HAVE YOU EVER tried Sub aqua diving? If you have the time and patience I can recommend it. If only as a leisure activity (as there are some serious clubs around) it should be experienced. The only problem is ‘doing it’ in the UK – the waters are rather murky and visibility somewhat limited. I learned to dive in Cardigan in Wales some years ago and that is no exception. Being a beginner in very limited visibility waters has its drawbacks and can be a little disconcerting. I remember the very first time I dived I was terrified that water would seep into my mask and I would have to go through that procedure of removing the mask underwater to clear it out. So I jammed the mask on very tight so that would not happen. As I descended the pressure built up and the mask tightened even more to my face causing me great pain. I had to remove it to loosen it and then, of course, replace it! When I surfaced and removed the mask again I had an embarrassing blood pressure mark around my face!
The second time I dived I had difficulty descending as I did not have enough weight on my belt. I pushed down to the sea bed and collected some stones and put them in my stabilizer jacket for more weight. Fine. Then one of my flippers (sorry, fins) on my foot came loose. As I bent over to tighten it, the stones fell out my pocket and up I went!
The third time and thereafter I had no more ‘teething’ problems but visibility did not improve very much.
Then there is all the gear! – me on Tresaith Beach near Cardigan (a few years ago now – and no, I’m not wearing a dinner jacket under the wet-suit) making sure of my weight belt – luckily I had my jeep to transport everyone’s equipment down to the waterside (I had my uses)
I was then fortunate enough to be able to go on a 10 day trip to the Red Sea with an ex-mariner colleague of mine, Simon. Now that is a place to dive. The journey began in Eilat in Israel, where we dived with dolphins, a manta ray and a turtle. This was quite amazing.
Me and ….. dolphin – not a shark! ….. and manta ray
We then picked up our boat, the Poolster, which was to be our transport down the Red Sea. Not the most luxurious of boats but adequate and it was a cheap trip after all. Anyway, the skipper was a good chap, as were the rest of the divers – a very friendly and humourous bunch.
We sailed down the Sinai coast of Egypt, stopping off at various dive sites. Throughout all these dives living coral of all shapes, sizes and colours were in abundance including the magnificent gorgonian, fan and stinging fire corals.
Simon investigating a fan coral
A white-tip reef shark was spotted during one of the dives off the East African Suez coast but it kept well away from us. In saying that, in 2010, there were 5 shark attacks (one of which was a fatality) off Sharm el-Sheik where we were diving, and another at the same place in March this year (again a fatality) – had my trip not been before these attacks I may not have gone!
Night dive: my torch shows up the colour of the coral attached to the mast of a wreck
Two moray eels of great magnitude were encountered, but not being naturally aggressive (the eels not us), they simply retreated into their coral hideaways when our inquisitive approach became too close. I was taken by surprise by a rather large Napoleon Wrasse but it was quite friendly. In fact most of the fish are no problem – except the brightly coloured and striped Lion Fish whose spiky fins are poisonous. One has to be a little careful of these fellows as they do not just swim away when you approach so you have to keep a sharp eye on them – or you get a sharp something else.
“Behind you!!” Napoleon Wrasse coming up behind me
The wrecks we dived were somewhat eerie as they lay dormant in their watery graves. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience to investigate the life that had set up home on their immense superstructures. But no way was I going inside these rusting relics of the deep – well, going in is one thing, coming out is another!
Eerie wreck …..
Finally the famous Ras Mohammed was visited. At this site a coral wall drops from 20m to some 700m into the deep. An awesome site, but not good if you suffer from vertigo. Buoyancy and common sense overcomes the temptation and curiosity to follow the ‘wall’ down any further than 30m.
Me refraining from going much deeper on the ‘wall’ at Ras Mohammed
There is one great downside to diving the Red Sea and I was warned about it by a fellow diver in Cardigan. He told me that once I dived the Red Sea I would not want to dive British waters again. He was right. Saying that, I did manage to complete my British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Dive Leader qualification on my return to the UK but that was some time ago and I haven’t dived since!
Simon’s great photo of Masked Butterflyfish
Artemus Smith’s Notebooks
I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:
My dear friend, Sir Barclay Hartwhistle, told me that he was out on his front porch in Africa one day and saw a gorilla in the tree on his front lawn. He called animal control and about an hour later a man showed up with a ladder, a pit bull dog, and a shotgun.
The animal controller said to Sir Barclay, “I’m here to get the gorilla out of your tree. I’m going to use this ladder to climb up the tree and shake the branch on which the gorilla is on to knock it to the ground. The pit bull dog is trained to go after anything that falls from the tree and bite its testicles which distracts it so I can put it in the truck.”
Sir Barclay said, “Okay, I see what the ladder and the dog are for, but what is the shotgun for?”
The animal controller said, “Oh, that’s for you. In case I fall out of the tree instead of the gorilla, shoot the dog.”