Main features in this issue include:
April 2020 — I come to you as a recreational and technical diving instructor, as a physician consultant for Divers Alert Network, and as a COVID-19 survivor. For me, it was just an occupational hazard. I tested positive for COVID-19 after seeing a patient in my cardiology clinic for an unrelated condition who seemed quite short of breath. He was admitted to the ICU and tested positive for COVID-19.
Thankfully, he did not require a ventilator and recovered after approximately two weeks in the hospital. I was notified of his positive test one week after my exposure. As I had been wearing my N95 mask when I saw him, I was advised to take my temperature daily and self-monitor for symptoms.
For years and years, people have often asked me, “Hey, why aren’t you a cave diver?” And I would respond simply, “When I have dived all the wrecks of the world (twice), I will then think about diving Wet Rocks!”
I learnt to dive in 1989, doing my initial training dives in the quarry at Stony Cove in England, a popular inland dive location about 125 miles north of London. I remember, to this day, doing my first training dives. It was January, in mid-winter.
A thought that crosses the mind of many divers at some point in their diving lives is: “Do I have what it takes to be a full-time dive professional—or even just start a scuba side hustle?” The enticing concept that if you are a keen diver, you can turn your hobby into a career is one that commercial training agencies promote heavily because they make good money from instructor courses.
If you walk into a dive centre with more than a few dives under your belt and say you are thinking of “going pro,” nobody will turn you away. There is no assessment process, no enrolment interview, no talent spotting.
I completed a Module 1 course on the Inspiration Classic back in the late ‘90s but found that my limited ability meant that maintaining situational awareness while also having to continually monitor handsets was very difficult. In the early 2000s, I also did a series of technical diving courses with Global Underwater Explorers (GUE), and I still rate these lessons as the most significant dive training that I have ever undertaken.
The arrival of heads-up displays (HUDs) and wrist-mounted pO2 monitoring has meant that maintaining situational awareness has become a great deal easier.
South Australian artist Jenny Berry creates marine life paintings and murals that portray the serene beauty and unique species found in underwater Australia. Her artworks feature underwater critters such as the giant cuttlefish, which has an annual mass breeding aggregation in South Australian waters that not many locals know about, raising awareness of special local denizens and the fragile ecosystems in which they live.
"As lovers of the ocean, we understand the role it plays in keeping our planet healthy . . . If my paintings encourage viewers to think about this part of our planet and help them love it too, then that makes me really happy."
— Jenny Berry
We asked our contributors what their favorite macro dive was and they answered with stories and images from some of the most beautiful and unique dive sites on the planet.
From the depths of Lake Baikal in Siberia to a shore dive off Florida to the tropical paradise of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines to the temperate waters of British Columbia and South Africa, X-Ray Mag contributors share their favorite shots and experiences.
Warm rinse water sloshed in the jug as my car hugged a sharp turn on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. I looked left at the mighty Pacific Ocean, the cliffs tumbling to the sea dotted by rugged pinnacles, stretching farther up the coast than the jam band solo currently playing out of the car speakers. Deep blue, favorable conditions all week, minimal swell, no-wind forecast—only unpredictable visibility could affect the diving today.
The parking lot was empty as we unloaded and set up our gear on a downed redwood tree trunk. Today would be a wetsuit dive, since my dive buddy and I would be doing a lot of swimming. The cool steel 117 (15L) tanks were filled to the max. Ziiiiiip.
Sharks elicit strong emotions, be it the thrill of a planned encounter underwater or fear propelled by social media and lack of information. Of the more than 400 species of sharks, it is the small family of mackerel sharks that is most iconic. These sharks prompted me to share why one of them, the salmon shark, is an especially remarkable species.
Why sharks? Seeking encounters with sharks has become a mild obsession of mine, and sharing their story is deeply personal. My interest in sharks was spurred by years of diving and not seeing sharks on those dives.
Located in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific Ocean, the idyllic paradise of Samoa, which comprises the two main islands of Savai'i and Upolu and several smaller islands, is part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Brandi Mueller managed to venture to Upolu Island before the coronavirus pandemic forced countries to close borders and stay-at-home orders came into effect.
The small, nine-passenger, turboprop airplane violently shook us up and down like an amusement park ride. Out of the windows, all I could see were the gray clouds of the seemingly endless succession of storms that had been ravaging the area.
Gliding slowly over the rocky reef, I was mesmerised, watching all the colourful reef fishes going about their daily activities. I was so entranced that I was startled to look up and find I was on a collision course with a massive stingray. This was the first stingray I had ever seen, and the giant creature terrified me. In the second it took my panicking brain to work out what to do, the stingray suddenly saw me and also got a shock.
I can still clearly remember that first stingray encounter, even though I was only nine years old, snorkelling in a bay north of Sydney, Australia.
Stuck inside? Using found objects at home, or what you can photograph looking outside your window, why not try recreating one of your own underwater photos from your image archives? The five best shots will be shared on our website.
Here are some tips:
Match the colors. Find objects at home that have similar colors as your underwater image and arrange them in a similar way as they are composed in your underwater image.
After the Titanic, the RMS Lusitania is probably one of the wrecks in the world which most captures the imagination. It was therefore a great and challenging endeavor for me to be able to see this wreck with my own eyes.
Despite warnings from the German embassy in the American press not to start the crossing with the Lusitania, the ship was brought under steam on 1 May 1915. On board were 1,257 passengers and 702 crew members. The command was in the hands of Captain William Thomas Turner.
As countries around the world have placed populations in quarantine with stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many underwater photographers have found themselves stuck inside with no option to travel or go diving. Two of X-Ray Mag’s regular contributors are based in New York City, a current epicenter of the pandemic.
Most underwater image-makers start out as surface photographers. Once they get their scuba certification, it is a natural progression to begin capturing images underwater. However, while on dive trips, most underwater shooters will also take shots above the waterline.