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Top Three Places to Dive with Mola Mola

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

 

The absolutely unmistakable mola mola is the largest bony fish in the ocean, know to grow over to 10 feet long and 14 feet tall, and it’s truly something amazing to behold on a dive. It’s also fairly common to encounter them on the surface, bobbing around in an ungainly manner, behavior that is often mistaken for the fish being ill or dying. This sideways surface-float is most likely where the name “sunfish” originated, as it looks like they are basking in the sun. In reality, they are often on a cleaning stop so that fish or birds can remove parasites from their bodies.

As these fish spend a large part of their time in oceanic waters, only coming inshore at certain times of year, there are few dive sites that offer reliable sightings, but we’ve put together three where you’ve got a good chance to see one of these unique ocean creatures.

 

Nusa Penida, Indonesia

Part of a group of islands situated between Bali and Lombok, with deep-water trenches and nutrient-rich waters, this is an ideal location to spot mola mola.  Head to the Crystal Bay dive site for your best chance of an encounter, as the mola often use this shallow coral bay as a cleaning station. The best time of year to spot a mola mola here is from July to October, but sightings are possible year round.

 

Inner Hebrides, Oban, United Kingdom

Although not widely known outside of U.K. diving circles, this location offers stunning natural beauty on the west coast of Scotland, amazing diving and, of course, a great post-dive whiskey. Some of the highlights here include wreck diving and the chance to see basking sharks, as well as mola mola. The latter can be seen mainly in the summer months, when water temperatures can get up to 64 F (18 C) due to the Gulf Stream.

 

Alboran Sea, Spain

This is actually the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea, and acts as the gateway to the Atlantic and the Strait of Gibraltar. This also happens to be the spot where this writer saw his only mola mola to date. There are plenty of places along the southern coast here where you can encounter these fish; my favorite is Tarifa, at the exact point where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. With around 300 days of sunshine a year and water temperatures between 58 and 85 F (14 to 29 C) depending on time of year, this part of the Mediterranean has some great diving even it you don’t get the chance to spot a mola mola or two.

 Sunfish

 

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Russians Make World’s Deepest Dive Under Ice

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Divers Maxim Astakhov and Alexander Gubin of the Russian Geographical Society made a dive to 335 feet (102 m) below the sea ice on Saturday, the society told Interfax news agency. The purpose of the dive was to test Russian-made dive equipment and to help elaborate on basic standards for safe Arctic-Circle diving.

The dive lasted 80 minutes, with the water temperature being only around 29 F (-1.5 C) in the White Sea, most of which is just outside the Arctic Circle near the northern Russian port of Arkhangelsk. The water, although below freezing temperature, does not freeze solid because of its high salt content.

Serbian Bozana Ostojic, a member of the World Underwater Federation and a logistics expert from the late Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s team, was present at the dive and confirmed the record.

Previously the team from the Russian Geographical Society’s underwater research division completed the first dive of a lake near Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on Earth. They also made the deepest-ever dive in Antarctica, reaching a depth of 364 feet (111 m).

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Project Ariadna Will Offer GPS for Divers

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Although we’ve all grown accustomed to the (usually) accurate directions provided by our GPS-based smartphones, underwater, we must rely on compass navigation. The researchers behind Project Ariadna have spent more than six years trying to change that, creating the first personal, underwater, GPS-based navigation technology. The last remaining milestone: Miniaturizing it into a wrist-worn device.

Divers cannot use terrestrial GPS satellite technology, as the high-frequency signal can only penetrate approximately 2 millimeters into the water. Over the years, there have been a number of attempts based on ultrasonic signals, but limitations caused by signal reflections and many other environmental drawbacks have made these products impractical.

The idea behind Project Ariadna is to use an inertial navigation data fusion principle to calculate a diver’s position when submerged. At the surface, the GPS signal is used as a point of reference. Immediately upon submerging, Ariadna switches to its inertial data fusion technology. Using 11 independent sensors and an extremely sophisticated algorithm, it processes data in real time and calculates the movement vectors.

As a result, a diver can monitor graphically, in real time, his exact position and executed route on the map. Ariadna technology provides a diver with precise, turn-by-turn navigation along the planned route. After diving, the resulting 3D-dive log can be reviewed with such tools as Google Earth for post-dive analysis and sharing with other divers.

Underwater “Google Maps”

Project Ariadna gives divers access to all the familiar features of common GPS navigation systems, such as Points of Interest (POI). The list of POIs in Ariadna’s system enables divers to plan intriguing routes, even in new dive sites. It also possible to add a new POI during a dive to mark new discoveries, as well as to attach them later on underwater photos and videos.

It’s possible to review and accurately allocate pictures taken along a dive route by using Google Earth software features during post-dive analysis. One of Project Ariadna’s big goals is to eventually create an underwater map of the world with underwater POIs already marked and ready for easy route planning.

With its ability to record, save and share routes with precise POI markings, it’s hoped that Ariadna will be a useful tool for scientists, underwater biologists and explorers. The precise-position information provided by Ariadna as GPS coordinates will make all location-data related tasks, such as cave surveying and mapping of underwater archaeological sites, more effective and straightforward. Data collected with Ariadna can also be exported to external software for further processing.

Improving Diver Safety

Losing your way in bad visibility can increase stress levels and lead to panic. Anxiety can also result in increased gas consumption and an urge to ascend too quickly, or to surface in a dangerous spot. Using Project Ariadna may help divers reduce stress by providing constantly updated location awareness, as well as other safety-related features, such as Remaining Bottom Time and Distance (RBTD), an extension of the currently used RBT technology. To further improve dive safety, Ariadna offers the “Navigate Home” function, which graphically indicates the shortest route to the dive entry point, and is activated with a single press of a button. Although the technology is already operational, the commercial launch of Project Ariadna is expected in 2017.

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Calypso to Sail Again

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

Cover image by René Beauchamp
Featured image by Peter Potrowl

Cousteau and the Calypso are synonymous with the spirit of exploration and discovery, and not least for bring to our attention  many dive sites that are today so popular. And now, the Calypso is set to sail again.

The Calypso began life as British Royal Navy minesweeper and was also, for a short time, a ferry in Malta before being converted into a research vessel for Cousteau. The ship was severely damaged when a barge accidently rammed and sank it in Singapore harbor in 1996. Calypso was raised and patched up but no further work was undertaken.

Calypso to Sail Again

The Cousteau Society has announced that this year the Calypso will finally begin undergoing repairs after a 20-year fight to save the vessel. Having purchased the ship, the society plans a full refurbishment of the Calypso thanks to a generous and motivated group of international donors.

I’m sure all Scuba Diver Life fans will be excited to hear this news and look forward to getting updates on the progress – we will endeavor to keep you updated.

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How Wetsuits Work 

Monday, December 14th, 2015

How do wetsuits work? Water can conduct heat away from the body 20 times faster than air. Without delving too deeply into the science, this is because water is much more molecularly dense than air, and all those molecules packed together in a small space make water far more efficient at conducting heat. So even when you’re diving in tropical water, you’ll notice that after some time, you’ll start to feel cold, which is why most of us require some degree of exposure suit.

Exposure suits run the gamut from rashies to drysuits, but the most common is the wetsuit, which itself can be anywhere from 1mm to 7mm thick. Hugh Bradner, a physicist at the University of California-Berkeley, invented the wetsuit in 1952, although the main element of a wetsuit is neoprene, which was first developed by DuPont in 1931. Today, 300,000 tons of neoprene are produced annually.

So what exactly is neoprene? It’s a synthetic rubber that contains nitrogen bubbles, which help reduce heat convection, much like feathers in down jackets or layers of clothing on a cold day. Today, most wetsuits are constructed of not just neoprene but also many other materials. The more expensive suits might contain a layer of thin metal to reflect your body heat back inside. The outer layer might be made of abrasion-proof material to help the suit survive the rigors of diving; and the inside might have a fleecy fabric to make the suit more comfortable.

Among divers, the most popular suits are 3, 5 and 7mm, depending on the water temperature. Along with the thickness, divers have a range of different styles to choose from. The most common are:

  1. Shorty: These suits are often only 3mm thick and while they cover your arms, do not cover your entire legs. They’re usually only used in tropical waters 81 F (27 C) and warmer.
  2. One-piece full-suit: This is the most common wetsuit, available in 3, 5 or 7mm.
  3. Two-piece: These often consist of a long-john or farmer-john bottom and have a full-length jacket over the the top, often with a hood.
  4. Semi-dry: These wetsuits are pretty much the same as the one-piece suits, but with much better seals and zips to prevent water from entering and leaving the suit.
How Wetsuits Work

Semi-dry zipper layers

And how does it work? A small amount of water enters the suit as you giant stride into the ocean. This water sits between the neoprene suit and your skin, warming via your body heat. There’s a long-held myth that this is actually what keeps you warm, and while it certainly plays a part, so do all the other layers of the suit. This is why there are so many different thicknesses of suits for different water temperatures. Having said that, if you have a loose-fitting suit and you continually flush it with cold water then you will certainly feel the cold much quicker, as you lose body heat with each successive flush. Keep that in mind the next time you pee in your wetsuit, friends.

 

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