Pre-Expedition DrySuit Orders - Santi Headquarters

In late August, early September my husband and I took a short flight from Wroclaw, Poland (where we currently live) to the Tri-City up along the Baltic Sea.  We had always heard great things about the region however after living in Poland for a year and a half we somehow hadn't made it up there.  With Santi as one of the equipment sponsors for an upcoming expedition to the Arctic, and with their headquarters so close by in Gdynia, we decided to make our way north to personally place our dry suit orders.  Flying in on Saturday afternoon and leaving Monday evening we had roughly 48 hours to see the highlights of the three cities (Sopot, Gdansk, & Gdynia) and get fitted for our first drysuits. It was a hectic but exciting trip!
We had a hotel booked in Sopot since it is situated between Gdansk and Gdynia, however quickly realised it is the heart and soul of the Tri-City.  The salty air, long expanse of the sandy shore and wide array of seaside restaurants was a nice break from landlocked Wroclaw.  With Europe's longest boardwalk just outside of our hotel, I must admit it felt as if I was back at home along the Eastern Seaboard.  The three cities were definitely worth the visit and from what we learned there are some really cool wreck dives along the coast.  Since the Baltic isn't known for its warm temperatures we would first need some drysuits before getting involved in that.

Monday morning, once inside Santi's headquarters we were immediately impressed with both the hospitality and layout of the office/workshop.  The atmosphere was very welcoming and also visually intriguing.  Highly saturated diving images and graffiti art were splashed across the white walls while a large assortment of dive gear seemed to be calling out to us.  

The first order of business was the measurements and there were many.  This was our first time ordering dry suits and we were probably a bit too particular but they are really too expensive to have mistakes made.  It was an interesting and rather warm experience as we layered ourselves in to thermals, heated vests, under suits and then the outer shells.  Surely I would be warm in the Arctic but once everything was on I struggled to understand how exactly I was supposed to move; let alone dive and photograph in such an alien environment.  If you'd like to learn more about the Artists for the Arctic expedition it can be found here:  http://www.elysiumepic.underwaterartists.com  

Where it all Happens ~ The Dry Suit Factory (above)


Recap of the Digital Shootout in Little Cayman

Recently I wrote an article on an incredible week diving in Little Cayman with Backscatter   Underwater Video & Photo for their annual Digital Shootout Workshop & Competition which was published at Uwpmag.com.  If you have ever thought of attending one of these events read on! (To enlarge text click each section):


Little Snippets from Little Cayman

With a trip to the States and Cayman Islands back to back, June has been quite a whirlwind.  Eight flights later, I am trying to recover from a bout of severe jet lag and a cold I caught somewhere over the Atlantic.  Hence the reason my writing has been seriously lacking.  Although, now that I've clarified my silence I feel comfortable moving forward and talking about the awesome week of diving I had in Little Cayman.

Completely the opposite of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman is a quiet, undeveloped retreat with much more of a relaxing vibe to it.  A short thirty minute flight and you have made it to your own deserted island.  Ten miles long, one mile wide, and a population of under two hundred one can understand why.  Before you read any further, I should mention if you've got a thing or two about small planes this might not be the place to plan your next trip; as the cockpit is wide open, the tires could use some air and well the weight of each piece of luggage is taken very seriously.  But if small planes are more your speed, likely you'll find the person sitting next to you is making the hop over to LC simply for some scuba diving.  Seriously though, with fifty dive sites around the island and a regulator bag on everyones lap this isn't too difficult to figure out.

So all the hooplah about Bloody Bay Wall is definitely right on and really the sheer size of it isn't understood until one has the courage to swim off the wall, and out into the blue.  Confirming your regulator is snug in your mouth, stop finning and pull a 180.  Let your eyes adjust for a moment and hold that regulator tightly.  Quite likely your jaw will have the urge to drop.  Ignore it.  Take a photo, make sure you got it and swim back to the safety of the wall.  Of course you can't see it but that wall descends to about 6000 feet.  Pretty amazing, huh? One last thing, do me a favour and email me that shot?!

While the wall was mighty impressive I'll admit I get weirded out by deep depths along reef walls.  I've probably read one too many stories about downward currents and have really got to stop reading I think.  This is definitely my problem! But I did dive the bloody wall several times and loved every second of it.  The gi-normous barrel sponges were my favourite and snuggling up inside one may have crossed my mind for a split second ;o)  But really up in the shallows, you've got the ambient light flickering about, the garguntuan loggerhead turtles barrelling across the reef, nurse sharks playing hide and seek with you and giant barracuda's that seem to appear out nowhere.  For me this is where it's at.

With shallow depths your air lasts so much longer, giving you the time to find what you're looking for and hopefully photograph it well.  In the shallows I came across nurse sharks, turtles, octopi, squid, giant barracuda's, stunning sea fans, and the peculiar but pretty trumpetfish.  Unfortunately it wasn't until my very last dive that I had a run in with some fire coral as I was trying to photograph a trumpetfish.  This was my first mishap underwater and hopefully my last.  Fire coral really has a bite to it and at first I wasn't sure what happened.  I just knew my hand was on fire.  Hence, the name fire coral.  In any case, I survived to share a few shots I snapped while diving Little Cayman.          



Crete's Underwater Cathedral

I didn't have overly high expectations for Crete, either above or below the surface, which I think was a good thing as the island was full of some exciting surprises.  The terrain is rugged and mountainous with rocky to sandy shores that merge with an azure blue sea and the thought of the scuba diving has me yearning to go back to explore more of the island.  Only in town for four dives we tried to make the best of the short time we had on the north side of the island in Chania.  We explored three different underwater sites, Spotlights, Cathedral and an unnamed site near Stavros Bay where we enjoyed complete solitude on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  The image below is from our favourite site, Cathedral.

As I swam slowly out of the darkness into a massive underwater cathedral, my eyes readjusted and before me lay one of the most spectacular sights I had ever laid eyes upon.  I then made my way closer to the altar via the sandy and ascending aisle, where I knelt and prayed I'd be able to properly convey such magnificence to others.  


Exploring Jardines de la Reina with Ocean Geographic

Recently I wrote an article on my amazing experience diving with Ocean Geographic in Gardens of the Queen and it was published at Uwpmag.com (Underwater Photography Magazine). Check it out! (click each section to enlarge text):


Drysuit Diving in Malta

One of the first steps in preparing for an underwater expedition next summer in the Arctic is getting acquainted with a type of exposure suit that will keep me warm and dry in one of the most extreme places on the planet.  Having only been scuba diving in warm, tropical destinations I've only ever needed a wetsuit.  So I wasn't sure what to expect when it comes to drysuits.  But I do know that if I want to dive in the Arctic, getting drysuit certified is obligatory.

Arriving in Malta for Easter weekend, I made my way over to the dive shop, Divewise, in St. Julian's Bay.  I spent some time diving with them back in September and felt confident that I'd be in the best hands on the island.  Viv and Jacques (the dog) are quite welcoming and quickly get things sorted for the course.  I'm given a new Otter dry suit to try on and while getting my head through the latex seal was much more difficult than I anticipated, I like the look and feel of the red and black suit.   I slightly feel like an astronaut; especially after I learn that the zipper on the suit traces its roots back to the space program's need for a water/airtight seal.  I've certainly never seen a similar zipper anywhere before.

As I took my first steps into the chilly 16C Mediterranean Sea, I quickly realized the importance of the undergarments I had on below the shell of my dry suit.  Ultimately these undergarments are where the warmth comes from as the shell itself simply keeps the water out.   Adding air to the suit will also provide necessary insulation between your body and the cold water.

*Freeze frame from GoPro Hero3+ with Backscatter Flip 3.1 Filter


Diving with Whale Sharks

This was a bucket list item of mine for a while so when I finally got the chance to jump into the water with this gentle giant in the Maldives, I was beside myself.  Trying ridiculously hard to keep up with this baby whale shark was a beyond my abilities.  However as you can see from this image my fellow diver was certainly keeping pace with him.  I clearly need to hit the gym! The experience was brief but the incredible memory is everlasting.  I definitely need to get back in the water with some whale sharks again soon.