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Miscellaneous Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Ian and Gemma!

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Ian and Gemma chat among themselves today with no featured guests!  We chat about Entale podcast platform  –  it’s a platform that allows listeners to discover more from their podcasts by allowing them to engage with extra relevant content either whilst listening or at a later date.  Entale have launched a new collections feature in the app which allows listeners to save links, episodes and snippets to a collection that they make which can be shared with friends. They can also follow other people’s collections to help them find new podcasts to engage with.

Other highlights include:


Find more podcast episodes and information at www.thebigscuba.com and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

Miscellaneous Blogs

Book Review: Dragon Sea (2007) by Frank Pope

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Dragon Sea, by Frank Pope, tells the true story of the location, combined archaeological survey of a large, five-hundred year old wreck and salvage of over 250,000 Vietnamese ceramic artefacts from the Hoi Ann shipwreck. It also charts the complex negotiation with government departments, legal and cultural bodies in Vietnam, as well as international groups, which had a vested interest in the outcome of the excavations and sale of artefacts.

It was a sensitive and expensive project. The ransacking of ancient Chinese porcelain artefacts from the wreck of the Dutch East India Company Geldermalsen, a few years earlier, had generated US$20 Million at auction but prompted furious international condemnation at the destruction of the wreck site for profit. In addition to managerial and ethical problems, the Vietnamese Hoi Ann shipwreck rested on the seabed over seventy metres below the surface in the turbulent and typhoon prone South China Sea. It would be a testing site on which to work.

At the outset the endeavour seemed to offer so much to everyone involved. The wreck site was a time capsule, sealed on the day of its sinking. It offered insights into Vietnamese culture and ceramics made during the golden days of the civilization. The Chief Archaeologist explained “shipwrecks preserve information in a way that very few land sites could – by freezing a moment in time” (p. 8).There was the prospect of huge financial rewards to the businessman leading the consortium of investors. Divers and technicians, managers and workmen, as well as Vietnamese institutions, all stood to benefit.

In his account Frank Pope combines the excitement of both archaeologists and accountants as pristine artefacts are uncovered and brought to the surface. His descriptions are vivid: “fragile kendis and ewers, vases, and large blue-and-white storage jars had cascaded down as the wood around them disintegrated” (p. 196). The numerous sketches Pope includes in his book are useful, but actual photographs of some of the artefacts and scenes would have been a valuable addition.

Throughout the book a central theme emerges; it’s the cost cutting measures under which the project operated. The author reveals how these pressures and accompanying resentments grew within the team as a result of these measures. For the divers, their work time in saturation (living inside a pressurized chamber breathing helium and oxygen, and working at seventy metres plus) was extended far beyond the recognised limit. Eventually, when they emerge after fifty-nine days of saturation diving, they were “thin and bearded, their skin yellowed and covered in rashes and lesions” (p.259).

Calm waters do not typify the South China Sea – especially as the typhoon season approaches. A recreational diver may experience surge, current and turbulent water; but is not working for twelve hours a day, for weeks, at a depth of more than seventy metres! The effect of surface sea conditions on a dive platform, waves and swell, are magnified underwater. The diving bell and the umbilical attached to a diver are continuously wrenched up and dropped down in the current. Even in calmer conditions the process of negotiating the metal grid positioned over the wreck is problematic. It “was like trying to clamber through a climbing frame on a moonless night with a gale blowing, wearing full dive gear, trailing a cable and carrying a heavy basket of fragile ceramics” (p.209).

Pope skilfully describes the changing atmosphere surrounding the project – both above the water and below. Close, personal friendships become strained as fatigue and adverse weather, financial constraints and day to day problems begin to overwhelm those involved. The uneasy balance between rigorous archaeological practise and the economic need to recover artefacts takes centre stage. The Chief Archaeologist “couldn’t shake the fear that despite his instructions, the divers were ignoring anything that wasn’t ceramic.” The businessman believed the actions of the archaeologist were sabotaging the recovery of artefacts. The crescendo, the sale of the artefacts from the Hoi Ann shipwreck, is not what you may have expected.

Perhaps the outstanding feature of Dragon Sea is the way Frank Pope succeeds in building a relationship between the main characters and the reader. You want a diver to survive, another character to change, broken relationships mended. The closing sections provide a pleasant summary of what subsequently happened to them. However, perhaps the most salutary comment is reserved for the state of marine archaeology in many parts of the world. Frank Pope writes “In most of Southeast Asia, however, it is still open season on the seabed.” (p. 315)


Dragon Sea (2007)

  • By Frank Pope
  • New York: Harcourt Books
  • ISBN 9780156033299
  • 341 pp

Frank Pope obtained a degree in Zoology from Edinburgh University and is Ocean Correspondent for The Times newspaper. He has worked on underwater expeditions under the auspices of Oxford MARE (Maritime Archeological Research and Excavation), including the salvage of Lord Nelson’s flagship Agamemnon. His most recent book is 72 hours (2013); the Royal Navy’s dramatic race to save the crew trapped inside a Russian submarine.


Find out more about Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author, at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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Dive Training Blogs

What you need to know about SMBs!

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Ok, so not the most exciting of topics… but an important one nonetheless. Especially as many of us will be starting to enjoy the UK dive season and heading out to explore our beautiful coastline. Some of you may even be heading into the UK waters for the first time due to the travel restrictions… welcome, you will wish that you had done it sooner! 

Surface marker buoys. SMB’s are an invaluable piece of equipment. To demonstrate your position in the water, to fend off boats, to show off your buoyancy to your dive buddy when you can inflate it without moving an inch in the water… or to un-intentionally make your buddy laugh when you forget to attach your reel and send it up like a lost rocket… A must have skill and piece of equipment for all divers. But, how do you choose which one is right for you, and how do you use it correctly? 

Choosing a colour, we all know to look cool as a diver, its all about co-ordinating, but not so much with SMB’s I’m afraid. The standard colour is orange and is what you will typically see being used, and yellow due to it’s higher ability to be seen at night time is just for an emergency…. Not because it is your favourite colour…sorry yellow lovers! If you are wanting to personalise it though you could put your name down the SMB, that way the surface cover knows who it is underneath. 

Next, inflation. Here we have the option of open bottom or direct inflation. An open bottom means that you will need to use your alternate to inflate the SMB, direct inflation you would use your inflator hose. Either of these are sufficient and is generally down to preference. If you are not sure which you prefer, or how to use them, there is a course that you can take to learn all of the skills and offer some helpful tips of how to inflate it and control your buoyancy too. I happen to know an instructor that teaches it… so just drop me a message and I can help…!

So, we have the SMB, next we need a line or spool. So many decisions with a basic piece of kit! Most SMB’s will come with a line, which is great as you can use the equipment straight away. The only down side is, with gloves it can become annoying, especially if you are changing depths quite often as typical on a shore dive here. You may wish to look at a spool instead… They also come in more colours, and this time you can choose which ever you want… even yellow, result! 

Having got to the point of choosing you SMB and line/spool, where are we now going to keep it? Clipping it onto your BCD, keeping it in your pocket. Anywhere is sufficient as long as its easily accessible… like not in your car once you have entered the water…. So be sure to add you SMB to your buddy check! Happy diving! 


Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com.

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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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