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Deptherapy’s Red Sea Wrecks – Part 6

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Part six of seven of Gary Green’s account of the Deptherapy Red Sea Military and Forgotten Wrecks liveaboard expedition.

Day 9: Abu Nuhas – SS Carnatic

The Carnatic, I was told, was not a wreck to be missed. Andy Alfred, one of the Deptherapy Instructors on board was not wrong – the dive was fantastic! The side of the wreck was completely open and we were able to swim completely through with lots of light beaming in. As we entered the wreck there were thousands of glassfish that seemed to create a cloud of silvery white; as we went through them they darted away in their groups. A cleaner wrasse on the other side of the wreck had a little ‘nibble’ on my hand. I guess he thought they were unclean; I didn’t take it as much of an insult though and more as a compliment.

On the back end of the wreck laid the reef. It was almost completely shielded by the wreck and created its own little channel. Small reef gardens popped up all the way along and we followed in line observing them. There were brightly coloured fish all the way along and it made me realise that I would like to get more experienced in identifying the fish just so I could know what I was looking at. My knowledge at the moment stems as far as “ooh, there’s a blue fish, ooh, there’s a stripey fish…” I don’t want to be a marine biologist by any shot, but the behaviour of the fish completely amazes me and I am fascinated by them.

As we reached the point where we were to conduct our safety stop, we ‘bumped’ into a couple of clown fish in the anemone (bumped into is not really the right expression, you bump into a friend whilst you’re out shopping!). Maybe I should say we came across a couple of Red Sea anemone fish. They were as territorial as every other Nemo I had seen, once you breech a certain distance you enter the “clown fish danger zone.” They were never that aggressive in Finding Nemo though, a bit of false advertising if I do say so myself. First the little fish gave me the death stare, then swam at me a couple of times and darted away; if he could talk (I should imagine in a high pitch voice) he would be saying something like “oi come any closer I’ll do ya… you want some mate… I’ll do ya”. Of course I’m intrigued by the fish so I do want some, so I crossed the threshold and he head butted me in the mask. It made me giggle, which was my second mistake, as my mask broke its seal and flooded slightly – crafty clownfish!

Day 9: Abu Nuhas – Giannis D

The Giannis D was my favourite of all the wrecks and it was absolutely amazing. My anticipation wasn’t as high either as it wasn’t boasted about as much as some of the others. Once we got down, though, it was absolutely fantastic. The first of the surprises was being greeted by a sea turtle as we swam around the bow. It was so interactive, it was unbelievable. It swam in between us as it went back and forth to feed from some coral along a mast on the wreck. It quickly became a celebrity as everyone pulled out cameras and GoPros to record the amazing experience. I was so intrigued by the fact that as it went to feed off the coral garden, it used its front fins to create a form of leverage as it’s strong snapping jaws tore away chunks. We all posed for pictures with the turtle as we watched in awe of the magical creature, graceful and in it’s own way, agile.

As we moved away from the turtle and to the rear of the ship we entered a breaching point. The ship was sunk and laid at a forty-five degree angle, which made the penetration quite disorientating. We managed to start at the bottom of the wreck and make our way through the engine room and then various other passageways. The wreck penetration was amazing; spacious, light and took me back to being a five year old exploring my local park. The whole dive was like an adventure playground, with a few more added dangers like getting trapped and running out of air obviously. It was by far my favourite dive of the whole trip.

Day 9: Carless Reef

On this dive, another sea turtle greeted the Deptherapy dive team, the white team (Team Achievement)… not my team, unfortunately, which meant the white team got the white tip reef shark and an extra turtle! I heard the story of what happened and apparently the turtle had a nibble on Jamie Hull’s diving hood, then moved on to Aitch and tried biting his GoPro; some moments are just priceless.

Along the reef, which was teeming with colour and life, we were honoured with the presence of blue spotted rays, giant morays and a huge grouper. I honestly cannot do the sight justice with words alone, neither can photos or videos.

It’s the feeling when you see a spectacular sunrise so you take a photo and when you look at the photo you think ‘it looked better than that’. It’s the same thing with scuba diving, nothing ever seems to do the experience justice. I almost feel sorry for people that haven’t scuba dived as they are missing out on nature’s most beautiful secret, the world under the sea.

Day 10: Hurghada Marina – T43 Minesweeper (El Mina)

The wreck of the minesweeper was (in all due respect) rather dull as it was sunk onto the super structure so all that was visibly available was the bottom of the ship. However, I like the feeling of being underwater, it’s a therapy for me no matter what sights are on offer so I could never be disappointed in a dive. Dave found a plastic bag, which he loaded into his BCD pocket and brought back to the surface to place in the bin; every bit of plastic brought up is a piece of plastic that cannot harm the ocean.

Earlier on in the week we had a presentation on PADI’s Project Aware. I am already quite familiar with Project Aware and earlier on in my diving career I had taken part in a Deptherapy dive for debris and a beach clearance. The brief mentioned all the main points and the ten tips for divers that can protect our oceans and stop the damage that is being inflicted on the coral and marine life. Videos of sea turtles caught in plastic can rings; it’s heart breaking to see something destroying the ocean and killing fish that is completely avoidable. I think we all looked within ourselves and decided that we as individual divers could do something about it.

Day 10: El Vanoose (Arabic translation – The Lighthouse)

Not far from shore lay a reef named El Vanoose, which translated in Arabic (so I’m told) means The Lighthouse. This name was given because of the lighthouse that stands out from the reef, although I am pretty sure that it is no longer used. Another name for the reef is ‘dolphin playhouse’ due to the dolphins that come to play here. This is usually in the morning though and is almost guaranteed. We went onto the reef in the afternoon when it is well known that the dolphins go to the lagoon in the north to swim, so unfortunately we did not have their presence. However, fingers crossed, we will be here in the morning to snorkel with them.

On the reef, dolphins are not the only attraction. There are two pinnacles not far from where the reef lies, absolutely full of life, more than I had actually seen on any other dive. The reef was heaving with sea life, from fish just bigger than your hand to micro sized life that grew and swam around the pinnacle. Between the pinnacles was a beautiful garden of both soft and hard coral that was populated by fish of every colour. Hiding in the small holes of the reef were morays, five I’m pretty sure I counted myself. I always make sure to keep my distance as their heads bop back and forth with their teeth showing. They always seem placid, however it’s not something I would like to gamble on.

On the swim back to the boat we came across an octopus. One thing that rings true with the Red Sea is that you just never know what you will come across. The octopus was about the size of a rugby ball; he was brown but as we approached his colour changed to white (I say he and his, but in all truth I have no idea of its gender). You can see when an octopus is threatened and its skin actually raises from a flat surface to spine-like layers that can raise between 5 to 8mm to make itself seem larger. Although there was no wreck to see, the dive itself was interesting due to the amount of life that was on display.

Read the final part of Gary’s blog tomorrow.

Donate to Deptherapy or find out more about their work at www.deptherapy.co.uk

Thanks to Dmitry Knyazev for the incredible photographs.

Gary Green is an author, team leader and PADI AmbassaDIVER. After being medically discharged from the British Army following an IED attack which left him blind in one eye and with PTSD, Gary was introduced to scuba diving through the rehabilitation charity Deptherapy. Gary is living proof of the healing power of scuba.

Marine Life & Conservation

Exhibition: Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research

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From now until 30 October, the photo exhibition “Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research” features 21 photographs at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, as well as a digital edition.

Exceptional photographs highlight how innovative marine experts and scientists take the pulse of the ocean by exploring ecosystems, studying the movement of species, or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Scientific discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of our Marine World Heritage. This memorable exhibition comes ahead of the launch, in 2021, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). The exhibition was jointly developed by UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco.

The 50 marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, distributed across 37 countries, include a wide variety of habitats as well as rare marine life still largely unknown. Renowned for their unmatched beauty and emblematic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a leading role in the field of marine conservation. Through scientific field research and innovation, concrete actions to foster global preservation of the ocean are being implemented locally in these unique natural sites all over the world. They are true symbols of hope in a changing ocean.

Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports UNESCO to strengthen conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific missions of Monaco Explorations. The partnership also draws international attention to the conservation challenges facing the world’s most iconic ocean sites.

The exhibition invites viewers to take a passionate dive into the heart of the scientific missions led by Monaco Explorations in four marine World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France). It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a megafauna census; the study of the resilience of coral reefs and their adaptation in a changing climate; the exploration of the deep sea; and the monitoring of large marine predators through satellite data.

To visit the Digital Exhibition click here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7

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

Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding.  This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation.  The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.

All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.

We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.  This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.

We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.

Oatsie and Swars about to start their sidemount dives

Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification.  It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week.  They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.

Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy.  Praise indeed.

Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’.  Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’.  Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.

The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.

Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.

Corey enjoying being a RAID OW20 Diver

Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience.  Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person.  He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light.  He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.

Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate.  The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!

Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.

I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.

Roots Accessible Room

The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team.  We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.

The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs.  All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here.  The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.

Accessible toilet on the Roots beach

After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.

While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course.  This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.

Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.

Last night and chill

What we do works:

In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:

2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.

2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.

Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.

The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:

‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’

This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.

We end the week on a happy note.  A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.

Until we meet again…

For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges.  On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.

In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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