I do have to chuckle… True to expeditionary diving form, we find ourselves short on time but not on prep and logistical requirements.  On April 23 we were informed as to the success of our Fiji 2017 Project Baseline Mission budget; Mission departure?  May 12; duration? 14 days!

Okay….I get it…we just love a challenge!  But here is some perspective.  A mountain climbing expedition provides the climbing team a year to prep (for sure more than 19 days) , organize and execute their mission and if the mountain says no, they simply turn back and walk down.  For us, we have to haul life support equipment around the world, subject it to several “handlers”, of which none of them are us.  Get to our location (remote at times), set-up our equipment and after all this, if the dive environment says no, we cannot just turn back and come up!  We have to stay under until our decompression obligations are met; equipment working or not!  That is why we have such an incredible team to rely upon. We all carry equipment not just for ourselves but for our entire team to safely exit a dive; a dive that may last for up to 8 hours; climbers have Porters and Sherpas, we do not.

Because we work underwater, an environment where most cannot directly observe, does not mean that what we do is any less exciting and dynamic than other terrestrial expeditions. In fact, because bringing back research from an environment that is often “out of sight, out of mind”, hostile and much like working in space, what we do is more gripping; compounded with the human adaptation to a world we were not designed adds for an unknown result far more thrilling; simply making what we do that much more inspiring for our viewers!  Because of this and my passion to share underwater exploration…I blog!

Our planning activities our Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Project Baseline Fiji 2017 mission began in earnest on the 26th of April for our research work to be conducted aboard the Motor/Yacht (M/Y) Ad-Vantage.   For GUE’s Project Baseline initiative, this research expedition is a “proof-of-concept” mission in which our funding is provided by a private yacht owner seeking a positive contribution to

Environmental Research via responsible “corporate giving”.  These “Super-yachts and their owners want to determine the feasibility of conducting meaningful scientific/conservation oriented missions such as the one we are organizing in Fiji on the M/Y Ad-Vantage and we want to demonstrate our professionalism, skill-sets and organizational abilities in a way that creates a positive contribution to these super yacht owners; therefore a secondary mission is simply to demonstrate that we can conduct a meaningful mission while staying within the scope of our budget and timeframe and in a manner that does not over tax the crew or the resources.  We will be tentatively planning for ~6-hour operational days – meaning 6 hours during which we are directly interacting with the crew, i.e. moving boats and gear, diving, etc.; the planned dives will be 4-5 hours of the daily operations.

Our primary objectives will be to 1) conduct simultaneous photographic/video surveys of shallow and mesophotic (barely any light) coral reef ecosystems; 2) implement a reproducible system of documentation at spatially identified sites such that surveys of the same or similar locations can be repeated in the future; and 3) to compile the resulting media into station photographs and video transects and enter them into our growing Project Baseline database.  Shallow water surveys will be performed by divers using JJ rebreathers while the deeper-water surveys will be performed from a Triton 3300/3 observation submersible.

We’re going to have three scientists with us on this mission, two from NOVA Southeastern, and one from the University of the South Pacific; ideally we’ll have at least one scientist in the Triton 3300 sub on every dive to the “mesophotic” zone.

So where are we at right now, 10 May, 2 days until departure?  We are in fairly good shape.  Thanks in large part to our lead dive team from Tech Dive New Zealand out of Auckland.  They have been spearheading logistics from a geography much closer to Fiji than us and doing a spectacular job.  We are needing to move about 2500lbs of gear from several locations around the world into the South Pacific and what a task it is.

Me?  Well I have cameras to outfit and prep, gear (that’s an understatement!) to organize and maintenance, research dive logistics to create for the dive team, packing to complete to minimize the excess baggage charges of $200 per bag over 2, tomorrow we have to get into the pool and calibrate our Stereo Video Camera, I have a laser holder being built and welded with a pleading request to be done by Thursday and…organize matters of family and business before my departure so me?   Chaotic as usual but I thrive on challenges like this.  Stay tuned…next post will be on day 3 or 4 of our Mission, 16 May here, which will be 17 May in Fiji!