Today i dived to 100m on the wreck of the Gulf fleet at Shaabrugh Umm Gammar as a TDI Advanced Trimix diver. Here is my story of how i got there…
I started technical or “tech” diving at the age of 15 with the TDI Advanced nitrox course. Then for the next three years i was counting the days until my eighteenth birthday so that i could do decompression procedures and actually be trained to make accelerated deco dives to 45m.
It was not long after taking this course that my hunger for slightly deeper dives grew. So i then took the TDI extended range course to learn the procedures for diving air to a maximum depth of 55m. As a deco procedures diver i could have progressed directly to a normoxic (approximately 21% O2) trimix diver but decided that learning the techniques for deep air diving first would make me appreciate the effects of helium more when i came to be a trimix diver.
After gaining some experience at my extended range level I found the Tekstreme Diving website and facebook page. Seeing the photos of guests making deep and long tech dives made me want to dive with this company. Reading through the facebook status on the Tekstreme page made me want to dive with Tekstreme even more. I emailed Cat Braun (Tekstreme general manager) telling her that i was moving to Hurghada and what my plans for the future in terms of technical diving were. After an almost instant reply i was certain that this was the place that i wanted to continue my adventure into the depths of the Red Sea.
The day after i arrived in Hurghada i had arranged to meet with Cat to discuss what i was going to do. The plan was for me to do a couple of days pleassure tech diving to get back into the swing of things and to brush up on my skills since it had been quite a while since my last planned deco dive.
The days went well and we did some nice dives in the 45 to 50m range. When Cat arrived back from her technical safari i was to begin my TDI entry level or normxic trimix course with her. This is when i think that i actually realised what proper tech diving was all about.
A 5 day course that turned into a 7 days course due to making sure i was fully ready for this level ended with a visit from a 3 meter long thresher shark on a 60m trimix dive on the southern side of Abu Ramada island. When Cat gave me the signal for a shark i thought that she was trying to trick me (again) into busting my maximum depth like i had done the previous day.
Now I was a certified trimix diver and what a feeling that was. It had been a dream of mine for a long time now that had finally came true!
On my days off from work (PADI Instructor) I would contact Cat and arrange dives with her and fellow tech guide Shaun Fox. After around 15 normoxic trimix dives i was back in England visiting family when i recieved and email from Tekstreme offering me the chance of a lifetime. A technical safari to the Brother Islands!!! To dive these deep coral walls and the wreck of the Numidia had been an ambition of mine since I had heard about them. And just to make things even better i was offered the chance to make the TDI Advanced Trimix course on the safari!! Of course i jumped at this chance.
Back in Hurghada, my first day was spent packing for the trip and counting the hours until boarding Emperor Elite, the platinum class safari boat that would be our home for a week. The first dive of the trip was at a local reef in the south of Hurghada called Ras Disha. For my diving buddies on the safari this was to be their check dive, being the first dive of my course, for me it meant three things: SKILLS SKILLS SKILLS. After surfacing from around an hour under the water doing SMB deployment, deco tank removal/replacement, unconsious diver lift, breathhold swims etc we set off futher south to safaga to dive the famous Salem Express. For some people this is a dive to sit out due to the amount of lives lost in the disaster. For me diving this wreck meant a lot, it was a sort of way of acknowledging what had happened.
Overnight we moved to Big Brother island were i would be doing the first real deep dive of my advanced trimix course, I was so excited but at the same time apprehensive for the dive. My instructor Chris Armstrong and I had planned for a 65m trimix dive on the wreck of the Aida. After entering the water from the zodiac this is when i realised what diving at the brother’s really meant. As we descended the current was unbelievably powerful. In our 25 minute bottom time about 5 was actally spent on the wreck due to the current. But what an amazing place to dive, the coral wall rises from hundreds of meters covered in hard and soft corals of every colour imaginable.
The plan for the following day, an 80m hypoxic trimix dive that required a travel gas (i had been carrying one for the previous dives for training purposes only.) The dive went surprisingly easy with the only exercise being buddy breathing an 80% O2 deco gas and putting up an SMB at the same time. My instructor Chris came back to the boat minus 1 wrist slate, so I left emperor elite at the end of the trip minus 1 wrist slate and a few quid down in beer money.
We moved to the smaller of the Brother Islands next for our last dive at the islands which was planned as a 90m dive. This was probably the second best dive of the course, the best being the final one which i will talk about later. During out 15 minute bottom time we had our shark sighting that we had been waiting for, a white tip reef shark passing by. After removing and replacing all of my deco tanks at 90m we only had a few minutes left before we began our long ascent. This is the nice thing about decompressing in the Red Sea, we actally have nice fish and coral to look at as surposed to a boring old shot line!
The last dive of my course was at another dream divesite. Elphinstone. It was to be my deepest dive so far. 97meters. With a 13 minute bottom time the dive seemed to go so fast and before i knew if i was in a zodiac on the way back to elite.
This was one of my best ever diving experiences and one that i will never forget – thankyou Tekstreme!!!!!
Back in Hurghada a month later i arranged three days deep trimix diving with Cat, the first was an 80m dive at Abu Ramada Cave. When we reached 80m after a prolonged descent due to Cat’s rebreather misbehaving, we had a Hammerhead shark swimming towards us, after only a couple of seconds it had dissappeared into the blue. Another one of my dreams had come true.
The next day we planned a 90m dive at Small Giftun, a really nice relaxing dive and we discovered an unknown wreck embedded into the reef.
So, today we were hopefullly going to Shaabrugh Umm Gammar if the wind would hold off to dive the wreck of the Gulf fleet 31 wreck. This was to be my first dive to 100m. As we made our way up to the north east side of the reef on the boat my heart was pounding with adreneline. Then the captain gave the signal for us to enter the water. We descened down the side of the reef after our bubble check at 6m. At around 75meters the wreck started comming into view. I was amazed how “clean” this wreck was, free of lines and damage. We swam down the port side of the wreck at aound 98m. Cat asked me if i wanted to swin under the hull and of course the answer was yes. It was just as i started to swim underneath the hull that that magical three figure number appeared on my computer. That was it i was now at 100m, 330 feet, 3937 inches underwater. Heading back up, following the contour of the wreck our 17 minute bottom time came to an end. I waved goodbye to the wreck and we bagan out 68 minute ascent. What a brilliant dive and an amazing expierence!
Thanks to Tekstreme for making my dreams come true. See you soon in the abyss 🙂