Indonesia's Komodo Island; Guadalupe Island great white shark adventure; Newfoundland's Bell Island Mine Quest; Lesser Antilles' Dominica; Unique dive in Yosemite; Interview with Bill "Hogarth" Main; Scuba Confidential: No dive center is an island; UW Photo: Shooting the brood; Remoras: Shark companions; Carolyn Steele portfolio; Plus news and discoveries, equipment and training news, books and media, underwater photo and video equipment, shark tales, whale tales and much more...
Main features in this issue include:
Originally from England, tropical wildlife artist Carolyn Steele creates brilliant, captivating and vibrant paintings of reef life, inspired by her treks to islands in the Caribbean. Now based in the US state of Florida, the artist shares her love of the underwater world and her perspectives on ocean and reef conservation.
"It’s up to us human beings, as the most successful life form on Earth, to cherish and protect our planet. Don’t take things for granted...
Rising out of the depths, a shape emerges from the shadows, methodically swimming in a wide arc. The outline is unmistakable, as it continues to climb and inch closer at every turn. With one last pass, seemingly in slow motion, I am struck by the sheer enormity of the creature in front of me. Visions of Martin Brody voicing his famous line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” play through my head.
There is no way to truly put into words the exhilaration of seeing a great white shark swim past you, only a few feet away.
It was one of those diving vacations where the weather was perfect, the seas were calm, the sun was shining, and the waters were warmer than expected, with good visibility and plenty of life. The boat was beautiful, the crew was fantastic, the food was amazing, the coffee hot and the beer cold. And the diving location was like no other. Let me take you to Komodo.
(I will warn you in advance: This story is about one of “those” trips. It might make you green with envy, but it will definitely make you wish you were there, and will probably have you planning your next dive trip to take place in this magical spot.)
Bill “Hogarth” Main is the co-founder of the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP) deep cave diving team, a world record breaking cave explorer, and godfather of tech and cave diving minimalism. With an energy that belies his 64 years, Bill Main climbed out of his car to greet me, looking every inch a child of the ‘60s in a Beanie hat, with wild wraparound sunglasses.
In Florida cave country, you measure a diver by the size of his truck: the bigger the truck, the more important the diver.
“Not the Dominican Republic, Dominica,” I corrected my friends for the umpteenth time regarding my upcoming trip. Then again, it was easy to understand how the gaffe had come about. While the former is home to sprawling resorts and package tourism, the latter is a tropical gem in the Lesser Antilles which is a far cry from its similarly-named Caribbean cousin.
Make no bones about it—there is no quick and easy way to get there. Despite being in the same hemisphere as my home in Toronto, getting to Dominica proved to be a full-day expedition. Arriving at the airport at 5:30 a.m.
Last summer, my path led me for the first time to Newfoundland, Canada, more precisely to the town of Conception Bay South. Cave explorer Jill Heinerth invited me along with Rick Stanley, the owner of Ocean Quest Adventure Resort, to dive some wrecks in the bay. On this occasion, Stanley told us about a project whose realization he has been working toward for several years.
In Conception Bay South is Bell Island, which is the location of an iron ore mine, disused since 1966. Many years ago, part of this mine was developed into a mining museum. Regular tours take place in the dry part of the mine.
Over the years, many people have come into the scuba diving industry driven by a dream. This dream is to find a small, sunny corner of the world where the reefs are healthy and where they might set up a little dive resort.
The resort would be built by village craftsmen and designed to leave as small an ecological footprint as possible. Materials would be sourced locally, without destruction of either reef or forest.
While studying reef sharks in Tahiti, I became fascinated by the behavior of the remoras accompanying them. They were fish of the Echeneidae family, and ranged in size from a few centimeters to about 50cm long. They were pretty silver fish with widened heads, and often a black racing stripe.
Remoras have evolved a clever strategy to survive. Their relationship with sharks is mutualistic: of benefit to both species.
Observing animal behavior is a high point of any dive, whether it is watching fish spawning, nudibranchs feeding, or my current personal favorite—egg brooding. Getting good images of the last behavior, however, is quite different from just observing it and will prove to be a challenge to underwater photographers at every level.
For instance, a common pipefish will carry its developing brood in a specially designed flap on its belly, while a female ornate ghost pipefish will carry them in a pouch. What I like most about shooting egg brooding images is that I would always learn something new about the subject.
A volcano larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal hot spot that attracts more than four million visitors a year. Wildlife roam the landscape freely in this caldera defined by ongoing thermal activity. In this unique landscape, opportunities for exploration above and below the water line abound.
Yellowstone National Park is a remote wilderness. The closest major airports are six to eight hours away by car in Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado. I started the 24-hour drive from Texas at dawn with my buddy Doug Harder.