Monday, June 28, 2010

Gas Blending, Baby!

Gas Blending, Baby!

Stephan, the German caretaker at the English run The Dive Academy on Koh Samui (the World Championships clash between Germany and England was on last night!) whilst the boss is away for a holiday in England, took on the Gas Blender course and the Instructor course!

The theory part with the exam was a tough one, as it is for all non native English speakers, but he managed well and stayed well above the 80% passing grade for said exam. Well done Stephan!

We did the theory a couple of days ago and today it was time for filling some Enriched Air tanks! Here's Stephan trying to figure out which valves to turn in order to get the right amount of air and oxygen in his tanks. It seems to be working out just fine!
The new partial pressure mixing desk I'm using, with thanks to James at Infinity Diving, is a work in progress but a beauty!

Here's some serious Bauer compressor art being thrown at you. This particular compressor comes straight from Germany and has served in a fire fighting stations somewhere in Germany and now it's chugging hours away here on Samui!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The June 2010 IE has been a great succes

The June 2010 IE has been a great succes

Ania had a slow start in this IE with 3 mistakes in her 5 Theory exams and two mistakes in her Standards exam. After that she only had 100% scores, 5's all the way through for her Knowledge Development, 2 Open Water skills and Confined water presentation and the 5 skills.

Well done Ania! At last an end to 3 nerve wrecking days for her.

Here's the first group picture of my IDC's in conjunction with The Dive Academy on Koh Samui with many more to come. From left to right, Jim the PADI examiner, Ania, brand new OWSI and myself.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Survived the EFRI Course of June 2010

Survived the EFRI Course of June 2010

Well, Ania that is, really. Nowadays, as part of your IDC, you have to complete the EFR Instructor course if you're not a First and Secondary Care Instructor, so what fits better than PADI's own EFRI course?

Ania, came. saw and survived ;-) Here's her in action dealing with an unconscious Little Annie and the AED machine.

The customary 'group' picture after the course.

As usual, the course was held at the local Recompression or Hyperbaric chamber in Bang Rak.

As part of the courses I teach at the local chamber, a short introduction is given to hyperbaric treatment and the actual chamber is visited and a short explanation and tour of the facilities is given. Here is Ania listening to the current chamber manager, Ricci explaining the difference between a US Navy table 6 and 5.

Tomorrow we're off to Koh Tao for the PADI IE so stay tuned for more updates.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 2010 IDC done and dusted

June 2010 IDC done and dusted

Ania has completed all segments of this June 2010 IDC and only the EFRI course tomorrow is still lurking around and than it's off to Koh Tao for the PADI IE.

Besides the usual classroom or Knowledge development presentations by her, the confined and open water dives, she also completed an 800 meter swim, as this picture proofs.

After the OWSI Open Water dive

She sailed through this IDC and I'm fully confident that she will do very well during her PADI IE on Koh Tao.
Stay tuned for more updates on Ania during next week.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The June IDC is half way done

The June IDC is half way done

This means that the AI course has been completed and we're now in full swing in the OWSI course. Young Ania is cruising through it by the way!

As a real dive mistress, soon to be instructor, she's ruling over the confined water like a Roman emperor!

We've spend a few afternoons practising the skill circuit and Rescue Exercise # 7 of the Rescue Diver course, spend plenty of time in the classroom discovering the delights of power point presentations and spend some time in Open Water to top it off.

Ania during a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent in confined water.

The one on one training makes for early days though and as already mentioned, Ania's cruising through the IDC with very good scores so far.

Ania during one of her classroom presentations, trying to sell me a computer.

In a few more days we're done with this IDC and on our way to Koh Tao for Ania's PADI IE. So stay tuned for more updates on Ania's progress during this IDC and during her IE adventures.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 2010 IDC has kicked off

June 2010 IDC has kicked off

Fairly unexpected a June IDC was put on the calendar when Ania came along and on very short notice this IDC was scheduled.

As a variation on the usual schedule, there's no prep course and we went straight into the AI course, weaving the prep course into the IDC which should be fairly easy to manage, considering there's only one person participating.

Ania sweating it out over the physics exam

It's also the first IDC that I conduct for The Dive Academy on Koh Samui.

Stay tuned for more updates on this June program.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Deep Dive speciality at Sail Rock

Deep Dive speciality at Sail Rock

Rob, who completed his IDC recently in February, took up one more Speciality, the Deep diver specialty.
Rob already completed a few Specialities during the March Wreck dive trip to Pattaya, including the very popular wreck exploratory trip.

This is the first course that I officially taught for The Dive Academy on Koh Samui, with the first IDC in conjunction with The Dive Academy kicking off tomorrow.

We went out to Sail Rock and the crushing effect of the water pressure at around 30 meters of depth is clearly illustrated in this picture with Rob holding an empty plastic water bottle.
This was the same day when I spotted the UXO ordnance I wrote about recently.

Rob during a safety stop, which are required at the end of your dives, especially during deep diving.

The second dive we toured around the rock for a bit and spotted amongst others this nice species of a scorpion fish.

Sail Rock had great visibility and there was a big school of juvenile barracudas circling around which made for a great photo opportunity.

Stay tuned for upcoming events, including the June IDC!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Unexploded ordnance in Thai waters or...In amongst the shells, SHELLS

Unexploded ordnance in Thai waters or...In amongst the shells, SHELLS

During a recent dive at Sail Rock, I saw for the first time in 11 years of diving and well over 450 dives at this location, an unexploded shell or UXO (unexploded ordnance).

According to Steve Burton of Thaiwreckdivers dot com, the UXO is likely the remains of a large 155mm shell fired from a Thai ship during the live firing exercises that are occasional held at Sail Rock.

The corrosion on the shell indicates that it has been down underwater for many years and the brass rifling ring is clearly visible, confirming its origin as an artillery piece.

It was probably about 30-35 cm long and about 10 cm in diameter.

Silly enough, after recognising what it was, I tried to lift it and my first impulse was to take it out of the water. DUH! Silly boy! First of all it exceeded my expectation of how much it weighed, it was darn heavy and I could barely move it around, which in hindsight is a very good thing.
Immediately after having touched it and having realised how heavy it is, I also remembered Steve Burton's web page dedicated to DANGEROUS STUFF FOUND ON SHIPWRECKS AND REMOTE DIVE SITES EXPLOSIVES or...In amongst the shells, SHELLS and decided it a better idea to leave it where I saw it!

Please visit this page and learn from it!

Funny thought though how many times myself and all other divers have swam/dived over this ordnance without knowing or recognising it.

Steve also remembers seeing a couple of these 155mm shells rattling around in between the coral heads just a few meters underwater at Sail rock many years ago – confirming the observations that they are being heavy to lift – though he guesses that this prevents them being lifted out of the water, which is a good thing, since when they dry out, they can become a bit unstable according to Steve, percussively sensitive and explode killing everyone within a few 10’s of meters.

Thus its best to leave it where it is and visit Steve's web page dedicated to DANGEROUS STUFF FOUND ON SHIPWRECKS AND REMOTE DIVE SITES EXPLOSIVES or...In amongst the shells, SHELLS.

A very interesting dive it was indeed and once more it proofs that you never cease to learn new things!

Be safe out there folks,


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dive safaris and live aboard report Maldives March & April 2010

Dive safaris and live aboard report Maldives March & April 2010

This is the first guest blog writer entry of my dive blog. Please welcome Bas van der Mee, owner of a live aboard company in the Maldives and one of my former IDC candidates during August 2007.
This blog post is going to be part of guest write ups by former students who are still active in the dive industry, so anybody who completed his IDC with me and who's still working in the dive industry and feels like writing a small entry, get in touch!

Bas can be reached at his Dutch and English websites and on his Facebook group. Here we go, enjoy the read, I did;

After doing an IDC in 2007 with Camille,I worked on Koh Samui for several dive schools like SIDS, Blue Planet and Divepoint. After staying in Thailand for a year I went to the Perhentians in Malaysia and worked for a dive school called Universal Diver. Then a fantastic opportunity crossed my path: an old friend of mine asked me if I wanted to take over his safari company in the Maldives. Here’s a short story of the safari period in the Maldives we just closed.

Rain, wind, hail, the weather here in the Netherlands is very different than what I got to experience the past few months. I did found it a fantastic safari period which I want to share with you. I want to thank all guests who made this period to a success and I hope you had just a great a time as Christian (dive partner of Bas and also a former IDC candidate of mine) and me.

At the beginning of March I got on the Blue Dolphin in the Maldives after a winter of snow. The magnificent Indian Ocean was fantastic and familiar again. After a few days arranging logistics I picked up Christian and the adventure was about to start. The weather was great, we had no wind and it was very warm. This made it possible to dive according to the plan and we could use the less secured anchoring places and reach the best dive sites.

Maldives map

Because of the east wind (east monsoon) the manta rays were on the west side of the atolls so we left immediately for the South of the Ari Atoll to go up on the West side. The third day we arrived at Maamagili in the South of the Ari Atoll where we discovered they were working hard on the new international airport which is supposed to open in 2011. Because they were dredging there was a lot of debris in the water what might have been the cause that we saw not as many whale sharks like we are used to this season.

This was obviously not to spoil the fun because at Madifaru we came across some beautiful mantas and I had the opportunity to test my HD camera.
Unfortunately the fun for me didn’t last for long, a flooded underwater housing soon made short work of the camera....

After an always spectacular night dive at Maaya Thila where we saw white tip reef sharks, moray eels and stingrays hunting we sailed back through the South Male Atoll back to Male. Some of our guests had terrible storms last November and it was a relief for them to see that the Maldives can be sunny. Fortunately, the weather throughout the whole safari period was very good and sometimes people even secretly longed for a couple of showers.

Anemone fish (© at Bas van der Mee)

The next safari we got to welcome the members of the diving school De Beldert who had booked the boat.
Since the weather was perfect we could quickly sail go to the south of the Ari Atoll. Again they were working on the airport and again there was a lot of debris in the water. However, we were lucky and a few people who were quick enough to get in the water had the opportunity to snorkel with a whale shark for a brief moment.

At Madivaru we saw the manta rays again and as an experiment we made a dive on a new dive site where I saw 3 safari boats lying the season before.
After some Internet research and help from Google Earth I obtained the GPS coordinates. The dive site is called Aiyabu Thila and is near the island of Mandu in the south of the Ari Atoll. We were astonished when a dozen gray reef sharks accompanied us during the dive and we could end the dive on top of the fabulous Thila which was covered with beautifully intact hard coral. See among others the photo of the young parrot fish. Aiyabu Thila is definitely a dive site I would like to visit more often!

Bas on the look out for whale sharks

The next day we wanted to go see the manta rays at Donkalo Thila. This is a difficult dive site because of the lack of protection when there is a serious current. You just get flushed of the Thila. We had a perfect drop on the Thila and together with a quick descend this made this dive a fantastic dive for some of the guests with a spectacular sight on dozens of mantas. As Christian and I went further downstream to pick up the divers which were flushed of the Thila we unfortunately saw none, but safety first!

Back in Male Christian tried to buy fresh tuna at the fishing boats but his skin color made tuna suddenly 3x more expensive than normal. Fortunately, the captain knew somebody on a fishing boat and so we found a way to buy some fresh tuna for the next trip.

The third safari, we again tried to find whale sharks at Maamagili but we saw none when there are normally 4 or 5. Because of the little luck we had with whale sharks this period we decided not to go all the way to Maamagili anymore for the upcoming safaris. This due to the fact that it is a long way sailing and we miss out on some other great dive site.

Sleeping baby white tip shark (© at Bas van der Mee)

Since last year, it is forbidden to trade in shark products in the Maldives and effectively this means excellent protection of the sharks. The big numbers of white tip reef sharks and pregnant females we have seen already seem the positive outcome of new laws. At this rate there will be large numbers of sharks again on all dive sites within 5 years.

Baby parrot fish (© at Bas van der Mee)

During the third safari we had no luck at all because this was the first safari in our history (of 31 safaris) in which we saw no mantas! We dived Madivaru 3 times and while we saw them on all previous dives at this site now there were none. Another group of divers who surfaced 10 minutes after us saw 2! Later this proved to be exactly the week that the mantas were migrating and next week they arrived on the east side of the Maldives at Lankan Finolhu close to Malé, three weeks earlier than normal!

Manta Ray

Because we decided no longer to go to the south of the Ari Atoll now went to the Rasdhoo Atoll in the North of the Ari Atoll where whale sharks are also seen regularly. In the lagoon of the Ravesteyn we did not see them but at Rasdhoo we saw a whale shark accompanied by a couple of gray reef sharks!

We had more bad luck.... who would have thought that a volcano could affect our safaris, most divers in the last safari could not make it in time and we had to change our schedule to show them anything of the Maldives. Because of this we did a lo of dives in the North and South Male Atoll with many sharks and eagle rays but unfortunately we could not cross to the Ari Atoll.

During all safaris there is a big chance to see manta rays, sharks, turtles and other big game, but especially during the longer safaris, there is more time to wait for the good conditions to spot whale sharks which increases the chance of spotting this great animal.

Because it appears that the whale sharks at Maamagili are disappearing in the high season we go in search of their new residence. A place where we expect them to find is Hanifaru Bay in the Baa Atoll, a place where National Geographic made a documentary about and where in the west monsoon (June until November) and under the right conditions up to 200 mantas and 20 whale sharks can be seen. This autumn we are going there with a bigger, stronger, faster and more luxurious boat, the Dhinasha. There are still some places available and if there is enough interest we may open another period in September!

Check for availability at our schedule.

See you in the Maldives!

With kind regards,

Bas van der Mee

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

PADI Speciality of the month June 2010; Peak Performance Buoyancy

PADI Speciality of the month June 2010; Peak Performance Buoyancy

Who doesn't want to have good buoyancy when diving? You want to protect both a reef that you may be diving or your equipment and the way to do this is by having good buoyancy.

The Peak Performance Buoyancy course is a course that suits many divers, mainly the ones that are at the beginning stages of their dive life but also more experienced divers can benefit from this course.
Especially underwater photographers and underwater videographers need good buoyancy skills so they take a picture with a steady hand.

Added benefits are better air consumption which makes for longer dives and you prolong the life of your dive equipment.

The course consists of two training dives and is lots of fun with plenty of buoyancy skills and challenges during these two dives.

As usual, during June the PPB or Peak Performance Buoyancy Speciality course of the month can be booked with a 10% discount through me.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wreck diving trip in Pattaya has been completed

Wreck diving trip in Pattaya has been completed

Today Sunil and me finished our second day of diving in Pattaya and we finished it around the so called far islands and to be precise Koh Rin and North Rock aka 'the jewel of Pattaya'.

More of that later, first to the story of our first days diving.

It's been over a year that I've dived the Hardeep, as pictured above and with a great and accurate description and history on my friend Steve Burton's website thaiwreckdiver dot com of the Steamship Suddhadib, which is it's real name.

As a side note, today it's exactly 65 years ago that the Hardeep went down on 1st June 1945!

When we splashed for the first dive we had a moderate current but very low visibility and we got slightly disorientated, so I decided to follow a set of fins to the boat. When we went gradually deeper and deeper, until we hit 27 meters instead of the expected 22 where the wreck is, I knew that we where on our way to the bombs near the wreck. Once we got there, Sunil indicated that he was rather not looking at unexploded bombs, so we made our way back to the wreck where we completed the skills required for the dive, which includes tying a reel off for later penetration, as pictured above.

Once it was time to leave the wreck, we got disorientated a second time due to the low visibility and we couldn't find the ascent line, so we tied ourselves on to wreck with a reel and reeled off from the wreck to the surface.
Upon surfacing we saw that the boat wasn't too far away from so we could actually swim back to it.

When we jumped in for the second dive, Sunil, who had never dived in currents like this, decided that for the second dive he rather gave it a miss than trying to go down in an absolute ripping current, so we passed on the second dive on the Hardeep for that day, which was a wise decision to be made by Sunil. If you're not comfortable doing a dive, don't do it, it's as simple as that.
We did however complete the Nitrox instructor training as well, since we did dive using a 36% Nitrox mix.

Upon checking the tidal charts for the next day, we decided to change our destination to the far islands instead of returning to the Hardeep, since the charts predicted even stronger currents. We'll continue Sunil's wreck dive instructor course in Dubai somewhere in December, when I'm planning to visit there.

Here's a view of the small harbour of Samea San with it's fishing boat fleet, where all the trips for the Hardeep start from, about a 45 minute drive from Pattaya.

Today's diving took place at the far islands, the first dive around Koh Rin, where we completed the DUP speciality and during the second dive we completed the Fish ID speciality.
The picture above shows a rather large puffer fish which we encountered during the second dive around North Rock, which is also know as 'The jewel of Pattaya' and a good dive it was indeed.

We drifted serenely around the island, so it was almost like the Drift dive speciality, making it a very enjoyable dive and day all around.
However, just as reported recently from Chaweng Beach and it's coral bleaching, here's a sample from North Rock which had it's share of bleaching, although not as bad as around Samui's and Koh Tao's dive sites.