The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

USS Atlanta talk by Liam Allen

 

The next best thing to diving is talking diving. However, a better thing than talking diving is a diving talk. You get it? Diving talks tend not to happen in Northern Ireland at all, but thanks to the inspiration loving entity Stephen McMullan, diving presentations are becoming increasingly popular in the South of Ireland with the inception of 'The Two Principles' talks. I only managed to attend one, from the legendary Barry McGill, which was brilliant. I vowed not miss another if possible.

 

That specific series of presentations concluded, and again Ireland was devoid of diving chat; until Stephen announced Liam Allen would be presenting the USS Atlanta dive he spearheaded. I was thrilled. Not only was it a deep wreck expedition presentation, but a GUE related talk as well, and from an Irish man. Awesome.

 

Needless to say I picked up two tickets immediately, informed Wifebuddy we'd be attending, and she would be driving as I would be drinking beer. A mere €10 covered both tickets, and all proceeds were going to charity. Win, win for everyone!

 

 

 

Thursday evening came, Kerri and I jumped into the Ford Boring and drove the 100+ miles over the now defunct border to Dun Laoghaire. It's pronounced 'Done Leary' by the way, as opposed to 'Don Log-hair'. Just to clarify, I have no Irish vocabulary what so ever. 2 hours later we were parked up and made our way to the very posh Royal Marine Hotel. The nice girl in reception was able to tell us where the talk was being held, and we were an hour early. An hour early was fabulous news as I could enjoy beer in the posh bar; which I did ... Carslberg, no less. The night was off to a great start.



I spied a few diver faces around the bar, along with Linda, our chum from TekCamp 2011. Two pints later we were seated in a splendid conference room, and the talk commenced.

 

Stephen introduced the evening, by introducing Mike Griffiths, who introduced Liam Allen. Liam explained he would only chat for 40 mins or so, then we could go grab another pint and return for the documentary video. As well as being an established diver, Liam is an excellent speaker. I found him very engaging. It was a cracking topic and, being a GUE fan boy, I was totally stoked at hearing about the project.


 

I don't want to spoil the talk, but he basically described how himself and five other GUE top men successfully dived and documented the USS Atlanta. The USS Atlanta is a light battlecruiser that was sunk during the pacific battle of Guadalcanal after being severely damaged by both enemy and friendly fire. She lies at a respectful depth of 130m in the South Pacific near one of the Solomon Islands.



Liam chatted about the history involved, the ship, his team, logistics and the plan. Amazingly the guys were hitting bottom times of 35 minutes towards the end of the expedition. As promised, less than hour later I managed to acquire another pint and prepared to watch the documentary; "Return to the USS Atlanta: Defender of Guadalcanal"

 

The documentary was phenomenal. The actual documentary part was brilliant, but the underwater footage was breathtaking - pure HD quality, AND it was only the second time the film had been aired in Europe. The video was a splendid backdrop to Liam's talk, and added a wonderful visual element to the very informative presentation. Some heart wrenching footage of survivors from the wreck was a tough watch, many an eye in the room was welled up, but it was a great addition nonetheless.


 

All too quickly it was all over. With a lengthy drive ahead, Kerri and I thanked Stephen, introduced ourselves to Liam, thanked him also for a great evening, said 'hello from Rich Walker,' and sloped off to the Ford Boring. Meeting Liam was very cool, and he reciprocated it was nice to meet the 'entire' Northern Ireland GUE diving force.

 

I strongly recommend that all divers attend Liam's USS Atlanta talk if you get a chance; it's fab!

 

Watch the trailer here.

 

GUE Tech 1, Croatia - PART THREE: I'll be back in a minute.


As i wholly expected from my GUE-F experience; the longer a GUE course progressed, the longer i needed to sleep. My alarm had been extinguished with appropriate wrath, and i finally convinced myself to get up to see what delights Kerri had prepared for breakfast. 

The dining table was now a familiar sight of bread, cheese and a severe lack of bacon. Kerri had made the kind gesture of attempting to make me tea. I was touched; Im a bit of a tea junkie, and the coffee wasn't to my taste. The tea process involved tea leaves, the croatian kettle and a sieve. 



I tried to drink it. I ended up back on coffee.




Rich had made it explicitly clear we were to be at the dive centre sharp-ish as the day would consist of mostly diving, which pleased me greatly. Kerri and I got our gear sorted and waited patiently for Liam to drive us to the dive site. 





As Kerri and I stood by the front door, Liam poked his head around the doorframe of his bedroom; 


"Meet you at the car - i'll be there in a minute."



10 minutes later we were on the road.



Once at Krnica Dive Centre i received a hearty hand shake from Tony, and a nod from a dubious looking fella who guarded the entrance from his coffee table. We herded ourselves into the shop and were directed to our 32% filled twinsets waiting eagerly for a days diving. Rich wasn't far behind and announced we should get our gear together and meet outside for 'complex failures.'

Kerri analysing 32%


As with every GUE training, the initial stage is a land drill. Kerri jumped into a twinset and Rich presented a manifold failure, explaining the process of sorting it out. I won't bore you with the procedure, it's extremely logical, but takes a couple of go's to get the hang of; it's all rather clever. Atypically, the process simply built upon the foundation we had established the day before. I really enjoyed the failures and was dying to get into the water to try it for real; well, simulated real. 

(c) Wreck & Cave

Next on the agenda was gas switching. A GUE Tech 1 diver can only carry one deco gas, so it's difficult to make a balls of a switch, but as with everything GUE; the instructor installs good practice from an early stage. We were shown how to configure our stage bottles and the protocol for a gas switch. I was very familiar with stage bottles, as I have been tech diving for over 12 months, but the subtle changes in set up and gas-switch were interesting. I had the bottle rigged the way i did at home, slightly differently to the way Rich had his bottle configured. I enquired;



"Is this setup OK?"
"Yep. Whatever suits you, but have a think about your future diving; what if you end up carrying more stages at some point?"



I love those conversations with Rich. He has a wonderful way of letting students work things out themselves and make their own adjustments accordingly. 


It was no big deal, i simply had my reg routed slightly differently. I wasn't asked to change it, just to think about adding extra bottles and locating the second stage. I was sold within minutes; GUE is clever sometimes. 


I have since dived  with the bottle rigged my original way - it was weird and unintuitive, and have gone with how i was taught at Tech 1.







Post drills Rich asked what appeared to be a simple question; 

"Do you want food now, or later?"

I imagined a 2 hour dive max, and consequently led the group into opting for eating after the dive. Rich was cool with that and we headed for the wet stuff. It was so easy. 

We knew the score from the previous day, and quickly loaded our twinsets into the van, preparing for the gentle stroll to the shore. Except Liam. Rich enquired; 





"Where's Liam?"  
"He's just getting changed. He'll be here in a minute." 
"OK. Cool"


10 minutes later Liam appeared, half dressed, and we sauntered down to the dive site. Liam conducted GUE EDGE and we entered the water behind our intrepid leader. I was really excited, but super nervous at the same time. Although we were at an early stage, i felt the class was going really well. I was enjoying diving, felt comfortable in the water, and most importantly Rich seemed happy with us; not that the man gives a hell of a lot away - but he wasn't complaining, so i took that as a positive. 


The plan was simple. Rich dictated how the dive would progress; 


"Descend. Lay line. Shit will happen."


Our team encircled the drop line, formed a triangle and Liam signalled the beginning of the dive. We descended. We laid line. Shit happened. Oh God, did shit happen.





DIVING


I don't completely recall what happened over the following FIVE HOURS … 


It was a blur of drills, debriefs, reel work, line laying, gas switches, lost gases, manifold failures, reel dumping, OOG, lost masks, lost lights, smb deployment and dead divers … 


It was madness.







It was all going pretty damn well until the very last ascent. We had dealt with a lot of shit. I was enjoying it, but i hadn't realised just how exhausted and dehydrated i had become. It was soon evident. 



As our team encircled the shot line for a final ascent i decided, in my ultimate wisdom, that the team needed to reposition. I have no idea why; we were in a fucking triangle. 

Either way, i determined it was of the utmost importance and i wouldn't be ascending until it was perfect. That progressed to an utterly, utterly, dismal display of attempting to communicate a rather complex argument to my wife, who ignores my ramblings at the best of times, and a guy i hardly knew. 






In all fairness the team were very accommodating, but hadn't the first clue what i was trying to say. Half way through the 'conversation' i too had lost any clue of what i was trying to say.




After what seemed like an hour of frantic blue gloved lunacy, Rich finally intervened, signalled, quite clearly: 

"Stop chittering and ascend. Now." 

I knew i'd screwed up. As we broke the surface of the Adriatic i looked apologetically at my really confused team members; 


"Yeah … sorry about that. I don't have an explanation. I think i may have gone full retard."


The team agreed, and Rich concurred; 


"You wouldn't have done that 3 hours ago. You're tired. Get out."





Tired and hungry we trailed ourselves ashore. That was a tough dive, probably the hardest i've ever worked underwater. Looking back, it still fascinates me how much the human brain can shut down when deprived of food, water and natural light. It took me an hour or two to settle myself afterwards, but Rich's debrief was very positive; and didn't mention the full retard moment at all, thankfully!




Dive gear stowed, Kerri and I patiently waited outside for Liam, who stated he would 'be back in a minute' as Rich appeared with some tanned fellow in a green GUE shirt. 



Rich had made a friend.













Rich's new friend was Jamie, and was actually a Tech 1 instructor intern student person. We were all formally introduced to the new guy; an Englishman with an Australian accent. It was a bit random. It transpired that his accent was actually New Zealand, rather than Australian. 

He just sounded like someone from 'Neighbours' to me anyway; which amused me greatly and i continually worked out ways to make him say "rack off" or "fair dinkum." Unsuccessfully i might add, but it was still highly entertaining in my own mind. [New Zealand followers can delete me now!!!]

Jamie (3rd from left; not the dog)




Liam appeared 10 minutes later and Rich declared we were getting the 'night off' from academics, which was amazing as we were completely shattered. 


The five of us bundled into Liam's little rental car and we visited a local restaurant for the slowest service ever. I also received an entirely different steak to that which i ordered. I queried across the table if anyone knew what lay on my plate. 


Rich provided me with a very through answer, in a mostly foreign language i didn't understand; leading me to believe it was a perfectly good steak covered in strange sauce. 



I looked at Kerri; 



"Will i like this?"
"Yes."



Good enough for me. I got wired into my weird steak and Rich shook his head in dismay for the last time that day.





Part 1
 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - 
Part 5 - Part 6