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May 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Pelagian and Fantasea II – A Bit of Diving History

from the May, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Originally called Harmony, MV Pelagian is a grand old lady with a long diving history. Built in 1965, the vessel was adapted as a liveaboard dive boat in the Red Sea during the early '80s. Renamed the Fantasea II, it was managed by Red Sea diving pioneer Howard Rosenstein (who is still selling Fantasea Line underwater photography equipment today). The doyen of Red Sea liveaboards at that time, the vessel was popular with well-heeled American divers, but it was beyond the means of most European divers, who had to content themselves with trips on less luxurious boats.

On one famous occasion in the northern Sudan, it ran aground, and both the vessel and its crew had to be rescued by a covert operation of Israeli armed forces. Israeli-flagged boats with Israeli crews were and are still not welcome in that part of the world.

With political unrest and increasing terrorist activity in Egypt, Howard relocated the vessel to Mahe in the Seychelles, taking the long trip to the spectacular diving of Aldabra, the largest atoll in the Indian Ocean. The big swells of the Indian Ocean did not suit the vessel well, as she has a tendency to roll, but Mike Neumann, a successful Swiss businessman and fanatical diver, today's owner of Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji, thought it would make a great vessel to take a diving tour of the South Pacific during the Millenium year. This was when the name was changed to Pelagian.

The story here gets cloudy. Originally, Neumann planned to buy the vessel and put it into the hands of American Matt Hendrick and his Thai wife, Jym, who were operating their own vessel in Thailand. For payment, Neumann would bequeath them the vessel at the end of the trip.

The original plan changed. After Hendrick oversaw the refitting of the vessel in 1998, it set sail, but the Millenium trip was delayed and it seems that Neumann only had use of some cabins, while the others took fare-paying passenger divers.

After Hendrick ended up with the craft, he ran trips to Komodo aboard Pelagian with pioneer dive guide Larry Smith before eventually putting it up for sale. Rob Bryning of Maldives Scuba Tours was looking for an open ocean vessel to compliment his fleet of liveaboard dhonis that operated within the atolls of the Maldives. He took Pelagian to Singapore for a full survey and discovered the steel hull had a design flaw -- internal scupper drainage -- which resulted in great difficulty maintaining it against corrosion. It failed the survey. Bryning didn't buy it and it went to the Wakatobi Resort, where it operates today.

- john@undercurrent.org

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