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Secret wishes at Kungkungan Bay

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Janice 1

I noticed the other day that my second pair of flip-flops this year is becoming worn out.  The first pair only lasted about six weeks.  Contemplating the lifespan of your flip-flops seems like something a truly mindless person would do, unless you spent the previous seven years in a place where it rained nearly every day, confining your feet to waterproof footwear of some sort almost always.  The state of my flip-flops, then, has been perhaps an unusual reminder that I am moving ahead in my life.  Or at least in my “swimabout”.

I reach this important milestone in my life/swimabout while in a place called Kungkungan Bay at Kungkungan Bay Resort (KBR) just outside of Bitung, Indonesia, which is a city famous for processing tuna.  It appears that I am not so busy if I have time to speculate about the significance of my flip-flops, but really I am, at least in a scuba diver, traveler, photographer kind of way.

Janice 2

We start diving by 8:15, and dive again at 11:15, and 14:45, and if you want, you can have all the shore dives that you would like.  If you are awake for that.  Each dive is preceded by a dive briefing that is accompanied by an illustration on a white board.  The guides describe the general geography of a site, sandy slope, wall, rubble, and indicate what kind of critters we might find. When the dive guide gets to the part where he tells us how long it takes to arrive at the dive site, we laugh every time because usually it is only five to seven minutes and sometimes less.

Janice 3

Janice 4Kungkungan Bay is on Lembeh Strait where the highlight of your day may be diving a site called Hairball.  Lembeh Strait is famous for the type of diving called muck diving.  It is what it sounds like, diving in muck, the bottom, which might include some local refuse, and yet Lembeh is on most divers’ wish list because all sorts of fabulous, unusual and colorful creatures, with sometimes whirling parts (that may be their eyes), live there.   Many probably have yet to be discovered.  Why they do live in such a habitat is a mystery to me – it is a busy and sometimes noisy area – but for some reason they seem to love to inhabit the rubble or the garbage that floats into the sea and reproduce in it.

Janice 5

As a well-read diver, you can arrive at a resort in Lembeh Strait with a long list of creatures that you want to see.  There is a wish list board at KBR and some critters are 100% guaranteed, like pygmy seahorses, whereas others are not, such as a hairy frogfish or harlequin shrimp.  I do not like to make lists of critters because I feel sure then that I will not see them.  But KBR is really like a make-a-wish place for divers.  The guides will say there is no guarantee – they are always saying this – but they pretty much can find whatever you have read about (except perhaps a mermaid, which was an actual request written on the wish list board).

Janice 7

Sea creatures tend to be territorial and in the case of KBR, so do the dive guides.  My dive guide for part of the week was Ade, who has been working for the resort for nearly 18 years. His colleague, Liberty, had been there almost 19 years!  Together they have logged over 25,000 dives.  I am not sure who expects to see who underwater.  The critters may themselves have special names for these two, something elegant I am sure, not hairy and juvenile together.  It was always fun to dive with them because they still like to do it, and they do it with a sense of humor.  One day my camera was out of my reach and so it was handed to Ade.  “Show me the critters,” he said.  One of his colleagues told me to show him anything, just anything.  Of course, he handed the camera to me immediately, before we descended, so I had no chance to show him that I could find a pygmy seahorse before he did.

Janice 10

Secretly however, I did have a list…one creature that I had never seen was the blue-ringed octopus, an animal with one of the most potent venoms on earth.   I do not exactly understand what it is they eat for it to be necessary to deliver such a potent venom because they are not that big.  Of course it might be necessary because of what they are afraid of.  After many years of diving muck sites, on my first dive in Lembeh, the 8:15 dive at Pulau Abadi, a blue-ringed octopus went gliding across the bottom in front of us.   It was skillfully placing each of its legs in succession across the bottom (without disturbing the sand) and any obstacles in the way, like some kind of an extraordinary Olympic runner whose upper body never changes positions even though his legs are furiously working underneath.  The iridescent blue rings were not always on display, but just a swish of your hand in the water above it would cause it to flash them on and off.  It seems like a dangerous game to play because a bite that we might not even feel could kill us (and it is not that big).  But it was hard not to be hypnotized by such a creature because it is both beautiful and intricate.

Janice 12

I had a second wish…to see a Lembeh sea dragon.  This one though I did not keep a secret.  I did not say “I want to see one”, or write it boldly on the board, but I said instead, “how often do you see them?” One day Ade instructed us to entertain ourselves underwater at Nudi Retreat 3 because he was going to focus on finding a Lembeh sea dragon.  Sure I thought, this will be one of those dives like a blue water dive where you have high hopes and you see nothing.  He quickly showed us a hairy squat lobster and an estuarine stonefish, the kind that looks like a sunken shipwreck.  Then he led us to the wall at Nudi Retreat 3 and began to progressively scan through each section of it, oblivious to the other diver and me.  If you try this yourself, which I did, you start to discover a lot of creatures.  I found a super tiny flabellina.

Janice 9

Janice 11And then Ade made his underwater call from his lips, a kind of Three Stooges sounding wowowo.  I came to learn that it would be something pretty sensational when he makes that sound.  The other diver got to him first so I entertained myself with a beautiful closed anemone that was nearby.  I had no idea what it would be.  When it was my turn to look, a Lembeh sea dragon was bouncing around in the water in front of me, like a tiny rubber band attached to something at one end.  I observed it and tried to photograph it, but other divers from the other groups also wanted a chance.  It was a very short two minutes with the sea dragon.  I really wanted to stay and see how it would spend its day, where it would go, if it would travel far from that spot (I did not get the GPS coordinates… ).  I still do not know how often the guides find the sea dragons, but I am glad I was with Ade on one of the days that he did.

Janice 14

Early December seemed to be a shoulder season of sorts for the resort (perhaps I should keep this observation a secret!), and the management bumped me up to a deluxe bungalow on the beach.  Extremely luxurious accommodations, especially for a single traveler. The area though has a high density of resorts, so sometimes we had to go to another dive site because there already were boats from other places.  Once, however, we scheduled a dive to Angel’s Window 15 minutes ahead of time to beat the other boats, but there are plenty of other incredible dive sites so you are never disappointed.  There is always a plan A, B, C, D etc., which are in essence always an “A” plan.  The only dive that did not work was the mandarin fish dive.  Plenty of some of the largest mandarin fish I have ever seen, but no mating pairs.  I still had my own dive guide for most days, and one day I was completely alone on the dive boat for three dives.  For only two days did I have to share Ade with one other guest.  He was a nice man from Singapore who seemed to have a nervous habit of constantly checking the air of the other divers, especially female ones, and to take their photo underwater.  While it is good to have such a conscientious dive buddy, one that sticks close to you, it is not ever a good hair day underwater.

Janice 15

The one bad part about being at a resort as opposed to a liveaboard for diving is that guests come and go at different times, so the party is not over for everyone at the same time.  It is already difficult to meet people and to see them go even when departing at the same time, but to leave when the others are going out for a dive, like to Hairball, is tough.

I had to leave there today.  For a while, I will think about what is happening at 8:15, 11:15, and 14:45 in another small part of the world.  And if I am lucky enough to go there again, I am 100% guaranteed to find Ade and Liberty.

 

Janice Nigro is an avid scuba diver with a PhD in biology.  She is a scientist who has studied the development of human cancer at universities in the USA and Norway, and has discovered the benefits of artistic expression through underwater photography and story writing of her travel adventures.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…


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

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WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!

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Yes, XDEEP have now officially called their excellent frameless mask the ‘Radical’, and in this week’s competition, we’ve got another one to give away!

The XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask is a large single lens dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and traditional strap. The frameless design brings the lens closer to your face so you get a wider FOV and less internal volume that you have to equalise and clear. The larger nose pocket makes the mask more comfortable and easier to equalise, even with thick gloves.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can find here), we reported that you can join Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world. But when can you join Reef-Word’s Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020?

Is it:

  • A) 3pm BST on Friday 23rd October 2020
  • B) 3pm BST on Saturday 24th October 2020
  • C) 3pm BST on Sunday 25th October 2020

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Nautilus Diving XDEEP Frameless Mask October 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, employees of Nautilus Diving and their families, or XDEEP and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 02/11/20. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

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