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John McIntyre, underwater film maker


BEST: There have been so many great dives it's difficult to single out one experience, whether the stunning walls of the southern Red Sea, the adrenalin charge of the sharks and dolphins on South Africa's famous 'sardine run', or the swirling schools of scalloped hammerheads of Cocos. So my choice is all about context. I'd originally learnt to dive while growing up in a godforsaken part of the Midlands with only a local authority pool and the bleak contents of Stoney Cove for adventurous comfort. With the relentless pace of puberty, the distraction of learning to dive was overpowered by a decade of guzzling warm beer and chasing the disco-dancing teenage girls of the 1970s.

It was only years later when as a radio and television reporter that I'd started to earn enough money to pay off my student debt. So I decided to go diving. I did a refresher course in Eilat and headed over the then heavily controlled border to the Sinai. Sharm el Sheikh was barely developed with one or two hotels and a few dive centres. We slept on the beach with the Bedouins at Shark Bay, where morning was greeted by an invasion of killer flies. It was made all worthwhile by the trundle down the beach and over the flat top of the reef wall at Ras Nasrani. Here I slipped into the bluest of seas down a kaleidoscopically stunning reef wall. The impact was profound and to this day the Red Sea now feels like a second home.

John McIntyre filming sharks underwater in the Bahamas, Caribbean WORST: If it hadn't been for the potential for tragedy, this particular fiasco of a dive would have been easy to dismiss as scuba comedy. The scene was a very functional dive boat owned and run by Roger, a larger-than life operator with a long ginger beard with big white wellies. It was a calm, sunny day when I met Roger on his boat at Swanage Pier. We were to dive the wreck of the Kyrra in 30 metres. I didn't have a buddy. “No worries,” piped the Aussie girl lugging her gear onto the deck. (We'll call her Sheila because I can't remember her real name). Sheila told me she'd “dived all over the world and had loads of experience, mate!” She seemed confident – and at this stage in my life I hadn't fully appreciated the genetic engineering of the female Australian as I would when I later became temporarily engaged to one.

All the ‘crikeys' and various expletives countered by the constantly reassuring ‘no worries' seemed endearing at first. That was until we got in the water. The current was running. She struggled to get to the buoy and only then admitted she'd dived everywhere but British waters. The expletives grew louder. Nevertheless we finally made it down the shotline. She only kicked me three or four times and pulled off my mask once. By the time we reached the wreck, I was totally narked with fear. She was almost out of air after a few minutes having exhausted most of her supply on the surface. The only good decision I made was to abort the dive there and then. I never thought I'd be so happy once again to see Roger's long ginger beard and big white wellies.
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