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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.

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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.

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PADI Teams Up with Wellness Brand Neuro to Drive Ocean Change and Create a Blue State of Mind

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Neuro

Together launching a whale-inspired limited-edition tin to fund ocean conservation

Ocean lovers and wellness enthusiasts can join PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®)  and Neuro® functional gum and mints in creating positive ocean change.

The two leading lifestyle and purpose-driven brands have united in a shared mission that is born out of the transformational powers of the water and are offering a streamlined way to enhance your wellbeing and that of the ocean. Throughout the year, they will be releasing a collection of two limited edition re-usable Neuro x PADI tins designed to be used with all the bulk Neuro bag products, with 20% of profits donated to PADI AWARE FoundationTMand $100K USD committed to the world’s largest purpose-driven diving organisation’s non-profit charity by the end of 2024.

The first of the co-branded tins that are now available for purchase showcases artwork created by Neuro co-founder Kent Yoshimura, who is also a renowned mural artist and depicts a whale breaching in the ocean.

“The whale is symbolic of how everything is interconnected and small changes can have a huge impact upon our ocean – and all life that calls it home,” explains Yoshimura. “By refilling and using this tin, you’ll cut down on your packaging waste, fuel yourself with clean ingredients to live your best life and do more for all vulnerable marine species.”

At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and more than 250 million tons of plastic are estimated to pollute our waters by 2025,” says Julie Andersen, PADI’s Senior Director of Brand. “Much of that debris is ingested by all of the ocean’s creatures – including the symbolic megafauna like whales. By creating this campaign, PADI and Neuro have come together to drive change and heal ourselves, our communities, and the ocean – our largest and most important ecosystem on this blue planet, and the very thing responsible for life on earth.”

Uniting Two Purpose-Driven Brands

Founded in 2015 by Yoshimura and his co-founder Ryan Chen on their first dive trip in Catalina, the two college friends and PADI Scuba Divers were looking for a more sustainable way to optimise one’s health and energy – and soon after established Neuro®, a collection of functional gum and mints crafted with a patented formula and clean ingredients to help you do more.

What started as a small start-up conceived on a dive boat, led them to garner international recognition for their appearance on Shark Tank in 2020 – and they have now sold over 90 million pieces of Neuro products.

“Core to our purpose-driven ethos, we want to encourage the world to not only improve their own lives, but the lives of others,” explains Chen. “We understand that being a truly sustainable company is more than just protecting the environment. That is why we prioritise environmental, social, and economic sustainability to ensure Neuro operates in a way that benefits everyone – including the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales that live beneath the surface.”

“Just like Neuro, PADI empowers people to become the best version of themselves when they are in a state of ‘blue mind’, where you become deeply aware of your own personal health’s connection to that of our blue planet’s – realising that your own wellbeing gives you superpowers to make a real difference,” says Andersen. “We are obsessed with creating positive ocean change and transforming lives by making the wonder of the underwater world accessible to all and ensuring that communities and ecosystems live in harmony that mutually support one another. Together, we are magnifying our powers to do more by raising awareness to the issues facing our ocean, while at the same time, providing meaningful ways to take action.”

How the Ocean Healed Neuro Co-Founders

Scuba diving isn’t just a passionate hobby for Neuro co-founders Yoshimura and Chen. It is from this that they experienced the entrepreneurial side-effects of scuba diving, in which the dive trip was a core driver to their business success and personal wellbeing – giving them both their “million-dollar idea” and a renewed sense of purpose and belief that anything is possible.

“It was during this dive trip that we realised the need to have a practical, sustainable, and approachable system that can be shared with fellow divers that provide clean energy during surface intervals,” Yoshimura explains. “When you fall in love with the ocean, you want to spend as much time as possible exploring and protecting it. So, we wanted to create a product that supported this passion and gives you a prolonged state of ‘blue mind’.”

For Chen, earning his PADI Open Water Diver certification also provided him with a pivotal moment in his own healing journey after he had suffered a tragic snowboarding accident that left him partially paralysed. He became certified through the PADI Adaptive Techniques Diving Course and benefited greatly from the physical and mental therapy the sport of scuba diving provides. Soon after, his renewed sense of purpose led him to be named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2019.

“There’s no cooler feeling than taking that first breath underwater,” Chen recalls. “All of a sudden you have this superpower, to breathe underwater and explore. Learning to dive re-ignited my passion for life but also my belief that I too could make a difference in protecting and saving the ocean.”

“Learning to scuba dive unlocks hidden superpowers that are not only empowering – but essential to keep our shared blue planet healthy,” Andersen explains. “As a PADI Scuba Diver, you not only develop a new passion, but you also earn the unique ability to protect what you love, engaging in impactful citizen science with your own two hands.  Through a shared mission of instilling hope, connecting with other species, and fueling hands-on conservation, we hope that we can make a better world for all of us.”

“That is why we rebuilt our company mission at PADI to reach every 1 in 10 people on our shared blue planet and inspire them to join us as Ocean Torchbearers to create positive ocean change,” says Andersen. “Our work with Neuro helps us inspire more people to experience, fall in love with, and protect the ocean and all life that calls it home. Together, Neuro and PADI are supporting more people in achieving a state of “blue mind”, in which they realise they too are superheroes that can accelerate and optimise healing: our own, our communities, and our planets.”

Win a Healing Trip of a Lifetime and Become PADI Whale Defenders in Mexico

Note: This competition is only open to residents of the USA

As part of their limited edition re-usable tin launch, PADI and Neuro are offering one lucky winner the ultimate healing trip of a lifetime:  the chance to become a PADI Whale Defender in Baja California, Mexico. The prize includes flights, accommodation, the PADI Whale Defender Course, and a whale-watching tour with Dive Ninja Expeditions for two, as well as a collection of Neuro mint and gum products that includes Energy + Focus, Calm + Clarity and Sleep + Recharge.

“Together, we all must heal ourselves before we can heal the planet,” says Andersen. “Neuro and PADI are united in purpose, focused on our holistic wellbeing by healing from within, connecting with like-minded, purpose-driven communities, and joining a movement bigger than yourself to create positive ocean change. Seeing is believing, and an unforgettable, life-altering encounter with a whale will change your life forever, filling you with a drive to protect their – and our – blue world.”

For more information, to purchase the limited edition re-usable tins and to enter this competition, visit padi.neurogum.com/sweepstakes.

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Diver Discovering Whale Skeletons Beneath Ice Judged World’s Best Underwater Photograph

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UPY

An emotive photograph showing a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling sees
Alex Dawson from Sweden named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024. Dawson’s
photograph ‘Whale Bones’ triumphed over 6500 underwater pictures entered by underwater
photographers from around the world.

“Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions,” explains chair of judging
panel Alex Mustard, “as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear
witness to the carcasses. The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great
creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today,
just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way
needs to change to find a balance with nature.”

UPY

Photo: Rafael
Fernandez Caballero

Whales dominated the winning pictures this year with Spanish photographer Rafael
Fernandez Caballero winning two categories with his revealing photos of these ocean giants:
a close up of a grey whale’s eye and an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing an entire bait
ball, both taken in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico. Fernandez Caballero took ‘Grey
Whale Connection’ while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water
to photograph the curious whale. ‘The End Of A Baitball’ required Fernandez Caballero to dive
down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the whale lunged. “The photo shows
the high speed attack,” he said, “with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines
in one bite — simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”

UPY

Photo: Rafael
Fernandez Caballero

Lisa Stengel from the United States was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi-mahi catching a sardine, in Mexico. Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment. “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean,” she explained. “The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”

“It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras,”
commented judge Alex Mustard. “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi mahi,
now Lisa has photographed one hunting, action that plays out in the blink of an eye.”
The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Jenny Stock,
was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image “Star
Attraction”, which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked.
Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained “in the dark green depths my torch
picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a
different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I
got really excited.”

Photo: Jenny Stock

In the same contest, Portuguese photographer, Nuno Sá, was named ‘Save Our Seas
Foundation’ Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024, with his photo ‘Saving
Goliath’, taken in Portugal. Sá’s photo shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm
whale. The picture gives us hope that people do care and want to help the oceans, but also
warns us that bigger changes are needed. “The whale had been struck by a ship and its fate
was sealed,” explains Sá. “An estimated 20,000 whales are killed every year, and many more
injured, after being struck by ships-and few people even realise that it happens.”

UPY

Photo: Nuno Sá

More winning images can be found at www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com.

About Underwater Photographer of the Year

Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools, and attracts entries from all around the world. The contest has 13 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. The winners were announced in an award ceremony in Mayfair, London, hosted by The Crown Estate. This year’s UPY judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Dr Alexander Mustard MBE.

Header image: Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 winner Alex Dawson

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