Too many Scuba incidents – Stress, and how to deal with it.

The background

I cannot explain why, but it seems as though more recently there appears to be a wave of scuba diving deaths or incidents that I am being made aware of. Maybe, it’s just a coincidence that it happens to be people within my social networks sharing this information, or maybe with the continued growth of social media has made it easier to have access or exposure to this information?! I don’t know. Either way, the incidents have come to my attention as of late and to me its something that cannot be ignored.

I am not a detective and I do not want to even open the door to try to suggest what has been the cause of such incidents but the interesting common denominator with the majority of these incidents is that the cause of death remains unknown. The diver has failed to surface. When I do hear of such incidents it does prompt me to examine and share with the diving community one topic that is simply impossible to ignore, and I can assure you with no doubt, that each diver that has failed to rejoin us for sure experienced this on their last fatal dive. Stress.

The problem

Stress is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil. It is a normal human emotion we all experience when we face threatening or difficult situations. Stress is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas stress is the expectation of future threat. Associated with the secretion of adrenalin, stress can help us avoid dangerous situations or get out of them. It can make us alert and it can spur us to deal with a threat or other problem and not simply avoiding it (i.e., the “fight or flight” reaction). However, if feelings of foreboding become too strong or last too long, they can hold us back from many normal activities and have debilitating outcomes.

A more intense form of stress is panic, a sudden, unexpected but powerful surge of th-4fear. Panic can cause a wholesale flight from the immediate situation, a reaction that is especially dangerous for scuba divers. A diver who experiences panic at depth is subject to near-drowning, lung over-expansion injuries and death. Panic attacks are extremely dangerous under water, and sometimes its difficult to know what triggers them.

Out of a millions of certified scuba divers, a percentage of recreational scuba divers die each year, but little is known about the precipitating events for many of these deaths. A coroner’s report of “drowning” tells us nothing about what led to, or caused, a divers death. Reports by DAN (Divers Alert Network) and other agencies into scuba diving accidents state that:

“Researchers in diving accidents implicate panic, as a response to stress or anxiety as the major cause of diving fatalities”

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In Medical Examination of Sport Scuba Divers (1998), Alfred Bove states:

“Panic, or ineffective behaviour in the emergency situation when fear is present, is the single biggest killer of sports divers”.

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In 1998 the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) guideline for the Recreational Scuba Divers physical examination listed “a history of panic disorder” as an absolute contradiction to scuba diving.

However, we must be very clear that there is no way to determine that panic in accidents does result in fatalities, this is merely an assumption based on knowledge of the psychological and behavioural responses that people make to stress. What we do know is that many people feel stress before a dive especially when they are starting out on their scuba diving journey. It is completely understandable as it is a new alien world that is being explored. Beginners don’t know what it is going to feel like underwater or if they will enjoy it. In abnormal situations, stress is manifested by apprehension and dread, though it sometimes cannot be attached to a clearly identifiable stimulus. This stressful state usually occurs in response to a mishap, such as a dive mask flooding with water. This may cause the diver to panic unnecessarily and behave irrationally. The essential feature of a panic attack is a period of intense fear that is accompanied by a sense of imminent danger and an urge to escape, or a desire to flee from wherever the attack is coming from. An
expected result of a diver having a panic attack would be that the divers breathing rate increases, there by resulting in decreased efficiency or oxygen exchange, and a feeling of suffocation ensues. The diver would then typically try to make a rapid ascent to the surface or departure from a certain location or frantically grabs for air supplies and lack of concern for the safety of others.

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Another way that panic can show itself is what we call Passive panic. These divers are perceived as calm, they will sink, and perish without a call for help. The buddies of these divers thought their associates were non-stressed, and normal. Recognizing this form of panic is very difficult, the victims show no outward signs of any difficulty, but most will have “blank eyes”. Underwater they may lose their regulator and not try to replace it. They will not try to save themselves. Typically a passive victim will seem confused, or vague and then slip underwater. It is the divers total inability to look after themselves and willingness to sink that appears in most case studies.

Either way the panic manifests itself it arises when individuals lack a solution to a critical problem. Sometimes, experienced divers with hundreds of logged dives also experience panic for outwardly no clear reason. The panic most likely occurs because divers lose sight of familiar objects, become disoriented and experience a form of sensory deprivation. The likelihood of a victim of panic coping with any situation is slim to none. In the study of divers death, many still had the weight belt still in place, mouthpiece had been removed, buoyancy compensators were not inflated, and air was still in the tank. This all suggest panic.

One training goal of all scuba diving agencies at all diving levels is to provide the diver with these “solutions” which should become automatic behaviours.

The factors of stress and what to look out for.

Physical Causes of Stress:

Overloading

Sensory Deprivation

Time Pressure

Equipment

Cold Water

Poor Fitness/Swimming Ability

Strong Currents, Waves, Obstructions

Dangerous Marine Life

Psychological Causes of Stress:

Peer Pressure

Social Evaluation

Ego Threat

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of Evaluation

Pre-Dive Physiological Signs:

Increased Heart Rate

Rapid Respiration

Muscle Tension

Frequent Urination

Increased Perspiration

Voice Changes

Decrease in Skin Temperature

Pre-Dive Behavioral Signs:

Introversion

Mental Errors

Forgetfulness

Extreme Cockiness

Irritability

In-Water Symptoms:

Rapid Respiration

The “Wide-Eyed” Look

Inefficient Swimming

Clinging and Clambering

Fixation and Perceptual Narrowing

Sudden Surfacing

High Treading/Trashing

Equipment Rejection

The studies

Many studies have been conducted to examine divers with a history of panic attacks and what were their in water responses. Similarly, reports have been conducted with random scuba diving populations to examine if a panic attack has ever occurred and what the divers response was. This type of panic survey has quite interesting implications on diver training. From these studies and what I can read and interpret are some general conclusions:

  1. Generally the data collected by these various studies would suggest that training of how to deal with emergency situations is largely effective. There was a high percentage of panicking divers who stated that they did remember their training in the emergency situation and it enable them to deal with the situation.
  1. All divers benefit from repetitive skill practise. The more familiar divers are with skills, the more likely they are to respond appropriately to panic. Repeated practice in confined water, including spontaneous drills, raises the response availability levels.

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  1. Student divers who show more elevated levels of stress and anxiety may be more prone to panic. This may be clear if they show stress when dealing with a new skill. These individuals benefit greatly from repetition, through though the practise required may be higher than for other individuals.
  1. Studies would also suggest that women are much more likely to recognise and ask for help than men in a stressful situation. I am not sure why, but I guess that cultural influence is probably a good speculation. Male self-reliance is quite high in most cultures, asking for help may threaten their self-esteem, or men may be conditioned from a young age to not seek out assistance?! Emphasising diving as a team activity maybe help deal with these gender differences and enable men to be more receptive to assistance and may help to offset self-esteem issues.

Prevention techniques

 Training

Professional training builds your diving confidence, nobody can argue this point. Years of research and tried and tested techniques have gone into the created of today’s scuba diving courses. Modern scuba diving training has been specifically designed to ease stress and slowly build on skills to a point where divers are ready to go out into open water. Organizations, such as SSI, have skills and procedures that divers must learn in sequence – these standards are adhered to by SSI Instructors worldwide. Studying theory, watching videos and learning skills in the pool is followed by practicing in the sea with your instructor. This allows you to slowly develop at your own pace – only progressing when you are comfortable with each section.

This sequencing of training not only applies to the recreational diving world but also to those more experienced divers who are looking to extend their diving either to greater depths or to involve mandatory decompression. For these divers, their basic diving skills should be habitual, but more importantly they are now going to enter a world where sometimes to “go up” is simply not an option. Decompression diving, throws into the equation even more potential stress situations that need to be trained for and managed well.

Stress & Rescue Diver Course

Scuba divers describe the SSI Stress & Rescue Diver course as the most challenging, yet most rewarding course they’ve ever taken. Why? Because you learn to prevent and manage problems in the water, and become more confident in your skills as a diver, knowing that you can help others if needed. Through the course you will learn accident prevention, as well as how to handle problem situations is they occur. The programme is about avoiding, recognizing and solving problems on the surface and underwater.

The SSI Stress and Rescue course prepares you to deal with dive emergencies, minor and major, using a variety of techniques. Through knowledge development and rescue exercises, you learn what to look for and how to respond. During rescue scenarios, you put into practice your knowledge and skills.

Course Content:Diver Stress & Rescue

  • What Is Stress?
  • Stress In Diving: Causes And Prevention
  • Detecting And Dealing With Stress
  • Accident Management
  • Skills Needed To Deal With Panic And Rescues
  • Conditions That Complicate Rescues

Equipment familiarity

During scuba diving training, divers learn how to set up, adjust, check, and put on their equipment. Understanding how your equipment works will give you added confidence and reduce stress. Making sure everything is fitted correctly and securely, with the help of your instructor or buddy, is very important. One of the most important factors to think about when looking at equipment is to make sure that the type of equipment that you are wearing is suitable for the diving environment but most importantly making sure that you have the correct training to be able to use all the equipment in an efficient, habitual automatic way.

Confined Water Practice

This is probably the area of scuba diving at all levels that is simply overlooked. The majority of certified divers only going back into a confined water environment when making a new course and the shallow water skills being a mandatory part of the new course. As I mentioned earlier, as a diver learning to scuba dive their training is performance-based, and they have plenty of time to learn and practice scuba diving skills in the pool before heading out to the open water. Just have a think to yourselves honestly, when was the last time you personally made a review of all scuba diving skills and I mean more than can you clear a mask!

Relaxation and Visual rehearsal

All divers of all levels should begin their dive feeling relaxed and calm. Try not be rushed to get ready, give yourself time to go through the dive plan in your mind with your buddy to make sure you are both clear of the techniques, emergency procedures, entering and exiting methods and generally the diving route. At the start of the dive aim to become relaxed with slow, deep breathing and allow yourself time to get to get orientated to being underwater by pausing after your descent. Take an additional moment in the shallow waters to regulate your breathing. The key point is understanding that breath control and relaxation go hand-in-hand.  Check your equipment and computer, and to signal to your buddy that everything is OK. To not rush and do not be rushed by others. When you rush, you create stress and may not follow the procedures you have been taught. Similarly, don’t rush around underwater – take time to appreciate what nature has created and enjoy the full experience of breathing underwater. Having a good level of calmness will aid in control of stress levels in the water. Divers who also learn the “Calming Response” in Stress and rescue courses, learn a technique which involves stomach breathing. The calming response is a fast and effective way of improving relaxation and performance.  Scuba divers, using this technique, can significantly increase breath control and relaxation within 5 – 10 breaths.

Diving discipline

I have addressed the issue of training and that comfort through repetition of skills is essential in creating automatic habitual responses. However, as divers consider themselves to become more experienced a certain degree of complacency could become evident. This complacency to me is more of an issue than the novice diver with more limited experience. Dare I say it a sense of arrogance surrounds this type of diver and the perceived assumption that “it will never happen to me”. This type of diver no longer considers the underwater world to be a hazardous environment and as such may lack respect for the potential hostile conditions that scuba diving situation can present. Diving preparation falls to a minimal level, equipment is not maintained to an acceptable standard, and recommended diving guidelines no longer apply to them.

Don’t let yourself fall into this category. Have discipline, keep up to date with current training developments, equipment advances, stay mentally and physically active, keep the respect for the underwater world, keep your skills refreshed, plan a dive and dive the plan, and finally leave the ego at home!

Summary

The fact of the matter is that Scuba Diving has inherent risks that simply cannot be removed. However, though the techniques outlined above we can aim to make ourselves as divers as prepared as possible for the activity. Similarly, stress is an emotional factor that also cannot be eliminated from the human psychology. However, there are ways in which we can have better control on stress, awareness of where, when and how it can occur can enable us to keep a good handle on it.

The underwater world can be as unpredictable as it is amazing, this it what keeps drawing us back to it.

Dive safe everybody.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Diving Manager & Owner

SSI Recreational & Technical Instructor Trainer

cat@tekstremediving.com

http://www.tekstremediving.com

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Tekstreme “The Tour”.

Did you know, that one of the most common questions that I get asked when guests are enquiring to me about Tekstreme and wanting to do some diving with us is, “Are Tekstreme located in other countries?” To date, I have had to reply that the answer is no.

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Tekstreme have, since establishment, concentrated their time offering technical services throughout Egypt. As a technical company we are one of the largest in Egypt with operations, through the facilities of Emperor Divers, in Sharm El Shiekh, El Gouna and Marsa Alam plus offering multiple specific technical safaris throughout the year. I guess personally for me, before taking Tekstreme to other destinations I want to be sure that we have the right attitude, approach, business plan, commitment, audience and of course the desire. Right now I believe we can easily tick all of those boxes. However, these things are not to be rushed. Much research needs to be done on destinations, availability, profitability, demand etc etc. We see in our industry too many technical operations opening up around the world yet one year later they close their doors. As a reputable technical diving company we need to ensure that if we take on such a project outside of Egypt that our customers can be assured that we will be there to stay.

Tekstreme Wings

Now don’t get too excited, this blog is not Tekstreme announcing a new location, not quite yet, but what we are doing in the meantime is to take Tekstreme “On Tour”. Beginning in 2016 we are going to be offering technical diving trips to multiple other locations outside of Egypt. This way, our customers who want to have the benefit of diving multiple locations, but staying with Tekstreme are going to be very happy. Tekstreme will be organising diving trips including accommodation in various European destinations to begin with, before expanding to worldwide destinations. We will only be using the facilities of highly reputable dive centres in each location who we know will maintain high standards that our customers demand. On each trip one of our highly trained technical team members will be there with our customers to ensure that our high standards are kept and of course to offer technical courses on each trip.

For each trip, we are keeping them quite exclusive, small groups only. We plan to take a maximum of around 8 – 10 divers on each trip. For us, it has always been about quality, not quantity and this philosophy will not change. We want to have a more intimate group of divers that we can care for on a personal level, rather than a conveyer belt of divers!

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For us, these are really exciting times and we cant wait to take kick start Tekstreme “The Tour”, we hope that we are going to see many of our technical diver friends come and join us and make this the best technical tour ever.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Diving Manager

info@tekstremediving.com

Red Sea Advanced Technical Expedition to the wreck of the Maiden.

For all you advanced technical divers out there, the expedition trip of the year is about to happen.

 

Way down in the middle of the Red Sea you will find an Island called Rocky Island. Situated on the surrounding reef lies quietly the wreck of the Maiden. This particular wreck is probably the least dived in the Red Sea due to its depth; beginning at 90 metres and going to a maximum of around 120m. Tekstreme will be running an expedition to go and dive this wreck this summer time. There are not many divers that can say that they have been and visited this wreck, it certainly is one for the log book! (if you even have a log book!). The trip only has a few remaining places left so contact us soon if you would like to join.

 

The Wreck

Built by W Hamilton & Co (Glasgow), the Maiden was launched in March 1902 and officially described as Steel Screw Steamer. A very large ship for her day, She was 152.4m (500 feet!) long, 17.7m wide and had a draught of 10m. The Maiden was owned and operated by T & J Brocklebank who were much respected throughout the world and something of a legend in Liverpool. The Maiden had been used exclusively on the Eastern Trade routes, operating between European Ports and India. It was in 1923 that a navigational error resulted in the ship hitting the south side of the Rocky island.

 

 

Basic Information – 09/08/2013 – 15/08/2013Image

 

  • Port of Departure = Marsa Alam
  • Port of Return = Marsa Alam
  • Boat = Emperor Elite
  • Level of technical diver = Advanced Trimix diver CCR or OC
  • Courses Available = Trimix CCR and OC on request
  • Number of dives = minimum 7 / maximum 8
  • Number of technical divers = 16 divers
  • Recreational divers welcome upon request (subject to conditions)

 

 

Included in the price

 

  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Marine Park Fees
  • Fuel surcharges
  • All food and soft drinks on board
  • Wine with evening dinner
  • Twin set hire
  • CCR tank hire
  • 2 x Decompression tank(s) hire with rigging
  • 2 x Bailout tank(s) hire with rigging
  • Twin set air gas fills
  • CCR oxygen fills
  • CCR air fills
  • Emergency Surface marker buoy hire

 

 

 

Wreck Dives

 

  • Zealot @ Daedalus
  • Maiden @ Rocky Island

 

 

Reef Dives

 

  • Daedalus Reef
  • Elphinestone
  • Fury Shoal

 

 

(Please note dive sites are subject change due to weather conditions and level of technical divers on board. Please also note that night dives are not permitted at Daedalus reef or Rocky Island)

 

Email us to place your booking tekstreme@emperordivers.com

Brothers Technical Expedition

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Basic Information

 

  • Port of Departure = Hurghada
  • Port of Return = Marsa Alam
  • Boat = Emperor Elite
  • Level of technical diver = All levels welcome
  • Courses Available = CCR and OC on request
  • Number of dives = minimum 8, / maximum 13
  • Number of technical divers = 16 divers
  • Recreational divers welcome on request (subject to conditions)

 

 

Included in the price

 

  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Marine Park Fees
  • Fuel surcharges
  • All food and soft drinks on board
  • Wine with evening dinner
  • Twin set hire
  • CCR tank hire
  • 2 x Decompression tank(s) hire with rigging
  • 2 x Bailout tank(s) hire with rigging
  • Twin set air gas fills
  • CCR oxygen fills
  • CCR air fills
  • Emergency Surface marker buoy hire

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Wreck Dives

 

  • El Mina @ Hurghada
  • Salem Express @ Safaga
  • Numidia @ Big Brother
  • Aida @ Big Brother

 

Reef Dives

 

  • Big Brother
  • Small Brother
  • Elphinestone @ Marsa Alam
  • Gota Abu Ramada @ Hurghada

 

 

(Please note dive sites are subject change due to weather conditions and level of technical divers on board. Please also note that night dives are not permitted at the Brother Islands)

 

Email us for more details on how you can fill the final few places

Brother Islands technical expedition – 05/07/2013 – 11/07/2013

Tekstreme@emperordivers.com

Our Top ten technical diving sites in the Red Sea

There are many dive sites within the Red Sea that are suitable for technical diving. Each of the sites having their own very unique and distinctive features and highlights.  Every diver has his or her own preference and opinion which combines to make them decide which are their favourite technical diving sites and we here at Tekstreme are no different. As a team we have put together 10 of our favourite technical diving sites from Egypt in the Red Sea. Please note they are in no particular order.

 

1. Elphinestone Archway @ Marsa Alam by Cat BraunImage

 

Situated off the coast of Marsa Alam lies the reef of Elphinestone. This finger long reef stretches from slightly off north to south with a plateau at both ends. Lying underneath the southern plateau is a wide passageway known as the “Arch” which you can swim through between the depths of 45m and 60m. Surrounding the entrance and exit is a mass of various soft corals, large gorgonian fan corals and whip corals. This dive site is well known for its currents hence the abundance of coral and marine life that brings the reef to life. As a result of the currents it is also the home to various pelagics. It is a well-known site for seeing Oceanic White Tip Reef Sharks, especially around the southern plateau. Hammerhead sharks are more frequently spotted on the northern tip but definitely not unknown to also frequent the southern edges of the plateau at depth.

 

 

2. Wreck of the Lara @ Sharm El Shiekh by Steve ParryImage

 

The Lara is a 137.5 metre long former cargo ship that ran aground on Jackson Reef in 1982. Originally intact and sitting atop the reef, she was salvaged in the mid-90s resulting in sections of the ship being allowed to be submerged.

 Today her remains lie against the reef immediately to the west of the surface-based remains. Descending next to the surfaced-based wreckage and swimming ‘reef left’, descend to 45m. There you will start to see her ghostly remains appear from the gloom. The remains start at 48m with her mast and sections that probably included workshops. Her bulkheads were removed during salvage allowing you to swim in and around this section. Laying on its starboard side you will then see her stern section with an impressively large propeller still attached at a depth of around 55m. Her superstructure and other sections lie at deeper depths.

This dive is very weather dependent as the wreck lies against the most northerly, and therefore exposed, side of Jackson Reef. For me this is why the dive is one of the best; it is a dive that many divers take years of failed attempts to complete and so as you enjoy the dive you have the privileged feeling of knowing you’re seeing a wreck only very few have enjoyed!

 

 

3. The Blue Hole @ Dahab by Steve ParryImage

 

One of the most famous technical dive sites in the Red Sea, the Blue Hole is a giant sinkhole in the reef-plate that drops directly down to 110m.

Starting the dive from the small wooden jetty, make your descent and turn ‘half-left’. As you descend to 50m there you will see the reason everyone want to dive this impressive site. A huge archway in the wall of the hole appears in front of you. Beautifully lit up by the sunshine on the outside of the hole, the archway seems like a massive cathedral window. Beware of dropping to deep though as you gaze into the light; this dive is best done as a trimix dive for this reason!

Swim through the arch, enjoying some healthy black gorgonians attached to the roof of the arch and come out onto the outside. From there turn ‘reef right’ and start your deco. From approximately 20m you will find a very colourful coral garden, culminating in a lip at 6m serving as the entrance back into the hole. From the lip, swim back into the hole whilst completing your deco and finish the dive back where you started.

 

 

4. The Canyon @ Dahab by Duncan SpenceleyImage

 

Situated a short drive to the north of Dahab Town, “The Canyon” is a popular dive site with both recreational and technical divers alike. Once your kit is prepared the first step is to walk your stage tanks out into the shallow, shore entry point. Open heeled fins and boots are highly recommended. You enter the site into a long narrow lagoon in the reef that is clearly visible from the surface and about 4-5m deep. Swim slowly to the end of this lagoon and you will see a dip in the perimeter that is about 2.5m deep. Exit the lagoon here. You will see directly in front of you a prominent pinnacle that starts at around 10m and tops out at around 6m. Remember this pinnacle as it marks the location of the lagoon for your exit! The seabed gently slopes and is a mixture of sand and coral out crops. Facing out from the pinnacle turn to face approx. 10 0’clock and swim out in this direction sticking to about 10-12m. The bottom will gently fall away from you. The entrance to the canyon is at around 22m. So when the bottom gets this deep, hang a left until a black opening appears in the seabed. It can take 5-10 mins to reach depending on the current. On reaching the entrance (you will usually see thin bubble trails coming out of the sand unless you are the 1st group in) scan the entrance for other divers. If the canyon is blocked just hang out @ 10m till they are clear. You descend into a large bowl that bottoms out at around 26m. Swim in the direction of the shore and the bowl narrows and looks like it ends. At this point look up and see the light filtering down through the ‘Fishbowl’ and hatchet fish and cave sweepers dancing in the shadows. You used to be able to exit through this passage vi the Fishbowl which took you up to 12m but the structure is now unstable and as a result this exit is closed to diver. Having had a little look there turn 180 deg and descend the slope further into the canyon. The passage narrows and deepens and wiggles down toward the deeper water. Be careful of your depth as it does slope fairly quickly and as the passage lies on a slope it can be quite disorientating. Towards the base of this passage at around 44m there is a small opening that can be used to exit to the open water, or you can carry on through a small narrowing and enter a smaller chamber at around 50m. At the end of this chamber is another opening to the open water. Pop out here and you will be on the reef wall / drop off. From here you can either enter the canyon and exit the way you came in swim back over the top of the canyon following the ribbon like crack back towards the reef wall or for the deeper qualified continue down into a depression and visit Neptune’s Chair at 65m or even Neptune’s caves at 75m.  When entering the ascent phase of the dive, follow the canyon up to the fringing reef wall; keep the reef on the right and deco out according to schedule. Keep an eye out for the pinnacle! If you continue slightly past the pinnacle you will see a pristine sandy slope that shallows to 3m, ideal if you are into lazy deco! Exit back out through the lagoon keeping an eye out for sea moths.

 

 

5. Yolanda Plateau @ Sharm El Shiekh by Duncan SpenceleyImage

 

Shark and Yolanda Reef is one of the most popular dive site for all divers in Sharm El Sheikh and as a result can be quite busy. If you want to guarantee some alone time on this popular site then what better way than to visit the Yolanda Plateau which is out of reach to most divers visiting the area. The dive site requires a blue water 70m descent so make sure you are comfortable with that!!! Once kitted, the boat is positioned between Yolanda Reef and Satellite reef and then moved approx. 100-150m out into the sea. And away you go. Descend fairly quickly as there can be strong currents to blow you off course. On reaching 70m, if you still just see blue, swim north until the plateau looms in front / below you. The tip of the plateau is around 98m and the plateau is marked with a large gouge marking the path the Yolanda took to its final resting place past sub 160m. Gaze down into the blackness and convince yourself you can make out some portion of the wreck below… Then follow the plateau up as is shallows keeping an eye out for cameras, dive computers etc. dropped by other clumsy divers! There are 4 containers on the plateau for you to explore and a section of mast. As you reach the reef wall and start ascent you will see more debris including toilets complete with lids! At around 45m is a anchor with a net around it; often you will find a big moray eel here. Continue up following the scar and it will lead you up to what the recreational divers see. At 26m view the stacks of bathtubs and on your journey up to 9m take in more toilets, rolls of linoleum, a BMW, and hand-sinks. All are encrusted with coral and full of marine life. Continue round the back of Yolanda reef and visit the beautiful shallow coral garden as you deco out. At the end of your dive move to the front of Yolanda reef and exit back to the boat.

 

 

6. Wreck of Gulf Fleet @ Hurghada by Cat BraunImage

 

Towards the north end of the Hurghada dive sites you will find the reef of Shaabrugh Umm Gammar. Located on the north east side of the reef you will find the wreck of a cable layer that was part of the Gulf Fleet. The ship hit the reef and then slid down the eastern reef wall to its current position where it got wedged on a hard coral mound. The wreck is lying pointing downwards with the stern section being the shallowest point at 85m, then angled down towards the bow section at around 100m. The wreck is completely in tact will minimal structural damage.  Due to the topography of the reef side it is possible to swim under the keel towards the box at around 105m. The visibility in the area is normally very good with natural light still penetrating down to this depth and so you can clearly see wreck without the essential need for torches. The wreck also does not receive large currents and so exploration is a relatively simple process. As the wreck is lying on the reef once you have finished exploring you then get a nice swim during your decompression of the reef side until eventually arriving at the southern end where your boat is normally moored.

 

 

7. Wreck of Numidia @ Brother Islands by Cat BraunImage

 

Situated towards the middle of the Red Sea you will find two islands that make up what we call the Brother islands; Big Brother and Little Brother. Small Brother is completely uninhabited but Big Brother provides accommodation for a small team of Egyptian workers who man the lighthouse, act as an outpost and sell Brother Island T Shirts! It is on Big Brother Island where you will find the wreck of the Numidia. The British cargo ship was a relatively large vessel at 137.4m long, 16.7m wide and had a draught of 9.2m. The Numidia struck the northern most tip of the reef due to a navigational error. The strong currents in this area combined with the winds that can be experienced in the Red Sea makes this dive suitable for a more experienced diver. The wreck can only dived by zodiac drop with your main boat being moored up on the more sheltered southern end to the reef. Once you roll into the water from the zodiac you will see the wreck directly beneath you starting at its shallowest point of around 10m, however, it is critical to make a swift decent to get shelter from the currents that can blow you off the wreck and potentially on top of the reef. Once you are down and have protection from the current you can follow the structure of the wreck to your planned maximum depth. The Wreck is sat up right alongside the reef with the bow section, all be it slightly broken up at the shallowest point at around 10m, and the stern section coming to rest at around 80m which is the deepest point. The first thing that most people will comment on is the absolute color that now adorns this vessel. Hard Corals and Soft Corals have colonized this ship in a manner making it amongst one of the most beautiful shipwrecks in the world. The railings, masts, lifeboat davits, windlasses and deck winches are all still in place – having become part of a living Reef of such vibrancy that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a “wreck dive!” The wooden decking has gone and the cargo was salvaged. This, however, provides a great opportunity to investigate a large ship at whatever depth suits the personal requirement. Forward of the central bridge are two cavernous cargo holds with ventilation hatches along the starboard side. The decks are now a square pattern of steel in between which is the lower half of the forward mast. As you make your way up the wreck you will ultimately end up back at the eastern reef wall of the island ready to begin your deco. Head with the reef more commonly on the left hand side and don’t forget to keep an eye out in the blue. Multiple varieties of pelagics can be found on this Island.

 

8. Small Giftun @ Hurghada by Cat BraunImage

 

The Marine Park of Hurghada is made up of the two Giftun Islands; Big Giftun and Small Giftun. It is on Small Giftun Island that you will find one of the most popular drift dives in the area so titled “Small Giftun Drift”. You may come across this dive site by a few other names which could include; “The Police Station”, aptly named as there is a patrol outpost in the area, or “Gorgonia Gardens” due to the amount of Gorgonian fan corals that can be found on the site. The eastern wall of the island is where you begin you dive and it is a wall dropping to depths below150m, however, the best depth for the dive is between 60 – 70m. You will find yourself drifting along through a beautiful  green soft coral forest with long whip corals and Gorgonian fan corals along the way. With a bit of local knowledge you will also be able to time your ascent to swim through a narrow crack in the reef, commonly referred to as “The Giftun Archway”. You would make your entrance at around 47m and exit at 43m. The current in the area can be strong hence so much soft coral growth even at depth. Hurghada diving is not renowned for Pelagic’s but it is not unheard of to see a Thresher Shark who has made his home within this area cruising by.

 

 

9. Thomas Canyon @ Sharm El Shiekh by Chris ArmstrongImage

 

Situated in the straits of Tiran are 4 reefs stretching from North to South. The second reef from the south is Thomas reef. Halfway along this reef on the eastern side is a deep underwater fissure, what we commonly refer to as “Thomas Canyon”. The canyon is approximately 80m in length. It begins at a depth of 35m and gradually gets deeper.  At the shallowest point it is quite narrow and drops to a sand base at approximately 42m. As we proceed down through the Canyon you will see there are 3 Arches above you created by falling boulders. The first arch is at 42m; the second is at 50m and the third and final arch at 52m. To the right hand side and deeper at 62m is a short tunnel swim-through which exits between 66-69m. After passing the arches the canyon widens and can easily accommodate two divers side by side. Towards the northern end, the shallowest part of the canyon is 50m with the deepest at 90m under a rocky overhang.

 

This is an ideal site for all levels of technical diver and as there is no current in the canyon which makes for a relaxing dive although usually there will be current upon exit to ascend the wall for deco obligations. There is an abundance of marine life on the main reef wall and its common to see tuna, fusiliers and blue fin trevally patrolling by.

 

 

10. Wreck of Rosalie Muller @ Gobal by Cat BraunImage

 

 

The ship of the Rosalie Moller was 108.2m long. She was ideal for collier duties and was making a significant contribution by transporting anything up to 4,500 tons of best Welsh coal to whichever port the Royal Navy demanded. In July 1941, The Rosalie Moller entered the Red Sea and, on reaching the Gulf of Suez, was assigned “Safe Anchorage H”.  Late at night on 5th October 1941, two twin-engine Heinkels crossed the north Egyptian coast heading southeast in search of a prize. They attacked and sank the Thistlegorm at 0130 hrs 6th October 1941, detonating much of her ammunition. In so doing, the night sky was briefly illuminated revealing more vessels at anchor. 48 hours later, on the night of 7th October 1941, the Rosalie was hit and went down.

 

The Rosalie Moller now stands upright on the seabed. As you make you way down the shot line to the wreck you will notice that the visibility within this area is not as clear as most outside reefs. Instead of this being a negative comment it is actually meant as a positive as it gives the wreck a nice almost eerie atmosphere to it. There are normally two permanent mooring lines on this wreck but they do have a tendency to move around the wreck, so don’t always expect to find them where they were on your last diving trip! The first thing you may see as you approach the wreck was the forward mast, with the masthead lamp in place at 17m. Below this, the Bows are at 39m and the starboard anchor is deployed with the chain running down to the seabed at 47m and then out of sight. The cargo hatches are gone, revealing the full cargo of Best Welsh still in place. Pots and pans still hang in the Galley where they are now concreted to the walls above a large stove. Although the wooden decks have rotted away, all the portholes are still in place. Aft of the Bridge, the funnel is still standing – with only the slightest list to port. You will clearly see the major damage to made to the ship by the bomb, its like it has torn a hole out of the side of the ship and upper decking. The thing that I like the most about this wreck is the fact that it is has not been dived as much as its sister ship the Thistlegorm, and because of the fact that’s it is slightly deeper it means that it is not suitable for the novice diver, again keeping numbers of divers down. As a direct result of these factors the marine life is superb. You must descend through an upper deck area walled with glass fish and cave sweepers, big Tunas are patrolling the masts above your head, multiple peppered moray eels have made their homes along the path ways along with the thousands of tube works, nudi-branches and flat worms.  For me this is a wreck that combines history and marine life, and as it lies only at maximum 47 meters you can have a super long dive on the wreck without too much deco.

 

 

If you would like to dive Elphinestone Archway or the wreck of the Numidia we will be running a technical expedition to the Brother Islands departing from Hurghada on the 5th July 2013. Email us for more details on how you can join that trip.

 

Many thanks to Charles Hood and Duncan Spenceley for some excellent photos.

 

charleshood.com

redseasnapper.com

 

Tekstreme@emeprordivers.com

 

Tekstreme Team 

Who is the leading PADI TecRec dive centre in Egypt……Tekstreme Diving is!

The new year could not have got off to a better start than to receive a phone call from Reto Moser, the PADI regional manager for Egypt, to inform us that Tekstreme had the most PADI TecRec certifications in Egypt in 2012. What an awesome achievement. This  achievement is only possible due to great team of PADI TecRec Instructors that we have here at Tekstreme. The technical manager of Sinai Chris Armstrong, along with Duncan Spenceley and Steve Parry continue to provide thorough, safe, fun packed PADI TecRec courses which keeps our customers returning back to us. Now we would not be able to offer this level of service if it was not for the fantastic work of Emperor Divers. From the very first email reservation enquiries, to the quality of the dive centres, the boats, the transfers etc it makes for a complete high quality package.

 

award

 

If you would have come to Tekstreme four years ago you would have struggled to find any reference to PADI technical diving courses,  so what has changed? Why are these courses now so popular?

 

The PADI TecRec debuted in 2000 with the launch of its Tec Deep Diver and Tec Trimix Diver Programmes.  Although TecRec is not the first tec diving program (cave diver training has been around for decades), it repeatedly receives accolades for its merits. TecRec courses are integrated into an instructionally valid, seamless course flow that takes you from beginning tec diver to one qualified to the outer reaches of sport diving using different gas mixes. Each level introduces you to new gear, planning and procedures appropriate to extend your diving limits.

tecbannere3

 

The Tec Deep Diver course is a nine day course and successful candidates upon completion would be certified to make decompression dives with the use of two eanx decompression gases for accelerated deco to a maximum depth of 50m. As much as the course was designed very progressively, it was very intensive and for some students proved to be too big a jump in a single course. If students could not achieve the performance requirements by the end of their holiday they would not have any certification to go home with. Of course referral forms were readily available for continuation of training in the future. Also, from the holiday makers side, it was often not possible for them to complete the Tec deep diver course in its entirety if they only had a single week holiday and so the numbers of students enrolling in these courses were relatively low. Similarly, the Trimix Diver course was also a nine day course with successful students being certified to 80m using the full range of trimix gases available. Both courses were perhaps not as user friendly as they could be due to the durations and intensity. Maybe partly for these reasons potential technical students were looking elsewhere to other technical training agencies that had more bite size courses and as a technical diving centre we were obliged to offer the other agencies to satisfy the customer. (Can I make a note at this point that I personally teach through PADI, TDI (technical diving international) and BSAC (British Sub aqua club) and actually enjoy teaching through all three agencies equally. This article is not meant to put other agencies down, far from it, this is an article to simply examine the growth of PADI TecRec)

 

 

PADI responded well to the challenges that were presented against their technical courses and sought to rectify this problem; hence the breakdown of the Tec Deep Diver course and the Tec Trimix diver course. The Tec Diver course is now an integrated sequence of three sub-courses: Tec 40Tec 45 and Tec 50.  You can complete them continuously, or you can complete each level separately with a time span between them.  This gives you learning efficiency, instructional integrity and schedule flexibility. The Tec trimix course is also now an integrated sequence of two courses; the Trimix 65 and the The Trimix diver. Similar to the Tec Deep diver you can complete them continuously or you can complete each level on its own.  With these crucial changes PADI had created a much more use friendly sequence of courses that had a strcuture similar to other technical training agencies. Low and behold with a push on the marketing of these new courses the result was effective and immediate…the numbers of divers entering into the PADI technical training route was rapidly increasing.

 

tecrec-chart

 

 

Tekstreme recognized the effort that PADI had made and responded by reinforcing the marketing for these new courses and look where we are now! I personally feel that not only are the PADI courses very thorough in their content but the reading materials that accompany each course are the best in comparison to other training agencies. Now yes, I do admit that PADI do love their multiple acronyms which some people are not a fan of, and yes, the manual does have a lots and lots of pretty colorful pictures, but from my experience as an instructor I can only report that these are beneficial to the learning curve of the student not detrimental. The manual is idiot prove, how can that be a bad thing!  The other bonus is that the Tec Deep Manual was designed for the complete Tec Deep Diver course and so the result of this is, is that you only need one manual for the Tec 40, 45 and 50. I do think that in the future that this may change and that PADI will break the manual into three parts to go in partnership with the three sub courses, but for now you get the all in one.

 

PADI have taken some criticism by many over their technical courses. Some people would categorize PADI as only a holidaymaker recreational agency and what place do they have in the technical diving world, but slowly this stigma is being overcome and PADI are standing up tall and defending their courses, as they rightly should.

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It has been a pleasure to join PADI on their journey of technical diving development and we can only hope that it continues to grow in the future.

 

If you are interested in any of the PADI TecRec Courses then you can click on the following link http://www.tekstremediving.com/tecrec-courses.php or email to us directly at tekstreme@emperordivers.com.

 

Cat Braun – Tekstreme Technical Diving Manager