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Best Dive, Worst Dive: Stuart Keasley

Best Dive, Worst Dive: Stuart Keasley

Best Dive, Worst Dive: Stuart Keasley

Best Dive, Worst Dive: Stuart Keasley

ISSUE 18 ARCHIVE - BEST DIVE, WORST DIVE

I gained my first dive certification in Thailand in 1998. After a subsequent trip to the Philippines, I invested

my resources into diving, became an instructor, joined the tech fraternity and bolted on an HSE

Part IV commercial ticket to open up the world of media diving and underwater camera work.

I’ve dived in various corners of the world - for fun; as an instructor;

as part of a coral reef survey expedition sailing from Trinidad across the Caribbean sea and the South Pacific to New Zealand;

and as a safety diver and in-water cameraman. Always trying to keep a balance of fun, education and training, and work. My camera work is now generally constrained to top side, although I do still get the odd in-water job, notably The Top Gear Bond Special and ITV’s Splash.

BEST

Choosing my favourite dive I found myself pondering about what diving has done to capture my interest, time and a fair proportion of my finances.

Firstly, there’s that wonderful balance of both physical and mental application. Not too much of course, I don’t want to overdo it, the years are skipping along now.

Then there’s the immersion into a different realm. I’ve yet to see a sci-fi film that can out-do nature’s technicoloured array of weird and wonderful critters beneath the waves. Stick in one place for long enough and nature accepts you as a bumbling idiot and benign voyeur and simply carries on about her business.

Finally, there’s the social aspect. What’s that phrase we’re taught at Instructor School? “Meet people, go places, do things”. It’s true. I met my wife, Steph, through diving. The best man at our wedding was Aunty Toomer, my social calendar focuses on dive clubs, dive balls, dive festivals or dive shows.

So, to my favourite dive and one that I feel encompasses all of the above.

July 2010 - John Carlin managed to squeeze me into a planned weekend with the Aquatic Element’s club, staying in Millcombe House on Lundy Island. I’d just returned from Malta, so it gave me great opportunity to reintroduce myself to UK diving and give my video camera a go outside the favourable Mediterranean waters.

Evenings were spent in the only pub on the island, drinking fine ale, digesting home cooked food and regaling diving stories. Day times were spent in the water, enjoying calm conditions in Britain’s first and oldest Marine Protected Area.

One particular dive stands out. It was a beautiful summer’s day. As the boat manoeuvred into position, a few inquisitive grey seals popped their heads up and gave us a cheeky wink.

We entered the crystal water and made our way to where the seals appeared to be congregating. It wasn’t long before I started to hear gleeful squeaks emitting through somebody’s regulator, accompanied by an array of flashes.

It was my first in-water encounter with grey seals. Forget dolphins, sharks, whales, mantas, I was an instant convert. 250kg of grace and beauty, a playful look and demeanour that would put any Labrador puppy to shame.

The encounter lasted for 45 minutes, with a stream of seals, from young pups through to mature ladies, all taking their turn. I was entranced throughout. To top it all, I captured it

all on camera. There’s nothing like a grey seal nuzzling your dome port to bring a satisfied smile to your face. The resulting footage has been resold numerous times.

WORST

My worst dive also took place in home waters, at a site whose name will send shivers of unwelcome recollection down the spine of anyone that has gone through

Tony Hillgrove’s HSE Part 4 diving course. Saying that, I can’t actually remember what it’s called. It’s probably some form of mental block, subconsciously erected to protect me from insanity. I do know that it was in Plymouth Harbour, deep(ish), dark(ish),andfullofsilt(thinkofthat as a typo if you like). The Pit.

It was the last dive on the HSE Part 4 commercial diving course. Nothing too onerous, a solo dive to 30 metres down a shot line, transit out along a ten metre laid

line, back to the shot and then up to the trapeze at six metres to complete whatever deco obligation had been accumulated, then finally surface for tea and biscuits.

Tony kindly elected me to go first, so I would have the additional task of laying the line out at the bottom of the shot for the rest of the divers to follow.

We were dressed suitably for the occasion: Kirby Morgan (full face) band mask, plumbed into a gas block to provide air from independent tanks, a full harness with tether (i.e a rope) to the tender (the person who controls the tension in the rope to ensure you can move freely but can’t tie yourself in knots) and wired communications to the dive supervisor.

As I descended below 20 metres, visibility started to

get a little bad. By the time I’d reached the shot, I was unable to read my computer, even when pushed against my mask. Being essentially blind, it took me a while to realise that the shot wasn’t actually resting on the bottom, but was swinging free in mid water. I took a wild guess that the site was on a slope and we’d drifted free. All(?)

I had to do was head in the right direction and I’d find it. Sure enough, with a few random pendulum swings of the shot line, I found myself impaled, head first and mask half covered, in silt. I was amazed to find that, as a result of my impact, the visibility was worse.

I gave the call “Reached Bottom” to let Top Side know that things were progressing, thinking to myself that there were perhaps other more relevant meanings to that phrase at that time, and then continued with my task of laying the transit line.

I’d done plenty of sub 30 metre dives by then, however never whilst physically attached to the boat above. I was surprised how much drag the tether caused, it felt as though I was towing the boat across the harbour.

“More Slack” became a continual plea to the tender.

With much puffing and blustering, the line was laid and my work done. I headed back to the shot and started the ascent to the trapeze, looking forward to the well-earned

break my scheduled deco stop would afford me and a sneaky forty winks.

As I neared the trapeze I started to understand why my cries for “More slack” seemed to go unanswered. With the shot running free from the bottom, I had managed to circle around it a number of times, entwining it with my tether in the process. I had, indeed, been dragging the boat across the harbour.

My intended forty winks on the trapeze was replaced with twenty turns around the shot.

When they finally removed the full face mask from my head, they discovered that laid back Diver Stu had been replacedwithasnarlingbeast,issuingatorrentofslang that would have raised an appreciative eyebrow from the saltiest commercial diver. Perhaps that was what was needed to gain a pass and enter the lowest rung of the commercial diver ladder.

Fifteen years of diving, encompassing around forty countries, and my best and worst dive both happened in UK waters. Quite fitting in my opinion. The environment here can be challenging, things won’t always lend themselves to an easy ride, but get it right and we have world class dives right here on our doorstep.

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