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DAN welcomes 2021 Research and Safety Interns

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Divers Alert Network® is excited to introduce five interns who will be working with the organization for the next few months to expand their knowledge of dive safety and research. After pausing the internship program last year, DAN is pleased to once again welcome young scholars pursuing their interests.

The DAN Internship Program was created more than 20 years ago to give qualified students valuable experience in dive safety research. While the program is still research-oriented, its scope has expanded over the years to include projects that focus on other facets of DAN’s mission to help divers in need of emergency medical assistance and to promote dive safety through education. These interns will spend several months at DAN headquarters in Durham, N.C., working with the Research and Safety Services departments on a variety of projects and research efforts.

Rhiannon Brenner graduated from UNC Wilmington with a degree in anthropology and minors in environmental science and international studies. She has been diving since she was 16, is a divemaster and is passionate about scuba and the environment. She is excited to be working with DAN Research to participate in studies with divers and to better our understanding of dive physiology.

Grant Dong is president of his dive club at the University of Maryland and a divemaster candidate. Grant just graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in physiology and neurobiology, and he is currently applying for medical school. During his time with DAN Research Grant hopes to merge his love of diving and passion for medicine.

Gabriel Graf is a rising sophomore at Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and is pursuing a biochemistry degree with minors in ethics and data science. Gabe is an Eagle Scout and an active diver. Gabe will be an intern with DAN Research this summer and hopes to pursue graduate school to continue research in human genetics and synthetic biology.

Benjamin Kistler is studying biology at Indiana University Bloomington. He will graduate in the spring of 2022 and will begin medical school that fall. Ben is an advanced open water diver and has done academic research on cardiac and urinary point-of-care-ultrasounds. Ben, the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society-sponsored intern, will be working with DAN Research this summer as the Diver’s Health and Safety intern.

Christine Tamburri graduated in May 2020 from Penn State University with a degree in geosciences. During her undergraduate career she contributed to the expansion of the university’s scuba program and is passionate about using diving to further historical research in local communities. Christine was selected to work with DAN Safety Services last year, but as the program was canceled she’ll be completing her internship this summer.

“I’m always impressed by the accomplishments and professionalism of the interns that come spend time with us here at DAN,” said Bill Ziefle, DAN president and CEO. “This year’s group is already demonstrating impressive aptitude in the projects they’re involved with in DAN Research and DAN Safety Services. We’re glad they’re here!”

Join the DAN community or learn more at DAN.org.

Photo Caption: Clockwise from top right – Grant Dong, Christine Tamburri, Gabriel Graf, Rhiannon Brenner, Benjamin Kistler.

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive

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British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.


All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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