The liveliest letters from the DIVER mailbag...
Tim Ecott (Into the Blue, News, Novem-ber) rightly complains that films related to diving are not always realistic. So it may surprise some readers to learn that the ending to the film Jaws is quite feasible.
As the boat sinks beneath him, Sergeant Brody rifles a bullet into the cylinder he has just rammed into the shark's mouth. The cylinder explodes, blowing up the shark in the process.
There is no doubt that a high-velocity round would puncture a cylinder and that the energy released from an exploding 12 litre tank, pressurised to 230 bar, would be sufficient to catapult the average person clean over the Empire State Building.
Since doing that calculation, I've always treated my cylinder with much more respect.
Mike Follows, Willenhall
In The Great White Debait (November), Monty Halls humorously explained why we humans have an urge to enter the cage, and touched on recent activity by South African surfers against the cage-diving industry.
Education is one of the most effective weapons conservationists have in protecting all shark species. If diving and non-diving tourists get a thrill from seeing sharks (from cages or outside) and learn something positive that they can absorb and pass on, this surely is a good thing.
The killing of millions of sharks for their fins and other products will stop only when demand ends - sadly, this day is a long way off.
The ocean is now accessible to huge numbers of people. The old surfing bays are full up and surfers are looking to new areas, which means invading shark territories. Sharks are not looking to humans as a replacement meal, but with more contact between us, more attacks are inevitable. We are entering their domain, not vice versa.
Would you skateboard through Kruger Nat-ional Park? If you did and were attacked, the headlines would read along the lines of Idiot Tourist Eaten By Lion. The blame would not lie with the lion that grabbed a quick meal.
This is effectively what surfers are doing off the coast of South Africa, except that they go one step further: they disguise themselves as prey. To the shark, a surfboard with two arms and two legs dangling off it looks like its favourite food: seal. And yet, in a shark-attack scenario, it's the shark that gets the blame.
I am not against surfing, but I am against surfers lobbying to get the cage-diving industry banned without substantial argument.
Geraldine Joaquim, Haslemere, Surrey
Monty Halls very rightly points out that shark-cage diving is training the sharks to associate humans with food. He then goes on to say that fishing boats have been chumming for years, so the cage-diving industry cannot be held responsible for the increase in shark attacks on humans.
He seems to have forgotten his previous statements within a few paragraphs! Fair enough, fishing boats have been "chumming" as long as we can remember, but did they follow the chum with a human being?
Fishing boats may have initiated an association between boats and food, but the connection between humans and food could only have begun with cage diving.
Brigid & Grant Du Plessis, Brookwood, Surrey
It was great to read in November's diver News that the Egyptian government has banned all shark-fishing in its part of the Red Sea. Perhaps now fewer tourists will buy "real shark's tooth necklaces", and other governments will realise how important it is to keep the diminishing shark population under the sea and not out of it.
As diving's leading magazine, I think you could do more to help in campaigning against the selling of shark's teeth on web auction sites such as eBay. I'm not against selling fossil shark's teeth or other fossils, as these are a primary tool in the understanding of how our Earth and the animal kingdom evolved over millions of years.
I collect and sell fossil teeth on eBay myself, but when you go through the listings you find far more white teeth than fossils. Some sites even claim the teeth are purchased as by-products of the fishing industry. What a load of bullshark!
Readers visiting the Far East may have seen fishermen bringing in a couple of sharks with their daily catches, because they can make more by selling teeth to the tourist trade. I just want to ask all fellow-divers, off-gassing from your morning dive, to talk to local fishermen and try to discourage them from catching sharks for tourists.
Sharks help keep our oceans clean and fish stocks healthy. There are few important species left to save, but we can do lots with what little we have left.
C Dino Galetovic, Buckhurst Hill, Essex
I began my scuba training with a local PADI diving centre in March, finding the whole thing exhilarating. But when I started to compare my training with that of a friend who was doing his PADI Open Water in another part of the country, I began to get a bit suspicious.
My open-water dives were conducted in the sea, offshore, maximum depth 5m and maximum time 20 minutes on all four dives, over two separate days. I would do one dive, the instructor would talk to me for 10 minutes, then I would do the next one.
Not feeling confident, I asked for either further training or to be referred abroad. Rel-uctant to refer me (I was told that instructors abroad were not up to the PADI standard!) and after a lot of messing me about, he finally agreed that I could have a further pool session and another 10 minute open-water dive, because he said I had reminded him that I "hadn't done the navigation part".
Quite happy with my performance, he passed me as qualified. A couple of other ladies on this course also felt disappointed with the standard of training. They too had been passed after four quick dives, without having done their navigation.
My mate had done his dives in fresh water, and had gone to the maximum 18m for 45-50 minutes on each dive. His instructor had also insisted on a surface swim of several lengths of the pool, yet mine had just asked if I could swim, and was happy when I said yes.
So I agree with some of your readers (probably BSAC) who say that PADI training varies. I went to Sharm El Sheikh, dived with Aquarius Divers' instructor Tosson Islam, and have nothing but high praise for him. He was efficient, conscientious, safe and I completed many enjoyable dives, including my Advanced Diver course.
I learned more with him in six days than I ever did from my English OW Instructor.
Norma Paynton, London
So the Yanks are bored stiff! (Big Escape At Guantanamo Bay, October). Well, may I point out that real men would be getting fit to go spear-fishing without an aqualung. That's cheating in any man's language.
Surely they're not short of food. It would be a first if they were, as I bet there are McDonalds etc on site. Why don't they try reading instead, starting with Scott of the Antarctic and Shack-leton. They coped with less food than the daily deliveries these soldiers enjoy.
Look at what happened to the "big fish" in the early years of diving in the Mediterranean - they were all killed in spearfishing contests. I have two spearguns, the rubbers now rotting due to my grey hair and associated decline in body efficiency. But we took only fish you could eat that day.
Often it was no fish, and we were just enjoying the view.
Alan Harvey, Halesowen
We were very glad John Bantin's article about diving at Tofo, Mozambique (Hit The Beach, October) arrived on our doorstep after we returned home from our trip there rather than before. We think he must have had a bad week, as his experience is at complete variance to our own and that of many people who have dived there.
Like Bantin, we dived with Tofo Scuba. We found the beach launches and landings through the surf exhilarating but never felt the boat rides to be unsafe. They can certainly be bouncy but we were carefully briefed about safety. It's important to sit back on the RIB sides to avoid hitting oneself on tank valves.
None of us who were carrying cameras had any difficulty, although we had to be careful.
The diving was superb. We did two dives on Manta Reef and had mantas in view throughout the dive, some making very close passes.
We saw 18 different whale sharks (above) in five days and had chances to snorkel with 12. There was masses of other interesting marine life to see under water, and we saw humpback whales and dolphins topside as well.
The sandy beaches are beautiful. The weather can be variable and the surf is ever- present, but this is the Indian Ocean and the tropics. The viz is not always good - we found it varied from 5-25m - but it is all the plankton that attracts the whale sharks.
This is a fantastic place for diving and we would highly recommend it.
Dr Chris Powell and Svenja Hickson, Ashford
Your article Coastguard Patrol (November) mentioned a rebreather diver from Lulworth army camp who was taken to Dorchester hospital. The article did not, however, make it clear that the problem was not dive-related.
The diver, a friend of mine, did not regain consciousness and sadly died a couple of days later, having suffered a heart attack brought on by an enlarged heart. This could have happened at any time, and it was coincidental that he was diving.
Joe Sniadek, Lutterworth, Leics
My wife and I recently booked flights to the Philippines through Air Travel Guide. This company was strongly recommended by a friend, so I phoned and spoke to its manager, Kumar. When he offered me flights with Kuwait Airways at a better price than I had seen on the Internet, I accepted.
I explained that we were going on a diving holiday, and asked if he could get our baggage allowance up to 25kg.
He came back very quickly to confirm that Kuwait would in fact give us a 30kg allowance. The only problem was that there was nothing in writing, although Kumar insisted that Kuwait would honour the agreement.
When I explained that we and many other divers had fallen foul of local check-in operatives in the past, despite such arrangements, he asked me to send the tickets to him for amendment. By return of post came two new Kuwait Airways tickets with 35kg printed in the weight-allowance boxes - you can't ask for more than that!
Following Steve Weinman's editorial comments (First In, November) I confirm that I have absolutely no connection with Air Travel Guide or Kuwait Airways. I just want to pass on the chance of a good deal to everyone else out there!
Robert Blake, Sherborne, Dorset
I was looking forward to some good diving and a relaxing holiday in Hurghada, but on receiving my tickets I was disappointed to see that I would be flying with Excel. This was because of all the letters about the airline in Off-Gassing following your Mystery Diver report in June.
I tried contacting Excel to confirm my extra baggage allowance, but as I feared I could get no information on the phone and there was no reply to my emails. So when I travelled I took a copy of the response from Excel in August's divEr, confirming the free 10kg allowance.
Checking my bag in at 25kg was fine - there was not even a mention of the extra weight. I had also read the comments about the plane and staff, but again the aircraft was as good as any I had used over the year, and the cabin crew were excellent too. So a thumbs-up to Excel - I would not hesitate to use it again.
Mark Williams, Rainham, Kent
In view of the increasing number of near-misses, or even hits, on SMBs by jet-skiers and speedboat drivers [First In, August], perhaps there should be a campaign to alert these water-users to the purpose of an SMB, making them aware that something more valuable than an old boot may be on the other end.
"Marker Buoys Are Not Toys" might be a suitable campaign theme to capture the attention of the wrongdoers, with text to explain the purpose of these strange orange/yellow objects bobbing in the water. Posters at launching sites and in pubs frequented by water-users could get the message over, and brighten up the place to boot.
I took this picture at the end of a shoot with such a use in mind.
Bruce Low, Brighton
Although Don Mcallistor (Which Side Are You On?, Off-Gassing, October) is probably correct to assume that a lot of divers have their kit configured incorrectly, did he look closely at the type and set-up of the regulators on those people he has taken to be incorrectly configured?
I am also a BSAC instructor and I have my octopus on the same side as my main regulator. No I do not have a Poseidon - my reg/DV is a Scuba-pro MK20/R390 and, as with all Scubapro DVs I have seen and used, it can be configured for left or right-hand use.
My octopus is configured for left-hand use, but positioned on the right it is correctly configured for a diver to take my octopus and comfortably use it with the full extension of hose.
Like all good divers, I do not dive with an octopus DV for my use but for my buddy's, I have a pony cylinder for my own use. So before tarring everyone with the same brush, perhaps Don could look more closely at the configuration others use.
Hamish Torunski, Bicester
I was delighted to read the letter in the October issue (Rose-Tinted Specs) in which Paul Henson remarked on how visiting a museum showing what other people have found under water can be a thrill. In the case of the Mary Rose, those "other people" were largely BSAC divers.
As maritime archaeologists, we believe that such treasures of our heritage deserve to be available to the public in perpetuity, rather than sold off to the highest bidder or put on mantelpieces. We hope to inspire generations of visitors with our discoveries.
However, I was sad that he incorrectly directed readers to Plymouth because the Mary Rose is in Portsmouth - close to where she was built, where she fought, and where she sank after 34 successful years of service.
Christopher Dobbs, Portsmouth
Thurlestone looked inviting as we walked across from the car park. It was the end of summer, low tide and a blue flat sea. The reef that lies across the approach to the sand and pebble beach was visible - the fatal trap that sent the Louis Shied and others to the deep.
The first dive was a typical one on the wreck, with plenty of life roaming around the rushing plates and spars, and an inquisitive lobster.
On the second dive my son and I finned out towards the wreck and descended. While in the kelp adjusting our equipment, a large grey seal came within touching distance. It stayed with us for some five minutes, as interested in us as we were with it.
As we examined this magnificent creature we saw that it had caught itself on a large lure and was trailing 50m or so of line. It didn't look distressed, so we hope time will take its course and the hooks will fall out.
On some days' diving nothing really happens, but sometimes everything does. We resumed our dive on the wreck, then came across a large jellyfish just minding its own business. I had bought an incredibly cheap underwater camera the day before and was able to capture the day on it.
Dave and Anthony Palmer, Weston-super-Mare