Nothing beats presenting my work of fascinating ocean creatures to 300 primary school children (and teachers and parents). Plus my 9 year-old son Ace got to help me out while I gave this talk at his school. I am now seen as the coolest mum ever which I think is pretty awesome!
It was a successful five weeks for University of Oxford’s Thinking Deep Expedition team in Utila, Honduras. We primarily looked at fish and coral species down to 85m but also collected sediment to test the effects of runoff, culled and researched the highly invasive lionfish, and studied an endangered coral species that included recording the coral spawn over two nights. I have an article in the works so more info on the research will follow!
For months a few dive magazines have been asking me to write for them because what I do is pretty insane, so I finally caved in. Here is a four page article on me and my work in the latest issue of Diver magazine, and I’m mentioned by name on the cover!
Who wants to jump in the Baltic Sea at 9.30pm just as the sun is going down for a 65m dive on the large 120m long German steamer Jurgen Fritzen where it is pitch black, silty with 2-3m viz, 6*C, and a bit spooky? Anyone? Well that is what my favorite Viking Nick and I did on a July evening for another day of crazy Swedish diving!
The Italian submarine Macalle’s location remains a mystery due to the island’s reef walls dropping straight down to well over 200m and out of diver and sonar range. One diver even scootered across a side of the island at 208m (seven hours in the water!) without seeing the bottom. It was still a great trip with lots of sea life and many of us getting in several sub 100m dives.
Anyone know what these are? I’ve seen these strange little critters twice outside Hurghada at 15m and 30m, both times I did not have a macro lens on the camera for proper magnification. The first time I saw them I thought they were the little white arms of brittle stars sticking out of the red sponge, but the second time I saw them I noticed they have striped worm/bug-like bodies with two white antennae attached. Some don’t have the white antennae, and sometimes you have two attached in a row head to tail with only the first with the white antennae. I know with parasites if they have two trailing antennae they are often their eggs. I have no idea what these could be and numerous searches have proved fruitless, and I’m not convinced they are parasites.
Threshers are a beautiful and distinct species of shark with a tail equally as long as their body. They are rarely seen as they are often deep dwelling and shy away from divers. The first one I saw in Egypt was at 82m in a location outside Hurghada threshers are never spotted. I was very focused photographing gorgonian and other macro species while fighting a current with three 12L stages when my dive buddy yelled and pointed at a thresher circling a few meters away trying to hunt a grouper out of a hole. I was shooting 105mm macro and couldn’t photograph the thresher so immediately went back to work on macro stuff as I couldn’t waste any precious time at that depth.
It was only a few months later when I was lucky to spot more threshers, this time on a liveaboard trip to Little Brother Island. I was forty minutes into the third dive of the day and at 20m when I spotted one circling below at 40m. All three dives that day were down to 45m so dropping from 20m to 40m on the rebreather would not be the smartest thing to do. If you are on open circuit you can just drop down but on a rebreather you have to drop the set point on your computer, flush the unit with diluent, and then watch your gases very carefully because as you drop down fast the percent of oxygen you are breathing can shoot up dangerously high. I also needed to change the settings on my camera and strobes while doing this. Needless to say I was sh*tting myself but I wanted to be within a meter of that thresher!
In the end I didn’t get the camera set up correctly in time and I should have gotten a bit closer to the shark, but concern for my safety took over and I didn’t want to wait another minute for the thresher to circle again. As my tech instructor Simon says, ‘don’t risk your life as there will always be more opportunities to see these things in the future.’