AN EXPLORER and TV presenter whose love of diving started in Portland’s waters returned to the Isle for a fundraising evening.
Paul Rose, is one of the world’s most experienced divers and has worked with scientists and polar experts to unlock the mysteries of the world, sometimes in the most challenging environments.
He is currently expedition leader for the National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions and was the base commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years. For his work he was awarded HM The Queen’s Polar Medal.
For his work with NASA and the Mars Lander project on Mt Erebus, Antarctica, he received the US Polar Medal. He has also made films for National Geographic and the BBC.
But it was standing on the pebbly shores of Chesil Beach in a homemade wetsuit back in 1969, that he took his first steps into the world of diving and first fell in love with the freedom and peace of the underwater world.
He said he still remembered that first dive in Dorset and “feeling alive.”
The 64-year-old explorer said: “I suddenly felt free. I felt anything was possible. During that 40 minute dive I realised anything was possible and I could do anything.
“It was the true liberation and sense of freedom for me – every dive is like that.”
He said he had never been afraid of the water but was very respectful of it and aware of its power.
He said he loved the sense of exploration, discovery and peace that he experienced diving.
Of all the dives he has done around the world, Paul said his top one was still Chesil Cove on Portland, he said: “It’s the home of diving.”
Other top dives include Antarctica and Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.
He returned to the Isle on Saturday to meet up with long-time friends and wet suit suppliers O’Three on Portland who make all his kit for his expeditions.
He gave a talk at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in the evening entitled ‘Diving the wild places.’ Will Appleyard, author of ‘Dorset Dives’ and ‘Discover UK Diving’, also gave a talk at the night, which was raising funds for Deptherapy Education.
The charity helps to rehabilitate seriously injured British Armed service personnel, who have suffered life changing mental or physical injuries, through the medium of scuba diving.
To find out more about their work visit deptherapy.co.uk.
Exploring the unknown is something which has fascinated people for centuries, whether it be in space, at an archaeological site or deep underwater.
And this continued inquest into finding out new information is what keeps researchers going, even in the darkest times, in the hope of finding that hidden gem.
Naturally this depends on the circumstances and conditions, but as one experienced diver - Bernard Hinton - told me, diving becomes 'like a bug' and it always leaves you with wanting to go again.
Bernard has been diving for over 20 years with Reading BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) Scuba Diving Club, who have recently celebrated their 60th birthday.
Since its foundation in 1954, the club has undertaken thousands of dives not just off the coast of the UK, but also overseas as well.
The club travels far and wide and some of its divers have been to places including the Galapagos and Mexico, plunging to depths of 150m where it was, according to member Steve Merrick, 'like diving in gin.'
But for another, Nigel Howard, it was intermingling with seals off the Isles of Scilly which were a particular highlight.
A trio of Reading divers were also part of a larger group who received awards and commendations at Buckingham Palace at the end of last year after collecting the Duke of Edinburgh's prize for the British Sub-Aqua Jubilee Trust which went to Bigbury Bay Archaeology - an investigative team of amateur historians led by veteran wreck enthusiast Neville Oldham.
The Reading club boasts around 60 members - the oldest being 72 - and has a dedicated clubhouse next to Palmer Park sports stadium in Reading.
Bernard guided me through a trial dive at The Kendrick School's pool in Reading, which the club uses to train.
After being fully suited up - including goggles, flippers, and a cannister full of compressed air on my back - and talked through the logistics of breathing and hand-eye coordination - I plunged into the water.
As this was my first experience of diving it took me some time to get used to breathing naturally - as opposed to taking massive gulps and thinking I was going to shoot back to the surface at any point.
However, after plenty of reassurance, I soon started to find my bearings and found my way around and eventually across the length of the pool but just when you're getting to grips with things, time's up!
Bernard added: "It's very addictive and can be quite exciting.
"Even when you go back to the same sites, you never quite know what you're going to come across because just like on land, there are seasons under water too which makes it so fascinating."
I guess that is the beauty with something like diving - I really wasn't sure what to expect but once you get the hang of it and gain some confidence, the experience is much more enjoyable and leaves you with an eagerness for more.
Though, I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for the depths of the ocean quite yet.
What I would say is that when you are under water, the sense of being at one with nature is very tranquil and one which is well worth experiencing if you've never tried it before.
Scuba diving instructor Mike Byfield spent the first 25 years of his life terrified of water.
When he was five his older sister decided to teach him to swim by throwing him into the river near his house.
"It all went pear-shaped," he says.
Mike stayed well away from water until he was on a holiday in Thailand in his 20s and was persuaded to give it a go.
Even then, it took eight attempts before he would go into the sea ... with his eyes closed.
"I sat on the bottom for about five minutes. Then I opened my eyes and thought, 'Wow. I'm breathing'," he says.
He has never looked back. He quickly took all of his qualifications, and has run dive centres in some of the world's most exotic locations ("Every morning I woke up and pinched myself").
He returned to Britain six years ago, largely because of a pregnant girlfriend, and opened Dive Torquay (divetorquay.co.uk) above the beach at Meadfoot, where last week I took the plunge.
After half an hour of instruction in the warm and dry we lugged our heavy tanks down the steps and slipped into the water.
The sea in the bay off Meadfoot Beach was pretty well as clear as it gets; you could see easily five metres ahead, through the sun-slanted water.
We glided up and over a rocky outcrop seven metres down, and cruised out over a stretch of sand.
I spotted, almost hidden by its speckled camouflage, a large plaice lying in the sand – easily big enough for a romantic meal over a bottle of Chablis, but we just stroked his back and finned on.
It was my first time scuba diving since a near disastrous novice experience at the hands of a Spanish cowboy in the Canary Islands more than 20 years ago. Mike's professionalism and calm guidance dispelled any lingering fears.
His "Try Dive" course (£35 and suitable for someone who has never done it before) will get you into the sea for a dive of up to an hour depending on how quickly you empty your tank of air.
A first open water course (£299 including all equipment and course material), can be completed in as little as three or four days. Your PADI certificate, issued for passing, will allow you to dive and hire equipment at PADI centres in 176 countries around the globe.
His dive centre also hires out kayaks and paddle boards for those who prefer to keep their heads above water.
Mike is also taking part in a new programme to teach scuba diving to disabled people.
"Because I had so much difficulty myself, I can relate to other people who have difficulties," he says.
He is in his third year as an instructor for the Miss Scuba UK competition, part of the Miss Scuba International, a beauty pageant focusing on marine conservation.
Two of the girls he has trained have gone on to win the UK and International titles in the contest whose judges include Westcountry beauty queen Charlotte Holmes.
They probably look a little more glamorous than I did.
Ray Marshall, from Old Norwich Road began diving in 1946 after being discharged from the army.
It wasn’t long before he helped found the Ipswich branch ofthe British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) in 1953, becoming branch number 32 out of more than 2,000 that exist today.
The club merged with the Sunstar Suq Aqua Club last year to form I-Dive, of which he is still a member.
On Thursday, the veteran diver, who still endulges in the past-time in his pool at home, joined his fellow divers at Fore Street Swimming Pool.
He said: “It was a bit overwhelming with their presentation, I didn’t know what to say. It’s something that I have done all my life and enjoyed.”
Mr Marshall, a retired manager for an insurance company, began diving before it was a popular activity and recalled occasions where his diving skills came in handy.
He said: “Back when the police didn’t have their own diving unit 50 or 60 years ago I had to force my way into a car found in the river outside the old customs house to see if anyone was in it, but there wasn’t. I also had to find someone’s contact lenses in a swimming pool and luckily we found them.”
But Mr Marshall is most known for making headlines as the monster of the deep on Rushmere Heath when he was cleaning the pools out, and scared a passer-by when he emerged from the water in a hood and mask covered in grime.
Mr Marshall added: “The passer-by was so taken aback he contacted the newspaper convinced I was some kind of underwater creature.
“It’s been a lifelong experience and I have been very, very fortunate with so many things that have happened.”
Divers can take deep-sea exploration to the next level after being awarded a £2,000 grant.
Bushey and Borehamwood Sub Aqua Club was given the money from Hertsmere Borough Council’s community grant scheme.
The club plans to put the money to good use, subsidising the training of new instructors and buying equipment for trainee divers.
Club chairmanWayne Allen said: “This is a great win for the club, we are over the moon to be able to increase our stock of training equipment.
“We are really looking forward to using it to teach even more people to scuba dive, and to train additional instructors who will then supplement our already very active instructor team.
“I'd like to thank everyone involved in putting the grant together. We are very grateful to Hertsmere Borough Council for supporting local volunteer sports clubs.”
Newton Stewart Sub Aqua Club is hosting a free try dive evening on Monday, February 23 at 7.15pm in the Merrick Pool, Newton Stewart.
This is the ideal opportunity for those aged over 17, who have always hoped to try scuba diving, to give it a go.
The try dive is followed by three Sunday afternoon and Monday evening sessions on alternate weeks for those who wish to continue, with theory and practical pool lessons leading to an internationally recognised qualification. There is no obligation to pay for the first week, but after this time prospective trainees need to actually join the club.
Last year, despite the bad weather, the club boat, which is usually moored at the Isle of Whithorn, went out on 47 dive trips which enabled 250 dives to take place. The club now has over 25 different dive sites which it regularly visits ranging from shallow wrecks and reefs to deep offshore wrecks, so all levels of divers are catered for.
As well as a beginners course the instructors are also running a more advanced Dive Leader course for experienced divers and for any others who already have a Sports Diver scuba qualification. The club is always happy to welcome experienced divers who are new to the area or who have not dived recently and give them the opportunity to explore our relatively unknown waters.
If you are interested then phone Phil on 01671 402615, or Chris on 01671 404318 to book a place This helps us to get the necessary equipment available.You can also check out our website at www.nsdivers.co.uk and our facebook page.So come along on Monday with a t-shirt and swimwear to have a go and / or have a chat with us.
TOTNES Sub Aqua Club is offering a ‘try dive’ in the town’s swimming pool for anyone who wants to have a go at scuba diving.
The club, which attracts members from across the Westcountry but is hoping to recruit some new members, is charging £10 for the taster session, which will be refunded if the participant decides to enrol on the club’s BSAC ocean diver training course.
This course is the first step in diver training and, for young people aged 14 to 25, is linked to the Devon Active Communities project.
The ‘try dive’ session is on Wednesday, January 28, at 7.30pm at Totnes Pavilions Pool.
The event is open to all ages and during the underwater swim participants will be accompanied by a fully qualified instructor.
The club is also encouraging people who already dive to attend and see what the club has to offer.
The club meets on Wednesday evenings upstairs at the Meadowbrook Community Centre, Dartington, from 9pm to arrange diving plans for the next week.
The club’s pool sessions are on Wednesday evenings from 8pm to 9pm at Totnes Leisure Pavilions.
Its 70-plus members enjoy the benefits of two boats, a compressor and a very active diving, training and social programme from its Dartington base.
The club dives throughout the year on wrecks and reefs around the South Devon coast and takes an active part in marine conservation activities with frequent expeditions to Cornwall.
Annual trips further afield include the Isles of Scilly, Northern Scotland, the Red Sea and the Maldives.
Members also help Totnes Rotary Club with in-water safety cover at the annual raft race.
For more information email the club’s training officer Mike Balmforth on firstname.lastname@example.org or diving officer Ray Harrison on email@example.com, or visit www.totnes-bsac.co.uk.
Yes folks it's that time of year where the RGS becomes abuzz with the sound of divers for the evening.
Run by the London Diving Chamber at the Royal Geographical Society, and in aid of Scuba Trust, these annual lectures are an opportunity for the diving community to enjoy a night of extreme and exhilarating underwater adventure as told by some of the diving industry's most renowned and exciting discoverers.
Award-winning underwater photographer, marine biologist and author Dr Alex Mustard and popular TV presenter and adventurer Monty Halls will both speak at this year's event.
The Dive Lectures are held in support of Scuba Trust, a charity devoted to giving people with physical disabilities an equal opportunity to experience the pleasure and excitement of scuba diving and the underwater world.
Entrance will be free, but donations to Scuba Trust encouraged. Alex Mustard has also offered a print for auction on the night, the proceeds going to Scuba Trust.
Tickets are known to go extremely quickly, so don't miss out on reserving your place by registering here.
Date: Wednesday 4th March 2015
Time: 7pm (doors open at 6.30pm)
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