We asked you to share with other readers the dives that stood out as being out-of-the-ordinary, that stayed in the memory for whatever reason. Here is a small selection – why don't you think about contributing to a future Strangest Dives?
Also read: Rise & fall of the Loch Ness Monster eel
- 1) WHAT WAS THAT FOR?by David Armstrong
- 2) WHY I LOVE DIVINGby Dave Weeks
- 3) SINGLE BEDby Barry Whitfield
- 4) DRAMATIC ENTRANCEby Ray Williams
- 5) ME & MY SHADOWby Haico van der Heijden
- 6) O-O-HEAVEN!by Marie Jewkes
- 7) THE EARTH MOVEDby Clive le Coq
- 8) PANIC IN CAPE VERDEby Brian Gildersleve
- 9) BARELY MADE ITby Duncan Blyth
- 10) THREE’S A CROWDby Will O’Hea
- 11) ENLIGHTENED BY DARKNESSby Lorna West
- 12) FISH MAGNETby Yvonne Beckett
- 13) LITTLE ANGELby Bill Weddle
- 14) MAINTAINING HER IDENTITYby Ian Callum
- 15) SPRING-LOADEDby Vanessa Charles & Martin Hynd
- 16) MERMAID REHEARSALby Cecilia Thwaites
- 17) WEIRD, MANby Graham Sands
- 18) ME AND MY DIVEMANby Dave Peake
WHAT WAS THAT FOR?
by David Armstrong
I STARTED DIVING IN THE EARLY 1980s, and in those days the equipment was very different to that we have now. I dived for a good few years, ending in the ’90s as Dive Leader.
In 2008 my son asked if I wanted to take the sport up again and dive with him. Great, a dad who does things both he and his son love, but that aren’t football or drinking!
So we started, and after a couple of years we decided to move to twin-set 12-litres (I had spent a good few years on twins while diving in the Navy). We didn’t do a twin-set course at that time.
Time went by, and we had used the twin-sets a few times before we decided to go to Scapa Flow. While there we had some amazing dives, as anyone who has been will tell you is pretty standard – all those wrecks in one place.
The dive in question, my memorable dive, was from the John L on SMS König, with an expected bottom depth of 38m.
Now I dive with my twins inverted. To my mind this is the right way up, and the Navy way. This requires turning them onto their boots to stand to be charged, and I would open the isolation fully and disconnect one first stage to allow charging, then I would close off the isolator, just cracking it open to allow air transfer to move to and balance the bottles, while taking only a half-turn to close it off in case of an issue.
I would open my two main valves, then turn them half a turn back, which I had done from the old days, something to do with the valves sometimes sticking in those days.
This dive was memorable due not so much because of the great wreck we were on but more because of my lack of attention while kitting-up and buddy-checking.
So we all jumped into the water, went down the shotline and saw the great wreck coming into view. As we got to about 30m we picked an area where we could stop to make any kit-adjustments, then moved off over the wreck.
On that side I had a 2.1m hose, and it held about three breaths, which I took before everything went tight and I was out of air. I signalled to my son, who was 4 or 5m away, to close with me, and then signalled “out of air”.
Checking my main valves, I found that they were a half-turn back as they should be, and I checked my isolator to see if it was open and all seemed to be in order.
I thought to myself as my son approached that I must be narked. I got onto his octo, all neat and relaxed, then signalled to him what my issue was, thinking “we’ve dealt with this well so far” as he moved behind me to check before we headed up, as practised and as procedurally we should do.
With a little explanation from my son, it turned out that I had closed my valves down and cracked them open, not opened them up and cracked them down.
I had done this while the bottles were still standing on their boots. I had not inverted them first, and had not been paying attention!
We continued to do the rest of the dive with no issues, and returned safely having had a really good dive on the wreck, and with me having a really sad embarrassing story to tell back on board.
Which I did, without holding back, as it is a good lesson for others.
WHY I LOVE DIVING
by Dave Weeks
EVEN THE SPONGES REFLECT our love of diving. I was diving off the west coast of Canada in Discovery Passage near the town of Campbell River, at a dive-site called Row and Be Dammed, when I discovered this sponge in the shape of a heart.
Using my Nikonos camera, I photographed the sponge with all the remaining shots on a roll of 36 exposures.
I wish I had had the benefit of the almost unlimited exposures available today with digital but 36 is all you had available with film cameras.
So I had to send my film into the camera lab and wait for the day the transparencies were ready to pick up, knowing that I had something special on that roll of film.
It was only then, looking on the lightbox, that you knew that the shot had been captured on film – a sponge shaped like a heart.
I have never seen another one since. I went back multiple times to try to find it again but the site is a bunch of rocks and boulders with no distinguishing features. Three exposures and my memory is all I have of that dive.
by Barry Whitfield
A LEMBEH STRAITS NIGHT-DIVE gave me one of my weirdest dives. Fish are odd critters, and several species have strange habits when going to sleep for the night – such as the parrotfish that encase themselves in a globe of protective yukky-tasting jelly.
There are also some species that amend their colour when they put their heads down, to blend in with the surroundings. But I’ve never seen the behaviour shown in my photograph in any other location. In five separate places I found fish asleep in cup or tube sponges, including this little guy.
Of course, I might have got it wrong and actually discovered the location of the first-known carnivorous tube sponge!
by Ray Williams
THE PHOTOGRAPH BELOW is from a dive we did on the Oceana in the Channel with Dive 125 out of Eastbourne a couple of years ago.
Chris (pictured) and I were the last buddy-pair in. I exited the boat from the lift-platform and made my way to the buoy. As I turned, I saw Chris stride off, and as he surfaced noticed that he was creating a plume of spray!
I signalled to him to hurry over and turned off his air. We signalled to the boat and were picked up.
Hasty repairs (we had a full spare set of regs, luckily) and we were ready for a second attempt.
After a few deep breaths and calming words we left the boat again and continued on our dive – down the shotline for a most enjoyable exploration of the wreck.
It just goes to show what can be achieved with a clear mind, a calm approach and, of course, the right spares. Our dive weekend was a great success!
ME & MY SHADOW
by Haico van der Heijden
THIS SHORT STORY STILL GIVES me the shivers after all these years.
Several years ago my wife and I were on a well-deserved diving holiday at Sipadan, actually just months before the resorts would close.
Five to six dives a day were not unusual, each one of them with unique sightings. On one dive, for example, we were in the middle of a gigantic fishball.
The last dive of the day was always a very relaxing night-dive at the famous wall just in front of the pier, ideal for pictures of the small creatures normally in hiding during the day.
On this particular dive we were joined by Yuki, a Japanese diver. She would normally dive with her husband, but that evening he preferred to have a cold beer rather than yet another dive.
Enjoying floating across the wall, I drifted somewhat apart from my buddies. It wasn’t a problem – visibility was 20m-plus, there was no current and I could still see their torch-lights.
Suddenly I spotted a very large crab, its claws raised ready for an attack. It was a bit too close for comfort, but at the same time fascinating to see.
So I turned left to signal to my buddies about my discovery… and right beside me, not even at arm’s length, was a 2m blacktip shark!
OK, they’re harmless during the day, and normally wary of divers, but this one was different – it was very used to humans. It turned out that my torch would slightly stun the fish and provide it with an easy catch.
It was using my torch to hunt.
It sure does get your pulse racing – they do look very scary that close, and this was not a small one either.
After a few minutes, the shark slowly swam away into the darkness. Once surfaced safely, the adrenaline was still flowing, and my buddies were asking about the strange big shadow in the water.
They became a bit pale when I told them the true origin of the shadow. It’s quite different from seeing a shark during the day at some distance and getting that close to one during a night-dive. Of more than 500 dives, this was definitely my most memorable.
by Marie Jewkes
DOING YOUR HOMEWORK before you travel is always a good idea, and as we were going to Curaçao I checked DIVER and DIVERNET for ideas. A brilliant find in the Booking Now section was a James Bond dive – it looked exciting, so we booked straight away.
We turned up at the helicopter pad and had a training session. So with the pilot in place and our helper between us in the back seat, fully kitted-up with our fins tucked into our BCs, we took off.
This was a small helicopter with no rear doors, so the view was amazing as we flew over a cruise ship and then under the road bridge (one of the highest in the world) and out to sea.
Waiting for us was a fast RIB. We hovered, and when the pilot was satisfied we were given a tap on the shoulder. We climbed out onto the skids on either side of the helicopter, and our helper held us on both sides by his fingertips.
We were leaning backwards with one hand on our masks when he let go, and we fell about 3m into the sea. It was stomach-lurching, but fantastic fun.
Our divemaster then took us on a dive at the site, which was excellent – eagle ray and turtle, it couldn’t have been better.
We then had a fast ride back in the RIB, and the only thing missing was a Martini, shaken not stirred.
THE EARTH MOVED
by Clive le Coq
SO THERE I WAS, on 23 July, 2014, 33m down on the Heinrich, a World War Two German wreck five miles north of St Malo on the Brittany coast.
Enjoying the good vis and huge shoals of pout, I became aware of a rumbling in the water around me.
In this area we’re used to the sound of passing ferries, but I knew that none were due and, anyway, this was different – not just a sound, but an increasing low roaring that I could feel deep in my stomach and chest.
After 40 or 50 seconds, the rumbling eased, then died away. Quiet restored, we continued our dive and soon were heading back to the surface.
Climbing back aboard the boat, talk was already of the disturbance. Some divers were asking what ship had passed, only to be told that there hadn’t been one!
Then, a call from the second club-boat, several miles inshore – its divers had also reported the phenomenon.
To me there was only one possible explanation – earthquake!
That evening, a check of the Jersey Met Office website confirmed it: an earthquake of 3.3 on the Richter Scale, 12km beneath the sea and centred about 35 nautical miles north-west of us!
OK, so the deep rumbling tremor I felt wasn’t exactly the shaking, collapsing wrecks and sunken temples of old films like City Beneath the Sea, but it doesn’t half make for a good story over a pint in the pub!
PANIC IN CAPE VERDE
by Brian Gildersleve
IN MAY OF 2014, my wife and I went on a week’s holiday to Cape Verde. I hadn’t been diving for 12 months but had logged more than 70 dives.
I enquired about the diving and arranged a refresher dive with a centre attached to the hotel. First, however, I had to complete a pool dive, carrying out all the usual skills – boring, but I know it’s necessary.
The next day I made my way to the dive-centre, where I was introduced to Kay. She was to be my dive-buddy, and informed me that she had not dived for 29 years. She had brought with her a certificate stating that she had carried out pool training in the UK. This did worry me, as you can imagine.
Eight divers and one dive-guide made our way onto a small boat that was then pushed into the surf, which was large enough to have prompted the lifeguards to fly the red flag and not allow anyone to enter the sea.
The small boat made its way to a large dive-boat about 100m out. Transferring to the boat was very difficult, and we were told to keep our fingers inside for fear of getting them crushed when the two boats came together. We all managed to get aboard safely.
The boat made its way out to the dive-site, which was about 20 minutes straight out to sea. All we could see of land by the time they dropped anchor were the hills and cliffs and white surf.
On the way out we were given a dive-plan for a drift dive. Buddy-checks done, we entered the water. Kay and I were last to get in, and we made our way to the anchor-line.
The current was very strong. The maximum depth at the site was only 14m, but I couldn’t see the bottom because the vis was only about 8m.
We started to make our way down, but after 6m Kay indicated that she was having problems equalising, so we went back up, After a few moments we descended again, but after just a couple of metres she bolted back to the top.
I waited and then watched her get hauled back on board. She had aborted her dive, so I once again began to descend. As I went deeper I wondered why I couldn’t see anyone, and it was only after 10m that I saw the bottom.
Finally on the seabed and holding tightly to the anchorline, I realised that the other divers had gone. I turned through 360° but could see no one. Then, to my horror, I heard the boat start up, and they began to pull in the anchor.
I actually held onto it for a few seconds as the boat pulled it through the water but then let go. Big trouble now, so obviously I started to ascend.
The boat had at first motored away from my underwater position, but then did a U-turn and came back and drove very close over my head. By the time I surfaced I couldn’t see the boat at all, as the waves were quiet large – and now I was panicking.
I know now that some time had elapsed under water, and the boat had simply gone to pick up other divers who had deployed their DSMB, but I couldn’t see it. More time went by as they got everyone on board, but when they realised I wasn’t there I’m told they were even more panicked than I had been.
Then they came and looked for me, and it wasn’t long before I was spotted waving between the waves. While at the time I think I remained in control, I often recall the day’s events, and I realise that I should have done things differently.
But I also think the centre should not have dived that day. Visibility, current and large waves were factors – but surely you don’t proceed with a dive without knowing where all your divers are?
BARELY MADE IT
by Duncan Blyth
I HAD ARRANGED A DIVE on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and early one Sunday morning I was picked up by a minibus containing six Russians and one German, none of whom spoke English.
The bus stank of alcohol, and it transpired that the Russians had been up all night drinking whisky. There was total silence on the bus – it felt like something from a James Bond movie.
At the dive-site we had to walk down many steps to a little lagoon/pool that led into the sea. I buddied with the German guy who, thank goodness, was perfectly sober.
The dive went well, although the others went off on their own dive. The fish life was amazing and the water crystal-clear.
Although we were using a compass, we couldn’t decide if we were heading back in the right direction. We were ready to make an ascent to identify our position when the sight above us became very confusing. In the clear water above us, some really strange things were dangling!
It was a group of nudists swimming – not a pretty sight! Out of the water the place was again full of naked bodies. We tried so hard not to laugh while we climbed back up, but unknown to me, the place was a nudist resort.
The Russians followed shortly afterwards, then all proceeded to be sick. The journey back was again in silence.
To date, this has been my strangest dive – returning to the entry/exit point by using nudists isn’t in any training manual!
LOCH NESS MONSTERED
by Marjolein Thrower
SEPTEMBER 1994. Tower Pier, Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness. 11m. 26 minutes, 13°. Vis 4-0m.
We had two fast red cars full of dive-kit, so a detour to Loch Ness on the drive home after a week diving Skye seemed a plan. We parked and started kitting up.
Suddenly a man in uniform appeared, and asked what we were doing. Stating the bleedin’ obvious, I said: “Going diving”.
Had we got permission? “Who from?”
Him, the Auxiliary Coastguard. Who knew? Permission granted, he said he would be back in 40 minutes to check us.
Quick buddy check, and into bright, clear, cool, sparkling water with a gravel bottom.
A few little fish, some bright green weed. Pretty. Monsters? Here?
But at 6m what little we could see of the drop-off was endless. The water was a deep, impenetrable, malt-whisky brown, full of thick, still silt, with no discernible bottom, just endless, endless thick ooze. If I settled on it, I thought I would be sucked down and down.
With torches off, it was darker than any night-dive, the blackness so dense that it was almost touchable, with an eerie orange glow somewhere above us. With the torches on, the light just reflected back at us.
I could hear my buddy right next to me but couldn't see him, so when a hand suddenly grabbed my arm, I shrieked.
Monsters? Oh yes! There was nothing to see but silt, but when we surfaced to the waiting Coastguard, we knew that we had just done an amazing, exhilarating but seriously spooky dive, unlike anything I’d do in the following 22 years!
THREE’S A CROWD
by Will O’Hea
MORE THAN A YEAR AGO I did an organised shore-dive with my club at Swanage. The day’s weather was set to be fine and balmy, and I had been told that the water clarity would be excellent.
I arrived at the site and the earnest club master assigned me two buddies – I would be diving as part of a three.
Let’s call the others James and Kelly. They had both done many more dives than I had, and both seemed jovial, cheery folk who were always happy to assist with any issue I had. James had trained with BSAC in the 1970s. Perfect.
We planned in a very casual, non-thorough way. The others were both familiar with the site and were just out to have a good time.
Once we had descended, I deployed my SMB, while James took the on the role of navigator. Thus unfolded the dive.
Once under water, James became fixated on his wrist compass, and his awareness of my existence and well-being quickly flew out of the window.
Soon I was being forced to swim frantically after his fin-tips, which continually disappeared into the milky gloom as he kicked silt up all around me.
To my left, Kelly appeared to be taking pictures of a dead crab and seemed to have no idea that we were all slowly but surely about to be separated. I had to constantly nudge her to keep her ambling forward. Neither of them looked at me even once to make sure that I was OK and not in a panicked state.
I was using a new set of hire equipment because my normal set had been rented out to some try-divers elsewhere. Physically torn between the other two divers, I was beginning to consider whether I should just abort and surface. The BC had no trim-pockets, forcing me to balance 10kg of lead in the small of my back, which hurt. A lot.
I had to grab James’s attention twice by tugging his fins to prevent my SMB from snagging onto the fishing-lines and tangled ropes that invariably adorn many parts of the pier at Swanage.
At one point he gave me the signal to ascend, perhaps because he had noticed my obvious annoyance at his antics and my lack of comfort.
Then James had to chase frantically after Kelly in the gloom because she was oblivious to our “go-up” signals, absorbed in photographing more deceased crustaceans.
At the surface, we agreed to swim out and descend over open ground, away from the clutter of the pier.
There we came across a small hunk of metal, perhaps part of a trawling plate from a fishing-boat – hardly a wreck-finder’s fantasy.
Despite the more interesting presence of a large shoal of juvenile bib, unperturbed by our comic movements, James got terribly excited by this plate of rusting iron and began to make imaginary drawings and markings on his hand and in the silt with a finger!
His behaviour suggested that he was narked out, and I seriously considered this as a possibility before a glance at my computer confirmed our depth as 4.4m.
Kelly framed up another dead crab, while I spooked a bigger and very much living spider-crab. But alas, there was no time to get a proper look at the rich benthic life that plastered the seabed – our navigator zoomed off again, now once again fascinated by nothing but his compass. Race-car diving indeed. We had no choice but to follow.
I eventually made the signal to ascend, as I was frankly tired of my buddies’ antics as well as reaching our maximum time limit. Note to self: never dive with more than one buddy!
ENLIGHTENED BY DARKNESS
by Lorna West
MY STRANGE DIVE was the final test of my night-diver course. We saw lionfish hunt the way they do, enjoyed the rare sight of a particular octopus that only comes out at night, and sleeping fish that appear to be in a trance, but the strangest part was turning off my dive-light to experience the darkness and pass the course.
Until that time I had a fear of the dark, so I was a bit anxious, but on realising that it wasn't true darkness, and being able to see outlines, my fear faded away.
Not only that, but seeing the bioluminescence as I flapped my hands around filled me with awe. That strange experience gave me a different perspective on diving.
by Yvonne Beckett
I DON’T KNOW IF THIS QUALIFIES as a strangest dive because it involves several dives, but they were definitely strange because my husband has often found sea life attracted to him.
The first time was years ago when we were new divers in Sharm el Sheikh. My husband was wearing a BC with mesh pockets, and in one was a red buoy that could be seen through the mesh.
As we gathered at 5m, my husband was baffled by everyone staring and pointing at him. I saw the whole thing and was nearly choking with laughter. A very large honeycomb moray had taken a fancy to the bright red thing in his pocket, and had made a rapid charge towards it.
I pointed at his BC and he looked down to see this huge moray head peering out from his armpit. He made a rapid twirl in the water to get rid of it.
We carried on for a while with our companions and then stopped. The remoras carried on for a while, and then turned round and came back to take up position for the rest of the dive.
On the same reef another time I looked at him to see two cleaner wrasse, one poking in each ear as we finned along the reef. Then they must have decided that his fingers were a bit grubby, because they started on his hands.
Another time, another place on a deep thila in a channel he seemed to have adopted two large angelfish stationed one on each side of his head, and he looked for all the world as if he was wearing a Viking helmet.
Unfortunately we don’t carry a camera, but there are definitely times when I wish we did!
by Bill Weddle
ANGELITA, SHE’S VERY SPECIAL. I’m not talking about some game bird but a cenote in the middle of the jungle in Mexico.
The Cenote Angelita was created long ago when the jungle floor collapsed into a subterranean cavern. The vegetation fell down along with the jungle floor and ended up at a depth of more than 30m where, over time, a cloud rich in hydrogen sulphate has formed at the halocline that marks the boundary between the fresh water above and the salt water below.
Apart from our dive leader, it was just myself and my youngest son Will set to dive, and our Angelita adventure started with us getting kitted up in the local jungle car park. We were using hired equipment that had obviously seen much better days. The wetsuits were so worn that, to me, it looked as if Will had just survived being savaged by a dog.
Anyway, once fully kitted up (apart from mask and fins, obviously, because that would be silly in a car park) we were led through the jungle to the access point for the cenote.
Getting in was easy, just a giant-stride jump. Getting out after the dive wasn’t to be as straightforward, and involved dragging ourselves up a rope while still fully kitted up! But we didn’t know about that yet.
The visibility in the cenote was amazing, the cloud of hydrogen sulphate 30m below us clearly visible. Our guide was eager to push on with the dive, in order to get to depth before any other divers arrived on site, so down we went.
We paused just above the cloud, which was punctuated by trunks and branches from long-dead trees that had fallen from above. We did a check of our kit, lit our torches and descended into the cloud.
The visibility went from more than 30m to almost zero! The light coming from above slowly reduced to a glimmer, and then to almost to nothing.
After about 3m of descent, we emerged from the bottom of the cloud into crystal-clear water, our torch-beams cutting through the darkness like light sabres.
Once again we exchanged OK signals and then continued to descend, the wall of the cenote on one side and the slope of the fallen jungle floor on the other.
We passed 40m and were closing in on 50m when our guide stopped and started to play with some of the vegetation resting on the sloping bottom. We asked if he was OK, by describing a circle with the torch-beams. This seemed to bring him back to himself, because he promptly checked his computer and indicated that we should start to go back up.
The ascent was just as impressive as the descent. Passing through the cloud and emerging into the brightness above was a magical experience. Even from this depth we could see another group of divers leaving the surface and starting their descent towards us.
We stayed awhile at the 30m level and performed a few “dives” into and out of the cloud before ascending to perform a safety stop. We all arrived back at the surface after a very memorable experience and hauled ourselves out of the water.
Our dive-guide freely admitted that he had been “well and truly narked” when we were watching him playing with the flora at the bottom.
MAINTAINING HER IDENTITY
by Ian Callum
OUR WINDOW-FITTER looked stressed and exhausted. Concerned enquiries brought forth a sad tale of his stepson, who had been accused of killing his young Polish wife.
The police suspected a calculated action because her documents, mobile phone etc were missing, possibly thrown into the sea.
They were never found, and the stepson was jailed for manslaughter, leaving two small children parentless.
Fast forward six weeks and I get a phone-call from regular dive partner Ian Goodban.
A Deal man born and bred, Ian wanted to film below our local pier. Would I accompany him?
This is a site that neither of us had previously visited because of concerns about poor visibility and underwater obstructions, but mid-July promised some very neapy tides and favourable winds.
We were under water by 6am, Ian using his GoPro to film the scour around the pier-legs while I kept one eye on him as I investigated the shallow amphitheatres that this created.
Suddenly, a flash of white penetrated the greenish 3m visibility. I picked up a laminated ID card and shone my torch onto the photograph of a pretty, smiling blonde girl.
She had waited all winter to be found, and that flimsy card had stayed there through the winter gales of the Kent coast.
Slipping the evidence into my cuff for safe-keeping, we returned ashore.
A telephone call elicited a swift police response, and the card was taken away to be copied and collated.
It was subsequently returned to the family, and is now in the two little girls’ memory-box for their mother.
by Vanessa Charles & Martin Hynd
IT WAS OVER A DECADE AGO that my partner and I learned to dive in Malaysia, during a mid-life gap year of travelling. We quickly followed our scuba training with a liveaboard trip on the Great Barrier Reef, and were feeling pretty keen and confident as we moved around the globe to New Zealand.
Even so, nothing had quite prepared us for our first fully independent dive trip.
We rented gear from a South Island dive-shop and headed down to the charmingly named Pupu Springs, an inland dive-site with an amazing reputation for some of the clearest water on the planet.
We had never tried freshwater diving before, and were still adapting to less-than-tropical temperatures, but we couldn’t resist the chance to dive where there is visibility of more than 60m (only the Weddell Sea in Antarctica is clearer).
As we arrived at the spring after a somewhat self-conscious plod along a boardwalk nature trail in our dive gear, we discovered a catch. The pond we were about to enter was only about 20m wide and 6m deep.
The second catch was that we would be restricted to two 15-minute dives. The springs are sacred to the Maori people, so that was fair enough.
However, the final peculiarity of this site was that the pond had a large observation periscope so that visitors could peek down and view what was happening beneath the surface.
As still somewhat inexperienced divers, we were initially delayed by a runaway cylinder, having neglected to wet the cam-strap. Our red faces were clearly observable through the periscope.
Undeterred, we descended once again into the crystal waters, only to pop up ignominiously a few minutes later after discovering the strong jets of current that shoot up through the gravel from springs below.
It was then that we fully understood why the site is called Te Waikoropupu, or the Place of the Dancing Sands.
Once we’d got over the initial shock of the water jets, it was actually pretty cool to watch the gravel on the bottom literally jumping about. Even so, it was hard to get over the feeling of swimming around inside a giant fish tank, complete with aerated water, bright green weed, and faces peering at us from above.
After enjoying our allotted time in the springs, we completed our visit with the recommended drift-dive down a nearby river.
Unfortunately, there must have been a recent dry spell, because it was only a few inches deep in places. Consequently, our drift ended up being more of a crawl.
Strange though it seems, I think all of this probably helped us on our way to becoming better divers!
by Cecilia Thwaites
BUOYANCY. AIR. Releases, chest-clip, shoulder-clip. Garter – no. No one is releasing my garter. Put on mask. Attach veil. Pick up plastic bouquet. All present and correct.
But this is to be no ordinary dive. This time next week I will have exchanged my drysuit for a wedding dress and will be wearing a better-quality garter (blue, as a matter of fact) and carrying a real bouquet of flowers.
Today I have gathered my diving girlfriends and done what any self-respecting lady diver should: organise a Mermaids’ Dive.
Down the shot towards the Lyme Regis wreck the Baygitano. A few metres down myself and my (mer)maids of honour, Pat and Pippa, pause. I must pose for the camera, flaunt my bouquet and flash my garter.
We return to the boat to return the camera to our obliging (if bemused) skipper. Oh, no, a sawtooth profile!
This time we drop all the way to the wreck. Fish dart around us. I point at a slate-blue conger eel staring out of its hole, then realise that my bouquet will not shed much light. You’re not stealing my flowers, Mr Conger! But he retires within the wreck, quite uninterested.
Too soon, our mermaid dive is over.
I clamber aboard, still bearing veil, garter and flowers, and settle down to some post-diving refreshment. Chocolates – obligatory phallic-shaped – strawberries and sparkling wine. We don’t usually drink bubbles after diving, but on a Mermaid Dive, it doesn’t count.
by Graham Sands
SO I BIMBLED across the sand, in little more than swimming-pool depth, and saw the usual – flatties the size of a fingernail, snail-shells that sprouted legs and lumbered off at my approach, filigrees of sunlight playing across the ripple pattern.
Gradually the bay deepened, and after 10 minutes it became a riot of colour: greeny-yellows, purple tweeds, yellowy-greens, and the kelp convoluted into ruches and furbelows, as if interior designers had got at it. Just what I was looking for, and expecting to find.
But this is bizarre, it’s happened yet again, when even the once was beyond strange…
Less than an hour ago, I just happened to park on a quiet Scottish lane, with easy shore access, on a calm summer day with the tide coming to the full.
ME AND MY DIVEMAN
by Dave Peake
I MAY BE WRONG but I think the device that first appeared in the UK 15-20 years ago was called Diveman. It boasted the ability to allow the user to swim and dive under water to a depth of 6m without a scuba tank and regulator.
It was all plastic and consisted of a shaped container worn on the chest.
From the top came a single hose with a mouthpiece and non-return valves to exhaust CO2 into the water. The bottom of the container reservoir was open, but had connected to it a flexible plastic bag.
Connected to the bag were two straps with loops worn over the feet. Connected to the container was a single 6m plastic hose, which was attached at the surface to a floating buoy. Basically that was it.
I was somehow given the device to try out, and may have been the first to do so in the UK. The secret was in the operating procedure, and the first attempt was in an indoor pool.
Don the equipment and enter the water. Water pressure pushes the plastic bag up into the container. At the same time, bend the knees up towards the container and stretch the legs fairly forcibly outwards. This action pulled air down from the buoy, which filled the container and allowed a welcome breath of air to be taken.
Relax the legs, bend the knees up and the bag is sucked into the container. By adopting a sort of breaststroke arms and legs action, progress could be made without surfacing. So far so good – it was time to try this in the open sea.
A secluded beach in south Cornwall was my testing area. Of course, in the tropics or an indoor pool no wetsuit was required, but here extra lead was, to compensate for the suit and also for the buoyancy of the container on my chest.
I “breaststroked” around the shallows to a depth of about 4m and gazed at the reefs. It became apparent that continual movement was necessary. If I stopped, it was a little more difficult to work the legs to draw down the air from the buoy.
However, it worked. I know this because I am able to relate this story to you. I survived. I have never seen this apparatus since, so it obviously never caught on. This dive was for me the strangest I have ever experienced.
Share your Strangest Dives
Marjolein thrower wins an £88 Apeks Professional Diving Watch for sharing with us her Strangest Dive experience in Loch Ness.
This selection might have reminded you of underwater experiences of your own, times when something was just that bit out of kilter with normality.
If you feel like sharing, there could be a similar timepiece in it for you.
Please email your Strangest Dive to firstname.lastname@example.org – and if you have a photo to go with it, so much the better. Please write soon!