw on heavier lines.

THE TOOL: Z-knife

Developed to cut parachute shroud lines, the Z-knife blade is recessed inside a hook that ensures you cut only what you intend to cut–a good idea because the blade is razor-sharp. Z-knives slice through monofilament and small lines with ease and virtually eliminate the chance of accidentally cutting a hose, your fingers or your BC bladder.

The Technique: Loop the line tight, hook it with the Z-knife and pull.

THE TOOL: Shears

A quality pair of shears can take on darn near anything from monofilament to steel leaders and tackle. Put yours to the test: if it can cut through a penny, it’ll handle anything you encounter under water.

The Technique: Just cut. An advantage of shears is that you can use them effectively one-handed.

Source: Scuba Diving Magazine

The frogman who turned out to be a prince

Prince Harry on his scuba diving course

Prince Harry on his scuba diving course

In tight-fitting wetsuit this is Prince Harry learning to scuba dive.

Rather than see his girlfriend Chelsy Davy during a break from Sandhurst, the 20-year-old royal has chosen to go on a training course instead.

Yesterday found him taking part in two 40-minute dives at Plymouth Harbour.

And while he was apparently perfectly at home once in the sea, it was a different story on dry land. First he found himself walking somewhat gingerly in the style of Charlie Chaplin, and later he slipped on some jetty steps.

An onlooker at the Fort Bovisands Ministry of Defence base said: ‘He seemed to be having trouble walking properly. His wetsuit looked very tight and uncomfortable.

‘Once he was in the boat he was fine though, and he really took to the diving.

‘But he did find it hard to get out of the boat again, and his feet kept slipping on the steps.’

The five-day diving session is one of the adventurous training courses that cadets at Sandhurst military academy are encouraged to take in their free time.

Harry arrived at the base – an MoD site which is used to train all the armed forces for diving – at around 9am, with his fellow cadets.

After helping to load a boat with equipment, the group set off for a rigorous training session off nearby Penlee Point accompanied by two of Harry’s protection officers.

Harry was wearing a wetsuit, diving mask and oxygen tank, with a diving knife strapped to his leg to free him in case of emergency.

He and his colleagues were tethered by ropes to a safety buoy before they went under the surface. Harry would have practised a series of safety drills such as removing his mask and retrieving his breathing equipment at depths of up to 50ft.

After safely completing the morning session – in waters where two divers have drowned this year – Harry was hauled back into the boat by one of his bodyguards and the group returned to the base.

The prince needed help getting out of the boat and then trudged off the jetty, with his air tank still on his back, to have a shower before attending diving classes in the afternoon.

Later, Harry and his fellow cadets completed a second 40-minute dive session before once again returning to base.

The prince is currently on a four-week summer break from Sandhurst, where he is training to be an Army officer. Since he began the year-long training course in April, he has been plagued by injury and illness, but during the diving course he has seemed fit and well.

As well as attending lessons in a classroom, he has also spent time practising in a water-filled quarry.