Normal operations restored after political issues affected Ecuador.

This is not Advanced Diving, Environmental Awareness or Diver Training, I know. But I think that reporting something on the recent events here in Ecuador could bring some peace of mind.

I was flying to the Galapagos Islands this morning. The guys of Into the Drink, along with many other travelers were there as well.  We found out that at about 7am the police was rioting against a recent law that apparently affects their economical interests. Airports in Quito and Guayaquil were closed most of the day and flights cancelled.

It has been a very tense day. A lot of things happening that were not clearly informed due to an emergency state declared by the government that led into an informative restriction in the local media. I don’t want to try and explain all this. Maybe, because I don’t even understand it very well to begin with. A report from CNN can be found here. In the end, a quite violent ending got the president back to the House of Government.

The Galapagos Islands are located 1000 kilometers from Ecuador mainland and the primary way of transport is by plane. No riots were reported in the Galapagos and the only abnormalities reported were those linked to cancelled  flights. During the day, tour operators managed to reschedule trips and make arrangements for guests arriving today or tomorrow. Galapagos National Park Service has been flexible with itineraries in order to help with this.

As of now, 22h25, the conflict has started to decrease. Normal activities in Ecuador, including air transport, are scheduled to restart tomorrow. 

Shark Facts And Fish Tales: 5 Biggest Misconceptions About Sharks

I found this infographic about sharks. I thought it could be nice to post it here.
Jorge A. Mahauad

5 Biggest Misconceptions About Sharks[Source: AquaViews.net]


Singular discovery provides clues to whale sharks breeding

The following article was obtained from ABC News Australia. You can find it here. Author is Kathryn Diss and it was last updated on Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:07pm AEST


They have an in-built sperm bank which allows them to fertilise hundreds of eggs at different times within their body and then stagger the births after mating just the once.

"They're the biggest fish roaming the ocean but their cryptic nature has prevented us from learning much about their breeding habits."

Perth researcher Brad Norman explains a new scientific discovery about one of the world's threatened species - the whale shark.

Mr Norman was one of six researchers led by Chicago-based geneticist Jennifer Schmidt who analysed 29 preserved embryos from the first pregnant female whale shark ever to be caught.

He says varying the development of the embryos could be a way of protecting the species.

"By staggering the delivery of pups, the strategy serves to reduce the risk of losing an entire litter at any one location.

"Young whale sharks have been found in the stomachs of blue sharks and blue marlin so a large delivery of whale shark pups all at one time could attract large numbers of predators to the area."

But, the biggest threat in terms of predators does not come from other marine species, it's from people.


Rebreather information sources

Just a short list of sites on the internet that can be of use for learning on rebreathers.

Deep Life CCR Accident Database contains a database on rebreather incidents and accidents put together by Deep Life Ltd., used for developing safety cases and business assessment for their own company.

Diver Mole is a highly informative site on Inspiration CCR's.

IANTD Rebreather Info is a part of IANTD's website detailing what rebreathers are from mechanics and differences between SCR and CCR systems to the advantages and disadvantages of each.

No Bubble Diving is another good site information on Rebreather Diving.

RBW: CCR Accident Database is deemed as their "Blueprint for Survival" Rebreather World and DAN have begun a working database using only actual obtainable facts pertaining to CCR incidents and accidents.

Rebreather Support Page features the mechanics on how manual gas controlled CCRs differ from electronic controlled CCRs.

Rebreather World is the largest and most active site for news, information and the exchange of tips and ideas regarding the field of diving with rebreathers.

RebreatherPro is a good site for information on rebreathers where cave diving is concerned provided by Jill Heinerth.

Rebreathers Worldwide is a good site for information on vintage to present day model rebreathers.


PADI Divemaster Program Revisions - First Look

This article was originally posted at the PADI Instructor News blog, run by the PADI America's staff.

The revised PADI Divemaster course will be launched at DEMA in November. The new materials aren't available for pre-order yet, but you can read about them below.

The information below is subject to change. Please refer to the Training Bulletin and 2011 Divemaster Instructor Guide (when it comes out) for final details.

The new program includes the most requested changes from PADI Members: emphasizing the dive guide role of a Divemaster, deepening candidate experience and skill background, and incorporating real-world, practical training for the programs DMs are authorized to conduct.

New PADI Divemaster Program Overview

What’s New:

Skill development through new workshops and practical applications. The new program has a 50 % increase in in-water training including:

Five new Divemaster-Conducted Program workshops: one for each course Divemasters are authorized to conduct.
Five Practical Application Skills:
dive site set-up and management
mapping project (unchanged)
dive briefing
search and recovery scenario*
deep dive scenario*
* A specialty diver certification in this area may fulfill this skill requirement at the instructor’s discretion.
Dive Skills: four skin diving skills have been added.
The skill evaluation slate is being revised (product no. 60228).

Change to Prerequisites:
The Deep Diver and Search and Recovery specialty ratings are recommended, candidates may also demonstrate the skills related to these courses as part of the Practical Application Skills section (described above).
Candidates must have 40 logged dives to begin the program (it was 20).

Knowledge Development & Exam Changes:
Divemaster eLearning – an alternative to using the PADI Divemaster manual and DVD. The online option replaces all but one of the classroom presentations. The exam must be proctored by an instructor. Unlike the other eLearning courses, the DM exam is not included in the online program.
A revised PADI Divemaster Manual and DVD are also available for those who prefer traditional study tools.

The Divemaster exam now emphasizes the supervisory and leadership aspects of divemastering. The revised exam is written in more familiar terminology to more accurately assess candidate comprehension of the knowledge development topics – including dive theory.
The dive theory knowledge requirement for Divemaster is now an intermediate step between what’s required for the PADI Rescue Diver rating and Assistant Instructor or Instructor certification.

A DM candidate may “test out” of the dive theory exam questions (roughly half of the exam) by completing Dive Theory Online ($100).

Things That Haven't Changed:
Same number of dives to “graduate”: 60
Dive Theory Online is still an optional study tool.
The Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving
Mapping project

Summary of Changes to Divemaster Materials

Revised materials (estimated ship date Dec 2010):

Divemaster manual – expanded from 200 pages to nearly 300. Includes new course information and functions as an additional study tool for the DM exam. Each chapter now includes a case study based on real scenarios which illustrate sound judgment and other leadership skills.
Divemaster DVD – now includes “demonstration quality” videos of all 20 scuba skills and the new skin diving skills (4) - plus new and updated footage.
Divemaster DVD (Pro edition) - revised to reflect new course content and incorporate new footage.
Divemater slates – revised slightly to reflect new course content
Skill evaluation slate – includes four new skin diving skills.
Divemaster exam/answer sheet/answer key – entirely updated

New materials (estimated ship date late Nov 2010):

Instructor cue cards
Prescriptive Lesson Guides (hooray!) – new PLGs integrated with standard lesson guides.
Divemaster eLearning – $200

Unchanged materials:

Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving (part no. 70034 book, 70833 DVD-ROM)
Scuba Tune-Up Guide book - now a recommended item (part no. 70097).
DSD cue card (must have 2009 revision of this item, part no. 60130)
Diving Knowledge Workbook - no longer required, but relevant study tool for DM, AI and Instructor exams (part no. 70214).

Discontinued materials:

Divemaster modular lesson guides

What about the current Divemaster materials?
We’ll transition to the new program over several months – similar to how we introduced the new IDC program. PADI Members should continue to use and sell DM materials in stock, but consider keeping a light inventory.

· The cut-off date for starting new candidates with the “old” DM materials is 1 July 2011. After this point, DM candidates and their instructors must use the new materials.

· TBA: what happens to Divemaster candidates who have not finished the “old” program by 1 July 2011

Where can I get more information?

Review the information on pages 2-5 of the 4th Quarter Training Bulletin
Available on the PADI Pro’s Site under Training Essentials
Also found in the back of the 4Q 2010 Undersea Journal


This is what we did for coastal cleanup this year!

A cleanup dive in Isla de la Plata (Ecuador) was conducted in by PADI Instructors José Solís, Juan Manuel Alava, Jorge A. Mahauad and a group of volunteers from project Elasmo; mission was to remove a really big abandoned fishing net underwater.

The following video shows the size (and therefore killing span) of this net. During the dive we were accompanied by Giant Mantas. They actually seemed “grateful” after we removed it!

Filmed by: José Solís

Specialized Judiciary On Rights of Nature in Galapagos

Led by Sea Shepherd’s legal advisor for Galapagos, Hugo Echeverría, on September 20, 2010 Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, presented to PROJUSTICIA (a technical unit of the Ministry of Justice working on the modernization of the judicial system) a legal brief justifying the need to create a Specialized Judiciary on Rights for Nature in the province of Galapagos, Ecuador.

Galapagos Islands: Same dive, different rig...

The amateur footage in this video was shot in the Galapagos Islands by two different divers. Dive sites were the same. Dive profiles very similar. Edition and color correction are the same. The only substantial difference is that one was using Open Circuit Scuba; the other used a Closed Circuit Rebreather.

Do you think this short video explains clearly enough the difference between diving OC / CCR for wildlife encounters? Any ideas?

The truth is I think trying to show the difference between a CCR and OC Scuba on video is very much like trying to sell 3D TV's to people watching 2D TV!! I think you know what I mean...

Jorge A. Mahauad

Requiem for the Sharks of Ecuador

I met Laurence Hegarty on a manta ray project reported a few weeks ago. Laurence spend some 6 weeks in Puerto Lopez - Ecuador. We had a lot of good times and I know he had some fun. 

Laurence also came up with this short video edit. Images speak for themselves. The graphic nature of the video is really moving. The video has had a really viral behavior on facebook

This is not a very nice topic to talk about but it is most needed. I hope this can bring some awareness to the 13 million Ecuadorians about what WE as a nation are doing with our seas. 


Conocí a Laurence Hegarty en un proyecto de manta rayas que reporté hace unas semanas. Laurence pasó cerca de 6 semanas en Puerto López - Ecuador. Tuvimos buenos momentos y sé que se divirtió.

Laurence también ha creado una pequeña edición de video. Las imágenes hablan por si mismas. La naturaleza gráfica de este video es conmovedora. El video ha tenido un comportamiento muy viral en facebook.

Este no es un tema muy agradable del que hablar pero es necesario. Espero que esto pueda traer un poco de conciencia a los 13 millones de Ecuatorianos acerca de lo que NOSOTROS como nación estamos haciendo con nuestros mares.

Jorge A. Mahauad


My perfect CCR

I am not an engineer (thankfully) and I have no idea on manufacturing rebreathers and the challenges manufacturers have to face. I also know some things I will say here are just not possible at this time. I am aware that rebreathers follow philosophies and depending on the actual philosophy the unit is engineered. I understand this is why there is no "best" rebreather overall and that the concept of "right" rebreather is more accurate. 
This is why this post is entitles “MY perfect CCR”; this is the wish list I would deliver if a rebreather is custom engineered and built for the type of diving I do, the type of diving I would like to do in the future and the logistical and supply considerations I have in my area for such types of diving.

I have “mashed up” the features I like the most about the unit’s I’m familiar with. I know this will not happen but it is just an exercise rather than trying heavily to modify or build my own. I am also aware of the Richard Pyle Paradox:

"A flawlessly working rebreather is almost as dangerous as a completely unreliable unit since reliability encourages complacency."

So here it goes:

Unit Layout:

Cylinders: Upright and flexible. Capacity to mount manifolded doubles for diluent and bailout and sling or sidemount oxygen. Also capacity to use standard left-lean, right-rich configuration with backmounted cylinders (ranges from 2- 12 liter). A friendly gas block with multiple hose routing options and markable mix incomes would be very nice. The unit should also have capability for sidemounting all cylinders.

Scrubber and canister: rEvo type (radial, swap, low profile) with 8 hour capacity overall (like the long canister in the Megalodon). Aluminum made and very low profile for using it backmounted but with “intermediate” sidemount benefits.

Loop: strong and tough looking. Makes me feel more confident on the unit. Redundant mushroom valves on inhale and exhale. Diluent and Oxygen flushable with dump valve in exhaust counterlung. Lightweight OCB valve.

Unit Features:

Scrubber Monitor: I really like the temp stick in the Inspiration. I know this is probably an illusion but it makes me feel under control.

CO2 monitor: Much like the Sentinel.

Audible warnings and buzzer: Yes, user controlled and configured. Buzzer has to be small, streamlined and position configured by user.

HUD: Simple, reliable. Like the one in the APEX electronics. A second HUD type display located in the back of the unit for buddy to monitor diver’s PPO2. I think the Poseidon MKVI has this.

Counterlungs: Back mounted in standard unit. Also chest mounted option for possible sidemount re configuration of the unit.

Electronics and handsets: I like the friendliness of the vision electronics but I would go with an OLED display (much like the Shearwater, changing colors with PPO2, etc) with tap control and detachable connections (like the X1 and X link). Integrated decompression with multiple software options (GAP, V-Planner, etc). Ideally the decompression algorithm should be interchangeable on demand from the handset. Only one handset with a very flexible and robust connection to the unit. User selectable oxygen injection times and PPO2 measurement logic.

Head: “Narked at 90” type of cell checker incorporated in head. Adapters and plugs for using different types of Oxygen cells in the unit. 

On / Off: Turn on from the head but "deep sleep" mode controlled by the handset.

Calibration: Self checked and performed on demand by the unit. Like the Inspiration but with advanced diagnostics options. See head.

Battery Power: Standard 9V batteries please!!! I also like the set up in the Prism for the secondary PPO2 display using electricity created by O2 cells to power PPO2 display.Sealed in watertight container.

O2 injection: Constant mass flow with parachute solenoids (2) injecting. Manual inflator located on the exhale counterlung.

ADV: Robust with in line shut off valve.

Harness: Back plate mount with butt plate and crotch strap. Adjustable D-rings.

Wing: High lift with redundant buoyancy and trim weights. Inflation and deflation controls integrated with wing; like some recreational bc’s. Multiple dump valves and interchangeable configuration between dump valves and inflator.

Cover: Yes, for scrubber canisters but not for cylinders or regulators.

Check list: Slate style for taking to dive site and performing pre-dive checks.

Lime: tested with multiple types of lime. Performance and duration of all types of lime delivered with the unit.

Buoyancy: Neutral in salt water with negative pressure in the loop.

Assembly and storage: The unit should be able to stand upright regardless of gas volumes inside. Pelican case included.

What do you think?


Updates in manta ray research in Ecuador and a big thank you!

I just came back from Puerto Lopez, a town located near the Machalilla National Park in Manabi – Ecuador. I went there to meet my friend Mark Harding. At this time, Mark is there coordinating Project Elasmo. 

Mark, along with other contributors, has managed to put together a scouting research project since 2009 to get some information on the population of Giant Manta ray (Manta birostris) around Isla de la Plata. Many of the divers who get to the area between June and September have seen this amazing animals but no formal research leaded by prominent scientists has been performed before Project Elasmo. Interactions like the following amateur video are common.

Filmed by: Lawrence Hegarty (Project Elasmo Volunteer)

Project Elasmo managed to involve Dr. Andrea Marshall, one of the few world experts in Mantas. Andrea directs a world-leading manta ray research program in Mozambique and she is one of the founders of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna (FPMM)

Photo: University of Queensland

Andrea was also the senior author on the first worldwide conservation assessment for manta rays for the IUCN and continues to contribute to conservation efforts worldwide. Her current projects include topics ranging from systematics, phylogeography, population genetics, habitat use and migratory movements. Her recent discovery of a new giant species of manta ray in 2008 was one of the largest new species to have been described by any scientist in the last 50 years.

Things are looking promising: a Ministry Agreement to regulate the fisheries of Mantas in Ecuador was issued in late August this year and now real scientific data is coming out from Dr. Andrea Marshall and Project Elasmo’s data. 

There is still a “life time work” in the area but it is always refreshing to know that science is being made for conservation. Initiatives such as Project Elasmo give me hope and people like Andrea and Mark are faith boosters for me. As an ocean lover I would like to say: thank you for that. In the few days spent there I learned a lot, thank you for that as well.

Project Elasmo is sponsored by the Save Our Seas Foundation. Diving support is being provided by Exploramar Diving. Marine biologists Michel Guerrero and Juan Manuel Alava have provided logistical support. The project is being human powered by a group of more than 10 volunteers from different nationalities and with different backgrounds.

Volunteer Team

Please get involved! You can find out more about Project Elasmo in Mark’s Blog. Hi has published a very complete and personal report. News on Andrea’s work are being updated in the Save Our Seas Foundation site.  Here are a few useful links for you to do that:

Save Our Seas Foundation facebook fan page
Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna facebook fan page

A one page report entitled Una planeadora en mares ecuatorianos was published in Diario el Universo of Ecuador (Newspaper) last Sunday if you prefer to read about this in spanish. 

Jorge A. Mahauad


What do you think of these?

I am building a web site dedicated to rebreather diving in the Galapagos Islands. I spoke with an old time friend and asked him todesign something for me. The domain is www.galapagosrebreathers.com; Here are the three options he presented to me:

What do you think? I really need some help now and I thought this was the best way to get some feedback :) Please do not hesitate to leave a comment, whatever it is...