Diving the Maldives' Southern Atolls; Southern Cebu in the Philippines; South Africa's Sardine Run; France's Vercors Caves; H.L. Hunley Submarine; U-Boat Navigator mission: HMHS Britannic; Sea cucumbers in peril; Project Baseline; Cognition in manta rays; Tech Talk: In defense of diapers; Scuba Confidential: It's not all about the cards; Shooting wide-angle in Raja Ampat; Nicolas Pain portfolio; Plus news and discoveries, equipment and training news, books and media, underwater photo and video equipment, shark tales, whale tales and much more...
Main features in this issue include:
Although born in the landlocked country of Hungary in Budapest, Dr Csilla Ari fell in love with the sea as a child and has never looked back. Today, she is a research associate at the University of South Florida, where she strives to better understand the biology and behavior of manta rays. She has also set up the Manta Memories project, which aims to help end illegal manta ray fishing.
X-RAY MAG: How did you become interested in studying the behavior of manta rays?
The karst area of the Vercors mountain range is located in the foothills of the French Alps, bordered on the east by Grenoble and on the west by Valence in the Rhone Valley.
It is an insider’s tip that found this location where tourism has grown very slowly. There is barely any industry, and there are no congested roads, no large concrete tourist centers and just one small supermarket.
As divers, we all learn very quickly that staying too long underwater can often bring about an urgent call of nature. A rush back to shore or back on to the boat is one of the first experiences for many new Open Water Divers, if not that ignominious feeling of having no choice but to make our wet suit slightly warmer for a short time.
It is a simple truth that scuba diving seems to make many of us want to relieve ourselves sooner than we would expect.
Diver training agencies are in the business of selling scuba classes and would like you to believe that the only way to develop your knowledge and skills is to sign up for one of their vast array of courses. While time spent with an instructor is indeed a very good way to improve your technique, you do have other options, a number of which I was reminded of recently.
The other week, I joined a dive liveaboard charter and two of the fellow guests were very new divers, with four and 24 lifetime dives, respectively. We were in Raja Ampat, where the diving is fabulous, the corals are lush and the fish life as plentiful as it is anywhere in the world.
The subtle knock on the door roused me from my slumber. It was 2 a.m. and the wake-up call could only mean one thing. A whale shark had finally appeared to feed on the large aggregation of plankton attracted to the light set out behind the boat. I scrambled out of bed and raced upstairs to get my camera.
For the next hour and a half, I snorkeled alongside the largest fish in the ocean, as it gulped down mouthfuls of seawater and krill, essentially ignoring my presence as it enjoyed a free midnight snack. Almost everyone had gone back to bed by the time I emerged from the water.
British artist, Nicolas Pain, creates sinuous and sublime bronze sculptures of marine life, full of movement and evoking an atmosphere of water, inspired by his own adventures under the waves as an avid scuba diver. X-RAY MAG interviewed the artist to find out more about the self-taught artist’s graceful sculptures and what excites him about the underwater world.
"I think my work has a simple message: Look at this creature. It is complex, beautiful and precious. It deserves our respect and many now need our protection."
— Nicolas Pain
X-RAY MAG: Tell us about yourself, your background and how you became an artist.
Project Baseline works by organizing and mobilizing a global network of highly skilled and passionate divers to create a lasting visual legacy of underwater environmental conditions one photo and one video at a time. Their images, descriptions, and data are moved into an online database designed to render their observations accessible to the world. Their images create a baseline for environmental quality.
The underwater world is elusive. In a statement of stunning over-simplification, its inaccessible reaches are a great source of both mystery and inspiration.
Sea Cucumbers are a group of marine species belonging to the Class Holothuroidea. They are characterised by fleshy, elongated bodies, covered in numerous projections known as papillae. When disturbed, many species eject an effluvium of sticky, white threads designed to distract predators, and if removed from the marine environment, they quickly become foul smelling—not your ideal culinary ingredient, one might think.
As with many marine species, it is the Asian market that is driving the trade, with Hong Kong and China the main hubs. Sea cucumbers have traditionally been harvested throughout their range and have long been considered a delicacy in numerous countries.
Raja Ampat in Indonesia is a vast archipelago that incorporates over 2,500 islands. The coral reefs here host one of the highest concentrations of endemic fishes in the Pacific Ocean and the visual impact is stunning.
Situated within the Coral Triangle, West Papua has been coined the Bird’s Head Seascape and is considered the world's premier epicenter of marine biodiversity. Bird’s Head Seascape lies above a tectonic plate convergence zone, making it one of the most geologically active places on Earth.
From a point on the horizon, frantic sounds of gannet birds became louder and their dives from the air seemed to accelerate as they shot straight down, piercing the surface of the sea. Before our party of divers got into the water, I could not imagine the incredible spectacle that would be found under the surface.
The ocean was full of energy. We were escorted by hundreds of dolphins; foam at the surface revealed several fins among the frenzy of birds. All the region’s predators seemed to have gotten the same invitation to join the party.
Cebu Island is one of over seven thousand islands located in the Philippines. It may be best known as the place where the early 16th century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan met his unfortunate end. There is a 20-meter tall monument at Punta Engaño on Cebu erected in honor of the native chieftan, Lapu Lapu, who in the 1521 Battle of Mactan, proved victorious over Spanish forces led by Magellan.
Our party of divers departing from Moscow got discount tickets and authorization for additional luggage for dive gear, plus an extra 10kg per person, after just showing our driver’s licenses to Cathay Pacific Airlines.
Rarely in life do we encounter someone who was as impressive yet unassuming, humble, and gracious as R.W. “Bill” Hamilton, Ph.D. On September 16, 2011, Bill died surrounded by his family and close friends. Within hours, e-mail and telephones reached thousands of people and the news of his passing went viral. Nearly four hundred scurried to make plans for attending his memorial service. So what made this particular man so special?
Born in Midland, Texas, Bill would always explore things on the edge of the envelope. He first expanded his youthful mind with liberal arts at the University of Texas, then went on to earn a master’s degree in animal breeding at Texas A&M.
Through the centuries in Greece, Kea Island’s renowned statue, the Lion of Kea (one cannot see him from the shore, but I know he is there), continues to smile and look askance upon human vanity—exactly the same way he did in 1916, when during World War I, hospital ships were hit by mines and tragically sank in the Kea Channel. These ships, now wrecks, include HMHS Britannic and SS Burdigala.
It’s July, 2015, Greece. It’s very hot outside. Television commentators from various countries are passionately informing humanity that Greece is ready to leave the European Union, and an inevitable collapse shadows the nation.
Let me just come right out and say it: Everything about the H.L. Hunley is cool. And it is completely awesome to see in person. Among the crown jewels of Charleston, South Carolina, the historical and archaeological treasure of the Hunley submarine stands out.
Until the wreck's discovery, few, apart from history buffs and academia, would have associated this popular seaside town with such an intriguingly unique and important part of naval history.