Mission Day: Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty -One, Two and Three

My time here on the Island of Bermuda is coming to an end.  My diving has ended 10 August.  Today was a high wind day so Meredith, Kyungsoo and Su Eun would not be able to dive so if weather is good tomorrow, which would have been my last dive day, they would still be the dive team.  Not to worry, I am completely wiped out.  I have done 11 dives (7 to 300 feet, 2 to 200 feet and 2 to shallow depths for what we call Admin dives).  I have spent a grand total of 17 hours on the bottom during those dives and 53 hours of decompression and up to our first bad weather day, Todd and I completed 16 straight Mission Days, either underwater or supporting our other team members from aboard the Fountain at the surface.

Me filming the installation of the Science Station
Photo: Graham Blackmore (Thanks my friend)
Mission Day 11, 28 July
I would like to share my thoughts really quick about the training agency I dive with, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE); the “advanced diver/technical diver” certification agency that Todd (my dive buddy and Science Director of GUE, began in 1999.  The philosophy that we adhere is to a high level of fundamental dive skill, standardization of equipment – advanced skill sets – dive communications and protocols allowing me to do my first dive with a new buddy, Kyungsoo Kim, to 300 feet for 5 hours.  He speaks very little English, I speak NO Korean, yet underwater, we speak the same language and can execute a highly technical rebreather dive, accomplish a successful science mission and complete four hours of decompression floating in “blue water”.  I am proud to be a GUE diver. 

Establish a “SVS transect” start point.

During our science missions we have collected video data and physical data; stereo video transects, being a primary objective but also gathering H2O, algae, corals and rock specimens.  I have not done a very good job of explaining the Stereo Video Transects (SVS); how we do it, how we set it up and what we provide the scientists upon completion of a transect series. 

The 50meter metric tape measure
attached to the 10 meter line

An SVS transect starts by selecting a starting point on the bottom (benthos) and laying down a 10 meter / 33-foot line.  At the end of this line we attach a 50-meter fiberglass tape measure.  The reason for the 10-meter gap is because this SVS video is trying to capture “fish density” in their natural habitat and if we were to start filming right away, all our activity (tying in line, setting up SVS camera system, synchronizing the cameras, etc.) would startle the fish.  So the scientists have us set-up, swim the 10 meters and then begin filming the 50-meter SVS video transect while the other diver lays out the tape measure “following behind” the camera diver.  Now simply swimming along, quiet with our rebreathers, just like another fish in the ocean, the cameras pointing forward capture an undisturbed fish video.  Once we get to the end of the first 50 meter SVS video, the diver managing the tape measure lets out a series of “Whoop, Whoop, Whoop” which the camera operator can hear and the first transect ends.  At this point we then attach another 10-meter line, swim it, attach another 50-meter tape measure while following the camera person until we get to the end of the second tape.  At this point, the fish diversity SVS transect is complete and we are 120 meters away from our starting point.   

What the camera sees during the “benthic” video

At this point there are 2 videos that we provide and the scientists will take those two videos, process them with computer software and create a high quality 3D video allowing them to study and count the fish species we have captured on the SVS video cameras. 

How we record depth and time at the beginning of
 each transect phase… my rebreather controller.

Now, if you think about it, we are 120 meters / 400 feet away from our starting point.  Now what?  A benthic (bottom) study begins.  The camera operator points the cameras down and video tapes the bottom of the seabed from a 30 centimeter / 1-foot distance.  This whole process takes about 30 minutes and we do this process twice at each depth; 90m/300f, 60m/200f, 30m/100f and 15m/45f.

To conclude my posts from here in Bermuda, what transpired on Mission Day’s 19-20-21-22 & 23?  I will be brief… 5 August (MD19), we went back out to Tiger, Todd, Kyungsoo and I, did SVS transects at 90m/300f, 30m/100ft and 15m/45f. collected 25 H2O samples along with coral and algae.  We went as deep as 311 feet / 92 meters, were on the bottom at that depth for 40 minutes and spent 271 minutes in decompression (ascent time to the surface).

6 August (MD20), we had a day off due to BEX and Fountain maintenance, 7 August (MD21), Todd, and I supported Meredith, Kyungsoo and Su Eun from the newly serviced Fountain while they dove Tiger accomplishing much the same objectives as we did on the 5th. On 8 August (MD22), another down day due to refueling and filling the fresh water tanks aboard the BEx so we took the morning to organize dive gear and then in the afternoon I took a “walk-a-bout” from St. George to our accommodations at the Granaway BnB (see supplemental post – not sure when…come back for sure to read it) and finally, 9  August (MD23) we took the Fountain (solo – no BEX with us) 12 miles off the south end of the island to Challenger Bank and did a 97m/320f dive for 45 minutes with a total decompression time of 231 minutes.

As a dive team, we completed three sites (North Northeast, Spittal, Tiger) were one dive short of completing the Argus Bank and were the only team to put divers down on the Challenger Bank where we were 2 dives short of completion; total sites – 3.5!  I am very proud of what we have done here, very honored to have had this opportunity and dive with 7 outstanding GUE divers and my friends, ready to come home. 

Me and my “Tilley” saying, “Goodbye…
 from the Bermuda Triangle!

I will do a follow-up/Mission summary post by the end of the month but for now, so long from Bermuda and thanks for following along.  It was my pleasure sharing this with you all.