Photo of the Week (10/03/2012): Safety Stop

For the beginner diver this is one of the most discomfiting times of a dive, the safety stop, 3 minutes at 5 meters with the aim of eliminating microbubbles which are the cause of the dreaded decompression sickness or the ‘bends’. This can be an embarrassing time and as a beginner I used to flail around sometimes and I’ve even been dragged down by exasperated divemaster.


The pro’s make this look effortless, motionless in the water, maintaining their near constant depth sometimes even checking out their photographs from the dive. The trick to getting this perfected is to always check your depth and attune yourself to how your breathing affects your speed of ascent and descent. Being perfectly weighted especially with your empty tank in mind is also essential and with some practice being uber cool during the safety stop is well within reach.


Unwanted attention on the Medhafaru

I could almost feel the fish’s pain as it flailed along sideways, jerking spasmodically above the Medhafaru’s deck. The fusilier had perhaps been the victim of a tuna or seerfish strike into a shoal and mortally injured but still alive had drifted down to the ship.


To add insult to injury the poor fish was being pursued mercilessly by two well meaning cleaner wrasses. It is a common site to see the fusiliers taking turns at a cleaning station to get picked clean by these helpful fish but in this case the ‘client’ seemed less than happy, swimming away in stuttering, sideways spurts to try and evade the cleaner wrasses to no avail. Underwater life is tough indeed.


Photo of the Week (09/26/2012): City of Angels?

To be fair it is not only natural landscapes that are breathtaking as there are a number of man made vistas that to the beholder are quite beautiful. What you don't see however is the urban blight, the concrete, the emissions and the gridlock that makes some cities, in this case Los Angeles a nightmare to live in and for the environment. So here's your ambiguous photo of the week, taken a couple of years ago from the Griffith Park Observatory.

 City of Angels


Published in Popular Photography

I rarely enter photo competitions (i.e. I'm quite lazy) but this one I did and it was quite gratifying to get published and win the 'Best Shot' competition over at Popular Photography with my Baitball on the Cargo image!


Photo of the Week (09/14/2012): Truncated Tuna

A visit to the Negombo fish market is eye opening, if somewhat of an assault on the olfactory senses. For those who want a taste (figuratively speaking of course) of where their seafood comes from, a walk through the market is a must. It is not a pretty sight, especially for those who like rays and sharks (more to come of those) and the glassy eyed fish staring at you is quite eerie. It is hard to pass judgement on the people making a living off this, but it certainly is a good introduction to one sector that is impacting the ocean environment immensely.



Photo of the Week (09/05/2012): At night they feed

At night the Cargo wreck glows. What looks like slightly boring, if colourful, stubs of coral during the daytime come alive at night. Known as Tubastrea coral, these are non-reef building coral which do not host photosynthetic algae within them like the coral we are most familiar with.


These are usually found in deeper waters and in areas where they are exposed to currents. The polyps extend tentacles into the water during the night and feed. The effect is quite startling with entire sections of the wreck appearing to wave to and fro, shimmering in the torchlight as the corals feed. It is an unforgettable experience night diving with these corals.


The importance of a sausage

It could mean the difference between life and death.

No, I’m not talking about the breakfast accessory but what we divers call a Safety Sausage or more technically a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB).  Basically a brightly coloured, balloon made of a thick canvas to withstand some punishment which is clipped to your BCD or in a BCD pocket. This is an essential piece of gear, no matter where you dive and should be something you have even for resort diving.

The ocean is a fickle mistress and unpredictability is something we come to accept as part and parcel of being so intimate with the sea. What you can see above water is only half the picture with currents being unknowns in diving. Currents can pick up during a dive or switch direction even in locations where there are generally well known prevailing currents. If you are not careful with navigation and air management you might not have enough to get back to a line, assuming there is one. On drift dives you could get separated from the main group which makes it tough for a boatman to follow your bubbles. The bottom line is that you could end up doing your safety stop and surfacing away from the boat.

It's a long way to shore from here

Speaking from experience, the sensation of surfacing after a dive to a grey sky and sea, without your boat in sight, can be to put it mildly, a stressful experience. One dive in particular comes to mind, a reconnaissance dive on a new part of Watiya reef in Colombo with Dharshana back in 2010. Swells were huge and the sky overcast as we descended and as we surfaced the current picked up. So much so in the time that we took to ascend and do our safety stop, around 10-15 minutes we surfaced surrounded only by mountainous waves. Luckily as we crested one of the swells, we spied our boat a good half a kilometer away. We quickly unrolled our SMBs, extracted our whistles and started blowing, hoping to attract Uncle Sumathi’s attention. 

Deploying an SMB in heavy swell

Unfortunately as Sumathi’s eyesight left a bit to be desired, compounded by the fact that he was looking the other way, he failed to spot us as we continued drifting inexorably towards Australia. Luckily for us, our SMBs came in handy as a passing fishing boat spied us and informed Uncle Sumathi about our whereabouts.

More than a couple of times an SMB has come in handy and along with a reel for drift dives should be an essential part of every diver’s kit.