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Toomer Does Bikini – Part 3

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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 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.

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: MK19 Evo/D420/R195 Octo Dive Regulator System from Scubapro (Watch Video)

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In a video shot exclusively for Scubaverse.com, Jeff Goodman reviews the MK19 Evo/D420/R195 Octo Dive Regulator System from Scubapro.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Scubaverse meet the Ullapool Sea Savers

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On a recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland we met up with an amazing bunch of ocean conservationists called the Ullapool Sea Savers. They are a passionate group of young people based in the beautiful coastal town of Ullapool who are working to protect the marine environment around them and it was a real pleasure to hear their ideas and to witness just how committed they are to their cause.

They are a group run by kids for kids, in response to the inspirational work of local marine campaigner Noel Hawkins. Their core premise is that people will protect what they love and they aim to show people just how much there is to love about the sea. The Ullapool Sea Savers keep things positive and work to inspire those around them and each other.

Each Sea Saver is a Species Champion, and they nominate their preferred species, learn all about them and then present a “fact fie” to the rest of the group. This ties in with the Species Champion Initiative launched by Scottish Environment LINK which asks Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to lend political support to the protection of Scotland’s threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’. This has led to some great support from MSPs when it comes to campaigning, such as Maree Todd MSP and Minister for Children and Young People (who is also from Ullapool which helped!) becoming the Flameshell Species Champion and working closely with Caillin who is Flameshell Ambassador for the Ullapool Sea Savers. Similarly, Gail Ross MSP for our region, took on the role of Seagrass Species Champion and helped USS campaign against plans to allow Mechanical Kelp Extraction (Dredging!) to be given the go ahead in Scotland. There are plenty more example of this great partnering scheme here.

On top of this, the Ullapool Sea Savers have formed pods, and each small group selects a local campaign to work on, with the “New Wave” working on a “Drain Campaign” to educate people that litter dropped on the street ends up in the surrounding sea. They recently surveyed the litter by the first drain in the campaign and found over 300 cigarette butts that would have all washed out to sea during the next rainfall.

The “Blue Starfish” are working on a crisp packet recycling campaign, starting at the local school with hopes to widen the scale going forward. There is now also the newly formed Seal Pups Pod and we look forward to seeing what campaign they decide to focus on.

Many of the group have passed qualifications in snorkeling, diving, boat handling and they are currently learning to operate an ROV that they plan to use to mark underwater litter and ghost nets so it can be retrieved by divers. The group are also regularly found litter-picking along the coastline. As a group they have a powerful voice and recently won the Sunday Mail, Young Scot Awards 2021 for the Environment Category.

The older kids mentor some of the younger ones that are new to joining the group and what really struck us on meeting the group was how keen they were to pass on their wealth of knowledge and their passion for ocean conservation. We chatted to them about what we do and told them about some of our favourite marine life encounters from around the world. I hope we inspired them just a fraction as much as they inspired us! 

To find out more about the Ullapool Sea Savers you can visit their website by clicking here.

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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.

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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