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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Destination unknown

Grab your fins and mask and get ready to dive into the world’s largest space pool. The University of Essex unveiled plans for the ultimate space training experience for future astronauts this week – a 50 metre (164ft) deep pool. While some dive enthusiasts may be foaming at the mouth to take a swim in this deep blue artificial sea, the training pool is still in the “exploratory discussions” phase of getting off the ground.

 Partnering with Blue Abyss, who developed the concept, the university hopes to increase funding for the project. The space pool would not only create an environment akin to 100 feet under the ocean, but also simulates micro gravity in outer space.  John Vickers, managing director of Blue Abyss, says that the pool could help researchers study marine and human physiology in both environments, further train deep sea divers, and test new equipment in a controlled environment.

However, the proposed space pool would cost around £38million ($60 million).

Bryan Morris, registrar for the University of Essex, hopes that commercial partnerships could help lead to new funding sources,  and is taking action to “developing links with a number of the world’s highest profile organizations and companies.”

The project has gained support from some space industry insiders. Walter Kuehnegger, who was one of the investigators on NASA’s Apollo Lunar Exploration project, has joined the Blue Abyss team as a consultant. Even the European Space Agency’s own Tim Peake is excited about the space pool’s possibilities,  “I support Blue Abyss and [see] this future facility as something that does not yet exist in Europe and that would compete with, or potentially even surpass, what is available in the United States and Russia.”

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Surprise! Today was the flattest, calmest day out on the water I've seen on a long time, it was like a mill pond, absolutely fantastic. The boat moved like it was on rails which is strange because I couldn't figure out why there was still people on the boat puking all over the deck and the gunwales. If they know they're prone to hurling, take a preventative for goodness sake, we don't want to stepping over your vomit. Anyway, that aside, onto the diving!

And we're off!
Seeing as Captain Nige and Captain Nat were skivving and Captain Dave doesn't do weekends any more, it was up to Captain James to step once more unto the breach, dear friends.

South was the order of the day with our visit to Jack McKenneys for the first dive. Viz was pretty decent and as soon as we hit the water we had our visit from the ladies in grey. We had just got down to 30 metres and I had turned round to check Jill and a reef shark came swimming right up behind Jill, along side her and then swam in between us. And I didn't get the camera up in time for a shot.

Still, before we knew it, there was four new friends in the water with us for the entirety of the dive. We didn't bother moving. We just sat there and watch the sharks chasing each other and frolicking in the water like new born spring lambs. Hairless spring lambs. With no legs.

If it wasn't for the fast approaching NDL, we would have spent a lot longer with our new friends but I'm sure we'll be seeing them again soon. With a quick stop back at the dock to off-load another retching green faced land lubber, we headed just outside the cut to Snapper Hole for the second dive. Admittedly the viz was not great at this point however it was nice to bimble in the shallows and try and find some little stuff. With some nice little blennies and gobies, it was a nice way to finish off the days diving.

And some nice elysia crispata were hanging around as well, not to mention an awesome little red lipped blenny which stayed out long enough for me to take a picture.

Some big stuff was hanging around in the shape of french angel fish and loads of tarpons, but they weren't exactly the best subject for a macro lens but who cares when you're having fun!

Left of Centre

If it wasn't for Jenna, we wouldn't have even known about this. Turns out that the weekend edition of the local paper had a centre page special on Cayman wildlife with a selection of 11 photos, 45.45% of which were mine.

Of course no one from the paper would even dream of contacting anyone to make them aware that their pictures would be appearing. Thanks Compass (not).

Congrats to the other folk who made it in there as well with some superb shots of the diverse wildlife of the islands. I'm going to have to up my game some in the very near future.

My shot of Captain Nige gets in there as well with his lionfish culling antics, Debs should be please she married a centrefold........

For anyone even remotely interested, the originals from this spread are posted below.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Into the lens

Hooray, new lenses arrived today! Boo, I'm using a 5 year old camera body with them until my new body arrives at end of August. It's like having a Ferarri but being restricet to 20mph. Ah well, I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer.........

The macro lens has some serious heft to it and you could physically beat someone to death with the fisheye converter, it's got that much glass in it.

Old fisheye adapter on the left, new one on the right. Like comparing a minnow to a whale, the size difference is pretty substantial.

Couple of quick shots taken in the back garden with the 90mm macro so don't read to much into them as I just stuck it on and fired away and it's a new lens on an old body like I said. I think the A7RII is really going to maximise the potentional, especially with the 5 axis IBIS. Maybe I'll get some proper play time at the weekend.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Dance little sister

Hooray! Decent weather and reasonable conditions allowed us to get in at LHP, the first time in a few weeks because the weather has really had it in for us recently. Fine through the week, but come the weekend, it all goes pear shaped. Today was about 12-15 knots ENE, overcast, with 2-3 foot swells and a healthy does of surge in the shallows, but it's better than a finger in a wolfies hole! (old St Abbs joke).

It was all about the small things today and right of the bat we had a great selection of nudis, gobies and blennies. I can photograph these things all day every day. And I do!

We had an occasional barracuda cruise by not to mention a three flippered turtle, but the little fellow was a bit too far away for the macro lens. I didn't see how it had lost it back right flipper but it didn't look to be in any distress and managing quite well.

There were also some fine examples of flamingo tongue cowries out today, far better than some of the recent examples I've been seeing.

You can really spoilt for choice with the little stuff at this dive site and low and slow is definitely the order of the day if you want to get the best macro experience on the hard pan. No seahorses today though, but to be honest, I wasn't particularly looking for them so so much other stuff to see.

And the last little surprise at the end of the dive was a nice little banded jawfish who really didn't mind me getting up close and personal with him which was a nice way to round out the day. Hopefully the weather will be more consistent at the weekend's going forward. So many things to see and so little time........

Friday, 3 July 2015

12 eyes of evil

Surprise surprise, the weather was forcast for a 19-22 knots Easterly but it only felt like a 12-13 so we only had a few lumps on the trip out to Old No.12 for the first dive.

I don't honestly remember having done this particular site before and there was a chance of seeing sharks but neither sharks or great viz failed to appear on this particular dive. The scenery was ok, but I wouldn't put it on my list of sites to visit especially when there are multiple other sites here that are triple A. Maybe I've just been terribly spoiled........

I did get some shots of Captain Nige in full "angel of death" mode as he rooted out the lionfish from the nooks and crannies.

After a round of muffins we, headed over to Delwyn's Delight which we have done before and is ok but hard work for macro lovers. I think I was off my game today as I failed to find one nudibranch the entire dive.

And of course, you know when you're shooting with a macro lens in not great viz that's when the sharks are going to appear....... unbelievable. I'm sure they do this to taunt me.....

Let's just not talk about. Onwards and downwards to the next dive..........