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Pitch Black: The TDI Advanced Wreck Diver Course

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“You’ve just killed everyone,” said Chris Demetriou, the Ops Manager at Dive-In. We had been deep inside the Zenobia, Cyprus’s top wreck site, and sure enough the dive hadn’t gone as planned; but where had I made such a fatal mistake? This was my penultimate dive on the TDI advanced wreck course. The last 3 days had been more psychologically demanding than I had ever imagined. Chris said “I don’t have to load the course with simulated problems, they just happen for real.” He was right; pitch black with no lights and no guidelines, anything could happen – and it usually did!

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The Zen is perfect for technical diver training. The 165-metre long ro-ro ferry lies in Larnaca Bay just a few minutes boat ride from the dive centre. Her demise will always be steeped in controversy and intrigue. The most plausible theory is she sank due to a malfunction with the computerised system controlling her ballast tanks. There has never been any salvage operations. Her cargo of 104 articulated lorries and other machinery still lie untouched inside the holds.

stu 1stu 5Chris has spent 3 years developing the course itinerary. Most of the training dives are performed in the Officers day room and the Captains bedroom. Although the two rooms are totally enclosed there is plenty of light coming from a row of windows above. Chris explained “you don’t need to go deep inside for the course.” The Zen lies on her port side so doorways, walls and ceilings are not where they are expected to be. Chris said “When planning any penetration dives it’s important to consider room orientation and overall wreck layout.”

Although there are some theory sessions, most of the 4-day course concentrates on practical exercises. Ex-Londoner Chris said “this is my favourite TDI course – we’ve run about 10 this year.” He much prefers to teach only two divers per course. Minimum requisites are PADI Advanced diver with the wreck specialty and 50 logged dives or any certifying agency with a wreck familiarisation certificate and the prescribed number of dives. Divers really have to be in the right mind set for this course. Chris said “we don’t have to fail anybody –  they fail themselves.” He continued “this course is not for Badge Collectors. By the end of the second day I know if they are going to make it or not.”

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My first dive was basically an orientation. This gave me a chance to get familiar with the wreck’s key features and my own equipment configuration. I had been partnered up with Scott Ayrey, an experienced Tri-mix diver. All participants have to wear twin sets with a stage cylinder. Chris prefers to keep his kit as streamlined and as basic as possible: “I don’t want to look like a Christmas tree diver,” he says. There are no cobra heads or cages covering the manifolds or rubber boots and nets on the cylinders. Chris said “it all ends up snagging on the wreck.”

stu 3Chris guided us to the bulkhead door that led into the Officers day room. We checked depth and time before entering. Our first task was to draw a map of the entrance and any distinguishing features inside the room. Over the next few dives Scott and I would become quite familiar with the layout. We then performed a number of gas isolation exercises simulating a fractured manifold or a dislodged regulator. A catastrophic gas leak in an enclosed, overhead environment is a real threat. Chris showed us what to do and then it was just a case of following the procedure step by step in a calm co-ordinated manner. All the skills are performed at around 25 metres. There is no need to go any deeper.

We stopped during the ascent to switch over to our 50% stage cylinders. Gas switching computers made decompression management a whole lot easier. Permanent marker buoys have been placed at the stern, amidships and bow of the Zen and there is even a trapeze set up at 5 metres to make any stops more comfortable.

The following training dives mainly focused on lost mask procedures, laying/retrieving a guideline and using Scott’s long hose in an out of air scenario. It was well worth spending the first few moments of each exercise gaining composure and thinking about logistics i.e. make sure the long hose is free of any restrictions when air sharing and remembering to keep the line placement as simple and snag free as possible. It also taught me the importance of carrying a back up mask and at least two cutting devices. As Chris had said “it’s the simple things that are life saving.”

stu 11Dive number 4 is probably the toughest of them all. I had to wear Chris’s special blacked-out mask and find my way out of the room by feel alone. It was similar to playing the party game ‘put the tail on the donkey’ but on a much grander scale. Chris spun me around and moved me up and down so I was totally disorientated. There was no guideline this time so my only hope was remembering the room layout and trying to find a familiar object to use as a reference point. My whole sense of perception was left in a severe state of chaos and confusion! I knew from my map that there was a carpet on one side and a row of pipes on the other. My gut reaction was to ascend until I bumped my head on the windows and then move across to a corner where I could hopefully find the carpet. Eventually after 10 minutes of fumbling about my fingers tips felt the familiar texture of woollen fibres. From there on I knew that this would eventually lead to the bulkhead door and freedom! Chris said that the record for escaping was 2-3 minutes but some divers had taken more than an hour to find their way out.

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Our last day involved planning and implementing two relatively ‘simple’ wreck penetration dives. Scott and I would enter through the bridge and take it turns to lay the line from the laundry room to the upper car deck. On the way out we would simulate an out of air and a ‘light out’ situation. Chris told us we should always carry a primary light and two back-ups in case of any failure. As I had already found out on Dive 4 having no lights inside a wreck is a nightmare scenario.

Scott was first. He had to lay the guideline. I always thought there would be plenty of pipes, hinges and handles to wrap the line around but it’s not that easy. Chris said that on a previous course one diver had wrapped the line around a floating plastic sheet. This is obviously not a good tie off point for a guideline! Chris had already showed us snoopy loops, line arrows and suitable tie off’s so we were clued up and ready to go.

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On the return I was in front using Scott’s long hose. We were in single file along a narrow passageway. It was absolutely pitch black so I slowly and methodically ran my fingers along 10 metres of thin line back to the primary tie off point. Along the way we had to negotiate a tight hatchway and go up and over a doorway. If I moved too fast the regulator would be pulled from my mouth and if I let go of the guideline I would be totally lost. I was 100% dependent on Scott and really didn’t like this feeling of helplessness. We eventually got back to our entry point and completed the training exercise.

stu 9stu 7Then it was my turn. This is where my lack of experience laying guidelines really caught me out. There was another guideline already inside the wreck leading off to a different room. I put my primary tie off on the existing line and reeled in from this point. Directional arrows are tied on the line to show the way out but I placed my arrow on the wrong line. This meant we would have got completely lost inside the wreck. Chris said “you won’t make that mistake again.” He was right and this was by far the best way to learn. The more problems we encountered on the course meant it was less likely to occur in real life.

This course gives a whole new meaning to playing around in the dark! Although it was a tough 4 days I enjoyed every moment. We started off with the basics and worked our way up to some heavy task loading exercises. Chris made sure we had a thorough de-briefing after each dive. This gave us a chance to sit down and discuss any problems and go over remedial actions. I soon realised that it’s essential to keep a cool head. It also pushed home the fact that my buddy had to be just as level headed. I was lucky to have Scott as my partner. All I can say is choose wisely! Chris said “Panic will kill you all day long; the key is to never give up.” All of the skills were performed in a ‘controlled’ environment and Chris was always close at hand if any real problems had occurred. Although I had completed all the training exercises I still couldn’t stop thinking how would I react in a real life situation? Pitch-black, deep inside the wreck, no guidelines and no buddy… what would I do?

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Information

Contact Dive-In for more information on package prices including B&B accommodation at the 2-Star San Remo Hotel, located behind the dive centre.

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.

Dive Training Blogs

PADI launches new job board to meet growing demand for PADI Professionals

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As pockets around the world are reopening, there is a growing demand for PADI® Professionals in many key markets worldwide. To support its membership, PADI has launched a full revamp of the PADI Job Board to help dive centres and resorts build winning teams and connect dive professionals with exciting job opportunities. The new platform makes it easier than ever to search, find and connect the world’s best dive professionals with scuba jobs available at PADI Dive Centres and Resorts around the globe.

“For the first time since the pandemic began, new postings of job opportunities for PADI Pros on the PADI Job Board are coming in faster than they are being filled,” says Kristin Valette Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer of PADI Worldwide. “This is a great sign of the industry bouncing back strong in several parts of the globe. Incredible dream job opportunities around the world for PADI Pros will continue to increase as customers flood back, requiring dive operators and resorts to increase recruitment and hiring in order to keep up. With this in mind, we’ve prioritised updating the job board platform to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of connecting PADI Pros with PADI Resorts and Dive Centres to succeed.”

Accessible via the PADI Pros’ Site, the new job board offers a host of features to help PADI Dive Centres and Resorts manage job postings and candidates, and help PADI Professionals search and apply for jobs. The job board is also supported by in-app translations, so PADI Members can choose from more than 20 languages to view and post within the application.

The PADI Job Board has long served as one of the most visited pages on the Pros’ Site, with the launch of the new job board exceeding more than 31,000 unique views during the first two weeks of launch. Some of the new technologies and features aimed at further empowering PADI Pros, Resorts and Dive Centres are:

  • Manageability – PADI Retail and Resort members can more readily and flexibly post, edit, update and otherwise administer their job listings.
  • Resume posting – PADI Pros can post full resumes, making it easier for individual members and operators to find the best skillset matches that create winning teams.
  • Searchability – The job board is no longer simply a list. Pros and shops can search based on criteria without wading through irrelevant entries that don’t line up with what’s wanted or needed.
  • Direct connection – The job board allows direct connection so that operators can contact prospective hires for initial follow up.
  • Multilingual – Automated translation technology allows users to post and view listings in their language preference, reducing language barriers.
  • Notifications – Employers and candidates can enable notifications to be alerted of new applicants, job posts, invitations to apply for a job or interview, among others, so they never miss an opportunity.

“The PADI Job Board is a powerful gateway for employment opportunity throughout our membership infrastructure and provides the most global employment opportunities in the dive industry,” says Valette Wirth. “We expect the increase in job opportunities to continue to grow as travel rebounds. We will continue to prioritise supporting our PADI Members with the challenges they face during their recovery.”

For full access to the new job board, PADI Members can log in to the PADI Pros’ Site and click on the Job Board link on the dashboard.

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Dive Training Blogs

PADI Women’s Dive Day 2021 highlights important role inclusivity plays in creating balance between humanity and ocean

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PADI®, the world’s largest ocean exploration and diver organisation, is celebrating with divers from around the globe tomorrow for the seventh annual PADI Women’s Dive Day on Saturday, July 17.

With the overwhelming support of the dive community over the last six years, PADI Women’s Dive Day has grown into a worldwide celebration of shared adventure, passion and ocean advocacy. The annual event is dedicated to fostering a global community that encourages divers of all genders, ages, races, backgrounds and abilities to safely and confidently explore and protect the underwater world. Year after year, Women’s Dive Day activities have addressed ties between diversity, inclusion and environmentalism – with this year’s events scaled accordingly for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“PADI Women’s Dive Day is an opportunity for divers everywhere to unite as a community with the common goal of creating balance between humanity and ocean,” says Kristin Valette Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer of PADI Worldwide. “PADI has a wonderfully diverse and inclusive community of members and divers in 186 countries around the world.  We celebrate this diversity, as it is embedded in the ethos of our organisation. We take pride in the progress we’ve made to increase diversity, accessibility, and inclusion in our sport and constantly challenge ourselves to do more.”

Since its inception in 2015, the event has contributed to the significant growth in the number of female divers and subsequently, PADI Torchbearers™ who have shared and inspired passion for ocean conservation. The dive community is teeming with female divers who are marking remarkable contributions for improved ocean health and connecting their communities to local waters. Throughout the month of July, PADI is spotlighting the stories and perspectives of incredible #PADIWOMEN around the world who are leading change by example and opening doors for countless others to experience the ocean firsthand, including Zandile Ndhlovu, a PADI Freediver Instructor™ from Johannesburg, South Africa, who founded the Black Mermaid Foundation to make the oceans more inclusive.

“Together as a global dive community we can save our oceans,” says Ndhlovu. “Once people get to experience the ocean, it changes everything around how they’ve always looked at it. It begins to also feel like home, a place that they will always protect. And that is why it is important that there is always diverse representation in the ocean.”

Other notable women include Xochitl Clare, a PADI AmbassaDiver™ and marine biologist from California, United States, researching the effects of climate change on fisheries species; Cody Unser, a PADI AmbassaDiver who is working  to introduce more people with disabilities to diving and promote the sport’s therapeutic benefits; and 13-year-old Julia Aveline Rabenjoro a PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Diver in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

“Learning to dive really transformed my life because it introduced me to a whole new intricate world that makes me feel at peace and it taught me how much we really depend on our ocean,” says Aveline Rabenjoro. “My greatest hope for the next generation of female divers is for them to grow in numbers and never doubt the difference they can make no matter where they come from or who they are. Together as a global diving community, we can further this by sharing our passion and love for diving with others who haven’t yet been lucky enough to explore beneath the surface.”

Divers and non-divers alike can connect with the motivating stories of PADI women and learn how they can join the community by visiting padi.com/women. They can find PADI Women’s Dive Day events in their area or participate virtually through social media conversations utilising the #PADIWOMEN hashtag.

Year-round, people worldwide can access PADI’s recently launched Conservation Activities Locator to find local events in their community. From joining an underwater lake cleanup in Connecticut to taking part in a week-long conservation workshop in Belize, ocean enthusiasts have a variety of experiences to choose from on Women’s Dive Day and beyond.

To learn more about how you can participate in PADI Women’s Dive Day, contact your local PADI Dive Center or Resort, or visit www.padi.com/women. For information about learning to dive, visit www.padi.com/education/learn-to-dive

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Competitions

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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