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Ice Floe, Nowhere To Go

ISSUE 6 ARCHIVE - BEST DIVE, WORST DIVE, MARIA MUNN

BEST: Anyone who knows me well, knows that after my huge fear of dry suit diving, comes cold green water diving. Would it be really possible to mix the two and have the best dive of my life after travelling the underwater blue world for the last 11 years?

Welcome to Icy Strait, Alaska, a destination little-known for its most spectacular corals that Jacques Cousteau said rivalled the Red Sea in terms of colours and varieties of invertebrates. All I needed to do was to get over my fear of cold water diving fast to be able to experience what some people call the best diving in the world.
Worldwide Dive and Sail
Nurse Shark As I descended with my head and 7 mm hood full of positive thoughts, the huge sponges and colours took my breath away. Beautiful soft pink hues set against yellow, deep crimson anemones with 3 ft nudibranchs sitting right next to them. I never ever dreamt that I would need a fisheye lens to photograph a nudibranch, these guys are monsters compared to their blue cousins. Gorgeous burgundy waves of kelp wavered over my head, giving the most incredible contrast against the temperate green water. Huge sponges towering over me and the sea stars had to be seen to be believed crawling through Giant Kelp Forests, all 5 ft wide of them, these guys definitely had more than three weetabix for breakfast in their youth. Every crack and crevice was filled with feather duster worms, cup corals and Irish Lords and all of this whilst listening to male humpback whales singing in the background.
Maria Munn Speechless when I got back on the boat (and those that know me well, know that that is pretty difficult to do!) I firmly knew that I never wanted to return to blue water diving again. Going green really can give the best dive of anyone's life if you are in Alaska.

WORST: My worst dive was in fact one of my most memorable achievements! I had been living on the pacific coast of Mexico for over a year setting up the first ever Fish Identification Programme for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation based in Puerto Vallarta as well as identifying the Manta Rays that came in this area during the summer. To help me identify and record all of the species which lived in this area, I purchased an Olympus 5050 Compact Camera with an Ikelite Strobe and, being a new-ish diver at the time with less than six months experience, was busy trying to juggle diving safety with underwater photography at the same time. I lost my buddy, the boat, then trying to find it nearly got run over by another one and then on another occasion ran out of air, I was so engrossed in my photographs. But the worst was yet to come.
The Underwater Channel
It was a beautiful sunny summer day and we were going to do a dive that wasn't possible to do all-year round due to the strong currents and the poor visibility. Los Anegados is a place where nurse sharks congregate in a gorgeous arch shaped swim-through cave with turquoise blue water shimmering at the end of it. The photo opportunities for up close and personal shots were amazing, even though I got thumped by one! So amazing I got completely engrossed in the colours that my new strobe gave my photos and before I knew it I was in deco. After a 13 minute safety stop hanging beneath a boat full of some very sea-sick American divers patiently waiting for me, I clambered onto the boat not feeling very well.

I promptly fell asleep in the sun, on a life-jacket with more Americans dancing the Conga around me singing with their margaritas. On the way back I sat on a wall and called the London Diving Chamber whispering that I had lots of tingling pains, was exhausted and didn't feel very well. Needless to say, a huge lesson or five of them was learnt, however much I loved my new-found hobby, diving safety definitely wins over underwater photography whatever the subject!
After struggling to find a suitable course for herself when she was trying to learn underwater photography with a compact camera back in 2001, Maria Munn founded Ocean Visions to help divers with compact cameras realise that they can take amazing photographs underwater. Her work has been featured in the UK's Professional Photographer, the front cover of the Royal Photographic Society, the Traveller's Handbook, Diver, Sport Diver UK, H2O magazine, Women's Magazine Real, Outdoor Enthusiast and Wanderlust. Maria has also recently started a new company, Ocean Gifts, offering professional printing services for anyone to get their photos turned into works of art. To find out more go to oceanvisions.co.uk or oceangifts.co.uk. Denney Diving

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