In April 2009, the Triton Oceanic team revisited the amazing St Kilda archipelago to research material for an 'Essential Dive Guide' to the Islands, the first major work for 20 years..
The volcanic archipelago of St Kilda is an amazing place. Plunging cliffs, towering sea stacs and rocky shores have been battered by centuries of wind and sea’s to form some of the UK’s most stunning underwater landscapes of caves, arches and passageways. The clear, oceanic water supports a spectacularly diverse and stunning range of animals and plants.
Triton Oceanic Sub Aqua Club undertook their second expedition to the Scottish islands to explore the remote beauty of the islands underwater world to the full, pioneering previously identified virgin dive sites and visiting some of the old favourites. This expedition will form the basis of the 'Essential Guide to St Kilda', a brand new publication featuring the 'top 20' sites across the islands.
The expedition diving platform was the MV Elizabeth G, a 22.85m ice-class Norwegian rescue ship, and one of the best live-aboard expedition ships in the UK. All our possible needs were catered for: good food, good humour, oxygen, comfortable bunks and more food.
Having been to Kilda over 120 times over the last few years, Skipper Rob Barlow is very experienced. This depth of knowledge dictated the time of the year to conduct the expedition. We left from Malaig on the evening of Friday April 10th (Good Friday) and returned two weeks later on Saturday April 25. People thought we were mad it being too early!
The trip up to St Kilda is dreaded by some and feared by most, but the ship can take almost anything that can be thrown at it providing the team can... Fortunately the weather was amazing, managing to dive seven days in near perfect conditions. As we returned however, we ended up punching through head seas around the East of Skye in a SouthEasterly force nine!
The water temperature was between 9/11C off the archipelago but a slightly chilly 7/8C around Skye. Horizontal visibility around St Kilda varied between 15/35m.
The team consisted of: Rob Barlow (Skipper), Simon Campbell (Expedition leader and #2 Skipper), Jackie Dixon (Dive/Project Manager), Helen Rickets (Crew), Angela Campbell (Cook), O-Ring King (aka Brian Cooper, technician), Justin Owen, Teresa Darbyshire and Jim Donbavand.
We now have a raft of information from the three expeditions that will take a few months to collate. The guide will feature a fully rounded and documented understanding of the sites; their beauty, dangers, must do’s and don’t do’s from the prospective of the diver and skipper.
We will be blogging a few of the stories written by members of the team but as far as the actual site information goes you will have to wait for the publication
Simon Campbell will be setting out again in August to tie up some loose ends. Simon will also need a buddy, so you fancy yourself as an 'explorer') please contact him directly for a chat... If possible another rebreather diver and someone who is experienced; some of the dives are pretty challenging!
For further background, read about our first St Kilda expedition. and to see some of the photographs from this trip have a look at Simon's Flickr stream.
Article by founding Tritone, Simon Campbell
How can someone get so excited about the humble hose? Over my diving career I have used hundreds of different sets of SCUBA kit. I learned early on that the low & high pressure hoses can be problematic.
I bought my first set of kit in Cyprus. Each of the hoses was fitted with a plastic 'strain relief' end. I asked what they were for and was told that it prevented the hose from rubbing against the crimped metal of the hose coupling and also to prevent the hose being bent so far that it restricted the flow of gas. Sensible I thought.
When I was introduced to the DIR methodology of diving, the recommendation is all 'strain relief' had to be removed. The rational being to detect leaks easier and see if your hose is becoming damaged. Unfortunately, like many things in life, in solving one problem, you gain another.
My 'black box of doom' is the spares box that I carry on every dive. As I load it on the boat (especially RIB's) I get the comments: 'Its too big', 'What do you need that for', 'You always bring too much kit'.
Inevitably when one of the dive team loose a mask or o-ring, break a finstrap, have forgotten to analyse their gas before setting out, forget they have a DIN cylinder with an 'A' clamp regulator (and visa versa), or a direct feed / intermediate pressure regulator hose / HP hose (usually with content gauge) - the box makes an appearance like a knight in shining armour. I never receive complaints again
The other issue is what to pack in the box, as the number of bloody fittings out there is quite frankly ridiculous.
The 'box of doom' contains many things. Like the mythical curse on those who unearthed the tomb of King Tutankhamun, unfortunates who inadvertently open it, or peer in as I am rummaging ,carry the risk of being stuck down by a strange illness or simply just disappear!
But, to reveal some of its many secrets, I carry an inordinate number of blasted hoses: Poseidon hoses for Cyclone and Extreme/Jetstream, adaptors for 1/2 UNF to 3/8 UNF (APEX inconsistencies), the five different types of direct feed coupling (a favourite amongst divers who have borrowed a drysuit and find when out at sea that the direct feed are different types - inevitably the Seatec large bore coupling).
I could go on, but if you really want to get the full info, and have a lot of time on your hands, charge your glass with a large brandy and call the mighty O-ring King; he will see you right.
I dive open circuit using exclusively 3/8 UNF (LP) and 7/16 UNF (HP) and the small Seatec fitting so our dive team can pool the spares and the box isn't so bloody heavy. But, as you can see, hoses really piss me off, but then revelation, I saw Miflex XTREME hoses at a dive show.
They are beautiful. They feature an external nylon safety braiding designed to resist the snags and abrasions. This braid is not simply pushed over the hose fittings, but tightly bound and fixed to the hose core by stainless steel or brass sleeves. This fearsome stuff also resists UV rays out of the water, thus extending the lifespan of the hose. Not too much of a problem in the UK!
The Xtreme's are also ultra flexible and tough as any British diver will need. For me however, the best feature is that you can knot them, pull them tight against the fitting and the gas just keeps on flowing - tremendous.
I sorted a set for all my kit and stage cylinders (including a 210 cm long hose for my primary) and then decided to go for a re-breather (see the Sentinel article)... Joy, the Sentinel is also exclusively fitted with Miflex, a testament to Kevin Gurr's strive to use the best materials for his re-breather.
So, if you really want to stop lugging my 'black box of doom' in and out of RIB's, just go and buy a set of Miflex and your troubles will be over!
Until a few years ago, the acronym 'CCR' had a very different meaning to me. The 70’s, the US deep south and Fortunate Son: a track which no self respecting helicopter scene in a Vietnam war movie should be without. However more recently, CCR means Closed Circuit Rebreather and has become something of an obsession with me and my fellow explorers at Triton Oceanic.
Article by 'tritone' Tony Bridge
After much soul searching and a great deal of research, not to mention the constant harassment of divers and manufacturers alike. Simon Campbell and myself finally took a trip to visit Kevin Gurr of VR Technology Limited which is way, way down (for us anyway) on the sunny south coast. Two hours with Kevin, included an interesting tour of the excellent manufacturing setup and a full low-down on his new Sentinel LSS Rebreather following which a somewhat bemused Simon and myself headed back to the grim north some £12,000 lighter of pocket.
This, it has to be said, is a real testament to the quality and design of the Sentinel. Even an accountant would not consider Kevin the worlds most persuasive salesman, but what he lacks in enthusiasm, he more than makes up for in knowledge, particularly, in the subject at hand and it’s all evident in abundance with the Sentinel itself.
Skip forward two months and I’m booking caravan sites back down south in order to start the Sentinel specific IANTD MOD1 (air diluent to 42m) Closed Circuit Rebreather Course which is to be chaired by the very experienced Rich Stevenson what follows is a brief diary of how it all went.
Wednesday September 17th
After several days of preparation, I’m ready to go. The fridge in Emma’s Caravan (it's worth reading about the caravan 'incident') is stocked, the Land Rover is full of dive gear and I’m just waiting for Simon to arrive at my house; he is of course late - no surprise there then.
When he does finally arrive with several crates & large bags (about three times the amount I’m taking) we struggle to fit all of his kit, which he assures me that every single piece of which he NEEDS, into the car. Anyway, Land Rover bulging at the seams, we pick up the caravan and we’re off. A few hours and a couple of hundred miles later, we arrive at Longleat, set up and prepare for the next few days.
Thursday September 18th
I am treated to the rather sickening sight of Simon wandering around in his technical underpants, bleary eyed and trying to make porridge, I plump for bacon butties. Eventually Simon gets dressed my nausea quickly disappears and we set off for Vobster. 15 minutes later Simon and I arrive at and are introduced to Rich Stevenson, who is doing the training and Paul Crouch who joined us on the course. After a cup of tea and another bacon sandwich we are finally given access to our Sentinels which are as glorious as I remember them sat in the factory in Poole.
It turns out Paul got a good deal on his as it’s very slightly 2nd hand (six hours I think). It’s first owner bought it and quit the course as it was too difficult for him: Oh dear! As if I wasn’t anxious enough; this isn’t going to be a foregone conclusion.
The rest of the day is broken up between theory, generally dismantling and rebuilding the units and completing the Sentinels very stringent and thorough pre-dive procedures, we don’t actually get to dive the units and I find to my shame that I’m somewhat relieved about this.
We all go for dinner, talk bollocks for a couple of hours and retire to our various camp sites / hotels. We will find out later that Rich, who was supposed to be staying on a site near Lobster (sorry, Vobster) in his camper van, was actually locked out of the site and spent the night in a lay-by – he wasn’t happy! And an unhappy instructor can be a bad thing!
Friday September 19th
It’s early, It’s dive time! Pre dive checks done, we’re in the water, generally struggling for trim and buoyancy – I’m a little ‘leg down’ and a bit overweighted but I decide to stick with it for the next couple of days as it’s probably better to understand and get comfortable with the unit before worrying about my own fine-tuning.
We complete numerous bail-out drills, dil flushes etc over the course of a couple of dives today.
Apparently the shear number of bail-outs we perform will ensure that we get it right when we have to do it for real ‘Close the loop – switch to OC’. Pretty bloody simple, no-one could cock that up could they?
All in all a fun day, everyone seems to be on a par and I think we all enjoy the challenge – things are about to change…
Saturday September 20th
Simon and I are up very early – we pack up, the caravan is hitched to the Land Rover and we’re off to dump it at the Vobster inn who have very kindly allowed us to leave it there while we dive on the Saturday.
We’re in the water early again and frankly, both Simon and I have a buoyancy nightmare while flying the unit manually, Paul seems fine (the bstard) and I feel so frustrated during this dive I even manage to cock-up my DSMB deployment, tangling myself and Paul up in the line. We get out of the water and Rich tells us ‘don’t beat yourselves up – that’s my job’ (another bstard).
To compound matters a very smug looking inspiration diver turns to me and asks in the most condescending manner possible ‘problems boys?’ (the biggest b*stard of all) – I manage to control myself (just) and merely growl ‘NO!’ at him.
Second dive all bets are on again. However the point where Rich made us flood the loop then start breathing off it again did cause some consternation amongst the troops; nobody wanted to be the first one. Flooding the loop and the resultant 'caustic cocktail' is one of the many horror stores we had been exposed too before the course.
In any event, it goes well for everyone and we ascend this time all smiles and happy thoughts – time to refill cylinders, pack scrubbers, pick up the caravan and head off to Plymouth.
After trying three restaurants, Simon and I finally manage to find a curry house, with loads of Cobra, thereby sensibly preparing for the next days boat diving. I’m mortified as it turns out I’ve missed the first episode of Strictly Come Dancing and Ola Jordan was wearing an extremely shiny and figure hugging cat-suit - Shit!
Sunday September 21st
We board the Seeker (I can’t help but think ‘Bill Nagle’ but our skip was in-fact sober and compus mentus) at the Mount Batten centre and head out to sea.
Rich informs us that this will be a ‘no-skills’ dive but we will incur a little deco so bailout deco plans are made and off we pop.
The Persia, lovely, a great dive. I didn't need to add and lead from the fresh water dives and my trim is much better, the unit feels good and my buoyancy is bang on….
It’s about this point that I think I hear a strange noise behind me, I turn my head and out pops the mouthpiece of my breathing loop. SHIT! I recover the loop which is now of course filled with water and my mind goes back to Thursday where we all reluctantly practised the flooded loop drill. I lift my head to drain the water into the canister, perform a diluent flush and blow hard enough to hear the release of the over pressure valve at the bottom of the scrubber – perfect!
Not exactly, as I headed over the edge of the wreck I went a little head down and got a big mouthful of sofnalime infused seawater – nice! It turns out I hadn’t given the water enough time to soak through the scrubber before I tried to blow it out of the over pressure valve.
Rich spotted my expression and thought I’d been sick into the loop and began to signal urgently for me to switch to OC, I duly obliged whilst forgetting this time to close off the loop which promptly flooded again – pillock!
Diving over for me today – the guys do another dive but my filter won’t hack it – so I stay on the boat, throw up and sulk, something I have developed into a fine art over the years.
Monday September 22nd
The final dive, the plan is to fly the unit manually for a large portion of the dive and perform a bail-out ascent – not easy with a back mounted counterlung. The normal procedure on the inspiration for example, would be to squeeze gas from the over the shoulder lungs manually but with the sentinel expanding gas must be released by quickly opening and closing the mouthpiece, which at this point is floating somewhere above my head, to let the expanding gas escape, all this whilst managing gas in the suit, wing and lungs.
We all, however, managed the dive without breaking the surface and all that remained was Rich’s oral exam and the results of the standard IANTD MOD1 test.
It turns out we had all done (just) enough to pass so congratulations to Paul and Simon and a big thanks to Rich for a fantastic and challenging course. At this point Simon jumps in a taxi, bogs off to London for a meeting, leaving me to rinse his kit, pack up and drive back up north on my jack. Typical...
Take a look at some of the photos on Simon's Flickr and his blog featuring lots of diving stuff and more expeditions where we will be plying our trade...
The Oxford Concise English Dictionary quotes: "Explorer: a traveller into undiscovered or investigated territory" - "Adventurer: a person who seeks adventure especially for personal gain or enjoyment".
I read again quite recently the Extended Range and Trimix manual issued by TDI (Technical Diving International) in 2002. It gave a more interesting definition between an 'explorer' and an 'adventurer'. I really liked it and have quoted Bill Pogue's words, verbatim, below...
"The Explorer is a person that has a goal and reads voraciously all the available information concerning the proposed activity. The explorer practices any skill required to perfection. The explorer understands that there are risks, evaluates these risks and takes the necessary steps to minimise risk. But inevitably, the explorer must accept the risks, that there is danger and personal injury or death is a possibility.
The adventurer is a neophyte. They are not really interested in learning all the nitty gritty details, they want to hire someone to take them white water rafting and ensure their safety. At the end of the run, they want a picture and a t-shirt that says, "I rafted the 'Monster Killer' run". The reality is, the 18 year old summer high school kid manoeuvred the raft, the client just got wet."
The record attempt will be made by Rob LaLumiere to 250M on the Japanese warship Shimamkaze in Ormoc Bay and will be supported by Triton.
Matt Reed of Triton Oceanic is the Dive Director and Members of Triton Oceanic will act as support during the dive. With actual individual roles still to be finalised, this will mean anything from diving to 100m to be the first person to meet Rob on his return, to helping him out at 3m as he completes the final part of his almost 9hr dive.
Subscribe to our RSS feeds for updates...