My regular real-diver readers will know that Beachcomber has always been against the sinking of ships for divers. My feelings are not eased when these sunken ships are called "artificial reefs".
It seems to me that there is something very odd about ships sunk specially for divers, something not right. Every real shipwreck has a story; those that are deliberately sunk do not.
Swimming around the deliberately dumped gives most real wreck-divers the feeling that they are on the set of a Disney cartoon. They know they are not going to find anything exciting or see anything surprising, because the dumpers have made darn sure that they won't.
That is not to say that I have anything against ship-dumping enthusiasts. They are trying in their way to improve things for divers, and good luck to them. But I hope they don't push their luck too far.
According to my Leaks in the States, the Maritime Administration there possesses 400, repeat 400, "obsolete" ships which it is prepared to pay some $11 million to have turned into "eco-friendly" artificial reefs with guaranteed complete diver access.
Canadian (and Australian) officials are slightly ahead at the moment, with 15 warships put down in the past 15 years.
Can you imagine 400 dumped ships around the British coastline? At this rate there will soon be two new PADI qualifications, one for real-wreck divers and the other for fakes.
All my negative feelings about "artificial reefs" have been stirred to the surface by the news that Europe's latest "artificial reef" is due to be sunk off Plymouth within the next few weeks, in the form of the carefully cleaned, decommissioned Navy warship HMS Scylla.
Reports say that "entrances are being widened" and "dangerous objects removed to ensure it is safe for divers". Doesn't sound like a proper wreck to me. Notice that they already call the ship "it", not "she", even before the sinking. Is that because it's a fake?
Those new readers of Beachcomber - more and more join me every month - steadily graduate from beginner Beachcomber fanatic to some of my most impressive Leaks.
New readers will quickly appreciate that it is my worldwide network of Leaks which enables me to police diving everywhere on this planet. And no doubt as soon as entry is made to the underground oceans of Mars, Beachcomber will be in demand there too.
Martian divers will soon understand the meaning of crispy and cracklie fines, all of which will go to the Diver Mars Lifeboat Fund, rather than to the closer-to-home Diver Lifeboat Fund and so to the RNLI, as at present.
Those who doubt that Beachcomber has his finger on the pulse of all diving on Earth will find this column most instructive. Some who also doubt my reach to the remoter diving sites will learn much from following a report from one of my many Leaks in the French Alps.
Based in Val d'Is¸re, my Alpine Leak attracted some curious looks as, fully kitted in drysuit, twin-set, BC, etc, he swept down the pistes, using two massive giant-size fins instead of skis, to a lake where there exists, believe it or not, an ice-diving school.
He was checking, on my instructions, a report which one of those dreadful journos had written about his first under-ice dive, a report which some other no doubt equally dreadful journo had headlined My Frozen Blue Heaven.
The ice-diving journo had gone into considerable detail about his dive... the cutting of a dive hole with a chain-saw... the wooden hut which acts as changing room and office...
"Various certificates of qualification hang on the walls. I give them a once-over and am reassured that they all seem to be up to date.
"After going through some essentials, such as signals and use of equipment, I am soon ready to get changed."
In his stress and the excitement of getting ready to drop into the "blue heaven" awaiting him, it seems likely that the journo did not pay proper attention to the signals instruction.
As you will see when we get a little deeper under the solid ice surface of the lake, he did not retain what he was told for very long.
Not that our ice-diving hero was ever in any danger. My Leak's investigation showed that all ice-divers are in the care of two highly qualified French instructors, properly equipped, carefully briefed, harnessed and roped to the surface, and closely attended under water and from the surface during each 30-minute dive.
But maybe our journo's instructors would not have been aware, until one of them gave him the thumbs-up signal to surface, that much of what they had told him had clearly not, to use a phrase, "sunk" in.
Writers of weekend travel pieces are, contrary to popular belief, poor listeners. This one was no exception. He wrote for his "blue heaven" feature: "Alban is directly in front of me with both thumbs up; I return the signal, assuring him that I'm fine".
I expect under-ice diving instructors get a lot of that. But there's none so deaf as those that won't hear.
So, acting on my Leak's advice, I find the under-ice instructors blameless and will fine our intrepid journo four crisp cracklies for the Diver Lifeboat Fund, to help him remember for any future diving travel articles he may write that the OK signal is not the thumbs up.
To me swiftly, before the ice melts....
It will no doubt upset you to learn that some divers are not completely au fait with the vérité.
I can state this without hesitation, as my French Alps Leak, while on his under-ice diving investigation for me, found a well-known and veteran British diver, now living in the Eurozone, describing himself as a Professor on all his European notepaper.
When challenged about this sudden erudition, he first tried to bluster his way out, claiming that his professorship came from a little-known university in an unknown suburb of a difficult-to-find Russian town.
He then came round to saying that lots of people in the diving world called themselves "doctors" when they wouldn't know one end of a scalpel from the other, or used the term doctor because they had a degree in garden maintenance. He didn't see why he shouldn't call himself a professor, as he had certainly qualified from the University of Life.
Can this "prof" possibly be right? Is diving riddled with phoney professors and dubious doctors? Submit names of suspects to me swiftly, so that I can charge a top-up fee from these dodgy titles...