The final part of Gary Green’s account of the Deptherapy Red Sea Military and Forgotten Wrecks liveaboard expedition.
Day 10: Umm Gamar Reef
The last dive of the trip; it wasn’t far away and it was part of the same reef where we had undertaken our check dives on the first day. I would personally nickname this dive ‘the aquarium dive’. I have honestly never seen a reef like it; there was more life on this reef than I have ever seen on any other dive. There was also something I had never even seen before, a porcupine puffer fish (if that is 100% the correct name? I have it on my GoPro) it was absolutely enormous. It was hidden away in a small hole in the middle patch of coral. I looked down the hole and there it was just swimming out towards me, its head absolutely massive. I was completely stopped in my tracks as I watched this giant creature bob itself back and forth. I also encountered two giant morays, the absolute dragons of the sea. No matter how many times I see them and dive with them, I never quite feel comfortable seeing their faces.
Apart from the monsters already mentioned, everywhere you looked was just full of life. It was a case of every time you looked in a different direction there was something else to see. It was like the worlds’ richest and biggest sea life centre, a bit of everything all thrown into the mix; not only that but the colours of the coral were breathtaking; like most of the Red Sea to be honest but somehow here everything just seemed even brighter. I can’t think of a better way to spend our last dive than in the presence of some of the most beautiful creatures known to man. In fact, that dive summed up the whole trip for me… a relaxed dive underwater, having the privilege to spend time in the most secret of all gardens, the coral gardens.
A few words of thanks…
Steve and Clare Rattle
The host and hostess with the mostest – I think that’s the term anyway! I may have to double check. Steve and Clare have been with Deptherapy for a long time, long before I was involved with the charity in any case. I first met them at the Dive Show a few months before I flew out to Roots for my Open Water Diver course back in 2015, not something I would easily forget. Their place in Roots is one of the most spectacular in the Red Sea and the house reef is where I learned to dive and where I was fortunate enough to have dived with a pod of dolphins that had come into the reef to feed. The resort camp (Roots) sits between Safaga and El Quseir; it’s remote in location, which means when you are diving you have the reef to yourself. Once you follow the line out you are within an underwater aquarium absolutely full of all the sea life you could ever wish to see.
In the reception of Roots there are plaques along the wall of all the different regiments that the injured troops have served in. Both Steve and Clare are seasoned divers (being very tactful with my words there) and during this trip Steve often gave tours of the wrecks that he was well accustomed to. Clare also helped out on our dives, often being a buddy for Ben in the strong currents when he was struggling due to the fact that he has no legs to propel himself. I didn’t realise at the time but Steve is a fantastic underwater photographer. He displayed the pictures that he had taken on the TV screen in the briefing room and a lot of the blokes were surprised at just how clear they were. I watched him in the water a few times as he dived with us, like most of the pros team, they are so comfortable in the water, flawless in skill and effortless in technique.
Steve and Clare had chartered the Princess Diana for Deptherapy to make this liveaboard possible. I’m sure that if it wasn’t for them taking time out of their busy schedule (Clare seems to almost fill hers with sunbathing) then I’m not sure if the trip would have ever met its ambitious goal, or at least I am certain it would have been a lot harder. The only downside is that Steve is a West Ham fan, but as they say you can’t win them all! I think in time I may be able to slowly but surely convert him to the Mighty Reds and by that I certainly don’t mean Liverpool. In October this year at the Dive Show, they will be hosting their Pharaoh Dive Club Birthday Bash, to which they have generously invited Deptherapy. Steve and Clare are long time (lifelong) friends of the charity who have truly aided its success. I’m not sure they quite get the praise they deserve, ever humble in their generosity, I, on behalf of the Board, would like to thank them.
To recap what they have given to Deptherapy: they introduced the ‘Miss Scuba’ organisation to Deptherapy, who have to date raised over £7,000. The Pharaoh Dive Club Birthday Bash will raise around £5,000 that they will donate to the charity and they run the Open Water courses for Deptherapy free of charge. They also ran the Advanced Open Water diver courses free of charge for a long time and they then charged below cost for the courses. Words cannot describe what they have done for the charity.
A Russian national who is a prolifically skilled underwater photographer and videographer, Dmitri became involved in Deptherapy through his outstanding work with disabled divers. I had seen a lot of his photos with wheelchairs under the sea with disabled divers who he had taught to dive and raised their profile. He then agreed to come and take photos of the Deptherapy team at work. The images he takes are perfect in both quality and content, highlighting the outstanding way that Deptherapy goes above and beyond in its adaptive teaching. His photos bring awareness and a visual representation of the objectives of the charity, depicting the figures of wounded veterans perfectly buoyant in the Red Sea. Some divers missing arms, some missing legs and some missing both, but still as competent in the water as a fully abled individual. Dmitry takes time out of his life to come and support on the trips, truly capturing the most fascinating of images and profiling the charity in the most inspiring of ways.
Deptherapy consists of a foundation of generosity, an idea that was completely selfless, taking disabled (both mentally and physically) veterans and using scuba diving as a form of therapy. It grew beyond that, it dared to be greater than the original idea; not just to take wounded veterans in the sea, but also to train them as qualified divers. To break past the limits of what people conceive as possible, what some call impossible. Let’s banish the I and the M, let’s make this possible. The team become adaptive, the Master Instructors thinking outside the box to get limbless veterans to perform a Controlled Swimming Ascent (CESA) or a veteran with one arm to remove and replace his mask; they were patient with their innovative techniques.
They overcame challenges again and again, guys with PTSD who would have ups and downs, so the trainers became mental health first aid trained and could now coach and guide struggling veterans. They run programmes to teach instructors how to use the adaptive techniques, putting themselves in the students’ position so they can use the most practical and realistic solutions. Doctors joined the board and the University of Sheffield produced a case study proving the success of Deptherapy’s ability to rehabilitate veterans through the medium of scuba diving.
This ten days on the liveaboard was at this point, the charities Everest. It was easily conquered. I witnessed myself veterans with no legs penetrate wrecks up to 40 meters below the Red Sea and come up with big smiles on their faces. At the start of the trip some of us were strangers, there was ring rust in the water on our check dives but within a couple of days we were a band of brothers again and a united team above and below the water. On the Scalaria another dive team went past us from a neighbouring liveaboard. I saw their instructors look at our group, gliding through the water with perfect trim and buoyancy. He looked at the divers he was with, kicking their fins up and down, sculling with their arms and he gave a double take as he saw the guys with no legs gracefully moving through the sea. If there was any testimony to what the Pros Team had done then in my opinion that was it. This Everest was climbed, completed, knocked out of the park and now we move on to the next challenge. In August next year there will be a selection process for veterans who will be taken to Truk Lagoon. Deptherapy has grown strong and is still growing in strength. I have seen with my own eyes, once again, just how amazing and incredible people can be. Well done to everyone that smashed their Wreck Diver Speciality. Thank you to everyone who so generously makes these things happen and thank you to the charity and Instructors for continuing to break the bar on scepticism.
Donate to Deptherapy or find out more about their work at www.deptherapy.co.uk
Thanks to Dmitry Knyazev for the incredible photographs.
Exhibition: Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research
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.
Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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