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SCUBA News 122

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SCUBA News (ISSN 1476-8011)
Issue 122 - June 2010

Welcome to the mid-summer - or mid-winter if you are in the Southern Hemisphere - issue of SCUBA News. This month we have a great guest article from a disabled diver on his experiences trying to pass his open water qualification.

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SCUBA News is published by SCUBA Travel Ltd, the independent guide to diving around the world.

- What's new at SCUBA Travel?
- Letters
- Disabled Diving in the Red Sea
- Creature of the Month: Harlequin Ghost Pipefish
- Diving News from Around the World


What's New at SCUBA Travel?

Diving South Africa

South Africa is not just about football and safaris: it has some excellent diving. More on the dive sites and operators is now at:


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Australia Photo Gallery

Many more underwater photos taken around Australia are now in the gallery: Bull Rays, Potato Cod, Turtles, Trevally...see

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Best cold water reef?

I have heard of a cold water reef that is the best in the world and I would very much like to experience it for myself

Frances Parkinson

Any ideas which reef this could be? E-mail [email protected] or post on the Diving Board at


Disabled Diving in the Red Sea

by Dave Thompson
Dave is a tetraplegic: a full time wheelchair user

After weeks of dispair due to the ash cloud in May, I finally arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh with wife Pam, sister Jayne and brother in law and dive buddy Graham. Graham and I hoped to pass our PADI Open Water Scuba Diving qualification with Aquarius Dive Club. We had completed our confined water skills and theory test with Terry and the gang at Cybaqua (UK), and I had undertaken four introductory dives with Aquarius on a previous holdiay last September, so I was quitely confident. However, to my surprise, during the first of the four compulsory deep dives I found that I couldn't achieve balance or buoyancy; it was an absolute nightmare. The skills tests were fine, but when I tried to swim I ended up in a right mess: totally disorientated.

During the second dive I gave the signal to Ramey my instructor that I wanted to abort the dive. My frustration and disappointment were clear to see. After a very quiet evening and a not too pleasant night's sleep I arrived for day two, and the next two dives that would result in a pass or fail. I convinced Ramey that I should spend time adjusting the distribution of the weights, which at 10 kilograms were double that used at home; this is due to the more buoyant salt water. Well after ten minutes we got it right. Then Ramey introduced an idea of his own; he suggested that I placed my flaccid right arm into a sling to avoid it hanging; and hey presto this improved my balance and buoyancy to a level that I'd never experienced.

After two successful dives and more skills tests, Ramey declared that we had both passed. Yippee! Back at the Aquarius Diving Centre we were met by Omar the Centre's Director and Master Diver; the smile on his face and the hug that nearly squeezed the life out of me said that he too shared in our success.

On the Sunday before we flew home we undertook our first dives as qualified divers; and where better that the famous Ras Mohammed which hosts some of the best dive sites in the world. Our first dive took us to Shark & Yolanda Reef which includes spectacular coral, bizarre fauna and the most colourful fish I have ever seen; including Nemo. OK, it was one of many anemomefish but it sure looked like Nemo. My buddy Graham described it as being live in aquarium, but I've never seen hundreds of toilets and sinks in an aquarium. They are scattered across the soft white sand around the wreck of the merchant ship Yolanda which sank in 1980 together with its cargo of porcelain toilet fittings.

Our second was a drift dive in Ras Ghozlani; but all didn't go to plan. As the name implies the dive involves drifting with the current. After being dropped into the sea at point A, one drifts down current to point B to be picked up by the boat. Once we got down to around 17 m Ahmed our guide realised that the current was travelling in the opposite direction. Graham and I were oblivious to any problems as we were experiencing the feeling of simply floating as we were carried by the current. Once again it was like another world of coral, fauna and fish; we also stopped off to go into an underwater cave which was a very memorable experience as the light from above lit up the inside of the cave. Once we got to the surface we had to wait around for twenty minutes until the boat spotted us and picked us up.

As the dive boat headed back to the port where our adventure had begun early that morning our guide asked if anyone fancied a third dive; as you can guess mine and Graham's hands were up before he finished his sentence. But we couldn't believe that there were so many experienced divers not taking up the offer; finally three of us joined Ahmed for one last dive of the day to a new site Temple. As we entered the water it was clear why it was called Temple; all around us was the most magnificent shaped towers of coral. Amongst the fish we also saw giant moray eels; but as we headed back to the boat Graham spotted an adult spotted eagle ray, as we swam towards it, it turned around and the next minute it was swimming alongside us; it felt amazing. Then in the blink of an eye time was up and we completed the dive and when we got back on the boat we were totally shattered, fully understanding why the experienced divers passed on the third dive!

I suppose what I should mention is that for me getting into the water off the boat simply required a leap of faith; literally. I sit on the back of the boat and dropped into the sea. Getting back onto the boat is trickier; there is two and half foot between the surface of the sea and the back of the boat. I have to remove my tank, weights and buoyancy jacket; whilst the guys on the boat slip a long towel under my arms and I hang on whilst they literally drag me back onto the boat. I'm glad that Kathy and Ann my colleagues in the health and safety team back at 5 Boroughs, the National Health Service Trust where we work, weren't around to risk assess the procedure!

As you can see I am totally hooked on diving. So much so that I have invite Scubability (the International Disabled Divers Association) to a disability event that I started and co-ordinate which will be held in Warrington (UK) next month. See more at We will be offering try dives for all in a temporary swimming pool and have arranged a hoist and changing area. If you do get the chance to visit the event please ask a steward for Dave or Graham and we can say hello.

by Dave Thompson

More Information
Cybaqua (Mike's Dive Store - Warrington):
Aquarius Dive Club:
Diving Sharm El-Sheikh:
Disability Awareness Day:

Send your comments on this article to [email protected]

If you would like to contribute a trip report to SCUBA News, please don't hesitate to send it to us.


Creature of the Month: Harlequin Ghost Pipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus

Rarely seen, the Harlequin or Ornate Ghost Pipefish is spectacular in its colour and shape, yet still manages to blend in with its surroundings.

Few fish are so decorative. Its scribbled body comes in many colours and is covered in tassles. The fish often swims head-down with its paddled fins and tail pointing surface-wards. As with true pipefish, its body is thin.

From the Red Sea to East Africa and Australia, this Ghost Pipefish lives singularly or in pairs. In season more than ten will gather together. Look for them from 3-25 meters among gorgonians, weeds and crinoids.

Like seahorses, the Harlequin Ghost Pipefish carry their eggs in a brood pouch. However, with this fish it is the female, not the male, which incubates the eggs.

Our photos are taken in the Philippines.

Further Reading:
A diver's guide to Underwater Malaysia, Andrea and Antonella Ferrari
Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes, Rudie H. Kuiter


Diving News From Around the World

Oil spill threatens Red Sea marine life

An oil spill off the Egyptian Red Sea coast of Hurghada threatening to damage marine life in the area has prompted environmental agencies to demand tighter regulation of offshore oil platforms.

Revealed: Japan's bribes on whaling

An investigation by a British newspaper has exposed Japan for bribing small nations with cash and prostitutes to gain their support for the mass slaughter of whales.

Coral transplantation the simple and cheap solution to reef restoration

It is a question asked by marine scientists from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Barrier Reef; how best to restore coral reefs and marine habitat once it has been damaged or even killed? Now research published in Restoration Ecology reveals how 'transplantation' may be a cheap and simple solution that can be used by conservation volunteers to repair damaged reefs.

Several species of Killer Whale, scientist say

It has long been thought that there are at least three types of killer whales: residents who eat fish; transients who eat mammals; and offshores about who little is known. The new research gives the strongest evidence yet that these are separate species.

Dolphins in the Atlantic prefer to eat high-energy fish

Researchers studying dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean have found that, contrary to expectation, dolphins are not opportunistic feeders that take whatever prey is available. Instead, they carefully select which fish to consume, preferring to eat energy-rich lantern fish while ignoring other lower quality fish species. Cold-blooded ocean predators such as sharks make no such distinction.

Activists liberate 800 bluefin tuna

Environmental activists from the Sea Shepherd group said Friday they had "liberated" some 800 bluefin tuna that had been caught by what they described as poachers and were being towed by two fishing vessels off the coast of Libya. Five scuba divers on Thursday afternoon cut open a circular holding net filled with fish below legal weight and caught after the fishing season closed.

Cone shell venom provides potent pain relief

Sea snail venom could become the gold standard for the relief of nerve-related pain following the development of a pill that is 100 times as potent as leading treatments.

Scientists Call for More Ocean-Observing in the Antarctic

Oceanographers are calling for more Antarctic Ocean observations as Antarctica's climate is changing faster than anywhere else on the planet. This has a crucial affect on marine life.

Rising acidity threatens marine species

The increasing acidity of the oceans, which absorb more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity, could harm corals, molluscs and other marine species, contend specialists on the matter.

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