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30/03/2005 - DIVERS TO 'SCOOT' ACROSS SOLENT FOR TSUNAMI VICTIMS

Two Hampshire divers will attempt an underwater scooter swim of the Solent, on the South Coast, at the beginning of April. They’re doing it for a Save the Children campaign to fund the recovery of schools affected by the tsunami disaster, at Phuket in Thailand.

On 3 April John Gedden and Ian Bathe will use DPVs (diver propulsion vehicles) to make their 4.5-mile journey following the Solent's wartime anti-submarine barrier, which runs all the way from the mainland to the island. They'll start at Southsea Beach near Portsmouth, 'scooting' across to the Isle of Wight via Horsesand Fort and No Man's Land Fort.

The attempt has a strong back-up team and support from well-known names in sport diving, including AP Valves, Beaver, Scubapro, Sea Marshall, Poseidon and Weezle. Actor Mark Wingett, who plays Jim Carver in The Bill, hopes to be there to lend his support and may even enter the sea to observe the divers - somewhat appropriate, as John and Ian are both sergeants with Hampshire Police!

The swim is being considered by Guinness for a new world record category, for the longest unbroken underwater journey using a DPV.


09/03/2005 - RED SEA REGULATORS ALTER CONTROVERSIAL RULES

The Egyptian authorities have made key alterations to new regulations affecting Red Sea dive boat operators and their diving guests.

<!-- Add Item text -->The regulations cover dive guide-to-guest ratios, equipping of guides and guests, guide qualifications, surface cover, and guest experience and certification.

Drawn up by the Red Sea Association for Diving and Watersports, they were approved and announced by the Governor of the Red Sea in mid-January, taking immediate effect.

The rules cover the sea area from El Gouna to the border with Sudan, the area where most liveaboards operate. Southern Sinai, covering Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba, falls under a separate governorate.

Two of the requirements caused particular concern among divers, operators and agents.

One was a rule that all divers, on liveaboards or dayboats, should present medical certification of fitness to dive, issued within the past year. The complaint was that this was contrary to the system of self-declaration forms accepted by many operators and dive organisations.

Complaints were also received over a rule that all liveaboard divers should have logged at least 50 dives. Previously this rule applied only to diving in marine parks, around the Brothers, Zabargad, Daedalus and Rocky Island.

Under the rule, a newly qualified BSAC Sport Diver or, say, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver could be barred from diving - despite being qualified, in the eyes of the training agency, to dive safely in open water with another diver of the same qualification or higher.

Critics thought this unnecessarily stiff and, since the Red Sea is popular with new divers, the potential commercial impact of the rule could not be ignored.

The RSADW agreed and has moved quickly to revamp the offending rules, with the agreement of the Governor of the Red Sea.

On 23 February, RSADW Chairman Karim Helal stated: "Further to our earlier email of last month, which relayed safari and diving rules issued by HE Governor of the Red Sea, we are pleased to advise that HE the Governor has approved some modifications that were submitted by the association based on review and analysis of market reactions and indicators."

The blanket requirement of 50 logged dives for liveaboards has been scrapped. It will remain in force only for the marine parks, accepted as relatively challenging diving areas.

And the RSADW has moved to accept the system of self-declaration of fitness to dive.

Other changes have included a relaxation of dive guide to guest ratio requirements. For non-marine park liveaboards, one guide to 12 divers is specified, where previously it was one to 10.

On dayboats, it's now one guide to 12 divers (instead of 10), where divers have done 25 dives or more. For less experienced divers, it's one guide to 8 divers (instead of 6).

Liveaboards must have at least two pairs of binoculars, operate at least one inflatable, and carry a sufficient number of life-rafts.

Crew members providing boat cover for divers must be certified in emergency oxygen administration and medic first aid.

The old rules having been suspended, there is now a three-month period of grace before the revised rules come into force, in late May.

Regarding enforcement, Karim Helal, told Divernet: "While we do not ourselves have legal powers to impose fines on violators, we are able - and have done so several times - to recommend fines, censorship and closure to be imposed."

The Governor of the Red Sea has made membership of the RSADW, a non-governmental organisation, compulsory for centres and boat operators connected with diving or other marine-related tourism.


09/03/2005 - IMAX FILM THROWS LIGHT ON OCEANS' DARKEST CREATURES

Award-winning film director James Cameron sent down ROVs to study unique creatures living in the deepest, darkest parts of the world's oceans - and has released one of those amazing 3D IMAX films to entertain us with the results.

Aliens of the Deep has just opened at London's Science Museum IMAX cinema. And 'aliens' is about the right term, as the creatures might as well be from another planet, so different are their living conditions.

Hot seabed vents, for instance, sustain unique forms of life despite not a jot of sunlight. And there are scientists who believe that these systems may have been the cradle for life on Earth.

Cameron's view is that, as we plan space probes to Jupiter, we should also work to understand our own world's most obscure, prehistoric ocean life.

Although known mainly for blockbuster movies like Alien, Terminator 2, True Lies, Titanic and Abyss, Cameron is a dedicated marine explorer and documentary maker who has already filmed using IMAX technology in very deep water.

He followed up on the success of Titanic by releasing a stunning IMAX documentary on the wreck. With those 3-D specs on, you felt you could reach out and touch the ship as the cameras 'flew' around and through it.

Now it's the turn of some of the sea's deepest, weirdest beasties. With Cameron's filming ROVs doing the business, you could almost be in your scuba kit, drifting along the ocean floor as you come face to face with one curiosity after another


08/02/2005 - TIGHTER REGULATIONS FOR RED SEA BOATS - AND GUESTS

New rules brought in by the Red Sea Association for Diving and Watersports have set stricter requirements for liveaboard and day diving charter boats, and the divers who holiday aboard them.

The rules cover ratios of dive guides to diving guests, surface cover, guide qualifications, guest experience and certification, and equipping of guides and guests alike.

They come in the wake of a number of diving incidents, culminating in a serious emergency last summer off the Brother Islands. A group of 12 divers, including a dive guide, were lost and drifted 26 miles during 13 hours in the sea.

They were picked up after dark when a boat spotted their waved torches. Two of the hypothermic divers would probably not have survived the whole night at sea.
Under the new rules, all Red Sea liveaboard dive charter boats need to provide:

  • One guide for every eight guests;
  • One guide for surface support and supervision, which effectively means that all dives away from the main vessel require continuous small-boat cover;
  • All guides possessing a valid Red Sea Association professional ID card;
  • All guides carrying an SMB, reflective mirror, strobe and torch.
Guests on such holidays will need to:
  • Show evidence of at least 50 logged dives;
  • Each carry an SMB and, within buddy pairs, possess at least one torch, even on morning dives;
  • Possess medical certification of fitness to dive, issued less than one year before the start of the trip;
  • Possess diving accident insurance from a "reputable company".
Meanwhile all day-diving boats need to provide:
  • One guide for every ten divers, where the divers have at least 25 loggeddives;
  • One guide for every six divers, where divers have fewer than 25 loggeddives;
  • All guides possessing a valid Red Sea Association professional ID card.
Day-diving guests will need to:
  • Present diving logbook and agency certification;
  • Possess medical certification and accident insurance, as above.
Before the introduction of the new rules, charters in designated marine park areas only were subject to "clearly spelled out regulations", says the Red Sea Association. The 1:8 guide-to-guest ratio was specified, along with the requirement that guests had logged at least 50 dives.

The association would welcome comments on the new regulations from dive charter guests or boat operators. Divers can also contact the organisation if they see any practice they think breaks the rules.


10/01/2005 - DIVERS TO THE RESCUE IN CARLISLE FLOODING

Divers from West Cumbria BSAC volunteered their RIB and joined the emergency services in evacuating sick and elderly residents from their flooded homes in Carlisle. 20,000 homes are still without power.

The divers volunteered their services on 8 Jan after hearing an appeal on Radio Cumbria. At this time the power was out, and both TV and mobile phone signals were down after flooding and high winds damaged the masts which broadcast the signal.

The West Cumbria BSAC dive boat 'Spare Rib' and a Landrover were pressed into action; the divers donned their drysuits and worked under the coordination of the police, visiting homes in the Warwick Road area.

One of the difficulties was finding fuel for the boat, as fuel points were either flooded or without power. The divers were mostly towing the RIB around and evacuating people too frail to remain in their homes.
"People with medical needs and the elderly were our first priority. With dry suits we were able to stay in the water for over 6 hours and people were carried out to the boat and then on to ambulances if required." West Cumbria BSAC's training officer, Jenny Watkins told Divernet.

 The team worked on as darkness fell, using dive torches to locate people in their homes, and chemical light sticks to easily identify each other. They encountered numerous hazards, with railings, garden walls and cars submerged and invisible beneath the flood. Inside houses, the furniture was floating around and half-floating carpets lifting off the floors made movement difficult. The divers were often asked to retrieve medication from the fridge by evacuees, and had to fight through debris. They also encountered strong currents as the floodwaters ripped through the town. On occasions it was necessary to use the boat's engine to fight against the flow, with the risk of hitting underwater objects with the props.


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