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Sep 25, 2013

Great Barrier Reef Video: A week out with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions | Episode 178

After six Months in Australia, I'd done the bulk of the editing for a few short underwater films.

It took an invitation to present them in New York City to bring me to finish this one off with a bit of narration and some titles. I spoke last night to a nice crowd of scuba divers, showing them this video and a few others. I have just uploaded this one to youtube. Take a look:

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Sep 19, 2013

Episode 176: Scratching around in the dark with John Chatterton

Doing the Advanced Wreck Penetration Course with diving legend John Chatterton, in the cold waters off the coast of New Jersey... not your everyday SCUBA training.
Photos by Pete Bucknell and Mike Rothschild

2012: I bumped into a tall dark stranger with a cheeky look in his eye on the gangway of a dive boat in New Jersey. I had no idea what John Chatterton looked like, or how well known and highly regarded he was. No possibility of being struck down by the man's reputation if you don't know when he's standing right in front of you.

He was conducting his advanced shipwreck penetration class from the boat that I was about to dive from, so I ended up spending the day in his vicinity. At the end of the day while filling tanks I found myself telling him the most off-color stories I had in my repertoire of off-color material. He passed the test by not being shocked, but amused. I could be myself around this guy.

A year later, one of my dive buddies called and asked me if I was curious about actually taking Chatterton's course this time around.
Class began a Month later.
as the silt, angered by our scraping fins, brought the visibility in the stairwell to zero, I let my camera rig drop to the deck as I began to undo the penetration line
Navigating a wreck
Chatterton took the class through the anatomy of a solo dive on the Andrea Doria (wiki) as his old log books were passed around. He talked about the multi-pronged approach to navigating inside a wreck, which, unlike an underwater cave system, needs more than just a line in to follow out again. Flashing strobes left along the way, the general direction of a compass needle can work, architecture etcetera.
Dive Boat the John Jack

Before the sun came up, the clank of tanks being brought aboard the dive boat woke us. Today we'd be training at 80 - 100 feet on the wreck of the Algol.
There wasn't much chatter on the way to the site, but on arrival the days exercises were laid out:
Dive 1: Basic drills at 80 feet on the deck of the wreck which lay upright:
-Deploy and stow each piece of gear (both lights, both knives, both reels, both bags etc.)
-Follow a penetration line into and through the wreck with your buddy.
-Repeat, but with a blackout mask (so you are blind) simulating a silt-out.
-Repeat, but your buddy is also now out of air and must breath from your tank too.
The Author in full rig
You get the picture... running lines from reels of nylon, avoiding entanglement, not getting lost... Good fun scary stuff if you haven't done it before.
The Author:Reel Practice
Five dives later, we'd covered the course requirements and then some, and we'd become acquainted with some ideas and skills that we all vowed to ourselves that we would improve upon.

Dive 6 was a 'try out your new skills' dive. My buddy and I tackled a second deck penetration which involved a flight of stairs. I was sent up the stairs first by my buddy, as I had my video camera and he wanted me to be able to shoot before the visibility went to shit. The reel was tied off to the base of the stairs and left there as I headed up, knocking loose rust and silt, clouding the way back.

It was time to turn, so with a couple of shots in the camera, headed gingerly back down the stairs into the blackness. The silt, angered by our scraping fins, brought the visibility in the stairwell to zero, I let my camera rig drop to the deck as I began to undo the penetration line. Time and air ticked down slowly. 
After what seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably only 15 seconds, I had the reel winding in the line to the exit, where I handed it back to my buddy. He struggled with undoing the primary tie-off so we cut it and headed up the mooring line, where we spent some time with our teacher and the video camera, before a boat ride to Jersey. 

An intense weekend, and I will likely never forget it.

Mats Stahlkrantz, John Chatterton, Peter Bucknell and Mike Rothschild .......... in blackout masks

Read John's Blog: Shadow Diver

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Sep 10, 2013

Episode 175: Diving the Shipwrecks of the 1000 Islands

Who knew that so many ships could sink to the bottom of one river?

After crossing the border into Canada, my dive buddy, Scott Della Peruta, steered the heavily laden SUV into the parking lot of the waterfront motel where we'd spend the next four nights. We had ten cylinders in the back, including some pure oxygen, two drysuits and a long list of dive equipment packed in milk crates and dry bags, but no mosquito repellent.
Caiger's Motel

Scottie assembling the Inspiration Rebreather
Scott spent a couple of hours preparing and testing his rebreather for the four shipwrecks we'd be diving the following day.
Passing out at 9:30pm, I was still severely jet lagged, having just returned from a European assignment (The Australian Youth Orchestra Project) - I was due for a holiday, and not a short one, but this 5 day trip would do for now...
Early next morning...
Members of the New York Sea Gypsies
This was a 'club trip' which meant that we knew almost all ten souls aboard the small aluminum dive boat The Osprey. It takes some getting used to, assembling your life support equipment on a crowded and often lurching boat, but you get it done because there's no choice.
Early morning starts for the next few days began with motel eggs, scuba equipment and searching for passports, as we would dive on both the Canadian and USA sides of the St Lawrence river, littered with well preserved shipwrecks that had gone down over the last century. Exciting stuff, a limited access museum which you enter 'weightless' .. almost. 
Author entering with Camera Rig

Four days of exploring the bottom of the river occasionally involved 'going with the flow', which for me meant at one point that I was heading down stream with my surface marker buoy, having a lovely time but watching the dive boat grow smaller as I headed further into Canada. Picked up by a friendly rubber dinghy, I was back on the boat in 5 minutes, having practiced Francaise on the nice couple who hoisted my gear out of the water for me. It was all part of the plan of course....
Decompressing after a long dive, camera hanging
There is a video to come from all the great footage collected, but thankfully I have clients to look after this week, so It'll burn a hole in my shelf for a few days...
Shooting Video on the wrecks of the St Lawrence River
Photos by Mike Rothschild and Pete Bucknell

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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