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Coronavirus outbreak causes last minute travel changes – a warning to travelling divers!

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Travelling divers are being urged to double check the latest travel advice for their destination or risk being unable to travel.

British divers Nigel Cass and Caroline Albrecht were on the way to a trip of a lifetime diving the wartime wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon when they were told they were unable to board their United Airlines flight from Manila to Chuuk (Truk TKK via Guam). Despite checking travel advice numerous times before travel and receiving no notification of any issues, Nigel and Caroline were victims of a Public Health Emergency Declaration that had come into force in the Federated States of Micronesia whilst they overnighted in Manila in the Philippines.

Standing at the check-in desk, a couple of hours before boarding, the couple were handed a letter signed by the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, declaring that anyone travelling from a country with confirmed cases of coronavirus would need to spend 14 days in a country with NO confirmed cases of the virus before they would be allowed to enter the FSM. The government directive had come into place on 31st January 2020.

Due to the fact that Nigel and Caroline had originally departed from the UK and were now in the Philippines, both countries having declared coronavirus cases, they were now ineligible to travel onwards to Chuuk, unless they were prepared to quarantine themselves in Guam for 14 days.

After a frantic series of phone calls and emails, it emerged that staff at the Blue Lagoon Resort in Chuuk, where the couple were heading, were unaware of the situation themselves and were actually only told of the government directive by the FSM Health Department whilst waiting at the airport to receive their guests.

Nigel says that United Airlines staff at Manila were incredibly helpful and offered to refund their flight tickets on the spot so that they could make alternative plans. United Airlines also arranged a second overnight in Manila at their cost.

Fortunately, Nigel’s many years of experience in the dive industry helped the couple salvage what was an upsetting and potentially disastrous holiday. Remembering what a fantastic trip he had to Atlantis Philippines on a FAM trip a couple of years previously, Nigel set about contacting Atlantis’ Andy Pope who stepped in and saved the day.

“When I was sitting in our hastily booked hotel room I wondered how I could salvage a holiday out of the wreckage of our Truk trip,” says Nigel.  “I remembered Andy and Atlantis from a FAM trip I took. I had always wanted to take Caroline there to experience it and I thought it’s worth asking the question. Andy was there in our hour of need and he and all the staff at Atlantis have been so wonderful and gone way beyond the call of duty. Within 10 hours of our holiday going up in flames thanks to coronavirus, we were on our way to Atlantis Puerto Galera. Amazing!”

Nigel and Caroline are now enjoying their ‘new’ holiday in the Philippines.

“We are blown away by the quality of the diving here and Caroline doesn’t know where to focus her camera first! We have a Penthouse Suite at Atlantis Puerto Galera for six nights, followed by a further six nights at Atlantis Dumaguete. Plus transfers all arranged by Atlantis. We can’t thank Andy and the Atlantis team enough for saving our holiday. Truk will still be there when coronavirus is long gone!”

British people can check the latest travel advice at www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus.

All travellers should check with their airline, travel company, port authorities or local health authorities prior to travel as the situation is developing all the time.

Nigel and Caroline are staying at Atlantis Philippines.

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Diving below the waves of the Western Cape, South Africa – Long Beach at night (Watch Video)

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Head under the waves of False Bay and explore the incredible diversity that is found along the Western Cape. The bay has popular dive spots from diving amongst the biodiverse underwater kelp forests to jumping in with the playful and friendly cape fur sealions (Arctocephalus pusillus). The bay along with the rest of the South Africa coast is known for the range of shark species that are found from the shallow coastal shores out into the open oceans. The coast is also home to numerous endemic shark species such as puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) and Pyjama shark.

Longbeach is a shallow shore dive close to the coastal town of Simonstown on the Western Cape. The dive is mainly made up of diving across the sand with a few wreckages, rocks and outcrops where there’s algae growing. A pipeline can be found at the site which provides locations for species such as Pyjama Sharks (Poroderma africanum) and octopus (Octopus vulgaris) to shelter. Diving at night at the site provides the opportunity to see species that are more often hidden during the day such as cape Squid (Loligo reynaudii) and Biscuit Skate (Raja straeleni). Other shark species such as the small Puff Adder Shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) are also occasionally seen at the site.

Diving with the local dive club – Cape Town Dive Centre.


Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Book Review – The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe (2007)

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It was the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Cruiser Ordzhonikidz, supported by two destroyers, had brought Soviet leaders Khruschev and Bulganin to Britain for sensitive meetings with the British Government. The ships were moored in Portsmouth harbour and the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, had expressly forbidden any clandestine inspection of them. However, on the morning of 19th April 1956 Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabbe, an experienced naval diver, slipped into the cold waters of Portsmouth harbour. His top secret mission was to photograph the hull, propellers and rudder of the Ordzhonikidze. He was never seen alive again.

A badly decomposed body, with head and hands missing, was discovered by fishermen in Chichester harbour months later. It was claimed to be the missing body of Buster Crabbe – but many had doubts. The incident marked the start of a controversy that claimed the posts of several high ranking naval, government and intelligence service personnel. The author of The Final Dive, Don Hale, claims it is one that still rages and which may not be resolved even when secret government files are released in 2057.

Don Hale, an acknowledged campaigning journalist and former Journalist of the Year brings all his experience and skill to unravelling this longstanding scandal. He has drawn upon official reports and private letters, statements from government representatives, fellow officers and friends to piece together Buster’s life and events leading to his disappearance and subsequent investigation. He speaks of “inquiries blocked by intrigue, constant cover-ups and government bureaucracy coupled with threats relating to the Official Secrets Act” (p. xi). If you like reading about subterfuge on a grand scale you will enjoy The Final Dive.

Don Hale’s meticulous account of the life of Buster Crabbe is supported by dozens of black and white photos and extracts from numerous official documents. It reveals how an amazing series of civilian jobs, wartime activities and friendships with high ranking government officials, British intelligence officers, American CIA operatives. . . and now known spies, prepared him for his final dive and perhaps his fate. One of Crabbe’s acquaintances was the author Ian Fleming – of James Bond fame. Indeed, it is suggested that Fleming based the character of 007 on Buster Crabbe. After reading of his exploits, both before WWII, his bomb disposal work during the war, and afterwards it is easy to see why. Certainly, those who worked with Buster Crabbe “all agree he was fearless.” (p.59). After reading of his exploits one wonders if he was too fearless.

In the later stage of Buster’s life, prior to his disappearance, Don Hall recounts “a constant merry-go-round of overseas assignments” (p. 118) for Crabbe and how he “began to receive increasingly hazardous commissions” (p. 136). It culminated in the morning dive in Portsmouth harbour. Hale’s forsensic-like account of the events surrounding the final dive and aftermath reveals absolute panic and bungling behind the scenes as official answers conflict with known facts. He describes how “The whole incident still seems bathed in secrecy, with the true facts deliberately buried in bureaucracy, and supported at the highest level by an incredible cover-up operation”.(p. 205).

A final comment by Don Hale adds to the intrigue. He states “The only part of the Crabbe puzzle about which I am not certain is not who sent him – we know the answer to that – but why on earth he was he sent, possibly at considerable risk?” (p. 248). After reading The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe you will no doubt have your own ideas.


The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe (2007)

  • By Don Hale
  • Stroud: Sutton Publishing
  • ISBN 978 0 7509 4574 5
  • 260 pp

Don Hale was a professional footballer before becoming editor of several regional newspapers. He has received numerous national and international awards for investigative journalism including Journalist of the Year. In 2002 he was awarded an OBE for his campaigning journalism in the Stephen Downing miscarriage of justice case. He has championed several others who have been wrongly convicted.

His other books include Town without Pity (2002), Murder in the Graveyard (2019) and Mallard: How the ‘Blue Steak’ Broke the World Speed Record (2019).


Find out more about Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author, at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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