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Tech Diving Mag September 7, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films, Technical Diving.
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I found some interesting articles in this free on-line magazine. It’s worth a look (thanks go out to my dive team member Rob for the pointer). There are 8 issues so far. The articles are contributed by the readers and are of excellent quality. Issue 8 has articles about decompression sickness and treatment, margin for error in decompression tables, solo cave diving, cave diving in the Dominican Republic, and an interview with Dick Bonin, founder of Scubapro. I haven’t read the others yet, so they will make for some good reading on my commute to and from work (don’t worry, I go by train).


Classic Dive Books July 11, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I was searching for famous Italian divers and stumbled upon a web site full of dive related books in Australia. The reason for the search was that my boss (who is Canadian of Italian lineage) was surprised there were any Italian divers. Turns out there are and were lots, and a lot of book titles in Italian about Italian divers and also English diving bookings in translation.

Christian Lambertsen’s Scuba Gear – Article from The Atlantic March 5, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I stumbled on this article in the The Atlantic which I thought was worth sharing.  I don’t know much about the Christian Lambertsen other than that he died recently and what I just read in Wikipedia, but the video is cool and the short article is well written. The video shows him doing things we greatly frown upon today, like holding his breath. I did see some bubbles coming out of his mouth on the ascent – otherwise “the father of the Frogmen” might not have lived quite as long as he did. He looks to have had a very distinguished career.

Divefilm HD February 22, 2010

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I’ve been wiring my house for data lately, which is a project I started several years ago but hadn’t completed due to lack of a real purpose. The purpose arrived over the holidays when I ordered a Western Digital WDTV Live box. This tiny little unit accepts 100mbit Ethernet and connects to any network shares it finds, which for me is a storage device that I use for all my home stuff like music, video and photos. The box will output any of these media on to a high definition TV with HDMI or component outputs.

I’ve subscribed to a podcast called Divefilm HD which has nice semi-professional HD video of various cool dive spots. Even my non-diving wife was impressed with the quality of the video on the television. The files are big, about 60mb each for a few minutes of video, but as a podcast they can be set to download in the background and disk space is cheap (60mb is less than a penny’s worth these days).

The Avro Arrow Models October 28, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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I just watched, not for the first time, a Sea Hunters episode from 2005 on a search for several models of the famous Canadian fighter aircraft, the Avro Arrow, in Lake Ontario. In this episode, the crew took their boat from Port Dover in Lake Erie to Point Petre in Prince Edward County in Lake Ontario, where during the mid-to late 50s Avro Aircraft Limited shot models of their aircraft into the lake at supersonic speeds, on the nose of a rocket.

They didn’t find it. They found an unidentified sailboat from the mid 19th century in great condition at a depth of 200′. They also found a rocket which  they believed to be a Canadair rocket booster used to test the Velvet Glove Missile, which was being designed as armament for the  Arrow. This booster was designed in part by Gerald Bull, a Canadian engineer who was assassinated (reputedly by the Mossad) while working on Project Babylon, a supergun for the Iraqi government.

The show then rambled on into a rather pointless expedition off the Virginia coast  where the visibility was so back they could only feel the object they were trying to investigate.

Despite the squirrely storyline, the Sea Hunters is my favourite underwater TV show. It’s short on the wonders of the ocean environment and long on hard core diving and exploration (not that I’m against the environment, sharks or pretty fish, it just gets repetitive after a while). In Lake Ontario they were diving surface supplied trimix with a hardhat and ship to diver voice communications, running sidescan sonar, and a ROV. What could be more fun than that?

The Andros Project May 2, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I just finished a book called Deep Into the Blue Holes, by Rob Palmer (Unwin Hyman, 1989), about diving the blue holes on Andros Island in the Bahamas from the sixties to the late eighties. It is in the Toronto Public Library collection at City Hall.

While I found the book an interesting read (lots of tight squeezes, hot and humid lugging of equipment through the bushes, a few deaths), I was struck mostly by the number of people mentioned in the book, many of whom I’d heard of before in relation to diving. So I thought it might be a good idea to enumerate these people for future reference. I’ll come back to this for further cross referencing and linking, as these people appear over and over again in books and articles about diving.

Earlier explorers and personalities

  • maple_leaf20Dr. George Benjamin: Diver/photographer (late 60’s). Designer of the Benjamin Crossover, which is now the accepted valve configuration for doubles in technical diving.
  • maple_leaf20George Benjamin Jr: Diver
  • maple_leaf20Archie Forfar: Cave diver. Died in 1971 along with his girlfriend attempting a air depth record on a wall dive at Stafford Creek at Andros.
  • Ivan Johnson: Guide and diver from Andros
  • Betty Singer: blue hole diver in early 60’s, set world record of 310 ft in 1961
  • maple_leaf20Dr. Joe McInnis: Medic and film maker
  • maple_leaf20Dick Birch & Roger Hutchins, Set world record to 462 ft in 1962
  • Doug Faulkner: Underwater photographer
  • Tom and Carol McCollum: cave divers
  • Jack Birch: cave diver
  • Ken Jones: Divemaster, Forfar field station
  • Martyn Farr: cave diver
  • Heinz Bolliger, cave diver
  • Jacques Cousteau: Made TV special on blue holes in 1970
  • Falco: Chief diver for Cousteau
  • Tom Mount: Cave diver from Miami (1970)
  • Dick Williams: Cave diver from Miami (1970)
  • Ike  Ikehara: Cave Diver
  • Frank Martz: Underwater engineer and cave diver, died September 4th, 1971 diving at Andros. NAUI, PADI and NACD instructor.
  • Philippe Cousteau: Calypso diver
  • Jim Lockwood: Florida cave diver
  • John Carcelle: Florida cave diver, died August 1971 diving at Andros.
  • “Zidi”: Cave diver
  • Stan Waterman: Underwater cinematographer
  • Sheck Exley: Cave diver and support diver for fatal air-diving record attempt by Archie Forfar
  • George Warner: Biologist
  • Rod Beaumont: Cave diver
  • Ken and Laurie Jones: Cave divers
  • Peter Scoones: Underwater camerman
  • Dr. Tony Boycott: Doctor and diver
  • John Blashford-Snell: Leader of Operation Raleigh, a large international round-the-word expedition
  • Roger Chapman: Team member in Operation Raleigh
  • Major Alan Westcobb: Team leader in Operation Raleigh
  • maple_leaf20Jenny Shaw: Diver and discover of blue hole Stargate
  • Gary Hardington: Cave diver
  • Peter Hatt: Cave diver
  • Bob Hartlebury: Cave diver
  • Julian Walker: Cave diver, 1982.
  • Jacques Mayol: Record-holding free diver (not at Andros)
  • Joachen Hasenmyer: Cave diver (not at Andros)
  • Maurice Cross: Director of the Diving Diseases Research Centre at Fort Bovisand
  • Jane Pimlock: Assistant to Maurice Corss
  • Stuart Clough: Managing Director of Carmellan Research, A U.K. rebreather manufacturer
  • Bill Hamilton: CEO of Hamilton Research

Andros Project Team (1987)

  • Rob Palmer: Director and deep diving team, died May 5th, 1997 in recreational diving accident in Egypt.
  • Ian Bishop: Deputy Director and logistics manager
  • Dr. Peter Smart: Geologist and hydrologist, diver
  • Dr. John Mylroie: Geologist
  • Dr. James Carew: Geologist
  • Dr. Bill Stone: Deep diving team
  • Dr. David Whiteside: Sedimentologist
  • Dr. Peter Glanvill: Medical office, cave diver
  • Rob Parker: Deep diving team
  • Richard Stevenson: Cave diver and electronics manager
  • Fiona Whittaker: Hydrologist and diver
  • Bernard Picton: Marine biologist, diver
  • Robert Trott: Marine biologist, diver
  • Brad Pecel: Cave diver
  • Pat Stone: Diving and base camp support
  • John Hutchinson: Terrestrial biologist
  • Chris Howes: Photographer, diver
  • Judith Calford: Diver, photographic assistant
  • Ian Kelly : Base camp manager
  • Stuart Clough: Carmellan Research, deep-diving team
  • Neil Cave: Carmellan Research, deep-diving team
  • Bill Hamilton: Carmellan Research
  • Sharon Yskamp: Carmellan Research

1986 reconnaissance

  • Rob Palmer
  • Dr. Peter Smart
  • Mary Stafford Smith: Marine biologist (also on 1982 expedition)
  • Sue Wells
  • Fiona Whittaker

Elisha Kent Kane March 25, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I’ve just read the book Race to the polar sea : the heroic adventures and romantic obsessions of Elisha Kent Kane by Ken McGoogan about the life of Elisha Kent Kane and his search for the Franklin Expedition between Baffin Island and Greenland. It was a very interesting story, not only for its descriptions of the voyages, but also of Philadelphia society in the mid-19th century.

I found it to be an entertaining and informative book. Despite his continual ill-health Mr. Kane experienced almost unimaginable adventures and trials, including spending two winters in the arctic without the benefit of the crew, equipment and supplies that his Royal Navy counterparts had at their disposal. He was the first of the northern explorers to adopt Esquimaux (Inuit) survival methods and his relationships with the Greenland Inuit are part of their oral history to this day.

Despite receiving a state funeral in hometown of Philadelphia and his heroic accomplishments, his legend was tarnished after his death by his relationship and secret marriage to a well-known “spirit-rapper”, who puported to communicate with the dead in order to make a living, despite giving up the practice under the influence of Kane. His brother’s refusal to honour his bequest to her resulted in her publishing his love letters in order to survive, damaging his reputation.

While not about diving, this book documents an important part of Canadian, US and English History and is well worth the read. I’m a fan of the period (he died in the same year as the J.C.Morrison sank in Lake Simcoe), and of explorers in general, and I’ll admit that I like novels of Patrick O’Brian, which richly describe the life of British Naval Officers during and after the Napoleonic Wars.

The Amazing Mantis Shrimp February 4, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films, Ecology.
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I was just watching a video from my favourite podcast source, ted.com (you can watch directly from the site or subscribe to the Podcast feed, I do the latter and watch them on my iPod on the way to and from work). This talk was from UC Berkley biologist Sheila Patek who researched the speed of the Mantis Shrimp‘s feeding strike. This little shrimp has an appendage that strikes prey at amazing speed to either spear it, or in another variety club it. The latter type of shrimp bashes a snail so hard it can break it shell.

Her research project measured the amazing speed of the strike – even more amazing when you consider that it also has to overcome the resistance of water. The appendage moves so fast that it causes cavitation, which actually vapourizing some of the water (causing another shock wave to hit the hapless snail).

In order to make accurate measurements, she was helped by a BBC film crew that chanced upon her lab. The high speed low light camera filmed at a rate of 20,000 frames per second, which she shows running at 15 frames per second. Incredible.

This video, like almost everything on TED, is well worth watching.

High Definition Diving February 3, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I ran across a Podcast on iTunes the other day in the HD section called DiveFilm HD Video. Currently it contains 25 clips, each from 2-6 minutes in length. While it is not the maximum quality available from HD at 960 by 540 pixels, which is 1/4 frame of the maximum NTSC HD frame size, the quality is still great for viewing on Apple TV (which I don’t have) or a computer. I watched the one about Roca Partida southwest of Baja Mexico, which made me want to go there in addition to the nearby Socorro Islands.

High quality means big files, and these ones are big, consuming 30 megabytes of storage per minute of video. That will consume lots of resources on your computer when you play the videos, but they’re well done, although they have the feel of an amateur production. The voiceover is quite well written, but rather than “professional” voices they are those of avid divers.

If you have a high bandwidth connection and lots of disk space, they’re worth a look. Due to their frame size, they won’t transfer from iTunes to an iPod. There’s probably a way to render them at a lower frame size, but as they’re so short, I don’t think it will be necessary to do so.

There’s also an older standard definition Podcast from the same crew, according to the web site.

Canada’s National Film Board January 23, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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2 days ago the National Film Board of Canada made 700 titles available through streaming video (and some, if not all for sale on DVD) across a wide range of topics and dating from the inception of the institution in 1939 to the present. Initially formed to support the war effort, the Film Board went on to gain an international reputation for creativity in animation, documentaries and other forms of Cinema with a strong emphasis on Canadian history, commerce, environment and geography.

There are two connections I can make to the topic of this blog. The first is that there are many films that include diving or underwater topics, including two that are collaborations with Jacques-Yves Cousteau, neither of which are listed in the Wikipedia film credits of Cousteau. The first film I noticed using a search feature called “Getting Around” featuring air travel, scuba diving (Cape Breton’s Dolphin Skin Diving Club) and canoeing. There were some stills of the Scuba Diving sequence on the site, though, like the one above.

The second connection is that while my wife and I were on our first visit to Cuba we became acquainted with Sydney C. Newman, who worked for the Film Board during World War II and was its Chairman from 1970 until 1975. He was also responsible for the creation of the BBC series Dr. Who and The Avengers, two of my favourite TV shows as a child. I still clearly remember seeing the first Dr. Who episode in the early sixties, although while the show has continued for decades, I am no longer a fan. As for The Avengers, I’m afraid that Uma Thurman has forever ruined my admiration for Mrs. Peel.

Mr. Newman, born in 1917, was quiet old by that time and hadn’t taken good care of himself. His wife had died in 1981 and he was travelling with a woman we suspected was a paid companion. She was a very tolerant person as he was a feisty old character, but was an interesting personality and great to talk to. He greatly admired my wife’s backstroke while we exercised in the pool, and given his advanced years I did mind at all. I’m glad I didn’t know the full extent of his celebrity at the time, as it would probably have spoiled things. My wife had also just finished the book A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd and recommended it to him, and he finally read it after his companion had also read and recommended it. He passed away in 1997 of a heart attack.

Some NFB films that are available on the site that might be interesting to divers are:

I haven’t watched any of these yet, but when I do there’ll be reviews posted here. Right now I’m still trying to catch up with all the TED videos I’ve downloaded into iTunes, and I still have a couple of months to go before doing that.

The Film Board is going to add 100 more titles to the collection within the next 6 months, that will make 800 of their 13,000 title library available. After that, they promise 10 per month. I wish they would go a little faster but I’m grateful for what they’re doing.