Bournemouth and Poole Sub Aqua Club in the UK celebrated their 60th anniversary by recounting the inspirational story of a former member who made history by living underwater for an entire week.
Back in September 1965, Colin Irwin, who was then aged 19 and science officer for the club, spent seven days on the seabed of Plymouth Sound in a specially made steel cylinder to investigate long-term survival in an underwater habitat.
The Glaucus Project – named after a Greek sea god – was a tremendous success and still has its place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Colin gave a gripping account of his adventure to members of the club when they gathered to mark its 60th anniversary at a special event in the Harbour View Suite of the RNLI College in Poole on Saturday 29th March.
Inspired by similar experiments carried out in the early 1960s by legendary French diver Jacques Cousteau, he decided to set up a project to put an undersea habitat in place and occupy it for a week along with fellow club member John Heath, then 21.
Adrian King, who has been a member of the club since 1976 and served as its chairman for the past six years, said: “Even by modern standards this was a hugely ambitious project which at the time – and indeed since – had only been attempted by a few majorly funded operations such as Jacques Cousteau and the likes of the America Sea Lab.
“A sub-committee was formed to raise the £1,000 needed to finance the project. The father of one of the members owned a local boatyard and they built the steel cylinder for the project from scratch. Weighing two tons, it was 3 .7 metres long and 2.1 metres in diameter, standing on legs and ballasted by weight in a tray beneath it.
“Entry was made via a tube on the underside which was open to the water. Pressure inside would therefore be the same as the surrounding water, resulting in the divers being at pressure for the duration of the project.
“The main cylinder was equipped with two compartments, a main living area and a separate toilet compartment.
“The two young men kept in touch with the surface via an old ex-army wind up telephone and there was also a small CCTV camera to allow the condition of the crew to be monitored constantly from above.
“The cylinder was towed into place by a tug then lowered 35 feet or 11 metres to the seabed near the Breakwater Fort and marked by a buoy on the surface.”
Adrian added: “Where this one differed significantly from the Cousteau and American experiments was that the Glaucus Project cylinder was not linked to the surface by an airline but had its own artificially maintained air environment with a chemical `scrubber’ to remove the carbon dioxide.
“It was for this reason and the length of time the two men spent underwater that Glaucus still has a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
“The cylinder was far from comfortable to be in with the temperature being about 16 degrees. In addition the near 100% humidity caused by the open entrance meant that condensation was colossal and keeping anything dry became almost impossible. Food and drinks were sent down to them in army field pressure cookers.
“Despite these difficult conditions Colin and John continued with the project and even ventured from the cylinder into the surrounding waters to conduct a number of surveys aimed at proving the ability of divers to both live and work at depth.”
At the end of seven days, attempts to slowly bring the cylinder to the surface were abandoned due to buoyancy problems and the two crew members eventually made their way to the surface wearing scuba gear.
Colin Irwin, who now lives in the Liverpool area, has enjoyed a varied life of adventure including working for National Geographic magazine and sailing on a yacht through the North West Passage of Canada.
Now aged 68, he is a Research Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Liverpool and in the Institute of Governance at Queen’s University Belfast.
Colin said: “Although it was nearly 50 years ago I still clearly remember the time John and I spent down in the cylinder. In fact, I still have the daily log for the project.
“We had heard about the Cousteau experiments and didn’t want it to be something that was just done by the French, so we thought we would do our own experiment.
“What I recall most about our time in the cylinder is that it was very cold and damp. However, we did have our food sent down in an army thermos.
“After we had been down there for a couple of days a really ferocious gale blew up on the surface but luckily it didn’t affect us too much and the project was able to continue.
“John and I did some experiments in artificial atmosphere while we were down there. We raised the oxygen level to a point where we wouldn’t get the `bends’ when we came up and I think this must have worked because we didn’t get them.”
The Glaucus cylinder is still underwater not far from its original site. It is dived regularly and the club now has a project to fix a plaque to the structure marking the achievement of 49 years ago.
To find out more about the Bournemouth and Poole SAC, click here.
Solo Travelling and Scuba Diving
Solo traveling elicits strong reactions, with some relishing the freedom it brings, while others shy away from the idea. The dichotomy lies between the autonomy of solo journeys and the comfort of companionship. Scuba diving group trips for solo travellers emerge as the perfect synthesis, offering a unique blend of freedom and camaraderie.
Embarking on a solo scuba diving adventure is a thrilling journey into unparalleled freedom, new discovery and self-discovery beneath the waves. However, solo travellers should be mindful of considerations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, especially those diving abroad, taking precautions before leaving their home country is crucial for a safe and enjoyable journey.
“I started travelling solo by chance”- my wife recalls- “I joined a group from the diving club planning to travel to Tobago, people pulled out at the last minute and I decided to go ahead alone. I did enjoy the freedom: I could travel at the times I wanted, to the destinations I wanted, no need to negotiate when and where to eat and the air conditioning temperature. Diving is a social sport anyway, and the divers one meets are by definition like-minded people. It’s an opportunity to make new friends, often from different nationalities. I’ve gained so much in self confidence and interpersonal skills, way more than on corporate training courses J. However, as a woman solo traveller, I’ve always had to be mindful of personal safety in circumstances where one simply doesn’t know what to expect. I remember the apprehension I felt on the boat ride alone from Batanga to Puerto Galera in the evening. Also the same feeling whilst waiting in Dubai for someone to pick me up and drive me 2 hours to Musandam. This someone is now a dearest friend. The best thing for me is always to book through someone that has made the same journey, lived the experience directly and has close personal links at destinations.”
In essence, scuba diving trips for solo travellers offer a harmonious blend of autonomy and companionship. These journeys transcend traditional group travel challenges by uniting solo adventurers with a common passion.
The first question and one of the most important, as the answer usually determines your location is Liveaboard or Shore based, and there are Pros and Cons to both:
Immersive Dive Experience: Liveaboards provide uninterrupted access to dive sites, maximizing your time beneath the waves.
Varied Destinations: Journey to remote and pristine locations, exploring a range of dive spots during a single trip. Usually these site are only accessible by Liveaboard
Community Experience: Forge close bonds with fellow divers on board, fostering a sense of camaraderie.
Limited Amenities: Space constraints on liveaboards might limit facilities compared to resorts.
Community Experience: Liveaboards forge a close-knit community of divers and individuals, which may not be conducive to everyone’s character, particularly for people who enjoy some time alone to charge the batteries, or those not keen on negotiating group dynamics in a somewhat confined environment.
Comfort and Amenities: Resorts offer a comfortable stay with various amenities, including spas, swimming pools and restaurants.
Flexibility: Choose daily dives or explore at your pace, enjoying the freedom to create a personalized itinerary.
Onshore Exploration: Besides diving, resorts often provide opportunities to explore local culture and attractions.
Fixed Locations: While convenient, resorts limit you to specific dive sites accessible from shore.
Time Constraints: Day trips or tight schedules may impose time restrictions on your underwater adventures.
Flexibility: Unless you are certified as a solo diver then you have to dive with a buddy or with a private guide, which could be a costly option.
Personal Preferences: Evaluate your preferences for accommodation, community engagement, and the overall pace of your dive experience.
Destination Exploration: Assess whether you seek the thrill of exploring multiple dive destinations on a liveaboard or prefer the convenience of a single resort location.
Choosing between liveaboard trips and dive resorts hinges on your desired balance of adventure, comfort, and community. Whether you opt for the dynamic exploration of liveaboards or the leisurely pace of resorts, each option promises a unique and unforgettable underwater journey.
Dive Destination – Research and Planning
Conducting thorough research on dive destinations is crucial. Understand its culture, local customs, and any travel advisories. Always check government advice, BUT also consider joining Facebook or similar groups and get some real-world advice from like-minded divers.
It’s essential to opt for reputable dive operators with a strong safety record. Sea to Sky, a trusted name in the industry, places a high priority on guest safety, offering comprehensive services, advice, and recommendations.
Ensure you are aware of any health risks or vaccinations required for your destination. Carry a basic first aid kit, if weight allows and any necessary medications. We would advise not to take any over the counter medications aboard, as most are readily available and in a lot of cases cheaper. If you are prescribed medications, please ensure that your country of entry allows your medication, and in all cases please take a doctor’s letter/prescription.
Solo divers should be mindful of diving in secluded or challenging dive locations. Opting for familiar, well-monitored locations where assistance is readily available if needed. Sea to Sky takes a personalized approach, considering guests’ experience and certification levels to suggest optimal dive locations within their limits.
Being cautious about equipment is paramount for solo divers. Rigorous gear checks to ensure everything is in optimal condition are essential. For those renting equipment, Sea to Sky ensures that the dive centre or liveaboard operator’s gear is regularly serviced and up to date. Please self-check all equipment, we are happy to advise on what to and how to check any equipment.
Safety and Security
Invest in comprehensive travel insurance and Dive Insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and potential diving-related incidents. Keep a digital and physical copy of your insurance details. Secure important documents like your passport, travel insurance, and diving certifications in a waterproof pouch. Consider making digital copies that you can access online. Share your itinerary and emergency contact information with a trusted friend or family member. Keep them informed about your whereabouts and any changes to your plans. We personally use Nord Locker to store all relevant information, including copies of passport, accessible via the cloud (No affiliation, it’s just what we use).
Inform your bank about your travel dates to avoid any issues with your credit/debit cards. Carry a mix of local currency and cards. We can advise country by country what cash to take, as in some destinations Euros or Dollars are the better option. Be cautious when using ATMs and choose secure locations (inside banks for example). Keep a small amount of emergency cash separate from your main funds. This can be invaluable in situations where card payments may not be accepted.
Communication and Connectivity
Consider getting a local SIM card to stay connected. Check the network coverage in your destination and inform your loved ones about your contact number. We also use an ESim called Airolo (Again no affiliation) but some of the charges can be quite high especially in Egypt, but for peace of mind it’s great. Carry a portable charger for your electronic devices, including your phone and any underwater cameras. Also check with the country you are travelling to ascertain what plug is compatible.
Familiarise yourself with the local culture and customs to show respect. This includes appropriate clothing, gestures, and behaviour, both on land and underwater.
What sets Sea to Sky apart is the personal relationships developed with its suppliers and its commitment to providing 24-hour telephone contact for guests, offering reassurance and assistance around the clock. Solo travellers can dive with confidence, knowing that expert guidance and support are just a call away.
In essence, while solo scuba diving opens doors to incredible underwater experiences, travellers must exercise caution, conduct diligent research, choose reputable operators, and prioritise safety.
For any information or assistance you require please feel free to contact the team at email@example.com.
Join Sea to Sky and embark on new diving adventures! Visit www.myseatosky.co.uk for more information.
The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 172: Dr. Joseph Dituri
Gemma and Ian chat to Dr. Joseph Dituri. Dr. Jospeh Dituri lived undersea for 100 Days in a mission combining education, ocean conservation research, and the study of the physiological and psychological effects of compression on the human body.
Dituri enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1985. He served continuously on active service upon various ships and shore stations where he was involved in every aspect of diving and special operations work from saturation diving and deep submergence to submersible design and clearance diving. Now that he is retired from 28 years of active service to the United States, he is the president of the International Board of Undersea Medicine. He also volunteers his time as the CEO of the Association for Marine Exploration. He is an invited speaker on motivational, sea and space related topics.
Fuelled by his passion for exploration, discovery, adventure, and making the greatest possible positive contribution to the world, he is fighting for change in a big way and with great enthusiasm.
You can listen to Episode 172 of the BiG Scuba Podcast here.
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