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Toomer does Bikini – Part 1

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BikiniA couple of years back, I had the most incredible Christmas. It wasn’t snowing, or even slightly cool.

It didn’t last for a mere one day either.

My Christmas present, to myself, was a trip to Bikini Atoll with Pete Mesley on his Lust 4 Rust Itinerary.

Bikini diving is not good diving, it’s not even great diving! Bikini is sell a kidney, a lung, your granny, the kids, anything diving. Bear in mind, this is where the ‘Yanks’,  the ‘Frogs’ and yes, even those really cool British, blew the holy hell out of everything, and I mean everything. We’re not talking piddly hand grenades, machine guns, bazookas and all that panzy stuff, we’re talking mushroom cloud laying mother****** stuff! Even wilder than an AK47! You get my drift?

I have dived Red Sea, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, Caribbean, Mediterranean, America, The Maldives….. but Bikini Atoll is mind blowing. Whether you like wrecks or not, this is the best diving there is. Period!

The Americans used Bikini as a testing ground for their nuclear capability. It was not just meant for testing, but to also show the Russians what they were capable of. I guess it worked. The reason the US Army used Bikini was simply that it’s remote. The fact that they only had to ‘shift’ a few people off their paradise islands made life easier too. Funny how they always pick paradise to blow up!

BikiniAnd this leads to the reason why the wrecks are in such good condition – it’s VERY far away. If some of our British wreck hero divers got their little paws on these wrecks there would be sweet FA left. It would all be in some plonker’s garage or on his mantelpiece. Yes, I have a flea up my arse about raping wrecks with historical value; I want my son to see some treasure one day, but just like sharks, I guess that will not be possible. I’m off my soapbox now! Phew!

The itinerary, thanks to my new best friends Peter McCamley and Andy Macgorrispghterphrtes (or something like that) Gillespie, went like this. We flew from London to Abu Dhabi, then to Tokyo and then on to Guam where we had an overnight stay. Then on to Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae and finally Kwajalein. Travel time so far, and that’s just airport and flying time – about 35 hours.

Kawajalein Island is essentially a US Army base. On landing we are met by 3 police officers and 3 deputies. This is a major league military base and they are taking no chances with a bunch of hairy arsed techies, especially the one with the earrings and tattoos! We are all interviewed, stamped and signed through security. After the rubber gloves, we are escorted to the luggage area and then to military vehicles (not tanks I’m afraid) and driven to the ferry departure zone.

BikiniNow, I’m pretty sure most of us have seen a ferry, yes? It’s normally big! Like full of cars and trucks and people ‘n that! Not on Kwaj. The ferry is a teeny weeny little boat that is inproportionate length and breadth wise. Like, it felt like it would fall over. And with 11 techies with rebreathers, cameras, videos, scooters, suits, fins, yada, yada, I was worried that we’d actually survive the trip to Ebeye Island, where our vessel awaited us, at all (we did of course, or otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this!).

Now I know I haven’t got to the diving at all yet, but this is an expedition man and you will have to join me and meet some of the people prepared to risk their house on financing a trip like this and also the tools prepared to pay around 7 grand to follow them. Yes, 7 grand! Not 7000 lire or sisterty or even Zimbabwean Dollars. No, that’s 7000 of the Queens finest British Pounds.

As we neared Ebeye we started to make out the lights and shape of our boat, ‘Windward’. If you’ve read any of my previous articles you will recognise that I classify excitement and fear on bodily functions. On seeing the steel hulled monster I think I did a little wee! Oh my God! We are gonna spend two weeks on this. No wonder Pete was so confident. Sure, this is one ugly boat, but sweet mother of God, this is an expedition boat. Actually, it’s not a boat, it’s a SHIP! It’s the Mothership! As we stepped (scrambled and fell) onto the boat we were met by our crew, the skipper, our guides, gas mixing panels that Buzz Aldrin would have had fun playing with,  a crane and…… a recompression chamber!

BikiniWhat followed was lots of open mouthed wandering, a briefing over a cool Tsingtao beer and some proper introductions to each other and the crew. I could tell immediately that we were going to have some fun. Pete then showed us to our rooms, well room. Because this is a working vessel not a gin palace, we shared a large dorm style room. But what a cool room it was. A wonderfully cool, airconditioned room with lots of storage space. 12 bunks each with personal lighting, Chinese copy Yves St Laurent bedding and a cubby hole for all our junk. I was in heaven. After settling in, we were introduced to Manggo, our chef. This man (along with Chris the skipper) provided gourmet meals for the whole journey.

The following morning we woke to the sound of Haskell pumps filling trimix and O2 for all the rebreathers on board. No open circuit on this trip I’m afraid – at 10 cents or so a litre, helium in twin 12’s is just not an option. After a quick briefing, Brian, the wonderful gentleman responsible for our gas and general safety, gave the shout that ‘the pool’s open’. Last time I did a check out dive it was on a bit of sand and involved me showing a Divemaster, with success thank God, that I could hover, remove my mask and share gas. The Lust 4 Rust check out dive was a little different.

BikiniOur check out dive site was on a 220 metre monster called the Prinz Eugen. Her props clear the water, she lies at a very shallow angle and yet her nose is at 34 metres. You can’t believe the size of this thing. And because of the viz, which is a good 30 to 40 metres, it makes the Scapa wrecks feel small. She lies upside down and you can easily swim under her decks. It takes a few moments to orientate your brain and then it all starts to make sense. Guns, guns, guns and more guns. Andris, Robin and I dropped into the water midships and were immediately mesmerised. No mask skills here. Just buoyancy, and it better be good as we are introduced to the Bikini rusticles ( like icicles but not cold and made of steel) dripping down the wreck, scratching at your loop, your suit, your skin. Clingy, orange particles blur your vision at the slightest movement. Of course this doesn’t deter McCamley from getting the first ‘video of shame’ appearance as a stealthy Mesley catches him squeezing through a tight restriction, knocking hell out of the viz. There were to be quite a few of these hilarious videos by the end of the trip.

BikiniWe did some limited penetration and found ourselves in the officers dining room, where there were chairs and tables scattered all over the back of the room and one lone one standing guard – unreal. I immediately grabbed my spool and laid a little bit of line down a passageway. My buddy Andris was keen to follow and we did a little reckie. Unfortunately I saw that the walls were moving in front of me. A quick helicopter turn, a big laugh from Andris and we were out. But it doesn’t end there; as we explored the bridge lying in the sand on its side, we were buzzed by a couple of reef sharks and then a little white tip. Could this get any better?

Well……. You’ll just have to find out next time when I will give you the lowdown on the Nagato, the Saratoga and lots of other incredible metal.

Paul is the Director of Training at RAID. To find out more about the courses that RAID offers, visit www.diveraid.com.

RAID

After living in South Africa for 23 years, Paul moved to the UK, where he discovered diving. Within months of learning to dive he had his own centre in London and rapidly progressed to Course Director before finding his passion for technical diving. Paul is an avid wreck, cave and rebreather diver, and has worked as an Instructor and Instructor Trainer for PADI, IANTD, and TDI. Paul recently held the position of Director of Technical Training for SSI, but moved on when he was offered the chance to co-own and run his own training agency. Paul now holds the role of Director of Diver Training at RAID International.

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Tourism Fiji celebrates Open for Happiness Campaign (Watch Trailer)

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As international borders reopen to the world this week, Tourism Fiji launched the first video piece in it’s Open for Happiness campaign. The team celebrated this at an event at Wyndham Resort Denarau Island, where they unveiled some of the content to crew who worked on the production as well as tourism stakeholders.

Tourism Fiji is delighted to partner with award-winning actress, comedian and producer, Rebel Wilson, the new Ambassador of our global reopening campaign.

Ms. Wilson has fond memories of visiting Fiji as a child and returned to share her love of a destination that offers so much to visitors and is largely vaccinated.

She was joined by a talented pool of Fijian cast and crew to shoot Tourism Fiji’s Open for Happiness campaign in the Mamanuca Islands, where she also sampled a range of experiences.

“Rebel is a talented actress and demonstrates a unique ability to bring her own style of heartfelt humour to the ad that Tourism Fiji is creating,” said Brent Hill, CEO of Tourism Fiji.

“We’re delighted to have her as an ambassador who resonates with Fiji and our key tourist markets; Australia, North America, New Zealand and Europe.”

Rebel hiked, did yoga, stand up paddleboarding, scenic helicopter tour, spa treatment, cocktails and visited a popular sandbar.  She was seen stepping out in some local designer wear from Samson Lee and Zuber and enjoyed the hospitality of Vomo Island Fiji.

Her destination highlights of Fiji were shared with her fanbase, including 10.3 million followers on social media platform Instagram, and helped amplify Fiji’s allure as a holiday destination that has now safely reopened to international travellers on December 1st.

Filmed in Fiji over the course of last month, the campaign is the result of the collaborative work of several local partners including activity providers, talented singers, entertainers, videographers, local actors, and extras on set.

“This campaign would not have been possible without the support of our industry stakeholders, and we’re pleased to showcase a global star such as Rebel and the talent of local cast and crew,” said Brent Hill, CEO of Tourism Fiji.

Rebel also enjoyed a sunset cruise featuring a live performance by talented local artist, Apakuki “Kuki” Nalawa and shared snippets across her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter channels.

“With all that’s happened over the last two years, tourism has been badly affected and the entertainment industry has been hit hard by this as well, – the live performance was an eye-opener, a breath of fresh air and gave us all hope that things will get better,” Mr Nalawa said.

“It’s so encouraging to witness a Hollywood actress and her media team enjoying not only the beauty that our country has to offer but also recognising the level of talent we have.”

Tourism Fiji’s Open for Happiness campaign with Rebel will be used into 2022. Further video clips will launch over the coming weeks.

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Announcing the Winners of the DPG/Wetpixel Masters Underwater Imaging Competition 2021

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DivePhotoGuide (DPG) and Wetpixel are proud to announce the winning images and videos in the 2021 edition of the DPG/Wetpixel Masters Underwater Imaging Competition. Once again, hundreds of photographers and filmmakers from dozens of countries competed in what has become known as the “World Championship” of international underwater imaging events.

Created by DPG and Wetpixel, two of the largest online resources for underwater shooters, the competition invited submissions to five image categories and a video category, with entries evaluated by a panel of illustrious industry experts and award-winning photographers: Florian Fischer, Imran Ahmad, Jennifer Hayes, Mike Bartick and Stephen Frink.

This year, Martin Broen received the “Best of Show” prize for his 1st place in the Black and White category. The image, a jaw-dropping capture of the pristine stalactites and stalagmites in a Mexican cenote, earned Martin the top cash prize of $1,000. The 1st place winners in the other categories were Julian Hsu (Macro Traditional), Sander van der Heijden (Macro Unrestricted), Enrico Somogyi (Wide Angle Traditional), Tom Shlesinger (Wide Angle Unrestricted) and Alex del Olmo (Video); each of them received a cash prize of $250.

In a joint statement, DPG Editor-in-Chief Joseph Tepper and Wetpixel Publisher Adam Hanlon said: “Once again, the DPG/Wetpixel Masters competition has demonstrated the incredible talent that exists in our community of underwater shooters. As many of us continue to face lockdowns and travel restrictions, these photos and films remind us of the riches under the sea and why we must maintain our collective passion to protect the oceans we love.”

The organizers are pleased to announce that 15 percent of entry proceeds will once again be donated to marine conservation efforts.

You can see the full results here.

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Egypt | Safaga, Brothers & Elphinstone | 27 January – 04 February 2022 | Emperor Elite

Jump on board this famous Red Sea liveaboard and enjoy diving the famous wrecks of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer.  Emperor Elite offers a contemporary living space combined with the best itineraries available in the Red Sea.

Price NOW from just £975 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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