Name: Bob Halstead
Bio: Bob Halstead is a pioneer of the PNG tourist diving industry and has made over 10,000 dives in PNG since arriving in 1973. With his wife Dinah he built and operated the live aboard dive boat "Telita" which in 1992 was voted "Best Live-aboard Dive Boat in the World" by readers of "In Depth" magazine (Ed: "In Depth" merged with Undercurrent in 1996). He is a prize winning underwater photographer, has written several books on PNG diving and marine life, has a fish named after him, and in 2008 was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.
Posts by Halstead
January 13th, 2013
The reason I am writing this is that, right now – November 2012 – I am sitting on a great dive boat – MV Golden Dawn – after diving some of the World’s Best Dive Sites – eg. Carl’s Ultimate and Newton’s Bommie, at Eastern Fields, and I am disappointed. This is because the visibility sucks.
I’ve dived here several times before and each time the visibility has been what you expect in the off-shore Coral Sea – almost unlimited. But this time it is really bad. Near the surface visibility is down to only 5 metres, deeper a little better. Early in the cruise we were able to dive to 25 m and get below the murk but now the visibility is still only 15 - 20 m down deep. The murk is not plankton or spawn, it is slimy run-off glop.
I am disappointed for myself because I love to dive these usually super-clear environments that abound with marine life, but I am more disappointed for the guests aboard who came here expecting clear water. Their Great Expectations have been shattered. Having said that, these experienced divers are laughing at their misfortune, not crying over it. That is because they know that, hey! It’s Nature, Stuff Happens!
So I have been hearing stories of other trips they have made that did not quite work out the way they expected. Stories where it rained every day, where the winds blew so strongly the destination had to be changed to one more sheltered (and less brilliant). Even trips where they caught a cold on the way out and were unable to dive when everything else was perfect. Tell me about it!
Nature can wield a cruel cudgel but my fellow divers also told tales of trips where boats broke down, even sank, Cooks could not cook and Captains were incompetent. They were scathing about boats where they were treated like beginner divers, and where dive sites were nowhere as good as the promotional video showed.
There are dive operators who, for reason of cheapness, laziness or stupidity, do not take their clients to the best dive sites where live corals, fish and critters abound, but instead use closer, but weaker sites. They may rely on the fine reputation and promotions of an area given by good operators to get guests, and pretend that what they do is the same thing.
We were discussing all this and I realised that some of you may not know the awful truth and were busy saving for that “once in a lifetime” dive trip to some exotic destination. This is what you should know.
DIVE SITES ARE NOT ALWAYS PERFECT.
Weather can have a devastating and unpredictable affect on any dive site. Dry seasons can turn wet, calm times turn rough, and warm seasons decidedly chilly. Reefs can be glorious or be going through a period of rehabilitation after an out break of Crown of Thorns Sea Stars, or some blight. Anyone who dives enough knows these things. Coral reefs are not monuments; they are living and dynamic, and change - but not always for the worse. This year out of Port Moresby I can report a remarkable regrowth of corals on the Papuan Barrier Reef. It is thrilling and beautiful to witness, even through murk.
Even from day to day reefs can change – many rely on currents to concentrate the fish and bloom the soft corals. Dive the wrong time of day, or month - say during neap tides, or the wrong side, and the reef may not show its best.
When I was running our day dive boat Solatai out of Port Moresby a guest who dived twice a year complained that we always dived the same inshore site. He had chosen two days when winds were strong and we could not get to the outer reef. I called over a regular diver who came out most weekends and asked him what he had experienced with us over the past year – he raved about the many sites he had dived and the multitude of different marine creatures he had seen including a Whale Shark, Hammerhead sharks and Orcas.
So learn this – dive often, not once in a blue moon, and you will experience all your Great Expectations.
ALL OPERATORS ARE NOT EQUAL
And also realise that some operators are better than others, pick those with good reputations that regularly dive the best reefs. The trip may not be the cheapest and the travel time may be a bit longer, but your dive experience will be far more satisfying. But also please remember, no matter how good the operator, sometimes Nature can be unkind.
Like RIGHT NOW.
I am on a top dive boat with a gang of experienced divers at a truly remote reef system in the Oceanic Coral Sea and the visibility is dreadful. So what did we do – sit around and complain? Act like a bunch of victims? Accuse the promoter of false advertising? Blame the Government?
Rubbish. We went diving. We still saw lots of wonderful stuff. The photographers made sure they got really close to their subjects, macro was probably more popular than wide angle, but actually we used both.
And I took some really nice fish photos, many of fish I had not photographed before, including photos of a fish I have been chasing for 20 years. This elusive basslet lives deep in coral caves and crevices, usually pops out of its hole for only a few seconds at a time, and if you shine a light on it in order to focus, it darts back into its hole. It is a truly difficult fish to take pictures of.
This was reinforced by the fact that a couple of the best fish ID reference books I used have pictures of DEAD specimens of this fish, and one book with a live specimen (not very well photographed) explained in its caption how difficult the photo was to get.
I had seen glimpses of the fish myself in a swim-through cave at 30m and thought of a way I might photograph it. So down I went, gently eased into the cave, watched for the fish in the low light available, then, when it appeared. I turned on my Sola RED light. The fish stayed out, my Nikon D7000, with 60mm lens in a Nauticam Housing could be focussed, and I took my shots!
I know it is only a silly little fish but I was, and still am, thrilled to bits! The fish is Liopropoma multilineatum. It is a real beauty, only 7-8 cm long. My early disappointment changed to exhilaration!
The thing is – if the water had been clear I would have had my wide-angle lens attached and been shooting the soft corals and schooling trevally, bannerfish and Potato cod, and missed my opportunity with the basslet entirely.
Difficult water conditions sometimes provide opportunities more than disasters. Don’t lament your fading Great Expectations. Get New Expectations, and rejoice in a different success.
July 13th, 2012
My previous underwater camera, trusty companion for 22 years of diving deeper for longer, weighed over 15kg out of the water. In its prime it was coupled to a pair of huge Ikelite 150 strobes with rechargeable battery packs. Its mass stabilised my photographs. Its solid metal housing chipped shark teeth. It had momentum. I could use it to assert my presence in a chum of divers. It could stop a submarine. I felt safe.
Now I have gone digital and have a camera that weighs nothing and has tiny strobes that light up the planet but that could be swallowed whole by a Goby.
First I thought being light was a good idea. Airlines are becoming paranoid about baggage and aggressive in their collection of fees for any excess. By going digital I would cheat them of hundreds of dollars every year! But now I am feeling vulnerable. Divers kick sand in my face. I need a weapon.
So I immediately thought of buying a knife. PADI tells us that the Divers Knife is a “general tool and safety device. In the latter case, you use it in the unlikely, but possible, situation that you’re entangled and need to free yourself. It is not a weapon.”
But they can’t fool me.
Then I started to look at the dive knives on offer. It was a shock. Some were so small that if you took a good grab at one with big hands like mine you would slice off your fingers. That is if they were sharp, but sharpness is not a feature of most dive knives. If you think it is, I suggest you get yours out and sharpen a pencil with it. See?
I was advised that you did not need a knife, dive SCISSORS (shears?) would do. Huh! You try ripping the guts out of a Giant Hammerhead with dive scissors, or cutting nylon line for that matter.
Something has gone very wrong so I decided to go back to basics and remember the diving of my youth. At that time the best dive knife in the world was Scubapro’s “The Knife”. It was huge, 30cm long, with an imitation bone handle and a massive 19cm blade that tapered to a sharp point. That is the point. The weight and sharp point meant you could stab things. Cutting was not as important as penetration.
Ok I saw Lloyd Bridges slicing regulator hoses in Sea Hunt, but that was just a film gimmick. Yes, the primary function was to eliminate the bad guys, but sharks were dispatched with ruthless efficiency with a stab through the brain or belly, as were the evil marine archaeologists trying to steal your gold treasure from a recently discovered historic shipwreck.
But The Knife is not manufactured anymore. They are rare, and can cost a fortune on eBay. Others divers too, seeking security, have worked out their real value. Scubapro do have a replacement – the “K6” that possesses a 14cm blade and looks like it might be useful, but the romance of The Knife has set me lusting for one. I must admit I am tempted by Spyderco’s black bladed, “The Warrior”, perfect name for a start. I quote, “possessing the same differential hardness properties of a clay-tempered Samurai sword”. Oh, glory! And only $450.00!
The Knife is, of course, much too big to attach to one’s BCD. It requires a leg. In the old days male divers would strap their dive knife to their leg and “forget” to take it off for work the next day. This enabled them to explain, “Oh Yes, I was Deep Sea Diving yesterday” to the swooning secretaries.
Interestingly, “The Knife” and equivalent large dive knives seem these days to be mainly worn by women. They are usually very able and experienced divers and I have dived with a couple recently on two different trips. They know what a dive knife is for, and it is not for cutting the vegetables.
So what is it for? Sorry, and I mean this, but sharks are just not what they used to be. Firstly they are getting rare from overfishing, and are virtually impossible to see in the wild without baiting or calling with a bottle rub, and secondly, they have become scared of divers - and who can blame them.
You see I do not want protection against sharks. I want protection against people. Especially I want protection from the sort of diver that inhabits the reef today policing your every move. Specifically those sanctimonious politically correct ignoramuses that attempt to make sure you do not touch a coral (the “Touch Me and I Die” brigade), nor move an ignorant subject from obscurity to a position on the reef where it can pose for a decent photograph and become famous, and those fools who come waving their finger in front of your face if you take more than three flash photographs of a particular fish.
Then there are those that stir up the silt just as you have your perfectly posed subject, swim into your wide angle shot with their legs bicycling, or swim beneath you on a wall cascading bubbles around you.
Then there are the dive guides that check your air supply to try to make you go up when you still have 10 bar or 150psi left, hand signal indecipherably in front of your mask, or show you your five millionth Lionfish and insist you visit their invisible pygmy Seahorse.
When I get my knife I’ll be able to whip it out and scare the living daylights out of them. I’ll become a dangerous marine animal and be included in dive courses - “If a diver waves his/her large dive knife at you it means danger, Stay Away!”
PADI says, “It is not a weapon. A knife is important safety equipment. You don’t carry it as a weapon, but it can hurt people if you’re careless. Own and use it responsibly, respect it and keep it away from children.”
I say, “The dive knife should be huge, is definitely a weapon, and should be used to keep obnoxious divers and children well away from you.”
April 26th, 2012
Most married men understand selective deafness. This is attained by training over many years to automatically tune out sentences with the words “washing up”, “garbage”, “shopping” and so on, and tune in to sentences with words such as “dinner”, “wine”, “sex” etc. Long serving devotees can become quite expert, tuning in to “Dinner is ready” but out to “help with dinner” or “go out to dinner” or “clean up after dinner”.
It is important that women understand that this is actual, real deafness developed as a kind of defence system that enables men to survive marriage.
I am reporting on this since male divers have an additional problem to contend with. In solidarity with Global Warming believers I will check on the facts later but, at the moment, I will just say what I feel. My feelings are that men seem to suffer from this affliction rather than women and the problem is that male divers develop a high frequency loss, due to diving damaging their ears, which makes conversation around the dinner table difficult if not impossible. I used to sit around thinking of witty replies to conversation, now I just wonder if someone said what I think they did.
This problem advances with age, number of dives (we are talking in thousands here), and whether the diver has done much free-diving - or only used scuba.
Free divers are notoriously prone to ear damage probably because it is harder to clear ears when head down, and, because they are breath-holding, have not got time to hang around if one of their ears is slow to clear. Free divers, but also some scuba divers, may damage their inner ears quite seriously if they fail to clear regularly and easily, and end up with Tinnitus. This is a persistent “ringing” sound in the ears even though the world around is actually silent.
I developed Tinnitus, high frequency loss and selective deafness several years ago at just the time I decided to make a serious attempt at becoming a musician and decided to practice my saxophone rather than mow the lawn (”Sorry dear, what were you saying earlier?”). The neighbours can’t tell the difference and fortunately I can still tell if I am in tune, or, especially, not in tune. Also fortunately, I cannot detect the metronome click while I am playing so can avoid those painful hours practicing with the damn thing (they never keep strict time).
One of the great ironies is that though my ears may be shot, my “hearing” is better than ever in that my appreciation of fine music is growing, while halfwits with perfect ears listen to loud pop music. Ha! Not for long - loud music is more damaging to the ears than diving.
It was a thrill in November 2006 at the fabulous “Ocean Odyssey” in Sydney to meet up again with some of my old friends in the diving world. I had been looking forward to it all year - so many stories to tell. So it was disappointing when I sat down for lunch with Ron and Valerie Taylor, Jean Michel and Nan Cousteau, Barry Andrewartha and Belinda Barnes and Phil and Mary Nuytten. There was just a jumble of noise! Unless I leant forward and cupped my ear I could not understand a thing they were saying.
Then I made a startling observation - all the men were doing the same thing! It was a noisy restaurant with tiled floors and no drapes and none of us could have any conversation except with our immediate neighbours. Fortunately we all realised the problem and got out of there as quickly as we could to a quieter lounge in the hotel where conversation was possible.
That evening at dinner I was able to collect some evidence. Barry Andrewartha caught me talking with Vilia Lawrence of the PNG Diver’s Association, so I grabbed his camera and caught Mike Ball talking to Barry, Cherie Deacon talking to Kevin Deacon of Dive 2000 Sydney, and Nan talking to Jean Michel Cousteau.
Do not think we are complaining - none of us would swap perfect ears for the lifetimes of diving adventures we have all experienced. Perhaps however, with more care, our ears would be better now. If you are young and starting your diving career be aware that your ears may not function as well as a Chartered Accountant’s later in life, and do make sure you are always clearing your ears easily and often, and drying them after a day’s diving to avoid infections. On the other hand you can accelerate the development of the problems by both diving and subsequently listening to lots of loud pop music.
That will ruin your ears, and your hearing.
When You Least Expect It
March 18th, 2012
When I look back over my 42 year diving career and more than 10,000 dives, I realise how few dive-related injuries I have sustained. A few infections from coral scratches, a nasty sting from a bunch of Corallimorpharians, nothing really and a little care has cured me from repeating these injuries.
I have had a few aches, pulled muscles and minor pain but I always say “a little pain won’t hurt you”, and these niggles rapidly disappear.
Perhaps I have some deterioration in my hearing - but that is a function of old age, as is “selective” hearing where we males recognise words such as “sex” and “dinner” but not “garbage” or “washing up”.
Certainly minor compared to injuries inflicted on my friends, particularly those who partake in the supposedly healthy life-style choice of bicycling. They always crash and end up in hospital with broken bones, missing teeth and skin-free areas of flesh leaving life-long scars.
So it was a bit of a shock when, out of the blue as it were, a fish bit me and I started bleeding. Strangely, exactly the same thing had happened to my dive mate Rodney Pearce when we were diving a Zero wreck in Rabaul Harbour just a month previously.
Was this a coincidence? Or was it Divine Intervention or, as the Gullible Greenies would inevitably claim, another manifestation of Climate Change? Fortunately I am rational, and well versed in science, Occam’s Razor and cause and effect, and I can tell you that Rodney’s bite was the result of a Coral Cod mistaking his fingers for food in the billowing silt stirred up investigating Japanese markings on the aircraft, and mine the noble efforts of a large Titan triggerfish protecting freshly deposited eggs in its nearby nest.
But there is a bit more to the story. You see I had, just a few minutes previously, pointed out a nesting triggerfish to my dive model Kirtley Leigh. They are known to nest around Christmas time and become aggressive. I gave a danger signal to her and gesticulated to make it clear we were going to swim away. I felt quite pleased with myself in a superior, pedagogical, kind of way, and we moved along soon to be captivated by a beautiful Hawkesbill Turtle that pleaded with me to have its photograph taken.
As the turtle assumed several dramatic poses for my camera, and Kirtley Leigh and I swirled with balletic elegance and harmony to capture the essence of its “turtle-ness”, another triggerfish took advantage of my distraction, hurtled into me from below and chomped my wrist.
I was surprised rather than hurt, but since there was blood, I quickly handed the camera to Leigh to make sure the event was recorded.
This all happened just as we started a wonderful nine days diving in our own back yard, escaping the hell of Christmas hype and pandemonium. It is easy to do and we chose the Cairns Deep Sea Divers Den’s Ocean Quest to do it on.
You meet up at the shop; take the DSDD bus to the marina, and then their fast ferry/day boat Reef Quest out to Norman or Saxon Reef on the outer Great Barrier Reef. You can then transfer to Ocean Quest for as many nights as you choose. It is a very efficient way to dive the GBR.
Every day, five dives are offered, with the boat moving to two different dive sites. They have 13 moored sites on Norman Reef, 7 on Saxon and plenty of photogenic marine life including Barramundi cod, cuttlefish, Giant clams, “Nemos” and a zillion others.
After displaying my bleeding wound to all and applying First Aid, I decided that it was really rather trivial so affected a limp to make it seem worse. I love sympathy.
But there was more, and potentially not trivial.
I noticed that I was getting a bit of “heartburn” during the dives. There was no problem before the dive, and I had a rapid recovery after, but nevertheless I felt soreness in my upper lungs. This got worse as the dive progressed. I was getting quite uncomfortable.
My first thought (and shame on me) was that I had bad air. But this is virtually impossible on any GBR dive operation. The air has to be tested regularly and operators are all meticulous in their attention to clean air, besides, bad air smells, and this was sweet, no smell.
But I was on the right track. You might care to do a diagnosis now before I reveal all?
It got even worse and I realised that not only was my chest sore but I was also producing a large amount of mucus. Got it yet?
I should have realised right away when this happened, but it was not until I was half asleep that night that the Eureka moment occurred. These are symptoms of saltwater aspiration.
My Scubapro G250 is a notoriously dry regulator - but it could have a pinhole in the diaphragm that would produce a fine spray of salt water for me to breathe. First thing in the morning I was on deck using my emergency tool kit to pull the second stage apart and check it out. The diaphragm was fine and properly seated. Next stop the exhaust valve - and there it was, a tiny corner of the valve had “tucked” under the seat and would leak when I inhaled. A quick flick and problem solved.
I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out. I just have not had a problem like that for a very long time, and it happened, just like the triggerfish attack, when I least expected it. By the way, Oxygen after the dive will rapidly treat the symptoms of saltwater aspiration. It is a personal thing, but I feel Margaritas and Bubbly also help.
I would like to report that these were the only incidents to confess but, alas, I made another mistake that I have only ever made once before, and that also nearly led to tragedy.
We were offered a special dinghy “drop off” at one of Ocean Quest’s finest sites - “Troppos”. A few weeks earlier a Great Hammerhead (and later a Whale Shark) had been seen at the site and since the Great Hammerhead is rare, very big, and my all-time favourite shark, I was anxious to try to get a photo or two. It was Christmas morning - a perfect day and gin clear water. Very exciting! What a present the Hammerhead would be!
Leigh and I went over the side and down the wall where I discovered that I still had the lens cap on my camera inside the housing. Now I was terrified that a Great Hammerhead would appear!
So, feeling very foolish, I set off back to the Ocean Quest. Two minutes later the O ring blew on Leigh’s tank ……..
That dive was not meant to be. If O rings blow they should have the good sense to do it before the dive starts, not after.
Luckily the Hammerhead did not show and tragedy was averted.
I must say the crew were extraordinary and looked after us splendidly. And they have a tough job. Mostly they are looking after students or inexperienced divers, so see some crazy things that they have to prevent from becoming dangerous.
They managed to stop the diver who had his regulator firmly fastened UNDER his weight belt from jumping in, and several with their air still turned off. I spotted a diver with the worse case of bicycling leg kick I have ever seen being nursed, and weights on the bottom testified to dive guides adjusting overweighted divers. But Dive Supervisors Ed and Katie and their team of instructors handled all this quietly with good humour and enthusiasm. There were a lot of very happy customers.
One time saturation diver, the gnarled Captain Bob who exudes authority from many years of experience, had fun too changing anchorage at night, as the fickle monsoon season wind decided to reverse its direction. We did not expect it - but he did.
At the “Playground” the crew are licensed to feed a small quantity of official fish pellets to trevally and snappers that hang off the stern attracted to the lights at night. This also brings in a shiver of well-behaved Grey Reef Sharks who do not get fed, but enjoy the general mayhem.
Night divers descend through the sharky waters to the reef where Giant Trevally hunt in the beams from divers’ lights. Snorkellers lay down on the dive platform that is then lowered slightly underwater so they can see the action from the safety of the platform.
After the other divers had gone to the reef, Leigh and I went in and hung around the stern, able to shoot photos of the sharks, trevally and snappers, the faces of the snorkellers and the lights of the boat. It is sensational diving. One Japanese guest thought we were all going to be eaten as we jumped in to the middle of the assembled sharks, and pleaded with Leigh not to do her giant stride to certain death.
But we were not concerned. The sharks were just calmly cruising, and we were relaxed, but not complacent. We were on the lookout for anything that might happen just when we least expected it.
New World Record!
September 2nd, 2011
I was in the Bahama Islands in the late 1960’s. I had just awakened my mania for Scuba and decided that Going Diving was I wanted to do with my life. I was glowing with the excitement of self-discovery when I was confronted with the shocking news that two local divers had died trying to break the World Depth Record for Scuba Diving on Air.
I seem to remember they were diving out of Small Hope Bay on Andros Island. The team of three had successfully completed previous practice dives to record depths and were ready for the officially sanctioned Record Dive to make them the World Record holders.
Just hearing of the attempt got me thinking weird thoughts. I had just been studying partial pressures of gasses, and learned that their medical effect changed as the partial pressures increased. Nitrogen became narcotic and produced “Rapture of the Deep” – Nitrogen Narcosis. Oxygen at a high enough partial pressure became toxic and could produce out-of-control muscular spasms.
The gases in air become poisonous with increasing depth. It seemed to me that what these divers were actually doing was equivalent to seeing how much Arsenic they could take before they would die. Pretty stupid, I thought, what is the point? And more than that, what organisation could possibly sanction such a record. Would it qualify for the Guinness Book of Records?
But these divers claimed they had developed special techniques that prevented them from getting poisoned, something to do with ice packs and meditation, possibly? I did not pay much attention as I had already made my mind up that the whole thing was crazy.
I discovered later that the three started their descent, but one became distressed and abandoned the dive at about 300 feet. He managed to regain the surface. The other two continued to descend – eventually disappearing off the echo-sounding chart never to be seen again.
I don’t think that record-breaking dives are sanctioned anymore for scuba diving breathing air, at least I hope not. But breath-holding records in a multitude of categories are still popular – and still occasionally fatal. It all seems a bit pointless to me. The joy I get being underwater is from the marine life that I am able to swim with, the sublimely beautiful marine landscapes, the poignancy of visiting a long sunken ship or aircraft wreck, and the “back to the womb” sensation of weightlessness. I like the fact that diving is intellectual as well as physical.
I certainly believe that with developed skills, and the right equipment and knowledge, dives can be safe even if deeper than the standard 40m. I am quite happy at 60m, and have been deeper – but eventually recognised a depth that takes me out of my comfort zone, and have no intention of ever going deeper than that. I rarely use only air for these exploits. I may use air for the deep part of the dive, but then switch to Nitrox or even pure Oxygen for decompression.
Fundamentally I love life and diving, and have no intention of killing myself. Although I admit the thought of another two years of Julia Gillard is truly depressing.
Anyway, I am proud to tell you that I am now claiming the World Depth Record For Scuba Planking on the Turret Gun of a World War Two Aircraft Wreck.
Someone had to do it.
I have just spent the month of June in Milne Bay PNG aboard Captain Craig de Wit’s live-aboard dive boat the magnificent MV Golden Dawn along with renowned photographers Tony Wu and Julian Cohen and some other great divers. Check out www.tonywublog.com for details and see some of the great photos that Tony took during the cruise. He’s a smart chap, Tony.
Craig provides diving for Grown Ups, but made an exception and allowed me aboard. No doubt I have been diving too deep for too long, but I do know a few fishes and seem to be the only diver who usually makes it back to the boat and does not need a pick up.
Some of the team used re-breathers, but I stuck with Nitrox, of various concentrations depending on the dive profile. By the way, although I use Nitrox, I dive as if I am breathing air. It is because I think it is safer – and perhaps the fact that my two wonderful 18 (?) year old Suunto Solution computers have no Nitrox mode. I swap them between dives so I get longer bottom times. OK, I just wrote that to see if you are still with me.
For the B17 Bomber “Blackjack” dive to maximum depth of 46m I used 27% Nitrox with decompression on 32% Nitrox. The dive was carefully planned. Go down, swim around, and come back up again, especially the last part. But I jest.
We had a surface buoy marking a descent line down the reef wall off Boga Boga village with an emergency gas supply at 20m. A slow steady descent down this line leads us to the aircraft. With no current running it was easy to make a single pass along the fuselage, shooting photos at the nose and cockpit area and gradually working towards the tail where the broken tip of the starboard tail plane conveniently points back to the line.
Bottom time was no more than 15 minutes, or half a tank of gas which ever came first, and decompression stops took place, following the line at first, along the coral wall. Moving slowly with right shoulders along the wall, divers could swim into a coral lagoon, sheltered from the waves, for an easy pick up. Since Golden Dawn was moored well away in a sheltered spot, even I had to get this pickup.
During the dive I was to ‘Plank” on top of the turret gun and Craig was to take the photo which has to be posted on the web. Planking is the latest craze for deranged people trying to get attention. I am perfectly qualified. You stretch out flat, like a plank, on some incongruous object.
Planking at depth is of course much safer than planking at height above water from where several have fallen to their demise. Nevertheless tension was high as I glided and soared into position above the gun. Someone thought they saw a dolphin!
As I settled into planking pose Craig swooped in for the photo. Looking at it I see my technique could have been improved somewhat by straightening my legs and pointing my fins a bit more, but my 42 years of training took over and I adopted the perfect diver’s relaxed power position instinctively ready to zoom away from any marauding predator.
Actually my knees were a bit stiff ….. and I learned that perhaps I should not be so demanding on my underwater model. I once took a bunch of Eileen Ford New York models diving and studied their technique very carefully on every dive for quite a long time over and over until I ran out of air. Somehow I imagined that I would look as elegant, but it seems I just look like a silly old git in a black wet suit. But it is probably the lighting. For some reason, I never had wet suits when the models were around.
But there it is, my own world record. I cunningly made it at 41m depth to discourage others from diving deeper. That would be very foolish of course. Especially if I found out.
Later I’m going to tell you more about the Golden Dawn adventure - about Julian’s underwater crocodile encounter, and the 0900 dive to a wrecked Beaufighter aircraft at 61m that was so dark it turned into a night dive, and the four Wobbegongs under Samarai Wharf trying to feed on the zillions of baitfish, and the Dog House at Diving Dog Passage, and the night of the Sea Jellies, and the most beautiful lime green Rhinopias, and my new fish … and rapture of the deep.
Just hope people will not say, “Halstead’s a real Planker.”
Check out my new web site www.halsteaddiving.com