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8.31.2010

International Whale Shark Day



August 30th is International Whale Shark Day. This international day was declared such in 2008 during the International Whale Shark Conference that took place on Isla Holbox, where representatives from over 40 countries met to share their research about this huge fish, and agreed that this day should be dedicated to celebrating whale sharks, promoting their conservation, and educating the public about them.

The whale shark is the world's largest fish, and can reach up to 60 feet (18 m) in length. Its back is gray or dark blue, with light colored markings, and its belly is white. It has a wide, flat head with small eyes on the sides, and a big mouth that extends the entire width of its body, as you can see in this photo. The whale shark moves slowly along the water's surface, filtering large amounts of water and consuming plancton, crustaceans and small fish. 

The Galapagos Islands are known for encounters with whale sharks and other big animals such as hammerhead sharks, galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks and silky sharks. The whale shark season in the Galapagos Islands is from July to September.


Manta fisheries regulated by Ecuadorian Government

August 26, 2010. Manta – Ecuador.

The Ecuadorian “Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock farming, Aquaculture & Fishing” and the “Fishery Resources Secretary” issued a Ministry Agreement to prohibit fisheries of Manta Rays and to regulate incidental fishing of these animals. 

The document was forwarded by Biol. Ronald Zambrano (a Divemaster Candidate, Tec 40 diver and active contributor to this blog) who works for the Ministry of Environment. The abstract is translated below: 

Art 1:   The targeted fisheries of Giant Manta Ray (manta birostris); Mantarraya (Mobula Japanica, Mobula thurstoni, Mobula munkiana and Mobula tarapacana) is prohibited with any type of fishing technique.
Art 2: In the case of incidental catch of any of these species the individuals must be returned to their natural habitat immediately.
Art 3: It is forbidden to retain the species listed in article one and therefore; transportation, commercialization, ownership and human use of these animals is also prohibited.

This document is similar in essence to others which regulate the fisheries of sharks. Needless to say, shark slaughter regulations are deliberately bypassed, broken and ignored at this time.
No footage or relevant statistical data regarding the effects of this new regulation in the fisheries of Manta Rays is available as of this week. 

On the other hand, footage on the Manta slaughter previous to this regulation is available and exposed below.  The corpses of fished mantas are said to be a product of export to Peru and a mislabeled “fish kind” sold in Ecuador’s cities.

Photos: Ronald Zambrano

This subject will be followed and updated when more information is available. At this time, there is an ongoing research project on the Manta Ray population in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.

8.28.2010

Jorge A. Mahauad's support for rebreather diving in the Galapagos Islands evaluated by customer




I often have the impression that a great number of rebreather divers are indeed very interested in coming to the Galapagos with their units. I also perceive that being a young instructor and not very known in the rebreather community creates a bit of a barrier. I understand this; actually, I would feel the very same way. 

I also know that the truth is that there is nothing I can do about this now; only time will tell. I know it takes a life time to build a reputation and that many challenges have to be overcome.  For now, the only thing I can rely on is the endorsement of my customers and to do things the best I can. Minding detail, customization, being an advocate for the divers I support and continuing learning are the things that push this forward. 

When I started to talk about rebreathers and technical diving here one of the few things I got back were suspicious smiles; even from the people I thought understood me the most. This is ok, technical or rebreather diving are not for everyone. I also know that being a technical diver, underwater explorer or visionary involves time, a painful path, building a team in which we can trust and taking measurable risks. 

I have received a hand written note from Andy Phillips. During our brief encounter here he also recorded an endorsement on the rebreather support provided. I thought it would be a good thing to post it here, just for the reasons stated above. 

____________________________________________


"Thanks for all your help in making this happen. I'm very happy with the support you have provided and delighted to be a part of rebreather diving in the Galapagos. I really believe you are onto something and look forward to working with you again in the future and a new friendship. All the best for now and see you in Utila"




Testimony: The Galapagos Islands on a Closed Circuit Rebreather

A few months ago PADI Course Director Andy Phillips contacted me for a rebreather trip to the Galapagos Islands. There as a report on this published earlier this month. Here are his impressions on diving in the Galapagos Islands in a Closed Circuit Rebreather.


Photo: Dimphy Janssen


Now Andy has come back and after a surface interval he has "surfaced" from his Liveaboard trip. Here is what he had to say to the camera a few days ago:



Andy has published a full report on this trip in scubaboard and rebreatherworld. Check it out!

8.27.2010

Volcanic cavern documented and subsequent cave at Gordon Rock's (Galapagos Islands) marked for further exploration



From different sources, Cave Diver Andy Phillips and myself (Jorge A. Mahauad) we were informed that "there is a cave at 60m and the bottom is about 80m..." 


On August 23, 2010 we explored a deep wall at Gordon Rock's in the Galapagos Islands in order to find out a bit more about the setting.

Dive profile was 40 meter maximum depth in open water at a big wall with a bottom about 80m deep. Dive plan follows: 40 mt / 20 min; 25 ,mt / 25 min; 15 mt / 20 min. The dive was performed using Closed Circuit Rebreathers with a 1.3 setpoint. No decompression was involved. The CCR's used had air as diluent. 

We found the entrance cavern. Starts at about 38,5 meters deep and drops to about 55... Big vault entrance outside, then narrows and there are visible cracks that penetrate into the volcano. Water was 14 degrees Celsius at the bottom and surface temperature was 22. Camera fogged. 

This short clip might be of use for further reference. Dark areas indicate cavern entry.

8.16.2010

First rebreather diver supported in the Galapagos Islands

Photo: Marie- Claude Dupras

PADI Course Director Andy Phillips and PADI Master Instructor Jorge A. Mahauad completed a series of rebreather check dives dives in the Galapagos from August 13 to 16. A total of four dives with a total of 228 minutes (3,8 hours) were performed using air as diluent and to a maximum depth 36 meters. A report writen by Jorge A. Mahauad. Photos by Marie-Claude Dupras and Marcelo. 


A few months ago PADI Course Director Andy Phillips contacted me for a rebreather trip to the Galapagos Islands. After sorting out the import of Sofnolime and rebreather cylinders, finding a reliable source of medical grade oxygen and many other main points of full rebreather support service in the Galapagos Islands was confirmed to Andy. 



He finally arrived here on August 12. Andy is the first rebreather diver to be fully supported in the Galapagos Islands by a local rebreather diver and instructor. Sofnolime 8-12, rebreather cylinders, oxygen at 200 bar, booster pump, transfilling whips and adapters were provided.

On August 13 we met at my place for boosting oxygen, unit assembly and performing pre dive checks. Early in the morning of August 14 we went to Mosquera (a tinny little deserted islet with a sea lion colony) and performed a check dive there. 

Andy and Jorge pre-breathing their units on board the dive boat. Photo: Marie- Claude Dupras

Dive went really smooth, at maximum depth of 15 meters our units were checked and performed flawlessly, total runtime of the dive was 62 minutes. 

The second dive was made in Gordon Rocks, a collapsed crater west of Santa Cruz Island with a total runtime of 53 minutes. Temperature at the bottom was 17.3 Celsius.
Andy was on a Megalodon and I was on an Evolution +.

PADI Course Director Andy Phillis diving his Megalodon CCR in Gordon Rocks (Galapagos Islands). Photo: Marcelo

On August 15 we went to Gordon Rocks again. Our first dive was made at a maximum depth of 36 meters with a total runtime of 62 minutes. Water temperature was 22.0 Celsius in the surface and 16.1 Celsius at the bottom. Second dive was performed in Gordon Rocks as well with a maximum depth of 24.4 meters and total runtime of 50 minutes.


PADI Master Instructor Jorge A. Mahauad guiding with his Evolution + CCR in Gordon Rocks (Galapagos Islands).  Photo: Marcelo

The dives during this two days were performed as a check dives for a liveaboard to Darwin and Wolf. Andy is bringing his Megalodon to the northern islands famous for the encounters with mega fauna such as whale sharks, big schools of hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks and silky sharks. 

Photo and video were not the main objective of the dives but some footage was obtained. We encountered a fair amount of wildlife underwater during the series of dives that included small schools of hammerhead sharks, mantarray, black tip reef sharks, white tip reef sharks and eagle rays. 


Photo: Marcelo



Photo: Marcelo

8.06.2010

PADI Rebreather Courses - From the Tec Rec Blog

Mark Caney, Director, Rebreather Technologies in PADI’s Technical Diving Division, announced that PADI is planning to introduce its first rebreather courses to include closed circuit rebreathers next year. Caney said that PADI will produce a range of rebreather courses covering the needs of recreational and technical divers, and that the first courses will become available next year. They will be supported by the usual high quality educational materials that PADI is well-known for.


The Tec Rec Facebook page has also published a post entitled PADI Rebreather Courses. In this discussion the question what should the PADI rebreather courses be like? Same as what's out there now, or something new? was posted. The question ringed a bell in me and I started writing a reply there but it became so long I decided to post it here instead. 


I think a generic course could include the knowledge development needed in physics, physiology, equipment, management, problem solving, choosing units, etc. I think this could be a specialty with no dives or specific unit training. Pre requisites could be: EANx, 50 dives in OC, master scuba diver or equivalent. This would work like the existing equipment specialist course; obviously focusing on rebreathers in general. I think most people interested in rebreathers do this as self study on the internet or with other rebreather divers.


Then the PADI system could have different unit specific CCR courses according to the manufacturer. All of these as distinctive specialties in the recreational range (AIR diluent, no decompression and maximum 30 meters deep). The pre requisite could be the generic CCR specialty, paperwork, etc.


For the Tec Rec range I would suggest that the Tec 40, Tec 45, Tec 50, Trimix 65 and Tec Trimix structure is made equivalent to the levels for CCR technical diver training. Each course could be a pre requisite for the CCR course on that level. In this way proper knowledge and skills are built first on OC and then on CCR. For example, for a Tec 40 CCR course the pre requisites could be: unit specialty and the OC Tec 40 course. Same could work for the upcoming cave and wreck courses.


Some ideas come to my mind here regarding other courses. I think a “Rescuing CCR divers” module could be made available for the rescue diver course and a “supervising and supporting advanced divers” module could be added to the divemaster course. 

8.02.2010

marTEKing

This post is about Technical Diving Marketing or “marTEKing”. I came up with this word some time ago and I wish it was so easy to market tek diving as it is to find a word combination for it. 

Technical diving is not an easy thing and must not be taken lightly. In general terms: incapacity to understand and assess the risks involved in technical diving will be fatal. Even proper assessment and implementation could be fatal. 

Basically what I want here is to start a discussion and then make some conclusions about Marketing Technical Diving. I have worked on a few thought provoking questions to raise ideas:

- Is it ethical to market technical diving? If technical diving would be a canned or packed product, should it have a label stating “technical diving kills”
- What are the attributes of technical diving as a product or as a lifestyle? 
- Technical diving can be marketed as cool, advanced, appealing. Should we do it?
- Should technical diving be marketed as an adrenaline, or extreme action sport?

I will think of these few subjects and make a post on this marTEKing thing soon, but I would like inputs in order to come up with something complete and properly balanced. I’m posting this message in my blog and in some other places as well. Thank you for your ideas and support; we might get something good out of this and create some fundamentals for the marTEKing process.