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Toomer Does Bikini – Part 3



Bikini Atoll

Just in case you missed the first couple of parts of Toomer Does Bikini (Part 1 of which you find here, and Part 2 can be found here), I was on Pete Mesley’s Lust for Rust trip in Bikini Atoll, which as I write this has been the greatest dive trip of my existence.

Following the mind-blowing experiences of diving the wrecks of the Nagato and the Saratoga, it was time to move on to the beautiful wreck of the USS Arkansas.  The Arkansas is a 220 metre dreadnought from WWI. According to the dive briefings, when you look at images of the “Baker” blast you can see a black line up the right hand side of the image; that IS the Arkansas! Can you imagine the force of the bomb that picks up a 220 metre long warship and throws it into the sky? Well if you can’t, all you have to do is glide along her upside down hull and you can see the concertina effect of the immense pressure exerted on her.

Bikini Atoll

In all my life I have never seen anything like it, and it really brings it home how powerful bombs are.  It makes you realise what an insane creature man is. We create an incredible ship, then we mount guns on it and annihilate fellow man, then we unleash a bomb so strong it takes all creation whether Devine or human and simply shreds it. CRAZY!!!

Bikini Atoll

Andris and I headed straight for the propellers, which were stunning. We spent an age capturing images of divers silhouetted against those enormous blades. Then we started exploring, and like the little explorers that we had become, we found all manner of treasure. I’d say it’s safe to say that the gun, with spirit level and sights still attached, was the find of the day.

Yet again, most of the divers emerged from the water with that happy ‘rust orange’ glow about them. Grin factor 100%!!!

Bikini Atoll

Midway through the expedition we decided to take a break from wreck diving and move the boat to a dive site called Shark Pass.

You can pretty much guarantee that any dive site named after a fish will reveal no fish of that particular species during the dive. We’ve all been to “Shark Observatory” this and “Turtle Cave” that and what do we see? Sweet Fanny Adams! Of course your guide will always tell you that last week it was teeming with sharks, turtles, mermaids…. whatever!

Shark Pass on the other hand did have Sharks, hence the word “Sharks” in its title. The “Pass” part comes from how the current affects you. Simply put, if you miss the anchor line due to the 50 knot current you will ‘pass” the exit point and will “pass” into no man’s land, where you will “pass” off as food and will “pass” through the digestive tract of many reef sharks.

As we arrived at the site the sharks started gathering around the boat. No matter how many shark dives I do, I always get that junior school nervous giggle, and this was no exception. Pete Mesley did a great job of geeing us all up, and the pre-dive banter was somewhat infantile. Love it!!

Entering the water it was immediately apparent that the sharks there liked divers. And these divers didn’t blow bubbles. The lack of bubbles and noise made the sharks super inquisitive as they glided through our group, in and out of the current like it wasn’t there. It felt a bit like I’d just been put on the menu at Shark Pass Takeaway. It was exhilarating; extreme current, rebreathers and sharks.

We all surfaced and decided to feed our beautiful school of squali. The crew dropped a large chunk of fish off the back of the boat which brought the sharks in close.

Bikini Atoll

A few of us dropped our cameras into the water and filmed the sharks and Simon bit (?) off a bit more than he could chew.  A beautiful shark grabbed the bait and literally swam up the dive deck stairs onto the deck at Simon’s feet. The shark severed the fish from the line and simply plopped back into the water. Unbelievable! We didn’t actually want our day with those wonderful animals to end, but we all agreed that the wrecks of Bikini were calling so we headed back to the wreck zone.

Bikini Atoll

Surprisingly, out of that graveyard of wrecks – most of them huge – on my list of favourites was a little submarine called the Apogon.  As with most Bikini wrecks, she sits in 50 odd metres of water, upright on the sand.

Bikini Atoll

There is something about submarines that has always thrilled me. Perhaps, because we can see the whole wreck, we realise what every submariner must go through living in those ridiculous confines. Perhaps the fact that subs are mysterious machines used in the most clandestine operations thrills the exploring diver.

Whatever it is, the Apogon was as exciting a sub dive as any other I had ever dived – a real winner.

As we approached her in the gin-clear water we could pretty much see her from bow to stern. Armaments scattered her still-intact decks, and the coning tower silhouetted majestically. It was a sight to thrill any wreck diver. Her props were magnificent. There was so much to take in. She actually looked like she could set sail at any moment. On top of that she was encrusted in beautiful corals, had shoals of fish all over her and we even got a visit from a few sharks. Now that was wreck diving. Goose pimples galore.

Bikini Atoll

We began our long return leg. No one cared how long it took; it had been so very worth it. Even staying on Ebeye Island (which should have been called Brown Eye Island) was not enough to detract from the fact that we had all been to diving heaven.

We dived a fair few other wrecks, too many to mention and in all honesty, only reading this is just not right. You need to go. Sell a kidney, a finger or your car. Sacrifice your career, extend your mortgage, make the arduous journey.  Whatever it takes, just do it.

If there is a God, I’d like to say a little thank you. I need most of all to thank my wife Lisa for letting me realise my dreams and travel with unarguably the best “expedition” crew, team and organisers to what can only be described as the best wreck diving I have ever done.

Thank you all.

So what are you doing in 2016 Pete?

Photos included in the three-part series ‘Toomer Does Bikini’ courtesy of Simon Mitchell

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



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.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4



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…

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WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!



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 (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

  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to 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 When prizes are supplied by third parties, 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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