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Bermuda: Wrecks, Wet T-Shirts and Hidden Treasures

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‘Down deep inside there’s a place in me I’m yearning to explore’ – Listening to the late Donna Summer’s sexy dance tune playing on the radio stirred some fond memories. Down Deep Inside was the original soundtrack for the 1977 underwater adventure flick, The Deep. I had been way too young to watch the film when it was first released, which I might add had been given a 15 rating probably due to English actress Jacqeline Bisset’s opening scenes wearing nothing more than a skimpy bikini bottom and a thin wet t-shirt. Looking back this was quite risqué for the 70’s.

The movie, based on American author Peter Benchley’s second novel, turned out to be one of the top 10 grossing films of the year (thanks to Miss Bisset’s cleavage). The basic storyline follows the underwater exploits of Nick Nolte as David Sanders and Jacqeline Bisset as Gail Berke on the island of Bermuda. The loved up couple are seen exploring the remains of a sunken shipwreck. While digging about on the seabed they find a number of items including an old table fork, padlock, cigarette lighter, Spanish medallion and a small 7.5 cm glass vile containing an unknown substance.

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stu 7 DSC_0534a-small (3)After the dive they search for more information about their ‘finds’ at the local library. David sees a photograph of local treasure hunter Romer Treece played by Robert Shaw (aka shark hunter Quint in the film based on Benchley’s first book Jaws) and thinks he would be a good source of information. Mounting mopeds David and Gail head for Treece’s lighthouse located on St David’s Island at the north eastern tip of Bermuda. Treece is not really interested in helping them out until he catches sight of the small glass vile. This turns out to be a morphine ampoule from the infamous wreck of the Goliath, a WWII military ship that was carrying medical supplies and munitions. Over the years 5 divers had been blown up by the live ammunition stacked inside her holds and nobody had ever seen an ampoule. The island had recently experienced one of the worst storms in 10 years which must have repositioned the wreck and opened up her cargo holds.

Just too make the story even more interesting, the Goliath happens to be sitting smack bang on top of an old Spanish Galleon full of priceless treasure. Henri Cloche, a Haitian drug dealer played by Louis Gossett Jr, is the bad guy. He finds out about the huge stash of 98,000 morphine ampoules and intends to get his grubby hands on the merchandise by any means foul. Meanwhile Treece aided by David and Gail set out to retrieve the treasure and blow up the drugs. The second best bit of the movie is seeing Cloche’s head being crunched by a monster sized moray eel lurking inside the Goliath’s holds. There are also plenty of sharks, voodoo, underwater explosions and speargun fights; this old movie really is quality Sunday afternoon entertainment.

teddy tuckerPeter Benchley’s novel was actually based around the true life exploits of his good friend, scuba diver and treasure hunter Teddy Tucker. The role of Romer Treece was basically an extension of Teddy’s real character. Benchley even managed to find a small role for Teddy in the movie (watch out for the Harbour Master!).

For the past 50 years Teddy has been involved in wreck research, salvage and excavation. At the grand old age of 87 he can still be found scuba diving off Bermuda. Many of the local wreck discoveries are attributed to Teddy’s diligent work. Bermuda is known as the wreck capital of the Atlantic with more than 300 historical wrecks scattered around the coastline. Most of these sites are above 20 metres so divers have plenty of time for exploration with minimal risk of decompression.

stu 5 lighthouse_1 (3)The Deep was shot on location in Bermuda. Romer Treece’s lighthouse is still on St David’s Island. Unfortunately it was closed during my visit so I couldn’t climb the spiral stairway up to the lamp room and admire the sea view. The majority of underwater footage was taken on the wreck of the Constellation and the neighbouring wreck of the Montana located off the north-west coast. I took a taxi ride over to Dive Bermuda, a PADI 5 star IDC centre, and made the arrangements to dive on the 2 wrecks. Dive Bermuda’s manager, Kevin Luton, paired me up with ex-pat Alan Pearce. Sadly there was no sign of any bikini clad women wearing wet t-shirts so I had to make do with Alan in my photographs.

The 4 masted Schooner Constellation set sail from New York on July 19th 1943 bound for Venezuela. She carried 2,000 tons of general cargo including building materials and 300 cases of Whisky. The ship began to take on water so diverted to Bermuda for repair work. On July 31st she hit the reef and sank while trying to find the harbour entrance. All crew members survived the ordeal. A salvage company managed to retrieve some of the cargo and sell it at public auction in Hamilton, the capital, but a considerable amount remained undisturbed on the seabed. The Navy also got involved but they only took the 300 cases of Whisky!

stu 13 dive_bermuda (3)

stu 14 constellation_snooker_slate (3)stu 17 constellation (3)We jumped into the water and dropped down onto a massive pile of 20 kg cement bags. There must have been thousands lying over the seabed. Alan disappeared behind part of the wooden hull and pulled out 2 small glass bottles that must have been part of the cargo. They were quite plain looking designs so probably weren’t carrying anything particularly special. Most of the overlying super structure had long since disintegrated. I couldn’t see any swim throughs or cargo holds to explore. In fact it didn’t look anything like the wreck used in the movie. Alan pointed at a rectangular shaped piece of rock which on closer inspection turned out to be a snooker table slate complete with scalloped corner pockets. I passed over the cement bags and down to a pile of glass windows all stuck together. Inquisitive Parrot fish, Trumpet fish and Sergeant Majors followed us through the wreckage. Maximum depth was around 12 metres so there was plenty of ambient light and the underwater visibility topped 30 metres.

stu 15 constellation_cement_bags (3)

The morphine ampoules were not just a fictitious storyline. The Constellation had actually been carrying a large consignment of medical supplies. Before the dive I was shown a variety of ornate looking glass ampoules that had been found at the wreck site. They were all different shapes, sizes and colours. I was told that the ampoules had been filled with different drugs like iodine, penicillin, insulin, adrenaline as well as morphine. I peered underneath the wreckage and wondered if this was where Jacqeline Bisset had been filmed with the first ampoule in her hand. We passed over some wooden remains held together with jagged metal pins. I stopped briefly by a row of chemical drums and wondered what they had been carrying. I made a mental note to check out Teddy’s new treasure book. There was a complete chapter on the Constellation with details of her entire manifest. Then we were on the wreck of the Montana.

stu 11 drug_ampoules (3)

The 60 metre long paddle steamer/gunboat Montana was used as a Confederate blockade runner during the civil war. She made frequent runs from North Carolina to Bermuda and then across the Atlantic to England. In December 1863 the ship was returning from England with a full cargo when she hit a reef and sank off Bermuda. I’m not sure if any scenes from The Deep were filmed on the Montana but the wreckage was far better suited for penetration shots. Alan guided me over to the skeletal remains of the giant paddle wheels adorned with soft and hard corals. The bow was the only overhead section I could find. I managed to fire off a few action shots of Alan peering into the hold before the silt, disturbed by our exhaled bubbles, rained down on top of us. As we made our way back to the surface my thoughts returned to the monster moray eel that had munched on Cloche’s head. I wondered if a family descendent was lurking somewhere in the shadows below. I had kept a wary eye open but saw nothing. Even the sight of my camera hadn’t stirred a reaction.

stu 8 DSC_0107a (3)

stu 10 DSC_0073a (3)stu 9 DSC_0090a (3)Dive Bermuda’s boat skipper, Heinz, told me that the best time for treasure hunting is after a storm front has passed. The sandy seabed can shift around dramatically revealing parts of wrecks never seen before. Heinz told me about the paddle steamer Marie Celeste. The ship was well broken up with only the bow, paddle wheels and boilers proud of the seabed. A huge storm hit in July 2011 uncovering bottles of wine and other rare artefacts.

Maybe the legendary Teddy Tucker hasn’t found all the shipwrecks around Bermuda. There could still be an uncharted Spanish galleon lying on the seabed just waiting for the next big storm to uncover her priceless cargo. All it would take is a young couple on holiday, scuba diving, another wet t-shirt, and who knows, fiction could well become reality.

stu 16 constellation_bottles (3)

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…

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Competitions

WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!

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Yes, XDEEP have now officially called their excellent frameless mask the ‘Radical’, and in this week’s competition, we’ve got another one to give away!

The XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask is a large single lens dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and traditional strap. The frameless design brings the lens closer to your face so you get a wider FOV and less internal volume that you have to equalise and clear. The larger nose pocket makes the mask more comfortable and easier to equalise, even with thick gloves.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can find here), we reported that you can join Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world. But when can you join Reef-Word’s Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020?

Is it:

  • A) 3pm BST on Friday 23rd October 2020
  • B) 3pm BST on Saturday 24th October 2020
  • C) 3pm BST on Sunday 25th October 2020

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Nautilus Diving XDEEP Frameless Mask October 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, employees of Nautilus Diving and their families, or XDEEP and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 02/11/20. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

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