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Toomer Does Bikini – Part 2

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Bikini Atoll

Bikini AtollJust in case you missed the first part of Toomer Does Bikini (which you can read here), I was on Pete Mesley’s Lust for Rust trip in Bikini Atoll. I had taken you from leaving Heathrow with my two (crazy) mates all the way to Bikini and our “check out” dive on a 220 metre warship called the Prinz Eugen. I sound like one of those American dramas – “Last week on 24….”!!

On surfacing from the Prinz “Organ” as it was affectionately christened by Mr Mesley, we decided quite rightly to begin our journey from Kwaj to Bikini. To say there was a buzz in the air would be an understatement. I hope it was excitement and not radiation.

So we battened down the hatches and began the 30 something hour trek to Bikini. I reckon most of us thought that part of the journey would be boring, but with the Mesley /Mitchell road show we were entertained all the way and time just flew by. Again my feeling of remoteness returned when I decided to photograph the sunrise at 5 am and could see no other signs of life anywhere. No land, no boats, no birds, nada. It was liberating being there.

Arriving in Bikini Atoll is something like I imagine arriving at the gates of Valhalla. It’s not nice. It’s not good. It’s not brilliant. It is simply awesome, and I mean that in the English way not the American way. Whilst standing on the bow I looked around at my friends, and there was this amazing look on all our faces. Was that a tinge of green on McCamley’s cheek?

Nagato bow gun (2)Later that afternoon we decided to walk on the beach and take it all in. I will never have the ability to explain how I felt as my command of the English language is just not good enough. We were really there.

At 5 am the following morning the boat was alive! Cameras were being readied, rebreathers went through final preps, lights and scooters were assembled. We were moored at the “Nagato”. The two hundred-and-twenty-one-metre-long big ass pride of the Japanese Imperial Fleet warship was just underneath us!

Bikini Atoll

Bikini AtollThe Nagato lies upside down in around 50 metres of water. She has 8 sixteen inch guns on her, which were at the time of her launch the biggest guns on any naval vessel. And they didn’t fail to impress.  They seemed to stretch on into eternity as Andris and I finned gently down the length of them.

Because the ship is upside down it became real fun swimming upside down ourselves thus giving the feeling that we were cruising along her decks. She has penetration holes everywhere and we were all very keen to see what treasure was inside. Again we were impressed beyond belief. We found all sorts of items that reminded us of what life must have been like on this vessel. The odd boot, missiles still in their racks, bombs, chairs. Simon Mitchell managed to find some soldier’s gas mask rolled up in a corner.

Bikini AtollAfter spending nearly an hour in the 50 metre zone we left the water mesmerised and began what will become an all too familiar return to the boat via the deco station and a 100 or so minute decompression obligation.

The afternoon dive was a shallower dive than the Nagato. Pete explained that the dive would be our regular afternoon dive. This was because there would be a much shorter decompression obligation than on the deeper morning dives. We were all wondering what shallow tub we would be diving and then Pete got this little smile on his face. The all too familiar “Come on Man” echoed from his lips as he started to roar with laughter.

Our shallow bimble was to be the US Saratoga.

Bikini Atoll

I learnt to dive in 1996 with my friend Steve Axtell and a then young instructor called Phillip Short. They regaled all sorts of tales about diving trying to impress my biker buddies, and me when Phil blurted out the name Bikini.  It was winter and he was not wearing one so I guessed he was referring to the atoll. I remembered my Dad talking about it and the cold war. So as soon as I got back home I started looking at the place.  While doing my research I met a guy in America that sold me copy blue prints of the Saratoga. You know James May from Top Gear gets that tingle in his testicles when he drives a car that rocks his world? Well upon seeing those prints I understood what he was on about. The Saratoga is an aircraft carrier lying bolt upright on a snow white, sandy seabed in 52 metres of blue, warm radioactive water.

While waiting for the familiar cry of ‘the pool is open’ I may have actually done a little wee – again!

Bikini Atoll

Bikini AtollThe Saratoga is a wreck diver’s heaven. Over the next seven days we repeatedly dived all over the wreck. Penetration after penetration. Pete’s briefings were really awesome and he told us where to find (or guided us to in some cases) the real hidden treasures of the Saratoga. We entered a room that had two diving helmets in it which was enough to take your breath away, but the insane thing was the shelves full of thermometers and gauges that you passed on your way to this little room. We entered bomb elevators, found aircraft with folded wings, and my personal favourite was a dive through the tool room. Lathes and grinders and all sorts of engineering machinery were just sitting there, perfect in almost every way.

Bikini AtollBikini AtollWe were led to the surgery and dentist chambers, complete with chairs and surgery equipment. We dived through the radar room with all manner of communication and tracking devices.

Our final dive on the wreck included a scooter dive under the hull at the rear of the ship. The props were there and they were enormous. Huge blades towered up into the sunlight; it’s awe inspiring. And then there was the wildlife. And the emphasis is on the ‘wild’! The sharks on the Saratoga were a little, well; territorial, I suppose you could say. I couldn’t remember when I last had to aim a scooter at a pair of sharks to get them to bugger off. These two had their nictitating membranes drawn and their jaws thrust forward. The last time I felt like dinner I was on the sardine Run in South Africa and it was just as uncomfortable as I remember. Fortunately scooters are hard to swallow.

Bikini AtollBy that point Andris and I had become a brownish colour, and not from a suntan; it was rust. We laughed hard through our JJ mouthpieces as I flicked the rust off the back of his unit and we found large rusticles buried all over our kit.

The most hilarious thing about our ‘shallow dives’ on the Saratoga was that we amassed more decompression obligations on this wreck than any other!

Bikini AtollI remember getting to the surface on day one and while still wearing my unit all 11 divers on board started talking about the carrier. I looked at my friend Pete McCamley and we walked up to Mr Mesley, we shook his hand and admitted that even if we had to go back to Britain right then it had been worth all the effort and finances to get there.

The Saratoga is, quite simply, the best wreck I have ever had the privilege of diving. I am in a very, very, very small club. And I am smug! Really, really smug!

In Part 3 we will look at the final wrecks in Bikini and also our little road trip to Shark alley where I nearly lost my fingers and Simon Mitchell nearly lost his toes. All good fun!

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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Dive into Luxury: Bunaken Oasis Seeks Seventh Consecutive World Travel Awards Win

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world travel awards

In the vibrant heart of Sulawesi, Indonesia, nestled among the pristine waters of Bunaken Marine Park, lies Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort. For the past six years, this remarkable resort has been recognised as “Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort” by the World Travel Awards, and it is now in contention for an unprecedented seventh consecutive win.

A Beacon of Excellence

The World Travel Awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of the travel industry,” celebrating the very best in global tourism and hospitality. Winning this award is no small feat and speaks volumes about the exceptional quality and service that Bunaken Oasis consistently delivers. This accolade is a testament to the resort’s unwavering commitment to providing unparalleled guest experiences.

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

world travel awards

What Sets Bunaken Oasis Apart?

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort is celebrated not just for its luxurious amenities but also for the deep, genuine care it extends to its guests. The resort offers a unique blend of elegance and adventure, providing world-class diving experiences in one of the planet’s richest marine biodiversity hotspots.

world travel awards

The true magic of Bunaken Oasis lies in its people. The resort’s staff are renowned for their warmth, professionalism, and dedication. From personalised diving excursions to bespoke hospitality, every team member plays a crucial role in creating a welcoming and memorable atmosphere. Their passion for excellence and attention to detail are key reasons why guests return year after year.

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

world travel awards

Show Your Support

As Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort vies for its seventh title, the support of its loyal guests and admirers becomes even more crucial. Voting for the World Travel Awards is an opportunity for fans of the resort to show their appreciation and help ensure that this gem continues to shine brightly on the world stage.

world travel awards

How to Vote

Supporting Bunaken Oasis is simple and impactful. Click the link below to show your support and cast your vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort as “Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort” on the World Travel Awards website.

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

Looking Ahead

Winning this award for the seventh time would be a crowning achievement for Bunaken Oasis, solidifying its status as a premier destination for luxury diving and relaxation. But more than the award itself, it is the ongoing support and love from guests that fuels the resort’s continuous pursuit of excellence.

world travel awards

Whether you are an experienced diver or simply in search of a serene escape, Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort offers a sanctuary of beauty, tranquillity, and unparalleled service. Join us in celebrating this exceptional resort and help Bunaken Oasis secure its place as Indonesia’s leading dive resort for another year.

world travel awards

Vote for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort Here

For more information about Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and to experience its magic first-hand, visit their official website.

Dive into luxury and adventure at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort – where every moment is crafted to perfection.

Email: info@bunakenoasis.com / WhatsApp: +44 7785 576331 / WhatsApp: +62 812 4649 6763 

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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Experience the Red Sea in May with Bella Eriny Liveaboard! As the weather warms up, there’s no better time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Join us on Bella Eriny, your premier choice for Red Sea liveaboards, this May for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Explore vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs Enjoy comfortable accommodation in our spacious cabins Savor delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef Benefit from the expertise of our professional dive guides Visit our website for more information and to secure your spot: www.scubatravel.com/BellaEriny or call 01483 411590 More Less

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