The liveliest letters from the DIVER mailbag...
I am a BSAC Advanced Diver and Club Instructor. As a former motorsport competitor, I have long been concerned about my safety and that of my passengers during the trip to the divesite, and take what some divers consider to be extreme measures to protect myself from my scuba kit.
In December the Fifth Gear programme on Channel 5 frighteningly illustrated the validity of my fears.
Its claim was that a collision at 30mph can generate a deceleration of 30g (30 times the normal force of gravity). Imagine an unsecured 16kg air cylinder flying through the passenger compartment!
When I load the car, weightbelts go in the rear passenger footwells, secured around the base of the front seat frames to prevent them shooting forwards and injuring passengers in a collision. Their position helps to move the centre of gravity of the vehicle forwards.
My dive kit goes in Alligator-type plastic boxes secured with webbing straps. They go on the rear seat, with the rear seatbelts around them. If the cylinders came through the back seat in a collision, the boxes and rear belts would absorb some of the energy. Nothing heavier than an undersuit or coat ever goes above the boxes. Food and drinks are wedged behind the front seats above the weightbelts.
Cylinders go in the boot with their bases tight against the back of the rear seats, so that in a collision they can't move forward. My car doesn't have tie-downs in the boot, but if it did I'd net all this stuff for extra safety.
The cylinders are then wedged in place by the clothes bags and other paraphernalia which, being light, help to maintain the weight balance.
Mike Cursons, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Comment: And what about those DivePac tank-cradles featured in What's Bubbling in December? Your thoughtful approach wins you this month's star prize, Mike.
The news article in the December issue, Storaa Wreck Protection Bid Could Redefine Term "Military", contained errors that could mislead your readers.
The application to the Ministry of Defence for the wreck's protection is being made not by me, but by the daughters of Petty Officer James Vamdell. I also want to make it clear that the Shipwreck Heritage Centre in Hastings and its governing body, the Nautical Museums Trust, are in no way involved in the application.
I do not own the three historic shipwrecks referred to - they are owned by charitable trusts with their own trustees. And, finally, it is not my personal view that diving on the wreck should be banned, but that the recovery of items should be undertaken under licence - because the wreck contains human remains, the property of the dead and live ammunition.
I am involved in the application on a personal basis, together with the legal team, the families of those who died, and with the backing of the Merchant Navy Association and various Danish organisations representing the Danish members of the crew.
Although I came to know of the Storaa through my archaeological work, that has not determined my involvement in seeking protection now. The historical work revealed that 21 men had died, and that the wreck had had items removed from it by divers over many years.
After speaking with the families of the dead, the need to seek protection for the wreck as a war grave became clear, as a matter of simple decency towards those who died for us in the last war, and those who had to rebuild their lives within living memory without their menfolk.
It is important to the families that the graves should be legally accorded the same recognition and care that the British government gives to all other types of war grave (Army on land, crashed aircraft, warship wrecks).
The wider legal implications of any protection that might be given to the Storaa are a matter of government policy and, again personally, I would hope that diving organisations would be consulted.
Peter Marsden, Pett
Having read several letters about the ongoing problem with airlines carrying diving equipment, why not provide a category in your Diver Awards for the best airline?
I am quite prepared to put up a trophy. Maybe a bit of carrot rather than a lot of stick might encourage the airlines to be a little more diver-friendly. If divers use only friendly airlines, it might encourage other airlines to follow suit. Though I was advised to keep it to myself, I cannot recommend Thomas Cook Airlines too highly. Since diving in the Red Sea, I have always used it and it has always allowed me an extra 10kg for my diving equipment if I pack it in a separate bag.
It has also been generous about my underwater housing for my video equipment as part of my hand luggage (approx 12kg!). It always says that the extra allowance is subject to availability. Arriving a little earlier and being at the front of the queue helps.
By the way, please tell Graham Sands that his "5m sniff" worked, and my mask is now watertight over my moustache!
Rod Baverstock, Taunton
Comment: Thanks for the awards idea, Rod - we'll certainly consider it.
Beachcomber says: "Further identification of Kevin is that he has a moustache, something rarely sported by serious divers." (We're on to You, Kevin, December).
Why are you not a serious diver if you have a moustache? Did a girl write this? I am 43, have been diving since 1968 (without a moustache in those days), and have a beard and moustache.
It is clear to me now why I get funny looks on the boat when I smear Vaseline under my nose to help seal my mask. Or is it that Beachcomber gets worried about a little water entering a mask? Please, don't judge somebody by their facial hair.
Dave Ackrell, Plymstock
The January Diver states that Gozo will change over to euros in June. This is not true - no decision has been made about whether we will change over, let alone when.
Gail, Gozo Aqua Sports, Marsalforn
My sincere sympathy to the owner of the Discovery vehicle which was overwhelmed by the tide while launching a boat at the slip onto the beach at Eyemouth Harbour (News, January).
I have used this slip a number of times and it is tricky. It stops short of the sand, often by as much as a foot, and this and the soft sand makes the whole operation fairly hazardous. I'd like to hear the Discovery owner's account of the incident. I don't think it's helpful to ridicule a fellow-diver who has had some extremely bad luck!
The slip at the top end of Eyemouth Harbour is ideal for launching a RIB, but it dries to a set of steps on the ebb tide, so you have to time your diving to get enough water.
St Abbs is a fantastic resource for divers, and the skippers who work there are knowledgeable, reliable and friendly. If I am diving the area using my own boat, however, I prefer to launch at Eyemouth. This is not to save the £10 fee at St Abbs but because I find it congested when there are a lot of divers around. The resident traffic warden also adds to the stress in the summer.
I also think recent comments about the suitability of St Abbs for training dives need to be put into context. St Abbs is a gateway to a huge variety of dive sites, some suitable for training and some probably not. Each site must be risk-assessed individually before using it for training.
Doug Ferrier, Old Gits SAC, Inveresk
In response to speculation and misinformation on what has been reported in Diver about safety at St Abbs (News, October), at no time have I said St Abbs is unsafe for training, and what has been reported is a misrepresentation of the facts.
I was asked to attend an inquest at Wakefield Coroner's Court into the death of John Hawkins, and to look at the police statements given to St Abbs and Yorkshire Police by all those present on the day of his death. From these and my 30 years' diving experience, I produced a report on the procedures and events of that day.
The reference about diving safety at St Abbs was in relation to this diver on his first UK and drysuit dive being taken to a particular dive site, and not about being taken to St Abbs.
I have dived St Abbs over 30 years and think the site has some of the best diving around. I have taken trainees diving there myself. The question of St Abbs being safe never came up in court, only one dive site, Cleaver Rock, that was used to familiarise a diver in drysuit use.
I said that in my opinion there are safer sites in the area to take divers for familiarisation dives and I listed some of them. The Coroner had taken evidence from the dive school, Mr Hawkins' family and myself. His verdict was death by misadventure.
What was unsafe was taking a diver to a site not appropriate to his experience. So let me reassure all divers who are being trained at St Abbs that the site is as safe as all other dive sites as long as safe practices are undertaken.
Ian Neilson, Howwood, Renfrewshire
Having just returned from a very enjoyable liveaboard cruising the northern Red Sea, and been lucky enough to see some of the wonderful underwater life, it saddens me to report on one form of life that seems to be increasingly prevalent. We divers should aim to make it extinct as soon as possible.
I refer to those people who get an underwater camera in their hands and immediately seem to forget the basic principles of conservation, dive etiquette and politeness.
Camera boys and girls, please don't lie on coral to take your 57th picture of a clownfish and then, your David Bailey impression complete, kick off and destroy about 50 years of coral growth.
Try looking somewhere other than your viewfinder and you might just notice the wake of destruction you have left behind. And please don't feel that we all want to hear about your f-stop-this and your macro-thatÉ we don't!
For night-divers out there with a camera and a Hiroshima-scale flash, consider not only the sealife you are crowding round, blinding and making vulnerable to predators, but all us other divers!
I'm sure such underwater photographers are in the minority, but let the rest of us have some coral to look at before you kill it!
David Lloyd-Barker, Bretforton, Worcs
Us "ill-informed" Red Sea dive guides would like to know just where Syan Tapp (Time to Bury Salty Myths, Off-Gassing, February) was working as a dive guide in the Red Sea.
Apparently the salinity of the Red Sea (almost double that of your average salt water) has little effect on your buoyancy. If Syan is to believed, the problem arises not because of salinity but "because different suits and tanks affect your weight requirement".
Which of course can be the case. So I guess that none of our most recent group of 40 UK divers, with their own equipment, required the extra 2-3kg per person with which they were issued to obtain proper buoyancy following their own checks!
It seems that a Masters in Marine Chemistry far outweighs experience, observation, local knowledge and common sense. This dive guide will continue to issue divers with additional weight as required to ensure that they can comfortably view the wonders of the Red Sea at a depth greater than your average snorkeller.
Tania Wheeler, Dahab, Egypt
Thank you for your article on diving in Oludeniz (Pots & Holes, January). It was a pleasure to have Martyn Farr with us. However, I would point out that this area of Turkey is also popular for other sports, including paragliding from Babadag Mountain, and I was astounded to see Martyn's comments regarding this sport.
I would like to stress that I truly believe that the safety record in Oludeniz is as good as anywhere else, and I am sure that the hundreds of tourists who safely enjoy this experience on the beach every summer would agree with me.
Alf Chappell, European Diving Centre, Fethiye
That deep dive
I read the news about Mark Ellyatt's claimed world record dive on Divernet. I would be the first to congratulate Mark on his amazing dive, but as yet no evidence to prove that it was actually made has been presented. I do not doubt his ability, just the reported way it was done.
Your remarks that "Andrews has been out-dived" do little for the credibility of the sport in which Diver is a leading light.
I have been planning to take the depth record for nearly three years now, involving some of world's leading experts in decompression theory, and when I do take it, it will be done in the safest way possible, with new decompression methods being available to support deep dives, not by getting away with fewer than seven hours' deco for a 300m dive.
What Mark claims to have done sounds truly amazing, but please do not show it in a light that makes either 300m dives look easy or suggests that his antics are admirable.
Mark has suffered many decompression incidents in his deep diving and I have had one myself, and as such make even more conservative plans.
He should certainly not state that he does it to improve safety. At least be honest and admit that he just wanted to beat John Bennett's record. After all, records are there for the breaking.
Mark Andrews, Church Crookham, Hants
Comment: What do you think? You'll find Mark Ellyatt's account of his dive on page 94.
Thank you for your excellent magazine. We have been delighted to notice that you have become more and more international, lately also paying attention to our unique and wreck-rich waters in the Baltic Sea.
However, referring to John Liddiard's excellent story of the wrecks of land (Shock and land, December) and your leader describing land as a "Swedish island", I would point out that land is a county of Finland, even though Swedish is its official language (Finland is also bilingual).
It has a degree of independence, something like your Channel Islands (which Liddiard correctly mentions).
land has very strict legislation on diving. The positive side of this is that wrecks are well-preserved, but the negative is that bureaucracy for a private diver or a club is a bit laborious. This leads to the monopoly-like position of local commercial operators.
However, in the rest of Finland diving is practically free, its archipelagos are beautiful and there are thousands of wrecks, for every taste. So when something is next required from the Baltic, I would welcome your journalist to visit Finland!
Mika Pohjonen , Vice Chairman, Finnish Sportdivers' Association, Espoo, Finland
Your article WildCat Liveaboard Sinks North of Sharm (News, December) is one-sided and misinformed and is damaging to the reputation of WildCat, which has served many happy divers from the UK and all over the world for five years.
The WildCat had water in its engine room in 10m of water only. The stern went down but the bow never sank, so legally it's not a sunk boat.
You mentioned that divers had hypothermia after jumping into the water. As this was the Red Sea on 8 September the water was very calm and 26°C. The divers were taken with two WildCat tenders to a nearby fishing boat only 50m away within minutes until within the hour Search & Rescue boats came along with the Egyptian Navy to take them to shore.
They were taken to my house and offered full board and hospitality, including new clothes. A hotel with full board was also offered but after a night the guests decided that they would rather stay at my home. I stayed at a hotel until their departure to the UK.
Later a diamond ring, wallets containing money, cameras and dives watches were found along with many guest belongings and returned to the divers.
The WildCat is now being repaired. It will be better than new and soon ready to welcome divers from all over the world.
We have offered Martin Morgan, the owner of Blue Ocean Club, a free trip on the WildCat. This has been approved and we look forward to having his club back onboard.
Adham Khamis, WildCat owner, Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
The comments of Dave Ireland in February's lead letter about lack of training in the use of delayed SMBs (Why So Coy About Buoys?) are so true, and are borne out by the BSAC Incidents Report.
I believe this is something that has developed by natural progression, so there are no set guidelines; everyone has their own pet way.
Those of us who dive regularly see these problems all the time with all organisations - jammed reels, bird's nests, soggy SMBs, the list is endless.