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Saturday, 30 November 2019

Royal Navy divers worked hard to clean up plastic on the seabed while on an exercise around Kyle of Lochalsh.

During the week-long weapons training diving, 16 Royal Navy Reserve Diving Group (RDG) personnel practised endurance swimming in tidal conditions, with scuba equipment in depths of up to 30 metres, taking them close to the seabed. Coordinating the training was Lt Cdr Richard Watson, who asked his divers to look out for and recover any plastics they spotted. He said: “These plastics could certainly be a hazard to the extensive marine mammals found around the Kyle of Lochalsh. “These mammals range from otters, seals and porpoises to whales and are quite prolific in the Kyle and Sound of Raasay sea areas. “Over a period of time, as the plastic breaks down, it can be a hazard to smaller marine species. “If we all do our little bit to clean up our environment, we may help improve the seas around the United Kingdom that are contaminated with plastics.” RDG can be called upon by the Fleet Diving Squadron to conduct searches of ships’ hulls, jetties and inshore and offshore installations, so the team trains regularly to maintain a high level of diving endurance. The Fleet Diving Squadron is ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to identify and neutralise threats underwater.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

PTSD army vet finds scuba diving puts his 'demons at rest' following fiancee's tragic death

When army veteran Tom Oates is submerged under water, the real world is shut out and he feels completely at peace. “It is tranquil, peaceful and calm,” he says, “and I can forget about my problems. I can put my demons at rest.” The former Scots Guard is just one of dozens of veterans being helped by a unique charity. Deptherapy uses scuba diving to support ex-servicemen and women who have suffered life changing physical or mental injuries and illness. Tom developed post traumatic stress disorder after his vehicle was blown up in Afghanistan in 2013. Then, just a few months after he returned home to Batley, West Yorkshire, his fiancee was killed. He says: “I was happy to be home, and had proposed to my girlfriend Sarah. We were busy planning our wedding but then one day we were returning from a friend’s wedding when a car hit us as we crossed a road. I was holding Sarah’s hand but she was a fraction behind me and was struck from behind. I sat with her as she slipped away.” The tragedy left Tom at breaking point and in the months that followed he tried to take his own life. “I was diagnosed with complex PTSD,” he said, “and I really struggled. I just couldn’t process what had happened to me.” Tom sought professional help, but found no-one could help him as his problems were so complex. It was only when he was introduced to Deptherapy 18 months ago that his head began to clear. The charity takes veterans to the Red Sea in Egypt for a week where they undergo an intensive and specially-adapted scuba diving programme. Those with mental health challenges like Tom manage to find relief while under the water. While those with physical injuries say the weightlessness of scuba diving allows them to feel pain free. The charity also provides 24 hour support for programme members when they get back. Once home, they are encouraged to return to complete two more advanced training programmes. Tom says: “They’ve been amazing. When I’m underwater I feel like all my problems have gone away. It’s an ongoing battle but the diving has just been so good for me. But it is not just that but the package of ongoing support they offer too. “If it was not for this charity I would not be here today. Deptherapy have brought me back from the darkness and made me the person I am today.” Earlier this year Tom and another veteran completed a 24hr fundraising dive, raising nearly £5,000 for the charity. He is also now training as a scuba diving instructor with Deptherapy so he can help out on future trips, as well planning a new career in marine biology. “They helped me, so now I want to give back and help others. It’s the least I can do.”

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

World's oldest diver aged 96 says 'never accept the fact you are getting old'

The oldest diver on the planet, who has just smashed his own diving record at the age of 96, says he lives by the motto “Never accept the fact you are getting old”. Ray Woolley is a great grandfather of 12 (soon to be 13) and has dived all over the world, completing over 1,000 dives. The World War ll veteran says he strongly believes “age is just a number”. Just days after his 96th birthday on 28 August, Ray broke his own Guinness World Record for the third time as the world’s oldest scuba diver by reaching a depth of 42.4m for 48 minutes at the Zenobia shipwreck off the coast of Cyprus. Ray became the planet’s oldest diver at the age of 94 but he continues to test his physical and mental skills underwater. His latest record-breaking success, follows a dive last year when he plunged to a depth of 40.6m for 44 minutes, beating his 2017 Guinness Record (38.1m for 41 minutes). Record-breaker Ray: 'People to my amazement seem very interested' In an interview , Ray revealed his motto and also his modesty with the words: “During the past three years I have once again decided to record each dive, as people to my amazement seemed very interested in what I was doing." Life on land can make many nonagenarians feel a little unsteady on their feet but the WWII veteran says while underwater, he has not had any “scary moments”. But diving is not without its risks. When Ray gets into the water he is carrying 33 kilos in weight, including a 15 litres of air, a jacket, flippers and weights in his pockets. Diving is restricted to maximum depths of about 40 metres (130 ft) for recreational scuba diving. Standing on land places one bar of pressure on a person’s body. But for every 10 metres a person dives underwater, the pressure placed on their body increases by one bar. By diving down to 40 metres, the nonagenarian’s body is withstanding five times the normal pressure on land. Incredibly, there are no concessions made to accommodate his age except that his gear is nowadays put on the board boat for him and he no longer climbs down cliffs with his equipment on his back. Asked why he does it, Ray answers: “Very difficult to explain, as it is something that I love doing and the feeling of what I am going to see on my next dive. "With mask, snorkel, and fins, I took up spear fishing in 1952, but after some years decided it would be nice to stay underwater for a greater length of time”. ‘He calls me Young Dave and I’m 64’ Ray began diving almost 60 years ago at a time when divers used to make their own suits. He now lives in Limassol, Cyprus and dives with the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) at RAF Akrotiri. “I’ve known Raymond for 14 years and I’ve dived with him for 10” says Ray’s dive partner Dave Turner, dive officer at the (WSBA) Sub Aqua Club at RAF Akrotiri. “I like to dive with him because he calls me ‘Young Dave’ and I’m 64! “He insists that he climbs up back onto the boat with all his gear on. He won’t allow us to do anything for him. He is a gentleman and even helps carry things for female divers.” Ray was joined by 47 other divers to explore the Zenobia, a cargo vessel that sank off Larnaca in 1980 on its maiden voyage. Mr Turner, who organised the record attempt says: “He’s on the ball. He’s got perfect eyesight though he’s hard of hearing but I‘ll give him that as he’s 96. “He does nothing to excess, everything is in moderation. He has little to drink. He is also a really lovely chap. Very down to earth.” Life underwater exploring shipwrecks, pausing to admire fish and stroke giant turtles are among the benefits that keep Ray hooked on the hobby. Scuba diving offers other benefits such as cardio without the potential joint damage that can occur on land. It can improve circulation and reduce blood pressure. Saltwater has been shown to have a natural healing effect on the body and the slow breathing taught in diving can have a therapeutic effect on the mind. Legendary underwater filmmaker Stan Waterman didn’t retire from diving until he was 90 but Ray has even beaten famous diver Jacques Cousteau who dove almost until his dying day at the age of 87. During the war, Ray served in the Royal Navy and SBS Special Force 281 in the Dodecanese. Ray's Special Forces detachment found him in the Greek islands on Christmas Eve of 1943, where he was monitoring German troop movements. After the war, he trained as a radio engineer and was posted to Cyprus by the British foreign office in 1964. He has previously admitted: “I consider myself very lucky that I got through the war”, but he can’t forget “the people that didn't come back.” On 6 June, Ray was among the World War II veterans who marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and did it with a dive at Akrotiri, laying poppies and a wreath. Exercise is ’necessary’ but ‘I refuse to accept the fact I’m getting old’ As well as diving, Ray swims four times a day in his swimming pool. He has this advice for people aged over 75 as well as those much younger: “My advice would be to concentrate on exercising, as I am proving to myself, and I hope many other people, that this is necessary as one gets older.” A documentary film about Ray’s life ‘Life Begins at 90’ has appeared alongside the movies of Hollywood actors in film festivals around the world. Premiered at the Cyprus Film festival in June, ‘Life Begins at 90’ reveals Ray’s diving prowess and attitude to life. “I refuse to accept the fact I’m getting old. "How should I feel at 90? Can anyone tell me?” Recalling the time he was approached to make a film about his life he says: “I must admit at that time I could not understand why they wanted to do this, however, when the film was shown in various film festivals I was amazed at all the interest shown, I believe it has won six awards so far.” Ray could be likened to an unbelievably, unstoppable action hero that never quits, but when asked which Hollywood actor should play him, he humbly replies “I'm sure they would be too busy.”